Pixel Scroll 9/25/20 The Scrollwave Pixel

(1) GUIDING LIGHTS. “Personal Canons: Young Wizards” is Erin Maier’s guest post in a series at Sarah Gailey’s blog.

…Here Young Wizards says: it’s never too late to change. Diane Duane comes back to this idea again and again throughout the series. Wizardry is always about choosing to change or not, in one way or another. Of course, change is never without a price: wizardry gives only so much as it is given. But if you are willing, if you choose, you can change more than you ever dreamed.

“This is a business for saints, not children!” Nita’s father exclaims to Tom and Carl in High Wizardry, upon learning Nita’s younger sister Dairine has also become a wizard. “Even saints have to start somewhere,” they tell him. The youngest wizards have the most power, because they aren’t yet so confined by the idea of “possible.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman says “Uh-oh! It’s Spider-Man SpaghettiOs with comics writer/editor/historian Danny Fingeroth” in Episode 128 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Danny Fingeroth

I’ve known that guest, Danny Fingeroth, for more than 40 years. A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, his biography of “The Man,” has just been released in paperback. That’s but the latest of his many accomplishments since he started in comics back in the ’70s as an assistant at Marvel to previous guest Larry Lieber.

Danny went on to become group editor for all the Spider-Man titles, and writer of the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Lethal Foes of Spider-Man mini-series, plus long runs on Dazzler and Darkhawk. His other books in addition to that Stan Lee bio include Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Society and Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero.

As for dinner … our multi-course meal was made up of nothing but Marvel-branded food — which clearly should be ingested for their novelty value only — about which you’ll hear us kibitz during our conversation.

We discussed his start (like mine) in the Marvel British reprint department, what was wrong with the early letters he wrote to comics as a kid, his admittedly over-generalized theory that there were only two kinds of people on staff at Marvel, our differing reactions to the same first comic book convention in 1970, our somewhat similar regrets about the old-timers we worked beside during our early days in comics, the reason working in comics was wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, why he wanted to be not only Stan Lee, but both Stan and Jack Kirby, how he was able to interview “The Man” and get him to say things he’d never said before, why comics was the perfect medium for Stan Lee, and much more.

(3) IT’S NO SECRET. Mythaxis casts their “Editor Spotlight on Ellen Datlow”.

DSW: What’s your secret to being so successful as an editor of anthologies?

ED: It depends on what one means by success. I’ve been lucky to continue to propose anthologies that are of interest to enough publishers and readers that they sell OK (usually, but not always).

But basically I only edit anthologies on themes that are broad enough that I can get the writers I solicit stories from to push the envelope of that theme. I’ll be living with the “theme” for at least two years from conception to publication so I have to love it.

I’d very much like to edit more non-themed anthologies but they’re a very hard sell.

(4) THE BOMB PICTURE BOOM OF 1947. Leonard Maltin rolls out his list of “New And Notable Film Books  September 2020”.

THE BEGINNING OR THE END: HOW HOLLYWOOD—AND AMERICA—LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB by Greg Mitchell (The New Press)

A letter to Donna Reed from a former schoolteacher led to MGM making the first film about the development of the atomic bomb. That’s the first nugget in this scrupulously researched tale of The Beginning or the End (1947), a film that tried to keep everyone from J. Robert Oppenheimer and President Harry S. Truman happy and wound up pleasing almost no one. Author Greg Mitchell appears shocked—shocked!—that Washington exerted such power over a movie studio, but threads his story with documentation that is beyond dispute. An experienced author and researcher (whose earlier book The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics is a longtime favorite of mine) he reveals his ignorance of old movies when he badly summarizes the career of Brian Donlevy—who was chosen to play General Leslie Groves in this film—but stays on solid ground when he details the endless negotiations that won the government’s approval of the finished picture. It’s an interesting saga that has particular relevance as we reevaluate the consequences of the bombs that dropped on Japan 75 years ago.

(5) HOSTS OF GHOSTS. Amy Shearn analyzes “How Literary Ghosts Can Help Us All Be a Little More Human” at LitHub.

…Or, okay, at the very least, we can all agree that hauntings are a very useful metaphor. “Whether or not ghosts are real,” writes Erica Wright, “their stories give us inspiration, a way to live more alert to possibilities.” A ghost in a story can deliver information living characters lack access to, so it’s no wonder spirits have apparated throughout Western literature, from Hamlet’s truth-telling father to the psychological spirits of Henry James’s The Turn of the ScrewA literary ghost can also be a neat way to link a story’s present with the past, a seductive trick for the expansively-minded novelist. The contemporary American ghost tends to be a little more complicated, however, than a Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past rattling around in a nightgown. As Parul Sehgal writes in the New York Times, “The ghost story shape-shifts because ghosts themselves are so protean—they emanate from specific cultural fears and fantasies… They are social critiques camouflaged with cobwebs; the past clamoring for redress.” She notes that America is a haunted country, despite, or maybe because of, our “energetic amnesia.”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago, Greg Bear’s Moving Mars, the third novel in his Quantum Logic series, won the Nebula Award beating out works by Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Lethem, James K. Morrow, Rachel Pollack, Kim Stanley Robinson and Roger Zelazny. It would also be nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. It would lose in the Hugo race for Best Novel at ConAdian to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars.  (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine.  With husband Ian (1916-1995) established Bantam Books, then Ballantine Books which they led to a fine SF publishing history: Blish, Bradbury, Clarke, Kornbluth, Leiber, Niven, Pohl, Tolkien; a hundred covers by Richard Powers, a distinctive genius.  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President’s Award; Special Committee Award from the 64th Worldcon; World Fantasy Award for life achievement; SF Hall of Fame (Betty & Ian jointly).  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein.  Cartoonist, journalist, poet, songster.  Introduced to most by the Ballantines.  Here is one of his collections.  Here is another.  Is he jolly, or melancholy?  Have you sung “The Boa Constrictor”, by golly?  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1932 J. Carol Holly. Her various book dedications showed she had a strong love of cats. I’ve not encountered her novels but she wrote a fair number of them including ten genre novel plus The Assassination Affair, a novel in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. franchise. Only The Flying Eyes novel by her is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1946 – John D. Owen, 74.  Fanziner noted particularly for Crystal Ship, which you can see here, and Shipyard Blues, which you can see here (both in archived copies).  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 69. I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1957 – Christine Morton-Shaw, 63.  Two novels for us; a half dozen picture books for young children which have been found fun.  You may already know her teen fantasy The Riddles of Epsilon.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1960 – Kristin Hannah, 60. Lawyer and fictionist.  Two novels for us; a score of others (historical fiction The Nightingale sold 2 million copies).  “The mall?  I live on an island.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1961 Heather Locklear, 59. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the UnexpectedFantasy IslandMuppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clark “Prophecy of Doom” on Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 58. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, the very short-lived Nightmare CafeMann & MachineProject Shadowchaser IILegend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1964 Maria Doyle Kennedy, 56. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in the soon to be filmed The Wheel of Time series. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1969Catherine Zeta-Jones, 51. Her first role ever was as Scheherazade in the French short 1001 Nights. The Daily Telegraph noted it’s remembered only for its “enjoyable nude scenes”.  Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off of The Haunting of Hill House. And finally she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1989 – Élodie Serrano, 31.  Two novels, collection The Die Is Cast, twenty more stories (e.g. “Muse for Sale, Accepts Souls”, “The Word Thief”, “At the Heart of Plants”), in French.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Lyles Movie Files reports “Aldis Hodge joins Black Adam cast to play Hawkman”.

If you’ve been reading my comic book reviews, you know Hawkman is one of my favorite comics out right now. Robert Venditti has written an excellent take on the character and he’s reached new heights (sorry) of what’s possible with him.

It was kind of fitting then that I saw the news about Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man) being cast as Hawkman in the Black Adam movie from Venditti’s Twitter feed….

Hodge joins Dwayne Johnson, who plays the title character Black Adam, and Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) who will be Atom Smasher. The Black Adam version of the JSA is small with only Doctor Fate and Cyclone revealed although their casting have yet to be announced.

(10) LEARN WHILE YOU BURN. James Davis Nicoll pulled from the shelf “Five Fantasy Novels Starring Self-Taught Protagonists” at Tor.com. One of them is –

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (2020)

Riverbraid prides itself on its toleration of magickers, even minor ones like Mona, whose talents are limited to baked goods. Because Mona is poor and her magic has no obvious military applications, she’s left to work in her aunt’s bakery. It’s not a bad life, really. Everything changes the morning that Mona finds a corpse sprawled on the floor of the bakery.

The victim is a another magicker. It soon becomes apparent that someone is hunting down the magically talented. Mona’s attempts to unravel the mystery involve her in a desperate resistance against high-level scheming and barbarian invasion. Only a baker can save the day.

(11) ROAMING CHARGES. LitHub reports “$3.2 million worth of rare stolen books have been found under a house in rural Romania.”

When a group of thieves stole $3.2 million worth of rare books from a London warehouse in 2017, including seminal scientific texts by Isaac Newton and Galileo, they shocked the antiquarian book world and inspired a number of theories about what had happened. Who would target such rare titles—including a 1566 edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus, worth $268,000—that they would be essentially impossible to sell on the black market?

An anonymous source told The Guardian that the heist “must be for some one specialist. There must be a collector behind it.” One source, in Smithsonian, said that “a wealthy collector known as ‘The Astronomer’ may have hired the thieves to steal the books for him.” Other texts in the collection included those by Leonardo da Vinci and a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy from 1569.

Now, British, Romanian, and Italian investigators working together have found them: they were “in a concealed space under a house in rural Romania,” the Associated Press reports. The main suspects are members of a Romanian organized crime group, and police have already arrested 13 people in connection with this heist and a string of other high-profile burglaries.

(12) RUSSIAN VACCINE DATA SUSPICIOUS SAY RESEARCHERS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Putin is rushing out a vaccine – Sputnik V – against SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-9 but it has not had mass testing, though it has had a small trial on 76 volunteers. The immune response of this small trial has been reported in The Lancet.

This rushed approval (by Russia only – as the approval does not meet international standards) has previously been criticised.  However, now, the Russian paper in The Lancet reporting the trial has also been criticised in an open letter by 40 biomedical research scientists.

The Lancet paper does not include in the on-line version the underlying data. Conversely, the Oxford University and Astra Zeneca vaccine paper previously published in The Lancet had the underlying data included.  Without it, it is impossible to check the headline data in the paper.

Further, in the headline data that was included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper in The Lancet, there were seeming repetitions. While these repetitions could be purely coincidence, they are unlikely.

The journal Nature became intrigued and their news team investigated. The Russian researchers  are standing by their paper and have not responded to Nature’s news team’s queries.  Nor has The Lancet commented why it failed to insist that the underlying data be included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper as it was for the British vaccine.

The news article in Nature is open access and can be found here: “Researchers Question Russian Covid Vaccination Trial Reults”.

(13) ANTARCTICA IS CLOSE TO THE POINT WHERE FURTHER WARMING WILL SEE A COMMITMENT TO ICE SHEET COLLAPSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Researchers have looked at how the Antarctic has responded in the past and compared this with an ice sheet model that includes a number of feedbacks.  For example, with ice surface melt, the surface becomes less reflective and so absorbs more sunlight. So enhancing future warming. Also with surface melt, the melted ice drains away lowering the surface and low altitude surfaces are warmer.  There are other feedbacks, both positive and negative.

We have already warmed the planet by 1.25°C above pre-industrial era temperatures. The researchers have found that up to 2°C above pre-industrial  there is some stability in both the West and East Antarctic ice sheets.  However, above 2°C warming (which we are currently on track to reach before the mid-21st century) the West Antarctic ice sheet becomes committed to partial collapse. Also, above 2°C warming sea level rise from Antarctic melt almost doubles to 2.4 metres per degree of warming.  Above 6°C, melt soars to 10 metres per degree of warming up to 9°C above pre-industrial.

Worse, once each threshold level is reached, it is harder to reverse.  That is to say cooling to temperatures back to the threshold point will not reverse matters: still further cooling is required.

The paper’s abstract is here. (The full paper is behind a pay wall.)

(14) SHIP AHOY. Gizmodo effuses that “The Mandalorian’s Razor Crest Is Hasbro’s Next Magnificent Crowdfunding Toy”.

With a handful of successfully funded projects under its belt, including a towering X-Men Sentinel robot, Hasbro’s HasLab crowdfunding platform is returning to its Star Wars roots with another Vintage Collection spaceship: an incredibly detailed, 30-inch long replica of the Razor Crest from The Mandalorian. Now this is the way.

Designed to be perfectly scaled to Hasbro’s 3.75-inch action figures, the Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Razor Crest also measures in at an impressive 20-inches wide and 10.5-inches tall when perched on its functional retractable landing gear…. 

