Pixel Scroll 2/20/20 Rotating PixelScrolls And The Possibility Of Global File Violation

(1) CON CANCELLED. MediaWest*Con 40 will not be held – the pioneering sf/media con in Lansing, MI declares it’s the “End of an Era”. The con had been scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend in May.

…Sadly, despite our best efforts to increase membership to a sustainable level, advance memberships are at an all-time low and show no sign of improving. Even with repeating the function space downsizing we instituted last year, this year it does not appear we would make the minimum number of hotel reservations needed to avoid thousands in hotel penalties. Therefore, we have no choice but to cancel MW*C 40 and notify attendees so that they can cancel their travel and hotel reservations in a timely fashion.

We hope people will understand that this is not an easy decision for us, and that it does NOT mean MediaWest*Con is dead. Rather, it gives us time to consider how MW*C may continue in some form.

Obviously, the myriad causes are nothing new — the graying of fandom, dwindling interest in fanzine culture, technology that makes face-to-face meetings seem superfluous, ever increasing travel expense and inconvenience, and SF/Media going mainstream, to name but a few. All have contributed to declining membership and participation in suggesting panel topics, Fan Q nominations, etc.. Nor are many of these issues unique to us, as other cons have suffered as well with no solution in sight.

(2) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 1632. Eric Flint posted a 20-year retrospective of 1632 and the book series it proved to be a launching point for: “Tempus Fugit”.

…I’ve lost track of how many authors have been involved in the Ring of Fire universe, and how many words have been written in the series. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 authors, and we’re now well beyond 10,000,000 words—of which at least 5,000,000 have been produced in paper as well as electronic format. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twenty times as long as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and sixteen times as long as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And—wait for it! wait for it!—it’s now much longer than the Bible. (Which comes in at 783,137 words, in the King James edition.)

There are now at least two million copies of the 1632 series books in print. And—this is where grubby scribblers chortle with glee—the royalties earned by the authors have just gone over the $2,000,000 mark. Yay for us!

(3) FOR YOUNG WOMEN COLLECTORS. “Announcing the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize”Literary Hub is taking submissions.

Literary Hub is pleased to announce that submissions are now open for the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1,000 to an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman, aged 30 or younger, who lives in the United States.

According to the guidelines, “the winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by her. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, publisher, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. The winning collection will be more than a reading list of favorite texts: it will be a coherent group of printed or manuscript items, creatively put together. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects.”

…The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2020. You can see the full requirements and apply here. The winner will be announced in September. The prize is sponsored this year by BiblioSwann Galleries, and Ellen A. Michelson.

(4) NEBULA ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert delivers “Some Comments on the 2019 Nebula Award Finalists”.

Best novelette:

Again, we have a strong ballot in this category. G.V. Anderson is certainly one of the best short fiction writers to have emerged in recent years. Her novelette “A Strange Uncertain Light” is also the only Nebula finalist to have originated in the print magazines. “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a lovely little story and I’m happy that it made the ballot. Sarah Pinsker and Caroline M. Yoachim are both excellent writers of short fiction, though I haven’t read these particular stories. I also must have missed “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal, even though I usually read the Tor.com stories. However, I have enjoyed other stories by Mimi Mondal that I read. Finally, I’m very happy to see Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo on the Nebula ballot and not just because we featured it at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year. This is the first Nebula finalist we’ve featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, by the way, though we have featured finalists and even winners of the Bram Stoker and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Diversity count: Six women, two international writers, two writers of colour

(5) SEE THE FRONT OF A BOOK YOU’LL WANT TO READ. Tor.com has done a cover reveal for The Hollow Places, Oor Wombat’s follow-up to The Twisted Ones: “Check Out the Cover for The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher’s Folk Horror Follow-up to The Twisted Ones.

(6) SHRINKING FANDOM. And I don’t mean it’s getting smaller: Gavin Miller opines at The Conversation: “Fan of sci-fi? Psychologists have you in their sights”.

Science fiction has struggled to achieve the same credibility as highbrow literature. In 2019, the celebrated author Ian McEwan dismissed science fiction as the stuff of “anti-gravity boots” rather than “human dilemmas”. According to McEwan, his own book about intelligent robots, Machines Like Me, provided the latter by examining the ethics of artificial life – as if this were not a staple of science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and 1950s to TV series such as Humans (2015-2018).

Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.

The authors of a 2015 study stress that, while they have found evidence to confirm this hypothesis, such psychological profiling of “geeks” is not intended to be stigmatizing. Fantasy migration is “adaptive” – dressing up as Princess Leia or Darth Vader makes science fiction fans happy and keeps them out of trouble.

But, while psychology may not exactly diagnose fans as mentally ill, the insinuation remains – science fiction evades, rather than confronts, disappointment with the real world….

(7) TRACING A SUBGENRE WITH AN ASSIST FROM SFF. In “The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs” at CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is about to publish her first crime novel, cites Joanna Russ and Terry Carr as she explains how the Gothic romance evolved into today’s domestic noir novel.

Whatever happened to that girl? You know the one I mean: long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face. She’s most often running from said dark house.

The girl from the Gothic novels.

I’m talking about the mid-20th century Gothic novels, not the original crop of Gothic books, like The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho. No, it’s that second wave of Gothics—termed Gothic romances—that were released in the 1960s in paperback form that I’m referring to. This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1955 Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based of a member of the French Foreign Legion, and was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contains four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full blown horror film. And, of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana  Paxson, 77. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 66. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 56. His best remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film that frankly sounds horrid. He’s got one-offs in X-Files, Welcome to Paradox, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Angel, Charmed and Twin Peaks.
  • Born February 20, 1967 Lili Taylor, 53. Her most recent role was as Captain Sandra Maldonado in the short lived Almost Human series, with her first genre role being in The Haunting off Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(11) ARE WE STILL ALLOWED TO LAUGH? Art Spiegelman reviews SCREWBALL!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Paul C. Tumey, and a museum exhibition of Rube Goldberg’s art, in  “Foolish Questions” at the New York Review of Books.

…Now that comics have put on long pants and started to strut around with the grownups by calling themselves graphic novels, it’s important to remember that comics have their roots in subversive joy and nonsense. For the first time in the history of the form, comics are beginning to have a history. Attractively designed collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts, and so many more—all with intelligent historical appreciations—are finding their way into libraries.

Paul Tumey, the comics historian who co-edited The Art of Rube Goldberg book seven years ago, has recently put together a fascinating and eccentric addition to the expanding shelves of comics history.3 The future of comics is in the past, and Tumey does a heroic job of casting a fresh light on the hidden corners of that past in Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. It’s a lavish picture book with over six hundred comics, drawings, and photos, many of which haven’t been seen since their twenty-four-hour life-spans in newspapers around a century ago. The book is a collection of well-researched short biographies of fifteen artists from the first half of the twentieth century, accompanied by generous helpings of their idiosyncratic cartoons. Goldberg—whose name schoolchildren learn when their STEM studies bump into chain reactions—is the perfect front man to beckon you toward the other less celebrated newspaper cartoonists who worked in the screwball vein that Tumey explores.

(12) TICKLE-ME YODA? CBR.com scopes out the product: “The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Comes to Life in Actual-Size Animatronic Toy”. (And, good lord, the photo at Lyle Movie Files shows a version that comes complete with Baby Yoda’s lunchpail – and a frog! Can that be legit?)

The Force is strong with Hasbro’s new animatronic Baby Yoda toy.

The actual-sized figure of The Mandalorian‘s The Child comes to life with animatronic motions and sounds taken directly from the hit Disney+ series. Arriving in Fall 2020, this lifelike recreation of The Asset will retail for $59.99 and is intended for ages four and up. He also comes with the Mandalorian’s pendant, as given to him by his mentor Din Djarin.

(13) NEEDED IN DC? BBC reports “Human brain seized in mail truck on US-Canada border”.

US customs officers made an unusual discovery when they carried out a spot check on a Canadian mail truck – a human brain inside a jar.

The brain was found at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, on 14 February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

It was inside a shipment labelled “Antique Teaching Specimen”.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was destined for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Upon opening the shipment, CBP officers found the package to contain a human brain specimen inside of a clear glass mason jar without any paperwork or documentation in support of its lawful entry into the United States,” the agency said in a statement.

(14) CLIFFHANGERS. This week’s Nature includes a review of some key end-of-society books of recent years. “Panicking about societal collapse? Plunder the bookshelves”.

In case you missed it, the end is nigh. Ever since Jared Diamond published his hugely popular 2005 work Collapse, books on the same theme have been arriving with the frequency of palace coups in the late Roman Empire. Clearly, their authors are responding to a universal preoccupation with climate change, as well as to growing financial and political instability and a sense that civilization is lurching towards a cliff edge. Mention is also made of how big-data tools are shedding new light on historical questions. But do these books have anything useful to share?

The upside of societal collapse is that while it may be the end of the world for them, it can help with innovation and renewal, if not there then elsewhere.  Also, even if the end of the world cannot be prevented, learning from past societal collapses may help us soften the blow. 

(15) BE A SCIENCE REPORTER. Andrew Porter advises “Print it out, put it in your wallet! (Put your own name over the one that’s there.)” Was this what he used to get in and cover events for SF Chronicle?

(16) NOT TOYS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite the scale of the rocket built at LoneStarCon 3, but more practical: “Woman solves wheelchair access problem – with Lego” – video.

Rita Ebel, 62, has come up with a novel way of helping wheelchair users like herself enjoy their shopping experiences in the western German town of Hanau.

Rita, who has been using a wheelchair since a serious car accident 25 years ago, has been building ramps from Lego and distributing them around town.

(17) SCIENTISTS GRASP THE OBVIOUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Horror films make you scared.  It’s official. Shock, horror, drama, probe!!!! Psychologists in Finland used functional magnetic resonance imaging on 37 subjects watching horror films to see their ‘hemodynamic brain activity’, which is a psychologist’s poncy way of what we biologists call ‘blood flow’. (Why use two words when you can use three longer ones).  Different parts of the brain were stimulated when another group was shown non-horror films.  Or in the psychologists’ words: “[Their] main finding was that acute fear elicited consistent activity in a distributed set of cortical, limbic, and cerebellar regions, most notably the prefrontal cortex, paracentral lobule, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, PAG, parrahippocampus, and thalamus.”

Their work is published in the journal Neurolmage: “Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear”

…Here we studied the brain basis of sustained and acute fear using naturalistic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enabling analysis of different time-scales of fear responses. Subjects (N ?= ?37) watched feature-length horror movies while their hemodynamic brain activity was measured with fMRI….

(18) JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, PART N: “It’s ‘game over’ for Sony at PAX East 2020” — note, the Boston Globe story may be paywalled.

…Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”

(19) FAKE VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Verge quivers and quails as “This disturbingly realistic deepfake puts Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a Star Trek episode”.

A new deepfake puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cage” — and I kind of love it. In this particular AI-powered face swap, Bezos plays a Talosian alien with a huge bald head, while Musk plays Captain Christopher Pike (who is the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Karl-Johan Norén, Bill Wagner, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/19/20 It’s Just A Scroll To The Left, A Little Click To The Right

(1) ANTI-TROLL SPRAY. Mary Robinette Kowal, President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, issued a “SFWA Statement from the President on Goodreads” at the SFWA Blog.

…As some of you may be aware, over the course of several weeks, trolls created dozens of false accounts as part of a harassment campaign against some writers. We reached out to Goodreads to ask for assistance in stopping those attacks and they were, thankfully, responsive. Goodreads was as committed to solving this as SFWA was. If readers lose their faith with the site because of false reviews, that’s a problem for all of us.

During the course of the conversation, we shared with them some ideas that they might use to block this form of targetting. They are working on implementing some of those, although I hope you’ll understand that we won’t be able to share the details of those particular efforts….

There are also some existing tools on Goodreads that were not immediately apparent. We offered to highlight those to our members while Goodreads puts the other measures into place.

Flagging reviews – Goodreads does not allow Ad Hominem reviews or attacks on an author. They made it clear to us that when reviews become about the author, not about the book, authors are able to flag uses of harmful language or when the intent is to harm the person, not to review the book. If an author is receiving an avalanche of those, they may send a link to support@goodreads.com or send a link via Goodreads’ contact form.

Reporting entire accounts – Sometimes, a single actor will create negative reviews of an author’s entire body of work. In those cases, any author may send a link to support@goodreads.com.

(2) RIPPED BODICE. Since Courtney Milan is one of them, the Scroll will report all the winners of the inaugural Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. The award was launched last year by Leah and Bea Koch, co-owners of the Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City, Calif., and is sponsored by Sony Pictures Television. Chosen by a panel of industry experts, each honoree receives $1,000 plus a $100 donation to the charity of their choice.

The winning titles are:

  • Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
  • Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  • A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
  • One Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
  • An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole
  • American Love Story by Adriana Herrera
  • Trashed by Mia Hopkins
  • The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

(3) PRACTICE OR MALPRACTICE? The Guardian ponders “The diehards of doom! Why Doctor Who is the show fans love to hate “  

If Doctor Who seems like a show that has been disappointing its devotees for 56 years and counting, perhaps that is to be expected. After all, no other TV series in history has shown such a wilful disregard for anything approaching a house style, happily pressing the re-set button every week and leaping between planets and time zones, comedy and tragedy, psychodrama and space opera.

(4) FREE READ. Tor.com has published one of the stories that will be included in Ken Liu’s upcoming collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories: “Read Ken Liu’s ‘Staying Behind’ From the New Collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories”. It’s not a new story, but it may not have been freely available before.

(5) BOOT TO THE FUTURE. BBC discovers Back To The Future is being rebooted – on stage, not on screen”.

More people want a new Back to the Future film than want a new instalment in any other franchise. But one of its creators says doing another movie would be like “selling your kids into prostitution” – so it’s been rebooted as a stage musical instead.

Walking though the Manchester Opera House foyer a week before the first performance of Back to the Future: The Musical means picking your way through piles of props and kit that are waiting to be slotted into place before opening night.

A skateboard and some of the Doc’s scientific equipment are lying around, and a crew member walks past carrying what look like dancers’ 1950s dresses. The components of the Doc’s nuclear-powered flux capacitor are probably spread around somewhere.

…Thursday’s first performance will mark the end of a 12-year journey to bring one of the best-loved films to the stage. Another journey will start – the show is set to go to the West End after Manchester, and then perhaps Broadway.

“It’s the same story of the movie,” says Bob Gale, who has scripted the stage show and co-wrote the movies. “But there are things that you can do and can’t do on stage that differ from cinema.”

So in the show, Marty plays more music, and new songs take us deeper into the characters’ emotions and back stories. But some of the action (like the skateboard chase and the gun-toting Libyan terrorists) has been changed. And, sadly, there’s no Einstein the dog.

“Lots of people were clamouring, ‘Why don’t you guys do Back to the Future part 4? Why don’t you do a reboot of Back to the Future?'” Gale says.

‘The wrong thing to do’

But he and Robert Zemeckis, director and co-writer of the three films, had it written into their contracts with Universal that no new film could be made without their say so. Studio bosses have tried their best to persuade them.

