Pixel Scroll 3/24/20 A Robot Shall Not Stand Less Than Six Feet From A Human, Nor, Through Inaction, Let One Get That Close

(1) MAKE IT SO. Entertainment Weekly brings word that “All episodes of Star Trek: Picard are now free to non-subscribers”.  

More entertainment fodder for your shelter-in-place: Star Trek: Picard is now free to non-subscribers to CBS All Access.

Or, put more accurately: Non-paid subscribers. You’ll still have to sign up for the CBS streaming service to watch the show, but now there’s a coupon code that unlocks Picard: “GIFT.”

There are nine episodes from the show’s first season available now, and the season finale drops on Thursday.

(2) SIT LIKE A CAPTAIN. While you’re binge-watching, you might think about refurnishing your living room with an assortment of the “Commercially Available Chairs in Star Trek”.

Countless off-the-shelf office chairs, lounge chairs or car seats appeared in Star Trek productions. Here is a list of the models that we identified, among them many design classics.

See also a list of unidentified chairs and help us track their origin.

(3) WISCON. Today this year’s WisCon was cancelled:

We are currently working on an online event to replace it — a WisCOnline, if you will. More details will be coming in a second blog post by next Monday (March 30).

WisCon 45, in May 2021, will be a banger, with all the elements of WisCon 44 that we are unable to carry off online, as well as all of the normal elements of WisCon 45! More details will be coming soon on W45 as we confirm them; watch this space!

(4) TOLKIEN READING DAY IS MARCH 25. Actors, scholars and fans will participate in the livestreamed Tolkien Reading Day tomorrow. The Tolkien Collector’s Guide tells where to link up and who’ll be reading. The participants’ schedule is at the link (scroll down).

The live streaming event will take place on Discord, a wonderful service for audio and text chatting – a free account will be needed to participate. The link you will need for the event is https://discord.gg/ZJfh7xD if you want to participate in the live text chat or want to be a reader. If you just want to listen, the live stream should be available on YouTube, thanks to the excellent support of the German Tolkien Society (Deutsche Tolkien Gessellshaft e.V.) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCerbg8qXXeiQEvxq7u6Kz6w

You are welcome to join in at any time, though there will not be any scheduled readings until March 25th. If you would like to schedule a time to read something, please contact me through private message and we will work it out. Open mic readings will take place all day long as well if you just want to drop in.

Some of the guest readers will be: Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Dr. Luke Shelton, John Garth, Carl Hostetter, Dr. Andrew Higgins, Jason Fisher, Brian Sibley, Chica Chubb (Japan), Dr. Sara Brown, Stephen Hunter (“Bombur” in The Hobbit movies), Bruce Hopkins (“Gamling” in The Lord of the Rings movies), Ted Nasmith, Verlyn Flieger, and Dr. Una McCormack

(5) KAYMAR. Fan artist Jose Sanchez is the winner of the 2020 Kaymar Award, given by the National Fantasy Fan Federation.

Jose’s artistic contributions have added brilliance to the covers of the N3F’s magazines, including N’APA, Tightbeam, and Eldritch Science. Three cheers for Jose’s contributions! And may they long continue!

(6) POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE INFLUENCES. In “How N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became came to be”, Entertainment Weekly interviews he author about influences on the work.  

Jemisin cites the recent debates over the World Fantasy Award (which has traditionally been shaped as a bust of H.P. Lovecraft despite the “Call of Cthulhu” author’s public record of vile racism) as one of the main inspirations for The City We Became. That aforementioned “otherworldly threat” facing New York resembles both Lovecraft’s work and his life. The Enemy, as the characters refer to their many-headed foe, sometimes appears in the form of strange tentacled monsters (very reminiscent of Lovecraft’s signature Great Old Ones), but other times disguise themselves in human form as white gentrifiers and alt-right racists. Lovecraft himself lived in New York for a time, and documented in letters how repellent he found the city’s signature mix of people from all ethnicities and walks of life.

“It’s basically me mentally and spiritually engaging with the whole idea of how so much fantasy owes itself to Lovecraft, while overlooking his glaring flaws,” Jemisin says. “I also read some of his letters where you can see him just being horrifically racist, using the same language to refer to people in New York City the same way he refers to the Great Old Ones and Nyarlathotep and all the other creations of his. It’s kind of a deep dive into how pathological racists think. You cannot read Lovecraft without understanding that this is what’s in Stephen Miller’s head. There are all these people out there who sadly and horrifyingly now have positions of power, and they think of their fellow human beings this way.”

(7) UDERZO OBIT. Albert Uderzo (co-creator of Asterix) has died at 92 according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Astérix, which has a cult following, particularly in Europe, has also become a major film franchise, both in animated and live-action form. The property has spawned a number of cinematic adaptations, most notably 1999’s Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar, starring Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni.

Asterix debuted in October 1959 in the French magazine Pilote, created by René Goscinny and Uderzo. Two years later, the first stand-alone effort, Astérix the Gaul, was released. Since then, the series has gone on to sell more than 380 million copies, translated into more than 100 languages internationally. The duo collaborated on the comic until the death of Goscinny in 1977. Uderzo then took over the writing until 2009.

The Guardian accompanied its main obituary (“Asterix creator Albert Uderzo dies at 92”) with two sidebar articles about the comic and its creators:

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 24, 1946 The Shadow’s “The Walking Corpse” first aired. Like most of The Shadow stories aired after the brief glorious run of Orson Welles as The Shadow in the Thirties, little is known about who was involved it in though it is known that Eric Walker was the writer. We were unable to pin down who were the actors involved, nor who the sponsors were. If you listen to the episode, do tell us what you find out! 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 24, 1834 William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre, he certainly wrote some of its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly ParadiseThe Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature and artistic design that looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. All of his works can be found at the usual digital suspects, often at no cost. (Died 1896.)
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost-written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad.” (Died 1926.)
  • Born March 24, 1897 Theodora Kroeber. Mother of Ursula K. Le Guin. Anthropologist. Ishi in Two Worlds is the work she’s most remembered for. ISFDB lists her as having but one genre work, a children book titled Carrousel with illustrations by Douglas Tait. (Died 1979.)
  • Born March 24, 1924 Peter George. Welsh author, most remembered for the late Fifties Red Alert novel, published first as Two Hours To Doom and written under the name of Peter Bryant. The book was the basis of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 24, 1930 Steve McQueen. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents he had which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 24, 1941 Henry Glassie, 79. Folklorist who’s the author of one of my all-time fav Christmas books, All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming. I was delighted to see that ISFDB say he has two works of genre fiction, “Coals on the Devil’s Hearth“ and “John Brodison and the Policeman”. Both are to be found in the Jane Yolen anthology, Favorite Folktales from Around the World which is available at all the usual digital suspects.
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 74. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever.  Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in  Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction.
  • Born March 24, 1946 Andrew I. Porter, 74. Editor, publisher, fan.  Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. APA publisher and edition in mind boggling numbers with Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction which became Starship. He won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis. who was doing SFR. He sold Science Fiction Chronicle which he founded in May 1980 to DNA Publications in May 2000 and was fired in 2002. Algol/Starship lasted less than five years despite the exceedingly superb reading it was. He has won myriad awards, including the Big Heart Award at a recent Worldcon. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and nearly forty Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He was Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon.
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 71. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprised me. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio explains to us why some aliens might wish to visit our planet: 
  • Half Full, using a Batman reference, proves again that English is a funny language.
  • The Argyle Sweater has a horror, and horrible, pun.
  • Grant Snider’s cartoon is not genre, but is apropos to the times.

(11) CALLING SHORT ORDER COOKS. The editorial team of Journey Planet is looking for articles, artwork, creative writing, or anything printable for their upcoming issue dedicated to DC’s Swamp Thing.  Anything related to that character in comics, film, and television — live action or animated — is all good.  They’ve received great submissions already. They’d like yours as well.  Send entries to Chuck Serface at ceserface@gmail.com by April 1, 2020. The issue will appear shortly thereafter.

(12) FREE BOOK OFFER. To encourage folks to STAY AT HOME, Black Coat Press is now offering one free book to anyone who will write to them and request one! You have a choice between four titles:

Send them an email at info@blackcoatpress.com telling (1) which title you desire, and (2) if you want to receive it as a PDF or an EPUB file. That’s all! No strings! No archiving of email addresses! Please stay home!

(13) THE ROOTS OF HORROR. The Horror Writers Association is rolling out a “Haunted Library of Horror Classics”.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) and Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of SourceBooks, present the Haunted Library of Horror Classics, a line of reissued classic horror literature books from over the past 250 years. These books are recognized as literary masterpieces of their era and are either remembered today only through distorted theatrical or movie versions, have been relegated to academic study, or have otherwise been nearly forgotten entirely.

Series editors Eric J. Guignard and Leslie S. Klinger now bring back these seminal titles of the genre, making them easily available to modern readers!

(14) IT’S A LONG WAY FROM AMPHIOXUS. Earlier than even the earliest bird — “Fossil worm shows us our evolutionary beginnings”.

A worm-like creature that burrowed on the seafloor more than 500 million years ago may be key to the evolution of much of the animal kingdom.

The organism, about the size of a grain of rice, is described as the earliest example yet found in the fossil record of a bilaterian

These are animals that have a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end joined by a gut.

The discovery is described in the journal PNAS.

The scientists behind it say the development of bilateral symmetry was a critical step in the evolution of animal life.

It gave organisms the ability to move purposefully and a common, yet successful way to organize their bodies.

A multitude of animals, from worms to insects to dinosaurs to humans, are organised around this same basic bilaterian body plan.

Scott Evans, of the University of California at Riverside, and colleagues have called the organism Ikaria wariootia.

(15) NOT JUST HAMBURGERS. “Could synthetic fish be a better catch of the day?” It’s not impossible…

…”Simply put, we are running out of fish,” says Daniel Pauly, a professor of fisheries at the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. “And the situation, the trend line, is getting worse every year.”

“Maybe centuries ago we could live off hunting for our food but we can’t live off hunting today and fishing is hunting. The notion of hunting in the 21st century to feed 10 billion people is absurd.”

A handful of start-up firms think they might have the answer. They are experimenting with growing fish “meat” in the lab.

Mainly based in Silicon Valley with a couple in Europe and Asia, they have developed techniques to extract fish stem cells and grow them into commercial quantities of edible flesh.

Stem cells are a type of cell, found in embryos or adult creatures – which can grow into a number of different specialised cells. They can grow into the muscle cells which make up most the parts of fish people like to eat.

(16) SORRY, WRONG NUMBER. Here’s how NASA dresses up its 404 error messages.

(17) COUNTRY AND MANDALORIAN WESTERN MUSIC. Funk Turkey’s “El Mando” is the sequel to “Big Mandalorian Iron”.

They’ve also released “The Jedi Went Down to Tattooine” –

What happens when you mix The Phantom Menace with Charlie Daniels? An outer rim ho-down, ya’ll. Strap in and enjoy this before the mouse yeets it.

(18) JIM BUTCHER DOUBLE PLAY. A new trailer for Peace Talks (the next Dresden) just came out — and at about the 1:49 mark of the trailer comes the announcement that another new Dresden, called Battle Ground, will be coming out in September of this year.

PEACE TALKS by Jim Butcher, Book 16 of the five-time #1 NYT Bestselling Dresden Files book series. Coming July 14th in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats from Penguin Random House.

And if that’s not enough for you, Andrew Liptak has rounded up “More Details From Jim Butcher and Priscilla Spencer on The Dresden Files Short Film and Surprise Book Announcement” at Tor.com.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Chuck Serface, Nina Shepardson, Darrah Chavey, Daniel Dern, Danny Sichel, Paul Di Filippo, Contrarius, and birthday boy Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/7/20 If You Don’t Eat Your Soylent Green, You Can’t Have Any Flying Yorkshireman Pudding

(1) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. The Royal Mail Visions of the Universe stamps are being issued in celebration of the Royal Astronomical Society’s 200th Anniversary.

