Pixel Scroll 1/4/20 A Combination Of Sagrazi And Prescience

(1) NAME YOUR PRICE. John Varley realized this material should not go to waste — “And the Hugo Goes to … Introduction”.

Earlier this year I was putting together an anthology project to be called And the Hugo Goes To …. The idea was to collect all my stories that were nominated for the Hugo Award. Now, I have had a lot of nominations in my career, and have won three times. Putting them all together would make up a fairly healthy volume.

…Except that fact that one of the books to be published again was The John Varley Reader, which contained most of the stories. It made no sense to put that book and the new one in print. So the Hugo book was dead.

But not quite. I still had fun writing the intros, and I would hate to see them go into the trunk, never to be seen. So I am going to experiment.

…I am going to go the Doctorow route. You can read all the intros at the link right HERE.

Then, should you decide they are worth something, you can go to that little yellow button on the Welcome box at the home page, the one that says DONATE. You can’t miss it. That will take you to PayPal, where you can decide what you want to pay. I don’t know what to suggest. $5? $10? $2? More, less? It’s entirely up to you.

And should you want to read them for free, or if you don’t think they are worth anything, that’s cool, too. We can get along eating dog food for another year.

Here’s a small taste of what Varley put on the table –

…But I gave it a shot. I wrote a four-page story, pecking it out painstakingly on a borrowed typewriter. I can’t recall anything at all about that story. I sent it off to Mr. H.L. Gold, the editor of Galaxy, my favorite magazine at that time. He sent it back with a form rejection slip, and he had written at the bottom: “Nice try, but not quite.”

You think I was disappointed? Not a bit! Those five words, from a man who lived in New York City and edited the finest magazine in the world, just had me walking on air. I’d have framed that rejection slip and hung it on the wall if I could have afforded a frame….

(2) SPACE TRADERS. The Hugo Book Club Blog post “The Movement of Goods In Science Fiction” asks whether these science fictional economies are really wearing any clothes….

Space-based science fiction places a lot of attention on the transportation of goods.

Whether it’s a Lissepian captain hauling self-sealing stem bolts from Deep Space 9 or the crew of Firefly delivering cattle to the colony of Jiangyin, we are often presented with depictions of how goods are moved from one location to another.

This focus is probably a reflection of the modern neoliberal consensus that globalized trade is a good and necessary thing, and is a trend in science fiction that is worth questioning.

The large-scale movement of goods only makes sense if there is a strong economic incentive; if it is cheaper to build something in one location rather than another, if the skills to build something are only available in one location, or if the resources are only available in one location. When you see the depiction of merchant space ships travelling on regular runs between two locations, it implies that there are entire planets where it is cheaper to build something, and markets looking to buy those things.

Is inter-jurisdictional trade really that scalable?

(3) ABEBOOKS QUIZ. Answer appears at the end of the Scroll.

(4) FORESIGHT. The Christian Science Monitor collected input from a host of sff writers for “Future present? How science fiction sees our world in 2050”.

Machine learning speeds up 

The science fiction writer Liu Cixin, author of “The Three-Body Problem,” a richly layered Chinese novel that describes first contact with extraterrestrial life forms, foresees the transforming effect of artificial intelligence. 

“I don’t believe that in 2050 strong artificial intelligence that surpasses human beings will appear, but AI will have developed enough to compete with humans for jobs,” Mr. Liu says in a written statement to the Monitor, translated from Chinese by staff writer Ann Scott Tyson.

“This will have two possible profound implications for society,” he says. “One is that the jobless public and AI will be in a long-standing conflict, causing long-term social turmoil and instability. The second is that humans will have smoothed out the relationship with AI and established a leisurely life in which people reduce their working hours or even don’t need to work. The latter, however, will require major changes in the current political and economic distribution system of mankind.” …

(5) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. Here are Paste Magazine’s picks for “The 20 Best “End of the World” Movies”.

“This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a whimper.”

Then again, what does T.S. Eliot know? As far as the movies go, the possibilities for destroying our planet or civilizations are downright infinite. Certainly, in light of several recent predictions claiming that the end of the world is ‘nigh (most of which have passed, mind you), the apocalypse has naturally been on a lot of peoples’ minds.

And so it goes: What’s prevalent in society’s consciousness is subsequently reflected in our pop culture. This means a surge of movies dealing with a world-ending event. Dramatic or funny; action-packed and exciting or slow and deliberate; real life or supernatural—there’s an apocalypse story for everyone….

6. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Inspired by the classic 1962 French short film La Jetée, 12 Monkeys went on to become the rare financial success in the notoriously disaster-prone career of former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam. Bruce Willis plays a mentally unstable convict from an apocalyptic future who is sent back in time to halt the release of a deadly virus that will kill billions. Featuring great performances from Willis and a decidedly un-glamorized Brad Pitt, 12 Monkeys bears that rare distinction of containing all the creative visuals and quirks that make Gilliam films great without the incoherent, scatter-brained plotting that often proves to be their downfall.

(6) WITCHER WATCHER. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao previews the Netflix series The Witcher, including news about Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, on whose novels the series is based, and how the series “is like turning on a self-aware B movie.” “Will you toss a coin to ‘The Witcher’?”

Perhaps you would remain stone-faced, a reaction typical of the Witcher himself, given that Cavill plays him as a brooding hunk wandering the Continent — which, yes, is what this magical, medieval society calls its continent. Or maybe you would be inclined to give “The Witcher” a chance. It’s been advertised as Netflix’s very own “Game of Thrones” but has also proved to be an entertaining fantasy series in its own right. That’s not to say it’s good, per se, but that it’s so bizarre, it’s hard to look away.

(7) CHEKHOV’S CAT. In “Kneading Into the Comfort of Cozy Cat Mysteries”, on Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth explains the rules of cozy mysteries with cats in them, including that you can’t put a cat on the cover unless the cat is a character and you can’t kill a cat in a cozy cat mystery.

…Within the wider world of the cozy, there is the cat cozy. These specifically were pioneered by Lilian Jackson Braun, who launched the “Cat Who” series in the mid-1960s, took a couple of decades off, then returned in the 1980s after she retired and continued writing them regularly almost until she died in 2011. She was joined in the 1990s by Rita Mae Brown—whom you may know as the author of the classic lesbian novel Rubyfruit Jungle—who began “cowriting” her Mrs. Murphy series with her own cat, Sneaky Pie Brown. The cat mystery became a thing unto itself, a world within the broader universe of cozy mysteries.

(8) IF YOU GIVE THE GAME AFOOT IT’LL TAKE A MILE. In “The Year in Sherlock Holmes” on CrimeReads, Lyndsay Faye summarizes 2019’s Sherlockian developments, including  two new Sherlock Holmes conventions, the end of Elementary, and the postponement of the next Robert Downey Jr. Holmes movie until at least 2021.

…CBS’s highly regarded procedural Elementary wrapped up its seventh season this year, and it’s with a heavy heart that I take up my proverbial pen to say goodbye to Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu’s Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. An unflinching look at sobriety and addiction—as well as unapologetically progressive casting regarding both race and gender—helped to bring the Great Detective and the Good Doctor to a new generation of enthusiasts. Kinder than BBC’s Sherlock (and in some ways more respectful of the original material—there, I said it, and I’m not taking it back either), Elementary not only stood on its own two feet as a modern crime drama, but contained scores of delightful Easter eggs for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 4, 1982 Doctor Who first aired “Castrovalva, Part 1”, the first full episode of the Fifth Doctor as played by Peter Davison. He would play the Fifth Doctor for three series which were twenty stories in totality. As a Baker preceded him in the role, a Baker would follow him in playing the role.
  • January 4, 2002Impostor premiered in limited release. in California. Produced by a large group including Gary Sinise, best know for CSI: NY, with a screenplay by Caroline Case, Ehren Kruger and David Twohy off the Dick’s “Impostor” story which was first published in Astounding SF magazine in June, 1953. The 11th Worldcon held in Philadelphia didn’t do a Hugo for Best Short Story, so there’s no telling how it might’ve done that year. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 41% from reviewers.
  • January 4, 2011 Monster Mutt was released on DVD. It’s making these notes because of The Baby discussion we’ve been having. Monster Mutt, the very large dog with that name, is not CGI but is yes a puppet requiring five people to control its movements. Critics actually liked the puppet and the film as well,  even though it has a rather weak 40% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book in the early Thirties by publishing original material instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.)
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 93. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer Limits, Night GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone.
  • Born January 4, 1930 Ruth Kyle. OGH has her touching story here. Warning: it has Isaac Asimov behaving badly at a Con material. Just kidding. Maybe. (Died 2011.)
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 74. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb.
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 62. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well-crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon. His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out SupergirlHoney, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh, do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like. 
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 60. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could are genre adjacent. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! 
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 35. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She played also Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012. And she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” of Black Mirror.
  • Born January 4, 2000 Addy Miller, 20. She is on the Birthday List for being Sarah in Plan 9. Really? They remade that movie? Why? And yes, she played A Walker in that other show. My fav role by her is because of the title, it was a short called Ghost Trek: Goomba Body Snatchers Mortuary Lockdown, in which she was Scary Carrie Carmichael. And yes, you can watch it here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys has an ad from an unexpected kind of ambulance chaser.
  • The strip doubtless works even better if you understand the language, but it’s funny anyway.

(12) UNCANCEL CULTURE. “How Amazon (and Jeff Bezos) Saved ‘The Expanse'”Space.com thinks, “In hindsight, being canceled by Syfy was probably the best thing that could have happened to ‘The Expanse.’”

However, only three seasons had been sold to Syfy and there are eight novels in the series with a ninth on the way. Not long after Season 3 started to air, Syfy announced it had not purchased the rights for future seasons because of restrictive distribution arrangements, and on May 11, 2018, it was officially canceled

However, by now the show had built up a considerable following and fans protested the cancellation. 

Such a display of displeasure from fans isn’t entirely unusual. When “Star Trek: The Original Series” was canceled in 1968 after just two seasons, a letter-writing campaign orchestrated by fans – Bjo and John Trimble in particular – kept the show on the air for an additional season. And while one more season might not seem like a substantial victory, it set a precedent for many subsequent campaigns to keep shows on the air. Some were successful, like “Star Trek” and “Quantum Leap,” but sadly, others weren’t, like “Firefly” and “Almost Human” – both were canceled by Fox after just one season, and both were high-quality sci-fi shows with massive potential that had amassed a loyal fan base in a short amount of time….

(13) WHERE THE FUTURE BEGAN. Syd Mead, whose passing was noted here December 31, has received a lengthy appreciation in the New York Times: “Syd Mead, 86, Maker of Future Worlds in ‘Blade Runner’ and More, Dies”.

…Although his work usually involved creating a fanciful future, it sometimes ended up depicting the actual future. A 2012 exhibition of his artwork in Manhattan included a painting from decades earlier that showed people using hand-held information devices; they could easily pass as modern-day smartphone users. In 1969 he envisioned a personal transportation system called a unipod that used gyroscope technology — what is now used in devices like the Segway personal transporter.

(14) LOOSE ENDS. Or as BBC says, “A Knotty Problem Solved”.

Special fibers that change color when they are under strain have helped scientists come up with some simple rules that can predict how a knot will perform in the real world.

There’s a whole field of mathematics that studies knots, to explore abstract properties of idealized curves. “But that’s not what you care about if you are, for example, a sailor or a climber and you need to tie something which holds,” says Vishal Patil, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose new findings appear in the journal Science.

People have used knots since ancient times, notes Patil, and thousands of knots have been invented. Yet scientists struggle to explain why knots do what they do. Most of what’s known about them comes from long experience, rather than any theoretical understanding.

For example, take the granny knot and the reef knot — two simple knots that look very similar but behave very differently.

“It’s quite easy to see this, if you just take a shoelace or a bit of string and you tie it. If you pull on the reef knot, it tends to hold. And if you pull on the granny knot, it tends to slip quite easily,” says Patil. “The fact that they behave so differently suggests that there must be some story there, something you can say mathematically and physically about them.”

(15) BESPOKE SPACESUITS A SPECIALTY. “Hey Sisters, Sew Sisters” from BBC Sounds — 26.5 minute audio.

Space travel is not always high-tech. When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969, seamstresses made their spacesuits at a company famous for stitching latex into Playtex bras.  

During the Space Shuttle era, a group of 18 women were in charge of all soft goods – the fabrics for machine and hand sewing the spaceplane’s thermal blankets. These women became known as the Sew Sisters. 

Presenter, artist and former Nasa astronaut Nicole Stott meets some of these ‘sew sisters’ from past and present missions and celebrates their contributions,,,. 

(16) SWEEPERS, MAN YOUR BROOMS. BBC tells a clean story: “Tackling the Earth’s orbiting space junk”.

Here’s a quiz question: what do using road navigation systems, keeping time consistent around the world and having accurate stock exchange data have in common? The answer is that they all depend on working satellites. But an increasing amount of debris polluting space is now posing a risk to all those services. So one Japanese firm, Astroscale, has been working on ways to clean up space junk. Its founder and chief executive Nobu Okada explains.

(17) CHIMP PUSHED OUT OF THE BUSINESS. The Hollywood Reporter discovers “Hollywood’s Last Actor Chimp in Need of Permanent Home”.

…Having been let go by Working Wildlife (which specializes in providing exotic species for entertainment productions), he was dropped off in March at a financially struggling nonprofit sanctuary near Angeles National Forest, just outside of Los Angeles. The facility shut down in August, and Eli and more than 40 other chimps, many of whom arrived from research labs, have since been under the on-site care of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We are currently in discussion with a high-quality facility that may provide a permanent home for Eli,” says Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman for the state agency.

The 9-year-old chimpanzee’s transition out of the business, as typically occurs when the species reaches adolescence, is part of a larger trend away from using real wild creatures to “act” onscreen. (While chimps, orangutans and elephants are being phased out, it’s still mostly business as usual for species like big cats and bears.)

… Eli — who appeared in commercials (Microsoft), music videos (One Direction) and the occasional TV show (TBS’ Angie Tribeca) — saw his own output curbed by the effort, with a Geico ad pulled and scenes from a season of MasterChef Junior cut. PETA primate expert Debbie Metzler is proud of the result. “A decade ago, there were at least a dozen chimpanzees working,” she says. “Now there are zero.”

(18) NANO NANO. The Harvard Gazette calls it, “Catching lightning in a bottle”.

Researchers in an ultracold environment get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction

Call it a serendipity dividend. A big one.

Kang-Kuen Ni set out to do something that had never been done before. The Morris Kahn Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and of Physics and a pioneer of ultracold chemistry had built a new apparatus that could achieve the lowest temperature chemical reactions of any currently available technology. Then she and her team successfully forced two ultracold molecules to meet and react, breaking and forming the coldest bonds in the history of molecular couplings.

While they were doing that, something totally unanticipated and important also happened.

In such intense cold — 500 nanokelvin, or just a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero — the molecules slowed to such sluggish speeds that Ni and her team saw something no one has ever seen before: the moment when two molecules meet to form two new molecules. In essence, they captured a chemical reaction in its most critical and elusive act.

“Because [the molecules] are so cold,” Ni said, “now we kind of have a bottleneck effect.”

Chemical reactions are responsible for literally everything: from making soap, pharmaceuticals, and energy to cooking, digesting, and breathing. Understanding how they work at a fundamental level could help researchers design reactions the world has never seen. Maybe, for example, novel molecular couplings could enable more-efficient energy production, new materials like mold-proof walls, or even better building blocks for quantum computers. The world offers an almost infinite number of potential combinations to test.