…”We don’t want to ruin anybody’s childhood, and doing a musical was the perfect way to give the public more Back to the Future without messing up what has gone before.”

(6) DUNCANN OBIT. Geraldine Duncann died February 2 at the age of 82, her daughter Leilehua reported on Facebook. Duncann announced to FB readers in January that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  Astrid Bear described Duncann in these terms:

As Mistress Geraldine of Toad Hall, she was a major force in the Society for Creative Anachronism from its very early days, excelling in all she tried, whether cooking, sewing, embroidery, pottery, singing, writing, or anything else. Her generosity, wit, intelligence, and zest for life were wonderful.

Her memorial/celebration of life will be on her birthdate, May 9, at the Golden Gate Bridge and include a Bridge Walk. Details will be posted on her FaceBook page and her Questing Feast Patreon blog.

(7) SHRAPNEL OBIT. [Item by Steve Green.] John Shrapnel (1942-2020): British actor, died February 14, aged 77. Genre appearances include Space: 1999 (one episode, 1975), Fatherland (1994), Invasion: Earth (three episodes, 1998), Spine Chillers (one episode, 2003), Alien Autopsy (2006), Apparitions (five episodes, 2008), Mirrors (2008), The Awakening (2011), Merlin (one episode, 2012), Macbeth (2013), Hamlet (2015).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 15, 1955  — Captain Midnight aired “Saboteurs Of The Sky”. Captain Midnight began September 9, 1954, on CBS, continuing for thirty-nine episodes until January 21, 1956. This was the twenty-fifth episode of the program’s first season. Captain Midnight itself started as a serial film, became this show, and later was both a syndicated newspaper strip and a radio show. The series starred Richard Webb who was not the actor of the Captain Midnight role , Robert O’Brien, from the film serial. (Two actors, Sid Melton and Olan Soule, were retained from the serial.) When the TV series went into syndication in 1958 via Telescreen Advertising, several changes happened. First a change in advertisers happened as Ovaltine was no longer involved. More importantly Wander Company owned all rights to use of Captain Midnight which meant that Screen Gems had to change Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, and all references in the episodes to Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, both text and sound wise. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 19, 1978 — The Project U.F.O. pilot: “Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident” first aired on NBC.  It was created. by that Jack Webb Harold Jack Bloom, was based rather loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book. It starred William Jordan, Caskey Swaim and Edward Winter. Most of the UFOs were by Brick Price Movie Miniatures that were cobbled together from the usual model kits. You can see the pilot here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 19, 1893 Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke. His first SFF role was a plum one — in 1937‘s Solomon’s Mines as Allan Quatermain. He’s been in a lot of genre films: On Borrowed Time, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Invisible Man Returns, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Invisible Agent, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The War of the Worlds (the voice doing providing commentary). (Died 1964.)
  • Born February 19, 1912 Walter Gillings. UK fan. He edited Scientifiction, a short lived but historic fanzine. Shortly thereafter he edited Tales of Wonder, regarded as the first UK SF zine. Clarke made his pro debut here. He’d edited a number of other genre zines later on, and ISFDB lists him as having two genre stories to his credit whereas Wiki claims he has three. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 19, 1930 John Frankenheimer. Depending on how widely you stretch the definition of genre, you can consider his first SFF film as director to be Seven Days in May. Certainly, The Island of Dr. Moreau is genre as is Prophecy and Seconds. He also directed an episode of Tales from The Crypt, “Maniac at Large”, and directed Startime’s “Turn of The Screw” with Ingrid Bergman in the lead role off the Henry James ghost story of that name. (Died 2002.)
  • Born February 19, 1937 Lee Harding, 83. He was among the founding members of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club along with Bertram Chandler. He won Ditmar Awards for Dancing Gerontius and Fallen Spaceman. In the Oughts, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation would give him the Chandler Award in gratitude for his life’s work. It does not appear that any of his work is available fir the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 19, 1937 Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds to his widow. (Died 1987.)
  • Born February 19, 1944 Donald F. Glut, 76. He’s best known for writing the novelization of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. I’m more fascinated that from the early Fifties to the late Sixties, he made a total of forty-one amateur films including a number of unauthorized adaptations of such characters as Superman, The Spirit and Spider-Man. Epoch Cinema released a two-DVD set of all of his amateur films titled I Was A Teenage Moviemaker. 
  • Born February 19, 1963 Laurell K. Hamilton, 57. She is best known as the author of two series of stories. One is the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter of which I’ll confess I’ve read but one or two novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive. 
  • Born February 19, 1964 Jonathan Lethem 56. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail briefly here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel, so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work particularly his latest, The Feral Detective. 
  • Born February 19, 1966 Claude Lalumière, 54. I met him once here in Portland at a used bookstore in the SFF section. Author, book reviewer and editor who has edited numerous anthologies.  Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of WorshipThe Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains

(10) FIRST NEWBERY WON BY A GRAPHIC NOVEL. Publishers Weekly opines, “Jerry Craft’s Newbery Win Was an Unforeseeable Dream” – but it came true.

…But his reverie was broken by the phone 12 minutes later. “I picked it up and thought, ‘Please don’t let this be a credit card offer.’ Can you imagine? I would have just burst into tears.”

On the other end of the line, Newbery committee chair Krishna Grady told Craft that his graphic novel New Kid (HarperCollins) had been chosen as winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal. “Then the people in the background started screaming and then I started screaming, then I screamed more and they screamed more,” Craft said. “It was pretty amazing.” It is also historic, as New Kid is the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal.

New Kid introduces African-American seventh grader Jordan Banks, an aspiring artist who leaves his home in Washington Heights each morning and takes the bus to his new, private, mostly white school in the Bronx. In his sketchbook, he chronicles what it’s like for him to navigate his two different worlds, the ups and downs of middle school, and the various micro-aggressions he faces each day. The book was inspired by Craft’s own school experiences, as well as those of his two sons, and has been a hit since its release last February. Prior to ALA Midwinter, New Kid had already earned starred reviews in the major review journals, landed on numerous best-of lists for 2019, became a New York Times bestseller, and won the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature.

Craft was still riding high from the Newbery call when his phone rang again at 7:07 a.m. “I thought, ‘OK, that’s weird,’” Craft said. “I saw area code 215, which is Philadelphia [where ALA Midwinter was being held], and I thought, if they’re calling me up to say, ‘Hi, we thought you were Jerry Pinkney when we called earlier. Sorry about that—we hope you didn’t tell anyone,’ that would have made me cry even more.” But, of course, there was no such mix-up. The second call alerted Craft to the fact that he had also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. “I was stunned,” he recalled, noting that he hadn’t heard any buzz, or seen anything like a mock Coretta Scott King Award poll.

(11) WHEN I’M ‘65. AGalactic Journey understandably covers a lot of space — “[February 18, 1965] OSO Exciting!  (February 1965 Space Roundup)”.

Requiem for a Vanguard

Hands over hearts, folks.  On February 12, NASA announced that Vanguard 1 had gone silent, and the agency was finally turning off its 108 Mhz ground transceivers, set up during the International Geophysical Year.  The grapefruit-sized satellite, launched March 17, 1958, was the fourth satellite to be orbited.  It had been designed as a minimum space probe and, had its rocket worked in December 1957, would have been America’s first satellite rather than its second.  Nevertheless, rugged little Vanguard 1 beat all of its successors for lifespan.  Sputniks and Explorers came and went.  Vanguards 2 and 3 shut off long ago.  Yet the grapefruit that the Naval Research Laboratory made kept going beep-beep, helping scientists on the ground measure the shape of the Earth from the wiggle and decay of Vanguard’s orbit.

(12) THE TINGLE WAY. Now that you’ve explained it, I understand!

(13) POUNDED BY YOUR CREDIT CARD. But wait! There’s all kinds of Chuck Tingle merchandise available. Like this hoodie, or this towel.

(14) FADING SCREAM. “‘The Scream’ Is Fading. New Research Reveals Why.” – the New York Times squints harder.

“The Scream” is fading. And tiny samples of paint from the 1910 version of Edvard Munch’s famous image of angst have been under the X-ray, the laser beam and even a high-powered electron microscope, as scientists have used cutting-edge technology to try to figure out why portions of the canvas that were a brilliant orangeish-yellow are now an ivory white.

Since 2012, scientists based in New York and experts at the Munch Museum in Oslo have been working on this canvas — which was stolen in 2004 and recovered two years later — to tell a story of color. But the research also provides insight into Munch and how he worked, laying out a map for conservators to prevent further change, and helping viewers and art historians understand how one of the world’s most widely recognized paintings might have originally looked….

(15) SPORTS GEEK. Expanding a writer’s horizons: “Taking on Celtics rookie Grant Williams at his favorite board game” in the Boston Globe.

If you’ve never heard of the board game Settlers of Catan, you aren’t alone.

Marcus Smart hadn’t. Neither had Kemba Walker. Nor Brad Stevens.

If you have heard of it, you’re in good company, too.

The game is a favorite of Celtics rookie Grant Williams.

Williams was introduced to Settlers of Catan — Catan, for short — when he was a sophomore on the basketball team at Tennessee. He walked in on Riley Davis, the team’s video coordinator, playing the classic strategy game with players Lucas Campbell, Brad Woodson, and Yves Pons. A self-proclaimed nerd, Williams wanted to learn.

“They’re like, ‘Oh dear, we have to teach Grant now,’ ” Williams recalled. “Next thing you know, we played and I won my first game.”

Williams was hooked. The group kept a board at the training facility, where they would play at least twice a week, as well as one in each of their dorm rooms. There also was a “road-trip board” that would travel with the team.

…The objective of the game sounds simple: Collect resources to build roads, settlements, and cities on the island of Catan. The implementation is a bit more complicated.

Bear with me as I try to explain.

(16) PUCKER UP. SYFY Wire oozes enthusiasm about “Krispy Kreme’s Rick and Morty sweets”.

Krispy Kreme and Adult Swim have teamed up for a limited line of sweet R &M-inspired products, including a donut modeled after Pickle Rick. Don’t worry, though, the green pastry isn’t salty and sour like a brined cucumber. That would be nasty. Instead, it’s filled with “mouth-watering lemon crème, dipped in white choc truffle, with a white choc ‘Pickle Rick.'”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Nina Shepardson, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer, plus a crowdsourced aspostrophe.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/19 It’s Not Easy Being Soylent Green

(1) MAKE IT SO AGAIN. Although showrunner Michael Chabon is moving on, Picard is not a one-and-done series judging by this item of state tax news. (However, CBS declined comment). “‘Star Trek: Picard’ Renewed For Season 2 Ahead Of Series Debut On CBS All Access Next Month” at Deadline.

… Like the first season that will premiere on CBS All Access on January 23, Season 2 of the Patrick Stewart-led Picard looks to be a 10-episode order for the streamer. As a part of that second season, the latest venture in the Alex Kurtzman marshaled Trekverse has been allocated over $20.4 million in California tax incentives….

Certainly, the huge reaction that Picard received when the resurrection of the philosopher-captain was first announced in Las Vegas last year and the tax credits made public today were a cold hard cash indication that the CBS Television Studios, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment produced series was going to engage further, to paraphrase Jean-Luc himself.

(2) WELL-INFORMED. Joe Haldeman explained to his Facebook readers why he signed a petition to ban assault weapons – and how he became familiar with them.

We got this interesting petition, which Gay asked me to sign, from an outfit called Ban Assault Weapons Now.

I did sign it, but not reflexively. I do know assault weapons.

Unlike most people — unlike almost every American — I have been shot, both as a soldier and as a civilian. But I did carry a gun for most of a year “in country,” in Vietnam, sometimes two guns, and was conventionally glad to be armed.

Because of odd timing, I was never issued an M-16. They were not ubiquitous in Vietnam in 1968. I carried — and preferred, most of the time — the M-14 automatic rifle. We also had a Colt .45 automatic, sealed in a plastic bag, and traded around a Chinese AK-47, which my squad carried on convoy….

(3) ENJOYING THE WRONG FUTURE. In another article that takes off from Gary K. Wolfe’s Sixties sff novel collection for Library of America, Scott Bradfield holds forth on “Science Fiction’s Wonderful Mistakes” in The New Republic. Tagline: “The great novels of the 1960s remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong.”

…The science fiction novels of the 1960s—as this two-volume collection of eight very different sci-fi novels testifies—remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong. They didn’t accurately predict the future of space travel, or what a postnuclear landscape would look like, or how to end intergalactic fascism. They didn’t warn us against the roads we shouldn’t travel, since they probably suspected we were going to take those roads anyway. And they definitely didn’t teach us what a neutrino is. But what ’60s science fiction did do was establish one of the wildest, widest, most stylistically and conceptually various commercial spaces for writing (and reading) fiction in the history of fictional genres. Each book is unpredictable in so many ways as to almost constitute its own genre.

Take, for example, Samuel R. Delany’s influential space opera, Nova (presented here in a newly corrected, author-approved text), which takes the concept of the “cybernetic” fusion of human and machine and runs with it. Nova envisions a universe boiling over with star-hopping spaceships, spine-socketed crew members, weirdly mutated sexual and familial relationships, synesthetic video-art instruments, and at least one character raised on another planet who speaks in a verb-delaying syntax several years before Yoda was a gleam in George Lucas’s eye. (“Not too good going to be is. Out of practice am.”) Delany’s prose was stylistically bright, fizzing with ambitious energy (he began publishing novels in his late teens and won several major awards early) and relentlessly inventive, with flashy new visions of the future in one paragraph after another….

(4) WILL YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?  Alastair Reynolds tells how he admired Niven’s “Tales of Known Space” and that despite recent discoveries a writer can still do wildly creative worldbuilding. Then the question is – how do your space-faring characters navigate your stellar neighborhood?

…In some instances, our observations have begun to put limits on the numbers and properties of planets around familiar, SF-friendly stars such as Epsilon Eridani. It may well turn out that what was perfectly reasonable speculation thirty years ago is now ruled out by current data.

Still, let’s assume for now that our real stars and imagined planets remain viable locations, and we wish to use them in new stories. That’s where an additional wrinkle comes in: it’s very easy to look up how far away these stars are, and on that basis, work out (depending on the mechanics of your imagined space technology) how long it would take to get there from Earth. But sooner or later your story may depend on getting from star A to star B, without stopping off at Earth en-route. How do we work out how far these stars are from each other?

All the information we need is present: for any given star, all we need are its coordinates in the night sky, and a figure for its distance….

(5) KEYS TO THEIR PERSONALITIES. In the Washington Post, Frank Lehman, a music professor at Tufts University, analyzes John Williams’s scores to the Star Wars films and argues the music Williams composed for evil characters such as Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader gives many clues to how we view these characters: “How John Williams’s Star Wars score pulls us to the dark side”.

…It’s said that the Devil gets the best tunes, but Williams has long proved that that maxim applies to Sith lords, too. Within Star Wars’ ever-expanding library of leitmotifs — recurring, malleable musical symbols — much of the most insinuating material belongs to the villains, from Darth Maul to Jabba the Hutt to Supreme Leader Snoke. Listening to these nefarious themes with the ear of a music scholar offers a lesson in the real power of the dark side, showing us how music can repel, deceive and, with the right compositional tricks, even charm.