A collection of eight Special Stamps with stunning images depicting astronomical features and phenomena studied by British astronomers and astrophysics over the centuries.

(2) BIG MANDALORIAN GOLD. It might be an iron on his hip, but it’s gold in the bank. The Hollywood Reporter hears “Disney’s Bob Iger Considering ‘Mandalorian’ Spinoff Shows”.

The Mandalorian, created by Jon Favreau, has become the de facto flagship show for Disney+, with the Star Wars series introducing the world to Baby Yoda, easily the breakout character of 2019.  

During the earnings call, Iger also said Disney+ had reached 28.6 million paid subscribers as of Monday, less than three months after launch.

The CEO also revealed premiere windows for two of the streaming platform’s anticipated Marvel Studios shows. August will see the debut of The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, Marvel’s first Disney+ series, which will be followed in December by WandaVision, which stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as Scarlet Witch and Vision, respectively.

(3) NEXT IMPRESSIONS. Learn about “6 Books with Juliette Wade” at Nerds of a Feather.

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing? 

I was in college when I first read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. Since then, I’ve read it at least five times. I find new things in it every time. It has blown my mind in so many ways, and really inspired me to challenge worldbuilding elements that I had always taken for granted. I really love the way the book uses both researcher and character points of view. It’s one of the works that really got me to pay close attention to the kinds of drive and conflict that point of view changes can create.

(4) MUSIC INSPIRED BY DHALGREN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the Newton (MA) Tab, Feb 5, 2020 —

SPOTLIGHT ON

House of the Ax is a haunted performance installation, inspired by the labyrinthine novel “Dhalgren” by Samuel R. Delaney [sic]. The performers [missing comma sic] Rested Field, are a Boston-based experimental ensemble, invested in exploring alternative modes that integrate both deterministic and improvisatory strategies….

There is one workshop and two perforamnces scheduled. Open free rehearsal/workshop is Friday, Feb. 7, 6-9pm and will feature an open discussion about surveillance, performativity, anonymity, and bullying, particularly in online spaces. Performances are Saturday, Feb. 8, 6-9PM and Sunday, Feb 7, 2-5pm. At the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds, 286 Waverly Ave., Newton. Tickets are $15….

More information here.

(5) HUGO CHAT. YouTuber Kalanadi presents 2020 Hugo Nomination Recommendations. At the site, the video is supplemented with a list of resources including File 770’s Best Series eligibility compilation by JJ.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s movie Pinocchio debuted.
  • February 7, 1992The Ray Bradbury Theater aired “The Utterly Perfect Murder” episode. Based on a short story by Bradbury, it concerns the long plotted revenge of a boy tormented in his childhood who now thinks he has plotted the utterly perfect murder. It’s directed by Stuart Margolian, and stars Richard Kiley, Robert Clothier and David Turri. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 7, 1931 Gloria Talbott. A spate of Fifties films earned her the title of Scream Queen including The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, The Cyclops, I Married a Monster from Outer Space and The Leech Woman. Her longest role was on Zorro as Moneta Esperon. She retired from acting in her mid-Thirties. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 70. Michael Toman, in an email asking OGH that we note her Birthday today, says that he has “A Good Word for one of my favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L .Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and “The Pelican Bar” won significant awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. 
  • Born February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two-season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 7, 1955 Miguel Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in RoboCop who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World. Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voice Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 7, 1960 James Spader, 60. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No, I did not enjoy that film, nor the Ultron character. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. 
  • Born February 7, 1962 Eddie Izzard, 58. I’m going to give him Birthday Honors for being a voice actor in the Netflix series Green Eggs and Ham where he voices Hervnick Z. Snerz, an arrogant, overbearing  businessman. No idea if that’s a character from the book or not. He’s also had roles in the awful reboot of The Avengers series as a film, Shadow of the Vampire, Alien Invasion, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Lego Batman Movie.
  • Born February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He also played the lead role in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do though other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)

(8) DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE. Big Finish announces “Final four Doctor Who Short Trips for 2020 confirmed!”

Her Own Bootstraps, written by Amy Veeres, performed by Jacob Dudman 
Extracting a dangerous Time War weapon from an irresponsible scientist, the Doctor arrives on Krakatoa in 1883 to destroy it. Problematically, the scientist is also in Krakatoa to steal the weapon. This is where she found it before the Doctor stole it from her. Trapped in a paradox, the Doctor must overcome a future he cannot change.  

A future that has already happened.  

The Meaning of Red, written by Rod Brown, performed by Nicola Bryant 
The TARDIS accidentally strands Peri alone on the inhospitable world of Calleto. Taking refuge with the planet’s only colonists, she waits and waits, but the Doctor doesn’t return. Her only hope lies in discovering the secrets of this planet. 

It’s that, or she dies.  

Blue Boxes, written by Erin Horakova, performed by Mark Reynolds
Death stalks the phone lines.  

UNIT’s been inundated with prank calls. Bored, the Doctor agrees to help Liz investigate. Quickly immersed in the world of phone line hackers, it is revealed that they’re being killed, one-by-one. With the death toll rising, the Doctor will have to use all his cunning and wits to defeat a foe he can’t even talk to.  

He’ll also have to use a blue box. Just not the one you’re expecting.  

The Shattered Hourglass, written by Robert Napton, performed by Neve McIntosh
The Time Agency has been meddling with time ever since its inception. Of all the days in history, today is a day that will define the agency forever.  

Today is the day of their greatest achievement. Today is the day they removed an entire galaxy from the timeline.  

Today is the day the Doctor’s shutting them down.  

(9) EVEN BIGGER FINISH. Also on the way is a River Song and Captain Jack Harkness team-up.

At last! – …River Song and Captain Jack Harkness cross paths for the first time in their zig-zagging timelines. Will the universe ever be the same again? Alex Kingston co-stars along with Camille Coduri, also returning as Jackie Tyler.  

The Lives of Captain Jack volume three will be released in March 2020, and is available on pre-order from today from £19.99, exclusively from the Big Finish website.  

Actor John Barrowman said: “Alex Kingston and I have talked about this for years. We knew that the fanbase always wanted River and Jack to meet, or to cross timelines, and we just never knew when it would happen. Alex and I were always game for it and, thanks to Big Finish, this is where it’s happening.  

“It’s like Jack is the male River and River is the female Jack. There are all sorts of comparisons in their behaviours and how they react; the verve and vivacious passion they have for solving problems; getting to the heart of the action and adventure; the determination to get what they want, but also the sadness behind both of their eyes.”  

Co-star Alex Kingston added: “I’ve always imagined that, when River’s not on adventures with the Doctor, she’s somewhere having fun with Captain Jack. I’ve always had that at the back of my head.  

John Barrowman and I get on so well, and whenever we’ve met at conventions, it’s the one request that the fans have come up with more than any other. We have a lot of fun together so it’s something we’ve both been pushing independently for. I was so thrilled to find out that our dream has come true.” 

The Lives of Captain Jack volume three features the following rollicking good adventures:  

Crush by Guy Adams
Captain Jack takes Mrs Tyler on a luxury cruise in space. 

Mighty & Despair by Tim Foley 
On a distant planet in the far future, two travellers have come looking for a mythical hero. 
 
R&J by James Goss 
From ancient battles to eternal wars 
A pair of time-cross’d lovers take the stars 

The Lives of Captain Jack volume three will be released in March 2020, and is available on pre-order from today at £19.99 as a download and £24.99 as a collector’s edition CD box set (which also unlocks a free download version on release). This exclusive Big Finish pre-release price will be held until the set’s general release at the end of May 2020. 

(10) PAPERBACK WRITERS. At Counterpunch, Ron Jacobs’ long introduction eventually leads to a review of PM Press’ second in a series of pulp fiction reviews, Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980.

…In the late 1960s, I spent many hours at the various drugstore newsstands in my suburban town reading for free. It was at one such establishment where I discovered Mickey Spillane, Harlan Ellison, Frederick Pohl, Herman Hesse, and the Harvard Lampoon, among others. I would finish up my morning newspaper route on Saturdays and head to the drugstore in the local shopping center. There I would meet up with other newspaper carriers and eat breakfast. That was where I had my first cup of coffee. After the three or four of us delivery boys finished breakfast, I would head to the newsstand to catch up on the newspapers I didn’t deliver and the magazines I didn’t want to buy and my parents didn’t subscribe to. After a quick survey of this media, I would scan the paperbacks and find one to read. If, after a half hour or so of reading, I was intrigued I would buy the book. Usually, the cashier didn’t care what I was buying. Sometimes, however, the cashier would be some uptight older woman or a wannabe’ preacher and they would refuse to sell me the paperback. This usually meant that I would go back to the newsstand and ultimately walk out with the book without paying for it. My library of paperback fiction resided in a box under my bed in the room I shared with one of my brothers. It was mostly made up of pulp novels featuring seedy criminals, badass private eyes, sexy covers, science fiction speculations, and fiction/new journalism popular with hippies and freaks—Herman Hesse, Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe come immediately to mind.

(11) THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S INVISIBLE MAN. SYFY Wire: “WIRE Buzz: Invisible Man trailer teases terrifying backstory; Vanessa Kirby returning to Mission: Impossible”.

Unlike its titular character, the horrors of writer/director Leigh Whannell‘s Invisible Man remake will be fully perceived by the naked eye. In the new and terrifying official trailer for the upcoming film, Elisabeth Moss‘ Cecilia tries to leave her abusive boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), only for him to literally punch through a car window to get her back.

[…] “There have been a lot of great Dracula movies and a lot of great werewolf movies, but I feel the Invisible Man is kind of the Aquaman of this stable of monsters,” Whannell told SYFY WIRE during our visit to the project’s Australian set.  “With this film, I feel like it wants to be more serious tonally. Not to say there aren’t moments with the characters where there might be levity, but it’s not a tonal thing. I wanted to make something that was like a vise that was tightening on people, which doesn’t leave much room for one-liners.”

(12) IN ALL HUMILITY. Gary L.M. Martin, author of Sleeping with Hitler’s Wife, dispenses genre wisdom on his Amazon author page. He begins —

Let’s talk about the dismal state of scifi/fantasy novels:

1) There are basically five kinds of scifi/fantasy novels:

a) teenagers with magical powers fighting vampires in Brooklyn; 

b) teenagers surviving a post-nuclear wasteland;

c) a moody boy/girl growing to become warrior/magician/king;

d) everyone fighting World War II again, in outer space; and

e) “Hard” scifi, with 200 pages of description of how to drive a moon buggy.

For the most part, there are only five kinds of scifi, because people only can write what they’ve already read. So what you end up reading are bad imitations of bad imitations of bad imitations, and so on….

(13) DOUGLAS FAMILY ALBUM.

(14) SHOCKING! A clip from The Late Show: “Patton Oswalt Is Shocked When Stephen Colbert Tells Him To Skip “The Hobbit.” The Tolkien stuff begins at 5:51.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/20 The Cat That Scrolled Through Pixels

(1) NEW FAN FUND. Marcin Klak writes about efforts to bring the European Fan Fund to life in “European Fan Fund – update”.

…Right now the fund has €367.00 and £84.00. It is both a lot and not so much. It will be enough for the airfare for sure, but may not be enough for accommodation on top of the plane tickets. We also need to gather the money for the years to come. Still, this amount means that we can do it and EFF may start – maybe this year, maybe next, but we should manage to have it working and for that I am really grateful to all the fans who helped.

Future plans

The first thing ahead of us is to ensure we will have proper funds to start the race. If this happens, we will hold a race and choose a candidate that will travel to Eurocon. If this is possible to happen this year, we will have the first EFF delegate at Futuricon in Rijeka (Croatia). This would be really awesome. Then we need to remember that just a few months after Futuricon there will be a Eurocon in Fiugii (Italy). Having two trips within half a year would be challenging but maybe not impossible….