…Ni’s ultracold temperatures force reactions to a comparatively numbed speed. When she and her team reacted two potassium rubidium molecules — chosen for their pliability —the ultracold temperatures forced the molecules to linger in the intermediate stage for mere millionths of a second. So-called microseconds may seem short, but that’s millions of times longer than ever achieved, and enough time for Ni and her team to investigate the phase when bonds break and form — in essence, how one molecule turns into another.

(19) HOLLYWOOD INSTITUTION CLOSES. The LA Times pays its respects: “His props starred in hundreds of Hollywood movies and TV shows. Now he’s exiting the stage after 42 years”.

Standing amid his life’s work inside a cavernous warehouse in San Fernando, John Zabrucky is eager to show off what he calls his most famous “machine.”

But first, he must scuttle past a spaceship command deck, rows of computer consoles, radar scanners, shelves packed with sophisticated high-tech gadgetry — and even an alien autopsy, before arriving at the futuristic device.

“We did this for the original ‘Incredible Hulk,’ the TV series, back in the late ’70s,” said Zabrucky, the founder and president of Modern Props.

Since then, the device has been seen in more than 100 hundred feature films and TV shows, including “Austin Powers” and multiple episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Giving it a once-over, Zabrucky adds with a sparkle of pride, “You can see how well it’s made.” The apparatus has turned up in so many shows that a fan created a YouTube video devoted to its many appearances, dubbing it “the most important device in the universe.”

Zabrucky’s magnum opus, with its pair of giant elongated glass tubes that glow variously in yellow, red and orange, operated by a cutting-edge control board with dials, buttons and a joy stick, looks as if it would be right at home inside the CERN particle collider lab in Switzerland….

(20) ABEBOOKS QUIZ ANSWER.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/27/19 With Slow Glass Pixels, It Will Take Ten Years To Scroll

(1) WELCOME WAGON. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal responded to the Romance Writers of America meltdown by tweeting, “As president of SFWA, please accept my invitation to consider our organization if you feel your work has a kinship with SFF, even a tenuous tie.” Thread starts here.

Many interesting replies. A couple of them are –

(2) STAR POWER. Thomas Disch dominated the Galactic Stars awards presented by Galactic Journey for the best sff of 1964: [December 25, 1964] Stars of Bethlehem and Galactic Journey (Galactic Stars 1964).

Best author(s)

Tom Disch

This Cele Lalli discovery, just 24 years old, garnered three Galactic Stars this year.

He narrowly beats out Harry Harrison (and Harrison might have been on top, but he came out with clunkers as well as masterpieces this year).

And bless the Journey staff for recognizing newzines in this category —

Best Fanzine

Starspinkle gave up the ghost last month, though it has a lookalike sequel, Ratatosk.  They were/are both nice little gossip biweeklies.

(3) CLASSIC IRISH FANWRITING. The Willis Papers by Walt Willis is the latest free download produced by David Langford in hopes of inspiring donations to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund.

A collection covering the first decade (and a bit) of Walt Willis’s fanzine writing, from his 1948 debut in Slant to 1959, edited by George W. Field and published by Ted Johnstone in August 1961. As well as twenty-two classic Willis articles, there are Prefaces by both editor and publisher, while Vin¢ Clarke and John Berry provide not entirely serious tributes to the great man.

The text of The Willis Papers was long ago transcribed into HTML by Judy Bemis for Fanac.org, and this Ansible Editions ebook is gratefully based on that version. The cover photograph of Walt Willis at the 1957 London Worldcon was taken by Peter West. (From the Ethel Lindsay photo archive, courtesy of Rob Hansen.) Ebook released on 25 December 2019. 31,500 words.

Walt Willis was born in October 1919, and his centenary in 2019 has been little remarked in science fiction fandom.

One small gesture is the simultaneous ebook release of Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator and The Willis Papers as a 2019 Christmas treat for fans.

(4) CASUALTY LIST. “China Blocks American Books as Trade War Simmers” — the New York Times has the story.

…Publishers inside and outside China say the release of American books has come to a virtual standstill, cutting them off from a big market of voracious readers.

“American writers and scholars are very important in every sector,” said Sophie Lin, an editor at a private publishing company in Beijing. “It has had a tremendous impact on us and on the industry.” After new titles failed to gain approval, she said, her company stopped editing and translating about a dozen pending books to cut costs.

The Chinese book world is cautiously optimistic that the partial trade truce reached this month between Beijing and Washington will break the logjam, according to book editors and others in the publishing industry who spoke to The New York Times.

… Still, publishing industry insiders describe a near freeze of regulatory approvals, one that could make the publishing industry reluctant to buy the rights to sell American books in China.

“Chinese publishers will definitely change their focus,” said Andy Liu, an editor at a Beijing publishing company, adding that the United States was one of China’s most frequent and profitable sources of books.

“Publishing American books is now a risky business,” he said. “It’s shaking the very premise of trying to introduce foreign books” as a business.

While China is known for its censorship, it is also a huge market for books, including international ones. It has become the world’s second-largest publishing market after the United States, according to the International Publishers Association, as an increasingly educated and affluent country looks for something engrossing to curl up with.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on cannoli with author Bob Proeh in Episode 112 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Bob Proehl

This time around, you get to take a seat at the table with Bob Proehl, who published his first novel in in 2016. A Hundred Thousand Worlds is about the star of a cult sci-fi TV show and her nine-year-old son making a cross-country road trip with many stops at comic book conventions along the way, and was named a Booklist best book of the year.

His latest novel, The Nobody People, about the emergence of super-powered beings who’ve been living among us, came out earlier this year…

We slipped away to Sabatino’s Italian restaurant …where we chatted over orders of veal parmigiana and eggplant parmigiana. (I’ll leave it to you to guess which of us was the carnivore, though I suspect that if you’re a regular listener, you’ll already know.)

We discussed how it really all began for him with poetry, the way giving a non-comics reader Watchmen for their first comic is like giving a non-novel reader Ulysses as their first novel, why discovering Sandman was a lifesaver, the reason the Flying Burrito Brothers 1968 debut album The Gilded Palace of Sin matters so much to him, why he had a case of Imposter Syndrome over his first book and how he survived it, the reasons he’s so offended by The Big Bang Theory, what he meant when he said “I actually like boring books,” his love for The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the X-Men, whether it’s hard to get a beer in New York at six o’clock in the morning, why he wasn’t disappointed in the Lost finale, and much more.

(6) HECK YEAH. The DisINSIDER says “‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Director Wants To Tackle A Rose Tico Series on Disney+”.

…Of course the tweet is simply just that a tweet, and doesn’t mean anything will come it. However, Chu is a hot name in the industry after directing the 2018 hit Crazy Rich Asians, he would be a fantastic choice to develop a Rose Tico series. Chu is currently working on the film adaptation of In The Heights based on the hit broadway musical, and will return to direct China Rich Girlfriend.

(7) INSIDE SFF HISTORY. Jonathan Lethem interviews M. John Harrison at Literatura Inglesa. The English language version follows the long Spanish language one — scroll down. “Derribando los pilares de la ficción: una entrevista con M. John Harrison.”

You also mentioned that your time at New Worlds was an exciting one as it provided you with the possibility to read the manuscripts of Ballard’s stories even before they were printed. What’s interesting to me is that, while writers like Aldiss or Moorcock, who loved SF and fantasy genre and helped revitalize it (although Aldiss later disowned his participation in the new wave “movement”), Ballard seemed to quickly abandon the genre (except, maybe, for Hello America).

I think it took Ballard a long time to “abandon” the genre, if he can be said to have done that, and that the process began much earlier than people admit. From the beginning his relationship to science fiction was modified by his personality, his needs as a writer, and his many cultural influences outside SF. So from the outset of his career he was working his way towards the idiopathic manner we associate with short stories like “The Terminal Beach” and novels like The Drought and The Atrocity Exhibition. It was not so much an “abandonment” as a steady evolutionary process. This happens with writers. They develop.

(8) SUPERCOLLABORATOR. CBR.com looks back on “When Superman Helped Kurt Vonnegut Write a Novel!”.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Stephen R., we take a look at the time that Clark Kent had to help Kurt Vonnegut finish a novel!

The story appeared in 1974’s Superman #274 by Gerry Conway, Curt Swan and Vince Colletta, where Clark Kent and Kurt Vonnegut are both on a talk show together…

The “Wade Halibut” name is a reference to Vonnegut’s famous fictional writer, Kilgore Trout, who appeared in many of Vonnegut’s classic works, like Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse Five

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 27, 1904 –J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan premiered in London.
  • December 27, 1951 Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere premiered on film screens. It was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Wallace A. Grissel with a script by Royal G. Cole, Sherman I. Lowe and Joseph F. Poland. Judd Holdren, in what was only his second starring screen role, plays Captain Video, the leader of a group of crime-fighters known as the Video Rangers.  This fifteen-part movie serial is unusual as it’s based off a tv series, Captain Video and His Video Rangers. Like most similar series, critical reviews are scant and there is no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It was popular enough that it aired repeatedly until the early Sixties. There’s a few episodes up on YouTube – here’s one.
  • December 27, 1995 —  Timemaster premiered on this date. It was directed by James Glickenhaus and starred his son Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus, Pat Morita and Duncan Regehr. It also features Michelle Williams in one of her first film roles, something she now calls one of the worst experiences of her acting career. The film got universally negative, if not actively hostile, reviews and has a 0% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 27, 1888 Thea von Harbou. She penned the novel Metropolis based upon her uncredited screenplay of that film for husband Fritz Lang. She also collaborated with him on other projects, none of which save her 1922 Phantom screenplay appear to be genre. (Died 1954.)
  • Born December 27, 1917 Ken Slater. In 1947, while serving in the British Army, he started Operation Fantast, a network of fans which had eight hundred members around the world by the early Fifties though it folded a few years later. Through Operation Fantast, he was a major importer of American SFF books and magazines into the U.K. – an undertaking which he continued, after it ceased to exist, through his company Fantast up to the time of his passing.  He was a founding member of the British Science Fiction Association in 1958. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 27, 1938 Jean Hale, 81. If you’ve watched Sixties genre television, you’ve likely seen her as she showed up on My Favorite Martian, In Like Flint (at least genre adjacent), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, My Brother the AngelWild Wild West, Batman and Tarzan.
  • Born December 27, 1948 Gerard Depardieu, 71. He’s in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet which we all agree (I think we agree) is genre. He plays Obélix in the French film Asterix & Obélix and Asterix at the Olympic Games: Mission Cleopatra and is Cardinal Mazarin in La Femme Musketeer. 
  • Born December 27, 1951 Robbie Bourget, 68. She started out as an Ottawa area fan, where she became involved in a local Who club and the OSFS before moving to LA and becoming deeply involved in LASFS. She was a key member of many a Worldcon and Who convention over the years (she was the co-DUFF winner with Marty Cantor for Aussiecon) before she moved to London in the late Nineties.
  • Born December 27, 1951 Charles Band, 68. ExploItation film maker who’s here because some of his source material is SFF in origin. Arena was scripted off the Fredric Brown “Arena” short story which first ran in the June 1944 Astounding, and From Beyond which was based on H P Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, first published in June 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan
  • Born December 27, 1960 Maryam d’Abo, 59. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role in it. 
  • Born December 27, 1969 Sarah Jane Vowell, 50. She’s a author, journalist, essayist, historian, podcaster,  social commentator and actress. Impressive, but she gets Birthday Honors for being the voice of Violet Parr in the Incredibles franchise. I say franchise as I’ve no doubt that a third film is already bring scripted.
  • Born December 27, 1977 Sinead Keenan, 42. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story “The End of Time” as Addams, but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time.
  • Born December 27, 1987 Lily Cole, 32. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed.
  • Born December 27, 1995 Timothée Chalamet, 24. First SF role was as the young Tom Cooper in the well received Interstellar. To date, his only other genre role has been as Zac in One & Two but I’m strongly intrigued that he’s set to play Paul Atreides In Director Denis Villeneuve forthcoming Dune. Villeneuve is doing it as a set of films instead of just one film which will either work well or terribly go wrong.

(11) HEARING FROM THE EXPANSE. The Guardian books podcasts asks the authors of The Expanse, “When imagining our future, what can sci-fi teach us?”

This week, Richard sits down with duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who write science fiction together under the name James SA Corey. Their bestselling space-opera series, The Expanse, which started in 2012 and is due to end in 2021, is set in the middle of the 24th century, when humanity has colonised the solar system. Human society is now beyond race and gender, and is instead divided on a planetary level: those living on Earth, on Mars and on various asteroids, moons and space stations called Belters.

The eighth book in the series, Tiamat’s Wrath, is the latest, while the fourth season of the award-winning TV adaptation [is] on Amazon Prime on 13 December.

And Claire, Richard and Sian discuss the 20 books up for the 2019 Costa awards shortlists.

(12) A RECORD RECORD. As Bruce Sterling said, new technologies don’t replace old technologies. But how many of the old ones hang onto life so tenaciously — Billboard’s numbers show “Harry Styles, Billie Eilish & The Beatles Help Vinyl Album Sales Hit Record Week in U.S.”

Vinyl album sales hit yet another record week in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music.

In the week ending Dec. 19, the data tracking firm reports 973,000 vinyl albums were sold in the U.S. — marking the single biggest week for vinyl album sales since the company began electronically tracking music sales in 1991.  

(13) NIGHT BLIGHT. “Satellite constellations: Astronomers warn of threat to view of Universe” – the Dave Clements mentioned in BBC’s report is an SF fan.

From next week, a campaign to launch thousands of new satellites will begin in earnest, offering high-speed internet access from space.

But the first fleets of these spacecraft, which have already been sent into orbit by US company SpaceX, are affecting images of the night sky.

They are appearing as bright white streaks, so dazzling that they are competing with the stars.

Scientists are worried that future “mega-constellations” of satellites could obscure images from optical telescopes and interfere with radio astronomy observations.

Dr Dave Clements, an astrophysicist from Imperial College London, told BBC News: “The night sky is a commons – and what we have here is a tragedy of the commons.”

The companies involved said they were working with astronomers to minimise the impact of the satellites.

And Clements occasionally writes sff – his story “Last of the Guerrilla Gardeners” originally appeared in Nature.

(14) OUT OF CHARACTER. Ganrielle Russon, in the Orlando Sentinel story “The Disney employees behind Mickey Mouse, Minnie and Donald Duck were violated by tourists”, says that three Walt Disney World employees say they were inappropriately touched while in costume at Walt Disney World and have filed grievances.

…Another incident happened that same day at the Magic Kingdom, the world’s busiest theme park.

It started innocently when a 36-year-old Disney employee who portrays Minnie Mouse posed for pictures with a man and his wife from Minnesota in the park’s circus-themed meet-and-greet area.

Afterward, Minnie Mouse gave the man a hug. Then without saying a word, he groped her chest three times, according to the sheriff’s incident report.

The employee alerted her supervisors. On Dec. 6, she identified pictures of the 61-year-old man from Brewster, Minn.

She decided against pressing charges.

It wasn’t the first time the man had done something wrong at Disney World on his trip.

The man also had “an inappropriate interaction with a cast member” Dec. 5 at the Magic Kingdom, according to the sheriff’s office incident report that didn’t provide any additional details on what happened. Disney declined to elaborate.

(15) RAPPED GIFT. Bad Lip Reading dropped a bizarre “A Bad Lip Reading of The Last Jedi” on Christmas.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 12/9/19 My High School Class Voted Me Most Likely To Scroll Pixels

(1) INTERSTELLAR TBR. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In response to comet Borisov streaking through the solar system, the Guardian invited Alastair Reynolds to talk about his favorite books about interstellar objects. Alongside some obvious choices, he gives shout-outs to some lesser known gems. It’s a nice little article: “Space invaders: the best books about interstellar arrivals”.

