Pixel Scroll 11/1/19 We Are The Pixels That Say “Scroll!”

(1) TWO NEW TAFF EBOOK FUNDRAISERS. David Langford says they were unable to locate the final speech, but all the rest of The Serious Scientific Talks by Bob Shaw are now available as an ebook which you can download free – though with hopes you‘ll be inspied to donate to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund.

The same hope comes with Rob Hansen’s latest fanhistory compilation, Challenging Moskowitz, released today:

Sam Moskowitz’s The Immortal Storm is regarded by many as the definitive history of US fandom in the 1930s, but several contemporary fans either presented alternative versions of events or took issue with the book’s selectivity (New York-centrism in particular) and partisanship. Rob Hansen has compiled and introduced this collection of relevant fanwriting by Allen Glasser, Charles D. Hornig, Damon Knight, Jack Speer, Harry Warner Jr, Donald A. Wollheim and T. Bruce Yerke.

First published as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 1 November 2019. The cover photograph of (from left to right) Jack Darrow, Julius Schwartz, an unknown, Donald A. Wollheim and Conrad Ruppert is from the Ted Carnell collection; actual photographer unidentified. Approximately 47,000 words.

(2) TIME AFTER TIME. In “The Superman Clause”, The Hugo Book Club Blog explores the rule in the WSFS Constitution that lets Worldcon members vote to add a year of Hugo Award eligibility. Their research has uncovered facts that are both fascinating and unexpected. For example, after listing all the works that have been granted an extension, they say:

We find it interesting that despite the high quality of these works, only the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction was actually placed on the Hugo Ballot (and it won a well-deserved Hugo trophy for Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn)….

(3) DRAGONS IN THE BOX SCORE. George R.R. Martin shares his insights about the fate of two post-Game-of-Thrones TV projects, one approved, the other dropped, in “The Dragons Take Wing” at Not A Blog.

Ryan Condal is new to Westeros, but not to me.   I first met Ryan when he came to New Mexico to shoot a pilot for a fantasy western that was not picked up.  I visited his set and we became friendly.  Later Ryan created and served as showrunner for the SF series COLONY, and we had the honor of doing a premiere screening for the show at the Jean Cocteau.   He’s a terrific writer… and a fan of my books since well before we met.   He tells me that he discovered the series just after A STORM OF SWORDS was published, and “I’ve loved the books for 19 years.”   (He is also a huge fan of my Dunk & Egg stories.   In fact, that was the show he wanted to do initially, but I’m not prepared to bring Dunk & Egg to television until I’ve written quite a few more stories).  Working with Ryan on the development of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has been a dream.

Martin adds:

But… let me make this perfectly clear… I am not taking on any scripts until I have finished and delivered WINDS OF WINTER.  Winter is still coming, and WINDS remains my priority, as much as I’d love to write an episodes of HOUSE.

(4) WHERE IS IT? Readers learned from the November Ansible where Nature has hidden the fiction:

When Nature acquired a ‘new look’ with its 23 October issue, the ‘Futures’ short-sf-story page vanished from both the printed magazine and the website contents list. The feature continues online but you have to know where to look for it: nature.com/futures.

Their most recent entry (October 30) is Wendy Nikel’s “When We Were Infinite” which begins:

“The faster your ships, the smaller the Universe. The smaller the Universe, the more important it is to live harmoniously.” Inva weaves her digits together, invoking a picture of beings residing tranquilly side-by-side.

(5) THE ORIGINAL UPGRADE. What’s new at Los Alamos – in 1964? Galactic Journey’s Ida Moya has the declassified scoop: “[November 1, 1964] Time (sharing) travel”.

As the Traveler said, things have really been heating up in Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL). And what with President Kennedy being taken from us so traumatically last year, it has all been too much. We have been struggling with national security while mourning the loss of our leader, and also attending to a deluge of new computers that are coming into the lab. Things have calmed down a little so I am now able to share a few secrets with you again.