(6) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COPIER. Daniel Dern’s GrabCAD article unexpectedly predicts “3D Printers Could Be Coming to a Library Near You”.

Public libraries have always been the place where you can go to borrow books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. And in recent years, it’s now where you can go for 3D printing services.

“Libraries represent the public on-ramp to the world of 3D printing and design,” said Dan Lee, chair of the Advisory Committee for the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP).

According to a report from ALA, there are over 428 public library branches in the United States that offer 3D printers to the public….

… Using 3D printers requires education. The Medway library, for example, offers weekly walk-in 3D printer certification sessions.

How libraries charge for use of their 3D printers varies. Some charge per hour of printing time (probably around a dollar), while others will charge based on the amount of printing materials that will be required — typically nickel to a quarter per gram of filament.

(7) KERFUFFLE IS COMING. According to Vanity Fair, “David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s Lovecraft Movie Has a Massive Problem: H.P. Lovecraft”. Laura Bradley’s question is: “The renowned horror writer was also a known racist and anti-Semite. Are the Game of Thrones creators the right people to handle that history?”

… What is known, however, is that Lovecraft, for all his pop-culture influence, was also terribly racist. His letters and literary work overflow with these sentiments, and in some cases it’s not even subtext. In 1912 he penned a poem titled “On the Creation of N—–s,” in which, as Lithub explained in its thorough exploration of Lovecraft’s white supremacy, Gods create black people as a semi-human species somewhere between man and beasts.

Benioff and Weiss, no strangers to online controversy, are seeing some of the same pushback that happened when they first announced the now-defunct series Confederate for HBO: namely, why this story, and why them?

(8) LEFT BRAINED ALIENS. NPR invites us to “‘Imagine Pleasant Nonsense’ With ‘Strange Planet’ Creator Nathan Pyle”.

Nathan Pyle fills the pages of his new book Strange Planet with big eyed, bright blue aliens from a planet that shares a lot in common with Earth. These aliens sunbathe, sneeze and even wish each other sweet dreams like us, but they describe these practices with deadpan technical terminology like “sun damage” and “face fluid explosions.” The lifegiver aliens even implore their offspring to “imagine pleasant nonsense” as they tuck them in for the night.

“One of the points of Strange Planet is that this is all (gestures in every direction) delightfully odd. It’s wonderful how much complexity we [humans] have created,” Pyle tells me in an email conversation — and yes, those parentheticals are his.

Pyle was inspired to create the series one day as he and his wife were preparing to have guests over — and they began hiding their possessions to make their small New York City apartment appear as clean as possible. “I realized this would make an excellent comic. I drew this one based on the experience, and the series was born,” he says. He began posting the comics on social media in February, and in less than a year, the series has amassed over 4.7 million followers on Instagram.

(9) KARINA OBIT. Actress Anna Karina died December 15 at the age of 79. Her work has been saluted by many culture blogs, including Lawyers, Guns and Money. Alphaville is the only SF she did, “a science-fiction tale set in a loveless dystopian future…”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 16, 2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiered. It was directed by Gareth Edwards with the  screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. It is from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta. The cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. The film was a box office success, the critics loved it and it’s got an eighty eight percent rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The Fan Boys…? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome. I never saw him, but he was well-known among the small British community there.   I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long-form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won an John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley. He had a number of truly  great works, both genre and not genre, including Eva, The Tears of the Salamander and  The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 62. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the Buffyverse, Outlanders, Time Police, Rogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 52. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an an amazing cast even if the Tomatometer gives it’s 5% rating. 
  • Born December 16, Krysten Ritter, 38. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I grokked. 
  • Born December 16, 1988 Anna Popplewell, 31. She was Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia film franchise, Chyler Silva in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (I saw this — it’s quite well done), she was (at twelve) Anna Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and she’s Frankie in the forthcoming  Fairytale which may be genre or genre adjacent. It might even be titled Fairytale of New York. Or not. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SOUND AND THE FURY. ScienceFiction.com is excited because “Your Alexa Device Can Now Curse You Out With The Samuel L. Jackson Voice Package!”.

To get started, just say, “Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson.” Then, choose whether you’d like Sam to use explicit language or not. If you change your mind later, simply go to the settings menu of the Alexa app to toggle between clean and explicit content.

The Bloomberg video is a bit calmer: “Amazon Alexa Now Lets You Make Samuel L. Jackson’s Your Personal Assistant.”

Amazon company kicked off its celebrity voice program for Alexa, giving customers the option to hear some familiar voices—and it’s starting with Samuel L. Jackson. Users can pay $0.99 and have Jackson respond to your Alexa requests for music, the weather forecast, and more. You can also ask questions that are specific to Jackson, including queries about his career, specific roles, or his interests outside Hollywood.

(14) STEPHENSON BOOK TO SMALL SCREEN. The A.V. Club reports that “HBO is taking a crack at adapting Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash for TV”.

Hollywood’s ongoing efforts to adapt every single book that some guy spent way too much time and energy recommending at you at a party in college continues apace today, with Deadline reporting that HBO has put a TV version of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash into development. The series comes courtesy of The Kid Who Would Be King and Attack The Block director Joe Cornish, with 21 Jump Street’s Michael Bacall set to write the script…[Snow Crash] is satirical, fast-paced, and with one of the most kinetic opening sequences ever committed to print, it’s also one of Stephenson’s most readily accessible books. (Which is to say, he keeps the parables about computer programming, cryptography, and 17th century economics to a minimum.)

(15) FREE DOWNLOAD. Free anthology of Tor.com fiction from 3rd quarter — “Download the Fall 2019 Tor.com Short Fiction Newsletter”.

(16) TAKEN TO THEIR LEADER. Lou Antonelli has posted the latest free story at his Sirius Science Fiction site: “’Trump Asks a Feminist Extraterrestrial Leader for a Favor’ by Marleen S. Barr”.

It’s satirical. Whether it’s satirical enough for you remains the question.

(17) RAMBO UNLIMITED. And to complete our free fiction trifecta, Cat Rambo has released a bunch of titles on KU: “Free Fiction: Stories Newly Enrolled in Kindle Unlimited”. Here are a few of them —

Tabat stories include:

  • §  Narrative of a Beast’s Life: Taken from his home village, the centaur Fino is enslaved and shipped to a new land, where he must learn to cope with the trainer determined to break him. This short story originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy.
  • Events at Fort Plentitude: An exiled soldier tries to wait out a winter in a fort beleaguered by fox-spirits and winter demons. Originally appeared in Weird Tales under editor Ann VanderMeer.
  • How Dogs Came to the New Continent is a short story pulled from the events of the novel Hearts of Tabat, told in the form of a meandering historical paper that teases out more behind the oppression of Beasts and their emerging political struggle.

(18) PLUS ONE. ComicBook.com reports “Guardians of the Galaxy Star Karen Gillan Has Completed Her Role on Marvel’s What If…?”

Marvel’s What If…? may be one of the most anticipated offerings coming to Disney+. The animated series, based on the comics of the same name, will explore many significant moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe but from the angle of what would have happened had just one thing gone a little differently. It’s a premise that is set to offer Peggy Carter as Captain Carter instead of Steve Rogers as Captain America among other interesting twists, but while it’s an exciting premise it’s one that fans have to wait for as the series isn’t set to debut until summer 2021. But while we don’t yet have a release date, fans can at least take some comfort in knowing that work is underway and that when it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan, she’s already completed her voice work on the series….

(19) THE FUTURE OF A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY. Los Angeles Times: “After ‘Rise of Skywalker’ and Baby Yoda, Kathleen Kennedy’s plan for ‘Star Wars’ and beyond”.

 [Rob Bredow [(head of Lucasfilm’s visual effects division Industrial Light & Magic), speaking of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy:]

“She said, ‘There have been a few times in my career where there have been these kinds of moments. Go for it,’” Bredow recalled in the cafeteria of Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters. “She, and we, are looking for those opportunities to break new ground.”

By all accounts, the gamble on “The Mandalorian” has paid off for Lucasfilm since it debuted to an enthusiastic response on streaming service Disney+ in November. Viewers have obsessed online about the show’s introduction of so-called Baby Yoda, an infant from the same species as the green Jedi master…

Kennedy said she plans to make key decisions about the direction of the franchise in the coming weeks. But some things she already knows. While the “Skywalker” saga is ending, the company won’t abandon the characters created in the most recent trilogy. Additionally, she said, the plan is to move beyond trilogies, which can be restricting.

“I think it gives us a more open-ended view of storytelling and doesn’t lock us into this three-act structure,” she said. “We’re not going to have some finite number and fit it into a box. We’re really going to let the story dictate that.” […]

(20) WORKS FOR HER. NPR interviews somebody who had success with the idea — “Researchers Explore A Drug-Free Idea To Relieve Chronic Pain: Green Light”.

Ann Jones tried everything short of surgery for her chronic migraines, which have plagued her since she was a child.

“They’ve actually gotten worse in my old age,” says Jones, who is 70 years old and lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Jones would have as many as two dozen migraines a month.

Over the years, some treatments might work initially, but the effects would prove temporary. Other medications had such severe side effects she couldn’t stay on them.

“It was pretty life-changing and debilitating,” Jones says. “I could either plow through them and sometimes I simply couldn’t.”

In 2018, her doctor mentioned a study that was taking place nearby at the University of Arizona: Researchers were testing if daily exposure to green light could relieve migraines and other kinds of chronic pain.

Jones was skeptical.

“This is going to be one more thing that doesn’t work,” she thought to herself.

But she brushed aside the hesitation and enrolled in the study anyway.

It began with her spending two hours each day in a dark room with only a white light, which served as the control. In the second half of the study, she swapped out the conventional light for a string of green LED lights.

For more than a month, Jones didn’t notice any change in her symptoms. But close to the six-week mark, there was a big shift.

She began going days in a row without migraines. Even when the headaches did come, they weren’t as intense as they had been before the green light therapy.

(21) NOT DARWIN. But a sign of the times: “Driver ‘blows up’ car with ‘excessive’ use of air freshener”. Doesn’t smell so good anymore. (Includes a picture of the destruction.)

A driver caused an explosion in his car when he lit a cigarette after spraying air freshener.

He used “excessive” amounts of the aerosol scent before sparking up, according to firefighters.

Gas from the spray ignited, blew out the windscreen and windows and buckled the doors but the man escaped with only minor injuries.

Police said the incident in Halifax on Saturday “could’ve been worse” and warned people to follow safety advice.

The motorist was in stationary traffic in Fountain Street in the town at about 15:00 GMT on Saturday when the explosion happened.

It was so powerful it caused damage to windows at nearby businesses.

(22) YULE TRADITION. Marcus Errico, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Joker’s still getting away… How ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’ became the ultimate holiday spoof”, looks into the origins of “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” and traces its origins to the Batman TV series of the 1960s.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/3/19 These Are The Pixels That Try Men’s Scrolls

(1) IN OPINIONS YET TO COME. Brooke Bolander is the latest sff author to pen a futuristic op-ed for the New York Times.

As Tor.com puts it –

Asking “Who Should Live in Flooded Old New York?” Bolander imagines a time in which it’s illegal to live in the flooded remains of NYC, with the only residents being those who are too poor to move elsewhere. In this future, Mr. Rogers’ theme song has turned into an “old folk song,” and “draconian federal regulations” punish those remaining, while millionaires running illegal tourism schemes in the city get off scot-free.

(2) WHAT TOR LEARNED FROM LIBRARY SALES EMBARGO. Jason Sanford’s analysis, “Does library ebook lending hurt book sales? Tor Books experiment reveals answers, may lead to new ebook lending terms”, is a free post at his Patreon page. 

Sanford interviewed Fritz Foy, president and publisher of Tom Doherty Associates, the unit of Macmillan that includes Tor, who shared “an unprecedented look at their embargo test….”

…To discover if library ebook lending was indeed hurting sales, Macmillan used their Minotaur imprint as a control group and Tor Books as an experimental group. The two groups have books which sold in similar patterns along with authors and book series which drove steady sales from year to year.

For the experiment Tor prohibited ebook sales to libraries until four months after a book’s release. After that date libraries could purchase the Tor ebooks. The control group Minotaur instituted no such restriction. (As a side-note, Foy said the there was never a plan to do a six-month embargo on ebook sales to libraries, as reported in that Good e-Reader article.)

Foy was surprised by the experiment’s stark results.

“All but one title we compared (in the Tor experiment group) had higher sales after the four month embargo on ebook sales to libraries,” he said. “And the only title where we didn’t see this happen had bad reviews. And when you looked at the control group, sales remained the same.”

(3) LOTR DIRECTOR. “‘The Lord Of The Rings’: J.A. Bayona To Direct Amazon Series”Deadline has the story.

Amazon Studios’ high-profile The Lord of the Rings TV series has made a key hire. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona has been tapped to direct the first two episodes of the big-scope fantasy drama, following in the footsteps of Peter Jackson, who directed the feature adaptations of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novels.

…Bayona’s first feature film, critically acclaimed thriller The Orphanage, executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and later won seven Goya Awards in Spain, including best new director.

Bayona most recently directed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide last year. He also directed the features The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and A Monster Calls, starring Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones, as well as the first two episodes of Showtime’s hit series Penny Dreadful.

(4) LOTR LOCATION. And where will the series be filmed? Probably where you’d have predicted it would if you never heard about the plan for Scotland. Yahoo! Movies reports “Scotland loses out on lucrative ‘Lord of the Rings’ shoot over ‘Brexit uncertainty’, claims new report”.

Amazon’s $1.5 billion (£1.19bn) Lord of the Rings series looks set to begin filming in New Zealand this month, after producers reportedly got cold feet about shooting in Scotland.

The NZ Herald reports that a “huge” part of the series, said to be the most expensive TV show ever made, will be produced in Auckland, specifically at the Kumeu Film Studios and Auckland Film Studios, with an official announcement coming this month. The report states that pre-production on the Amazon show has been based at the two studios for the last year.

Producers were also said to be considering Scotland as a production base, but New Zealand’s public-service radio broadcaster Radio New Zealand (Radio NZ), claims “the tumultuous Brexit situation hindered Scotland’s pitch”.

(5) RESNICK RETURNS TO FB. Mike Resnick gave Facebook readers a medical update about his frightening health news:

Sorry to be absent for a month. 4 weeks ago I was walking from one room to the next when I collapsed. Carol called the ambulance, and 2 days later I woke up in the hospital minus my large intestine. Just got home last night.

I don’t like growing old.

(6) TIDHAR PICKS BUNDLED. Storybundle announced the The 2019 World SF Bundle, curated by Lavie Tidhar:

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Afro SF V3 by Ivor W. Hartmann
  • The Apex Book of World SF 5 by Cristina Jurado and Lavie Tidhar
  • Nexhuman by Francesco Verso
  • Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SIX more!

  • Escape from Baghdad! by Saad Z. Hossain
  • After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun
  • The Thousand Year Beach by TOBI Hirotaka
  • Slipping by Lauren Beukes
  • Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Vanishing Kind by Lavie Tidhar

This bundle is available only for a limited time.