… A significant triumph in recent astronomy has been the detection of gravitational waves, finally achieved by an international consortium using immensely precise (and huge) laser interferometers. But the work to reach this discovery began a century ago, and encompasses a huge cast of heroes and dreamers – and its share of failure. In Black Hole Blues astrophysicist Janna Levin has written the definitive account of this grand quest, and it’s as insightful about the human protagonists in this story as it is about the mind-bending physics of black holes and warped spacetime….

(2) BOOKSCAN. Jason Sanford’s informative analysis “An Author’s Guide to Understanding BookScan” is an unlocked post at his Patreon page.

How Authors Should Use BookScan

If you’re an author, be aware of the limitations in what BookScan captures. A good publisher or agent will know BookScan numbers are useful for analyzing overall sales trends but do not reflect total sales. Be sure to point out your correct sales numbers when approaching publishers and agents. 

You can also try pointing out any important sales not captured by BookScan, such as with e-books. If you’ve hit a Kindle Bestseller list, definitely mention that because it won’t be reflected in BookScan. If you’ve likewise sold a large number of books at conventions and other appearances, mention that.

And if you’re an author where BookScan captures a much lower percentage of your print sales than the 45 to 50% mentioned above, point that out. The BookScan numbers for one of the ChiZine authors represented only 20% of their total print sales in the USA. If I was this author I’d mention that to any publisher or agent I worked with. Otherwise people may assume your sales are extremely low when they aren’t.

(3) OSHIRO UPDATE. Mark Oshiro filled in blog readers about his loss, and made a request: “Mark Does Stuff is going on hiatus”.

…I am currently safe and surrounded by friends every day. Suffice to say that I am devastated beyond words; even typing all of this feels trite and artificial. I don’t think there’s a person in this community in the last five years who doesn’t know how intensely I loved him or how instrumental he was in my life, in my work, and in my happiness. 2019 has been truly one of the worst in my life, as I unfortunately separated from him in the beginning of the year, a choice I knew was necessary but yet still regret and have regretted for a long time. Love is fucking awful like that, and there is no person on this Earth I have ever loved so completely and painfully as Baize.

Baize’s mother started a fundraiser to pay for the astronomical costs of not just the funeral, but sending his body back home to Los Angeles for the funeral. It is most important that if you decide to help out, you start here. If you are not able, a simple boost on social media is very much appreciated.

(4) ACTING I’M NOT. “Baby Yoda: ‘The Mandalorian’ Star Isn’t Real, but Why Shouldn’t It Compete for Awards?”Variety makes the question sound almost reasonable.

… In 2003, the Broadcast Film Critics Association took a step in that direction, creating the category “best digital acting performance” for its Critics Choice Awards. Gollum won the inaugural award, for his part in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” Serkis accepted the award, along with New Zealand’s Weta Digital team, which animated the character. Among nominees, Gollum beat out Yoda for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and Dobby from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” But the category was a bit controversial, and didn’t return the following year — or in any future Critics Choice Awards after that.

The MTV Movie Awards also went tongue-in-cheek with its Lifetime Achievement award for a period of time, handing out the prize to characters such as Chewbacca, John Shaft, Godzilla and Jason Voorhees — but that was in the telecast’s early, 1990s life.

(5) THE EXPANSE. AV Club’s reviewer Zack Handlen reassure fans, The Expanse has a new home, but it’s as excellent as ever”.

On The Expanse, every choice has weight. Sometimes literally. Early in the show’s compelling fourth season, a character decides to leave her spaceship home and go planetside. It’s a decision her crewmates have made multiple times before, but in Naomi Nagata’s (Dominique Tipper) case, there are special circumstances. As a Belter, Naomi was born and raised in low-gravity environments, which means that her body hasn’t built up the necessary muscle mass to endure planetary gravity. The series hasn’t lost its sense of scope since it left the SyFy channel for Amazon Prime. If anything, it’s broadened its horizons, taking in new worlds and the political strife of multiple systems. Yet a small but meaningful amount of tension is generated out of wondering if a person can walk across level ground without collapsing.

Naomi’s struggles, and the attention paid to those struggles, is emblematic of what makes The Expanse so effective. The show’s canny use of consequences ensures that its wilder sci-fi concepts exist in a context that grounds them without diminishing their impact….

(6) EAR CANDY. Paste calls these the “The 19 Best Audiobooks of 2019”. Ann Leckie and Nnedi Okorafor are on the list, and so is this author –

The Passengers by John Marrs

Narrators: Clare Corbett, Roy McMillan, Tom Bateman, Shaheen Khan, Kristin Atherton, Patience Tomlinson

Run time: 11 hours and 39 minutes

John Marrs’ The Passengers, which follows strangers from the near-future who are locked in their self-driving cars by a murderous hacker, might be your new favorite thriller. As read by a quintet of narrators—all British, for you American listeners looking for your next pond-hopping aural hit—and scored by tempered sound effects, this novel reads as a multi-dimensional nightmare. Do we need another reason to mistrust both technology and the government? Obviously not. Do we still plan to obsessively listen? Of course! If you’re the type of reader who enjoys a truly harrowing story, Marrs’ chilling book is for you.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 9, 1960 The Twilight Zone First aired “The Trouble with Templeton”. Written by Ernest Jack Neuman (1921 – 1998) who was an Edgar and Peabody award-winning writer and producer, it had an amazing cast as well including  Brian Aherne as Booth Templeton, Pippa Scott as Laura Templeton  and Sydney Pollack as Arthur Willis. The Twilight Museum has an great essay on this episode here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 9, 1848 Joel Chandler Harris. American journalist, fiction writer, and folklorist who is best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories. Yes, he’s white and the stories are about the ‘Brer Rabbit’ stories from the African-American oral tradition but he’s widely accepted by all about having done these stories justice.  James Weldon Johnson called them “the greatest body of folklore America has produced.” (Died 1908.)
  • Born December 9, 1900 Margaret Brundage. An illustrator and painter who’s now remembered chiefly for having illustrated Weird Tales. She’s responsible for most of the covers for between 1933 and 1938. Wiki notes that L. Sprague de Camp and Clark Ashton Smith we’re several of the writers not fond of her style of illustration though other writers were. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 9, 1902 Margaret Hamilton. Most likely you’ll remember her best as The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. She would appear later in The Invisible Woman, along with much later being in 13 Ghosts, a horror film, and a minor role in The Night Strangler, a film sequel to The Night Stalker. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 9, 1911 Don Ward. Author of H. Rider Haggard’s She: The Story Retold. More intriguingly, he ghost-wrote works credited according to ESF to both Alfred Hitchcock (Bar the Doors: Terror Stories) and Orson Welles (Invasion from Mars: Interplanetary Stories). He also worked with Theodore Sturgeon on Sturgeon’s West. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 9, 1916 Jerome M. Beatty Jr. His best-read fiction is the Matthew and Maria Looney books, a SF series for children. They were a brother and sister who live on the Moon, part of an alien civilization resident there. ISFDB lists seven novels in total across two series, one for each child. Nothing of his books including The Tunnel to Yesterday, a time travel novel, is available digitally, nor does it appear that anything is in print currently. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 9, 1934 Judi Dench, 85. M in a lot of Bond films. Aereon in The Chronicles of Riddick, Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love which is at genre adjacent, Society Lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Miss Avocet in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Her very first genre film in the late Sixties, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was poorly received by critics and I recall her role being a mostly nude faerie. 
  • Born December 9, 1937 – Fandom. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says “Fandom’s Thursday meetings in London begin, 1937 – then weekly in a teashop, now in a pub on the first Thursday of the month.”
  • Born December 9, 1952 Nicki Lynch, 68. She and her husband Rich Lynch edited Mimosa which won six Best Fanzine Hugos and was nominated a total of 14 times. She and her husband have been members of WSFA, the Southern Fandom Confederation, the Chattanooga Science Fiction Association. She has also been a member of SAPS, SFPA, Myriad (Galactic Hitch Hiker), and LASFAPA.  Nth Degree has a neat conversation with her and her husband about Mimosa here.
  • Born December 9, 1952 Michael Dorn, 67. Best known for his role as the Klingon Worf in the Trek franchise. Dorn has appeared on-screen in more Star Trek episodes and movies as the same character than anyone else. 
  • Born December 9, 1953 John Malkovich, 66. I was pondering if I was going to include him then decided that Being John Malkovich which won him a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor was enough for me to include him. What a strange role that is! He also shows up in the dreadful Jonah Hex film and played Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach in the Crossbones series which is at genre adjacent. He also appeared in Mutant Chronicles, though, and there was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well.
  • Born December 9, 1970 Kevin Hearne, 49. I’ve really, really enjoyed the Iron Druid Chronicles.  Though I’ll confess that I’ve not yet read the spin-off series, Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DECONSTRUCTING THE GHOSTBUSTERS TRAILER. Vanity Fair hunts down all the Easter eggs: “Who You Gonna Call-Back? How the Ghostbusters: Afterlife Trailer References the 1984 Original”.

…In the original film, Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz, and the late Harold Ramis’ Egon Spengler investigated a spirit in the New York Public Library, where they found a similar tower in one of the basement corridors. “Symmetrical book stacking!” Ray exclaimed, like a kid opening a birthday present. “Just like the Philadelphia Mass Turbulence of 1947!”

“You’re right,” Peter replied, drolly. “No human being would stack books like this.”

In that original scene, we hear a haunting, three-note piano trill on Elmer Bernstein’s score as the three men proceed deeper into the library. Those same three notes play in the Afterlife trailer when Mr. Grooberson examines a real-life ghost trap….

(11) THE CYBER WHISPERER. “How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real” is a New Yorker profile of the legendary author.

… Droll, chilled out, and scarily articulate, Gibson talked about the future on television. (“It doesn’t matter how fast your modem is if you’re being shelled by ethnic separatists,” he told the BBC.) He appeared on the cover of Wired, did some corporate consulting, and met David Bowie and Debbie Harry. For a time, U2, which had based its album “Zooropa” in part on Gibson’s work, planned to scroll the entirety of “Neuromancer” on a screen above the stage during its Zoo TV tour. The plan never came to fruition, but Gibson got to know the band; the Edge showed him how to telnet. During this period, Gibson was often credited with having “predicted” the Internet. He pointed out that his noir vision of online life had little in common with the early Web. Still, he had captured a feeling—a sense of post-everything information-driven transformation—that, by the nineties, seemed to be everywhere.

As the Internet became more accessible, Gibson discovered that he wasn’t terribly interested in spending time online himself. He was fascinated, though, by the people who did. They seemed to grow hungrier for the Web the more of it they consumed. It wasn’t just the Internet; his friends seemed to be paying more attention to media in general. When new television shows premièred, they actually cared. One of them showed him an episode of “Cops,” the pioneering reality series in which camera crews sprinted alongside police officers as they apprehended suspects. Policing, as performance, could be monetized. He could feel the world’s F.Q. drifting upward….

 (12) HOLODECK QUALITY EXPERIENCE. Olav Rokne says, “Anytime I see an article about Douglas Trumbull in the news, I’m going to read it because the guy created the most important visuals of my childhood. I still think the best Enterprise is the one from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” — “‘Star Trek’ special effects expert gives talk in Monroe”.

… MAGI projects regular and 3D images at a rate of 120 frames per second. The standard rate at modern theaters is 24 frames per second.

Trumbull has been working on the MAGI technology for years at his home studio, where he has constructed a prototype of the MAGI Pods he hopes to one day install at public venues and movie theaters across the globe. These pods are fully enclosed, small-theater experiences featuring a hemispherical screen and cutting edge projection and sound technology.

“It’s so much like a holodeck, you wouldn’t believe it if you actually saw what we have,” Trumbull said. “In this hemispherical screen, with laser projection, and an extremely wide field of view and my frame rate, it’s like a window onto reality. It’s as close to a holodeck as we are going to get, and we could do it tomorrow, right now.”…

(13) PROPOSED INTERVENTION. A spammer is offering to help Paul Weimer fix everything wrong with File 770. Which apparently is a lot — (click for larger image)

Some of my titles are too long? (Said in the same tone as Rick in Casablanca when he looks up from his dossier and asks, “Are my eyes really blue?”)

Meanwhile Paul wonders, why him?

There actually have been days when this blog has been run by a non-male person (like when I was hospitalized, or needed a couple days away). Did the spammers not notice, or just treat the sudden, short-lived improvement as a statistical outlier? 🙂

(14) LEARNING ABOUT FACIAL RECOGNITION. Don’t be put off by the Harvard Gazette’s headline: “Who’s That Girl?”

Our ability to recognize faces is a complex interplay of environment, neurobiology, and contextual cues. Now a study from Harvard Medical School suggests that country-to-country variations in sociocultural dynamics — notably the degree of gender equality in each — can yield marked differences in men’s and women’s ability to recognize famous faces.

The findings, published Nov. 29 in Scientific Reports, reveal that men living in countries with high gender equality — Scandinavian and certain Northern European nations — accurately identify the faces of female celebrities nearly as well as women. Men living in countries with lower gender equality, such as India or Pakistan, fare worse than both their Scandinavian peers and women in their own country on the same task. U.S. males, the study found, fall somewhere in between, a finding that aligns closely with America’s mid-range score on the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index.

The results are based on scores from web-based facial recognition tests of nearly 3,000 participants from the U.S. and eight other countries, and suggest that sociocultural factors can shape the ability to discern individual characteristics over broad categories. They suggest that men living in countries with low gender equality are prone to cognitive “lumping” that obscures individual differences when it comes to recognizing female faces.

(15) RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. A BBC video chronicles how a “South African creates sign language glove for deaf parents”.

Having struggled throughout his childhood to communicate with his deaf parents, Netshidzati Lucky Mashudu, from Limpopo, South Africa, created smart glove which translates sign language into speech.

Through an app, it can also work the other way, translating speech into sign language.

He says it’s helped him to communicate with his parents.

He showed BBC Life Clinic how it works and what he hopes it could mean for others in the future.

(16) PARADE OF MYTHS. BBC’s post “Mythical creatures appear in Medellín” has spectacular photos.

Fantasy creatures took over the Colombian city of Medellín on Sunday with 800 artists taking part in the annual Parade of Myths and Legends.

The parade is in its 45th year. It started in 1974 as a family event and to bring the country’s myths and legends to life.

The event’s artistic director said that in 2019 the emphasis was less on Colombian myths but on legends from across the world.

As a result, Mexican “catrinas”, elegant skeletons made famous by cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada more than a 100 years ago, featured heavily in the parade.

(17) UGLINESS WASN’T THE PROBLEM. Exceptional tastelessness was, explains Global News: “Walmart.ca pulls Christmas sweater featuring Santa with cocaine”. There’s a good video of the merchandise at the link.

Walmart Canada is apologizing after several adult-themed “ugly” Christmas sweaters — including one involving Santa and drugs — were posted for sale on its website.

…One sweater shows a bug-eyed Saint Nick and three lines of a white substance that is heavily implied to be cocaine, along with the phrase “let it snow.”

…Another featured an upside-down snowman with its carrot nose and jingle bells suggestive of genitals while another showed Santa roasting his “chestnuts” over a holiday ornamented fireplace.

(18) ON THE AVENUE. HBO dropped a new trailer for Avenue 5 with Hugh Laurie:

(19) A GRAND IDEA. Rich Horton is happy with SFWA’s latest choice for Grand Master – however, he would be even happier if an exception could be made to allow the addition of one more woman writer, as he explained to his Facebook followers.

Lois McMaster Bujuld has just been named the latest SFWA Grand Master, an honor she surely deserves. She is the seventh. The first was Andre Norton, in 1984.

However, in 1983 SFWA wanted to name C. L. Moore Grand Master. Alas, she had Alzheimer’s disease, and her family declined the award in her name, stating that she would find this too confusing. (Some have suggested that her second husband’s dislike of SF contributed to this, but I don’t know that we KNOW this, and, especially after the recent revelations about John M. Ford’s case, I don’t want to make such assumptions without knowing more about it.)