(15) OVER THE RIVER. A comedy mini-series earns raves from The Guardian: “Zomboat! A surprisingly clever and refreshingly upbeat zombie apocalypse”.

If you’re craving a zombie series that ditches the cynicism and has some good old-fashioned fun with the idea, then allow me to introduce you to Zomboat!, a short, six-episode British comedy with a silly title but a surprisingly clever premise.

The series follows sisters Kat and Jo (Leah Brotherhead and Crazyhead’s Cara Theobold) after they wake up one Sunday to find Birmingham under attack by zombies. As a gamer nerd who knows her zombie lore, Kat already has a plan for this scenario – steal a canal boat and escape to Eel Pie Island in London, because zombies can’t swim. And, as Kat puts it, “The Walking Dead would have been over in one season if Rick Grimes had gone to the Everglades.”

After stealing said canal boat, the sisters find two stowaways in the bathroom: misanthropic Sunny (Hamza Jeetooa) and his sensitive gym bro buddy Amar (Ryan McKen), who are stranded in the city after a stag weekend. Though they clash at first, the group decides to team up for survival, leading to plenty of bickering, bonding and snogs. As a result, the series avoids falling into the same style-over-substance trap that spoiled other recent zombie comedies (like Netflix’s Daybreak); instead, it benefits from the kind of found-family warmth that made Zombieland so charming.

(16) COMPOUND INTEREST. “A Student Just Proved Paradox-Free Time Travel Is Possible” – but why am I learning about this from Yahoo! Finance?

…In a new peer-reviewed paper, a senior honors undergraduate says he has mathematically proven the physical feasibility of a specific kind of time travel. The paper appears in Classical and Quantum Gravity….

The math itself is complex, but it boils down to something fairly simple. Time travel discussion focuses on closed time-like curves (CTCs), something Albert Einstein first posited. And Tobar and Costa say that as long as just two pieces of an entire scenario within a CTC are still in “causal order” when you leave, the rest is subject to local free will.

“Our results show that CTCs are not only compatible with determinism and with the local ‘free choice’ of operations, but also with a rich and diverse range of scenarios and dynamical processes,” their paper concludes….

(17) ATTENTION ELEANOR CAMERON FANS. Lehman College Multimedia Music Theater and Dance department presents Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet. A musical composed by Penny Prince.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/8/20 You Unlock This Scroll With The Key Of Pixelation

(1) JURY SUMMONS. Two groups are recruiting jurors for their annual awards.

The British Fantasy Society’s call is here.

If you are interested in being a juror for this year’s awards, please register your interest here We are especially interested in hearing from those historically under represented on juries; and you do not need to be a member of the BFS to fulfil this role.

Both forms will remain open until Wednesday 16th August.
Any questions, please get in touch at bfsawards@britishfantasysociety.org

A few days ago they were concerned about the balance of applicants:

The Aurealis Awards also are looking – “Aurealis Awards 2020 – Call for Judges”. Full requirements at the link.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).

(2) ULTIMA RATIO REGUM. Camestros Felapton continues to work out what canon means to sff readers, and if it’s useful in “Types of canon/key texts”.

… I think within discussions of canon there is a sense of books whose role it is to edify the reader, the books that will make you (somehow) a better reader. I’m sceptical that any books really fit that criteria and even more sceptical that we can find a common set of such books. However, there are clearly books that themselves provoke further books and as such books that get referenced in later works and later works that can be seen as response to earlier works. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers being an obvious example of such a work. This is canon as a kind of feedback loop of significance — the books that are themselves critiques of Troopers lend significance to Troopers as a book. You don’t have to have read Starship Troopers to enjoy Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but having some familiarity with Heinlein’s book adds an element to Hurley’s book.

(3) HEATED WORDS. As someone wrote on Twitter: “The phrase ‘You couldn’t make Blazing Saddles today’ takes on an entirely new meaning.” CBR.com has the story: “Blazing Saddles Is Being Remade as an Animated Samurai Movie About Cats and Dogs” .

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered a film classic, even though it’s stirred up some controversy over the years. Now the film is being retold in an entirely new medium, as well as an entirely new genre.

The Los Angeles film company Align is helping develop an animated film titled Blazing Samurai. The film takes the basic premise of Blazing Saddles and transplants it to the Samurai era. The story follows a dog named Hank who dreams of becoming a Samurai. When he becomes in charge of protecting Kakamucho, he learns that the town is populated entirely by cats.

(4) A GOLDEN AGE. Galactic Journey does a rundown on the 1964-1965 television season: “[AUGUST 8, 1965] NAVIGATING THE WASTELAND #2 (1964-65 IN (GOOD) TELEVISION)”. I was 12 around then so no wonder I remember this as the Golden Age of TV. The Traveler obviously has a later bedtime than I did that year, because I never got to watch his favorite, Burke’s Law —

Three years ago, I reported on the state of television in the wake of former FCC-chief Newton Minow’s pronouncement that television was a ‘vast wastelend.’  Since then, I have remained a devoted fan of the small screen, if not completely addicted to ‘the boob tube.’  Indeed, the Young Traveler and I have our weekly favorites we do not miss if we can at all help it.

And so, as we sail through the sea of summer reruns, gleefully anticipating the Fall line-up, I take delight in awarding the Galactic Stars of Television for the 1964-65 season.

Burke’s Law 1963-65

Amos Burke is what would have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents had never been shot – he’s a Beverly Hills playboy millionaire who also happens to be the dapper Captain of Homicide for the L.A. Police Department.  In each episode, Amos, with the aide of grizzled Sergeant Hart and youthful Detective Tilson (and occasionally the doe-eyed Sergeant Ames), solves a murder mystery…..

If The Traveler hadn’t waxed rhapsodically about this show – and I’m not sure whether he thinks it fits the blog’s sff theme or just thinks it’s good – then it wouldn’t have seemed such a glaring oversight to end the post pointing out Harlan Ellison wrote a script for the lamentable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, without mentioning Ellison also wrote four scripts for 1964 episodes of his beloved Burke’s Law series.

(5) SINCE 1984. Jane Johnson looks back on “A life in publishing”.

I realised this morning that it’s 36 years to the day when I started to work in publishing, as an editorial secretary at George Allen & Unwin Publishers, in Ruskin House on Museum Street. What follows really is the trajectory of modern publishing in microcosm.

My skillset was not ideal: I loved books, especially the works of JRR Tolkien and came with a first class English degree, a Masters in Scandinavian Studies (Old Icelandic) and absolutely no secretarial abilities at all. But I had worked for a year at Foyles and another as a boardmarker/cashier at Ladbrokes, and so had proved I could work hard and not be snooty about getting my hands dirty; and that I was numerate and understood the concept of gambling, which my new boss assured me was the essence of publishing. These were the times of Telex machines and manual typewriters, which were just giving way to electronic typewriters (my nightmare) but David was remarkably patient with my Tippexed letters, blackened carbon copies and non-existent shorthand, and within a year had promoted me away from my disaster zone to become an editor. Paperbacks were a fairly new concept: hardbacks were the prestige edition.

(6) IMPROVEMENT NOT NEEDED. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold tells how a book is being unfairly belittled.

There is currently a backlash against The Giving Tree, and some people are circulating an alternate ending.

Hey! I have an idea. I have an alternate ending for Winnie The Pooh. Pooh is a bear. He decides he likes bacon. He eats Piglet. Much more realistic, right?

No, look. Shel Silverstein knew what he was doing when he wrote The Giving Tree.

It doesn’t need an alternate ending — specifically not one that’s preachy, badly written, doesn’t really fit, and is intended to cast the original in a bad light….

(7) TAKING THE MINUTES. In “Six Novels That Bring Together Mystery And Time Travel” on CrimeReads, Julia McElwain recommends novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Lauren Beukes as time travel novels mystery readers might like.

Depending upon how it’s done, it can add to the tension—a race against time as our characters try to return to their own era—or it can allow readers to explore the past through modern eyes. In my own In Time mystery series, I’ve enjoyed the fish-out-of-water sensation that my main character—a modern-day woman and brilliant FBI agent—experiences after being tossed back to the Regency period in England. As women then were second-class citizens without the ability to even vote, not only does she have to deal with personal obstacles, but she also cannot tap into her usual arsenal of forensic tools to solve crimes.

Whether time travel is being used to wrap a mystery in an extra, innovative layer or is allowing readers to view humanity and history through a different lens, the theme is brilliantly done in the books that I’ve listed below….

(8) ALLEN OBIT. A software pioneer has died: “Frances Allen, Who Helped Hardware Understand Software, Dies at 88” in the New York Times.

Frances Allen, a computer scientist and researcher who helped create the fundamental ideas that allow practically anyone to build fast, efficient and useful software for computers, smartphones and websites, died on Tuesday, her 88th birthday, in Schenectady, N.Y.

Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her great-nephew Ryan McKee, who said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

In the mid-1960s, after developing software for an early supercomputer at the National Security Agency, Ms. Allen returned to her work at IBM, then the world’s leading computer company. At an IBM lab in the Hudson River Valley town of Yorktown Heights, just north of New York City, she and her fellow researchers spent the next four decades refining a key component of modern computing: the “compiler,” the software technology that takes in programs written by humans and turns them into something computers can understand.

For Ms. Allen, the aim was to do this as efficiently as possible, so programmers could build software in simple and intuitive ways and then have it run quickly and smoothly when deployed on real-world machines.

Together with the researcher John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s and ’70s describing this delicate balance between ease of creation and speed of execution. These ideas helped drive the evolution of computer programming — all the way to the present day, when even relative novices can easily build fast and efficient software apps for a world of computers, smartphones and other devices.

In 2006, on the strength of this work, Ms. Allen became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 8, 1956 X Minus One aired “The Last Martian.” This is the story of a reporter  seeing if a man’s claim that he is a Martian placed in a human’s body.  George Lefferts was the scriptwriter who adapted the story from the Fredric Brown’s “The Last Martian” short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.  Mandel Kramer, Elliot Reed, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell, John McGovern, and Patricia Weil were in the radio cast.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 8, 1883 – Paul Stahr, Jr.  Forty covers for Argosy 1925-1934.  Also Collier’sJudgeLife, People’s Home JournalThe Saturday Evening Post; book covers, posters.  Here is the 10 Jan 31 Argosy.  Here is the 25 Aug 34.  Here is The Ship of Ishtar.  Here is a World War I poster.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the BarbarianFlash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween IIIDead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best-known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 85. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course, that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. Ok, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 83. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1950 – John D. Berry, 70.  Of New York (Fanoclasts), later Seattle.  “The Club House” 1969-1972 (fanzine reviews) for Amazing.  Pacific Northwest Review of Books (with Loren MacGregor).  Fan Guest of Honor, Norwescon 1, VCON 13, Westercon 63.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Designed the souvenir book for 15th World Fantasy Con.  I daren’t say a font of knowledge but indeed he is good with them.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1958 – David Egge, 62.  Thirty book and magazine covers, three dozen interiors.  Here is The End of Summer.  Here is The Dorsai Pacifist (in German).  Here is a 1986 cover for The Mote in God’s Eye (in fact Moties don’t have faces, a non-trivial point, but see this anyway).  Here is the Apr 01 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1961 – Tim Szczesuil, F.N., 59.  Chaired Boskones 33, 53.  Five terms as NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) President, four as Treasurer; various committees.  Contributed to APA:NESFA.  For NESFA Press, edited His Share of Glory (C.M. Kornbluth), Strange Days (Gardner Dozois; with Ann Broomhead).  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1971 – Phlippa Ballantine, 49.  First New Zealand author to podcast her novel (Weaver’s Web, 2006; three more; PB since moved to Virginia).  Three novels about the Order, five (with husband Tee Morris) about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (Phoenix Rising was a top-10 SF book of the year on Goodreads, sequel The Janus Affair a Locus best-seller and Steampunk Chronicle readers’ choice for fiction), two about the Shifted World; a score of shorter stories.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1988 – Flavia Bujor, 32.  Children’s novel The Prophecy of the Stones (or “Gems”), written at age 13, translated into 23 languages.  A second is rumored.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows that the pandemic has reached mythic proportions.
  • Bizarro has a moral.

And Today In Comics History:

  • August 8, 1978: Garfield’s sidekick, Odie, made his comic strip debut.

(12) TUNING UP. CinemaBlend pays tribute to “10 Excellent John Williams Scores In A Steven Spielberg Movie”. On their list is:

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The 1977 science-fiction epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped cement Steven Spielberg as a master of the genre, and the movie’s epic story of humans coming into contact with aliens was only made that more memorable thanks to soaring and sweeping score by John Williams. 