(2) RING IN THE NEW YEAR. On The Blerdgurl Podcast, “N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell describe the world of a powerful new Green Lantern”.

Happy Holidays everyone! Today’s episode features the award-winning writer N.K. Jemisin and the incredible artist Jamal Campbell who I spoke to recently about their new comic book Far Sector on the DC Young Animal Imprint. The comic introduces us to a brand new member of the Green Lantern Corp. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein. The first black woman to wield a Power Ring.

(3) HARLAN WOULD BE SO PROUD. Yahoo! Movies has “The most disturbing talking animals in film – ranked!” BEWARE SPOILERS!

9. Blood – A Boy and His Dog (1975)

If you have children and A Boy and His Dog appear on any streaming services, don’t watch it. At first glance, it looks like the sort of earnestly dumb Disney movie that Kurt Russell would have made in the 70s, but it is not that at all. A Boy and His Dog takes place in the aftermath of nuclear war, as a young man scavenges for food with a dog of contemptible character. Voiced by Tim McIntire, Blood’s one job is to find post-apocalyptic women for Don Johnson to have sex with in return for food. They eat a woman at the end. Like I said, not for kids.

After reading that description you might ask, “How in hell is that movie not Number One on the list?” But after you read what Yahoo! has in first place, your question will be answered —

1. Jennyanydots – Cats (2019)

You will have noticed by now that the top 5 of this Ranked! are all cats. That’s because I saw Cats at the cinema and I now hate cats. Picking a weirdest cat from the Cats lineup is almost impossible (the railway cat? The cat with boobs? Jason Derulo’s Towie cat? The suicidal cat?) and yet Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots makes the choice a little easier. Because Jennanydots is the masturbating cat who unzips her own skin and eats mice that for some reason have the voice of screaming children. I hate cats now.

(4) BOOKS IS EVERYWHERE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While reserving more Bujold (see my Arisia 2020 report), I noticed this unexpected field in the library network’s REFINE BY choices. (See pic.)

Interestingly, it seems to only appear except when I’ve done some choices of criteria. I’m still experimenting, and haven’t yet gone to chat with the library.

Stay tuned!

(5) AMAZING! So Steve Davidson really answers Amazing Stories’ spam? A 10-point declaration: “Not That It Will Do Any Good, But….”

To all content mills, web-marketing firms, SEO factories and anyone else who thinks that having an article with your “do follow” links in them published on the Amazing Stories website will help your/your client’s business, or that our website is in desperate need of your technical know-how designed to increase our traffic or raise our internet profile:

1.  WE. ARE. NOT. INTERESTED.  That’s blanket and across the board.

…BONUS:  This post was written so I can reduce my correspondence with the SEO mills by simply sending them a link.

(6) ASIMOV CENTENNIAL. Yosef Lindell skeptically inspects “Isaac Asimov’s Throwback Vision of the Future” for The Atlantic.

When Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy won the Hugo Award for best all-time science-fiction series, in 1966, no one was more surprised than the author. The books contained “no action,” Asimov complained years later, adding, “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did.” As a young reader, I devoured the Foundation books, the short-story collection I, Robot, and other works by Asimov. Though these tales entranced me with their bold strokes of imagination, when I revisit them as an adult, their flaws stand out more than their virtues. It’s not so much that nothing happens, but that the reader doesn’t get to see anything happen. Asimov’s stories are dialogue-driven; the action happens off-stage while men (and, less frequently, women) huddle to debate the significance of what occurred or what ought to be done in the best Socratic fashion.

Asimov was aware of these quirks. “I don’t see things when I write,” he once apologized. “I hear, and for the most part, what my characters talk about are ideas.” Still, his stories often evoke the smoke-filled corporate boardrooms of the past century more than a progressive tomorrow. And his writing is striking for its optimism, betraying a faith in technology and humanity that seems especially naive and out of place today. When considering Asimov’s tales now, I’m reminded of what another famous science-fiction author, Neil Gaiman, once cautioned about rereading older works in the genre: “Nothing dates harder and faster and more strangely than the future.” (It doesn’t help Asimov’s case that he was known for groping women, an aspect of the author’s legacy that Alec Nevala-Lee wrote about in depth for Public Books earlier this month.)

(7) MYSTERIOUS NEW LOCATION. “Independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy opening in Point Loma”sdnews.com has the story.

Despite changing locales and ownership, patrons of iconic independent bookstore Mysterious Galaxy can expect the same incomparable service and variety.

Patrons-turned-booksellers, couple Matthew Berger and Jennifer Marchisotto were regular patrons of Mysterious for six years after moving to San Diego. Of the timing of their acquiring the 27-year-old bookstore specializing in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult, romance, Berger said, “That’s something I always wanted to do.” 

Though they didn’t expect to be in retail so soon, Berger noted, “When that opportunity arises, how can you say no?,” while describing Mysterious as our “favorite bookstore in the world. I’ve been familiar with Mysterious Galaxy since I was a kid when I used to go with my dad to book signings,” said Berger who, along with Marchisotto and newborn child, acquired the store Jan. 3 moving it after its lease in Clairemont had expired, into its new 5,650-square-foot space at 3555 Rosecrans St., Suite 107, in Point Loma. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1986 Eliminators premiered. It was directed by Peter Manoogian who did such horror films as Demonic Toys, and was involved in Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Sy.  It had a cast of Andrew Prine, Denise Crosby and Patrick Reynolds. It bombed upon its release, and the Rotten Tomatoes of 35% reflects that. It is unfortunately not available fir viewing online.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers aired its final episode. Only six episodes were made of this series which starred Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn,  Clint Howard,  Linda Hunt and  Gottfried John. It was created by Pen Denshem who wrote and produced such series such as The Outer Limits and Poltergeist. (Well of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as well.) There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes but all the critics hated it with a passion calling it cliched, predictable and lame. There’s not much on the series on the net but Starlog did a very nice piece you can read here.
  • January 31, 1997 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope: The Special Edition premiered. A New Hope was re-released along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition.  It has a number of minor changes from the the original print, an enhanced Mos Eisley spaceport For one, and major ones such as Greedo shooting first and the CGI Jabba the Hut. The changes made many fans unhappy inspiring such things as the t-shirt’s that said “Han shot first.” Currently it holds a stellar 93% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the trailer here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1921 John Agar. Between the early Fifties and the Sixties, he appeared in many SFF films such as The Rocket Man, Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula, The Mole People, Attack of the Puppet People, Invisible Invaders, Destination Space, Journey to the Seventh Planet, Curse of the Swamp Creature, Zontar: The Thing from Venus,  Women of the Prehistoric Planet and E.T.N.: The Extraterrestrial Nastie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 31, 1922 William Sylvester. He’s remembered as Dr. Heywood Floyd in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Genre, he later shows up in The Hand of Night (horror), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (dark fantasy) and Heaven Can Wait (fantasy) but none gain him the fame of 2001. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 83. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a SFF underpinning.   
  • Born January 31, 1941 Jonathan Banks, 79. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better that merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2. Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. SeaQuest 2032 also had him for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. 
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 60. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series that started this past fall is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and his very weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1968 Matt King, 52. He’s Peter Streete in the most excellent Tenth Doctor story, “The Shakespeare Code”. His other genre performances are Freeman in the superb Jekyll, Cockerell in Inkheart based off Caroline Funke’s novel of that name, the ghost Henry Mallet in Spirited andClyde in the recent maligned Doolittle.
  • Born January 31, 1970 Minnie Driver, 50. She’s Irina in the seventeenth Bond film GoldenEye. Later on she’s voices Lady Eboshi in the English language version of Princess Mononoke, does the same for Jane Porter in Tarzan, and is Mandy in Ella Enchanted.  She was Lara Croft in the animated Revisioned: Tomb Raider series was distributed through the online video game service GameTap. 
  • Born January 31, 1973 Portia de Rossi, 47. She first shows up as Giddy in Sirens which would be stretching things to even include as genre adjacent but is definitely worth watching. For SFF roles, she was in Catholic Church tinged horror film Stigmata, music Zombie comedy Dead & Breakfast and werewolf horror Cursed. She was Lily Munster in the deli weird Mockingbird Lane pilot that never went to series. 

(10) IS THE BOOK BETTER THAN THE MOVIE? Either way, Gallup’s survey shows “In U.S., Library Visits Outpaced Trips to Movies in 2019”.

Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list.

(11) ACTOR IN THE FAMILY. William Ketter, son of well-known book dealer Greg Ketter, will perform in an off-Broadway production of Animal Farm in February.

The animals on a farm drive out their master and take over and run the farm for themselves. The experiment is successful, except that someone has to take the deposed farmer’s place. Leadership devolves upon the pigs, which are cleverer than the rest of the animals. Unfortunately, their character is not equal to their intelligence. This dramatization remains faithful to the book’s plot and intent and retains both its affection for the animals and the incisiveness of its message.

(12) JOCULARITY. McSweeney’s Carlos Greaves declares “As a 28-Year-Old Latino, I’m Shocked My New Novel, Memoirs of a Middle-Aged White Lady, Has Been So Poorly Received”.

…When I set out to write this novel, which takes place in Iowa and centers around 46-year-old Meradyth Spensir and her 8-year-old son Chab, my goal was to shed light on the struggles that white middle-aged women in America face — struggles that I, a 28-year-old Latino man, don’t know much about but I would imagine are pretty tough. And as far as I’m concerned, I freaking nailed it….

(13) WHEN MOVIES WERE SMOKIN’. From “Who’s There?” by Dan Chiasson, in the April 23, 2018 New Yorker, in a piece on the 50th anniversary of 2001:

Hippies may have saved 2001. ‘Stoned audiences’ flocked to the movie.  David Bowie took a few drops of cannabis tincture before watching, and countless others dropped acid.  According to one report, a young man at a showing in Los Angeles plunged through the movie screen. shouting, ‘It’s God! It’s God!’  John Lennon said he saw the film ‘every week.’  2001 initially opened in limited release, shown only in 70mm on curved Cinerama screens,  M-G-M thought it had on its hands a second DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) or BEN-HUR (1959),or perhaps another Spartacus (1960), the splashy studio hit that Kubrick, low on funds, had directed about a decade before.  But instead the theatres were filling up with fans of cult films like Roger Corman’s The Trip, or Psych-Out, the early Jack Nicholson flick with music by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.  These movies, though cheesy, found a new use for editing and special effects:  to mimic psychedelic visions.  The iconic Star Gate sequence in 2001, when Dave Bowman, the film’s protagonist, hurtles in his space pod through a corridor of swimming kaleidoscopic colors, could even be times, with sufficient practice, to crest with the viewer’s own hallucinations.  The studio soon caught on, and a new tagline was added to the movie’s redesigned posters:  ‘The ultimate trip’….

…For the final section of the film, ‘Jupiter and Beyond The Infinite, (Frederick) Ordway, the film’s scientific consultant, read up on a doctoral thesis on psychedelics advised by Timothy Leary.  Theology students had taken psilocybin, then attended a service at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel to see if they’d be hit with religious revelations.  They dutifully reported their findings: most of the participants had indeed touched God.  Such wide-ranging research was characteristic of Clarke and Kubrick’s approach, although the two men, both self-professed squares, might have saved time had they been willing to try hallucinogens themselves.

(14) LIFE SIZE? At $350, “The Child” is a heckuva lot better than a garden gnome. Of course, you may never see another frog in your backyard.

Sideshow presents The Child Life-Size Figure, created in partnership with Legacy Effects to bring you the galaxy’s most sought-after bounty. 

Lovingly referred to by audiences as ‘Baby Yoda’, the mysterious alien known as The Child has quickly become the breakout fan-favorite of Star Wars™: The Mandalorian on Disney+. Now eager collectors can become a clan of two and bring home the asset as an incredible 1:1 scale Star Wars collectible, no tracking fob needed.