(7) JAMES WHITE AWARD. The judges for the 2019 James White Award will be Justina Robson, Chris Beckett and Donna Scott.

The competition is open to original, unpublished short stories of not more than 6,000 words by non-professional writers. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine. The deadline for submissions was June 28. The winner will be announced in August.

(8) JUMANJI. The next sequel will be in theaters at Christmas.

In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own, they discover that nothing is as they expect. The players will have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape the world’s most dangerous game.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1958 Fiend Without A Face premiered.
  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future was released.
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day debuted in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • 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 1998.)
  • 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 his work in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”, popularized the idea fans wore propeller beanies and well, being amazing sounding. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Tim O’Connor. He was Dr. Elias Huer in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for much of its run. Other genre appearances were on The Six Million Dollar ManThe Twilight Zone, The Outer LimitsWonder WomanKnight RiderStar Trek: The Next Generation and The Burning Zone. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Altered States is his best known SF film but he’s also done The Devils, an historical horror film, and Alice in Russialand. Russell had a cameo in the film adaptation of Brian Aldiss’s novel Brothers of the Head by the directors of Lost in La Mancha. And, of course, he’s responsible for The Who’s Tommy. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 82. Screenplay writer, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead which is adjacent genre if not actually genre. Also scripted of course Brazil which he co-authored with Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeow. He also did the final Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade final rewrite of Jeffrey Boam’s rewrite of Menno Meyjes’s screenplay. And finally Shakespeare in Love which he co-authored with Marc Norman.
  • Born July 3, 1943 Kurtwood Smith, 76. Clarence Boddicker in Robocop, Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and voiced Kanjar Ro in Green Lantern: First Flight. He’s got series appearances on Blue ThunderThe Terrible ThunderlizardsThe X-FilesStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: VoyagerMen in Black: The Series3rd Rock from the SunTodd McFarlane’s Spawn, Judtice League, Batman Beyond, Green Lantern and Beware the Batman. His last role was as Vernon Masters as the superb Agent Carter.
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 57. 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 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 then Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) IT DON’T PAY TO BE IGNORANT. Not on Jeopardy! as Andrew Porter witnessed tonight:

In the category American Writers, the answer was, “In a story by this sci-fi master, ‘I Sing the Body Electric!’ is the title of a pamphlet for a robot grandmother.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Isaac Asimov?” and “Who is Robert Heinlein?”

(13) AURORA AWARDS. The 2019 Aurora Awards Voter Package is online, available to members of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association.

The purpose of the Aurora Awards Voter Package is simple. Before you vote for the Aurora Awards this year, we want you to be able to read as much of the nominated work as possible, so you can make and informed decision about what is the best of the year. Please note: the package is only available while voting is open. Remember voting ends September 14, 2019 at 11:59:59 EDT!

The electronic versions of these Aurora Award nominated works are made available to you through the generosity of the nominees and publishers. We are grateful for their participation and willingness to share with CSFFA members. If you like what you read, please support the creators by purchasing their works, which are available in bookstores and online.

(14) EN ROUTE. John Hertz, while packing for his journey to Spikecon, paused to quote from the classics:

Farewell my friends, farewell my foes;
To distant planets Freddy goes;
To face grave perils he intends.
Farewell my foes, goodbye my friends.

(15) MORE BOOKS I HAVEN’T READ. At Tor.com, Gabriella Tutino publicized a list compiled by Reddit User einsiboy, creator of the TopRedditBooks site: “Here are the 100 Most Discussed Fantasy Books on Reddit”.  The Reddit link is here. I’ve only read 19 of these – what a disgrace!

(16) JDA REAPPLIES TO SFWA. Mary Robinette Kowal took office as SFWA’s new President at the start of the month. Jon Del Arroz says his latest application for membership is already in her inbox: “A New Dawn For SFWA!” [Internet Archive link].

Things are changing at SFWA as my friend Mary Robinette Kowal has been installed as president, after I endorsed her candidacy early on.

…As she has featured my books on her blog not once, but twice, I know that Ms. Kowal’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity is important to her, and she will be doing everything she can to change the perception that SFWA is a place where Conservatives and Christians are not welcome to be called professional authors.

As such, I have reapplied to SFWA as of yesterday, and let Ms. Kowal know, so we can begin the long journey of working together to ensure equality for Conservative and Christian authors. I’ve offered my services as an ambassador to the community, so she will directly be able to hear the grievances of such authors who have been treated as second class citizens — dare I say, 3/5ths of a professional author — for so long now within the science fiction community.

(17) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE INTERNET. Shades of Cryptonomicon. Futurism.com thinks that the “Russian Sub That Caught Fire Possibly Sent to Cut Internet Cables”

Fire Down Below

On Monday, a Russian submarine caught fire during a mission, killing 14 sailors on board.

But the public didn’t find out about the incident until the next day, when Russia finally released a statement about the accident — though two days after the event, the nation still wouldn’t say exactly what kind of sub caught fire or whether it was nuclear-powered.

A possible reason for Russia’s caginess? Multiple sources are now claiming the sub was an AS-12 “Losharik,” a nuclear-powered submarine some speculate was designed to cut the undersea cables that deliver internet to the world.

(18) FOUR FOR THE FOURTH. For the holiday, James Davis Nicoll has lined up “4 SF Works Featuring a Far-Future U.S.A.” at Tor.com.

In Joe and Jack C. Haldeman’s There Is No Darkness, English is an obscure language, spoken only on backwater worlds and a few places on Earth. We don’t know exactly when the book takes place, as year zero has been set to the founding of the (future) Confederacion. We are told the year is A.C. 354.

What we see of a future Texas suggests that it’s still as recognizably American as Justinian’s Constantinople would have been recognizably Roman. While the region seems a bit down at heel, it’s also one of the more optimistic takes on a future America.

(19) SCALZI GIVEAWAY. Or maybe Christmas will come early and you can read this:

(20) IF IT E-QUACKS LIKE A DUCK. Thomas has found a place where “Robots Replace Ducks in Rice Paddy Fields”.

Aigamo is a Japanese farming method that uses ducks to keep unwanted plants and parasites out of rice paddy fields. This duck crossbreed is able to keep the paddy clear without the use of herbicides or pesticides, and the fowls’ waste actually works as a pretty good fertilizer.  

The method was first introduced in the 16th century but soon fell out of favor. It wasn’t reintroduced as a natural farming method until 1985 and it quickly became popular across the country as well as in China, Iran, France, and other countries. 

About 15 ducks can keep a 1,000-square-meter area clear of insects, worms, and weeds, and they even enrich the water with oxygen by constantly stirring up the soil. But as humans are prone to do, an engineer from Nissan Motor, needed to build a better mousetrap, although this one may not have too many beating down a path to his door. 

Created as a side project, the Aigamo Robot looks less like its namesake and more like a white, floating Roomba with eyes. While the ducks can be trained to patrol specific areas, the robot employs Wi-Fi and GPS to help the robot stir up the soil and keep bugs at bay, though no word yet on how much ground it can cover in a single day. 

(21) SPIDER TO THE FLIER. Have you seen “United–Fly Like a Superhero” on YouTube? The Spider-Man version of the United Airlines safety video? Too bad it’s not as much fun as the Air New Zealand hobbit videos.

(22) STRANGE VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “9 Ways To Draw A Person” on Vimeo, Sasha Svirsky offers a strange video that doesn’t actually tell you how to draw a person.

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

2019 Locus Award Winners

The Locus Science Fiction Foundation announced the winners of the 2019 Locus Awards in Seattle during Locus Awards Weekend.

(Below) Mary Robinette Kowal accepts for N.K. Jemisin. Liza Groen Trombi of Locus stands at left.

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

  • The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

FANTASY NOVEL

  • Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)

HORROR NOVEL

  • The Cabin at the End of the World, Paul Tremblay (Morrow; Titan UK)

YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

  • Dread Nation, Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)

FIRST NOVEL

  • Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

NOVELLA

  • Artificial Condition, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)

NOVELETTE

  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)

SHORT STORY

  • “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington“, Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18)

SPECIAL AWARD FOR COMMUNITY OUTREACH & DEVELOPMENT

  • Mary Anne Mohanraj

ANTHOLOGY

  • The Book of Magic, Gardner Dozois, ed. (Bantam; Harper Voyager UK)

COLLECTION

  • How Long ’til Black Future Month?, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

MAGAZINE

  • Tor.com

PUBLISHER

  • Tor

EDITOR

  • Gardner Dozois

ARTIST

  • Charles Vess

NON-FICTION

  • Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, Ursula K. Le Guin & David Naimon (Tin House)

ART BOOK

  • Charles Vess, The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga)

Pixel Scroll 6/22/19 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Files And His Churls

(1) MÜNCHHAUSEN DEBATE. Some regard Retro-Hugo nominee Münchhausen to be the best thing on the ballot, while others are considering refusing to rank it at all because the movie was made in Germany during the Third Reich. Cora Buhlert and Evelyn C. Leeper are two fans who are on opposite sides of the argument.

Buhlert analyzes a lot of the ethical questions in “Why you should not dismiss “Münchhausen” out of hand”.

… This post grew out of a comment on Steve J. Wright’s blog (whose Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews you should really read), where Steve expressed that he was unsure whether he should vote for Münchhausen due to its provenance. His is not the only comment along those lines I have seen, so here is a post explaining why you should not dismiss Münchhausen out of hand.

… However, quite a few Hugo voters have issues with Münchhausen, because it was made in Germany during the Third Reich and they don’t want to vote for “a Nazi film”. This is wrong, because – unlike some of the pretty crass propaganda stuff found elsewhere on the Retro Hugo ballot, particularly in the dramatic presentation and graphic story categories – Münchhausen is not a propaganda film, merely a film that happened to be made during the Third Reich. For while the Nazi propaganda movies are infamous – even though hardly anybody has seen them, because they still cannot be publicly displayed in Germany except for educational purposes* – these propaganda movies (about forty) only make up a small percentage of the total film output of the Nazi era. In fact, it’s a lot more likely to find propaganda in a random Hollywood movie made during WWII than in a random German movie. For the vast majority of the German movies made during the Third Reich were apolitical entertainment: musicals, melodramas, comedies, romances and the like.

…It’s also notable that most of the Münchhausen cast and crew, including director Josef von Baky, had careers that continued unimpeded in postwar Germany. And considering that both the Allies and the postwar West and East German authorities came down harder on artists who were involved with questionable movies than on Nazi doctors, judges, civil servants, military officers, etc… who were actually responsible for the deaths of many people (cause the latter were deemed important for building up the postwar state, while the former were not), this means that most of the people involved with Münchhausen were not Nazis….

Evelyn C. Leeper takes the other side in “Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Dramatic Presentation, Long Form Reviews” at MT VOID.

MUNCHHAUSEN was an attempt to provide the German audience with the lush Technicolor films they were not getting from Hollywood in 1943. And the film is beautiful, with some scenes reminiscent of Brueghel paintings, and the scenes on the moon quite fantastical. As a Hugo finalist, though, it has two flaws. One is that long stretches are fairly boring–I just don’t find Munchhausen’s intrigues with Catherine the Great very interesting. The second is that if people balk at giving an award to a film directed by someone accused of sexual misconduct and possible rape, what should one think of awarding a Hugo to a film made by the Nazis as a propaganda film (of the “Volksfilm” style)? It’s a fine line, I agree, but while I think the film worth watching (it’s available free on YouTube, and if you get it on DVD, whoever is getting the royalties, it’s not the Nazi party), I cannot vote to give it a Hugo.

(2) SCALING MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by rcade.] Wajahat Ali, a New York Times opinion writer and CNN contributor, asked for advice on Twitter about meeting his goal of reading 3 books a month:

In the replies, someone recommends the essay “How to read a lot of books” by David Evans, an economist who read 104 books in 2018:

The favorite suggestion among Twitter users is to get off social media. 

(3) GOING FOUR IT. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane is there when “’Toy Story 4’ Plays It Again”.

…“Toy Story 4” is directed by Josh Cooley, and it must be said that, for a while, the tale doesn’t seem like the freshest that Pixar has ever told. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks, as ever), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and their bunch of pals are forced to adjust when young Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), in whose bedroom they reside, departs for orientation day at kindergarten and returns with a toy—or a thingamajig—that she has made. His name is Forky (Tony Hale), he was put together from cutlery, pipe cleaners, and goggly eyes, and he clings to a fervent belief that he is trash. Time and again, despite not having read Dostoyevsky, he has to be stopped from throwing himself away. Parents with children of Bonnie’s age may find these scenes difficult to explain….

(4) CARRYING A TUNE IN A BIG DIPPER. James Davis Nicoll was inspired by File 770 comments to consider the definition of space opera: “Single Star System Space Opera; or, Those Pesky Belters, Revisited” at Tor.com.

One world is not enough (probably). There are space operas that center on one world—novels such as Dune or The Snow Queen come to mind—but their plots require interactions between that planet and the rest of the narrative universe. The story may take place on one world, but this world is only one of many.

Space travel is a therefore a necessary feature of space opera. Travel can delightfully complicate the plot: trade, migration, proselytization, and the chance that the local equivalent of the Yekhe Khagan might pop by with ten thousand of his closest friends to discuss taxation and governance.

(5) PREFERRED SFF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tyler Cowen interviewed Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, in his podcast “Conversations With Tyler.” (“Hal Varian on Taking the Academic Approach to Business”).  In minute 38 of the interview, Varian recommended some sf.  He liked Frederik Pohl’s “The Midas Plague” in which robots produce so much stuff that the rich live lives of bucolic simplicity while the poor have to consume until they keel over.  Varian also liked L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, and said that if he could live at any time in history, it would be in the Rome of the fifth century described in de Camp’s classic novel.

(6) EXPERIENCE TOR AUTHORS. Available free from Macmillan for various digital formats: “Tor.com Publishing 2019 Debut Sampler: Some of the Most Exciting New Voices in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Read free sample chapters from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy today, including C. S. E. Cooney, Katharine Duckett, Jennifer Giesbrecht, Kerstin Hall, Vylar Kaftan, Scotto Moore, Tamsyn Muir, Lina Rather, Priya Sharma, and Emily Tes.

(7) ALL FOR SCIENCE. Via the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off’s FB group, Mark Lawrence has asked for self-published authors to provide titles for the purpose of looking at how Goodreads ratings might correlate with sales.  

In the past I have looked at the relationship between “number of Goodreads ratings” and “sales” for recent traditionally published fantasy books.

“What do Goodreads ratings say about sales?” (from 2015.)

Data from self-published authors has shown a much greater variability.