Moore was an entirely deserving recipient, and in fact the list of Grand Masters seems incomplete without her. And an idea occurred to me — would it be possible for SFWA to, even at this late date, posthumously award C. L. Moore the Grand Master title?…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/26/19 Sandworms, Why Did It Have To Be Sandworms?

(1) DARK ART. Christine Feehan has applied for a trademark on the word “Dark” for a “Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books.”

Feehan is a California author of paranormal romance, paranormal military thrillers and fantasy.

The application to the US Patent and Trademark Office, filed November 20, describes her claim as follows:

International Class 016:  Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books.

In International Class 016, the mark was first used by the applicant or the applicant’s related company or licensee or predecessor in interest at least as early as 11/13/1998, and first used in commerce at least as early as 03/03/1999, and is now in use in such commerce. The applicant is submitting one(or more) specimen(s) showing the mark as used in commerce on or in connection with any item in the class of listed goods/services, consisting of a(n) amazon.com website showing books in series being sold, book catalog showing series of books with mark, personal website showing series of books with mark..

The mark consists of standard characters, without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.

Will the mark be granted? What use will the author make of it?

Last year Faleena Hopkins triggered “Cockygate” when she claimed exclusive rights to “cocky” for romance titles. Hopkins sent notices to multiple authors telling them to change the titles of their books and asked Amazon to take down all other cocky-titled romance books (not just series).

The Authors Guild got involved in the litigation and Hopkins withdrew her trademark claim. The Guild’s settlement announcement also said:

…The Trademark Office clarified that the owner of a trademark in a book series title cannot use that trademark against single book titles. Since single titles cannot serve as trademarks, they also cannot infringe series title trademarks. So, if another author or a publisher ever tries to stop you from using a single book title because of their series trademark, you can tell them to take a hike. Only series titles can infringe another series title.

(2) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Nicholas Whyte does an epic roundup of “Blake’s 7: the third series” at his From The Heart of Europe blog. In addition to his commentary and links to episodes on YouTube, he also keeps track of such trivia as appearances by actors who also had roles in Doctor Who, and includes clips of some of the betterlines of dialog. such as –

Dialogue triumph:

Avon: That one’s Cally. I’ll introduce her more formally when she wakes up. This one is Vila. I should really introduce him now; he’s at his best when he’s unconscious.

(3) FIND THE BEST SHORT FANTASY. Rocket Stack Rank posted its annual roundup “Outstanding High Fantasy of 2018” with 39 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(4) ROCINANTE LIFTS OFF 12/13. Amazon has dropped the trailer for the next season of The Expanse:

Season 4 of The Expanse, its first as a global Amazon Original, begins a new chapter for the series with the crew of the Rocinante on a mission from the U.N. to explore new worlds beyond the Ring Gate. Humanity has been given access to thousands of Earth-like planets which has created a land rush and furthered tensions between the opposing nations of Earth, Mars and the Belt. Ilus is the first of these planets, one rich with natural resources but also marked by the ruins of a long dead alien civilization. While Earthers, Martians and Belters maneuver to colonize Ilus and its natural resources, these early explorers don’t understand this new world and are unaware of the larger dangers that await them.

(5) 55 YEARS AGO. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon covers pop culture and the latest British sff books, prozines, film, TV – the latest as of November 25, 1964 that is: “The Times They Are a-Changin’… Science Fantasy December 1964/January 1965”.

…On the television the genre pickings have still not been many. I am still enjoying most of Doctor Who, and Jessica’s excellent reports on that series’ progress need no further comment from me, but my latest find this month has been another popular series for children. I am quite surprised how much I have enjoyed its undemanding entertainment, as Gerry Anderson’s Stingray has been shown on ITV. Be warned though – it’s a puppet series! Nevertheless, its enthusiasm and energy, combined with great music in a wonderful title sequence has made this unexpected fun. I understand that it has been entirely filmed in colour, although like the majority of the 14 million British households with a television, we’re forced to watch it in good old black-and-white.

(6) GIVING THANKS FOR THE WEIRD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]The November 24 episode of The Simpsons was a Thanksgiving version of Treehouse of Horror, and all three segments were sf or fantasy.  The first episode recreated the original Thanksgiving, with cast members playing the Pilgrims, the Indians, and the turkeys.  The second episode had a personal assistant AI like Siri or Alexa, and the AI version of Marge did a better job of preparing Thanksgiving dinner than Marge did.  But the best segment was when a space ark fled Earth because of climate change, and Bart Simpson finds a can of cranberry sauce and decides to replicate it, skipping all the warnings about how you shouldn’t replicate organic objects.  Of course, Bart ignores the warnings, and the cranberry sauce comes to life and becomes very hungry.

(7) THE GREATEST? BBC says it’s a real icebreaker: “Frozen 2 rakes in $350 million worldwide on box office debut”. But I could use a hand interpreting the second paragraph – those places aren’t part of “worldwide”?

Frozen 2 raked in $350 million (nearly £272m) in its opening weekend worldwide, beating forecasts and the box office debut of the original film.

The sequel made about £15m in the UK and Ireland and $127m (£98.9m) in the US and Canada, which are not counted towards the worldwide figures.

The 2013 original took $93m (£72.28m) during its first five days in theatres, according to Reuters.

It ended up making a whopping $1.27bn in total.

Disney say the sequel has set a new record for the biggest opening weekend for an animation.

That’s owing to the fact they consider this year’s remake of the Lion King, which made $269m on its opening weekend, to be a live action film.

But some feel the digital 3D film is more of a photo-realistic animation

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 26, 1977 Space Academy aired “My Favorite Marcia”. The YA series stars Commander Isaac Gampu as played by Jonathan Harris. And the Big Bad in this episode is Robby the Robot with a different head. And a black paint job. 
  • November 26, 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered. Featuring the all still living main cast of the original series, it was financially quite successful, liked by critics and fans alike. It currently has an 81% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. It placed second to Aliens for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Conspiracy ‘87.
  • November 26, 1997 Alien Resurrection premiered. The final instalment in the Alien film franchise, it starred Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder. It was the last Alien film for Weaver as she was not in Alien vs. Predator. It did well at the box office and holds a 39% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 26, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman, pure fantasy Graeme and the Dragon and an Arthurian novel in Chapel Perilous. (Died 1999.)
  • Born November 26, 1910 Cyril Cusack. Fireman Captain Beatty on the classic version of Fahrenheit 451. He’s Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper in Nineteen Eighty-four, and several roles on Tales of the Unexpected round out his genre acting. (Died 1993.)
  • Born November 26, 1919 Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honored for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, he won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards, and his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him the 12th recipient of its Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. OK, setting aside Awards which are fucking impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Astonishing Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction, Worlds of If, andSuper Science Stories which were a companion to Astonishing Stories, plus the Star Science Fiction anthologies –and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1939 Tina Turner, 80. She gets noted here for being the oh-so-over-the-top Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in Tommy as well and for appearing as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero which is at least genre adjacent.
  • Born November 26, 1945 Daniel Davis, 74. I’m singling him out for Birthday Honors for being his two appearances as Professor Moriarty on Next Gen. He has one-offs on MacGyver, Gotham and Elementary. He played a Judge in The Prestige film. He also voiced several characters on the animated Men in Black series.
  • Born November 26, 1961 Steve Macdonald, 58. A fan and longtime pro filker ever since he first went to a filk con in 1992. In 2001, he went on a “WorlDream” tour, attending every filk con in the world held that year. He’s now resident where he moved to marry fellow filker Kerstin (Katy) Droge.
  • Born November 26, 1966 Kristin Bauer van Straten, 53. Best known for being  Pamela Swynford De Beaufort on True Blood, and as sorceress Maleficent on Once Upon a Time. She was also the voice of Killer Frost in the most excellent Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay film.
  • Born November 26, 1988 Tamsin Egerton, 31. She was the young Morgaine, and I do mean young, in The Mists of Avalon series.  She goes on to be Kate Dickens in the Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale series, Miranda Helhoughton in the Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking film and Guinevere in the Camelot series. Oh, and she’s Nancy Spungen in an episode of Psychobitches which is least genre adjacent if not genre. 
  • Born November 26, 1988 Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, 31. He played Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the Game of Thrones for five seasons. That’s it for his genre acting, but he co-founded Icelandic Mountain Vodka whose primary product is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. Surely something Filers can appreciate! 

(10) RE-FINDING NEMO. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’m behind in doing a Windsor McKay/Little Nemo post, but this is a close-out item and probably going fast, so:

For you $45 plus shipping – $7.95, via USPS (you can spend more for faster), down from the original $124.99

My point: If you are a McKay/Nemo fan, and think you might be interested, now is the time, before they’re gone (or gone at this price). (Needless to say, I ordered mine before sending this item to OGH.)

The book is 16″x21″ — the same size as the original McKay strips, back when the “Sunday Funnies” were humongous… and Nemo (and many others) got an entire of these pages. There are, as an item or comment a few weeks/months back noted, two volumes of McKay’s Nemo that are themselves full-sized. They ain’t cheap. (I own the first one, felt that was enough that I didn’t follow up and get the second… I do, to be fair, have enough smaller-sized Nemo volumes.

From the listing:

By Bill Sienkiewicz, Charles Vess, P. Craig Russell, David Mack et al. Contemporary artists pay tribute to this beloved and imaginative Sunday page. They have created 118 entirely new Little Nemo pages, all full Sunday page size! Contributors also include Paul Pope, J.H. Williams III, Carla Speed McNeil, Peter Bagge, Dean Haspiel, Farel Dalrymple, Marc Hempel, Nate Powell, Jeremy Bastian, Jim Rugg, Ron Wimberly, Scott Morse, David Petersen, J.G. Jones, Mike Allred, Dean Motter, Yuko Shimizu, Roger Langridge, Craig Thompson, and Mark Buckingham, among many others.

The Kickstarter page has a video about the project. Enjoy!

(11) YOUNG CREATORS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Lynda Barry.  Barry, who teaches interdisciplinary creativity at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), says that she’s going to use her Macarthur Fellowship to study four-year-olds who see writing and drawing as one thing to determine when kids see writing and drawing as separate activities and then give up drawing. One result, she says, may be to find ways to teach adults who don’t think they can draw to start making art again. “How MacArthur ‘genius’ Lynda Barry is exploring brain creativity with true artists: Preschoolers”.

… “Most people stop drawing when they reach the age of 8 or so, because they couldn’t draw a nose or hands,” said Barry, 63. “The beautiful thing is that their drawing style is intact from that time. Those people, if you can get them past being freaked out, have the most interesting lines — and have a faster trajectory to making really original comics than people who have been drawing for a long, long time.”

(12) POHL SHORT AND LONG. James Davis Nicoll marks the Pohl centenary with a bouquet of brief reviews: “Celebrating Frederik Pohl’s 100th Birthday with Five Overlooked Classics”.

…No discussion of authors of Pohl’s vintage would be complete without mentioning their shorter works.1972’s collection The Gold at the Starbow’s End contains five of Pohl’s finest, two of which are standouts.

The first standout is the title novella, in which a small crew of astronauts are dispatched on a slow voyage to Alpha Centauri. They have been assured that a world awaits them; this is a lie. There is no world and they have not been told of the true goals of their project. The project is a success. If only the geniuses who created the program had asked themselves what the consequences of success might be…

The other standout is 1972’s The Merchant of Venus. The discovery of alien relics on Venus has spurred colonization of that hostile world. Maintaining a human presence on Venus is fearfully expensive. It’s not subsidized by the home world; colonists must pay for their keep. This is a challenge for Audee Walthers, who is facing impending organ failure and doesn’t have the dosh to pay the doctor….

(13) STAR WARS — GONE TO POT. Eater realizes that the “‘Star Wars’ Instant Pot Gets Us Closer to an Entire ‘Star Wars’ Kitchen”.

The launch of Disney+ show The Mandalorian, and the introduction of baby Yoda, has brought upon us the latest round of Star Wars obsession, with plenty of product tie-ins to aid the fandom. Last month, Le Creuset introduced a line of Star Wars-branded cookware, including a C-3P0 Dutch oven and a porg pie bird. But if you’re torn between wanting to use a Star Wars casserole dish and needing to braise ribs quickly, a new line of Star Wars Instant Pots is here….

(14) CRASH LANDING. Even though Plagiarism Today’s headline says “You Wouldn’t Plagiarize an Airport” without a question mark, it certainly can’t be an absolute statement — 

In what has to be one of the more bizarre plagiarism stories in recent memory, Qatar Airways accused Singapore’s Changi Airport Group of plagiarizing not a paper, an idea or a proposal, but an airport.

The accusation was made by Akbar Al Baker, who is the CEO of both Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport. In a recent press conference, he claimed that Singapore’s Changi Airport was a plagiarism of a planned expansion of Hamad International Aiport in Doha, Qatar.

(15) CHARACTER STUDY. At Rapid Transmissions, Joseph Hurtgen suggests “Seven ways to write great characters”. First up —

Make your characters likable

Will Smith and Tom Hanks have made their careers by playing likable characters. Some of these characters are hyperintelligent and some profoundly dumb. Some inspire laughter and others tears. But the characters they play are always easy to like. They have a quality about them that makes you feel like, given the chance, you’d get along with them.

So, why does this matter? It matters because people like rooting for a likable person. People want the good guy to get the girl. They want the honorable person to rise to the top. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always deal out its cards fairly. Bad guys win all the time. As a result, people want to escape into a fiction governed by poetic justice, where the bad guys run up against the shit they deserve and the good guys get to sit back and have a cold one.

But no need to limit yourself, Hurtgen’s second suggestion is —

Make your characters unlikable…

(16) RED SHIFT. In “We Made Star Wars R-Rated,” YouTube’s Corridor Crew takes some scenes from the second trilogy and adds the gore and splatter that Lucasfilms forgot to include….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Eric Wong, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/5/19 I Don’t Want A Pixel, I Just Wanna File On My Scrollercixel

(1) THE EXPANSE. The Season 4 trailer debuted today at New York Comic Con.

The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds. Behold what awaits the pioneers of Ilus. Full Season Coming December 13, 2019.

(2) LOST ON THE GROUND, TOO. Netflix also dropped the trailer for the second season of Lost in Space.

Have you seen our Robot? Lost in Space Season 2 returns December 24th. Only on Netflix.

(3) BOOK TARIFFS. Shelf Awareness surveys the damage to various markets in “Newest Tariffs, on the E.U., to Include Books”.

The newest tariffs to be imposed by the Trump administration, against the European Union and amounting to $7.5 billion on a range of goods, will include books, the Bookseller reported.

…Last year, the Bookseller wrote, U.K. publishers exported printed books worth £128 million ($158 million) in invoiced value to North America.

The new tariffs follow the World Trade Organization’s decision on Wednesday that the U.S. could tax $7.5 billion of E.U. goods to recoup damages after the WTO had determined in May that the E.U. illegally subsidized Airbus. The tariffs cover all kinds of goods, which the New York Times described as, in part, “a gourmet shopping list, with the administration planning to place a 25% tax on imports of Parmesan cheese, mussels, coffee, single malt whiskeys and other agricultural goods from Europe.” Oddly the tariff on airplanes will be only 10%.

The Times noted that the WTO is considering a parallel case brought by the E.U. against the U.S. for subsidizing Boeing, for which the E.U. has a list of $20 billion of U.S. products it might impose tariffs on. That case should be decided early next year.

(4) TRADEMARK TROUBLE NORTH OF THE BORDER. “CN Tower’s management company claims that any picture of the landmark building is a trademark violation” – let Boing Boing tell you how not impressed they are with the argument.