…I’m sure I also told you that we finally received our IBM 7090 computer. This equipment is being used for big science calculations around atomic energy, guided missile control, strategic planning (cryptanalysis, weather prediction, game theory), and jet engine design. I’m sure it is no surprise when I tell you we are using it to simulate nuclear explosions. This computer also has what they call an “upgrade,” the addition of more memory and input-output capability. The upgraded computer is called an IBM 7094.

(6) EXPLAINING THAT SUDDEN BURST OF TRAFFIC. I didn’t know there was more than one sff writer named Spinrad – meet Demetria Spinrad.

(7) WATCHERS’ DIGEST. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Entertainment Tonight: ”’For All Mankind’ Cast Describes the Apple TV Plus Drama in 10 Seconds”. ET challenged the cast of Apple TV+ streaming alternate history For All Mankind to describe the show in 10 seconds or less. The exclusive video is available on their website. 

This is one small step for your screens, but one giant leap for Apple TV+.

Apple’s streaming service officially launches today with a star-studded lineup of new shows including For All Mankind — the latest space-centric drama from Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek: The Next Generation executive producer Ronald D. Moore.

[…] ET asked Joel KinnamanShantel VanSanten, Sarah Jones and many more of For All Mankind‘s cast members to embark on a stellar mission to describe the drama in 10 seconds or less — and their answers are out of this world!

(8) ALTERNATE SPACE HISTORY. And Andrew Liptak reviews the series at Polygon: “Apple series For All Mankind isn’t thrilled by America’s role in the space race”. When the Soviets get to the Moon first —

…The landing prompts the US to reexamine the drive to get to space. Astronaut Edward Baldwin (Altered Carbon’s Joel Kinnaman) takes the news particularly hard, and calls out NASA’s administration and Werner Von Braun’s cautious approach to space travel. He gets booted from his assignment, Apollo 15, but his antics attract the attention of some ambitious politicians and administrators, who get him to testify in congress that NASA all but allowed the USSR to get there first, and that the country needs a far more aggressive approach to space.

He gets his wish — he’s reinstated on Apollo 15, and Von Braun is forced out. The move is a timely one: after a far more hair-raising Apollo 11 mission (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin almost don’t make it off after a rough landing), the Soviets land a second time, this time with a female cosmonaut stepping out onto the surface. In response, President Richard Nixon orders that NASA begin training a team of female astronauts. When US intelligence believes that the Soviets might be planning a permanent camp on the Moon, NASA makes a lunar base a top priority.

Other plot threads feel embedded for future episodes or seasons (Moore and his writers have apparently plotted out seven).