Throughout the entire movie, the score pushes the plot along to the point where the humans finally begin to communicate with the alien mothership, which is another way of inserting Williams’ composition into the picture. The “Play The Five Tones” scene is a miraculous piece of filmmaking and orchestration as it starts rather small and hushed before going into a back and forth between the two species before growing into a grand composition that ultimately ends with a chorus of strings growing in intensity as the aliens reveal themselves to the amazement of the humans.

(13) PRIVATE EYES. NPR tells how “From Desert Battlefields To Coral Reefs, Private Satellites Revolutionize The View”.

As the U.S. military and its allies attacked the last Islamic State holdouts last year, it wasn’t clear how many civilians were still in the besieged desert town of Baghouz, Syria.

So Human Rights Watch asked a private satellite company, Planet, for its regular daily photos and also made a special request for video.

“That live video actually was instrumental in convincing us that there were thousands of civilians trapped in this pocket,” said Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch. “Therefore the coalition forces absolutely had an obligation to stop, and to avoid bombardment of that pocket at that time.”

Which they did until the civilians fled.

Lyons, who’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a job title you wouldn’t expect at a human rights group: director of geospatial analysis. He says satellite imagery is increasingly a crucial component of human rights investigations, bolstering traditional eyewitness accounts, especially in areas where it’s too dangerous to send researchers

…They get those images from a handful of private, commercial satellite companies, like Planet and Maxar.

For the past three years, Planet has done something unprecedented. Its 150 satellites photograph the entire land mass of the earth every day — more than one million images every 24 hours. Pick any place on earth — from your house to the peak of Mt. Everest — and Planet is taking a photograph of it today.

“If you could visualize a string of pearls going around the poles, looking down and capturing imagery of the earth underneath it every single day,” said Rich Leshner, who runs Planet’s Washington office.

Scroll through Planet’s photo gallery and you get a bird’s eye view of the state of the world: idle cruise ships clustered off Coco Cay in the Bahamas, deserted streets around normally bustling sites like the Colosseum in Rome, and the smoke from the relentless fires set by farmers clearing land in the Amazon rainforest.

U.S. government satellites are the size of a bus. Planet’s satellites are the size of a loaf of bread. Planet is in business to make money, and its clients include the U.S. military and big corporations. But it also works with lots of non-profits and other groups it never anticipated.

(14) DAMMIT, BLANET! There is a thesis about a new type of planets, called “Blanets” (BLack Hole plANETS). “New Class of Planet Can Form Around Black Holes, Say Astronomers”Discover has the story.

Supermassive black holes are among the most exciting and puzzling objects in the universe. These are the giant, massive bodies that sit at the heart of most, perhaps all, galaxies. Indeed, they may be the seeds from which all galaxies grow.

Supermassive black holes are at least a hundred thousand times the mass of our sun. They are often surrounded by thick clouds of gas that radiate vast amounts of energy. When this happens, they are called active galactic nuclei. Discovering the properties of these clouds, and their curious central residents, is an ongoing exercise for astrophysicists.

Now researchers have a new phenomenon to consider — the idea that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. Last year, Keichi Wada at Kagoshima University in Japan, and a couple of colleagues showed that under certain conditions planets ought to form in these clouds. These black hole planets, or blanets as the team call them, would be quite unlike any conventional planet and raise the possibility of an entirely new class of objects for astronomers to dream about.

(15) DEAD OR ALIVE? In this 2019 article, WIRED considers the possibilities after “A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon”.

…Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

…The lunar library on the Beresheet lander consisted of 25 layers of nickel, each only a few microns thick. The first four layers contain roughly 60,000 high-resolution images of book pages, which include language primers, textbooks, and keys to decoding the other 21 layers. Those layers hold nearly all of the English Wikipedia, thousands of classic books, and even the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks.

Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India. A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.

(16) THE BARD’S SJW CREDENTIALS. Cats are the theme for Shakespeare & Beyond’s post: “Of the flattering, pampered, reviled, predatory, ‘harmless, necessary’ early modern cat”.

… While many of us today think of cats primarily as pampered pets and cherished internet weirdos, for early modern Europeans cats ran the gamut, from pests and carriers of disease, to indicators of witchcraft and other feminine misbehavior, to objects of affection and partners in play. Shakespeare’s own references to cats display such a variety. Trying to shake Hermia off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander calls her “thou cat, thou burr! vile thing,” (3.2.270), and Macbeth’s First Witch calls out to Graymalkin, a common name for a cat that could also be applied to a “jealous or imperious old woman,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1.1.9). In other places, he references a cat’s behavior, as when Falstaff insists he is “as vigilant as a  cat to steal cream” (Henry IV, Part 1 4.2.59). The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Shakespeare with the first reference to a cat’s purr, in All’s Well That Ends Well (5.2.19)…

(17) IS THAT PAL OR HAL? Wil Wheaton devotes a blog post to his forthcoming movie: “Wil Wheaton is a very bad friend in trailer for horror-thriller Rent-A-Pal”.

Everything about this movie makes me happy. The cast is superb, the editing and photography and music are gorgeous, and the story is REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.

I can’t wait for y’all to see this when it comes out in September.

The short description of the movie on YouTube says:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/3/20 The Filing Sorcerers

(1) ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER. Minneapolis’ DreamHaven Books, boarded up after being vandalized, was  told by the city to get rid of the grafitti on the building. Wendy Comeau told followers:

Well, I just received a letter from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Enforcement department. They’re DEMANDING I remove the graffiti from my building by July 6 or face fines and fees for removal. Want to see the graffiti?

I am so angry I had to go down the basement to spit and rage for a bit. This is what the City of Minneapolis has to worry about right now – boarded up businesses with supportive sayings painted on their storefronts. (btw – the boards have already been removed but that doesn’t make me less angry).

On the store’s website, Wendy Comeau posted their open hours and other updates.

We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.

(2) FREEDOM RINGS ON JULY 4. Tomorrow, July 4, Somtow Sucharitkul will be giving away three of his sff novels, written as S.P.Somtow. You can download these free Kindle Edition Science Fiction books for 48 hours on July 4th and 5th (Pacific Standard Time):

(3) BOMBS AWAY. Is this also the right season for the wrong kind of fireworks? Yahoo! reminds reads about “The Biggest Box Office Bombs of the Past Decade”. Plenty of genre here, unfortunately. Right at the top of the list, in fact –

  • Biggest total loss: “Mars Needs Moms” (2011) is the biggest box office failure on this list, with a net loss of $111,007,242.

(4) MURDERBOT IN THE PIPELINE. Martha Wells’ next Murderbot novella is coming in April 2021. I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling somebody else’s cover reveal anymore, so here it is.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

(5) SANS SUPERHEROES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] New York Times critic A. O. Scott discusses “A Summer Without Superheroes”. (Probably paywalled, but this early in the month people may still have article access.) IIRC, Abigail Nussbaum’s discussion of this was Pixeled some years ago; this version is not necessarily surprising but very focused.

It’s hardly news that we live in an age of polarization. For at least the past dozen years, the public has been pressed to choose between obedience to a smug, privilege-hoarding neoliberal elite or allegiance to a belligerent ideology rooted in negation, self-pity, resentment and revenge. You can worship the avatars of an imperial status quo that regards you as a data point or bow down to idols of grievance.

Do you embrace winners or root for underdogs? Do you fantasize about world government or vigilante justice? Or do you find yourself drifting from one pole to another, hoping to find something to satisfy longings — for safety, for danger, for solidarity, for fun — that are themselves often unstable and contradictory? Satisfaction is intermittent and fleeting. Disappointment is the norm. Couldn’t there be a real alternative, an escape from the grip of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.?

What did you think I was talking about? I know the analogy is imperfect, but maybe it isn’t really an analogy at all. Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist. That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.

Don’t @ me. I’m not trying to insult fans of “Suicide Squad” or “Ant-Man.” I’ve done enough of that already, and anyway, the quickness of so many partisans to take offense counts as evidence in support of my argument. Fandom can be a form of benign, nurturing tribalism, a mode of participation beyond mere consumption. But it has devolved recently into sullen passivity, which occasionally erupts into toxic rage.

(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Open Culture invites readers to “Behold Octavia Butler’s Motivational Notes to Self”

…Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:

“I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

“I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

She developed a lifelong habit of cheering herself on with motivational notes, writing them in her journals, on lined notebook paper, in day planners and on repurposed pages of an old wall calendar.

(7) CHUCK TINGLE JR.? Nate Hoffelder challenged readers of Camestros Felpaton to “Guess who has two thumbs, and noticed that Cirsova never registered a DotCom domain?” Cirsova publisher P. Alexander recently tried to brand SFWA as a terrorist group for its support of Black Lives Matter. So while you’re guessing, try and guess where the newly-registered http://www.Cirsova.com domain takes you?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Bob Gale and Neil Canton were the producers. It of course starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at ConFederation besting LadyhawkeCocoonBrazil and Enemy Mine. Critics loved it with Ebert comparing it to Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It was a box office success being the top grossing film of the year. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 94% rating. 

(9) OTHER TOP TIME-TRAVEL MOVIES.

These are Rolling Stone’s nominees for “The 20 Best Time-Travel Movies”. In the middle of the list is:

8. ‘Run Lola Run’ (1998)

The crimson-haired Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend: He’s lost a bag with 100,000 deutschemarks, and if he doesn’t find it or replace it in the next 20 minutes, his criminal boss will kill him. So Lola runs through Berlin, dodging bicyclists, causing car accidents, provoking flash-forward sequences of the destiny of various pedestrians, trying to find a way out. Each time she fails, the 20-minute time loop starts again — it seems to be powered by love and the absence of cash.

(10) BERNSTEIN OBIT. “Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein, Popular Twitch Streamer, Dies at 31” reports Variety. Bernstein died by suicide.

Bernstein went by the name Reckful on Twitch, where he was best known for his “World of Warcraft” streams and had over 936,000 followers. Most recently, Bernstein had been working as a developer on his own video game, “Everland,” which was set to release later this year.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day premiered. It was produced and directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the script with William Wisher. It came out seven years after Terminator was released. It starred  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong.  It was a critical success upon its release, with lavish praise going towards the cast, the story, and its visual effects. It made the studio a really incredible amount of money, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 93% rating. 
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid 75% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 3, 1860 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  I’m a fan of her book Herland myself; about it and With Her in Ourland and CPG’s newsletter The Forerunner see my note here (commenters helped); at Loscon 44 we discussed Herland (I said “it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted”) and at Westercon 71 too.  William Dean Howells said CPG had the best brains of any woman in America.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka.  At his death Amerika and The Trial and The Castle were all unfinished and he said they should be destroyed.  Hmm.  Alas for my memory, it was Wilson, not Nabokov, who wrote “With a rumble-de-bum and a pifka-pafka / Came the fife-and-drum corps parading for Kafka”.  However, don’t miss N’s discussion of K’s “Metamorphosis”; this book is worth your while; the Kafka Project has put N’s lecture here.  A hundred shorter stories.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, and created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States, based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, is certainly his best-remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part on The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 83. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1938 – Jerry Podwil, 82.  Six dozen covers.  Here is Babel-17.  Here is The Sky Is Filled With Ships.  Here is The “Fantastic Universe” Omnibus.  Here  is The Demolished Man.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1939 – Bart Forbes, 81.  Here is The Weapon Shops of Isher.  Here is The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt.  Here is The Wind Whales of Ishmael.  Outside our field, postage stamps (here is Sarah Vaughan), The Ladies’ Home Journal, sports (baseball, golf, Kentucky Derby; official artist for the 1988 Summer Olympics; The Sports Art of Bart Forbes), landscapes (here is First Light).  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1947 – Mel Gilden, 73.  A score of novels, including one each for Star Trek Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine; a dozen shorter stories; Fifth Grade Monsters; translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese; reviews in Locus; five years co-host of Hour 25.  Thirty more books outside our field.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 58. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many excellent Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas he was Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1964 Joanne Harris, 56. Though her novel Chocolat which was adapted the following year into the film Chocolat is what she’s best known for, she has a most excellent YA series in which the Norse gods are still with us in Runemarks and Runelight. She’s also written a Third Doctor novella, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller“.  (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1970 – Kate Messner, 50.  A dozen chapter books in her series Ranger in Time; four novels; more outside our field (e.g. 59 Reasons to Write for teachers: “Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students”).  She says she is “passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder”.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is this Herman cartoon about astrology, astronomy, or perhaps both?

(14) JEAN-LUC PICCOLO. Variety profiles the sff theme music up for awards: “Yodas, Witchers and Trekkies, Oh My! Sci-Fi and Fantasy Contenders Eye Emmys Music Gold”.