If you want to help out (note your name and your book name will not be used) then message me the following information for each fantasy book you want to tell me about. It will become a point on a graph. I will not share your figures with anyone (except as an anonymous point on a graph). Note – please only submit info for books with more than 200 Goodreads ratings:

  1. Year the book was published
  2. number of Goodreads ratings for the book
  3. number of copies sold via Kindle Unlimited
  4. number of copies sold in all other formats
  5. estimate the % of all non KU sales (i.e number listed in 4) that were free / £0.00

(8) FIELDS OBIT. Star Trek writer Peter Alan Fields died June 19. StarTrek.com paid tribute: 

For Trek, Fields wrote or co-wrote a total of 13 episodes, most notably the TNG hours “Half a Life,” “Cost of Living” and “The Inner Light,” as well as the DS9 installments, “Dax,” “Duet,” “Blood Oath,” “In the Pale Moonlight” and “The Dogs of War,” among others. In short, he had a hand in several of both shows’ finest moments. He also served DS9 as a co-producer and later producer from 1993 to 1994, spanning seasons one and two.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 22, 1925 The Lost World enjoyed its original theatrical premiere.  The feature starred Wallace Beery and Bessie Love. And yes, Arthur Conan Doyle was said to have approved of this version. Indeed in 1922, Conan Doyle showed O’Brien’s test reel to a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, which included Harry Houdini. He refused to say if it was actual footage or not. 
  • June 22, 1979 Alien debuted.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 Kris Kristofferson, 83. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly, he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes. 
  • Born June 22, 1947 Octavia E. Butler. As you know, I do research before I decide who gets a Birthday write-up. I kept running across her detractors who grumbled that she was one of those dread SJWs. Well let’s note that she’s a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and she became in 1995 the first genre writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. As regards her fiction, I’d suggest the Xenogenesis series shows her at her very best but anything by her is both good and challenging. I’m pleased to note that iBooks and Kindle have everything of hers available. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 Meryl Streep, 70. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that it.
  • Born June 22, 1953 Cyndi Lauper, 66. Ok I’m officially old as I’m thinking of her as always young. Genre-wise, she played a psychic, Avalon Harmonia, on the Bones series. She also has one-offs in series as diverse as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!Shelley Duvall’s Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. Oddly enough she has one serious acting credit, Jenny (Ginny Jenny/Low-Dive Jenny) in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera
  • Born June 22, 1958 Bruce Campbell, 61. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved him so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally like just as much The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and godawful, often in the same film. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1971 Laila Rouass, 48. She was Sarah Page, an Egyptologist on Primeval, a series I highly recommend if you’ve not seen it. She played Colonel Tia Karim, a traitorous UNIT officer in the two part “Death of The Doctor” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. This story was the last to feature Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor, The Eleventh here, together onscreen. Jo Grant would also show up. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 Ian Tregillis, 46. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a rather good serial fiction anthology (if that’s the proper term) and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I need to check out. 

(11) UPDATE. Jim C. Hines tells fans why he needs to start a “Writing Hiatus and Other Changes”:

There’s no real news on the cancer front. If all goes well, Amy will get the next dose of chemo on Monday and Tuesday. But we have to wait a bit longer to see if and how well this is working. We’re also waiting on insurance approval for the CAR T-cell procedure she needs. In the meantime, she’s still pretty weak, but her pain is better managed, which helps a lot.

This last round – discovering the masses in her abdomen after six months of chemo and treatment – flipped a switch in my brain. Before, I’d been struggling to make time to write, squeezing in anywhere from 200-500 words a few times a week. But with this setback, I just stopped.

I’m not quitting forever. Terminal Peace is still under contract, and I’ve got an idea for a contemporary fantasy I want to do next. But…priorities, you know? I need to spend time with my wife. I need to be there for the kids. And I need to stop pushing myself to do ALL THE THINGS, and to stop beating myself up for not being able to do everything.

My editor has been incredibly understanding. So much love for Sheila and DAW! The longer gap between books two and three of this trilogy is going to suck, but c’est la vie. I just can’t worry about that right this minute….

(12) TROTTING THE GLOBE. Rich Lynch has posted the 22nd issue of his zine My Back Pages online at eFanzines.com.

Because of the temporal nearness of the upcoming Irish Worldcon, Issue #22 has a travel-oriented theme and has essays involving Native American culture and Indian food, tall mountains and ocean vistas, ancient computers and modern cell phones, completed walks and works-in-progress, rental cars and water buses, famous writers and somewhat obscure composers, small spittoons and large ash heaps, opened time capsules and preserved brains, strange stories and familiar melodies, glass artifacts and wooden bells, sunny afternoons and inky-dark skies, colorful theories and black & white comics, intense business meetings and serene beach life, fine cheese and a traffic jam, labyrinthine passageways and an expansive convention center, old friends and “old school”…and 15 minutes of media fame – in Estonia!

(13) LOOKING TO REDECORATE? Popular Mechanics displays the latest fashions from Star Wars.

(14) BITE YOUR TONGUE. The Warp Zone’s sketch shows scenes from Steve Rogers’ domestic life with Peggy Carter in “Captain America’s Life After Endgame.”

(15) COLLECTOR’S ITEM. Sorry, wrong number.

(16) BIG TICKET ITEM. Comicbook.com astonishes with the news that “Disneyland Has Already Sold Three of the $25k R2-D2 Droids at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

If you had a spare $25,000 lying around, what would you spend it on? Believe it or not, a total of three people have already spent that amount of money on a very specific purchase at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the latest Disneyland attraction that immerses fans in the galaxy far, far away. According to The OCR, the park is selling a “$25,000 life-size custom astromech unit” which is sold at Driod Depot and “looks just like the 3-and-half-foot-tall R2-D2.”

(17) LOCKED AND LIDDED. Alasdair Stuart says, “This week’s The Full Lid  takes us from the mutable dimensions of grief and horror to how much fun dying slowly in orbit can be.”

In the first instance, I take a look at Starfish, AT White’s fiercely inventive and intensely personal exploration of grief and inter-dimensional invasion. It’s a great, determined and uniquely voiced movie and one you should definitely seek out.

Elsewhere, Matt Miner’s eco-noir direct action specialists return and get WAY more than they bargained for in Lab Raider issue 1. I’ve enjoyed the way Matt’s explored this world through the two previous standalone mini-series, Liberator and Critical Hit and this new series looks to be just as good.

Finally, I take a look at Adr1ft, the under-rated EVA/Survival game released a couple of years ago. It has interesting things to say about the pressures of modern spaceflight, looks absolutely beautiful and is frequently terrifying. An overlooked gem, albeit one leaving a trail of empty oxygen cylinders in its wake.


Adr1ft

I’ve spent a good chunk of this week slowly dying in space. it’s been fun! Adr1ft, by Three One Zero and published by 505 Games is a pared down, minimalist game that demands attention and cheerily punishes you for not giving it. I found a lot to enjoy in there, not the least of which is the killer opening. You wake up in a damaged space suit, in a decaying orbit, surrounded by the shattered remains of a vast space station that has very recently exploded. Player and character enter the game in identicla states of confusion and the plot unfolds at the same pace you follow the debris trail around the shattered station. You are Commander Alex Oshima, head of the HAN-IV project. You are the lone survivor of a catastrophic accident. The accident was your fault.

Now what?

The game perfectly embodies the brutal math of orbital survival without ever getting over-excited about how unforgiving it is….

(18) ELECTRICITY BY THE BALE. Nature reports on “Sunlight harvested by nanotubes”.

The efficiency of junction-based solar cells has almost reached its theoretical limit, and it is therefore imperative to explore methods for converting sunlight into electricity that do not require semiconductor junctions. Writing in Nature, Zhang et al. report a key advance in this direction. They demonstrate a junction-free solar cell that is produced by curling an atom-thick semiconductor layer into a nanoscale tube.

(19) IN TONGUES WITHOUT FLAME. “Cambridge language conference marks Game of Thrones lingo”.

The brains behind some of science fiction’s most popular invented languages are gathering for a conference to showcase their skills.

The San Diego-based Language Creation Society has brought together “conlangers” – or people who “construct” languages – in Cambridge.

Among the languges represented is Dothraki, as used in Game of Thrones.

UK organiser Dr Bettina Beinhoff said the convention would enhance the network of language creators worldwide.

(20) WASP. Like the Eric Frank Russell novel, a tiny cause had a large effect: “Rogue slug blamed for Japanese railway chaos”

A power cut that disrupted rail traffic on a Japanese island last month was caused by a slug, officials say.

More than 12,000 people’s journeys were affected when nearly 30 trains on Kyushu shuddered to a halt because of the slimy intruder’s actions.

Its electrocuted remains were found lodged inside equipment next to the tracks, Japan Railways says.

The incident in Japan has echoes of a shutdown caused by a weasel at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider in 2016.

(21) CRUSH IT LIKE QUINT. The Narragansett brewery claims it’s not only music that soothes the breast of the savage beast:

(22) FOR NEVER IS HERD. What’s that smell? “Curiosity rover finds gas levels on Mars hinting at possibility of life”.

It’s easy to get jaded about potential signs of life on Mars, but a recent discovery might raise eyebrows. The New York Times has learned that NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected “startlingly high” levels of methane — the gas typically produced by life as we know it. The quantities are still tiny at 21 parts per billion, but that’s three times the amount Curiosity spotted during a surge in 2013. The rover’s operators were reportedly surprised enough to pause regularly scheduled studies to obtain follow-up data, with the additional findings slated to arrive on June 24th.

(23) BOT DYNASTY. You think their football team is good? Well… University of Alabama News: “UA Robotics Team Wins NASA’s Grand Prize for Fifth Consecutive Year”.

For the fifth consecutive year, the student robotics team from The University of Alabama won NASA’s grand prize in its Robotics Mining Competition.

[…] Made up of 60 students, primarily from UA’s College of Engineering, Alabama Astrobotics won the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, the grand prize, in NASA’s 2019 robotic mining competition, NASA announced. UA’s teams previously placed first in 2012 and from 2015-2018.

[…] In a separate event hosted at The University of Alabama, UA’s team bested 27 other robotics teams from across the nation to win first in mining, first in the Caterpillar Autonomy Awards and the SSERVI Regolith Mechanics Award.

In the Robotic Mining Challenge held at UA, teams demonstrated how a robot they built over the past year could autonomously navigate and excavate simulated lunar and Martian soil, known as regolith.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/20/19 Mamas, Don’t Let Your Pixels Grow Up To Be Scrollers

(1) SHE MAKES TOR LOOK GOOD. Congratulations! “Irene Gallo Promoted to Vice President, Publisher of Tor.com”.

…Irene joined Tor Books twenty-six years ago and quickly rose to head the Art Department. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the Richard Gangel Award for Art Direction from the Society of Illustrators, thirteen Chesley Awards, and numerous gold and silver medals from Spectrum and the Society of Illustrators.

Irene was also one of the founding members of the Tor.com website. In its first decade Tor.com has become a must-read site for science fiction and fantasy fans, and one of the most frequented publishing websites. Tor.com has won numerous awards for its original fiction, nonfiction, and art, including the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus Awards….

(2) GOVERNING SPACE. Future Tense, a partnership ofSlate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society, is going to be holding a symposium on July 10 addressing the question “How Will We Govern Ourselves in Space?” They’re planning to livestream the event. The complete schedule is here.

(3) MARVEL SALE. Through 6/23 11 PM EDT,Marvel Digital Comics Shop is holding a storewide Buy One Get One Free Sale.

With the purchase of a comic or collection, you’ll get another digital title — for FREE! Use code MARVEL2019 at checkout for this unbeatable offer! [See site for details.]

Looking for prelude reading to Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: Far From Home? Try the classic collection SPIDER-MAN VS. MYSTERIO, and read a curated handful of the Wall-Crawler’s best battles against the Master of Illusion! Or, try best-selling horror mag IMMORTAL HULK! Seeking a high stakes blockbuster? Try the ongoing event WAR OF THE REALMS today, and see Avengers, X-Men, street-level heroes and more, unite against Malekith’s global siege of Midgard! And it’s by MIGHTY THOR maestros Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson!

Our Buy One Get One Free Sale is a perfect opportunity to discover a new series that piques your interest! Explore top-sellers from our STAR WARS lineup, or pick up the ongoing alt-universe X-Men arc AGE OF X-MAN! Or, check out the return of Cimmerian barbarian CONAN in his current series! New to comics and looking for a place to dive in? Visit the Digital Comics Shop’s READING LIST Section, and explore themed lists based off your favorite characters, creators, events and more! Get inspired by our favorite Spider-Man starter stories here!

(4) THE DEVIL MADE THEM DO IT. The Guardian reports“Thousands petition Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime’s Good Omens”.

More than 20,000 Christians have signed a petition calling for the cancellation of Good Omens, the television series adapted from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel – unfortunately addressing their petition to Netflix when the series is made by Amazon Prime.

… they say that Good Omens is “another step to make satanism appear normal, light and acceptable”, and “mocks God’s wisdom”.

(5) STICK A FORKY IN IT. Leonard Maltin pronounces Toy Story 4 a Summertime Treat”.

I was dubious about the first sequel to Pixar’s wonderful Toy Story, which turned out to be terrific. But a fourth go-round for Woody, Buzz and company? I harbored doubts but I should have had more faith in the Pixar team. This is a highly enjoyable film with laugh-out-loud gags, ingenious plotting, and endearing new characters. By the closing scene I found myself marveling at how my emotions were stirred by these innately inanimate objects.

(6) ON THE AUDIO. Natalie Zutter points the way to “8 Sweet, Funny, Thrilling Queer Fiction Podcasts” in a post for Tor.com.

Seven years on, queer characters are found in every corner of the expanding audio drama world. So this list of recommendations is by no means exhaustive; it is simply one starting point based on the SFF series I’ve laughed, gasped, and teared up at. From radio-show hosts caught up in romantic fanfic tropes to stories that aren’t about ships but just about being a queer person in the world, these eight fiction podcasts are something to be proud of.

(7) THEY HAD BAD CHEMISTRY. Lila Shapiro on Vulture spent three days with Sherilynn Kenyon in order to profile the author and explicate her many, many problems: “‘I Really Thought He Was Going to Kill Me and Bury My Body’ A romance author accused her husband of poisoning her. Was it her wildest fiction yet?”

Kenyon had her blood, hair, and nails tested for 21 different heavy metals. The results, which she shared with me, appeared to show elevated levels of chromium, beryllium, manganese, nickel, cadmium, antimony, platinum, mercury, lithium, selenium, tin, barium, thorium, and arsenic. These tests are the basis of her claim that she was poisoned. But when I spoke with Dr. Ernest Lykissa, the lead scientist of the lab that performed the tests, he said the concentrations of heavy metals in her system weren’t high enough to support her theory. “In this case,” he said, “the only thing I see is environmental exposure.” He thought she’d probably absorbed the metals from her surroundings — from the paint in her home, for example, or the exhaust from her car.

Kenyon never had any direct contact with Lykissa. To get tested, she stopped into Any Lab Test Now, a strip-mall operation that promises to have patients “in and out in 15 minutes.” It collected the samples of her blood, hair, and nails and forwarded them to Lykissa’s company, ExperTox, which then produced a list of the toxins found in the samples and their concentrations. In order to have those results interpreted by a scientist at ExperTox, Kenyon would have had to pay extra — a step she didn’t take, according to Lykissa. When I mentioned this to Bruce Goldberger, the president of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology and the director of forensic medicine at the University of Florida, he found it troubling. At my request, Goldberger had reviewed Kenyon’s test results and had come to the same conclusion as Lykissa — that she hadn’t been poisoned. But he felt that Lykissa’s company had failed her. “She’s convinced herself that her illness is associated with poisoning,” he said; by giving her results without any analysis, he continued, ExperTox allowed that belief to endure.