The Child Life-Size Figure measures 16.5” tall, standing on a simple ship deck base that lets this adorable alien steal all of the focus- along with the Mandalorian’s ship parts. Inspired by its unique onscreen appearance, this mixed media statue features a tan fabric coat swaddling The Child as it gazes up with charming wide eyes, hiding the silver shift knob from the Razor Crest™ in its right hand. 

(15) DYSTROPES. Dwight Garner reviews Gish Jen’s The Resisters for the New York Times: “In a New Dystopian Novel, the Country is AutoAmerica, but Baseball Is Still Its Pastime”.

The best thing about being God, Iris Murdoch wrote, would be making the heads. The best thing about writing speculative or dystopian fiction, surely, is updating human language, pushing strange new words into a reader’s mind.

Gish Jen’s densely imagined if static new novel, “The Resisters,” is set in a future surveillance state known as AutoAmerica. The ice caps have melted, and much of the land is underwater. A racial and class divide has cleaved the population.

The “Netted” have jobs, plush amenities and well-zoned houses on dry land. The “Surplus,” most of whom live on houseboats in “Flotsam Towns,” have scratchy blankets, thought control and degradation. Members of this underclass have not begun to grow gills, like the buff men and women in Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld,” but that may not be far off.

(16) CITIZEN SCIENCE. “A New Form Of Northern Lights Discovered In Finland – By Amateur Sky Watchers” — includes video.

People in northern climes have long gazed at the wonder that is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

Those celestial streaks of light and color are often seen on clear nights in Finland, where they’re so admired that a Finnish-language Facebook group dedicated to finding and photographing them has more than 11,000 members.

There aurora aficionados gather to discuss subjects like space weather forecasts and the best equipment to capture the northern lights.

Among its members is Minna Palmroth. She’s a physicist and professor at the University of Helsinki, where she leads a research group that studies the space weather that causes auroral emissions.

When members of the group posted photos of the auroras they’d seen and wanting to learn more, Palmroth would often reply with the aurora’s type and the scientific explanation for its form. The discussions led Palmroth and two collaborators to publish a field guide to the northern lights.

But even after the book came out, some questions remained unanswered. A few of the citizens’ photos showed a form of aurora that didn’t fit into any of the known categories. It had green, horizontal waves running in parallel. Its undulations reminding some observers of sand formations, and it was christened “the dunes.”

(17) ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH. Delish brings word that “Pillsbury Is Selling The Cutest Ready-To-Bake R2-D2 Sugar Cookies”.

And while you may look at the adorable packaging and think you’re getting cookies with different Star Wars characters on each of them, this is really just for R2-D2 die-hards as that’s the only design included. That said, @Pillsbury, I’m fully expecting a roll-out of BB-8 cookies now, as R2-D2 is fantastic and all, but my heart belongs to that tiny round bb always. Actually, I’d take some C-3PO-topped desserts, too. Can we just get all of them ASAP, please? TYSM!

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

2020 VES Awards

The Lion King, Baby Yoda, and Ridley Scott’s “Seven Worlds” ad for Hennessy X.O cognac all brought home hardware as genre ruled the roost at the Visual Effects Society’s 2020 VES Awards ceremony on January 29.

Along with The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones and Stranger Things won two trophies apiece for short-form work.

As previously announced, Martin Scorsese received the VES Lifetime Achievement Award. The VES Visionary Award was given to Roland Emmerich, and the VES Award for Creative Excellence was presented to VFX supervisor Sheena Duggal.

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

THE LION KING
Robert Legato
Tom Peitzman
Adam Valdez
Andrew R. Jones

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature

THE IRISHMAN
Pablo Helman
Mitch Ferm
Jill Brooks
Leandro Estebecorena
Jeff Brink

Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature

MISSING LINK
Brad Schiff
Travis KnightSteve Emerson
Benoit Dubuc

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

THE MANDALORIAN; The Child
Richard Bluff
Abbigail Keller
Jason Porter
Hayden Jones
Roy Cancinon

Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode

CHERNOBYL; 1:23:45
Max Dennison
Lindsay McFarlane
Clare Cheetham
Paul Jones
Claudius Christian Rauch

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Real-Time Project

CONTROL
Janne Pulkkinen
Elmeri Raitanen
Matti Hämäläinen
James Tottman

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial

HENNESSEY; The Seven Worlds
Carsten Keller
Selcuk Ergen
Kiril Mirkov
William Laban

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project

STAR WARS: RISE OF THE RESISTANCE
Jason Bayever
Patrick Kearney
Carol Norton
Bill George

Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL; Alita
Michael Cozens
Mark Haenga
Olivier Lesaint
Dejan Momcilovic

Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature

MISSING LINK; Susan
Rachelle Lambden
Brenda Baumgarten
Morgan Hay
Benoit Dubuc

Outstanding Animated Character in an Episode or Real-Time Project

STRANGER THINGS 3; Tom/Bruce Monster
Joseph Dubé-Arsenault
Antoine Barthod
Frederick Gagnon
Xavier Lafarge

Outstanding Animated Character in a Commercial

CYBERPUNK 2077; Dex
Jonas Ekman
Jonas Skoog
Marek Madej
Grzegorz Chojnacki

Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature

THE LION KING; The Pridelands
Marco Rolandi
Luca Bonatti
Jules Bodenstein
Filippo Preti

Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature

TOY STORY 4; Antiques Mall
Hosuk Chang
Andrew Finley
Alison Leaf
Philip Shoebottom

Outstanding Created Environment in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

GAME OF THRONES; The Iron Throne; Red Keep Plaza
Carlos Patrick DeLeon
Alonso Bocanegra Martinez
Marcela Silva
Benjamin Ross

Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a CG Project

THE LION KING
Robert Legato
Caleb Deschanel
Ben Grossmann
AJ Sciutto

Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project

THE MANDALORIAN; The Sin; The Razorcrest
Doug Chiang
Jay Machado
John Goodson
Landis Fields IV

Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
Don Wong
Thibault Gauriau
Goncalo Cababca
Francois-Maxence Desplanques

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature

FROZEN 2
Erin V. Ramos
Scott Townsend
Thomas Wickes
Rattanin Sirinaruemarn

Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Episode, Commercial, or Real-Time Project

STRANGER THINGS 3; Melting Tom/Bruce
Nathan Arbuckle
Christian Gaumond
James Dong
Aleksandr Starkov

Outstanding Compositing in a Feature

THE IRISHMAN
Nelson Sepulveda
Vincent Papaix
Benjamin O’Brien
Christopher Doerhoff

Outstanding Compositing in an Episode

GAME OF THRONES; The Long Night; Dragon Ground Battle
Mark Richardson
Darren Christie
Nathan Abbott
Owen Longstaff

Outstanding Compositing in a Commercial

HENNESSEY; The Seven Worlds
Rod Norman
Guillaume Weiss
Alexander Kulikov
Alessandro Granella

Outstanding Special (Practical) Effects in a Photoreal or Animated Project

THE DARK CRYSTAL: THE AGE OF RESISTANCE; She Knows All the Secrets
Sean Mathiesen
Jon Savage
Toby Froud
Phil Harvey

Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project

THE BEAUTY
Marc Angele
Aleksandra Todorovic
Pascal Schelbli
Noel Winzen

Pixel Scroll 1/17/20 The Longer A Scroll Title, The More Likely It Is Antidisestablishmentarian

(1) DOWN THE TUBES. City A.M. shows off new signage created to advertise the forthcoming series: “PICARDilly Circus: TfL renames Tube station to celebrate Star Trek launch”. More photos at the link.

The move will see Star Trek branding and signage plastered on roundels in the ticket hall and platforms throughout the Grade II listed station

Commuters will also hear special public service announcements advising them to “take care when using stairs, escalators or transporters” while travelling through the station.

The two-day marketing campaign, created with TfL’s advertising partner Global, forms part of the transport body’s efforts to generate more revenue by offering brands station takeovers.

(2) AND DOWN THE HATCH. Joe Otterson, in the Variety story “‘Picard’ Stars Reveal Which ‘Star Trek’ Character They Would Get Drunk With”, finds executive producer Rod Roddenberry voting for his father Gene and Sir Patrick Stewart saying that there were so many interesting new characters in the show that having “a glass or two of something pleasant” with them “would be a treat.”

(3) COLLECTIVE THOUGHTS. Camestros Felapton identifies and analyzes many of what I (not necessarily Camestros) term the ethical issues surrounding the publication and response to Isabel Fall’s story: “Well I guess I’m writing about Clarkesworld again”.

…Again, that’s not Isabel Fall’s fault and it shouldn’t have been her problem because the source of the trust should have not rested with her but with Clarkesworld. The answer to the question “is this story intended to be in good-faith” should have been “yes, because Clarkesworld wouldn’t have published it otherwise”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a sufficient answer for many people and I don’t think we can fault people for not seeing it as a sufficient answer. The key question Clarkesworld need to answer before publication is whether people in wider fandom (i.e. not just their regular readers) is whether they had sufficient trust both in fandom in general and among transgender fans in particular for Clarkesworld (not Isabel Fall) to attempt to away some of the power of a very hurtful meme. The answer would have been “no”. Clearly, the magazine doesn’t have that level of trust, as demonstrated but also, I think it was obvious before hand.

Am I being wise after the event in saying so? No, really I don’t think so. Multiple people, from varying backgrounds were asking me privately before I wrote a review whether I thought the story was some sort of hoax or other shenanigans. In the context it had then (which isn’t the context it had now) sensible, rational people genuinely couldn’t tell. My main reason for thinking that it wasn’t a hoax was that I don’t think any of the usual suspects are that smart or intellectually adept (or, lets be frank, capable of writing that well). That’s an editorial failure not a failure on the part of the author….

(4) BIG MANDALORIAN IRON. An instant Country/Western classic. Riding a Blurrg ain’t that bleepin’ easy!

From a planet they call Mandalore came a stranger one fine day…

(5) HI GRANDPA. Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of George Lucas holding Baby Yoda.

(6) EPIC FAIL. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports that “‘Dolittle’ Does A Lot, All Of It Terribly”

Dolittle is not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable. Watching the film doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t behave like the usual errant vision, which might be chalked up to a poor conceit or some hiccups in execution. This one has been stabbed multiple times, and only a thorough behind-the-scenes examination could sort out whose fingerprints are on what hilt.

Some details have already emerged: The credited director of Dolittle is Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for scripting Traffic and wrote and directed the oil thriller Syriana — an odd résumé for a children’s film to say the least. After poor test screenings, the film’s release date was pushed from spring of 2019 to January of 2020, and it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and writer Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), who reportedly punched up the script. During that same period, the name of the film changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, referencing the second book in Hugh Lofting’s series about an eccentric animal doctor, to simply Dolittle, stripped even of the honorarium.

Normally, such trips to the sausage factory are not necessary to understand why a film works or it doesn’t, but Dolittle is so incoherent that it can’t be unpacked on its own. Certain baseline elements of a professional Hollywood production — this one budgeted upwards of $175 million — are simply not present here: The filmmakers have been stymied by the technical challenge of having human actors interact with CGI animals, so eye-lines don’t meet and the editing within scenes lacks continuity. Robert Downey Jr. is off mumbling incoherently in one part of the frame, an all-star voice cast is making wisecracks as a polar bear or an ostrich or a squirrel in another, and only occasionally do they look like they’re on speaking terms…

(7) STARKWEATHER OBIT. Hey, I still own one of these. “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Dies at 81” – the New York Times paid tribute:

…Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.

He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?

“What you have to do is not just look at the marble,” he said in a talk at the University of South Florida in 2017. “You have to see the angel in the marble.”

Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.