Baby Yoda. Jean-Luc Picard. A medieval witcher. A world where fairies have sex with humans. Steve Carrell aiming for the moon. A science-fiction anthology. The fantasy and sci-fi realms prospered on TV during the past season, particularly with the help of several gifted composers….

… Emmy winner Jeff Russo (“Fargo”) has assumed the mantle of “Star Trek” composer, first with his music for “Discovery” and now the “Picard” series, which returns Patrick Stewart to the role of Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. His theme may be the most gentle and intimate of all the “Trek” themes to date, with prominent solos for piccolo and cello.

(15) CAT DOWN UNDER. Atlas Obscura has photos of a statue that honors an adventurous seafaring cat.

OUTSIDE SYDNEY’S MITCHELL LIBRARY stands a statue of Matthew Flinders, the celebrated English navigator and cartographer who helped map Australia, declared it a continent, and was influential in giving it its current name. On a window ledge behind the statue stands a bronze figurine of Flinders’s faithful cat, Trim, who accompanied the seafarer on many of his adventures.    

The story of Trim begins in 1799, when he was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance as it sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. There were a handful of cats on board to keep pests at bay, but Trim soon became a favorite of the crew and the ship’s 25-year-old lieutenant, Flinders….

(16) GOLLUM READS THE HOBBIT. GameSpot teed up this piece of Tolkien-related news: “Andy Serkis Records New Audiobook For The Hobbit, And It Sounds Fantastic”.

Book company Harper Collins is making a new audiobook for The Hobbit that is read by none other than Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the movies.

The announcement of this new version comes after Serkis did a marathon reading of The Hobbit for charity back in May. For this new audiobook, Serkis is donating his payment to the Disasters Emergency Committee, and Harper Collins UK is matching it.

You can listen to a snippet from the recording below. It’s a delight, which really should be no surprise given that Serkis has such a phenomenal voice.

(17) TOLKIEN IN HIS OWN VOICE. “:J.R.R. Tolkien Discussing The Lord Of The Rings (1960s Interview)” is an 11-minute excerpt from an interview Tolkien gave sometime in the 1960s.

(18) GENRETHON 2020. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy theatre, presents GenreThon 2020 an Online Celebration of Nerdom In Comedy from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 on their YouTube digital platform! Access is FREE and can be subscribed to here

This geek and genre-centric comedy celebration features headliners: Improvised Jane Austen, voted the Best Improv Troupe in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2019”. Also headlining are Improvised Star Trek,  BATSU!– An Improvised Japanese Game Show, and The Dandies Present: Holodeck Follies. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts take note, the festival also features Otherworld mainstay Out On A Whim’s Improvised D&D and headliner The Queens of Adventure.  Additionally,  Otherworld fan favorite Dork Court returns as an all digital experience, “Animal Crossing vs. Sims”.  Also featured are a staged reading of a new Stupid Shakespeare play by Phillip Zimmerman, “Two Gentlemen of Bikini Bottom” and from the Push Theatre in Virginia, “Venetian Blinds”.  Fan favorites from GENRETHON 2019 also making their return are Improvised Riverdale, Geekspeare, Geektastic and Mass Street Production’s classic murder mystery “Care For A Corpse”, and so much more. 

(19) GUYS AND DOLLS. James Davis Nicoll says Tor.com turned down his “Husbands of Science Fiction” – even though it has the requisite five subjects. Is that not enough? Consider the first husband on the list:

…The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.

(20) LEAKY CAULDRON AND MUGGLENET. “Harry Potter fan sites reject author’s trans comments”:BBC has the story.

Two leading Harry Potter fan sites have publicly distanced themselves from author JK Rowling over her recent comments about transgender people.

The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said they would no longer use photos of Rowling or link to her own website.

Speaking jointly, they said her views on “marginalised people [were] out of step with the message of acceptance and empowerment we find in her books”.

The stars of the Potter films have also spoken out against Rowling’s remarks.

…In their statement, the Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said it was “difficult to speak out against someone whose work we have so long admired”.

Yet they said it be “wrong” not to distance themselves from Rowling’s “harmful and disproven beliefs about what it means to be a transgender person”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A swift completes its appointed rounds…. Gizmodo notes how “Artificial Feathers Let This Robotic Bird Fly With Incredible Agility”.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/19/20 Hey, Mister! You Missed A Pixel!

(1) FAN HISTORY PROJECT SPOTLIGHT. File 770 is late to pass on the great news, but last October Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari told everyone on his list “that we have received a request from the Library of Congress to archive our site.”

…From the letter: “The Library of Congress preserves important cultural artifacts and provides enduring access to them…The Library will make this collection available to researchers at Library facilities and by special arrangement.” They may later make it publicly available as well. We’ve all seen the loss of many websites that showcase the hard work and outstanding accomplishments of fans and historians in our field. This archiving request from the Library of Congress will ensure that the work we’ve been doing with your help will be available, even after the current class of fan historians has bit the dust. Color us ecstatic. We’ll let you know when the process has completed.

The Library of Congress gives an overview of its web archiving program here.

The Library of Congress Web Archive manages, preserves, and provides access to archived web content selected by subject experts from across the Library, so that it will be available for researchers today and in the future. Websites are ephemeral and often considered at-risk born-digital content. New websites form constantly, URLs change, content changes, and websites sometimes disappear entirely. Websites document current events, organizations, public reactions, government information, and cultural and scholarly information on a wide variety of topics. Materials that used to appear in print are increasingly published online.

(2) COMPLETING THE SET. The 2020 Kurd Laßwitz Preis  (German SF Award) winners now have all been named following this late selection:

Best German language audio drama first broadcast in 2019

  • Unser Leben in den Wäldern by Marie Darrieussecq and Gerrit Booms, WDR

(3) D&D GETTING ANOTHER LOOK. From io9: “Dungeons & Dragons Team Announces New Plans to Address Race and Inclusivity in the Game”.

….in a new blog post on the official D&D website the development studio detailed what it has been doing to tackle the game’s own history of racist stereotyping, and what will be done going forward to ensure the game tastefully represents its fantasy world.

“Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated,” the new statement reads in part. “That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognize that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.”

Going forward, D&D will be making those things right with a six-point plan. Outside of the game itself, these include the use of sensitivity readers on upcoming and current Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks as part of the creative process, and a commitment to “proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists,” a move already made for products set to release in the next year, but a policy being maintained going forward.

…From an editorial standpoint, the D&D team will also go back through material as it is being prepared for reprints, and update them to modify and remove any racially insensitive material. The adventures Tomb of Annihilation and The Curse of Strahd were cited as particular examples, with Curse of Strahd being called out specifically for its use of Romani sterotypes in the background of the Vistani, a nomadic group of travelers that primarily resided in Barovia before the death of Count Strahd von Zarovich. In the editorial process for Strahd’s reprint, as well as two upcoming products, Wizards worked with a Romani consultant to present the Vistani without using reductive tropes.

But some of the points delve into the game itself—for example, the aforementioned ongoing exploration and re-examination of Drow and Orcish cultures in the game’s fiction, beings that were long described as beastly and villainous by nature while also being approximations of non-white cultures….

(4) FATE OF LIBRARIES. Publishers Weekly warns “Changes Loom as Public Libraries Begin to Reopen”.

…But whenever that happens, the public libraries that will emerge from this historic pause will be changed from the ones that closed their doors in March, librarians tell PW, both in the short term, and into the future.

The most pressing issue facing libraries, of course, is how to reopen safely, for both library staff and the public. For most libraries, that means services like curbside pickup or limits on patron visits to start. It means ensuring library workers have appropriate personal protective equipment, and reconfiguring the library space: less furniture, distance between computer stations, more hand sanitizer stations, spit guards, and plexiglass dividers. It means contactless checkout, new cleaning procedures, and 72-hour materials quarantines.

It also means enormous pressure on library staff, including new rules to enforce, such as physical distancing and wearing masks. None of it will be easy. And all of it will be done under the threat of job cuts, a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections, immense budget pressure, and worsening political dysfunction….

(5) NO SMOKING. During last autumn’s round of California wildfires, a Washington Post writer accompanied a salesman for treating houses with fire retardant on a visit to Dean Koontz’ estate. “California will never stop burning”.

…Thirty miles southwest of the 46 Fire, Dean Koontz, the mega­selling novelist, was standing outside his enormous new home the morning after Halloween.

“We had friends who wouldn’t move to California because of earthquakes.”

Like other Californians, he has stood on a roof with a garden hose and a stance of defiance.

“They moved to the Gulf Coast and got hit by a hurricane.”

It costs a fortune to insure some homes in California. This is why Koontz invited Moseley and his team for a consultation about a defensive sprinkler system and his SPF3000 spray. Local authorities have challenged the effectiveness and safety of the product, but Moseley has testimonials from grateful clients and documentation of test results.

He also has his on-the-go demonstration. On Koontz’s front stoop, Moseley blowtorches one end of a piece of wood. It ignites, burns, starts to disintegrate. Then he torches the other side, which has been treated with SPF3000. It blackens but does not ignite. Then Moseley scrapes the charred veneer with a car key to reveal intact wood underneath….

“Impressive,” Koontz says. His Tuscan-style villa is in a gated community near Irvine. This is a place of Bentleys and catering trucks, and an air of invincibility. Koontz knows that nothing is invincible. If he were younger, maybe he’d move to a place that wasn’t quaking and conflagrating so much. Arizona, perhaps. But he loves it here.

“None of us live forever,” he says. “And you have to weigh the quality of life with the risk.”

(6) ZAFÓN OBIT. “Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of The Shadow of the Wind, dies aged 55”The Guardian marked the passing of this best-selling Spanish-language author.

….Born in Barcelona, Ruiz Zafón worked in advertising before he made his debut as an author in 1993 with young adult novel The Prince of Mist. In 2001, he published The Shadow of the Wind, which followed a boy called Daniel who is taken to the Cemetery of Lost Books in Barcelona and becomes fascinated by the author Julian Carax and the shadowy figure trying to eradicate every last copy of Carax’s books. The novel was translated into English by Lucia Graves in 2004, and became an international hit. “If you thought the true gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind,” said Stephen King in a review. “Shadow is the real deal, a novel full of cheesy splendour and creaking trapdoors, a novel where even the subplots have subplots.”

Ruiz Zafón, who moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s, and divided his time between Spain and the US, has said that while he had written “pretty successful” young adult novels for 10 years, with The Shadow of the Wind he “wanted to create something very special”.

“So what I did was take what for me is very important, which is take all the great ambition in all those 19th-century novels, but try to reconstruct those big novels – the Tolstoy, the Dickens, the Wilkie Collins – but try to reconstruct all of that with all the narrative elements that the 20th century has given us, from the grammar of cinema, from multimedia, from general fiction, from everything that is out there, to create a much more intense reading experience for the readers,” he said.

He followed the bestseller up with three more novels in the series, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven and The Labyrinth of Spirits. Completing the tetralogy, he told Spanish press in 2016 that he had “the feeling of the job done”….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone finale aired. 

“A swimming pool not unlike any other pool, a structure built of tile and cement and money, a backyard toy for the affluent.” — Rod Serling in his opening narration to this episode.

The Twilight Zone series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool” was the thirty-sixth episode of the fifth and final season. Earl Hamner, Jr., got the idea for this episode while living in the San Fernando Valley region and witnessing an alarming divorce rate and the effect it had on children. The episode was one of the first shows on television to really address the problem of divorce and bad parenting, and in part it represents wish fulfillment for children in such situations.  It was directed by Joseph M. Newman from the script by Earl Hamner, Jr. 