(8) HEINLEIN NOVEL MAKES SLOW PROGRESS. Arc Manor / Phoenix Pick admitted to folks on their mailing list that they are “having some issues with the title of the new Heinlein novel, Six-Six-Six” – one being that it won’t be published with that title.

All parties have now agreed on the final title for the book and we want our readers to be the first ones to know.

The new Heinlein novel is going to be titled:

The Pursuit of the Pankera 

With a sub-title that will go on both The Pursuit of the Pankera as well as the republished edition of The Number of the Beast.

Subtitle: A Parallel Novel about Parallel Universes.

The Pankeran reference is directly from the book.

We will be announcing the release date soon. As for the status of the book; Pat LoBrutto has completed his overall editorial review of the book and it is about to go to a copy-editor.

The publisher says they’re going to attempt to defray some of their costs through a Kickstarter campaign.

The really cool part about this is that the Kickstarter will offer a presale of the book at less than the launch price of the book, which we figure is a win-win for all. Fans get to purchase the book at a lower price, and we can get some funds to help us pay for our production costs moving forward.

They haven’t set a release date yet.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s Shadow, The Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.) 
  • Born June 20, 1913 Lilian Jackson Braun. Author of The Cat Who… series which really may or may not be genre. The two cats in it are delightful and one, Koko, certainly has a sixth sense, but the author never suggests this is psychic. Good popcorn reading. (Died 2011.)
  • Born June 20, 1928 Martin Landau. I’ve got his first genre role as being on The Twilight Zone as Dan Hotaling in  “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” episode. Of course, his longest running genre role was as Rollin Hand on Mission Impossible though he had a good run also on Space: 1999 as Commander John Koenig. His last role was in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie voicing Mr. Rzykruski. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 20, 1951 Tress MacNeille, 68. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain
  • Born June 20, 1952 John Goodman, 67. Some may know him as the TV husband of a certain obnoxious comedienne but I’ve never watched that show. So I picture him as Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones, a role perfect for him. Mind you he’s had a lot of genre roles: voicing James P. “Sulley” Sullivan in the Monsters franchise, a cop in the diner in C.H.U.D., and he’ll even be the voice of Spike in the Tom and Jerry due out two years hence. 
  • Born June 20, 1957 Candy Clark, 71. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye and The Blob the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon. 
  • Born June 20, 1967 Nicole Kidman, 52. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical Magic, The Stepford WivesBewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), Paddington (anyone see this?) and her latest was as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman
  • Born June 20, 1968 Robert Rodriguez, 51. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll

(10) THE INSIDE STORY. Technology writer and programmer Paul Ford has posted a SF story idea inspired by the tireless forces of heroic keyboard warriors on the front lines of Twitfacegram:

The protagonist is always the last to know.

(11) THE NEW NEIGHBORS. Science diagrams ancient waves of migration in “Closest-known ancestor of today’s Native Americans found in Siberia”.

In the first study, researchers led by Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen, sequenced the whole genomes of 34 individuals who lived in Siberia, the land bridge Beringia, and Alaska from 600 to nearly 32,000 years ago. The oldest individuals in the sample—two men who lived in far northern Siberia—represent the earliest known humans from that part of the world. There are no direct genetic traces of these men in any of the other groups the team surveyed, suggesting their culture likely died out about 23,000 years ago when the region became too cold to be inhabitable.

Elsewhere on the Eurasian continent, however, a group arose that would eventually move into Siberia, splinter, and cross Beringia into North America, the DNA analysis reveals. A woman known as Kolyma1, who lived in northeastern Siberia about 10,000 years ago, shares about two-thirds of her genome with living Native Americans. “It’s the closest we have ever gotten to a Native American ancestor outside the Americas,” Willerslev says. Still, notes Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks who was not involved with the work, the relation is nevertheless distant.

Based on the time it would have taken for key mutations to pop up, the ancestors of today’s Native Americans splintered off from these ancient Siberians about 24,000 years ago, roughly matching up with previous archaeological and genetic evidence for when the peopling of the Americas occurred, the team reports today in Nature.

Additional DNA evidence suggests a third wave of migrants, the Neo-Siberians, moved into northeastern Siberia from the south sometime after 10,000 years ago. These migrants mixed with the ancient Siberians, planting the genetic roots of many of the area’s present-day populations.

(12) BDP. Bonnie McDaniel has posted her assessment of the Dramatic Presentation Short Form Hugo Finalists. The list begins with an item that ranks behind No Award on her ballot –

7) The Good Place, “Jeremy Bearimy”

I simply cannot comprehend many Hugo nominators’ and voters’ continued affection for this mess. This show grates on me like coarse sandpaper. In the interest of fairness, even though I hated the two episodes that were nominated last year, I tried to watch this and had to turn it off fifteen minutes in. The only good thing about this episode was the title, which provides a fairly witty, rhyming new name for “looping time-travel shenanigans.”

(13) WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Graphic Story Finalist reviews:

(14) RETRO REVIEWS. Click here for Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Hugo Novelette Reviews.

This week I will cover the Retro Hugo Best Novelette category. (It may be a mistake to start with the longest items first; as the works grow shorter they start seeming–and being–less complex and thought-provoking.)

“Citadel of Lost Ships” by Leigh Brackett is one of those stories that was based on the planetary knowledge of the time, particularly of Venus, but now is woefully outdated. However, that aspect of it is not the main story, merely the background for the characters, so it doesn’t intrude enough to cause problems. What is more problematic is the lack of subtlety in its essentially libertarian message dressed up in science fiction trappings.

(15) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter monitored the game —

Category: “Books of Mystery”

Answer: “This detective featured in 4 novels & 56 short stories was killed of in 1893, but that didn’t stop him for long.”

Wrong question: “Who is Poirot?”

(16) I DUB THEE. Ars Technica: “NASA reveals funding needed for Moon program, says it will be named Artemis”.

NASA revealed Monday that it needs an additional $1.6 billion in funding for fiscal year 2020 to stay on track for a human return to the Moon by 2024. The space agency’s budget amendment comes in addition to the $21 billion the Trump administration asked Congress for in March.

In a teleconference with reporters on Monday evening, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the budget amendment was a “down payment” on what will be needed in future years to fund the program. “In the coming years, we will need additional funds,” he said. “This is a good amount that gets us out of the gate.” He and the other NASA officials on the call would not say how much that would be.

Two people familiar with NASA’s internal deliberations say the agency has estimated that it needs as much as $6 billion to $8 billion a year for a lunar return by 2024.

[…] Bridenstine noted that, 50 years ago, the human program to land on the Moon was named after Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto. Because the return to the Moon will include women, Bridenstine said the new program would be named Artemis, after Apollo’s twin sister.

“Our goal here is to build a program that gets us to the Moon as soon as possible that all of America can be proud of,” he said. […]

(17) MEET THE NEW BOSS. Mashable: “Women are now in charge of NASA’s science missions”.

When the next car-sized rover lands on Mars in 2020, the ultimate head of this extraterrestrial endeavor will be physicist Lori Glaze. She’s leads NASA’s Planetary Science Division. 

And she’s not alone. For the first time in history, three of NASA’s four science divisions are now run by women, a milestone announced by NASA on Friday. 

“I am proud to say that for the 1st time in #NASA’s history, women are in charge of 3 out of 4 #NASAScience divisions. They are inspiring the next generation of women to become leaders in space exploration as we move forward to put the 1st woman on the Moon,” NASA’s associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted Friday.

(18) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur callas all aboard for “Quick Sips – Uncanny #28 [June stuff]”.

June’s Uncanny Magazine brings a bit of heartbreak, a bit of horror, but also a bit of romance. At least, two of the stories feature some rich romantic themes, and develop characters reaching out in compassion even as the world around them seems to descend into some very dark waters. The works explore worlds dominated in many ways by cruelty, and seek to find compassion and empathy, sometimes rather forcibly. Throw in a pair of poems taking on some different meta-fictional lenses, and it’s an issue that will make you think even as it entertains. So let’s get to the reviews!

(19) PRIORITIES. “Poll: Americans Want NASA To Focus More On Asteroid Impacts, Less On Getting To Mars”NPR has the story.

Americans are less interested in NASA sending humans to the moon or Mars than they are in the U.S. space agency focusing on potential asteroid impacts and using robots for space exploration. That’s according to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Thursday, one month before the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the moon.

Two-thirds of respondents said monitoring asteroids, comets and “other events in space that could impact Earth” was “very or extremely important.” According to NASA, which watches for objects falling from space, about once a year an “automobile-sized [a]steroid hits Earth’s atmosphere,” but it usually burns up before it hits the surface. And the instances of larger objects actually making it past Earth’s atmosphere and causing any damage happen thousands of years apart, NASA says.

(20) ICE SPY. NPR tells how formerly classified photos help track change:“I Spy, Via Spy Satellite: Melting Himalayan Glaciers”.

The world’s glaciers are melting faster than before, but it still takes decades to see changes that are happening at a glacial pace.

To look back in time, researchers are turning to a once-secret source: spy satellite imagery from the 1970s and 1980s, now declassified. “The actual imagery is freely available for download on the USGS website, and people can use it,” says Josh Maurer, a doctoral student at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Maurer is the lead author of a study using satellite imagery to show that in the past 20 years, Himalayan glaciers melted twice as fast as they did in the 1980s and ’90s. The work was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

The spy satellite images come from KH-9 Hexagon military satellites, launched during the Cold War to help the U.S. peer over the Iron Curtain, says Summer Rupper, a co-author of the study. Each satellite was about the size of a school bus and carried miles of film. Packaged in buckets equipped with parachutes, the film was later ejected into the upper atmosphere and plucked out of the air over the Pacific Ocean by Air Force pilots. Most Hexagon images were declassified in 2011 as a continuation of a 1995 executive order by President Bill Clinton to release spy satellite footage that was “scientifically or environmentally useful.”

(21) THOSE WACKY KIWIS. The New Zealand Herald article “Random swordfight breaks out in New Plymouth intersection” really doesn’t have that much to say — it’s easier just to watch the video on Facebook.

On last Sunday afternoon, New Plymouth resident, Michael Atkinson, was driving up Devon St when he spotted four knights in armour sword fighting in the middle of the street.

He pulled over and filmed the tournament on his mobile.

In the video, Atkinson can be heard laughing in the background, repeatedly saying the whole thing was “random as” while the knights ran into the middle of the intersection and fought each other.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/6/19 Scroll Me Some Pixels And File Hacks, I Don’t Care If I Never Get Back

(1) F&SF COVER. Gordon Van Gelder, publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, shares a preview of their July/Aug. 2019 cover. The cover art is by Mondolithic Studios.

(2) RANKING SPACE OPERA. The readers of Discover Sci-Fi voted these as “The Top 10 Space Opera books or series of all time”. Coming in first place —

1. Honor Harrington series by David Weber

And the number one, all time best space opera as selected by DiscoverSciFi readers is the Honor Harrington series! Otherwise known as The Honorverse, most of the more than 20 novels and anthology collections cover events between 4000 and 4022 AD. Much of the series’ political drama follows that of Europe’s political scene from the 1500’s to 2000’s.

(3) PRIDE MONTH. Tor.com invites readers to celebrate with free novellas: “Happy Pride Month! Download These 4 Free LGBTQ+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novellas Before June 8!”

Download In Our Own Worlds now, featuring:

  • The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

(4) SUPER JOB. LAist interview Mark Waid about “How To Become A Comic Book Writer In LA: From A Legendary Superman Writer”.

STEP 2: BUILD A NETWORK

Waid attributes getting the chance to write comics to dumb luck. But there was also a lot of hard work. He started his career at Fantagraphics in Thousand Oaks, doing editing, layout, and other production on comic book fan magazine Amazing Heroes.

He also had the chance to write for the magazine, doing interviews that he described as puff pieces — but discovered that he was inadvertently networking, since he was now in touch with every editor and creator in comics.

When an editorial position opened up at DC Comics in 1987, he was known there for his work in those fan magazines.

“Was I interested in coming in for an interview? Well, yes. Jesus, yes,” Waid said.

(5) DRAINING THE SWAMP. At this DC they really did it — “‘Swamp Thing’ Canceled Less Than a Week After DC Universe Debut” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Just six days after its debut on DC Universe, Swamp Thing has been canceled.

Only one episode of the series has aired on DC Universe. The remainder of the show’s 10-episode run will play out on the streaming platform, but it won’t return after that. 

(6) IF YOU WILL. In “The Race to Venus”, Nature reviews the initiatives to explore Venus.

After decades of neglect, the world’s space agencies can no longer resist the pull of Earth’s evil twin.

…Venus is Earth’s double. Recent research has even suggested that it might have looked like Earth for three billion years, with vast oceans that could have been friendly to life. “That’s what sets my imagination

on fire,” says Darby Dyar, a planetary scientist at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. “If that’s the case, there was plenty of time for evolution to kick into action.” That could mean that Venus was (somewhat surprisingly) the first habitable planet in the Solar System — a place where life was just as likely to arise as it was on Earth. That alone is a reason to return to the former ocean world.

(7) LEAVING MEATSPACE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature this week reviews an SF novel in a substantive way – we perhaps get a full page SF novel a review once a year or twice if we are lucky.  Up this time is Neil Stephenson’s new novel Fall. “A digital god: Neal Stephenson rides again”

Neal Stephenson likes to blow things up. In Seveneves (2015), for instance, the prolific science-fiction writer detonated the Moon, then played out how humanity tried to save itself from extinction. In his new tome, Fall, the metaphorical explosion kills just one man.  But this is an individual sitting on a few billion dollars, and longing to escape the shackles of mortality. The aftermath of the blast is thus just as powerful, and changes the fate of humanity just as profoundly.

(8) NASA COLLECTIBLES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This Orion appears to be a spacecraft, rather than the boom-boom drive discussed in a recent scroll; submitted here for the souvenir-turtles (1) aspect: “Orion Collectibles”.

(1) If you don’t recognize the Heinlein reference, you won’t be gathering moss. Or syng pngf, aka Zamboni’d credentials.

(9) BEGIN AGAIN. The American Scholar’s George Musser weighs in on the future of the space program: “Our Fate Is in the Stars”.

…In space, no one can hear your echo chamber. Those who worked on Apollo were not immune to human foibles, such as being a little too fond of their own reasoning, but the mission came first. Fishman recalls disputes over the mission plan. Engineers in Huntsville wanted to fly directly from Earth orbit to the lunar surface. Engineers in Houston wanted to use lunar orbit as a way station. The meetings got heated. NASA commissioned two studies, with the twist that each team had to flesh out the other’s plan. Making the engineers step into each other’s shoes unstuck the debate, and Huntsville came around to Houston’s approach. That one decision ended up saving billions of dollars.