(9) THE GAME GOES ON. The final trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level has dropped – the movie comes to theaters December 13.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 1, 1974 Phantom Of The Paradise premiered.  Written and directed by Brian De Palma,  and scored by and starring Paul Williams. It’s a very loose bastardisation of The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust. Remarkably it rates 84%% among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes and 92% among critics. 
  • November 1, 2000 — The SciFi series Starhunter premiered with its first episode, “The Divinity Cluster”. Starring Michael Paré, Tanya Allen and Claudette Roche, it would last just two seasons and be called Starhunter 2300 in the second season. Peter Gabriel Did the music for the second season opening credits. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 1, 1882 Edward Van Sloan. He’s best remembered for his roles in three Thirties Universal Studios films of Dracula, Frankenstein  and The Mummy. He was Abraham Van Helsing in the Dracula, a role he’d done in touring production of Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. He would be in a number of other horror films though none remembered as well as these. (Died 1964.)
  • Born November 1, 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.
  • Born November 1, 1917 Zenna Henderson. Her first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1951.  The People series appeared in magazines and anthologies, as well as the stitched-together Pilgrimage: The Book of the People and The People: No Different Flesh. Other volumes include The People Collection and Ingathering: The Complete People Stories. She was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1959 for her novelette “Captivity.” Her story “Pottage” was made into the 1972 ABC-TV movie, The People.  “Hush” became an episode of George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside which first aired in 1988. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 1, 1923 Gordon R. Dickson. Truly one of the best writers of both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I won’t even begin to go into his stellar career in any detail as that would require a skald to do so. His first published speculative fiction was the short story “Trespass!”, written with with Poul Anderson, in the Spring 1950 issue of Fantastic Stories which was the first issue of Fantastic Story Magazine as it came to be titled. Childe Cycle involving the Dorsai is his best-known series and the Hoka are certainly his silliest creation. I’m very, very fond of his Dragon Knight series which I think reflects his interest in that history. (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 1, 1941 Robert Foxworth, 78. He’s been on quite a number of genre shows including The Questor Tapes,seaQuest DSV, Deep Space Nine, Outer Limits, Enterprise, Stargate SG-1 and Babylon 5. His first genre role was as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein where Bo Swenson played the monster.
  • Born November 1, 1942 Michael Fleisher. Comics writer best known for his DC Comics work of in the Seventies and Eighties on Spectre and Jonah Hex. He also has had long runs on Ghost Rider and Spider-Woman early which pulling it them on the Marvel Unlimited app shows that he is a rather good writer. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 1, 1958 Rachel Ticotin, 61. Melina in Total Recall. (Anyone see the remake?) She voiced Capt. Maria Chavez in the most excellent animated Gargoyles series. She hasn’t done a lot of acting but she was Charbonnet / Lilian in “Staited in Horror”, a Tales from The Crypt episode, and Theodora ‘Teddi’ Madden in “Mona Lisa”, an Outer Limits episode.
  • Born November 1, 1959 Susanna Clarke, 60. Author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I think wins my award for the most-footnoted work in genre literature. It won the World Fantasy, Nebula, Locus, Mythopoeic and Hugo Awards for Best Novel. It was adapted into a BBC series and optioned for a film. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories collects her short works and is splendid indeed.
  • Born November 1, 1973 Aishwarya Rai, 46. Indian actress who’s done two SF films in India, the Tamil language Enthiran (translates as Robot) in which she’s Sana, the protagonist’s medical student girlfriend, and Mala in Action Replayy, a Hindi-language SF romantic comedy. She was also Sonia in The Pink Panther 2.
  • Born November 1, 1984 Natalia Tena, 35. She played Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter film franchise, and was the wildling Osha in Game of Thrones. She was also Lana Pierce on the YouTube SF series Origin which lasted one season. And, to my amazement, she was Fevvers in the stage adaptation of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus which took place at the Kneehigh Theatre. 

(12) ATWOOD NOW A COMPANION. But not the Doctor’s – the Queen’s. Shelf Awareness reports a royal honor for Margaret Atwood:

On Friday, Queen Elizabeth named Margaret Atwood a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for her services to literature, the CBC reported, adding that Atwood told British media she felt “a bit emotional” in the presence of the Queen while accepting the prestigious accolade during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. The Royal Family’s Twitter account noted the event: “.@MargaretAtwood was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty for Services to Literature. #Investiture.”

“When you see the Queen at her age and her schedule that she puts out, it’s an inspiration to everybody, you just keep going,” Atwood said after the ceremony.

Founded by King George V in 1917, the Companion of Honour is an award for those who have made a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government over a long period.

(13) CRADLE OF GOLDEN AGE SF. In “Heinlein and Butler Revisited”, Steve Fahnestalk tells Amazing Stories readers about the time he visited Heinlein’s Missouri home town.

…Knowing that I would be driving to Missouri that summer, Spider [Robinson] asked me if I would be going anywhere near Butler and, if so, could I take some photos of the Heinlein wing of the public library. For reasons of my own not related to RAH, I was indeed going to Butler itself, so I said, “Sure!” and on June 15 of 2013, we drove into the almost prototypical little mid-American town. This town looks like something Ray Bradbury wrote, with a bandstand (Figure 2) on the town square across from the courthouse. I almost expected to see Mr. Dark and the Dust Witch! Or maybe even the story “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band” by Stephen King!

(14) HALLOWEEN IS OVER. And James Davis Nicoll announces he’s “So Tired of All These Gormenghast Costumes, Year After Year…” at Tor.com.