“If you have a good idea, you can bet someone else doesn’t think it’s good,” Mr. Starkweather would say in 1997 in a lecture for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 The Electric Grandmother  premiered on NBC.  The film starred Maureen Stapleton, Paul Benedict and Edward Herrmann. It was penned by Ray Bradbury as “I Sing the Body Electric” in his 1969 collection of the same name. (It’s the title of a Walt Whitman poem.) School Library Journal said that fans of Bradbury would be fascinated by this film. This is the second dramatisation of his story as the first was presented on The Twilight Zone. It does doesn’t appeared to be out on DVD.
  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers. Currently it’s carrying a 25% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1910 Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 17, 1922 Betty White, 98. She voiced Gretchen Claus in The Story of Santa Claus which is enough for Birthday Honors, and she was Mrs. Delores Bickerman in Lake Placid as well according to keen eyes of John King Tarpinian. She had a cameo as herself in (I’m not kidding) Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. and I’ll finish off by that she’s still active at nearly a hundred, bless her!, by voicing Bitey White in Toy Story 4.
  • Born January 17, 1925 Patricia Owens. She was Hélène Delambre in The Fly. No offense to Cronenberg’s The Fly but this one is far more horrific. Her one of her last appearances was as Charlie in The Destructors which is sort of SFF. Ghost Ship where she was an uncredited party girl is definitely SFF, and her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls under my rule that everything he did counts. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 89. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Austonding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 58. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I really liked, then there’s The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise. 
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 31. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series.

(10) CLOCKING IN. Flickering Myth shares “First images from the BBC’s Discworld series The Watch”.

The BBC has released five first look images from The Watch, the upcoming fantasy series inspired by Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels featuring  Richard Dormer (Captain Sam Vimes),  Lara Rossi (Lady Sybil Ramkin), Adam Hugill (Constable Carrot), Jo Eaton-Kent (Constable Cheery), Sam Adewunmi (Carcer Dun), and Marama Corlett (Corporal Angua); check them out here…

(11) FOR THE RECORD. Classic fm reports “Mark Hamill reunited with missing Star Wars soundtrack signed by John Williams, 20 years later”.

…The incredible discovery came about after staff at an Arizona bookshop came into possession of the record and were keen to return the record to its rightful owner.

It was certainly a noble gesture; despite the Bookmans’ team knowing the album was worth large sums of money, its personalised autograph suggested it should only belong to the Return of the Jedi star.

Williams had gifted the record to Hamill ahead of the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, and had signed the sleeve with the inscription: ‘Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us.’

Amazingly, the 68-year-old actor wasn’t even aware the record was missing and believed it to still be in the basement of his California home, along with his other vinyl….

(12) TOURIST SPOT. Nice of them to fit it in between nearish Worldcons: “Glenfinnan’s Harry Potter viaduct focus of £1.7m upgrade”.

Improvements are being made to areas around a railway viaduct famed for its picturesque setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.

Network Rail is investing £1.7m to remove loose vegetation, including “dangerous” trees, from slopes above the railway at the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Parts of a fence put up to protect visitors on a tourist path at the site are also being renewed.

Thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts visit the viaduct.

(13) LIVING FOSSILS SURVIVE. NPR has some good news — “Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Groves Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines”.

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

…when Australia’s wildfires started burning toward Wollemi National Park in recent weeks, firefighters from the parks and wildlife service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service put a carefully planned operation into motion.

“This is a key asset, not only for the national parks, but for our entire country,” Matt Kean, New South Wales’ environment minister, said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

(14) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. As for the fossils that didn’t survive: “Dinosaur extinction: ‘Asteroid strike was real culprit'”. The latest “final verdict.”

Was it the asteroid or colossal volcanism that initiated the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?

This has been a bit of a “to and fro” argument of late, but now a group of scientists has weighed in with what they claim is the definitive answer.

“It was the asteroid ‘wot dun it’!” Prof Paul Wilson told the BBC.

His team’s analysis of ocean sediments shows that huge volcanoes that erupted in India did not change the climate enough to drive the extinction.

Volcanoes can spew enormous volumes of gases into the atmosphere that can both cool and warm the planet.

And the Deccan Traps, as the volcanic terrain in India is known, certainly had massive scale – hundreds of thousands of cubic km of molten rock were erupted onto the land surface over thousands of years.

But the new research from Southampton University’s Prof Wilson, and colleagues from elsewhere in Europe and the US, indicates there is a mismatch in both the effect and timing of the volcanism’s influence.

(15) REDUCTION IN FORCE. This probably wasn’t the cat’s personal New Year’s resolution, I realize… “35-pound cat named Bazooka begins epic weight loss journey”.

A 35-pound orange tabby cat – appropriately named Bazooka – has arrived with pomp and circumstance at a North Carolina shelter this week in preparation to begin his epic weight loss journey.

Bazooka, who was transferred from another shelter about two hours away in Davidson County, arrived at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County earlier this week, requiring two people to carry him in his crate….

(16) PROHIBITION. Food historian Rick Foss, a longtime LASFS member, has an article on the website for BBC History Magazine: “Wet vs Dry: how prohibition fractured America”.

 …When Europeans first settled in America in the 17th century and into the 18th, alcohol was regarded as not merely a beverage, but a medicine. Many of the country’s founding fathers were enthusiastic consumers of beer and rum: George Washington owned a distillery; Thomas Jefferson was a wine enthusiast; and in their era, anyone who didn’t drink alcohol would have been regarded as peculiar. Late into the 19th century beer and cider were the everyday drink of most Americans, and wine production was gaining in quality and quantity. How, then, did the prohibition movement, which was politically insignificant as late as the 1860s, grow to be so powerful?

(17) X-MEN RATED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever wondered what kind of underwear Wolverine wears? Apparently JP “Pat” Huddlestuff has… and he has the answer for you if you’re willing to venture into the bathroom with him. Creative Bloq: “Illustration series depicts superheroes’ bathroom habits – and it’s genius”.

Superhero fan art is no new thing. From Spiderman and Wolverine to the Hulk and DeadPool, these popular characters have been reimagined by artists in all manner of ways over the years. But just when we think we’ve seen it all, a project like Bathroom Heroes comes along. 

The brainchild of artist JP “Pat” Huddleston, this series of illustrations depicts how superheroes might look while using the bathroom; and, more importantly, how they might manage their superpowers. 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/12/19 You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Time Lord

(1) MONSTER PRICE. Bernie Wrightson’s original wrap-around cover artwork for Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sold at auction today for $1 million dollars. The catalog description at the link claims —

…It can also easily be said that the 1983 Marvel publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein is arguably the finest illustrated book of the second half of the 20th century. Originally written in 1818, the novel was later painstakingly illustrated over the course of nearly a decade by pen and ink master Bernie Wrightson. We are proud to offer here, what we consider the finest fantasy ink drawing of the 20th century, if not of all time….

(2) UNCERTAIN FUTURE. Editor Alex Shvartsman’s foreword in Future Science Fiction Digest issue 5 explains why it contains only about 20% of the wordage of previous issues – the launch funding from its Chinese partner has run out.

As Future SF enters its second year, we do so without a safety net.

Our first year’s run was sponsored by the Future Affairs Administration. Together we were able to publish a considerable amount of excellent international fiction, and we thank FAA for their help and support as the magazine launched and found its footing. While FAA is still considering their options regarding any future partnerships with us, at this moment they’re not affiliated with the magazine.

So, what does it mean for Future SF going forward? We aren’t going away, but we have to considerably scale back until we secure alternate funding, or follow the path of many other e-zines in our field and slowly build up a subscription and patron base.

I’m currently talking to the FAA, as well as to a couple of other companies, to see if we can work out another sponsorship or partnership. But even if that proves successful, it is a temporary solution. Only a substantial base of subscribers can ensure stable funding in the long term….

(3) IN TIMES THAT CAME. The Bookseller points to a realm of publishing where change is happening almost quicker than it can be predicted: “Voicing a revolution”.

“Voice tech” will be the next revolution. It’s hard to imagine in today’s text- and screen-based society, but voice recognition apps such as search, device control, shopping and social media will replace screens. It’s already here: only five years after inception, half of citizens in the developed world (47%) owns a smart speaker. How odd we were, the next generation will think, for our incessant tapping on little screens. Wearable tech such as Amazon’s Echo Loop (a small ring enabling you to whisper demands into your palm, and cup your ear for Alexa’s answer) gives a glimpse of the shape our future, with virtual assistants always at our disposal. No need to pull out your phone, even for a phone call. Audiobooks will be a beneficiary of the new generation of voice apps as spheres of our lives transition and we get used to the ease and convenience of voice, and brands have to offer aligned products. Audiobooks are part of the fabric of a healthier technology on the go, where screens play a small role. 

Every book published will be available as an audiobook. AI-driven Text-to-Speech apps for audiobook production will leap forward. The AI narrator could be a sampled actor, or a “designer voice” to match the book or brand….

(4) DOUBLE YOUR READING PLEASURE. Cora Buhlert suggests great holiday gifts for the sff readers of 1964 at Galactic Journey: “[December 11, 1964] December GalactoscopE”.

Personally, I think that books are the best gifts. And so I gave myself Margaret St. Clair’s latest, when I spotted it in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore, since I enjoyed last year’s Sign of the Labrys a lot. Even better, this book is an Ace Double, which means I get two new tales for the price of one. Or rather, I get six, because one half is a collection of five short stories.

First on her list —

Message from the Eocene by Margaret St. Clair (Ace Double M-105)….

 (5) FOR 10 YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry find nine books worthy of listing as the best of the past 10 years – plus six honorable mentions: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Best of the Decade”. First up —

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear (2012): Elizabeth Bear is something of a chameleon of a writer. Whether it is near future cyberpunk thrillers, urban fantasy, alternate historical vampire fiction, espionage, space opera, steampunk, a Criminal Minds meets the X-Files mashup, or epic fantasy – Bear can write it all.

Eschewing the trappings of the stereotypical European setting, Range of Ghosts is silk road epic fantasy – meaning that the novel has a more Mongolian flavor and has an entirely different cultural grounding than what is so often considered “traditional epic fantasy”. Bear pulls no punches in delivering a full realized and top notch epic with rich characterization and incredible worldbuilding. The magic and religion and battles of Range of Ghosts is handled with a deft touch and the best thing is that all of this is set up for something far larger. Range of Ghosts is Elizabeth Bear at the height of her considerable powers. (G’s Review) (Joe)

(6) THOSE OLD FAMILIAR HAUNTS. Emily Littlejohn, in “The Elements of the Haunted House: A Primer” on CrimeReads, says that haunted house mysteries work if they’re in the right place and have ghosts who are appealing but who didn’t die too young or too old.

…Of course, not all ghost stories feature a malevolent spirit intent on wreaking havoc on the living; there are some lovely novels that feature ghosts that are sad rather than mad, more unsettled than vengeful. Those books can be enjoyed in the bright light of day, perhaps with a nice sandwich and a glass of lemonade. But if you like your haunted houses a bit darker, a little less safe, read on for this writer’s perspective.

If I were to write a haunted house novel, I know where I would start: the setting. The canon practically demands a stately manor from the pages of a historical register or an architectural study, all turrets and gables and perhaps a few strange windows that seem a little too much like eyes. Long hallways, flickering light from an early electric bulb or a candle, rooms with furniture shrouded in sheets . . . and nooks, so many nooks, to hide in.

(7) ANCIENT ART. “44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting The History Of Art”NPR says they know because they analyzed the calcite “popcorn” on a pig. (Say that three times fast.)

Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the history of the origins of art.

Until recently, the long-held story was that humans started painting in caves in Europe. For example, art from the Chauvet Cave in France is dated as old as 37,000 years.

But several years ago, a group of scientists started dating cave paintings in Indonesia — and found that they are thousands of years older.

“They are at least 40,000 years old, which was a very, very surprising discovery,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Australia’s Griffith University. He and his colleagues used a technique called uranium-series analysis to determine the paintings’ age. The oldest figurative painting in those analyses was a striking image of a wild cow.

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi — but Brumm adds that “it was assumed they couldn’t be that old.”