…James Bow is a Canadian fantasy writer whose small-press fantasy novel The Night Girl features a cover-art collage that includes a Creative Commons-licensed image of the CN Tower. Bow was getting ready for his book launch when the CN Tower’s management company wrote to him to insist that he not publish the book with the cover, on the grounds that people who encountered his novel might mistakenly believe that it was commercially affiliated with the CN Tower.

The Canadian Parliament has actually taken up the question of whether the owners of buildings can control the reproduction of their likenesses: Section 32.2(1) of the Copyright Act states that “It is not an infringement of copyright… for any person to reproduce, in a painting, drawing, engraving, photograph or cinematographic work…an architectural work, provided the copy is not in the nature of an architectural drawing or plan.”

In other words, you can’t stop people from reproducing the likeness of your building.

The CN Tower’s management clearly knew about this, so their threat to Bow invoked trademark law, advancing the bizarre theory that any commercial reproduction of the Tower’s likeness is intrinsically deceptive, since anyone who sees such a reproduction would automatically assume that the CN Tower endorsed the product that bore the reproduction (that is, people who encountered Bow’s book would immediately leap to the conclusion that the CN Tower had launched a line of fantasy novels).

(5) TREK VINO VERITAS. Never mind pictures of the bottles, how does the wine actually taste? Ars Technica says “Definitely better than synthehol.” “Boldly going where no palate has gone before: A Star Trek wine tasting”.

But arguably the most anticipated Trek happening of 2019 involved the announcement of a new series—Star Trek: Picard. Slated to debut in early 2020, the show picks up with the beloved captain retired to his vineyards before life intervenes. So naturally, in honor of the series and Picard’s true passion, we now have Star Trek Wines, a collaboration between CBS Consumer Products and Wines That Rock.

Obviously, Ars had to sample these wines—for you, our readers, because we’re selfless like that. We recently ordered a bottle each of the two featured wines, even snagging the last of the sold-out limited edition Collector’s Pack. From there, we put out some cheeses and charcuterie, and the Los Angeles-based Ars Technica contingent set about putting our palates to work.

(6) NEW PULLMAN FANTASY. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick’s review tells how “Philip Pullman Pushes The Limits Of His World In ‘The Secret Commonwealth'”.

Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth is a big novel full of big ideas, big characters and big sorrows. It is a tale of spies and philosophies and wit, of factions vying for control of the truth — or the public’s opinion of the truth. It’s an adventure, global in scope and epic in shape, but it’s also a story about being unsettled in one’s life, about living with consequences, of what happens to us when we are estranged from ourselves. I was fascinated, occasionally contemptuous as the story had me siding with one character over another, and always curious to know more about the world and what would happen and always in awe of Pullman. This book feels like a response to the darkness in our time as Lord of the Rings feels like a response to the darkness in J. R. R. Tolkien’s. (Though Pullman might find that comparison paltry.)

Yes, the story is big. But The Secret Commonwealth’s greatest strength is the care it takes to center the story in the individual; the importance it grants to what’s in our heroes’ hearts….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 5, 1990 Super Force debuted. Intended it was designed to be a companion series to Superboy, it ran for two seasons. It featured G. Gordon Liddy as villain and had Timothy Leary and former porn stars Traci Lords and Ginger Lynn as guest stars. 
  • October 5, 2002 — In Japan, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed aired “False Peace”, the first episode of this anime. It ran for five years and fifty episodes.  The series spawned three compilations films and was adapted into a manga as well as light novels. A sequel series, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny followed in 2004. It later was released in an English dubbed version. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 5, 1902 Larry Fine. Yes, he’s known as a member of the comedy act The Three Stooges. And they did a lot of genre films including Have Rocket – Will Travel, a 1959 film in which the Stooges, including him, are janitors working at a space center who accidentally blast off to Venus. (Died 1975.)
  • Born October 5, 1905 John Hoyt. He was cast as Dr. Philip Boyce in the original pilot episode of Star Trek (“The Cage”) and he appeared twice during the second season of The Twilight Zone in the episodes “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and “The Lateness of the Hour”.  He would also be the KAOS agent Conrad Bunny in the Get Smart episode “Our Man in Toyland”, and show up as General Beeker in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s episode “Hail to the Chief,” (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 5, 1919 Donald Pleasence. He was Doctor Samuel Loomis in the Halloween franchise and the President in Escape from New York. He also had a plethora of parts in other genre properties, a few of which include the main role in the movie Fantastic Voyage which was novelized by Isaac Asimov, roles in episodes of the The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The Ray Bradbury Theater, a part in George Lucas’ first foray into filmmaking, THX 1138, John Carpenter’s The Prince of Darkness, and the role of Merlin in the TV movie Guinivere. My favourite film title for a work he was in? Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie in which he played the dual roles of Victor Frankenstein  and Old Baron Frankenstein.  (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 5, 1930 Skip Homeier. He appeared on Trek twice, once as Melakon in “Patterns of Force”, and as Dr. Sevrin in “The Way to Eden”.  I’ll single out two other genre roles, the first being his Dr. Clinton role in The Outer Limits episode “Expanding Human”; the other being of his last roles which was a one-liner in The Wild Wild West Revisited as a senior Secret Service official. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 5, 1949 Peter Ackroyd, 70. His best known genre work is likely Hawksmoor which tells the tale of a London architect building a church and a contemporary detective investigating horrific murderers involving that church. Highly recommended. The House of Doctor Dee is genre fiction as is The Limehouse Golem and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I thought Hawksmoor had been turned into a film but it has not but he has a credit for The Limehouse Golem which is his film work. 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Karen Allen, 67. She’s best known for being Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a role she reprised for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. She also co-starred in Starman and Scrooged. She shows on Alfred Hitchcock Presents as Jackie in “The Creeper” episode. 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Clive Barker, 67. Horror writer, series include the Hellraiser and the Book of Art which isnot to overlook The Abarat Quintet which is quite superb. Though not recent, The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction published some twenty years ago contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories. His Imaginer series collects his decidedly strange art.  There has been a multitude of comic books, both by him and by others based on his his ideas.  My personal fave work by him is the Weaveworld novel.
  • Born October 5, 1959 Rich Horton, 60. Editor of three anthology series — Fantasy: Best of The Year and Science Fiction: Best of The Year both now longer being published, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy which is ongoing since 2009. He has been a reviewer for Locus for over a decade.
  • Born October 5, 1975 Marshall Lancaster, 44. He‘s best known for playing DC Chris Skelton in the superb BBC time-travel police series, Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. He played Buzzer in “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”, both Eleventh Doctor stories. 
  • Born October 5, 1975 Kate Winslet, 44. A longer and deeper genre record than I thought starting with being Prince Sarah in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court before playing Ophelia in Branagh’s Hamlet a few years later. She shows next as Clementine Kruczynski in the superb Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and was Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the equally superb Finding Neverland. She’s Jeanine Matthewsin Divergent and Insurgent, and is slated to be Ronal in the forthcoming Avatar 2. She’s the voice of Miss Fillyjonk in the English dub of the Swedish Moominvalley series. Finally I’d like to note she narrated the audiobook version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

(9) TROPE TIME. James Davis Nicoll knows all the “SF Stories in Which Earth Is Liberated by an Alien Empire” but is willing to confine himself to the best at Tor.com.

In fact, I find myself wondering if it isn’t suspicious that Borisov is so remarkably unremarkable. How likely is it that one of the objects spotted tumbling in from deepest space would be arriving more or less where we’d expect it, with more or less the composition we would expect of a natural object? Isn’t that exactly how some inquisitive galactic civilization would cloak a probe, so as not to attract undue attention from locals? Perhaps the reason we’re suddenly seeing what seem to be mere space-rocks, comets, whatever, is not thanks to tech improvements on our side, but is because something is carefully looking us over.

(10) THE UNCONSIDERED SLIGHT. Nerdist observes that Disney is giving Avengers: Endgame a big “for your consideration” push in 13 different categories, including Best Picture and Best Director, while surprisingly skipping fan favorites:

The biggest shock here is that they aren’t putting forward any of the cast for acting nods. Audiences were sure that Robert Downey Jr. and possibly Chris Evans would be in the running for Best Actor at next year’s competition. From this line-up, it’s clear that Disney is more focused on technical awards.

(11) THE BIG BANG OF CRIME. Engadget adds it to the calendar: “‘Harley Quinn’ series debuts on DC Universe November 29th”.

The Harley Quinn animated series DC promised way back in 2017 finally has a premiere date for DC Universe — as the character said in the show’s trailer, “Unlike that Deadpool cartoon, it’s actually coming out.” Harley Quinn will land on DC’s streaming service on November 29th, the comic book giant has announced at New York Comic Con. The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco will voice the newly single “criminal Queenpin,” who’s out to make it on her own in Gotham City.

(12) LUNCH AT MR. FOX. Scott Edelman lunches in Dublin with Cheryl Morgan in Episode 106 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Cheryl Morgan

This time around, you’re invited to lunch with Cheryl Morgan, who’s a four-time Hugo Award-winning science fiction critic and publisher — first as the editor of Emerald City, which won for Best Fanzine in 2004, followed by another for Best Fan Writer in 2009. She has also been the non-fiction editor of Clarkesworld magazine, for which she won her third and fourth Hugo Awards in 2010 and 2011. She is a director of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions Inc., and a founder of the short-lived Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation. She is a co-chair of Out Stories Bristol and lectures regularly on both trans history and science fiction and fantasy literature. She’s also a Director of The Diversity Trust for whom she run trans awareness courses. She’s the owner of Wizard’s Tower Press.

(13) CUT AND PASTE. NPR learns the way “Ancient Greek Scroll’s Hidden Contents Revealed Through Infrared Imaging”.

More than 200 years ago, scholars glued the remains of an ancient papyrus scroll onto cardboard to preserve it. But the scroll, a history of Plato’s Academy, also had writing on the back. Now scholars have deployed imaging technology to read what’s been concealed.

This scroll came from a library in Herculaneum, near Mount Vesuvius. And it was caught in the famous eruption of that volcano nearly 2,000 years ago — the same eruption that buried the city of Pompeii.

The scroll doesn’t look like much now. It’s blackened and in tatters. In fact, it looks like what you’d find at the bottom of your barbecue.

But the same processes that charred the scroll and the rest of that library also preserved it, according to papyrus scholar Graziano Ranocchia from the Italian National Research Council.

…Ranocchia said the huge spectrum range allowed them to penetrate the layers of the papyrus. “So with a huge penetration capacity, this is why we are able to read what our predecessors weren’t able to read through conventional multispectral imaging or infrared photography.”

What they found are bits of text that Philodemus wanted to insert into his book, such as quotes from other sources he was considering using in the history. Classicist Kilian Fleischer from the University of Würzburg, who is putting together a new edition of Philodemus’ history using these images, says it provides a unique view of an ancient philosopher’s writing process.

“We have here more or less the only case where we can really see how an ancient author worked and composed his book,” Fleischer says.

(14) SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET. BBC knows the reason why “China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits”.

Ask Google or Siri: “What is Taiwan?”

“A state”, they will answer, “in East Asia”.

But earlier in September, it would have been a “province in the People’s Republic of China”.

For questions of fact, many search engines, digital assistants and phones all point to one place: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia had suddenly changed.

The edit was reversed, but soon made again. And again. It became an editorial tug of war that – as far as the encyclopedia was concerned – caused the state of Taiwan to constantly blink in and out of existence over the course of a single day.

“This year is a very crazy year,” sighed Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan.

“A lot of Taiwanese Wikipedians have been attacked.”

(15) THEY’RE STILL HERE. And so are we… “Pagers, faxes and cheques: Things that might seem obsolete, but aren’t”.

The roughly one thousand people who still used pagers in Japan might have shed a tear this week when they were finally discontinued. Wait, you may say… pagers are still a thing?

Even though you won’t find them in Japan any more, pagers are still used elsewhere. And they’re not the only “outdated” item still being employed around the world.

(16) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Isaac Arthur’s latest is on “Spacesuits & Extreme Environment Gear.”

There’s many dangerous places on Earth, and everywhere off Earth is downright lethal, from the emptiness of space to the airless and radiation soaked Moon to the smoldering inferno of Venus, humanity can’t visit them without protection. We’ll see what options for spacesuits are under works and what options might emerge for even better ones in the distant future.

(17) BAR FIGHT. Yahoo! News is handy with a link as “Regular Clowns Fight Joker And Pennywise In Brutally Funny Bozo Brawl With James Corden”.

… The bozos take their beef outside, into the streets. One regular clown (James Corden) threatens to shove his size 38 shoe up Joker’s rear end. Another (Cedric the Entertainer) tells the evil clowns: “Are you a scary clown or just a scared clown?”

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

Dublin 2019 Photos by Rich Lynch — Sunday

This is the guy who kept me in fandom 33 years ago

… but that’s another story. (Kees Van Toorn)

More pictures by Rich Lynch after the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 8/10/19 The Square Of The Pixel Is Equal To The Sum Of The Squares Of The File And The Scroll

(1) LISTEN UP. At the Horror Writers Association blog, Matthew W. Quinn cites many examples of “How Podcasting Can Help Writers Learn and Network”.

Firstly, podcasts provide great opportunities to work with other writers. Thanks to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast, I learned hostess Lindsay Buroker had opened up her Fallen Empireuniverse to other writers through Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program. From this one podcast episode came my short novellas “Ten Davids, Two Goliaths” and “Discovery and Flight.” I also got the opportunity to help Ms. Buroker further organize the back-story, something that proved helpful for everybody involved in the Kindle Worlds project. Thanks to The Horror Show With Brian Keene, I was able to connect with authors Brian Keene and Wesley Southard, who both blurbed my forthcoming horror-comedy novella Little People, Big Guns. After buying ads on The Horror Show and the related podcast Cosmic Shenanigans, Project Entertainment Network owner Armand Rosamilia agreed to blurb The Atlanta Incursion, the forthcoming sequel to my Lovecraftian novel The Thing in the Woods. I also learned about Dan Wells’ “I Am Not A Serial Killer” series from Writing Excuses. Not only did I find books I enjoyed, but I also reviewed two of the three books in the first trilogy and the movie adaptation of the first novel and blogged about a DragonCon panel featuring Wells in which I got the chance to talk with him about the book and the film. Finally, thanks to regularly listening to the Bizzong podcast, I have an interview with host Frank Edler to promote LPBG slated for this fall.

(2) IN MEMORY YET GREEN. The Irish Times profiles a writer on his way to Dublin 2019: “George RR Martin: ‘Science fiction has conquered the world’”.

…Instead I ask why fantasy and sci-fi writers seem so much more intimately connected to their fans than writers of other genres do.

“Science fiction, for much of its history – and this goes back to before I was born – was not considered reputable,” says Martin. “It was seen as cheap gutter entertainment. I was a bright kid, but even I had teachers say to me, ‘Why do you read that science-fiction stuff? Why don’t you read real literature?’ You got that kind of snobbism.

“So the early science-fiction fans, in the 1930s and 1940s and early 1950s, felt that very much, and they gathered together, and it was sort of an ‘us against the world’ thing. ‘We know this is great stuff, and you on the outside might make fun of us, and mock us, but we’ll band together.’ And the writers started coming to the conventions, and many writers came out of fandom; they started out as fans.”

Where does he think that patronising attitude to genre fiction comes from? “You can go back to the literary quarrel between Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson, ” he says, “and that’s really where you see a split between high literature and popular literature. Before that it was just literature.

…“But essentially, in the opinion of most university lecturers for 100 years, James won that argument, and literature had to be about something serious and real life, and if it was about pirates or space travel or dragons or monsters then it was something for children.” He laughs. “That’s all changed. Now science fiction, far from being this little persecuted genre that it was in the 1950s, has conquered the world.”