It had an unusually large cast: Mary Badham as Sport Sharewood, June Foray as Sport Sharewood (voice, outdoor scenes), Kim Hector as Witt,  Dee Hartford as Gloria Sharewood, Jeffrey Byron as Jeb Sharewood, Georgia Simmons as Aunt T and Tod Andrews as Gil Sharewood. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 19, 1824 – Henri Hildibrand.  Wood engraver for Hetzel, who did so much good and bad for Verne; those editions were lavishly illustrated, anyhow.  This cover for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a composite of a Peter Gimbel photo and a de Neuville print Hildibrand engraved.  Here is Aronnax studying the giant squid.  Here is the underwater destroyed town (note de Neuville’s signature at lower left).  (Died 1897) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1872 – Sutton Griggs.  Son of a slave; Baptist minister; active in the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advancement of Colored People; published and distributed his own books and pamphlets, thirty of them. Imperium in Imperio has a black nation hidden in Texas, outsold many contemporaries to whom he was invisible.  (Died 1933) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1881 – Maginel Enright.  Younger sister of Frank Lloyd Wright (Maginel a contraction of Margaret Ellen).  Illustrated Frank Baum’s Twinkle TalesPoliceman BluejayJuvenile Speaker; five dozen by others.  See here and here and here.  Memoir, The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1915 – Julius Schwartz.  Co-published pioneer fanzine The Time Traveller. Helped organize NyCon I the first Worldcon.  Co-founded Solar Sales Service, representing Bester, Bloch, Bradbury.  In reviving or re-creating the Flash, Green Lantern, and like that, instrumental in opening Silver Age of Comics.  Edited BatmanSuperman, fifteen years each; dozens more.  Memoir Man of Two Worlds subtitled “my life in science fiction and comics”; also he was active as fan and pro; also “Man of Two Worlds” was his creation Adam Strange – in whose stories Alanna’s father Sardath looked like him. Inkpot, Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba.A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 73. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well. (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1949 – Marilyn Kaye.  Taught twenty years at St. John’s University (New York), now lives in Paris.  A hundred children’s and young-adult books, four dozen ours.  In her Replica series, teenage Amy’s discovering she is a clone, genetically modified for superhuman abilities, is only the beginning.  In her Gifted series, each in a small middle-school class has a superhuman ability; an outside group seeks to manipulate them and their abilities for profit; the students dislike their abilities and one another.  [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 67. Best-remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it. (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 63. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. (CE)
  • June 19, 1963 – Aleksandar Žiljak.  A dozen short stories; some covers and interiors, see here (his collection Blind Birds).  Co-edited Ad Astra anthology of Croatian SF 1976-2006; co-edits literary SF journal Ubiq.  Six SFera Awards: three for Best Story, two for Best Illustration, one (shared) for Ad Astra.  The Wayback Machine has this interview.  [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 42, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the new Trek series, and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film though I’m less impressed with the second film by far. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE GREATEST. “Panel Mania: Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli”Publishers Weekly has an 11-page excerpt. The book will be released in July.

There’s a reason why Jack Kirby, co-creator of such iconic comics characters as the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and Captain America, is called the “King of Comics.” Considered one of the great innovators in the history of American comics, Jack Kirby (1917-1994) is arguably the greatest superhero comic book artist of all time. 

In the new graphic biography, Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics, comics artist and biographer Tom Scioli pays tribute to Kirby in a vividly illustrated and comprehensively researched examination of Kirby’s life and career from his rough and tumble childhood growing up on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 20th century to his military service in WWII to the transformative comics he created for Marvel and later for DC Comics…. 

(11) SACKY HACK. This is real thinking outside the box.

(12) MARCH OF TIME. At the LA Review of Books, Aleida Rodriguez’s autobiographical essay “Time Machine”, in addition to Wells and Borges, even mentions Clyde Crashcup from the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.

WHEN I LANDED in the US as a child of nine, I felt I had not only traveled in space but also in time. Though it was 1962, behind me lay a 19th-century world of oil lamps, muddy rutted roads, and horse-drawn carts, while before me flickered a vision so sleek and modern there were no shadows and bright-green lawns sprouted cones of mist.

Time traveler became my invisible identity. Secretly, I searched for mentors in movies like The Time Machine (1960), envying Rod Taylor his ability to go back and forth, to witness and control the passage of time. Propelled and buoyed by a utopian vision of the future, he set off, watching the rising hemline on a mannequin in a shop window, then the shop itself disintegrating to dust in an instant, the surrounding buildings crumbling and disappearing, replaced by insect-like cranes scampering on skyscrapers. His present had succumbed to shattered shards. But by moving a crystal-topped lever sharpened to a point like a pen, he could also reverse direction and return to his intact and cloistered world of waistcoats.

I yearned for that, a trip back — not to Bountiful but to a prelapsarian time, before the rupture in my family caused by the Cuban revolution….

(13) X FACTOR. BBC has a picture of a “Breathtaking new map of the X-ray Universe”.

Behold the hot, energetic Universe.

A German-Russian space telescope has just acquired a breakthrough map of the sky that traces the heavens in X-rays.

The image records a lot of the violent action in the cosmos – instances where matter is being accelerated, heated and shredded.

Feasting black holes, exploding stars, and searingly hot gas.

The data comes from the eRosita instrument mounted on Spektr-RG.

This orbiting telescope was launched in July last year and despatched to an observing position some 1.5 million km from Earth. Once commissioned and declared fully operational in December, it was left to slowly rotate and scan the depths of space.

eRosita’s first all-sky data-set, represented in the image at the top of this page, was completed only last week. It records over a million sources of X-rays.

“That’s actually pretty much the same number as had been detected in the whole history of X-ray astronomy going back 60 years. We’ve basically doubled the known sources in just six months,” said Kirpal Nandra, who heads the high-energy astrophysics group at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany.

(14) QUARANTINE CAT FILM FESTIVAL. This looks promising!

The most purr-fect, a-meow-zing, and totally fur-tastic cat videos anyone has ever seen!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/19 A Møøse Once Bit My Pixel

(1) MORE MCU DEFENDERS, ER, AVENGERS SPEAK OUT. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “The Avengers Respond To Marvel Movie Critics.”

You’re right, Hulk. The “Godfather” films do glorify violence.

(2) HELP IS ON THE WAY. S.L. Huang’s Ask an Author post “Cancelling Contracts and Norms in Publishing” does a full-spectrum post about contract cancellation – its infrequency, significance, how it can be handled badly, how a publisher ought to handle it, and what an author can do.

What makes cancellations worse:

There are two interrelated problems when a publisher has to suddenly cancel multiple contracts. The first is biting off more than they could chew as a press, which obviously isn’t ideal and can be a worrying comment on the state of their business, but it can happen without ill intent. But the second is how the publisher handles it.

Here are some things that can escalate a cancellation from unfortunate to disturbingly unprofessional: …

What a publisher should do in a situation like this:

Clarity. Communication. Transparency. Exploring any possible avenues before taking a route so extreme. If there are no other options, then: Apology, honest dialogue, taking responsibility, an immediate reversion of rights, an admission of the disservice they’ve done to the authors.

Ideally, a kill fee would be offered.

S&%t happens in publishing. How we treat people when it does is important. And yes, this is a business — but businesses have ethics, and norms, and professionalism. Contracts should be treated as if they mean something.

(3) TRICK OR TRICK. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton clues in the Washington Post about “The frightening history of Halloween haunted houses”.

It is unclear why exactly the pranks got so bad. Irish immigrants had carried over the Halloween tradition of pranking to the United States, but they had been pretty innocent. One of the most popular was to disassemble a neighbor’s front gate and reassemble it on top of a building. That one was so common that some people called Halloween “Gate Night.”But by the 1920s and ?30s, teenage boys had co-opted the pranking tradition, and they were on a Halloween warpath. They broke streetlights. They started fires. They tied wires across sidewalks to trip people….

“They were costing cities millions of dollars even in the early ’30s,” said Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” in an interview with The Post. “There were a lot of cities that were really considering banning the holiday at that point. It was really, really intense.”

Parents and civil groups needed a solution. A distraction. Or a bribe.

And from this cauldron of parental panic, they pulled out an idea that, to this day, is part of what defines American Halloween.

They thought to throw the kids a party, but “because this was the Great Depression, a lot of people didn’t have the money … so one of the first things they did was called ‘house-to-house parties.’”

And the Guardian’s PD Smith devotes an article to Morton’s book in “Trick or Treat by Lisa Morton review – a history of Halloween”.  

(4) ALL OF HISTORY AND MORE Rudy Rucker’s book review “Two Dimensional Time and Annalee Newitz’s 2nd Novel” incorporates a detailed study of the genre’s different approaches to time travel – a virtual candy store of ideas.

The Newitz Option: Two Dimensional Time

Newitz takes an approach to the time paradoxes that’s kind of strange. She allows time travel and timeline editing. But she insists that there’s only one timeline. No parallel timelines, no branching timelines. Just our one timeline: “Our only timeline, whose natural stability emerged from perpetual revision.”

So, somehow, when you travel back in time, you alter the timeline..for everyone. But you yourself remember how it was before the change. This might be viewed as hopping to a different timestream, but Newitz doesn’t want that. She wants to have just one timestream. But the timestream is changing.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s latest Future Tense story is Cory Doctorow’s “Affordances”, about how technical restrictions start with powerless people before coming for us all.

…Ninety-Two’s work in Building 34 was as an exceptions—catcher for a Re-Cog facial recognition product. All around the world, millions of people stepped in front of cameras and made a neutral face and waited: for their office door to unlock, for the lift to be summoned, for the gates at the airport to swing open. When the camera couldn’t figure out their face, it asked them to try again, and again, and again. Then it threw an exception, and 92, or someone else in Building 34, got a live view of the feed and tapped an icon: NO-FACE (for anything that wasn’t a face, like a picture of a face, or a balloon, or, one time, a pigeon); BAD SCENE (poor lighting, dirt on the lens); CRIME (once, a decapitated man’s head; once, an unconscious woman; once, a woman in terror, a hand in her hair); and OTHER (for suspected malfunctions).

Nettrice Gaskins, an artist-educator who collaborates with A.I., wrote the response essay “Not Just a Number”.

In “Affordances,” we see various forms of intelligence agents erase people’s names and identities, particularly those who are held back by and are fighting societal barriers. These people are reduced to numbers, to maps of their faces, to their risk scores. Facial recognition software identifies protesters and otherwise serves as a technological gatekeeper. Online filters flag or block video footage of migrants, and racially biased algorithms determine whether alleged perpetrators are taken into custody or released. In our world, the power of Facebook, Google, and other technology companies is so immense that it can feel futile to push back against them, especially for marginalized groups. But that sense of helplessness can also enable a dangerous complacency. It is exactly because these companies are so powerful that we need people to interrogate their work and challenge it….

(6) A BIG SQUEEZE FOR MAKING LEMONADE. James Davis Nicoll shows Tor.com readers “Five Ways To Benefit If Planet 9 Turns Out To Be a Black Hole”.

Finding a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin object somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System should be easy—I’m sure that some grad student or professor angling for tenure is hard at work right now! But what would be the use to the rest of us of a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin primordial black hole (PBH) orbiting somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System?

OK, sure: if it’s there, it offers us the chance to do some wonderful science; we’d be able to run experiments in regions of intense gravity. But people in general don’t seem to care all that much about pure science. So, what applied applications are there?

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Ray Bradbury did not like the ending of It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! because the Great Pumpkin did not appear.  Chuck Jones was a friend of Ray’s and he did not like the ending either.  Together they wrote a script about Halloween.  They could not sell it to any studio.  So, Ray turned the script into his book, The Halloween Tree.  The book was successful enough, it has never gone out of print, and it was finally sold as a half-hour animation special, which won an Emmy in 1994.  The lead character was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 26, 1984 — Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron’s The Terminator premiered. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, it was received well by reviewers and audience alike with the notable exception of Ellison who noted successfully that the screenplay was based on a short story and the “Soldier” episode of The Outer Limits he had written. 
  • October 26, 1984  — V finally premiered as a regular weekly series  with “Liberation Day”. There were two previous miniseries.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 74.Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 65. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 59. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in The Princess Bride as as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw film franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things.
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 56. Some of the best Who stories aren’t televised but written. The Hollow Men, his Seventh Doctor novel, is damn good and riffs off a Fifth Doctor story. He’s also written guides to that show plus The Avengers, Trek, Buffy and the X-Files.
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 48. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 48. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on Discovery. His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 46. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? Having it described as trying to be a better Trek I admit ain’t helping.

(10) GO AWAY OR I SHALL TAUNT YOU SOME MORE. Myke Cole and Sam Sykes got into it again.  Thread starts here (I hope).

And on the sidelines…

(11) THE FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart previews The Full Lid 25th October 2019.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the entry about Clipping.

Clipping are one of the most interesting musical acts on the planet right now. Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson and Daveed Diggs don’t so much embody modern hiphop as surround it. Diggs, best known of course as everybody’s favorite fighting Frenchman, is the crispest MC on Earth, No syllable escapes his sight, no word or metaphor gets free from the specific gravity of his boundless, graceful flow. This is a man who dances with the words, building structures and meaning, narrative and plot out of them and demolishing it just as easily. Snipes and Hutson in the meantime, excel at building audio landscapes for Diggs to bound across and occasionally be pursued through.Vast walls of noise, found audio, field recordings, structural jokes and aural wit. It’s all here and all at the control of these three flat out musical geniuses. And, in There Existed An Addiction to Blood, they’ve produced another genre adjacent work which is both completely in line with their previous work and sees them evolve once again.

(12) GREAT LEAP FORWARD. According to Forbes, “The UK’s First Moon Rover Will Be A Tiny Jumping Spider In 2021”.

Spacebit, a U.K.-based startup, has announced details of its planned lunar mission in 2021 – revealing a spider-shaped rover that will scuttle across the lunar surface.