…I do know how important Tékumel and Gormenghast are to people. Tékumel was, after all, one of the earliest in-depth roleplaying game settings, the first that offered worldbuilding with the depth of J. R. R. Tolkien’s popular works without being in any way derivative. (This was important for RPG companies fearing letters from Professor Tolkien’s estate’s lawyers … who are fine people, of course! No offense intended.) Obviously, had anyone tried a Lord of the Rings knock-off that featured Hobbits renamed “Halflets” or some such thing, the game might have survived a legal challenge… However, no roleplaying game company back then had the cash to test the theory. Empire of the Petal Throne pointed the way and other companies have followed.

(15) IN THE SPIRIT. There are lots of photos to go with BBC’s article “Harry Potter: How one drag queen became 31 JK Rowling characters”.

Some people might know Jaremi Carey as drag queen Phi Phi O’Hara.

Others might recognise him as Hermione Granger, Professor McGonagall, Dobby, Sirius Black or Rubeus Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies.

That’s because he’s spent October 2019 sharing photos of his transformations into some of JK Rowling’s fantasy characters on social media.

“I’m a Harry Potter fan first off, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to do,” Jaremi tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

He’d already been performing as Helena Bonham Carter’s character, Bellatrix Lestrange, in his live shows, and the idea for something bigger and more magical came to him during a trip to the UK.

(16) KAIJU HERDER. “Godzilla’s Conscience: The Monstrous Humanism of Ishiro Honda”Criterion traces the director’s impressive career.

… Honda… would forge a unique path as Japan’s foremost director of kaiju eiga, or giant-monster movies. While the works of Kurosawa et al. were limited to art-house distribution abroad, Honda’s films played to mainstream moviegoing audiences in the U.S. and across the West, and they have subsequently become ensconced in the pop-culture pantheon. Honda’s influence is undeniable: as one of the creators of the modern disaster film, he helped set the template for countless blockbusters to follow, and a wide array of filmmakers—including John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, and Guillermo del Toro—have expressed their admiration for his work. Yet the full scale of his achievements has only recently begun to be appreciated.

But it all started with Honda’s sober-minded approach to the original Godzilla. Other directors had begged off the project, believing it was ridiculous, and that it would likely end up a laughingstock. But to Honda, this was no joke….

(17) ANSWER BACK. BBC is there when “Disney boss Bob Iger talks Star Wars, Marvel and Martin Scorsese”.

Since becoming chief executive of The Walt Disney Company in 2005, Bob Iger has masterminded the Mouse House’s growth into an entertainment empire with the takeovers of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox….

Following the publication of his memoir, titled The Ride of a Lifetime (Disney does theme parks too), he gave his only UK interview to BBC media editor Amol Rajan.

Here are five key things he said, including why “less is more” in the Star Wars universe, why Martin Scorsese was wrong to compare Marvel films to theme parks, and why Disney didn’t go through with a deal to buy Twitter.

…The legendary Taxi Driver and Goodfellas director recently put the boot into Marvel by saying they are closer to theme parks than real films because it “isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being”.

“Ouch!” is Iger’s reply. “Martin Scorsese is a great film-maker. I admire him immensely. He’s made some great films. I would debate him on this subject. First of all, Marvel’s making movies. They’re movies. That’s what Martin Scorsese makes. And they’re good movies.”

He goes on: “I don’t think he’s ever seen a Marvel film. Anyone who’s seen a Marvel film could not in all truth make that statement.”

(18) BREAKFAST IS SERVED. Daniel Dern says, “I’m not sure I’l like this on a phone, or on a tablet, on a TV, or on a credenza…” Netflix will launch its Seussian Green Eggs & Ham series on November 8.