(3) TOLKIEN ESTATE SETS LIMITS. According to The Guardian, “Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings ‘cannot use much of Tolkien’s plot'”.

…Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey, who is supervising the show’s development, told German fansite Deutsche Tolkien that the estate has refused to allow the series to be set during any period other than the Second Age of Middle-earth. This means Amazon’s adaptation will not cross over at all with events from the Third Age, which were dramatised in Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy and sees hobbit Frodo Baggins destroy the One Ring.

Spanning 3,441 years, the Second Age begins after the banishment of the dark lord Morgoth and ends with the first demise of Sauron, Morgoth’s servant and the primary villain in The Lord of the Rings, at the hands of an alliance of elves and men.

Shippey said that Amazon “has a relatively free hand” to add details since Tolkien did not flesh out every detail of the Second Age in his appendices or Unfinished Tales, a collection of stories published posthumously in 1980. But Shippey called it “a bit of a minefield – you have to tread very carefully”, saying that “the Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenórean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenóreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same…

(4) BENNETT’S VIGILANCE. NPR’s Jason Heller tells us that “‘Vigilance’ Imagines A Chillingly Familiar Future”

Robert Jackson Bennett has a wicked sense of humor. His 2013 novel American Elsewhere trained a satirical eye on small-town America even as it straddled the boundaries of science fiction and horror. Yet with his latest work, a novella called Vigilance, the Austin-based author and two-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award tackles one of the most deadly serious — and sadly relevant — topics of all: mass shootings. As in American Elsewhere, there’s both science fiction and horror in Vigilance. There’s also that wicked Bennett sense of humor. He spares no disturbing absurdity or twinge of cognitive dissonance in his examination of gun mania and the new normal of everyday massacres in America.

Make no mistake: For all its satire of government, entertainment, society, and violence, Vigilance is a sobering read. It takes place just a few years in our future, in a United States that’s simultaneously unrecognizable and chillingly familiar. Texas is in flames. The governor of Iowa is an open white supremacist. Warfare has become almost entirely remote, done with robots and drones, so that the bloodlust and sense of martial duty fostered in people by American society — as well as the noble, heroic ideal of the valiant solder — has nowhere to be vented or expressed. And the younger, more liberal generation has almost entirely fled the United States for other nations with stricter gun control, leaving the older, more gun-favoring population behind.

What that population has done is blood-curdling. John McDean is a producer for a popular television show called Vigilance, in which mass shootings are broadcast for public consumption to those who wish “to witness violence and fear, but always from safe refuge.” His target demographic is the American pistol-owner. As McDean coldly, cruelly calculates, “Pistols are for killing people. Pistols are for urban environments. Pistols are for defense.” They are the perfect choice of what McDean calls his Ideal Person, “isolated within a huge suburban house, wary and suspicious of the outside world, listening to the beautiful woman on the television warn them of horrors and depravity in the lands beyond the borders, of corruption creeping into our cities.”

(5) KAIJU VACATION. Lorelei Marcus is back from Japan where she saw the latest (in 1964) Godzilla movie: “[Aug. 7, 1964] Rematch! (Mothra vs. Godzilla)”.

In June this year, 1964, my family and I took a three week vacation to the island nation of Japan. Though I have been many times before, this was the first time I felt changed as a person after coming home. Perhaps it was the fact that I was finally old enough to appreciate the world around me; or perhaps it was because we’d chosen to stay in a new place: Hiroshima was still under construction, but I could tell it was going to become a beautiful city, despite the air of tragedy. Regardless, I saw Japan in a new light, and it has brought me to see the world in a new light as well.

I also got to see Mothra vs Godzilla, and it was incredible…

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 10, 1960 Dinosaurus! premiered on this day.
  • August 10, 1962The Brain That Wouldn’t Die had its theatrical debut
  • August 10, 1984 — The Banzai Institute reminds us:

It was 35 years ago today that Dr. B. Banzai, while conducting a supersonic test of his remarkable Jet Car, breached the dimensional barrier with his experimental Oscillation Overthruster and made contact with the 8th dimension. Congratulations to Dr. Banzai, as well as to the filmmaking team that documented this extraordinary event. 

  • August 10, 2004 — Donald Duck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1896 John Gloag. His first SF novel, Tomorrow’s Yesterday, depicts a race of cat people from the distant future observing human society. It was one of five SF novels and a double handful of short stories he wrote in the Thirties and Forties. Only A Short Dictionary of Furniture, one of his non-fiction efforts, is available digitally. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in  genre films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and a very few other works are available in digital form.  (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows and several novels more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes as ISFDB documents four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World. Kidneys anyone? Or tripe anyone?  (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 88. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that?  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read.
  • Born August 10, 1939 Kate O’Mara. Her films included two Hammer Horror films, The Vampire Lovers and The Horror of Frankenstein. She also appeared on Doctor Who as The Rani during the Era of The Seventh Doctor in a recurring role. She reposted that role in the charity special, Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 10, 1952 David C. Smith, 67. He is best known for his fantasy novels, particularly those co-authored with Richard L. Tierney, featuring characters created by Robert E. Howard, most notably the six novels which involved Red Sonja. Those novels are available on iBooks but not on Kindle. 
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 64. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a series about the few Greek gods who have made to our time. Though not genre, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 54. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space Rangers, Highlander, Quantum Leap, Relic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on StarHyke, a six episode SF comic series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime. 

(8) HELP PICK THE EXPANSE TOYS. Bonnie McDaniel alerts Filers to Amazon’s page where you can vote on toys and dolls to be included with their upcoming box set of The Expanse. “Needless to say, I voted for the swearing Avasarala doll.” 😀

Some of you wanted a statue of Madam Secretary; others wanted this to be much more “playful.” We’re going to start with the idea of a highly decorated doll. We’ll dress her in her red tunic and include all the proper accessories. We’ll put her in a whimsical toy box for display. And, most importantly, she’ll come with attitude. Press her back and hear her favorite adult-rated sayings. Approx. 12” high.

(9) TUNE INTO SFF. BBC Radio 4’s Stillicide is a futuristic mini-series. Each episode is only 15 minutes and will be on i-player for a month.

Stillicide

Episode 1 of 12

Cynan Jones’ electrifying series set in the very near future – a future a little, but not quite like our own.

Water is commodified and the Water Train that feeds the city is increasingly at risk of sabotage. And now icebergs are set to be towed to a huge ice dock outside the capital city – a huge megalopolis that is draining the country of its resources.

Against this, a lone marksman stands out in the field. His job is to protect the Water Train…

From one of the most celebrated writers of his generation, Stillicide is a moving story of love and loss and the will to survive, and a powerful glimpse of the tangible future.

Available now — “Episode 1: The Water Train”

(10) SHOOTING THE MOON. Let’s also mention Gideon Marcus’ profile of the latest Moon exploration efforts of 55 years ago. This job is not that bleepin’ easy! “[August 1, 1964] On Target (The Successful Flight of Ranger 7)”.

…Never mind them.  Rangers 3-5 were the real lunar probes, even including giant balsawood pimples on the end, which housed seismometers that could survive impact with the Moon.  It was more important than ever that we know what the lunar surface was like now that President Kennedy had announced that we would, as a nation, put a man on the Moon and bring him safely back to Earth before the decade was out.

Easier said than done.  Ranger 3, launched in January 1962, missed the Moon.  Moreover, it sailed past while facing the wrong way.  The probe took no useful pictures, and a failure of the onboard computer prevented the acquisition of sky science data….

(11) THE WATCHERS. On the National Public Radio website, Annalisa Quinn reviews a new novel, The Turn of the Key (Ruth Ware), that updates Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw for the current digital and surveillance age. (“We’re All Haunted In ‘The Turn Of The Key'”)

     In Henry James’s ambiguous, paranoid novella The Turn of the Screw (1898), a governess is left in charge of two children in an isolated Essex country house. Over time, she becomes convinced the children are communing with the ghosts of former servants, who appear to them, at first at a distance and then ever closer, threatening to lead them to damnation. By the end, a child is dead, but we still don’t know: Were the ghosts real, or were they in the governess’s head?

     With The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10) offers a clever and elegant update to James’s story, one with less ambiguity but its own eerie potency. Rowan Caine accepts a nannying job at a gorgeous house in the Scottish Highlands, wired with a smart home app called, horribly, “Happy,” that lets its owners surveil every room in the house from afar, control the lights, heat, and locks — and even talk through speakers in the walls.

(12) EVERYBODY WAVE AT LARRY. Larry Correia tells people he never reads this blog, yet it’s important to him to know what’s being said about him here and to respond to it because he has the thinnest-skin and the biggest ears of anyone in the field. “House of Assassins Is A Finalist For The Dragon Award For Best Fantasy” [Internet Archive link].

(13) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. In July, Greg Bear blogged about his experiences “Meeting Epstein”. He met him at a conference in 2011 to which he was invited at the behest of AI researcher Marvin Minsky. Bloomberg’s article says Virginia Giuffre has named Minsky as someone Jeffrey Epstein sent her to when she was 17, according to an unsealed deposition in Federal court.

…On a couple of occasions, we had face time with Epstein, who seemed, to me, an eccentric and possibly brilliant financier with weird ideas about economics–but hell, he was paying all the bills, so we were polite. One of our observations about his entourage was they consisted mostly of attractive young women in their twenties or early thirties, at most, brought over from his private island near St. John, where it seemed they staffed his house. We had been dangled the possibility of being taken out to that island to see the sights, but most of us did not get that opportunity.

The women, by my instincts, were of a uniform and somewhat inaccessible temper, and I got the impression that Epstein was their lord and master, and they did not range far in their daily lives. But they were all adults.

At one point during the conference, with Epstein in the room, some imp of perverse in me made an analogy (I cannot remember my exact point, or the reason for the analogy) to Dracula coming down out of his castle to ravage the young women of the village. That put an end — though not abruptly — to our face time with Epstein, and the conference ended on schedule. We had a great time with Marvin and his wife, Gloria, loved the islands and towns, and never heard from Epstein or his people again. No further conferences were arranged, at least with me involved….

(14) ON THE CHEAP. Getting up-to-date images is easy when the satellites are cheap enough that you can put up a lot of them: “Iceye satellites return super-sharp radar images”.

Finnish space start-up Iceye has once again given an impressive demonstration of its novel technology’s capabilities.

The company’s radar satellites are now returning sub-1m resolution images of the Earth’s surface.

This level of performance is expected from traditional spacecraft that weigh a tonne or more and cost in excess of one hundred million euros.

But Iceye’s breakthrough satellites are the size of a suitcase and cost only a couple of million to build.

The Helsinki-based outfit is leading a group of “New Space” companies that aim to fly constellations of such radar imagers.

This is something that would have seemed technically very challenging and prohibitively expensive just a few years ago.

(15) STANDING UP. ComicBook.com sees the pursuit of truth and justice: “Superman Joins Twitter, Dives Into Immigration Debate”.

Few things are as debated at the moment in America as Immigration, and while there are a myriad of opinions about how we should handle it, I don’t think anyone expected Superman to jump into the fray. That’s exactly what DC did though when Superman got a Twitter account, and the hero didn’t waste any time establishing who he is and what he’s always been about. DC shared a video featuring a classic Superman PSA from 1960 titled Lend A Friendly Hand, which put a spotlight on two children looking down on another child because he is a refugee, and Superman breaks down what’s wrong with their thinking.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Meow Wolf–Awakening Creativity for the Masses” on Vimeo is an interview with Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek where he talks about Meow Wolf’s nethods of creating art and how they can inspire creativity ine everyone who experiences a Meow Wolf production.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cliff Ramshaw, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, James Bacon, James Davis Nicoll, Bonnie McDaniel, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/19 Scrolling To Montana Soon – Gonna Be A Pixel-Floss Tycoon!

(1) EXPANSE GETS FIFTH SEASON. The Expanse has been renewed for Season 5 at Amazon reports Variety.

The announcement was made during the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Saturday. Season 4 of the series is set to debut on Dec. 13.

The Expanse” aired its first three seasons on Syfy, with the cable networking having cancelled the series back in 2019. Shortly after it was cancelled, it was reported that Amazon was in talks to continue the series, which is produced and fully financed by Alcon Television Group.

(2) SF AUTHOR’S PREDICTION FULFILLED. A writer for Britain’s Private Eye rediscovered Norman Spinrad’s Agent of Chaos (1967) with its prescient comments about another political leader named Boris Johnson.

(3) SIX WILL GET YOU ONE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At The Atlantic, contributing writer Dr. Yascha Mounk (Johns Hopkins University associate professor and German Marshall Fund senior fellow) has his own ideas on “How Not to Run a Panel” (tagline: “Panel discussions can be very boring, but they don’t have to be if you follow these six rules.”).

I could write a whole book about the panels that have gone wrong in particularly strange or hilarious fashion: the one where the moderator fell asleep. The one where the opening statements lasted longer than the time allotted for the whole event. The one, high up on the 10th floor, when the acrobatic window washer stole the show.

These exotic horrors notwithstanding, I disagree with Leo Tolstoy: Every unhappy panel is unhappy in some of the same ways.

Mind you, he’s talking about academic panels (his field is political science), but one wonders how much his advice crosses over to convention panels. He elaborates on each of his six points:

1. Don’t have more than four people onstage.
2. Keep introductions to a minimum.
3. Ax the opening statements.
4. Guide the conversation.
5. Cut off the cranks.*
6. Pick panelists who have something to say to one another.

* NB: He’s talking about cranks in the audience. He doesn’t seem to consider cranks on the panel.

(4) THE VERDICT. Camestros Felapton reports from the scene: “Michael Z Williamson’s Wikipedia page has not been deleted”.

For those keeping score, the Michael Z Williamson article on Wikipedia has not been deleted after a long and fractious discussion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Log/2019_July_21#Michael_Z._Williamson

The outcome of the deletion discussion was ‘no consensus’ i.e. notability wasn’t decided one way or another. This was mainly because of the brigade of trolls who descended on the discussion at Williamson’s request.

While the Wikipedia is keeping the article, the record of the debate preserves these additional facts:

I note that the subject of this article, Michael Z. Williamson, has edited Wikipedia as Mzmadmike. He has been banned from Wikipedia as a result of a community discussion that concluded that Williamson has disrupted Wikipedia through his edits as a Wikipedia user and through comments on social media, which (according to the community discussion) have included canvassing, legal threats (admin-only diff) and harassment of Wikipedians. This has no bearing on the outcome of this deletion discussion, because having an article is not an indication of merit (as a person, author or otherwise), but only of what Wikipedia calls “notability“, i.e., being covered in some detail by reliable sources. But it bears mentioning here as a context of what may be necessary future administrative actions to protect the article and Wikipedia from further disruption.

(5) THE MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON. The New York Times profiles the conflicting family views behind an auction that has already yielded $16.7 million in sales: “‘Would Dad Approve?’ Neil Armstrong’s Heirs Divide Over a Lucrative Legacy”.

Those sales by the brothers, who also pursued a newly disclosed $6 million wrongful death settlement over their father’s medical care, have exposed deep differences among those who knew Neil Armstrong about his legacy — and what he would have wanted.

Some relatives, friends and archivists find the sales unseemly, citing the astronaut’s aversion to cashing in on his celebrity and flying career and the loss of historical objects to the public.

“I seriously doubt Neil would approve of selling off his artifacts and memorabilia,” said James R. Hansen, his biographer. “He never did any of that in his lifetime.”

(6) ERB-DOM ANNUAL GATHERING. Burroughs fans will hold DUM-DUM 2019 in Willcox, AZ from August 1-4.