As we first revealed last month, Spacebit has a contract with U.S. firm Astrobotic to hitch a ride on their Peregrine lunar lander. Originally part of the canceled Google Lunar XPRIZE, this private endeavor will now attempt to reach the Moon after launching on a Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in late 2021.

(13) WORTHY OF A MUSEUM. Behind a paywall In the October 21 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles Jenova Chen, whose moody and artistic games have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Chen studied computer programming before moving to California to enrol at the University of Southern California.  It was there that he made Cloud, a game inspired by periods he spent hospitalised as an asthmatic child. Players are cast as a boy who daydreams about flying out of his hospital window and manoeuvering clouds to combat pollution.  For Chen it was wish-fulfillment.  In Shanghai there’s a lot of pollution, but during my childhood everyone said it was mist,’ he says.  ‘I think making the game I was subconsciously trying to clean the city and the air.’

It was an unusual game, with no scores, violence or competition. Still, it went viral, crashing the university servers with more than 600,000 downloads.  Chen received messages from fans all over the world.  ‘They told me they cried while playing, I think because of the deep desire to feel free.  People need to know gaming is not just about guns, soccer, and competition,’ he says.  ‘It can be something healing and positive.’

(14) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. The South China Morning Post tells readers “What cosplay is like in China, where home-grown heroes thrive, ‘play’ is emphasised and it’s not all about copying”

…Having characters that look Chinese matters, especially when the cosplay industry is obsessed with exactly replicating fictional characters, but the irony of cosplay in China is that it is less about copying and more about interpretation. According to Wang Kanzhi’s research for a master’s programme in East Asian Studies at Lund University in Sweden, cosplay in China is more open to interpretation because the “Great Firewall” has isolated the community from not only other cosers but also original source materials.

“Due to the different understanding of the original pieces, local cosplayers tend to add their own ideas and points of view into the activity, which obviously changes the original characters,” Wang says. “In other words, the local cosplayers do not only duplicate fictional characters, but add their own creative points to the original form and content.”

(15) LIGHTEN UP. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reports that “‘The Current War: Director’s Cut’ Shines At Low But Steady Wattage”.

Electricity’s domestication is a triumph of American ingenuity. But The Current War, despite depicting the likes of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, doesn’t feel very American at all. That’s probably one of the reasons the movie was received with so little enthusiasm when it debuted at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. (Another problem is that the film was then a product of the Weinstein Co., which collapsed soon after.)

As its subtitle announces, The Current War: Director’s Cut is the not the same movie that nearly succumbed to critical disdain more than two years ago. For those of us who didn’t see the original, ascertaining any improvement is impossible. But the latest version is not bad at all. It’s just sort of odd.

Of the three central characters, only Westinghouse is played by an American, Michael Shannon. As Edison, Benedict Cumberbatch employs an accent that is, well, not British. Nicholas Hoult’s Nikola Tesla speaks in an indeterminate Eastern European mode that can be heard, symbolically at least, as true to his Austro-Serbian-Croatian origins.

The movie doesn’t mention that Tesla had worked for an Edison-affiliated company in Paris before was he encouraged to move to the U.S. In this telling, he’s hired on a whim by the Wizard of Menlo Park, who’s eager to light American cities with his newly perfected bulbs, powered by direct current.

Edison’s nemesis is Westinghouse, who promotes alternating current — cheaper and more versatile but potentially deadly. The two men are competing for the same prize: a contract to illuminate Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a full 13 years after the film’s event-packed story begins. Edison wants to win so badly that he’s prepared to electrocute large animals to demonstrate AC’s dangers.

(16) GAMER STRIKES BACK. Not exactly man bites dog: “Gamer buys Fallout 76 add-on domain to criticise Bethesda”.

What would you do if a company did something you didn’t like?

Some people would take to social media to voice their frustrations. Others might consider writing a letter to the business.

But when game developer Bethesda introduced a new subscription to their online game Fallout 76, David Chapman felt he had to do something with more impact.

He made a website.

And not just any website – he pinched the domain from right under the developer’s nose, so anyone looking for information about the subscription would instead be greeted with his critique.

“My motivation stems from a frustration with Bethesda,” he told the BBC. “And in general the current trend of the gaming industry.”

He added: “They said players had been asking for this – players never asked to pay a subscription for features hidden behind a pay wall.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me make this website.”

Wait, what did Bethesda do?

Bethesda Softworks developed and published post-apocalyptic game Fallout 76.

It is an online-only game, meaning that gamers must be connected to the internet to play, and will see other people they don’t know while they’re playing.

There is no monthly cost to play online, but in a sense this is about to change.

Now players will be offered additional features which affect the gameplay, such as the ability to play without strangers or store as many items as they like, for the annual price of £99.99.

The new service, called Fallout 1st, has angered gamers who point out Bethesda promised not to charge for additional features in the past.

(17) THE ADLER SANCTION. “Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges”.

Russian scientists tracking migrating eagles ran out of money after some of the birds flew to Iran and Pakistan and their SMS transmitters drew huge data roaming charges.

After learning of the team’s dilemma, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon offered to cancel the debt and put the project on a special, cheaper tariff.

The team had started crowdfunding on social media to pay off the bills.

The birds left from southern Russia and Kazakhstan.

The journey of one steppe eagle, called Min, was particularly expensive, as it flew to Iran from Kazakhstan.

Min accumulated SMS messages to send during the summer in Kazakhstan, but it was out of range of the mobile network. Unexpectedly the eagle flew straight to Iran, where it sent the huge backlog of messages.

The price per SMS in Kazakhstan was about 15 roubles (18p; 30 US cents), but each SMS from Iran cost 49 roubles. Min used up the entire tracking budget meant for all the eagles.

…The SMS messages deliver the birds’ coordinates as they migrate, and the team then use satellite photos to see if the birds have reached safe locations. Power lines are a particular threat for the steppe eagles, which are endangered in Russia and Central Asia.

(18) TASTES LIKE CHICKEN. All That’s Interesting invites you to “Be One Of The First In History To Witness A Supermassive Black Hole Destroy A Star”.

Have you ever wondered what a star looks like as it’s ripped apart by a supermassive black hole? Probably not. But thanks to the diligent eyes at NASA and Ohio State University, you don’t have to wonder, you can see it for yourself.

According to local Ohio radio station WOSU, a NASA satellite and a network of robotic telescopes known as the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae — or ASAS-SN for short — located at the university captured the cosmic battle for the first time on film.

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

Wandering Through the Public Domain #17

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: I recently had the privilege of attending a free lecture (via the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library) by Dr. Lisa Yaszek, who is a professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech. She gave a presentation on the history of time travel in science fiction. Not only was it fascinating for itself, it also led me to lots of works in the public domain to mention here. (Bonus: I also met fellow Filer Kirby Bartlett-Sloan there!)

In fact, there are LOTS of interesting time-travel tales in the public domain, and it seems like the more I dig, the more I find. So this will be the first of two back-to-back columns on time-travel themes, with more random installments to come in the future. Because there is a lot to say on this topic, I’ll also be departing from my usual format to focus just on the time-travel topic for these two columns.

One of the most intriguing points is that time-travel fiction as we know it, SF or otherwise, didn’t really exist before the 19th century. There seems to be two main reasons for that.

The first is that one of the main ideas of time travel is visiting historical eras in the past, or bringing people from historical times to the present day and interacting with them. But the sense of historical periods being very different from and foreign to the current day, and thus more interesting to interact with, is relatively recent. For vast swaths of human history, the past looked a lot like the current day, as people stayed in the same places and did the same things. Since much of the narrative interest in time-travel fiction is in the contrast with earlier times, it does not seem to have been as much of an imaginative stimulus.

(However, even in those centuries, there was a sense of a distant past that was different — the days of Moses, Jesus, or the gods of ancient mythologies worldwide. It seems odd to me that there wasn’t much apparent imaginings or discussions of what it would be like to see those times in person or talk to legendary figures like Buddha or Confucius or Hercules.)

The other reason was that, while time as a linear concept existed, the cyclical sense of time, based on seasons and repetitions of holidays and festivals, was far stronger in people’s minds. The rhythms of the agricultural year reinforced this, and even the few who did not directly grow their own food were keenly aware of the annual cycles of food production. 

It’s really the standardization of time intervals, time zones, and calendars that began in the 18th century and fully took hold in the 19th, that gave most people a distinct sense of a one-way march of clearly delineated time periods. The fact that more people were becoming detached from the farm and food production, with its cyclical emphasis, and were moving to towns and cities where transit, factories, and stores ran on strict schedules, helped reinforce the rise of linear time sense.

Dr. Yaszek points out that it’s not a coincidence that the first mechanical time-travel stories, where a machine could precisely target and “jump” to a particular era, appear within the same decade as the 1884 International Meridian Conference that established standard time zones worldwide.

However, the earliest time-travel story device is one that is still used, and is more of a fantasy trope than a science fiction one. That’s the “time slip”, where a character interacts with another time period through an unexplained or magical connection. This can be seen as far back as portions of the Indian Mahabarata or the Japanese folk-tale Urashima Taro, where characters magically travel to other dimensions, and return to themselves to find that years have mysteriously passed. Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” is a variant of this theme that most of us are familiar with.

Mid-19th-century tales like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court also use this “time slip” device — the authors are not as concerned with how the time travel happens as the experiences that the main characters have as a result. 

A less well-known example is “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains” by Edgar Allen Poe. This 1844 short story is a rather confusing tale in which an unnamed narrator tells the story of his meeting, years earlier, a mysterious young man named Arthur Bedloe. Bedloe was in his 20s, but seemed far older to the narrator, perhaps because of ill health. He was attended by a physician, Dr. Templeton, who specialized in a form of mesmerism. 

Bedloe narrates his strange experience of hiking in a deep mist in the “Ragged Mountains” of Virginia (which appear to be the Blue Ridge Mountains) and suddenly hearing drumming sounds and noticing plants and people that appear to be native to India rather than Virginia.  Bedloe ultimately finds himself in an eastern city in the midst of a battle between English soldiers and native people. He is struck by an arrow and dies.

Bedloe insists that it was a real experience, and not a dream, but the narrator points out to Bedloe that he is not dead, so it could not have been real. Bedloe reacts by becoming visibly ill, and Dr. Templeton intervenes to explain that the experience Bedloe narrated sounded much like that of his old friend Oldeb, who had been in India in 1780 and died in a battle there in the way that Bedloe described. What actually occurred with Bedloe is left vague — he was under the influence of both mesmerism and strong drugs when he had his experience, but it’s also strongly implied that Bedloe time-traveled into the mind of Oldeb or was a reincarnation of him. When the narrator later sees Bedloe’s name misspelled on his tombstone as Bedlo, he realizes that Bedlo is Oldeb spelled backwards.

Edward Bellamy’s 1884 novel Looking Backward is another time-slip tale, although this time the narrator has a dream-vision of the future rather than the past. Bellamy’s main purpose was to write a political utopian tale to illustrate possible resolutions to the contemporary political and economic conflicts in the United States, but his book has the distinction of becoming the third best-selling American novel of the 19th century after Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben-Hur, which I believe would make it the first SFF best-seller.

The time-slip trope remains alive and well down to the present day, and drives the plot in stories ranging from the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day to the best-selling Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon. 

(In fact, while time travel in science fiction gets most of the attention, the romance genre has a strong tradition of time-travel romance stories, nearly all of which use the time-slip trope, as the hero or heroine is thrown backward or forward in time by devices ranging from standing stones to family curses to mysterious pendants and more).

Librivox has recordings of most of the above-mentioned works:

Internet Archive has the 1910 one-reel Edison adaptation of A Christmas Carol

There are no extant complete copies of the 1921 film of Connecticut Yankee, but the trailer for the very hokey 1949 version is in the public domain!

In the next column, I’ll look at the H.G. Wells novel, The Time Machine, which popularized the mechanical time-travel plot device, and the many tales that followed.

Pixel Scroll 6/9/17 A Simple Scrollable Pixel, Or How I Was Mike Glyered Into Filing

(1) OPENING ROUND. Fantasy-Faction, in “The SPFBO: Introducing Round One!”, tells how they’re getting ready to participate in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

As you know, 300 competing titles have now been split into batches of 30 and assigned to one of the ten participating blogs. Here’s the tough part: we can’t keep them all. It’s a bit like being asked to foster a small herd of kittens, then being told you’re only allowed to adopt one of them. We try hard not to become too attached, but it proved very difficult last year and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if the same were true again this time.

(2) SPACEBALLS. Profiles in History will be auctioning “Rick Moranis hero ‘Dark Helmet’ helmet from Spaceballs.” At the end of the month reports Invaluable.