Heroes aren’t born, they’re poached, scrambled, and fried… Green Eggs and Ham, serving November 8, only on Netflix. The story you know is just the start. This new adventure is off the charts. Hit the road with a whole new crew. There’s Sam, Guy, and a Chickeraffe too. But how’d we turn this 50-word, Seussian spiel into a 13-episode meal? Our recipe starts “Here” and definitely goes “There.” We added a “Box” full of “Fox”, a “Boat” load of “Goat,” and a “Mouse,” on the “House.” Try it in the “Rain” on a “Train” or go far in your “Car” to find a spot to park and stream it in the “Dark.” Because, in case you were unaware, this show’s miles ahead of “Anywhere!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenaion’s Jonathan Cowie, Mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/28/19 I Robot
— R U Robot?

(1) JUST LET ME GO NATURALLY. Naomi Booth gives an overview of eco-horror in her essay “For Some Horror Writers, Nothing Is Scarier Than a Changing Planet” in the New York Times.

“Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world?” asked the novelist Amitav Ghosh, writing in The Guardian in 2016. “Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration?”

…Yet the idea of a world in crisis is fundamental to horror, a genre historically devalued by the gatekeepers of high culture as, well, outlandish and unserious. Horror has always sought to amplify fear. It works against false comfort, complacency and euphemism, against attempts to repress or sanitize that which disturbs us. Inevitably, the climate crisis has given rise to a burgeoning horror subgenre: eco-horror. Eco-horror reworks horror in order to portray the damage done to the world by people, and the ways the world might damage or even destroy us in turn. In eco-horror, the “natural” world is both under threat and threatening.

The best-known work of eco-horror might be Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy (2014), about a beautiful and deadly exclusion zone known as Area X. The first book, “Annihilation,” which was made into a Hollywood film last year, is narrated by a biologist on a mission to explore the area. She records her initial impressions of the abandoned landscape, including a “low, powerful moaning” audible at dusk. Her team discovers a structure in the earth, an inverted tower. The biologist is lowered into it. There is a smell like rotting honey. The walls are covered with words, the writing system of some kind of fruiting body. She hears a heartbeat. The structure turns out to be a living organism, a “horror show of … beauty and biodiversity.” The biologist leans in close and is sprayed with golden spores — infected….

(2) A LOT OF GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS. The Hugo Book Club, an unofficial blog about its namesake, has tweeted a long, thoughtful thread about the Best Fan Writer Hugo category, probing how meaningful it is — or isn’t — that any given fan has previously heard of all the finalists. Thread starts here.

(3) IT’S MONEY THEY HAVE. Got $30,000? Then you could make the required minimum bid on this “Apollo 11 Flown and Crew-Signed Beta Cloth Mission Insignia Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, Signed and Certified”, a lot coming up in Heritage Auctions’ Armstrong Family Collection IV sale November 14-16.

(4) PUBLISHING NEWS. This year’s Hugo-winning Best Editor – Long Form, Navah Wolfe, is surprisingly available after a shakeup at Saga Press.

(5) GOVERNMENT FIGURE KNOWS GENRE. France’s new EU Commissioner is a science fiction fan and author according to Politico’s summary “4 things to know about Thierry Breton”.

He’s into sci-fi

Back in 1984, Breton co-wrote a science fiction novel called “Softwar” based around the National Software Agency (which in no way resembles the U.S. National Security Agency). Billed as a “technology thriller,” the novel’s plot is centered on an American cyberattack on Soviet computers. “At the time no one was speaking about viruses, the word didn’t exist,” Breton said, according to Liberation.

However, his co-author Denis Beneich later claimed Breton “never wrote a word of this novel” although “he had the idea for it.”

Breton, whose Commission portfolio would include the space industry, wrote two other novels in the mid to late 1980s — “Vatican III” and “Netwar” (all three of his books are worth checking out, if only for the cover art).

His love of sci-fi doesn’t stop with books, however. Breton also helped come up with the idea for a high-tech theme park called “Futuroscope” in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, just north of Poitiers in western France. Its tag-line is “Expect the unexpected,” which sounds like good advice ahead of a hearing before the European Parliament.

(6) MILFORD. The New York Times reintroduces people to Milford, PA’s publishing and film history in “A Cabin With a Literary Pedigree”.