But as much as the Apollo program inspires, it also taunts. The unity of purpose, the technological virtuosity, and the exploratory achievements seem beyond us today—not just in space, but in every domain. I almost wish we didn’t remember Apollo, because the remembrances fill a void. The space program still does amazing things, but nothing like Apollo. The world has made itself a safer and healthier place, but some problems demand direction from the top, and we don’t get much of that.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 6, 1853 Charles Howard Hinton. British mathematician and writer of SF works titled Scientific Romances. He’s largely known now for coining the word “tesseract” which would get used by writers as diverse as Charles  Leadbeater, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Heinlein and  Madeleine L’Engle. He and his, errr, unique family would in turn figure into the fiction of Alan Moore, Carlos Atanes, Aleister Crowley, John Dewy and Jorge Luis Borges. (Died 1907.)
  • Born June 6, 1915 Tom Godwin. He published three novels and twenty-seven short stories in total. SFWA selected his story, “The Cold Equations”, as one of the best SF short stories published before 1965, and it is therefore included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964. (Died 1980.)
  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 72. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Of course, most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried  and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD to Strippers vs Werewolves. Versatile man, our Robert.  
  • Born June 6, 1951 Geraldine McCaughrean, 68. Fifteen years ago, she wrote Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to Peter Pan commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital, the holder of Peter Pan’s copyright which J.M. Barrie granted them. So has anyone here read it? 
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 60. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think could be considered the best SF series ever made. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and and as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. 
  • Born June 6, 1961 Lisabeth Shatner, 58. Uncredited as child along with her sister Melanie in “Miri” episode. Also appeared uncredited on TekWar entitled “Betrayal” which she wrote. The latter also guest-starred her sister, and was directed by their father.  Co-wrote with father, Captain’s Log: William Shatner’s Personal Account of the Making of Star Trek V the Final Frontier.
  • Born June 6, 1963 Jason Isaacs, 56. Captain Gabriel Lorca, the commanding officer of the USS Discovery in the first season of Discovery and also provided the voice of The Inquisitor, Sentinel, in Star Wars Rebels, and Admiral Zhao in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Oh, and the role of playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film franchise.
  • Born June 6, 1964 Jay Lake. Another one who died far too young. If you read nothing else by him, read his brilliant Mainspring Universe series. Though his Green Universe is also entertaining and I see Wiki claims an entire Sunspin Universe series is forthcoming from him. Anyone know about these novels? (Died 2014.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Love of books features in Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics:

(12) WW84. On Twitter, Patty Jenkins posted a photo of Gal Gadot’s snappy new costume for Wonder Woman 1984.

(13) GO WITH THE FLOW. Tor.com shows Sparth’s cover for the third book in the series — ”Revealing John Scalzi’s The Last Emperox. (Coming in April 2020.)

The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems—and billions of people—are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. This collapse was foretold through scientific prediction… and yet, even as the evidence is obvious and insurmountable, many still try to rationalize, delay and profit from, these final days of one of the greatest empires humanity has ever known.

(14) CAT TUBE. Science Direct has an article on “The use of animal-borne cameras to video-track the behaviour of domestic cats”.

…Free roaming domestic animals can have a profound effect on wildlife. To better understand and mitigate any impact, it is important to understand the behaviour patterns of the domestic animals, and how other variables might influence their behaviour. Direct observation is not always feasible and bears the potential risk of observer effects. The use of animal-borne small video-cameras provides the opportunity to study behaviour from the animal’s point of view….

A nontechnical article about the study in the Washington Post makes it sound like their effect isn’t as profound as advertised: “Catcam videos reveal cats don’t sleep all day. (Just some of it.)”

Indoors, Huck said, most cats’ No. 1 activity would almost certainly be sleeping. But these cats’ lives were recorded when they were outdoors, and they had a higher priority: Their top activity was “resting” — not sleeping, but not exactly up and at ’em. Another preferred pastime was “exploring,” which Huck said amounts to “sniffing at plants or things.”

Although “cats are famous for being lazy,” Huck said, even their alfresco resting was active, if subtly so. The cat’s-eye-view videos revealed many instances of felines sitting for some time in one spot, but “constantly scanning the area,” as evidenced by faint shifts in the camera angle — left to right, up and down.

“They are really very patiently watching the environment, not wasting energy,” Huck said.

(15) THE SOON TO BE LATE AUTHOR. You’ll need to hurry. In LA, it’s opening weekend for “The Assassination of Edgar Allan Poe” at the Downtown Repertory Theater. Tickets for Poe on June 7th, 7:30pm are $25 (discount)

(16) RETRO REVIEWS. Steve J. Wright has completed his Retro Hugo Novelette finalist reviews.

Novelette

(17) DRACULA’S BALLS. You didn’t know he lost them? Well, strictly speaking, “Dracula the Impaler’s 15th century cannonballs unearthed in Bulgaria”SYFY Wire’s has the story.

According to a report in Archaeology in Bulgaria, the balls were “most likely” used by Count Vlad in the winter of 1461-1462 during his “siege and conquest” of the Zishtova Fortress being held by the Ottoman Turks. The balls were used for culverins, an early, primitive form of the cannon.  

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

Pixel Scroll 6/5/19 En Pixel Cerrado, No Entran Scrolls.

(1) THE LAST DAY. Macmillan Publishers is moving from the Flatiron to the Equitable Building and taking Tor.com with it. Seanan McGuire commemorates the departure in her story “Any Way the Wind Blows”.

“Captain?”

I turn. Our navigator is looking over his shoulder at me. Well. One of his heads is. The other is still watching the curved window that makes up the front of our airship, crystal clear and apparently fragile. Most people who attack us aim for that window first, not asking themselves how many protections we’d put on a sheet of glass that size. The fact that it’s not a solid mass of bugs doesn’t seem to be the clue it should.

“What is it?”

He smiles uncertainly. “I think I see the Flatiron.”

Tor Books also posted a group shot taken outside the building here.

(2) PITT THE YOUNGER SEEKS PITT THE ELDER. Ad Astra comes to theaters in September 2019.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system when he finds his missing father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, has been doing threatening experiments in space. He must unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(3) FROM DEEP IN THE FILES. Baen Ebooks is distributing the English translation of a nonfiction work Judgment in Moscow by Vladimir Bukovsky on its retail ebook site, as well as offering a selection of other ebooks from Judgment in Moscow publisher, Ninth of November Press.

Bukovsky spent years in the Soviet gulag, finally being released to the West in 1976. In 1991, Boris Yeltsin’s government asked Bukovsky to serve as an expert witness at a possible trial of the Communist Party. Bukovsky combed through the archives, scanning and copying much of the material there, and, after the trial became a dud, smuggled the material out of Russia. Judgment in Moscow is a behind the scenes look at these original documents which detail how the Soviet leadership and the Communist Party kept the Russian nation enslaved, accompanied by Bukovsky’s commentary elucidating the extent of the evil recorded therein.

Judgment in Moscow is based on the trove of Communist Party archives that Bukovsky spirited away before access was shut down. These contain elaborate details of Soviet meddling in Western politics, and it also details Western complicity in Soviet Russia’s program of totalitarian oppression. Originally written in Russian, Judgment in Moscow was seen as a major indictment of political treachery both inside and outside the USSR.

Baen’s press release says:

Western publishers, including Random House in America, backed down from publishing an English translation out of what appears in hindsight cowardice and fear of offending the emerging new Russian oligarchy. Now after years with no translation available, a new English version has finally been created with Bukovsky’s wholehearted participation.

(4) THE HITS OF SIXTY-FOUR. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert details the unexpected popularity in West Germany of movies adapted from the crime novels of Edgar Wallace – someone better remembered in America as the creator of King Kong. [June 4, 1964] Weird Menace and Villainy in the London Fog: The West German Edgar Wallace Movies.

…Wallace villains are never just ordinary criminals, but run improbably large and secretive organisations with dozens of henchmen. At least one of the henchmen is deformed or flat out insane, played either by former wrestler Ady Berber or a charismatic young actor named Klaus Kinski, who gave the performance of his life as a mute and insane animal handler in last year’s The Squeaker.

The crimes are extremely convoluted, usually involve robberies, blackmail or inheritance schemes and are always motivated by greed. Murder methods are never ordinary and victims are dispatched via harpoons, poison blow guns, guillotines or wild animals. The villains inevitably have strange monikers such as the Frog, the Shark, the Squeaker, the Avenger, the Green Archer or the Black Abbot and often wear a costume to match. Their identity is always a mystery and pretty much every character comes under suspicion until the big reveal at the end. And once the mask comes off, the villain is inevitably revealed to be a staunch pillar of society and often a member of Sir John’s club.

(5) GLORIOUS COVER. Alex Shvartsman posted a cover reveal for his debut novel, Eridani’s Crown. It’s a beauty.

The full wraparound cover was drawn and designed by Tomasz Maronski.

(6) HE’S IN THE HALL. SYFY Wire reveals “Batman first inductee to Comic-Con HOF”.

Holy Hall of Fame, Batman! The Caped Crusader is robbin’ all the other comic book superheroes to seize the illustrious distinction of becoming the very first inductee into the new Comic-Con Museum’s inaugural class of honored comics characters.

The Dark Knight will hold the door for all the rest of the museum’s first, still-unannounced heroic batch, DC revealed in a press release announcing “The Gathering,” a July fundraising event for the new museum. Located near the site of San Diego Comic-Con in the city’s Balboa Park, the Comic-Con Museum (or CCM) will be a 68,000-square-foot shrine to all things heroic and villainous, drawing on decades of rich history from the pages of comics, graphic novels, and more.

“On the occasion of Batman’s 80th anniversary, a ceremony honoring DC’s most popular super hero will be the centerpiece” of the July 17 event, which is timed to help kick off this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

(7) DARK PHOENIX. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Nicholas Hoult and Tye Sheridan talk about making Dark Phoenix together and reveal some of their on-set antics.

(8) FINANCIAL OMENS. Our Designated Financial Times Reader Martin Morse Wooster peered behind the paywall at Dan Einav’s interview with Michael Sheen and David Tennant about Good Omens.

Stars are usually personally held accountable when a series fails to meet the expectations of the fans–and lovers of fantasy and sci-fi are often notoriously implacable,  To say that a screen adaptation of “Good Omens” has been hotly anticipated is to understate the extent of the fervour Gaiman’s devotees have for his work.

Do the actors feel anxious about a potential backlash?  ‘I read the book when it first came outm so I’m one of those fans and I’ve felt the weight of expectation,’ says Sheen.  “But Neil has said all the way through that he’s not making it for the fans, he’s making it for Terry.”

Tennant, who is no stranger to opinionated fans from his days as Doctor Who, is a little more blunt,  ‘You can’t make TV which pleases what people’s preconceived notions might be.  You just have to make something you feel proud of and works for people who haven’t read the book.

(9) WHERE IS EVERYBODY? Likewise behind a paywall, at Commentary, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel argues in “Are We Alone In The Universe?” that the likelihood there is life elsewhere in the universe is vanishingly small.

When we ask the big question–where is everybody?–it’s worth keeping a great many possibilities in mind.  Aliens might be plentiful, but perhaps we’re not listening properly.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they might self-destruct too quickly to maintain a technologically advanced state.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they may choose to remain isolated.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they might purposely choose to exclude Earth and their inhabitants from their communications.  Aliens might be plentiful, but the problems of interstellar travel might be too difficult to overcome.

But there’s another valid possibility that we must keep in mind, as well:  Aliens may not be there at all.  The probability of the three vital leaps, as described above, is enormously uncertain.  If even one of these three steps is too cosmically impossible, it may well be that in all the universe, there’s only us.

(10) BRADBURY REMEMBERED. [Item by Robert Kerr.] “Ray died 7 years ago today. I know he’d like to be remembered, but he’d like to be remembered with joy. Among Ray’s many accomplishments was writing the script for the Epcot attraction Spaceship Earth. This picture was taken in 1982 at the opening of Epcot. Ray took a bus or train to get to Florida, but he had to get back to L.A. faster than a bus or train could get there. Ray was a self-proclaimed coward who didn’t conquer fears very well. He never drove a car his entire life, and at 62 he was going to get on a plane for the first time. He said they put a bunch of martinis in him and loaded him onto the plane. To commemorate the occasion of Ray’s first time on a plane, some Disney animators drew a piece showing Ray on a plane, martini in hand, with Mickey Mouse sitting next to him. Ray kept that piece on display in his study for the rest of his life.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 5, 1908 John Russell Fearn. British author and one of the first British writers to appear in American pulp magazines. A prolific author, he also published novels as Vargo Statten and with various pseudonyms such as Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong  and others. As himself, I see his first story as being The Intelligence Gigantic published in Amazing Stories in 1933. His Golden Amazon series of novels ran to over to two dozen titles, and the Clayton Drew Mars Adventure series that only ran to four novels. (Died 1960.)
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” on Star Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a series that would have starred Lansing and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as The Twilight ZoneJourney to the Unknown, Thriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.)
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 73. Einstein on Farscape, the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Also a British body guard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting for Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series
  • Born June 5, 1960 Margo Lanagan, 59. Tender Morsels won a World Fantasy Award for best novel, and Sea-Hearts won the same for Best Novella. She’s an alumna of the Clarion West Writers Workshop In 1999 and returned as a teacher in 2011 and 2013.
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 43. South African writer who’s the author of a number of SF novels. Zoo City won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award, The Shining City, about a time travel serial killer and the woman who catches him, is being adapted as a series in South Africa, and Moxyland is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Very impressive! 

(12) WHO WRITER OUSTED FROM ANTHOLOGY. Gareth Roberts has been “dropped from an upcoming Doctor Who anthology over ‘offensive’ transphobic tweets” BBC Books has confirmed.

Parent company Ebury confirmed that Roberts’ contribution to Doctor Who: The Target Storybook, will not feature….

Ebury’s decision to drop Roberts over his tweets, which it says conflicts with its “values as a publisher”, has sparked debate on social media.

Gareth Roberts defends and explains himself and the terminology he used in a “Statement on BBC Books and Transgenderism” on Medium.

(13) CURRENCY EVENTS. In “If We Told You Neal Stephenson Invented Bitcoin, Would You Be Surprised?” on Reason.com, Peter Suderman says, in a survey of Stephenson’s novels, says that in The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon, Stephenson “described the core concepts of cryptocurrency years before Bitcoin became a technical reality.”

For nearly three decades, Stephenson’s novels have displayed an obsessive, technically astute fascination with cryptography, digital currency, the social and technological infrastructure of a post-government world, and Asian culture. His novel Anathem is, among other things, an elaborate investigation into the philosophy of knowledge. His new book, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, pursues these themes literally beyond the grave, into the complications of estate planning and cryogenics.

(14) CALLING LONG DISTANCE. Drop by the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum between now and January 12, 2020 to see the phone he used to call the Moon in the interactive exhibit Apollo 11: One Giant Leap for Mankind.