Since that big reveal, Brumm’s team — which he led with archaeologists Maxime Aubert and Adhi Agus Oktaviana — has been searching for more art in these caves. In 2017, they found something breathtaking — the massive hunting scene, stretching across about 16 feet of a cave wall. And after testing it, they say it’s the oldest known figurative art attributed to early modern humans. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

The BBC adds details: “Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave is 44,000 years old”.

The Indonesian drawing is not the oldest in the world. Last year, scientists said they found “humanity’s oldest drawing” on a fragment of rock in South Africa, dated at 73,000 years old.

…It may not be the oldest drawing, but researchers say it could be the oldest story ever found.

“Previously, rock art found in European sites dated to around 14,000 to 21,000 years old were considered to be the world’s oldest clearly narrative artworks,” said the paper in Nature.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 12, 2014 Bill The Galactic Hero premiered. Directed by Cox and a lot of friends, it likewise had a cast that was rather large. Yes it’s based on Harrison’s novel. Cox got the rights just after Repo Man came out. Costing just over a hundred thousand to produce, it got generally positive reviews and currently is not available anywhere for viewing. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1893 Edward G. Robinson. His very last film was Soylent Green in which was he was Sol Roth. He shortly before that played Abraham Goldman in “The Messiah on Mott Street” on Night Gallery, and he shows up uncredited as himself in the “Batman’s Satisfaction” episode of Batman. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 75. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she worked for three decades until recently. She received a Hugo for Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by Howard.  He is possibly best-known for his creation of Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 12, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 70. Yes he shows up as Dr. Black on Who in an Eleventh Doctor story, “ Vincent and the Doctor”. He’d make a fine Doctor, I’d say. He’s done a lot of other genre performances from the well-known Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to the blink and he’s gone as he was as the ENT Doc in Curse of the Pink Panther.
  • Born December 12, 1961 Sarah Sutton, 58. She’s best known for her role as Nyssa who was a Companion to both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  She reprised the role of Nyssa in the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time, and of course in the Big Finish audio dramas. She’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 12, 1966 Hiromi Goto, 53. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Kappa Child. She followed that with two more SFF novels, The Water of Possibility and Half World, though it’s been a decade since the latter came out. Systems Fail, the 2014 WisCon Guest of Honor publication, highlighted her work and that of .K. Jemisin. Hopeful Monsters, her collection of early genre short fiction, is the only such work available digitally from her.
  • Born December 12, 1970 Jennifer Connelly, 49. Her first genre outing wasn’t as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth, but rather in the decidedly more low-budget Italian horror film Phenomena.  She goes to be in The Rocketeer as Jenny Blake, and Dark City as Emma Murdoch / Anna, both great roles for her. I’m giving a pass to the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still which she was involved in and not saying anything about it. Alita: Battle Angel in which she’s Dr. Chiren scores decently with audiences. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 43. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine Affliction, Bone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which if you’ve not tried it you should, and I’d recommend Little Gods as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 12, 1981 C.S. E. Cooney, 38. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Sea King’s Second Bride” and a World Fantasy Award for her Bone Swans collection. She has what appears to be a very short novel out, Desdemona and the Deep, published by Tor.com. The latter and her collection are available digitally on Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WATCHMEN. In the LA Times, Lorraine Ali and Robert Lloyd dissent from praise the show has generally received: “Commentary: More manipulative than meaningful, ‘Watchmen’ has a ‘Lost’ problem”.

LLOYD: Lorraine, you steal thoughts from my head. (Are you Dr. Manhattan?) Yes, “Lost” is what I thought of too, though the apparent randomness of a polar bear on a tropical island was much more interesting than when they got around to an explanation. There’s an effective trickery when it comes to coincidence — they’re always spooky on some level — and “Lost” got a lot of mileage from repeating the same essentially meaningless sequences of numbers all over the damn place. (Fans spent an enormous amount of time puzzling the show out, even as, fundamentally, there was no puzzle.) In “Watchmen” it’s clocks and eggs and such, and a narrative that leans heavily on dark secrets and (not always) amazing reveals for its dramatic effects: X is the Y of Z!

It works on some primal level, yet it still feels more manipulative than meaningful to me. “Watchmen” is a lot tighter than “Lost” was, though; the circular systems have been obviously worked through in advance, where “Lost” was a festival of retconning.

(12) SEEKING TOMORROW. Steven Cave says, “The Futurium needs a bolder vision to show that we, technology and nature are one,” in his Nature review, “Lost in the house of tomorrow: Berlin’s newest museum”.

Thirty years ago, the future became passé. When the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989 and the communist regimes that hid behind it collapsed, political scientist Francis Fukuyama called the event “the end of history”. But he also cast it as the finale of the future: the end of imagining how things might be different. The utopian visions driving both communism and fascism had been discredited and defeated. They were to be replaced by an eternal ‘now’ that, in Fukuyama’s words, saw “Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.

… Overall, the Futurium succeeds best as a showcase for the shiniest aspects of the present. In this way, it resembles other tech-engagement centres, such as Science Gallery Dublin and its six sister venues around the world, or Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. But it claims to be something more: a place for co-imagining alternative futures. To succeed, it will need to be bolder. Even though the Berlin landscape is dotted with monuments to failed ideologies, such as the Stasi Museum, history did not end when the wall fell. To imagine new futures, this museum must free itself from the conceptual frameworks of the past.

(13) STARBEGOTTEN. The Parker Probe’s investigation of the Sun takes scientists “A step closer to the Sun’s secrets”.

Although the Sun is quite near to us compared with other stars, it has always kept intriguing and fundamental scientific secrets from us. For instance, we still don’t know how the solar corona — the Sun’s outermost atmosphere — maintains temperatures in excess of one million kelvin, whereas the visible surface has temperatures of just below 6,000?K 

(14) AN OLD SELFIE. “Stonehenge 1875 family photo may be earliest at monument” – see that and many more photos shot at the ancient monument.

An 1875 photograph of a family dressed in finery enjoying a day out at Stonehenge may be the earliest such snap taken at the monument.

English Heritage asked people to send in their pictures to mark 100 years of public ownership of the stones.

After sifting through more than 1,000 images historians said they believed the photograph of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh was the oldest.

It will be part of a new exhibition of personal photos titled Your Stonehenge.

…The exhibition shows how photography has changed – illustrated by “the way that people pose” and how “their faces have got closer to the camera until they are taking a picture of themselves more than they are of Stonehenge”, said Ms Greaney.

(15) WAY DOWN YONDER. Lots of juicy detail in BBC’s report — “Denman Glacier: Deepest point on land found in Antarctica”.

The deepest point on continental Earth has been identified in East Antarctica, under Denman Glacier.

This ice-filled canyon reaches 3.5km (11,500ft) below sea level. Only the great ocean trenches go deeper.

The discovery is illustrated in a new map of the White Continent that reveals the shape of the bedrock under the ice sheet in unprecedented detail.

Its features will be critical to our understanding of how the polar south might change in the future.

It shows, for example, previously unrecognised ridges that will impede the retreat of melting glaciers in a warming world; and, alternatively, a number of smooth, sloping terrains that could accelerate withdrawals.

“This is undoubtedly the most accurate portrait yet of what lies beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet,” said Dr Mathieu Morlighem, who’s worked on the project for six years.

(16) STEAL ME. Plagiarism Today tells how artists are “Battling the Copyright-Infringing T-Shirt Bots”.

…The exploit was actually very simple. Many of these unethical shops use automated bots to scour Twitter and other social media looking for users saying they want a particular image on the t-shirt and then they simply grab the image and produce the t-shirt, site unseen.

The artists exploited this by basically poisoning the well. They created artwork that no reasonable person would want on a shirt sold on their store and convinced the bots to do exactly that.

(17) OPENING A GOOD VINTAGE. Joe Sherry does a fine retrospective of this Connie Willis book at Nerds of a Feather: “The Hugo Initiative: Doomsday Book (1993, Best Novel)”. It tied for the Hugo, but Joe, by not saying which of the two books was really the best, avoids the mistake Your Good Host once made that launched a thousand ships Jo Walton into orbit. Sherry’s conclusion is:

…The thing about Doomsday Book is that it works. It is a masterful piece of storytelling that perhaps shouldn’t work as well as it does almost three decades later. It’s good enough that I want to read Fire Watch and the other three Oxford Time Travel novels sooner rather than later(though perhaps not specifically for The Hugo Initiative). The novel is a softer form of science fiction that uses time travel in a way that makes sense. No paradoxes, there is risk, and maybe don’t visit a time and place with bubonic plague. And really, who doesn’t want to read a novel where the protagonist is surrounded by bubonic plague and renders as much aid as she can?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Vacation on Vimeo, Andrey Kasay looks at vacations that went out of control.

(19) VIDEO OF SOME OTHER DAY. The Mandalorian CHiPs intro. Think of Ponch and Jon long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/11/19 Electronic Sheep May Safely Graze, Thanks To Grounding Footware

(1) A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR’S CAST MEMBER. Ed Green, fandom’s working actor, has made another commercial! This time Ed advertises Rebate Key. He’s the fellow in the blue shirt.

(2) BABY YODA GRAFFITI. Reddit says this street art is in the south of France. (Near Remulac?)

(3) MIKE RESNICK GOFUNDME. Mike Resnick, beset by new medical problems, has more bills to pay and his GoFundMe target has been raised to $50,000: “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience”.

UPDATE on 12/11/2019: Mike is now battling cancer on top of his previous major surgery, for which this fundraiser was created. The doctors are very optimistic and say he is responding to treatment incredibly well, but because of new surgery, radiation and chemo bills, he is in need of this fundraiser more than ever. As you can imagine, he is literally bleeding money at he moment. Every dollar helps. Thank you, again, for all the support you have given Mike! <3

(4) BLUEPRINTS. “How To Structure a Cozy Mystery” by Sarah A. Hoyt at Mad Genius Club – I found her exploration of a popular formula completely fascinating.

3- For some reason your character has special knowledge.

This could be as inside-baseball as knowing it was the wrong tropical fish (I know NOTHING about tropical fish, btw) or how fanatic tropical fish collectors get.  Or it could be as “generic” as she saw something she can’t tell the police, either because it’s not clear or because she wouldn’t want to rope in a person she’s sure is innocent.

So, she’s going to investigate.

BTW by now we should have already seen or heard of the murderer. No, you shouldn’t make it obvious. But it’s important, to avoid the elephant from the ceiling feeling.  If not, we should see her or meet her early in the investigation phase. (Yes, it can be a him too, do I need to tell you that?)

At this point it might become obvious to everyone but your protag that love interest is interested.

(5) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne,] Prominent cultural critic Dave Itzkoff writing in The Gray Lady delves into the creative turmoil surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and J.J. Abrams’ attempts to live up to the mantle of the franchise. “A New Hype” is filled with interesting tidbits and observations about the creative process. It’s an example of why I think so highly of Itzkoff as a journalist. 

As [Abrams] slyly acknowledged, “Any great ending is a new beginning on some level.” But what the future of “Star Wars” might look like without its foundational narrative is something Abrams — who struck a lucrative overall deal with WarnerMedia in September — was in no hurry to envision. “I didn’t design that, so I don’t know,” he said.

(6) PICARD ALREADY IN REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Michael Chabon’s ‘Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’ Series Coming to Showtime”. The Hollywood Reporter says Chabon will exit Picard in 2020 to work with his wife on the series:

…The author, who serves as showrunner on the studio’s forthcoming Star Trek: Picard for CBS All Access, has, alongside his writer wife, Ayelet Waldman, signed an overall deal with the studio. Under the pact, Chabon and Waldman will adapt the former’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay as a limited series for CBS TV Studios’ corporate sibling Showtime.

The series, which earned Chabon the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, will be written and exec produced by the husband and wife duo and has received a series commitment from the premium cable network. Chabon and Waldman will serve as showrunners on Kavalier and Clay. Chabon will transition to the new series, an epic tale of love, war and the birth of America’s comic book superhero obsession in big band-era New York, in 2020 and exit Picard. The series is a co-production with Paramount Television, which controlled the rights to the book.

