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.]

The Mandalorian — Official Trailer

The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars series, starts streaming on DisneyPlus on November 12. The trailer premiered at D23 today.

After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. “The Mandalorian” is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.