(7) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s latest, newly BFS Award-nominated The Full Lid for 26th July 2019″ includes a look at the first three episodes of The Space Race. An epic dramatized account of the birth and evolution of crewed spaceflight it starts in the future, takes in Gagarin, Armstrong and the rest of the past and throws light on some surprising elements of the story.

As does the deeply eccentric Apollo 11 anniversary coverage. Says Stuart, “I was especially impressed with the choices made by a BBC movie about the flight and the little moments of humanity we glimpse outside the history books in Channel 4’s programming.”

He also salutes “the monarch of the kitchen warriors, the king of the B movie and the crown prince of charming villainy, the one, the only Rutger Hauer. Rest well, sir.”

The Full Lid is free and comes out every Friday.

(8) DRAGON ANATOMY. From the New York Times Magazine: “Judge John Hodgman on Whether a Tail Is Part of the Butt” (January 17).

“Paul writes:  My wife, Samantha, and her grandmother Gigi have a disagreement about whether a creature’s tail is part of his butt.  Gigi says that because poop can get stuck in a butt, it is part of the butt.  Sam argues that a tail  only starts at the butt.  Are tails butts?  (Specifically a dragon’s tail, which is what sparked this argument.)

JOHN HODGMAN SAYS:  “What a surprise twist at the end!  Before we walked through this wardrobe into fantasy land, I was confident in my ruling:  tails are NOT butts, as they have specific balance and display functions.  And also let’s face it:  Poop can get on anything.  But as I am no expert on dragon anatomy, I turned to the actual George R.R. Martin, whose number I actually have, who reports:  ‘Poop can also get stuck to a dragon’s leg, but that does not make it part of the butt.  Dragon poop is hot, by the way.  Fire hazard.'”

Martin Morse Wooster sent the link with a postscript: “How many points do I get for finding George R.R. Martin’s opinions on ‘dragon poop?’”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1926 T. G. L. Cockcroft. Mike has his obituary here. Not surprisingly none of his works are currently in-print. 
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 91. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got by translated by Ursula Le Guin into English.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here. I will note that he was a published author having “On Conquered Earth” in If, December 1967 as edited by Frederik Pohl. I don’t think it’s been republished since. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Though primarily a writer of horror fiction, he did write three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard, The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Meta-verse. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 53. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental Adventures, Epic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. Dixon and Lackey are the 2020 Worldcon’s Author Guests of Honour.
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 51. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 50. For my money his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LE GUIN ON TV. This Friday night on PBS the program American Masters is highlighting Ursula Le Guin. That’s when they’ll air the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary.

(12) JOHNSON’S WALK. In the Washington Post, Hau Chu interviews Richard Kelly, whose obscure 2006 sci-fi film Southland Tales might have been pivotal in advancing the film career of Dwayne Johnson: “The delightfully bonkers film that turned the Rock into Dwayne Johnson”.

…Survey a theater of moviegoers and they all might tell you a different interpretation of what “Southland Tales” is actually about. The short version is that a nuclear explosion has gone off in Texas, thrusting the United States into World War III. Taking place in 2008 Los Angeles at the end of the world, the film consequently delves into the post-Iraq War militarization of the country, the rise of the surveillance state and, naturally, rifts on the space-time continuum.

The movie, which would go on to become a critical and commercial failure, contains a who’s who of character actors, as well as once- and soon-to-be notable stars. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a porn star who simultaneously has a hit single (“Teen Horniness is Not a Crime”) and accurately foretells the imminent apocalypse in a screenplay she’s written. Amy Poehler delivers a slam poetry performance in her last seconds on Earth before she is gunned down by a racist cop played by Jon Lovitz. Justin Timberlake, in a confounding, drugged-out dream sequence, lip-syncs the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

To steer his often messy but engaging opus — and eventual cult classic — director Richard Kelly needed a truly magnetic force. Enter Johnson.

(13) BRYAN FULLER. [Item by Carl Slaughter.]According to Midnight’s Edge and Nerdrotic, Bryan Fuller pitched the Picard series concept to CBS as one of 5 possible series. Fuller also approached Jeri Ryan and Brent Spiner about starring in it.  Fuller has yet to get any credit it for the Picard show.

(14) ONE VOTER’S DECISION. Rich Horton rolls out his “Hugo Ballot Thoughts, Short Fiction, 2019” on Strange at Ecbatan. Which actually begins with his argument against having AO3 up in the Best Related Works category. But he soon veers back to the topic, such as these comments about Best Novella:

Of these only Artificial Condition was on my nomination ballot, but I didn’t get to The Black God’s Drums until later, and it would have been on my ballot. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach struck me as impressively ambitious – probably the most ambitious of the nominees – but I think the ending is a mess. Still a story worth reading. The Tea Master and the Detective is nice work, not quite brilliant. And, I say with guilt, I haven’t read Beneath the Sugar Sky, which I suspect will be very fine work.

(15) BUTTERFAT CHANCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Author, crafter, and freelance journalist Bonnie Burton has a knack for spotting odd news—her CNET article “NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts honored in… a butter sculpture” in this case. (Tagline: “Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins look just as legendary carved in butter at the Ohio State Fair.”)

If you want to celebrate NASA‘s 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, you might as well do it with butter.

At this year’s Ohio State Fair, visitors can see highly detailed, life-sized butter sculptures of the Apollo 11 moon crew — Neil ArmstrongBuzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

There’s also a separate butter sculpture of Armstrong in his spacesuit saluting the American flag while standing near the lunar module Eagle.

Armstrong — who was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio — is considered a state icon for his trip to the moon. In addition, Armstrong bought a dairy farm in Ohio after leaving NASA in 1971. 

You can see the entire butter sculpture unveiling ceremony posted by The Columbus Dispatch on YouTube.

(16) EN FUEGO. Space is getting hotter…but not that much (AP: “New Mexico chile plant selected to be grown in space”). The first fruiting plant to be grown on the International Space Station will be the Española Improved hot pepper. However, it’s said to max out at a relatively modest 2,000 Scoville units, well less than the typical Jalapeño much less really hot hot peppers.

A hybrid version of a New Mexico chile plant has been selected to be grown in space as part of a NASA experiment.

The chile, from Española, New Mexico, is tentatively scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station for testing in March 2020, the Albuquerque Journal reports .

A NASA group testing how to produce food beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and the chile plant was created with input from Jacob Torres — an Española native and NASA researcher.

Torres said the point of sending the chiles into space is to demonstrate how NASA’s Advanced Plant Habitat – which recreates environmental needs for plant growth like CO2, humidity and lighting – works not only for leafy greens, but for fruiting crops, as well.

(17) TRAILER BREAKDOWN. New Rockstars answers questions you didn’t even know you had about the newest Star Trek: Picard trailer.

Star Trek Picard Trailer from Comic Con teases the return of Data, Seven of Nine, the Borgs, and more nods to The Next Generation and Voyager! Where will this new Picard series on CBS All Access take Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) after the events of Star Trek Nemesis and First Contact? Erik Voss gets an assist from friend and Trekkie Marina Mastros, who breaks down this Star Trek trailer shot by shot for all the Easter Eggs you may have overlooked! What is the secret identity of the new mystery woman, Dahj? Why are the Romulans experimenting with Borg technology? Has Data really returned, or is it his alternate version, B-4?

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

Pixel Scroll 7/27/19 Baby Is 3, Jeffty Is 5, Now We Are Number 6, Who Is Number One?

(1) MACMILLAN APPLIES LIBRARY EMBARGO ACROSS THE BOARD. Publishers Weekly outlines the expanded policy — “After Tor Experiment, Macmillan Expands Embargo on Library E-books”.

More than a year after imposing a controversial four month “test” embargo on new release e-books in libraries from it’s Tor imprint, Macmillan announced today that it will now impose a two month embargo on library e-books across all of the company’s imprints. The terms take effect November 1.

Under the publisher’s new digital terms of sale for libraries, “library systems” will be now be allowed to purchase a single—that is, one—perpetual access e-book during the first eight weeks of publication for each new Macmillan release, at half price ($30). Additional copies will then be available at full price (generally $60 for new releases) after the eight-week window has passed. All other terms remain the same: e-book licenses will continue to be metered for two years or 52 lends, whichever comes first, on a one copy/one user model. A Macmillan spokesperson confirmed to PW that the single perpetual access copy will be available only for new release titles in the first eight weeks after publication—the option to buy a single perpetual access copy expires after that eight week window, and the offer is not available for backlist titles.

And the American Library Association goes on the warpath: “ALA denounces new Macmillan library lending model, urges library customers to voice objections”.

The American Library Association (ALA) denounces the new library ebook lending model announced today by Macmillan Publishers. Under the new model, a library may purchase one copy upon release of a new title in ebook format, after which the publisher will impose an eight-week embargo on additional copies of that title sold to libraries.

“Macmillan Publishers’ new model for library ebook lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission: ensuring access to information for all,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for patrons most dependent on libraries.

“When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in ebook format, it’s the library – not the publisher – that feels the heat. It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs.

“Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable,” said Brown. “ALA urges Macmillan to cancel the embargo.”

The new Macmillan ebook lending model is an expansion of an existing policy that went into effect in July 2018, when the company, without warning, issued a four-month embargo applying solely to titles from the company’s Tor imprint. At the time ALA stated that the delay would hurt readers, authors and libraries.

Since last fall, Hachette Book Group (HBG) and Penguin Random House (PRH) have eliminated “perpetual access” for libraries and replaced it with a two-year access model. Simon & Schuster changed from a one-year to two-year access model. While re-evaluating their business models, none of these firms implemented an embargo—deciding that equitable access to information through libraries is also in their business interest. HarperCollins continues with its 26-loan model. Macmillan now stands alone in its embargo policy among the largest (Big 5) publishers….

(2) FOOD OF THE GODZILLA. SYFY Wire browses the latest from Sideshow Collectibles and other toymakers in “Important Toy News: This ramen-eating Godzilla is priceless, Charlie Brown feels shame”.

But all of this money-spending is making us hungry. And what do you do when you’re hungry? That’s right: you eat. You eat ramen, and just like Godzilla, you look so unbelievably adorable when you do it that it makes your face explode and you cry tears of unyielding madness.

(3) BEST RELATED WORK. A writer who goes by “Building Worlds” has written an appeal to voters: “AO3, the Hugos, and Fandom” on Medium.

I’ve seen an argument online that a distinction voters are struggling with regarding AO3 is that they believe it is not noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text (all the fan fiction).

I’d argue that the most noteworthy thing about AO3, /r/Fantasy, and other online fan forums, is that they are venues for users to come together and discuss the speculative fiction they love, run by volunteers. To me, the Hugo Awards and WorldCon itself are about bringing fans together around the work we all love. Ultimately, that’s about the purest reason to vote for a Hugo as any I can think of.

(4) SFF ART GOES UNDER THE HAMMER. Bids are being taken by Heritage Auctions for the August 13 – 14 Glynn and Suzanne Crain Science Fiction Collection Signature Auction. Robert Emil Schulz’ cover for PKD’s The World Jones Made 1956 paperback is the poster for the event.

(5) COLLECTIVE NOUN. New Voices in Orbit #19 asks writers: “What do you call a group of dragons?” Kendall says, “And yes, I’m thinking of Meredith when I send you this. But also everyone.”

(6) SNAPS COURTESY OF THE HUT. Esquire has posted “133 Photos of Comic-Con 2019’s Biggest Celebrities”.

Jay and Silent Bob, Elizabeth Henstridge, Chloe Bennet and more stopped by the Getty Images Portrait Studio delivered by Pizza Hut.

Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams, Dominique Tipper, (Bottom L-R) Steven Strait, Wes Chatham, and Cas Anvar of ‘The Expanse’ pose for a portrait during the Pizza Hut Lounge at 2019 Comic-Con International: San Diego on July 19, 2019 in San Diego, California.

 (7) WHEN E.T. COMES TO STAY. Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur episode 196 discusses “Invasive Aliens.”

Alien Invasions have been a staple of science fiction for years, with motherships and UFOs assaulting Earth, but how realistic is such a thing? We’ll take a look at what might motivate an attack, how it might happen, what alternatives might make more sense, and what might prevent extraterrestrials from trying.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 27, 1940 — Bugs Bunny made his cartoon debut.
  • July 27, 1994 Test Tube Teens From The Year 2000 went direct to video.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1874 Frank Shannon. He’s best remembered now as the scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940.  The serials themselves were Flash GordonFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1939 Sydney J. van Scyoc, 80. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. For all practice purposes, she’s not available in digital format. 
  • Born July 27, 1948 Juliet Marillier, 71. She’s a New Zealand-born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She’s a regular contributor to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1949 Robert Rankin, 70. Writer of what I’d call serious comic genre fiction. Best book by him? I’d single out The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse as the best work he ever did bar none. Hell, even the name is absolutely great. 
  • Born July 27, 1950 Simon Jones, 69. He’s well known for his portrayals of Arthur Dent, protagonist of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He first portrayed the character on radio for the BBC and again on television for BBC Two. Jones also featured in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film in a cameo role. He’s in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Brazil and 12 Monkeys as well. 
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 51. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein which I’m reading now, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein. Her work on Diana Wynne Jones, Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition, is a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. 
  • Born July 27, 1973 Cassandra Clare, 46. I read at least the first three or four volumes of her Mortal Instruments series which I see means I’ve almost completed it. Damn good series. Anyone read her Magnus Bane series? 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest encounter a vending machine that’s too intelligent.
  • When was the last time a B.C. strip made me laugh out loud? July 27….

(11) HE’S THE REASON FOR THE “GOOGLE 15”. Fast Company claims “This snack curator for Google is one of the most powerful people in food”.

…As urban legend has it, Google cofounder Sergey Brin once instructed office architects that “no one should be more than 200 feet away from food.” And so they rarely are. On any given day, the 1,300 “microkitchens” located within Google’s 70 or so offices around the world, from Pittsburgh to Istanbul, brim with dried seaweed, turkey jerky, kombucha, and other eclectic treats that rotate according to season, popularity with employees, local tastes, and food trends.

Google takes its snacking very seriously. That’s why it has a dedicated team overseeing it and a chef named Matt Colgan at the helm at many of its western campuses, where he (along with menu architects, wellness managers, and nutrition specialists at Google Food) has quietly emerged as one of the most powerful gatekeepers in the packaged-food world.

“When you’re feeding this many people,” says Colgan, culinary director for Google’s food operations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado, “you encounter every diet imaginable, every request.” You also get bombarded by sales reps at food companies, who are hungering after snackers—and these snackers in particular. They see Google employees, the drivers of Silicon Valley tech innovation, as having the clout, and appetite, to set snack trends.

(12) RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Michael Cassutt was interviewed by the Washington Post’s Eryn Brown for the obituary of long-time Mission Control director Christoper C. Kraft, Jr., who died on July 22 at age 95.

When Gemini 4 astronaut Ed White lingered during the first U.S. spacewalk in 1965, enjoying the scenery, Mr. Kraft commandeered the communications system and ordered him, “Get back in!” the ship.

“This is the saddest day of my life,” White said, before heading back into the cockpit.

The incident was indicative of the culture that Mr. Kraft set.

“It was, ‘I, the flight director, am in charge. Not you the astronaut, and not the head of NASA. You come to me,’?” said author Michael Cassutt, who writes about the space program. “Much of the NASA culture as we envision it really derives from Chris Kraft.”

(13) BEHIND THE PAYWALL. An article in the July 20 Financial Times by David Cheal tells how musicians are inspired by space and space travel.