(7) LONG STRING OF SHOWS. Amazingly, after 56 years LA’s Bob Baker Marionette Theater still exists. The New York Times tells how that happened, with lots of pictures, in “Marionettes at Play”.

…But starting back in 2013, a series of calamities almost derailed these time-honored traditions. That was when Baker — a man who bubbled over with creativity, but when it came to business, was a car wreck — was forced to sell the building, and the troupe became tenants in their longtime home. When Baker died the following year at the age of 90, the company members dedicated themselves to preserving his legacy.

“At the end of the day, we’d still be doing shows, and there’d be a hundred happy kids,” said Alex Evans, a scruffy-bearded 34-year-old who arrived at the theater in 2006 from New York after Googling “Los Angeles” and “puppets.” He is now the theater’s executive director and head puppeteer. “So it was easy to look around and highlight this as a beautiful moment.”

After Baker’s death, the group learned the landlord intended to raze the theater and replace it with a mixed-use development, which would include a spot for them to perform. “Then we looked at the plan and it was like, ‘We are essentially going to be squeezed into a space otherwise allocated to a Starbucks,” Evans said. “We were, like, ‘This won’t work. We can’t do that.’ ”

They visited dozens of places before finding the two-story former Pyong Kang First Congregational Church on a bustling, tree-lined street, across from a children’s park. Not only was it bigger than their original home — at 10,000 square feet compared to about 5600 — it was also zoned for assembly. “We could just open the doors and just go,” Evans said.

(8) SHORT TREKS. SYFY Wire points the way as CBS All Access previews two new animated installments in the Short Treks series which will debut this week: “Star Trek shares whimsical peek at two new Short Treks animated tales”.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | Ephraim & Dot Trailer

Ephraim, a humble tardigrade, is flying through the mycelial network when an unexpected encounter takes her on a bewildering adventure through space.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | The Girl Who Made the Stars Trailer

When a lightning storm in space scares a young Michael Burnham, her father aims to ease her fears with a mythical story about a brave little girl who faced her own fears head on.

(9) CONSPIRATORS’ TOOLKIT. “‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’: Hivemind & Brian Taylor Conspire On TV Adaptation” says Deadline. If only Sam Konkin III had lived to see this day!

The Illuminatus! Trilogy is coming to television and Hivemind is in on the conspiracy. Hivemind, the production company behind The Expanse and Witcher, is partnering with writer-director Brian Taylor (Crank, Happy!) and the European production company Kallisti to adapt The Illuminatus! Trilogy, the off-kilter bookshelf series by authors Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea.

Originally published in the 1970s, The Illuminatus! Trilogy defies simple descriptions but the surreal and satirical milestone introduced “the Illuminati” lore to a global audience and sparked much of the contemporary American fascination with conspiracy theories and their modern rhythms.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 11, 1929 — The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “Fandom begins in New York with the first meeting of the Scienceers, 1929.” Timebinders has a history of that Club here as it appeared in Joe Christoff’s Sphere fanzine.
  • December 11, 1982 Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. Junk films are a great deal of fun (sometimes). Timerider is certainly junky. It’s directed by William Dear and starring Fred Ward as Lyle Swann, a cross country dirt bike racer. The film was scored, produced and co-written (with Dear) by Michael Nesmith of Monkees fame. There’s rating at Rotten Tomatoes but Amazon reviews really liked it as did some critics.
  • December 11, 1998 Star Trek: Insurrection premiered. Directed by Frakes who was widely praised for doing so, it starred the Next Gen cast. It did very well at the box office and critics mostly liked it. The story was by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It currently has a rating of 44% by viewers over at Rotten Tomatoes where an amazing 62,772 have registered their opinion. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1922 —  Maila Syrjäniemi. She was Vampira, the first tv horror host as she hosted her own series, The Vampira Show, from 1954–55 in the LA market.  After it was canceled, she showed up on Plan 9 from Outer Space in one of the starring roles. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 11, 1926 Dick Tufeld. His best known role, or at least best recognized, Is as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprised for the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Woman, Thundarr the Barbarian, Fantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 11, 1937 Marshal Tymn, 82. Academic whose books I’ve actually read. (I find most of these sorts of works really boring, errr, too dry.) He’s written two works that I’ve enjoyed, one with Neil Barron, Fantasy and Horror, is a guide to those genres up to mid Nineties, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines with Mike Ashley as his co-writer is a fascinating read indeed. A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies: An Annotated Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources for Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only work by him available in a digital form.
  • Born December 11, 1954 Katherine Lawrence. Short story writer and script writer for a number of animated SF series including Reboot, Stargate Infinity and Conan the Adventurer to which she contributed quite a number of stories. (Died 2004.)
  • Born December 11, 1957 William Joyce, 62. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. Michael Toman in an email says that “I’ve been watching for his books since reading Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo back in 1988.”
  • Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 60. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got three collections to date, Map of Dreams, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here. I’ve not read her novel, The Memory Garden, and would like your opinions on it. The latter and You Have Never Been Here are her only works available digitally. 
  • Born December 11, 1962 Ben Browder, 57. Actor best known, of course, for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode.  He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A town Called Mercy”,  a Weird Western of sorts. 
  • Born December 11, 1979 Rider Strong, 40. Making Birthday Honors for his voice work Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles as Pvt. Carl Jenkins. If you’ve not seen this series, go watch it. He’s done a lot of voice work including for Star vs. the Forces of Evil and his live work is mostly horror. 

(12) END OF MISSION. TMZ, in “William Shatner Files for Divorce, Prenup In The Stars”, reports that Shatner, 88, is divorcing from his fourth wife, Elizabeth, 61.

William Shatner wants Scotty the judge to beam him up and out of his marriage, ’cause he’s calling it quits after 18 years … TMZ has learned.

The ‘Star Trek’ actor just filed for divorce against his wife, Elizabeth, whom he got hitched with back in 2001. Sources familiar with the matter tell us Bill and Liz’s split should move along relatively smoothly, as we’re told the couple has a prenup.

…Elizabeth is Will’s fourth wife — he was previously married to Nerine Kidd, Marcy Lafferty and Gloria Rand … and only had children with Rand. It’s Elizabeth’s second go-around … she was married to Michael Glenn Martin before William. He’s 88 … she’s 61.

… According to William’s divorce docs — obtained by TMZ — he lists their date of separation as Feb. 1, 2019.

(13) LOOSED LIPS. “Vault of the Wordmonger” on The Dark Mountain Project is a short story by Nick Hunt about a future where words have become imprisoned and are only gradually being freed.

Our father bought words once a week. He was a big man in our town and fresh words gave him status. He paid for them in animal parts from the farm our family owned and sometimes in mineral parts from the mine beyond the hill. He did not own the mine but he had interests there. The animal parts and mineral parts he carried there in his hands and the words he carried back in his mouth. That is the way to carry words….

(14) NO FLIES ON THEM. One of the reasons for “The truth behind why zebras have stripes”.

Rudyard Kipling playfully wrote that zebras stripes were due to “the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees” falling on its body but are scientists getting closer to the truth?

In February 2019, at a horse livery yard in the UK, a fascinating experiment took place. A team of evolutionary biologists from the University of California, Davis, and their UK collaborators, investigated why zebras have stripes. In the name of science, they dressed several domestic horses at Hill Livery in zebra-striped coats, and studied them alongside actual zebras.

Owner Terri Hill keeps a herd of zebras which she has acquired from zoos across the UK – a collection which stems from Hill’s passion for the conservation of wild equids. Maintaining the herd, which live on a two acre paddock complete with sand pit and herb garden, is a way of maintaining breeding stock for zoos, and so helping to protect the animals against future extinction.

For Tim Caro, an ecologist from the University of St Andrews who has been studying zebra stripes for almost two decades, the livery yard’s relatively tame zebras provided a rare opportunity to stand within metres of them and observe them. “People have been talking about zebra stripes for over a hundred years, but it’s just a matter of really doing experiments and thinking clearly about the issue to understand it better,” he says.

How and why zebras evolved to sport black and white stripes are questions that have tested scientists for over a century. Scientists have put forward at least 18 reasons why, from camouflage or warning colours, to more creative explanations like unique markers that help to identify individuals like a human fingerprint. But, for a long time new theories were introduced without rigorous tests.

(15) LET US TELL YOU WHERE TO GO. BBC reports “Google: The most searched for questions and phrases of 2019 revealed”.

Game of Thrones, Caitlyn Jenner, the Rugby World Cup, what is Area 51, how to eat a pineapple and what is a dead ting?

These are some of the top phrases and questions you searched for on Google in 2019.

The Rugby World Cup – which South Africa won after beating England in the final – topped the list of overall trending searches in the UK, according to the search engine.

“What is Area 51?” and “How to pronounce psalm” were among the top questions you had this year.

(16) SCARECROW. “Bangalore: Dummies in police uniforms ‘control’ city traffic”.

One of India’s most gridlocked cities has come up with an unconventional solution to rein in errant drivers.

Mannequins dressed up as traffic police have been placed on roads in the southern city of Bangalore.

Dressed in police caps, white shirts and brown trousers, and wearing sunglasses, the mannequins are now on duty at congested junctions.

It’s hoped drivers will mistake them for real police and think twice about breaking the rules of the road.

Home to India’s IT industry, Bangalore has eight million registered vehicles on its streets. This number is expected to grow to more than 10 million by 2022.

At 18.7 km/h (11.61 mph) traffic speeds in the city are the second slowest in the country after Mumbai (18.5 km/h), according to a study by an office commute platform, MovinSync Technology Solutions. Cameras at traffic junctions have recorded more than 20,000 traffic violations every day.

But commuters have mixed feelings on whether mannequins can actually step in to help their real police counterparts.

(17) WORD OF THE YEAR. “Merriam-Webster Singles Out Nonbinary ‘They’ For Word Of The Year Honors”NPR has the story.

There are plenty of flashpoints for controversy littered among the grand pantheon of four-letter words. Plenty of examples probably come to mind immediately — from the relatively tame (“heck,” anyone?) to the kind of graphic profanity that may warrant an uncomfortable call from our ombudsman.

Still, one four-letter word has elicited more heated debate than most among grammarians lately. And it happens to be one that we’re free to print right here: they.

Merriam-Webster announced Tuesday that the personal pronoun was its 2019 Word of the Year, noting that the tiny, unassuming word had undergone a rather radical transformation in usage in recent years — and found itself at the heart of some wide-ranging cultural conversations in the process.

“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years,” the dictionary publisher explained in a statement.

“More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.”

(18) THINKING OUTSIDE THE CAN. Delish thinks these will be irresistible — “Pringles Is Making A Pickle Rick Flavor For ‘Rick And Morty’ Fans” – but I’ll give you share!

Do you ever just shove your hand all the way into the bottom of the Pringles can to get the just-out-of-reach last chip? Because same. And now I’ll be doing that even more willingly because Pringles is bringing back its Pickle Rick flavor.

The flavor is obviously an ode to Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim cartoon series with a super cult following. In a now-famous episode of the show, a scientist turns into a pickle to avoid going to family therapy…as one does? Thus, “Pickle Rick” was born.

(19) A BOUNTY FOR YOUR TABLE. N sent the link to Binging with Babish: Bone Broth from The Mandalorian with the recommendation, “Unconventional, but I’m watching this right now and everything he’s making with the broth is just too tasty looking.”

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

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

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

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

The nonfiction selections include Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham.

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

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

Daring, aren’t they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See whiskmeawaycakes on Instagram.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/19/19 Bleary-Eyed Pixeling, Bah

(1) KING OF FUNKO. Entertainment Weekly rejoices: “Bloody Hell! Stephen King (finally) gets his own Funko figure”. In fact, two of them.

Countless characters from Stephen King‘s lexicon of horror works have shrunk down to Funko Pop! vinyl form, from The Shining‘s “Here’s Johnny” Jack Torrance to It‘s Pennywise the shape-shifting clown. Now, King himself joins the list of auteurs immortalized in plastic.