Rick Moranis hero “Dark Helmet” helmet from Spaceballs. (MGM, 1987) This articulating oversized signature helmet was worn by Moranis as Dark Helmet throughout the Mel Brooks classic Sci-Fi spoof. Consisting of 20 in. round by 14 in. tall cartoonish “Darth Vader” -stylized helmet constructed of heavy vacuum formed plastic component shell affixed to internal construction worker’s hard-hat liner to fit the actor. With screw-hinged movable faceplate section featuring vents, metalized shower drain mouth piece and triangular embedded tinted see-through lenses. Exhibiting only minor production wear and age. In vintage very good to fine condition. $8,000 – $12,000

(3) M. BANKS. Sam Reader at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog honors the late author — “With The Algebraist, Iain M. Banks Perfected His Space Opera”.

The Scottish author Iain Banks famously led a double life in publishing. Some of his books — the ones published under the name Iain Banks — were sold to readers as “literature,” and shelved as such in bookstores. The rest — the ones that applied his talent for creating boldly unlikeable characters and enormously complex plots to the tropes and trappings of science fiction — were published under the name “Iain M. Banks,” that middle initial serving as a beacon to genre readers across the world, telling them: this one. This is the Banks you’re looking for.

The Algebraist is peak Iain M. Banks. It’s also the only book he ever wrote to be nominated for the Hugo Award, a fact that seems almost unbelievable in retrospect.

The late, great SF pioneer, who died on this day in 2013, spent most of his life experimenting with space opera …

(4) ANY SUFFICIENTLY ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY. Yesterday, you didn’t care about this. But today you will passionately brawl about it. Natalie Zutter asks “Is Time Travel Science Fiction or Fantasy?” at Tor.com.

Even though you would expect time travel to require hard rules, it seems to most often appear in both science fiction and fantasy stories that require a certain amount of handwaving on the details. We’re given some sense of how the TARDIS operates — the chameleon circuit, and the sometimes-isometric, sometimes-telepathic controls — but it’s best just to jump in and hang on. Similarly, there’s no clear explanation for the time travel in Kindred or Outlander aside from supernatural forces working outside of our understanding or control, forces that cause certain events to occur as part of some larger cosmic plan.

(5) NEVERMORE. Maybe there’s a more subtle reason Noah’s raven didn’t come back? The Verge reports “If you wrong a raven, it will remember”.

These nine ravens were raised in captivity, growing to become familiar with the researchers. Then came the test.

The ravens were put in a cage along with two trainers on each one. The first trainer gave the raven a piece of bread. The raven then carried the bread to the other trainer on the other side, and exchanged it for cheese.

The second time, the raven was soundly rejected. Instead of getting the cheese, it had to watch as the trainer just ate the cheese in front of it.

Two days later, the researcher rounded up up seven of the birds and presented them with three trainers: the fair one who gave them the bread, the unfair one who ate food in front of them, and a neutral one. Six out of seven birds chose the fair one. One chose the neutral one. Nobody wanted to play with the mean one.

(6) I FORGOT. The City, Awake by Duncan Barlow was released in March by Stalking Horse Press.

Barlow’s metaphysical noir The City, Awake is a novel of chemically induced amnesia, doppelgangers, fanatics, and killers. Saul, a man without a history, awakes in a hotel room with a note in his pocket. Hunting for answers, he must survive rival assassins, a millionaire with an axe to grind, a shape-shifting femme fatal, a silent hit man, and a psychotic who is only looking for an exit. Barlow evokes a vast mid-century modernist cityscape in prose that is by turns hard-boiled, then unexpectedly psychedelic and delicate. With temporal and spatial distortions reminiscent of A. E. van Vogt’s The World of Null-A, the novel that inspired Godard’s Alphaville, this is a vivid investigation of identity, scientific speculation, and Biblical Apocrypha. The City, Awake is a mirror maze of dark streets and darker secrets.

(7) FEAR OF THE ARTS. Omni’s Joshua Sky asks the questions in “Where X Marks the Spot: An Interview with Steve Barnes”.

Walk me through it. I’ve read about you, but I haven’t been able to find much on your childhood. Can you give me a recap of your youth?

Steve Barnes: Born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles. I was interested in science fiction, fantasy, films and stories from a very early age. My mother and sister raised me; there wasn’t a father in the home. So I was always very interested in macho adventure.

First book that I can remember clearly reading was called Space Cat. I was in second grade, before then, I loved monster movies and stuff like that. It’s always been apart of my life. The first real sci-fi novel I’ve ever read was probably Robert Heinlein’s, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, in the fifth grade.

When did you start making attempts at writing?

The first story I remember ever writing, was in like, third grade. It was called, The Yeti. It was about an abominable snowman in a Canadian lumber camp. After that, I wrote a lot of sci-fi action adventure, space ship monster stuff. I was doing that from third to fourth grade, up through college.

(8) NOTED FUTURIST. Joshua Sky also did an “Interview with Trina Phillips, Chief Futurist at SciFutures” for Omni.

Describe what SciFutures is. I’ve read about it, I know about it, but I’d like to hear it from you.

TRINA: We do a range of things, but our main idea is that a lot of companies don’t do well with changing their ways and staying up to date with new and near future technology. This isn’t just using new systems. We’re talking about thinking forward. Some of these companies have been around for over a hundred years; being forward thinking and moving fast are not their specialty. The idea behind it is that not only do you use science fiction ideas to help propel them into the future, but we use storytelling to help them understand it, to help them comprehend this new information better. Because someone can sit there and say, I’m doing projections, and with all the graphs and charts and this and that. And we don’t do that. We go further out than those are realistic for, you know, guessing at. We’re not going to tell you what you should do next year; we’re going to tell you what you should be looking to do in five to ten years, or more — if you prefer the long view.

But it’s all theoretical in a sense, because it’s from a science fictional standpoint, right?

TRINA: Yes, except it is based on the tech that’s available now, and we have a really good handle on modern technology. Half of our staff consists of tech people — a little more than half, actually. So we have a real grounding in where the tech is, where it’s going. We know what’s feasible, and we base our suggestions on that information. But that doesn’t mean we’re not inventing things that don’t quite exist yet. In fact, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

(9) NO FUTURIST. Meantime, John Scalzi was shocked to discover that his go-to soda, Coke Zero, is on its way out: “Is This the End of Our Hero, Coke Zero?!??!!??!?”

It’s that “no sugar” part that’s apparently important, because these days, or so the news reports suggest to me, sugar is in bad odor as being the worst possible thing you can put in your body short of heroin, a proposition I’m not convinced of, but then I’m kind of a sugar fiend, so I may be biased. By calling the new product Coke No Sugar, Coke is making it clear there’s, uh, no sugar in it. So, good for hyper-literal branding, I guess. I think “Coke No Sugar” is kind of terrible as a brand name, and suspect that if consumers didn’t know Coke Zero had, you know, zero sugar in it, the problem was marketing, and not the branding per se. Mind you, if memory serves, the whole point of Coke Zero marketing in the early days was to hide from dudes with fragile masculinity the fact that they were drinking a diet beverage, which is why the word “diet” was never put anywhere near the product dress. So again, I’m not sure consumers are 100% to blame here if they didn’t catch on about the zero sugar thing.

(10) MORE ON BOOKEXPO. Shelf Awareness insists the cup is half-full: “BookCon Draws 20,000; Trade Attendance Up at BookExpo”.

BookExpo drew 7,425 non-exhibiting attendees–primarily booksellers, librarians, retailers and media members — while BookCon brought in 20,000 readers, up 2,000 from two years ago, when the consumer event was last held in New York, ReedPOP announced this week. According to Brien McDonald, event director for BookExpo and BookCon, trade attendance was significantly up this year compared to last year’s show in Chicago, Ill., and in particular, attendance at the show’s author talks and educations sessions was “exceptionally high.” McDonald also noted that for 2017, ReedPOP implemented a review process for all non-buying categories of trade attendees, including self-published authors, bloggers and consultants, in an effort to curate more “high-quality attendance.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 9, 1965 — Ursula Andress stars with Cushing and Lee in Hammer Films’ She
  • June 9, 1978 — Walt Disney’s seminal science fiction classic *coff*  The Cat From Outer Space premieres.
  • June 9, 1989 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was first seen in theaters.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born June 9, 1925 — Keith Laumer
  • Born June 9, 1930 — Lin Carter
  • Born June 9, 1943 — Joe Haldeman

(13) ON THEIR WAY OUT. If you’re trying to make sense of the British elections, actively avoid Camestros Felapton’s “Exit Poll”. But if you need a laugh, click away.

(14) INCONSISTENCY. J.K Rowling calls out a problem I’ve often observed — critics of misogyny who decide to give themselves a pass whenever they have an opportunity write an insult about a politically conservative woman. If someone values human respect, that should control their choices all the time.

(15) ZOMBIES TO THE RESCUE. In the May 25 Financial Times Charles Clover and Sherry Fei Ju note that China, which has long banned any film with ghosts or the supernatural (such as the Ghostbusters remake or the acclaimed South Korean film Train to Busan) has relented and allowed the latest Resident Evil film and Logan to be shown in China, possibly as a way to stimulate slumping box office sales. (“China unleashes zombie films to boost the box office” , behind a paywall.)

(16) GHOSTING CONS. Kara Dennison says “Let’s Talk About Lobbyconning”.

I was very confused by a comment left on Facebook concerning a convention I work for. A potential attendee asked if the con would be “open” or “closed.” No one really had any idea what this meant, until it was clarified: do you have to buy a badge to enter the convention space at all, or can you chill in the hotel lobby without buying a badge? The practice is known as “lobbyconning,” and I had never heard of it until within the last year or so. Essentially, rather than buying a membership to a convention, the lobbyconner just hangs out in the non-convention spaces of the hotel, seeing friends, showing off their cosplay, using Street Pass, etc. They see it as harmless and a way to save money. Now, quickly up front. I have sped by hotels where a convention is going on to say hi to a friend. Like. If the con is in the area. Usually if I want to see a friend at a nearby convention I’m not attending, we go get lunch or something, or if I go to the hotel we’ll meet for a drink in the bar or I go to their room. But if I’m going to see the friend, we generally leave the convention space. If I’m going to the convention to see the friend, I buy a day pass. Why? Because I am using the convention as a way to pass time with my friend, because it means they can still enjoy all parts of the con without having to abandon me for panels, and because dammit, supporting a con.

(17) A MATCH MADE IN HECK. A newsflash from Cattimothy House — “Jon Del Arroz hires Timothy the Talking Cat as his Publicist”.

Prominent local author, Jon Del Arroz entered into extensive negotiations with Cattimothy House yesterday to massively boost his profile by recruiting the services of Timothy the Talking Cat. Timothy, who is notable for his work with John C Wright, Declan Finn, Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, is one of the leading editors of modern science fiction and is at the forefront of what he calls “the Pulp Revolution” (Timothy’s Jarvis Cocker cover band).

Timothy is alread taking proactive steps to boost Mr Del Arroz’s profile including new cover design concepts …

Naturally (or perhaps unnaturally), Jon was thrilled to realize “The File 770 Crowd Loves Me, Quite Literally”.

Today, Camestros Felapton upped the game of having a crush on me by making a full on book cover based on For Steam And Country — which is releasing next Thursday. This looks like a pretty time consuming effort, maybe even more so than the File 770 commenter who purchased and distributed convention ribbons for a full weekend homaging me …

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Jon Del Arroz, Peer Sylvester, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Eight Pieces of Science

By Carl Slaughter:

(1) 3-D printer robot constructs building. “MIT researchers create a robot that can 3-D-print a building in hours”.

The future of construction just got a little bit more real. Researchers at MIT have created a mobile robot that can 3-D-print an entire building in a matter of hours — a technology that could be used in disaster zones, on inhospitable planets or even in our proverbial backyards.

Though the platform described in the journal Science Robotics is still in early stages, it could offer a revolutionary tool for the construction industry and inspire more architects to rethink the relationship of buildings to people and the environment.

(2) Time travel is “mathematically possible.”  It’s all in the curve. “Building a real-life TARDIS is mathematically possible, say physicists”.

Tippett and colleague David Tsang from the University of Maryland have used Einstein’s theory of general relativity to come up with their mathematical model for time travel. They claim that the division of space into three dimensions, with time in a separate dimension by itself, is incorrect. Their model instead conceptualizes space-time as a continuum, whereby different directions are connected within the curved fabric of the universe.

Tippett reminds us that time is curved in the same way that space is: “The time direction of the space-time surface also shows curvature. There is evidence showing the closer to a black hole we get, time moves slower. My model of a time machine uses the curved space-time — to bend time into a circle for the passengers, not in a straight line. That circle takes us back in time.”

(3) NASA is running out of spacesuits.  (This better be a hoax.) “NASA Is Running Out of Space Suits”.