Charlie Chaplin slept here. So did Sarah Bernhardt, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Franz Liszt, Warren Harding, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Wolfe, Cloris Leachman and Arlene Dahl. Likewise, D.W. Griffith, who, in 1912, shot two movies — “A Feud in the Kentucky Hills” and “The Informer” — in this dot of a town in the foothills of the Poconos.

Josh Sapan has slept here too — as often as his schedule permits. But 33 years ago, when Mr. Sapan learned of Milford’s many charms from a friend, he knew nothing about the town’s past. Still, he was sufficiently captivated to buy a waterfront cabin.

It was enough that he could look out his windows after dark and see no illumination but the moon, enough that the Delaware rolled along mere steps from his door. “I just love houses on rivers and I really love this house,” said Mr. Sapan, 67, the president and chief executive of AMC Networks, a Manhattan-based company that owns and operates cable channels including AMC, BBC America and SundanceTV. “I don’t know what it is. I find it quite magical, if that’s the right word.”

Mr. Sapan had yet to learn that the novelist Stephen Crane had camped out for a summer in Milford with friends, and published a satirical newspaper during his stay, that Milford was the birthplace of the conservation movement, and that in the 1950s and 1960s, it was the red hot center of the science fiction writers’ universe, even figuring in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” because several big names in the genre, notably the literary agent Virginia Kidd, had settled in town….

Andrew Porter left a comment there filling in more of the “big names” only alluded to in the article:

Milford is associated with many science fiction writers. Authors Damon Knight, James Blish and Judy Merrill also lived there. It was the setting for the annual Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference for many years, starting in the 1950s, which spun off other “Milford” conferences, most notably in the UK and Seattle, as well as the “New Wave” in SF in the mid-1960s. Also in Milford, the foundations were laid for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an active organization which presents the annual Nebula Awards. For more information about how Milford looms so large in the science fictional universe, see the Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milford_Writer’s_Workshop

(7) EVANS OBIT. “Robert Evans, colorful Paramount boss behind Rosemary’s Baby, dies at 89” reports SYFY Wire.

…Given the reins of Paramount Pictures with little experience in 1966 thanks to a friendship with corporate owner Gulf & Western’s Charles Bluhdorn, Evans turned the company around thanks to a string of critical darlings that would eventually become classics. During his tenure as production VP, he oversaw genre fare like Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Moving on from leading the studio, Evans personally produced movies like the adaptation of William Goldman’s Marathon Man (starring Dustin Hoffman), Popeye (with Robin Williams), and early comic book film The Phantom. Some hit higher highs than others, but Evans was a constant presence in the industry.

(8) BRETT OBIT. “Robin Brett, NASA scientist who studied ‘moon rocks,’ dies at 84” – the Washington Post has the story.

Robin Brett, a NASA scientist who 50 years ago was among the first to study and direct research on lunar samples — popularly known as ‘‘moon rocks’’ — from the Apollo space missions, died Sept. 27 at his home in Washington. He was 84.

The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Jill Brett.

From 1969 to 1974, Dr. Brett was chief of the geochemistry branch at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. In July 1969, he was among a select four scientists present for the opening of a sealed box containing the first moon rocks from the initial Apollo lunar mission.

…When the lunar samples were first brought to Earth, they were kept for a period in a quarantined and sterile environment, lest they contain or exude a noxious substance that might be harmful in earth’s atmosphere.

Dr. Brett doubted the necessity of this precaution, which he demonstrated, he said, by becoming the first man on Earth to lick a moon rock.

What did it taste like?

‘‘A dirty potato,’’ he answered.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

[Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Zombieland: Double Tap, which delivers if you want a pretty gory zombie movie with many good jokes.  Early in the film the four main characters are hiding out in the ruins of the White House.  They exchange Christmas presents even though it’s November 17 because they don’t have anything else to do.  Emma Stone gives Jesse Eisenberg a copy of the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.  (We don’t know why the White House has first editions of Tolkien.

“Why thank you,” Eisenberg says, “and look, you’ve ruined the book by scribbling on the first page.”