Funko unveiled the acclaimed author in toy form on Monday through two new figures. One is a more standard King, dressed in black and holding a book. The other pays homage to two of his literary creations.

…King joins the likes of fellow author-to-Funko figures George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Dr. Seuss, and Edgar Allen Poe (“The Raven”).

(2) THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Adam Roberts thinks “The Fix-Up” novel’s importance to sff as been underestimated.

…But my suggestion, which, come the Greek kalends, I’ll write up into a proper academic paper, is this: the ‘fix-up’ has had a much larger, perhaps even a shaping, effect on the entire later development of SF than is realised. I don’t just mean those occasional SF novels today that are made up of discrete elements tessellated: Simmons’s Hyperion say, or Jennifer Egan’s Visit From the Goon Squad—it’s also in the way TV shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek assemble mega-texts out of lots of short-story-ish discrete elements, something (as per the MCU) increasingly mimicked by cinema. Only die-hard fans read new SF short stories today, but the form of the short story feeds directly into contemporary SF in several key ways. Speaking for myself, I find these formal possibilities really interesting: the jolting dislocation of it, the quasi-modernist experimentation; textual tessellation but in a pulp, populist idiom. That’s entirely my bag.

(3) LECKIE REMODELS. Ann Leckie has unveiled her new website and blog — https://annleckie.com/

(4) CHEATER WHO PROSPERED. Jesse Pasternack argues that Psycho Invented the Spoiler Alert as We Know It”. And used the one Hitchcock revealed in pre-release publicity to trick audiences into falling for the rest.

This is how Psycho operates—by outlining rules beforehand, it seems to promise to play by them. All of Psycho’s advance press materials were designed to manipulate audiences. The rules that Hitchcock set for watching it acted as extra-cinematic devices that would help further jolt audiences. Psycho breaks every rule it sets up. It doesn’t stick to a single genre (it goes from realistic crime story to psychological thriller to murder mystery). It kills its main character. Its main villain turns out not to exist. The character who takes over the plot is revealed to have been taken over by another force, a long time ago.

(5) WARTIME SERVICE. Rob Hansen has added a photo gallery to his fanhistory site THEN that shows British fans in uniform from WWII. Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Jeeves are in the mix: “WWII: BRITISH FANS IN THE FORCES”.

(6) THE FUR FLIES. The second trailer for CATS has dropped. USA Today provides the intro: “You have to see Taylor Swift (and Judi Dench’s fur coat) in the new ‘Cats’ trailer”.

Are you ready to see Judi Dench as a cat wearing a gangster-sized fur coat?

The new “Cats” trailer released Tuesday delivers such epic Dench moments, more Taylor Swift shimmying as Bombalurina and plenty of new jokes, thanks to the internet.

“Tonight is a magical night where I choose the cat that deserves a new life,” Dench’s Old Deuteronomy ominously intones.

“Judi Dench giving us @JLo in Hustlers,” tweeted Marc Malkin of The Hollywood Reporter, sharing an image of Dench in a full fur (on fur) coat.

(7) MANDALORIAN RECAP. Dean E.S. Richard warns you before the spoilers begin in his column “Mondays on Mandalore: A New New Hope” at Nerds of a Feather. Before he gets that far, Richard says —

…Going back to its roots, back in the actual New Hope days, that is what Star Wars is. Even amidst galactic conflict and high stakes, there is silliness and, well, life.

All of this is to say that The Mandalorian is Star Wars. There are tons of moments that make you laugh – even at its most tense. The stakes don’t seem high, at least until the end of the first episode, even for our helmeted protagonist. In my semi-humble opinion, that is where stories are the best – we know the Mandalorian himself will survive, but what will that cost?

(8) RESOURCES AND GOALS. Amanda S. Green has some advice about covers for indie authors in “What happens when you are avoiding NaNoWriMo” at Mad Genius Club.

Each of these images comes from Adobe Stock. If I broke down the monthly fee for a subscription, we’re talking about my having spent approximately $5 per image. When you consider how much a lot of authors pay for covers, that’s nothing. The fonts are all open source or free to use. Yes, the font work and text placement needs work. These are mock-ups to see if I liked what I was doing. That means there will be changes before the books go live.

Here’s the thing. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered a couple of things where book covers are concerned. First, it is important to review your covers every year or two. You need to see if they are still cuing genre and sub-genre properly. In other words, are they in line with what newer books are doing?

(9) AU REVOIR. Adri Joy covers the end of a trilogy in “Microreview [Book]: The Forbidden Stars by Tim Pratt”.

With so many action sequences to pack in, an entire system to liberate, and the overall arc with the Axiom to tie up, it’s almost inevitable that the ending of The Forbidden Stars gets a bit rushed. There’s nothing particularly unsatisfying about the events that transpire, but once things kicked off for the finale I found myself looking sceptically at the number of pages I had left to go, and one character in particular gets the short end of the stick when it comes to revealing their ending.

(10) LEND ME YOUR EARS. BGR’s Mike Wehner wonders why so few people – including him – ever heard of this station, which is definitely better than its ad: “NASA has a rock radio station, and the promo video is hilariously cringey”.

As the name implies, Third Rock Radio is a radio station that plays rock music. The “third rock” thing is a nod to Earth being the third planet from the Sun. The station plays a variety of rock tunes that often have some casual link to science or space. Basically, if a rock song has “Moon,” “Sky,” or “Rocket” in the title, it’s going to get played.

… NASA’s promotion of the station, on the other hand, has obviously been lacking. Even the promo video for the station has a mere 50k views despite being published over four years ago.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 94. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike, of course, has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015)
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 66. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually, only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation.
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 64. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1961 Meg Ryan, 58. I won’t say she’s been in a lot of SFF films but overall she’s been in some really great ones. There’s Amityville 3-D which we’ll ignore but that was followed by the terrific Innerspace and that segued into Joe Versus the VolcanoCity of Angels I’ve not seen but it sounds intriguing. Kate & Leopold is just plain charming. Oh, and she was the voice of the villain Dr. Blight for several seasons on Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades that Beltran is listed in. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MAY NOT RISE AGAIN. “Is UK Based Phoenix Conventions Out of Business?”Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn wants to know if this outfit is really and sincerely dead.

So it really looks like UK based Phoenix Conventions (and their parent company KJ Events) may truly be dead. We think. We’d be shocked if they aren’t at this point. Probably. Let me explain.

Yesterday we were forwarded a tweet from twitter user QuickInSilvr which declared that the company was filing for bankruptcy. While we haven’t been able to independently verify that claim, the company has entirely blanked out both their Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events websites. While the Facebook pages are still up, the Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events Twitter accounts have also been deleted.

(14) THE BLOB. This one’s a bit bigger than Steve McQueen’s adversary: “Supernova 1987A: ‘Blob’ hides long-sought remnant from star blast”.

Scientists believe they’ve finally tracked down the dead remnant from Supernova 1987A – one of their favourite star explosions.

Astronomers knew the object must exist but had always struggled to identify its location because of a shroud of obscuring dust.

Now, a UK-led team thinks the remnant’s hiding place can be pinpointed from the way it’s been heating up that dust.

The researchers refer to the area of interest as “the blob”.

“It’s so much hotter than its surroundings, the blob needs some explanation. It really stands out from its neighbouring dust clumps,” Prof Haley Gomez from Cardiff University told BBC News.

“We think it’s being heated by the hot neutron star created in the supernova.”

(15) A MULLIGAN. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer reconsiders his first Hugo ballot, beginning with The Big One (as GRRM calls it): “The Hugo Initiative: The Novels of 1999: A Retrospective: A Preview of My Genre Future (2000, Best Novel)”.

At the time that Hugo voting had ended, I had read four of them, and voted on that basis. (I had not yet read any Harry Potter and did not feel inclined to read through the series, I would feel different several years later) 2000 was about the first time I started to dip my toes into getting review copies, but it would be many more years before I got my “break” in that regard. I fondly remember getting an ARC of Darwin’s Radio, it was quite the surprise and delight.

(16) SPACEPORT FAIL. Space exploration is supposed to fill the skies, not the jails: “Putin’s pet space project Vostochny tainted by massive theft”.

Russia’s new Vostochny space centre has lost at least 11bn roubles (£133m; $172m) through theft and top officials have been jailed.

So what went wrong with President Vladimir Putin’s pet project?

Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee (SK) says it is handling 12 more criminal cases linked to theft in this mega-project, which Mr Putin sees as a strategic priority for Russia, because of its huge commercial potential.

The longest jail term handed down so far was 11-and-a-half years for Yuri Khrizman, former head of state construction firm Dalspetsstroy.

Prof Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC the Vostochny scandal highlighted the scale of corruption in Mr Putin’s huge state bureaucracy.

“How can you deal with it without declaring war on your own elite? He’s not prepared to do that. This dependency on mega-projects almost invariably creates massive opportunities for embezzlement,” Mr Galeotti said.

(17) SOME PEOPLE. BBC wants to know “Why some people are impossibly talented”.

Polymaths excel in multiple fields. But what makes a polymath – and can their cross-discipline expertise help tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges?

If it weren’t for an actress and a pianist, GPS and WiFi might not exist.

In the late 1930s and early 40s, Hedy Lamarr was the already the toast of Hollywood, famed for her portrayals of femme fatales. Few of her contemporaries knew that her other great passion was inventing. (She had previously designed more streamlined aeroplanes for a lover, the aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.)

Lamarr met a kindred spirit in George Antheil, however – an avant-garde pianist, composer and novelist who also had an interest in engineering. And when the pair realised that enemy forces were jamming the Allied radio signals, they set about looking for a solution. The result was a method of signal transmission called ‘frequency-hopping spread spectrum’ (patented under Lamarr’s married name, Markey) that is still used in much of today’s wireless technology.

It may seem a surprising origin for ground-breaking technology, but the story of Lamarr and Antheil fits perfectly with a growing understanding of the polymathic mind.

Besides helping to outline the specific traits that allow some people to juggle different fields of expertise so successfully, new research shows that there are many benefits of pursuing multiple interests, including increased life satisfaction, work productivity and creativity.

Most of us may never reach the kind of success of people like Lamarr or Antheil, of course – but the research suggests we could all gain from spending a bit more time outside our chosen specialism.

…As David Epstein has also reported in his recent book Range, influential scientists are much more likely to have diverse interests outside their primary area of research than the average scientist, for instance. Studies have found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. They are also 17 times more likely to create visual art, 12 times more likely to write poetry and four times more likely to be a musician.

(18) THE FLAGON WITH THE DRAGON. Bookworm Blues’ “Ten Mini-Reviews of some Great Nonfiction Books” includes Sarah Chorn’s rave for The Poisoner’s Handbook.

I have to admit, if you tell me to go read a book about forensics, I am not going to be excited. I don’t know why, but while that sort of thing may interest others, it does almost nothing for me. So, going into this, I read this book because of the poison, not because of the forensics.

That being said, holy crap was it interesting. The chapters are broken up by poisons, and the author tells readers how the poisons were used, some specific cases of said poisoning/incidents, and how this incident transpired and impacted the evolution of NYC’s forensic medicine, and all of this happened during prohibition.

So, selling points: prohibition, poisonings, forensics.

(19) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] When dealing with little green men, sending and receiving signals involves a relatively simple technological achievement — harnessing radio waves.  Making first contact with an extraterrestrial, or them making first contact with us, initiates what will prove to be a very challenging conversation.  “Language is all based on culture and requires a common frame of reference.  If you told an alien, ‘I’m taking an Uber to buy some coffee at Starbucks,’ you’d have to explain what Uber is, then explain what a car is, then explain what the Internet is, what a phone is, an app, coffee, Starbucks, stores, the monetary system.  All stuff that is intuitive to modern humans.  Translating the words of an extra terrestrial civilization is just the first step.  Understanding what they’re saying is the more challenging task.”

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