“In 2015 the British band Public Service Broadcasting released an album that celebrated the golden era of space travel.  The Race for Space knitted together propulsive, often funky music  with spoken-word clips (Kennedy:  ‘We go to the moon because it is hard’) to recapture the sheer excitement of Sputnik, the Moon landing–and also tragedies such as the deaths of three Apollo 1 astronauts in 1967.  The music was refreshing because it eschewed the notion that spsce has to be electronic, using a range of often acoustic instruments.  In 2018  the Northern Irish composer and artist Hannah Peel released Mary Casio; Journey to Casiopeia, which follows the dream of a fictional stargazer to travel from her home in Barnsley to the constellation of Cassiopeia.  Peel’s music combines synthesizers with brass.

But one band have gone further and faster than any other in their exploration of the possibilities of space and music:  Muse.  The British trio’s interstellar adventures show how far space-themed pop music has travelled since the early days of Joe Meek:  bass and synths that thrum and pulse like gravitational waves, guitars that shriek and howl like the geysers of Enceladus, wailing, otherworldly voices that sing of “Space Dementia,’ ‘Starlight’ and, most epically of all, a ‘Supermassive Black Hole.'”

(14) WHERE ARE YOU IN TIME? Doc Brown drove a DeLorean to his future – now your past! Today they’d like to sell you a watch whose look is inspired by the car — “DeLorean, the Eternal Design”.

(15) KEEPING TRACK OF YOU. Wired points out how “Netflix’s The Great Hack Brings Our Data Nightmare to Life”.

The new documentary about Cambridge Analytica uses thoughtful narration and compelling visuals to create a dystopian horror movie for our times.

If you’d rather not think about how your life is locked in a dystopian web of your own data, don’t watch the new Netflix documentary The Great Hack.

But if you want to see, really see, the way data tracking, harvesting, and targeting takes the strands of information we generate and ties them around us until we are being suffocated by governments and companies, don’t miss the film, which premieres today on the streaming platform and in theaters. […]

(16) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Where do you land in this grid of Writing Style Alignments?

(17) ACTING CREDENTIALS. Kittens recreate horror movies. (From 2015.)

You won’t believe how adorable these kitties are as they star in ‘The Purring’ (1980), ‘The Texas Chainpaw Meowsacre’ (1974), ‘Psycat’ (1960), and ‘Cattie’ (1976).

(18) THE POINT. Finland was a magnet for competitors in the inaugural Heavy Metal Knitting Championship.

The AP story: “Purl jam: Finland hosts heavy metal knitting championship”

Armed with needles and a yarn of wool, teams of avid knitters danced Thursday to the deafening sounds of drums beating and guitars slashing at the first-ever Heavy Metal Knitting World Championship in eastern Finland.

With stage names such as Woolfumes, Bunny Bandit and 9? Needles, the participants shared a simple goal: to showcase their knitting skills while dancing to heavy metal music in the most outlandish way possible.

“Heavy Metal Knitting World Champion 2019” was won by “Giga Body Metal” from Japan.

Finland is the promised land of heavy metal music. There are 50 heavy metal bands per 100 000 Finnish citizens, which is astonishingly many and actually more than anywhere else in the whole world. The number of needlework enthusiasts is equally high, as according to even the most modest estimates there are hundreds of thousands of people in Finland who are immersed various kinds of needlework crafts, knitting included. What combines them both is the great joy of creativity. When playing guitar as well as knitting stitches it is all about the pleasure of creating something cool with your hands. And – it’s all about the attitude!

(19) DOUBLE DOWN. Gemini Man Official Trailer 2 has dropped:

Who will save you from yourself? From visionary director Ang Lee, watch the official trailer for Gemini Man, starring Will Smith. In theatres October 11. Gemini Man (#GeminiMan) is an innovative action-thriller starring Will Smith (#WillSmith) as Henry Brogan, an elite assassin, who is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young operative that seemingly can predict his every move.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/17/19 I’d Like To Teach The Scroll To Sing In Pixel’ed Harmony

(1) NIXRAY VISION. YouTuber Dominic Noble’s Lost in Adaptation series compares written works with their movie and TV adaptations. How important do you think it is for media visualizations to match up closely to your favorite written sff stories?

  • The Thing:
  • The Last Unicorn:
  • Fahrenheit 451:
  • War of the Worlds:

(2) CALENDRICAL NEWS. Yoon Ha Lee has co-written and released a mini-RPG based on the Hexarchate titled Heretical Geese.  Free to download, but you can choose to make a donation. 

Heretical Geese by Yoon Ha Lee & Ursula Whitcher is a two-page tabletop roleplaying game for a cunning Fox (or GM) and wary Geese (or players).  Can the Geese achieve moral insights before being assimilated?

The game may be of particular interest to fans of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire novels, but does not require familiarity with them.

No animals were harmed in the creation of this mini-RPG.  Some cattens might have been petted, though.

(3) READER FEEDBACK. Peter V. Brett, author of the Demon Cycle dark fantasy novels, got this reader feedback from an older woman determined to shatter the stereotype about Canadians. Thread starts here.

(4) NUKEM. Dwayne Day looks at an M.I.T. proposal from the late 1960s to nuke an asteroid – The Space Review has the story: “Icarus falling: Apollo nukes an asteroid”

In the late 1960s, as the Apollo program was in full-swing, a group of engineers in training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed a defense against an asteroid heading toward Earth. Their plan would have involved a half-dozen Saturn V rockets carrying some really big bombs, aimed at an asteroid named Icarus.

Periodically, the large asteroid 1566 Icarus swings by planet Earth, often coming within 6.4 million kilometers of the planet—mere spitting distance in astronomical terms. Icarus last passed by Earth in 2015. It also crosses the orbits of Mars, Venus and even Mercury.

In early 1967, MIT professor Paul Sandorff gave his class of graduate students a task: suppose that instead of passing harmlessly by, Icarus was instead going to hit the Earth. The nearly 1.4-kilometer wide chunk of rock would hit the planet with the force of 500,000 megatons—far larger than any major earthquake or volcanic eruption, and over 33,000 times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. At a minimum, it would kill millions, flattening buildings and trees for a radius of hundreds of kilometers. The dust it kicked into the atmosphere could even lead to a global winter lasting years. Sandorff posed a simple challenge: You have 15 months. How do you stop Icarus?

(5) ADVICE NEEDED. Daniel Dern wants to read his Hugo Voter Packet (and other stuff) on the move – maybe you already know the solution?

So, a few weeks back, I dutifully downloaded all the Hugo nom files being a Dublin 2019 WorldCon supporter gave me access to. (And month(s) earlier, Nebula noms, as a SFWA member.) To my Windows 10 desktop computer.

I want to put ’em all on my Android tablet, and the Kindle-readable ones on my Kindle Paperwhite, so I can be reading them during idle moments/hours, e.g. on public transit, waiting for appointments, etc.

But. I can’t figure out how to move/get ’em on Android and on Kindle. And M. Web ain’t (so far) helpful enough.

For the tablet, I could “physically” put them on a microSD card, or do a USB transfer. For the Kindle, only the latter, or perhaps other methods. (for the tablet, I could, presumably, crank up a browser and download directly.)

Any advice?

Also, for non-Kindle files, a good reader app?

(6) PRESERVATION? NPR discovers “New York City And The Strand Bookstore Are Not On The Same Page”.

The Strand Bookstore, a New York City icon that is home to 2.5 million books and 92 years of storefront history, was commemorated by the city and chosen as a historic city landmark this week. Nancy Bass Wyden, the store’s third-generation owner, isn’t taking it as a compliment.

“Some people have congratulated me, and I said, ‘No, this is no congratulations. This is a punishment,’ ” Bass Wyden tells NPR’s Scott Simon.

Bass Wyden feels that the designation is counterproductive.

“We don’t need the city to come in and just put red tape and bureaucracy and take control over decision-makings of the store. … It’s really no honor,” Bass Wyden says. “We’re already a landmark.”

…The store owner’s primary objection is that the commission’s decision will incur additional costs to the store and make repairs or changes burdensome.

“They get to decide what color our sign is, our awning is, what material we use,” Bass Wyden says. “They get to decide what kind of windows we have, what kind of metal we use on our doors. Anything that has to even be put on the rooftop, they get the decision-making on that and it’s just wrong. It’s just unfair.”

(7) RETURN TO PANEM. The Hollywood Reporter reports that “‘Hunger Games’ Prequel Novel Coming in 2020”. So what will that make it – the appetizer?

A decade after seemingly wrapping up The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins is bringing readers back to Panem. A prequel, set 64 years before the beginning of her multimillion-selling trilogy, is coming next year.

The novel, currently untitled, is scheduled for release May 19, 2020. Collins said in a statement Monday that she would go back to the years following the so-called Dark Days, the failed rebellion in Panem. Collins set the Hunger Games books in a postapocalyptic dystopia where young people must fight and kill each other, on live television.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 17, 1898 M. C. Escher. Dutch artist whose work was widely used to illustrate genre works such as the 1967 Harper & Row hardcover of Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, or Berkley Books 1996 cover of Clive Barker’s Athens Damnation Game. (Died 1972.)
  • Born June 17, 1903 William Bogart. Yes, another one who wrote Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson, some with Lester Dent. Between 1949 and 1947, he or they wrote some fifteen Doc Savage novels in total. Some of them would get reprinted in the late Eighties in omnibuses that also included novels done with Lester Dent. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 17, 1927 Wally Wood. Comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics’s Mad magazine, Marvel’s Daredevil, and Topps’s landmark Mars Attacks set. He was the inaugural inductee into the comic book industry’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 17, 1931 Dean Ing, 88. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. It looks like he stopped writing genre fiction about fifteen years ago. 
  • Born June 17, 1953 Phyllis Weinberg, 66. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan Robert E. Weinberg. They co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector, and she co-edited the Weinberg Tales with him, Doug Ellis and Robert T. Garcia. She, along with Nancy Ford and Tina L. Jens, wrote “The Many Faces of Chicago” essay that was that was in the 1996 WFC guide. The Weinbergs co-chaired the World Fantasy Convention In 1996.
  • Born June 17, 1982 Arthur Darvill, 37. Best known for playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions in Doctor Who, and Rip Hunter in Legends of Tomorrow. He had a bit part as a groom in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. And he played Seymour Krelborn in the Little Shop of Horrors twenty years ago at the Mac (formerly Midlands Arts Centre) in Birmingham.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SWECON. Edmund Schluessel shares the journey: “Con report: Replicon 2019 (Swecon 2019)”. (He clarifies, “As with Fantasticon, note that this convention is distinct from the American Replicon taking place next week in California.”)

… World guests of honor Charlie Jane Anders and Analee Newitz took enthusiastic part in the con program, which heavily featured discussion about AI and automation. I’m pleased to have met them both and honored they, and the organizers, felt I had something useful to say in the AI panel I joined them on….

(11) STANDARDS & PRACTICES. Britain inaugurates an extraordinary change: “Ads showing bad female drivers and inept dads banned in UK crackdown on sexist commercials”.

Depictions of girls as less academic than boys, men being belittled for “unmanly” behavior, and an array of other cliched portrayals have been consigned to history in British commercials as new rules come into effect banning gender stereotypes in advertising.

The changes, announced in December and enforced from Friday onward, ban companies from using depictions of gender “that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offense.”

Broadcast, online and print advertising is affected by the guidelines, which will force advertisers to discard dated and stereotypical portrayals of men and women.

Advertisers will have to tread carefully in scenarios the watchdog cites as problematic. These include commercials that show a man with his feet up while a woman cleans; a man or woman failing at a task because of their gender; suggestions that a person’s physique has held them back from romantic or social success; or a man being belittled for performing stereotypically “female” tasks.

(12) WRATHINESS. Camestros Felapton takes the measure of the latest Expanse novel: “Review: Tiamat’s Wrath by James S A Corey (Expanse Book 8)”.

There’s never been many fundamentally new ideas in the Expanse series but rather it has pieced together familiar science fiction elements to tell a serial epic story of politics and protomolecules. Which of the two themes dominate in a story varies but the implications of more science fictional events always ripples out politically. Likewise, the factional manoeuvrers of the political stories gang aft a-gley as ancient alien legacies do their own thing.

(13) BIOUPGRADABLE. NPR found a startup company at work on the answer — “Replacing Plastic: Can Bacteria Help Us Break The Habit?”

If civilizations are remembered for what they leave behind, our time might be labeled the Plastic Age. Plastic can endure for centuries. It’s everywhere, even in our clothes, from polyester leisure suits to fleece jackets.

A Silicon Valley startup is trying to get the plastic out of clothing and put something else in: biopolymers.

A polymer is a long-chain molecule made of lots of identical units. Polymers are durable and often elastic. Plastic is a polymer made from petroleum products. But biopolymers occur often in nature — cellulose in wood or silk from silkworms — and unlike plastic, they can be broken down into natural materials.

… The process was how to manufacture biopolymers — using bacteria.

There are certain kinds of bacteria that eat methane. The bacteria use it to make their own biopolymers in their cells, especially if you feed them well. “If we were to get really fat from eating a lot of ice cream or chocolate,” Morse explains, “we’d accumulate fat inside our bodies. These bacteria, same thing.”

(14) BRIDGE OF THESEUS. You can still walk like an Incan on “A bridge made of grass” – BBC photo essay.

Every year the last remaining Inca rope bridge still in use is cast down and a new one erected across the Apurimac river in the Cusco region of Peru.

The Q’eswachaka bridge is woven by hand and has been in place for at least 600 years. Once part of the network that linked the most important cities and towns of the Inca empire, it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2013.

The tradition has been passed on from generation to generation with every adult in the communities on either side gathering to bring new life to the crossing.

(15) SJWC INTERVENTION. How could sff authors have missed this obvious solution on how to make politics more fun?“Cat filter accidentally used in Pakistani minister’s live press conference”.

A Pakistani politician’s live-streamed press conference descended into farce when a cat filter was switched on by mistake.

Shaukat Yousafzai was briefing journalists last Friday when the setting was accidentally turned on.

Facebook users watching the video live commented on the gaffe, but Mr Yousafzai carried on unaware of his feline features.

He later said it was a “mistake” that should not be taken “so seriously”.

(16) TACE IS LATIN FOR A CANDLE. BBC reports that “Finnish radio drops Latin news after 30 years”.

The Yle public broadcaster has told its ‘carissimi auditores’ (dear listeners) that “everything passes, and even the best programmes reach the end of the road. This is now the case with our world-famous bulletin, which has broadcast the news in Latin on Friday for the past 30 years”.

The core members of the ‘Nuntii Latini’ (News in Latin) team – Professor Tuomo Pekkanen and lecturer Virpi Seppala-Pekkanen – have been with the five-minute bulletin since it was first broadcast on 1 September 1989, although other newsreaders and writers have joined since.

Professor Pekkanen took gracious leave of Yle, saying that, “judging by the feedback, Nuntii Latini will be missed around the world – and we send our warm thanks to you all for these past years!”

(17) X MARKS THE SPOT. Just a month before the highly-anticipated debut of House of X and Powers of X, Marvel released an all-new episode of X-Men: The Seminal Moments featuring series writer Jonathan Hickman and other legendary Marvel creators as they shed light on what the future holds for mutants across the universe!

“When Jonathan set out to tell this story, he set out to change the way people think about the Marvel mutants forever…it really shakes things up,” said X-Men Editor Jordan D. White. “The first time he told it to me, I was upset. I was like, ‘We can’t do that. We CAN’T do that.’ The more I thought about it, the more I went, ‘Wait hang on, what if we did…’”

 Hickman revealed what fans might expect from the series:

“There’s no alternate universe version of the X-Men that we’re doing – time travel, or any of that kind of stuff. This is a very cause and effect, very linear narratively straightforward story,” said Hickman. “I think the most important thing about X-Men is obviously the way that individual readers identify with the characters…my obligation is to be true to the character even though you’re putting them in new circumstances and be true to the spirit of what it means to write an X-Men book.”

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