Of course, it isn’t really a Tolkien book but they did fake the original cover…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 28, 1951 — The Out There series premiered. It was one of the first SF anthology series. It lasted a mere twelve episodes. Some of the SF writers it adapted were Heinlein, Sturgeon, Bradbury,  Bissell and Long. Heinlein in particular was a favorite source for them. 
  • October 28, 1994 Stargate premiered. Starring Kurt Russell and James Spader, critics intensely hated it, and it rated 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. It of course spawned Stargate SG-1 series franchise.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Ray Bradbury originally wrote “Merry Christmas 2116” to be performed by Lanchester and her husband Charles Laughton. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 William H. Patterson, Jr. Author of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, a two-volume look at Heinlein which arguably is the best biography ever done on him. He also did The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This Tribute to Bill Patterson by Mike with comments by Filers is touching indeed. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 68. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep is a American comedy horror film starting Bruce Campbell is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and  Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1952 Annie Potts, 67. Janine Melnitz in the still-best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She is listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters 2020 which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 61. Writer of four novels in a decade twenty years ago including Virtual Girl which won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1958 Kristin Landon. Though she was working on a fourth novel in the series at the time of her death, the published novels will comprise the Hidden Worlds trilogy: The Hidden Worlds, The Cold Minds, and The Dark Reaches. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 28, 1962 Daphne Zuniga, 57. Her very first was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labelled a Video Nasty in the UK.  You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare Classics, Batman BeyondHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 52. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think…
  • Born October 28, 1974 Joaquin Phoenix, 45. Currently The Joker. He hasn’t done much genre acting setting aside being Max in SpaceCamp when he was twelve, and being Billy Hercules in the “Little Hercules” episode of Superboy. Well he did a Shyamalan film but I refuse to consider them genre. 
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 37. The Eleventh Doctor, also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. Nor likely will. He’s also Jim in The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.

(12) EL-MOHTAR REVIEWS. Amal El-Mohtar, in a book review column for the NYT, “Dark Books for Dark Times”, opines about His Hideous Heart, a collection edited by Dahlia Adler, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga, and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

… Conceptually “The Future of Another Timeline” is breathtakingly brilliant, and part of a constellation of time-travel stories this year that wed present-day activism to a willingness to change the past. But as I read, I found myself far more affected by the smaller, fiercer story of Tess and Beth’s early years — the story of feral friendships formed in extreme circumstances, of surviving abuse and finding the power to seek revenge or walk away from it. Everything about that story clutched at my heart, while the broader time-travel stakes and narrative diminished in effect; I became less concerned with the overarching conceit than with the story of these young women arguing over what love and honesty demand. But time travel creates the space for that story to happen — and Newitz’s book is, more than anything else, about the importance of fighting for such spaces. In that, it’s entirely successful.

(13) POWER OFF. Californian Abraham Lustgarten addressed the New York Times about the state’s power shutdowns: “Letter of Recommendation: Mandatory Blackouts” .

…The blackouts solved nothing, of course. De-energizing the electrical grid is a bludgeon: imprecise, with enormous potential for collateral damage as people deal with a darkened world. It doesn’t even eliminate fire risk. What it largely does is shift responsibility away from Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility company, whose faulty transmission lines had been found to have caused some of the most destructive wildfires on record.

In fact, cutting power can exacerbate some fire risks. In a blackout, more people rely on home generators, many of which have been installed without permits and might be no less faulty than the utility’s own equipment. Detours and gridlock force more cars into vulnerable places. (Sparks off roadways are another top cause of wildfire.) The blackout makes it harder for the public to respond to fire emergencies even as it does little to prevent all the other factors that cause them — from careless barbecues to tossed-out cigarette butts to plain old arson. One of the state’s most serious fires so far this year was ignited by burning garbage.

But a mandatory blackout does have one radically positive effect. By suddenly withdrawing electrical power — the invisible lifeblood of our unsustainable economic order — PG&E has made the apocalyptic future of the climate crisis immediate and visceral for some of the nation’s most comfortable people. It is easy to ignore climate change in the bosom of the developed world. But you can’t fail to notice when the lights go out.