NASA seems to be running out of space suits for astronauts, according to a new report by the space agency‘s auditor, NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG)…..

(4) Mystery excuse. Elon Musk we know, but what’s the National Reconnaissance Office? “SpaceX delays launch of secretive satellite for U.S. Intelligence agency”.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has pushed back its launch of a mysterious satellite for the U.S. intelligence community because of a sensor issue.

(5) “Our laser beam is better than your laser beam.” “Straight Out of ‘Star Wars’: This ‘Death Star’ Laser Actually Works”.

 If it has a beam and if it can destroy an enemy spaceship, it’s a laser.  And a laser is a laser is a laser.  But it seems there’s always one more laser that operates differently than the others.  “Yes, but our laser uses energy transmission.”  “Yes, but our laser uses directed energy.”  “Yes, but our laser uses X-rays.”  “Yes, but our laser is more destructive than your laser.”  “Yes, but out laser is portable.”  And now, “Yes, but out laser uses convergence.”  If your laser can destroy a terrorist bomb without detonating the bomb, then you’ve got something.  Me, I’ll settle for a laser in a doctor’s office if it can eliminate the mole on my face so I don’t cut it open when I shave.

(6) Why Living On The Starship Enterprise Would Actually Be Awful.

(7) Scientist celebrities. “‘Genius’ director Ron Howard reveals why he’s on a mission to turn scientists into celebrities”.

Ron Howard’s new television series “Genius” continues the filmmaker’s decades-long love affair with science.

“Look at what Silicon Valley has meant to our economy and our ongoing influence around the world. … What we don’t want to do is cede that position to other countries, other nations, other cultures,” Howard told Business Insider.

Howard was born in 1954, was around for the first moon landings, the rise of personal computing, and the advent of the internet — but he’s also seen the missed opportunities.

“We could have had the [Large] Hadron Collider. But 15 years ago we decided not to fund that. So I’ve always lamented the fact that we didn’t stay in that pole position on that front of exploration,” he said.

(8) Fortune magazine interviews Bill Nye. “‘Science Guy’ Bill Nye’s New Mission”.

How big a danger is fake science and science denial?
Science denial is a big concern right now. Carl Sagan wrote about this 40 years ago—that if you had a society that is increasingly dependent on technology and you have fewer and fewer people who know how it all works, that’s a formula for a disaster. If we have people who refuse to get vaccinated, they become petri dishes for mutating germs. Soon we are going to have 9 or 10 billion people in the world, and those people are going to have to eat, they are going to have to get along, and they all are going to want clean water. And that depends on science—depends on technology that’s derived from science. So if you have people who don’t accept the process by which we create all this wonderful stuff, you’re going to have trouble.

Pixel Scroll 6/13/16 Carry On My Wayward Scroll

(1) NEXT STEP. Sigrid Ellis responds to the Orlando attack with a series of autobiographical notes in “The road to murder is paved with microaggressions”.

  1. I was horrified to hear the news out of Orlando. But I wasn’t surprised. I wish I found murders of LGBTQIA folk to be surprising. But I have been found guilty of being gay my entire life. I know how much, how casually, how thoughtlessly I am hated. Hated not because I am evil, but because I am merely the most horrible disgusting thing people can imagine.
  2. The shooter went to a place of refuge, of joy, of celebration. He went to a place where queers go when we are told we are too queer to be seen anywhere else. He went to the place where all the shoving and flaunting of queer would have been hidden away from him. He sought it out, this crusader vigilante, this one good man with a gun we hear so much about. He took his righteousness and hunted down the gay he hated and feared.
  3. So how do we go on. How do we live in a world that hates and fears us?

I cannot stop anyone from murdering anyone else. I don’t have that power. But I am … done. I am done with letting the jokes and remarks slide by. I cannot continue to passively agree that I am a punchline, a threat, a bogeyman, a cautionary tale. I just, … I am done.

I can’t stop the Orlando murders, or any other murders of queers.

But I am done being complicit.

(2) HELPING. Stephanie Burgis researched a list of links about ways to help Orlando victims, and community LGBTQ organizations.

This is not the post I wanted to write today. Today, I was planning to announce a fun new project up for pre-order. I was going to talk about other stuff, the normal, small incidents of life. But I’m still reeling. So I’ll post about all those things another day. Today, I just want to pass on the things I’ve seen that might help a bit:…

(3) DIAMOND TIME. Alastair Reynolds’ story “Diamond Dogs” will be on stage in Chicago this season.

An adaptation by Althos Low (the pen name for Steve Pickering and creatives from Shanghai Low Theatricals) of Alastair Reynolds sci-fi story “Diamond Dogs” will complete The House Theatre’s 2016-17 season.

The production, set in the future, follows characters caught in an alien tower and will be third in the company’s season, running Jan. 13-March 5. Artistic director Nathan Allen will direct.

(4) TIME TRAVELERS PAST. The Economist discusses“Time-travel from H.G. Wells to ‘Version Control’”.

MUCH of what is good in science fiction is not about the future. Rather, the genre uses the future as a canvas on which to imprint its real concerns—the present. Counterintuitively, perhaps, time travel stories are often those tales that are most anchored in the present. As Sean Redmond argues in “Liquid Metal: the Science Fiction Film Reader”, time travel “provides the necessary distancing effect that science fiction needs to be able to metaphorically address the most pressing issues and themes that concern people in the present”.

One of the earliest time-travel novels, H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine”, can, for example, be read as reflecting contemporary anxieties about the effects of the industrial revolution on Britain’s rigid class system. The elfin “upper class” Eloi are seemingly content, but are in fact easy prey for the ape-like “working class” Morlocks. The fear that a strong but supposedly inferior working class, empowered by industrialisation, could come for them would have resonated with many of Wells’s Victorian readers.

Robert Heinlein’s time and dimension-hopping novels featuring Lazarus Long, who lives for over 2,000 years, are rooted in the author’s rejection of the social norms of his times. With their enthusiasm for nudism and free love, the novels, which must have seemed provocative in the 1950s and 60s, can now feel dated.

(5) REYNOLDS WOULD STAY. Alastair Reynolds tells “Why I’m for the UK remaining in the EU” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by balloon.

Many of the arguments for and against membership of the EU seem to revolve around economics, which seems to me to be an extremely narrow metric. Even if we are better off out of the EU, which we probably won’t be, so what? This is already a wealthy country, and leaving the EU won’t mend the widening inequality between the very rich and almost everyone else. More than that, though, look at what would be lost. Friendship, commonality, freedom of movement, a sense that national boundaries are (and should be) evaporating.

(6) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. SF Gate reveals the crime of the millennium — “The great city of San Francisco no longer has a center”.

A brass surveyor’s disk, recently installed on an Upper Market-area sidewalk to mark the precise geographic center of San Francisco, has been stolen.

On Wednesday, city surveyors and Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru visited the spot in the 700 block of Corbett Avenue to call attention to the disk and to the work of the surveyors who had established the spot as the precise center of town.

It wasn’t technically the center of town — that spot is under a bush on a nearby hillside — but it was close, and it was publicly accessible.

At the time, surveyor Michael McGee predicted that the small brass disk — attached to the concrete with heavy-duty glue — would suffer the fate of similar markers and be stolen by vandals.

“I’d give it about six weeks,” McGee said.

He was off by five weeks and six days.

On Thursday, an orange arrow and shakily written “Geographic Center of City” were still on the sidewalk. A circular patch marked the spot where the disk had been, briefly.

(7) YOU SHOULD WEAR A HELMET. “Could a satellite fall on your head?” BBC follows German scientists’ efforts to find out.

“There are a lot of satellites in orbit and they will come down sooner or later,” he says. “They’ll probably break up and the question for us is: what is the chance of an impact?”

In other words, could sections of dead satellites survive re-entry to hit something or, worse, someone?

The wind tunnel being deployed for Willems’ experiment resembles a giant deconstructed vacuum cleaner attached to a pressure cooker, arranged across a concrete floor. The gleaming machine is covered in a mass of pipes and wires. Capable of producing air currents of up to 11 times the speed of sound, the wind tunnel is used for testing the aerodynamics of supersonic and hypersonic aircraft designs.

(8) GENRE DINERS. Lawrence Schoen presents — Eating Authors: Naomi Novik, the June 13 edition of his Q&A series.

I’m preparing this week’s post from New Mexico, where I am ensconced at a writers’ retreat and working hard to up my craft (while also enjoying great company, fabulous meals, and some truly awesome leisurely walks through nature). But such things cannot stop the juggernaut that is the EATING AUTHORS blog! Which is about as much of a segue as you’re going to get this week by way of an introduction for my latest guest, Naomi Novik, who should already be known to you for her Temeraire series which blends fantasy and alternate history (or, as it’s more commonly described, the Napoleonic Wars with dragons!).

(9) SEND ONE BOOK. Throwing Chanclas pleads the case for a Nevada high school library looking for book donations. Cat Rambo says SFWAns are pitching in.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mines closed, then mills–nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries….

What we’re lacking is pretty much everything else.

We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.

The students who are excelling are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?

I’m not asking for money. I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of. Just one book.

So who is with us?

Send us one book.

Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy
Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia
117 Grand Street
Greenville, CA 95947

Thank you for your support.

If sending during the month of July (when school is closed) please send to

Library Project/Margaret Garcia
PO Box 585
Greenville, CA 95947

(10) SFWA. Today was the second SFWA Chat Hour. Streamed live and saved to video, you can listen to Operations Director Kate Baker, member Erin Hartshorn, Volunteer Coordinator Derek Künsken, President Cat Rambo, and Chief Financial Officer Bud Sparhawk talk about the organization’s new member experience, game writer criteria, the state of SFWA finances, volunteer opportunities, Worldcon plans, the 2017 Nebulas, awards for anthologies, what they’re reading, and more.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell

(12) TSF&HF. Leonard Pierce experiments with placing the emphasis on each different word in this six-word phrase, and ends up with a column called “Third Booth on the Left”.

“So, what do you guys sell?”

“Traditional science fiction and high fantasy.”

“Your average author isn’t 83 years old and nearly dead, then?”

Traditional science fiction and high fantasy.”

“Oh.  Okay.  But, I mean, you don’t just do space operas based on the technical education of someone who was an undergraduate when Eisenower was in the White House, right?”…

(13) TEH FUNNY. John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Reality Check cartoon by Dave Whamond.

(14) CHINA SF AWARD. “The Chinese Government is Setting Up Its Own Major Science Fiction Award” reports the Lifeboat Foundation.

This is pretty interesting: during the latest national congress of the China Association for Science and Technology, chairman Han Qide announced that the country would be setting up a program to promote science fiction and fantasy, including the creation of a new major award.

Throughout much of its genre’s history, China’s science fiction has had a legacy of usefulness, often promoted to educate readers in concepts relating to science and technology. This new award will be accompanied by an “international sci-fi festival” and other initiatives to promote the creation of new stories.

(15) HE BITES. A deliberately harmful robot named “First Law” has been built to hype discussion about the risks of AI.

A robot that can decide whether or not to inflict pain has been built by roboticist and artist Alexander Reben from the University of Berkeley, California.

The basic machine is capable of pricking a finger but is programmed not to do so every time it can.

Mr Reben has nicknamed it “The First Law” after a set of rules devised by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov.

He said he hoped it would further debate about Artificial Intelligence.

“The real concern about AI is that it gets out of control,” he said.

“[The tech giants] are saying it’s way out there, but let’s think about it now before it’s too late. I am proving that [harmful robots] can exist now. We absolutely have to confront it.”

(16) VERY LATE NEWS. Appropriate to the previous item, Bill Gates was named 2015 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award Winner – in January.

Story

January 3, 2016 — The Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award is annually bestowed upon a respected scientist or public figure who has warned of a future fraught with dangers and encouraged measures to prevent them.   The 2015 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award has been given to Bill Gates in recognition of his fight against infectious diseases, his warnings about artificial intelligence, and his funding of improvements in education since a smarter civilization is one that is more likely to survive and flourish.

About Lifeboat Foundation

The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.

(17) PLAY BALL. “Chewbacca Mom and some special ‘Star Wars’ friends threw the first pitch at the Rays game”, as major league baseball blogger Chris Landers told Cut4 readers.

Over 150 million Facebook views later, “Chewbacca Mom” was born. She sang with James Corden. She was offered a full scholarship to Southeastern University in Florida. She started charging $20 for an autograph. And finally, on Saturday, the cherry on top: Payne threw out the first pitch before the Rays’ 4-3 loss to the Astros.

But, befitting a woman who was brought happiness to so many, it wasn’t just any first pitch. It was a “Star Wars” first pitch — featuring the cantina song, another Wookiee, and of course, Taylor Motter at catcher wearing a Chewy mask.

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, Jim Henley, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]