…In the American West, our climate will only get hotter and drier, our wildfires worse. Every year more places are going to burn, and we will, repeatedly, be horrified by the losses. But we should not be shocked by them. The blackouts have laid bare the uncomfortable fact that the infrastructure we’ve built and maintained over the course of many decades isn’t matched to the threats we face in our rapidly unfolding climate emergency….

(14) THAT HAWAIIAN BURGER JOINT. Eater: Los Angeles says this non-genre yet irresistible film reference will come to life on October 30 and 31 (only): “Big Kahuna Burger From ‘Pulp Fiction’ Pops Up in Hollywood Next Week”

Fat Sal’s, the overstuffed sandwich makers in Hollywood, have gotten into the mix before, and now for Halloween the group is transforming its corner address off Highland into a Big Kahuna Burger from the movie Pulp Fiction.

Much like in years past, Fat Sal’s plans to its dining area to fit the new temporary theme. Expect a grassy Hawaiian-tinged awning and overt nods to the 1994 film everywhere, including slogans (“Now that is a tasty burger” or “That’s that Hawaiian burger joint”) and an image of Jules Winnfield, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Tarantino flick. A separate area will be turned into the pawn shop from the film as well, and diners will be able to check out merchandise in that space…

Fat Sal’s Hollywood. 1300 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles.

(15) ANOTHER TRIUMPH. BBC finds thumbs up all over: “Seven Worlds, One Planet: ‘Gorgeous’ nature series gets five-star reviews”.

Sir David Attenborough’s latest nature series has received five-star reviews from critics, one of whom says it may be the BBC’s “best wildlife show ever”.

Seven Worlds, One Planet, the Mail’s Christopher Stevens says, is “visually magnificent” and has photography that is “almost abstract in its beauty”.

The show, says the Telegraph’s Michael Hogan, is “another landmark series” from “the indefatigable Sir David”.

(16) IPO. “Virgin Galactic: Branson’s space firm set for stock market launch”.

Virgin Galactic, the space venture backed by Sir Richard Branson, is ready to launch – not into space but on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Shares in Virgin Galactic are set to start trading on Monday, a first for a space tourism company.

The move follows Virgin’s merger with publicly-listed Silicon Valley holding firm Social Capital Hedosophia.

That deal brought $800m (£624m) to Virgin as it rushes to meet its goal of sending customers to space in 2020.

Taking the firm public will “open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts,” Sir Richard said at the time.

…The company, founded in 2004, has spent more than $1bn developing its programme, which is years behind schedule and took a hit after a fatal accident in 2014.

However, Virgin has told investors it hopes to make 16 trips to space with customers as soon as next year.

In a presentation, it predicts that revenue will skyrocket as the number of flights increases.

In 2023, the expects to make 270 trips to space, bringing in nearly $600m and generating profit of more than $430m.

About 600 people, including pop star Justin Bieber, have already put down deposits for the 90-minute experience at a price of about $250,000 per ticket, according to the company.

(17) AROUND THE WORLD IN A LOT OF DAYS. NPR takes note when “Secret Air Force Space Plane Lands After More Than 2 Years In Orbit”.

After a record-breaking 780 days circling the Earth, the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B unmanned space plane dropped out of orbit and landed safely on the same runway that the space shuttle once used.

It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company’s Phantom Works.

“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing,” Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our team has been preparing for this event, and I am extremely proud to see their hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”

As in previous missions, many of the details about the vehicle’s activities in the past two years are being kept under wraps. One experiment was to “test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment,” according to the Air Force statement.

Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the latest X-37B mission “successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”

“The statement that this @usairforce X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming, since the US has not reported those deployments in its UN Registration Convention submissions,” McDowell tweeted. “This would be the first time that either the USA or Russia has blatantly flouted the Convention.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m writing it in. So there.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: WHITE FOX #1

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

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1

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

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: CRESCENT AND IO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Identity crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part one here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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