Artifacts and objects featured in the exhibit include:

  • Buzz Aldrin’s penlight used in the Lunar Module and Apollo 11 patch worn on the surface of the moon
  • NASA X-15 silver-gleaming pressure suit used to train Neil Armstrong and America’s first astronauts in the 1950s
  • Moon rocks from the lunar surface, acquired during the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 missions
  • Oval Office telephone that President Nixon used to call Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they explored on the lunar surface
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom Award presented to astronaut Michael Collins by President Nixon
  • Original of President Nixon’s draft speech prepared in the event of a “moon disaster”
  • A 3-D printed, life-sized statue of Neil Armstrong in his space suit, as he climbed down the ladder of the Lunar Module on the moon
  • A giant, exact recreation of an Apollo mission command module

(15) HUGO CONTENDERS. Garik16 progresses with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Short Story “.

6th Place On My Ballot:.  “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)

This Story can be found HERE.

Thoughts:  This story won the Nebula Award, and I don’t think it’s a bad pick for the award, which is a testament to the strength of this ballot.  It’s a fantasy story about nine slaves’ lives and hopes, with the teeth taken from them as the gateway to their stories (and the effects of those teeth on George Washington) – with those slaves’ lives having various degrees of fantasy elements, all fitting the themes of those realistic slave-lives.  Still, I think it probably works the least of these six as a cohesive whole, even if the individual parts of this story are excellently done (with the final part reclaiming the supposedly noble action of Washington to free his slaves on his deathbed, in a really nice touch).

(16) NOT EXACTLY THE BURNING BUSH. NPR discusses the means of “Getting Fire From A Tree Without Burning The Wood”.

A scientist walks up to a cottonwood tree, sticks a hollow tube in the middle and then takes a lighter and flicks it. A jet of flame shoots out from the tube.

It seems like a magician’s trick. Turns out, there’s methane trapped in certain cottonwood trees. Methane is the gas in natural gas. It’s also a powerful greenhouse gas.

So how does it get inside towering trees like the ones on the campus of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee?

“The wood in this particular species naturally has this condition called wetwood, where it’s saturated within the trunk of the tree,” says the lighter-flicking scientist, Oak Ridge environmental microbiologist Christopher Schadt.

This wetwood makes for a welcoming home for all sorts of microorganisms.

…Some of those organisms turned out to be species of archaea that are known methane producers. So it’s not the trees themselves that are making the methane, it’s the microbes living in the trees.

…Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, Cregger says, it’s important to see how much of it the trees are actually producing.

This raises the surprising notion that trees could actually be contributing to global warming. Yes, these trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but could the methane be making things worse?

(17) CLARKE’S FOURTH LAW? BBC wonders “Does pornography still drive the internet?”.

Consider the opening lines of The Internet is for Porn, a song from the Broadway musical Avenue Q.

Kate Monster: “The internet is really, really great.”

Trekkie Monster: “For porn!”

…Credible-seeming statistics suggest that about one in seven web searches is for porn. This is not trivial – but of course it means that six in seven web searches are not.

The most-visited porn website – Pornhub – is roughly as popular as the likes of Netflix and LinkedIn. That’s pretty popular but still only enough to rank 28th in the world when I checked.

But Avenue Q was first performed in 2003, an age ago in internet terms, and Trekkie Monster might have been more correct back then.

New technologies often tend to be expensive and unreliable. They need to find a niche market of early adopters, whose custom helps the technology to develop.

Once it is cheaper and more reliable, it finds a bigger market, and a much broader range of uses.

There is a theory that pornography played this role in the development of the internet, and a whole range of other technologies. Does it stack up?

(18) GIMME THAT REAL OLD-TIME RELIGION. Beer helps: “How Iceland recreated a Viking-age religion”.

The Ásatrú faith, one of Iceland’s fastest growing religions, combines Norse mythology with ecological awareness – and it’s open to all.

…The ‘blót’, as the changing-of-the-season ceremony is known, began with the lighting of a small fire, which flickered in the breeze as the congregation listened to Old Norse poetry and raised the beer-filled horn to honour the Norse gods. Elsewhere on the island, similar ceremonies, I was told, were taking place.

The blót had been organised by the Ásatrú Association of Iceland, a pagan faith group that is currently one of the country’s fastest growing religions, having almost quadrupled its membership in a decade, albeit from a low base of 1,275 people in 2009 to 4,473 in 2018.

The congregation, which comprised a few dozen souls, including a Buddhist and a Hindu guest, had gathered near a sandy beach on the outskirts of Reykjavik, next to the city’s domestic airport, to celebrate the first day of the Icelandic summer. It was 25 April, slightly chilly and mostly overcast. Rain looked likely….

(19) WITH WINTER COMES ICE. The whole Game of Thrones cast raps in A Song of Vanilla Ice and Fire – Game of Thrones x Ice Ice Baby.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/19 Special Pixel Service — “Who Scrolls Wins”

(1) MILES TO GO. In “Lessons learned: writing really long fiction” on his blog, Charles Stross discusses his Merchant Princes and Laundry Files series and gives advice to authors planning multi-book series.

The first thing to understand is the scale of the task. Each of these projects, the Laundry Files and the Merchant Princes, represents a sunk cost of many years of full time labour. At my rate of production (roughly 1.5 novels per year, long term, where a novel is on the order of 100-120,000 words) either of them would be a 7 year slog, even if I worked at them full time to the exclusion of all other work. So we’re talking a PhD level of project scale here, or larger.

In reality, I didn’t work at either series full-time. They only account for two thirds of my novel-length fiction output: in the case of both series, I’ve gone multiple years at a time without touching them. Burnout is a very real thing in most creative industries, and if you work for a duration of years to decades on a single project you will experience periods of deep existential nausea and dread at the mere thought of even looking at the thing you just spent the last five years of your life on. It will pass, eventually, but in the meantime? Try not to put all your eggs in the one ultra-maxi-giant sized basket.

(2) CLICK WITHOUT THINKING. James Davis Nicoll gives us three reasons to click through to Tor.com —

There are in every field creators whose output has been lamentably small, people from whom one wishes more material had emerged. This is as true for science fiction and fantasy as any other field. Here are five authors on my “more, please” list.

…At other times, as with the following books, one has a nearly subconscious sense that somehow these works share something…without quite being able to articulate what that something is.

Who knows? If careless time travellers had stepped on different animals 541 million years ago, the Earth’s surface might be dominated by…larger but still squishy things, rather than our marvellous selves….

(3) 2020 VISION. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two) will host the “Ray Harryhausen | 100 years” exhibit from May 23-October 25, 2020

Special effects superstar Ray Harryhausen elevated stop motion animation to an art during the 1950s to 1980s. For the first time, Ray’s collection will be showcased in its entirety, and, as such, this will be the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of his work ever seen, with newly restored and previously unseen material from his incredible archive.

Ray Harryhausen’s work included the films Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films of the 50s and 70s, One Million Years B.C and Mighty Joe Young, and a wider portfolio including children’s fairy tales and commercials. He also inspired a generation of film-makers such as Peter Jackson, Aardman Animation, Tim Burton, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, and his influence on blockbuster cinema can be felt to this day.

This exhibition is in collaboration with the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday year. As part of a series of events and initiatives under the banner #Harryhausen100, this exhibition will be accompanied by screenings, workshops and more, bringing his creations to life once more and celebrating the legacy of a filmmaker who changed the face of modern cinema.

(4) HARRYHAUSEN TRIBUTE YOU CAN OWN TODAY. Steve Vertlieb says: “Scary Monsters Magazine presents Monster Memories, issue No. 27, is an all Ray Harryhausen issue, and features my affectionate tribute to Ray, and to our half century of friendship. This wonderful one-of-a-kind magazine is available, and on newsstands now. Get yours while copies last. You won’t want to miss this very special collector’s edition honoring the beloved special effects pioneer.”

(5) SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. This Kickstarter has funded and attained a whole series of stretch goals, but how can we resist?

(6) CRISIS MANAGEMENT. Start planning for your next social media disaster now! (Wait, that didn’t come out quite right.) Here’s Janet Falk’s article about “Advising a Client on Crisis Communications” [PDF file].

(7) A MODEST PROPOSAL.

Kind of interesting how this logic works. There’s a Hugo category for Semiprozines and Fanzines, but by design, no category for prozines (which Locus is) — it was superseded by the creation of the Best Editor (now Best Editor, Short Form) category. The rules say anything eligible in another Hugo category may not be nominated for Best Related Work, however, an editor and a magazine are by no means the same thing, and in the absence of a prozine category the rules don’t seem to prevent this result. Yet we’ve gone all these years without the Best Related category being captured by Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, etc. Someone needs to be reminded how this is supposed to work.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! Which was the genesis of Soylent Green. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 86. [86, you say?] Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series. She didn’t have that much of an acting career. 
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius  Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what oh role it it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. (Died 2008.)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WINGING IT. It’s a short post so I’ll just leave The Onion’s headline here: “Butterfly Under Immense Pressure Not To Fuck Up Timeline With Misplaced Wing Flap”.

(11) FILERS ON THE RONDO BALLOT. I was honored when it was pointed out to me that File 770 is up for the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award in the Best Website category. There are lots of true horror-oriented sites that deserve the award more, but news of that genre is part of the mix here. It’s a very nice compliment.

Don Glut’s film Tales of Frankenstein is a nominee in the Best Independent Film category. It’s an anthology-style film, inspired by the old Hammer Horror films from the 1950s. Ed Green has a part in the final chapter. It’s also the last film Len Wein acted in and is dedicated to his memory. Len Wein created Wolverine, as well as several of the “New” X-Men, and had a cameo in X-Men: Days of Future Past. In this trailer, Len appears around the :45 mark, and Ed very briefly as the priest on the right at 1:33.

And nominated for Best Article is Steve Vertlieb’s “Dracula in the Seventies: Prints of Darkness,” a restored version of an original article on the Christopher Lee vampire cycle.

Rondo voting is open – get full information here. The deadline is April 20.

(12) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. During the Cold War while the U.S. Air Force was inspiring Dr. Strangelove, the Royal Air Force was discovering the hazards of “Exploding Chocolate Teacakes”.

When Tony Cunnane joined the Royal Air Force in 1953, chocolate teacakes were “all the rage.” Employees aboard strategic nuclear strike aircrafts requested the snack be added to their in-flight ration boxes. But this wasn’t just a sugary jolt to fuel their Cold War training. Chocolate-coated marshmallow teacakes had become, as Cunnane described it, “the subject of some rather unscientific in-flight experiments.”

Shortly after the foil-wrapped treats appeared in RAF ration packs, pilots began to notice that as altitude increased, the teacakes expanded….

(13) RETURN TRIP. “SpaceX: Crew Dragon’s test flight in graphics”.

On Friday the Crew Dragon capsule will detach from the International Space Station (ISS) 400km above Earth and begin a fiery journey back through the atmosphere, ending in a splashdown 450km off the coast of Florida.

If all goes according to plan, it will wrap up the first complete test mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is expected to carry its first astronauts into orbit by the middle of this year.

(14) VERBING THE VEGETABLE. Take note: “Vienna’s unpredictable vegetable orchestra”.

They’ve played 300 shows around the world – and most of their instruments don’t make it through the set.

It’s three hours before showtime and members of an orchestra are seated onstage in the garden of a 1,000-year-old Benedictine monastery outside Cologne, Germany. On cue, the neatly coiffed, black-clad musicians slowly raise their instruments, purse their lips and begin playing the opening passage of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Just then, a sound technician abruptly cuts them off. The carrot flutes were too strong and he couldn’t hear the leek violin.

“One more time,” he says. “Starting with the cucumber.”

(15) SUPERHERO WADES IN. “Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot wades into Netanyahu row over Israeli Arabs” – BBC has the story.

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot has become embroiled in a row with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the status of the country’s Arab minority.

“Love your neighbour as yourself,” the Israeli actress said, amid wrangling over the role of Israeli Arab parties in upcoming polls.

Mr Netanyahu caused a stir when he said Israel “was not a state of all its citizens”, referring to Arabs who make up 20% of its population.

(16) GONE TO CAROLINA. Ian McDowell’s profile “Six-gun sisters and future female private eyes: The diverse pulp fiction of Nicole Givens Kurtz” for North Carolina’s Yes! Weekly delves into science fiction’s local culture wars.

…Another man with a variant of that name became the center of an online controversy involving Charlotte’s popular and long-running science fiction convention ConCarolinas last year. This was the conservative military science fiction and political action thriller writer John Ringo, whose announcement as Guest of Honor caused some other scheduled guests to boycott the convention.

Kurtz was one of those who announced she would not attend the 2018 convention, despite being previously announced as a guest. I asked her if she planned to attend this year’s ConCarolinas, which will be held May 31 through June 2 at the Hilton Charlotte University Place Motel.

“There is an entirely new board and new convention committee this year,” she wrote back, “so I am going to go and see if they’ve done anything differently. I know firsthand from speaking with board members and programming directors they are very interested in increasing diversity and fostering an open, collaborative, and safe environment. I am going to see the changes put in action. The board has stated they wanted to show fans that what was shown last year wasn’t who they are as a convention.”

John Ringo’s publisher is Baen Books, the science fiction and fantasy imprint founded in 1983 by conservative editor Jim Baen. Headquartered in Wake Forest and distributed by Simon and Shuster, Baen Books is also the publisher of several writers associated with the anti-diversity “Sad Puppies” movement formed as a reaction to what its members claim is the negative influence of “social justice warriors” on their genres. Although the Sad Puppies have repeatedly proclaimed their manifesto of restoring what they call the classic virtues of old-fashioned action-adventure storytelling to science fiction and fantasy, few of them write nearly as well as the best of the 1930s and ‘40s pulp authors they claim to admire.

Last July, Baen Books published the Weird Western anthology Straight Out of Tombstone, edited by David Boop. It included Kurtz’s story “The Wicked Wild.” I asked her how it felt appearing in a book from the same publisher as John Ringo.

Kurtz replied that she and the book’s editor David Boop had been friends for decades. “I trusted him with my story, and with the material.” She also said that Straight out of Tombstone wasn’t a typical Baen publication. “I think they were surprised by the success of it. Baen is associated with the Sad Puppies, but I am not sure they want to just be known as the publisher of Sad Puppies authors. They have diverse titles in their catalog, so I didn’t worry about it too much, because I trusted my editor.”

Why does she write horror?

…But, she explained, for a kid growing up in public housing projects, nothing on the page was as frightening as the real world, where she saw people die from violence or drugs, and in which the Atlanta child murders dominated the T.V. news cycle. Horror was an escape from that.

(17) BEWARE THE FLARE. Evidence shows they can get bigger than we’ve ever seen — “Solar storm: Evidence found of huge eruption from Sun”.

Scientists have found evidence of a huge blast of radiation from the Sun that hit Earth more than 2,000 years ago.

The result has important implications for the present, because solar storms can disrupt modern technology.

The team found evidence in Greenland ice cores that the Earth was bombarded with solar proton particles in 660BC.

The event was about 10 times more powerful than any since modern instrumental records began.

The Sun periodically releases huge blasts of charged particles and other radiation that can travel towards Earth.

The particular kind of solar emission recorded in the Greenland ice is known as a solar proton event (SPE). In the modern era, when these high-energy particles collide with Earth, they can knock out electronics in satellites we rely on for communications and services such as GPS.

…Modern instrumental monitoring data extends back about 60 years. So finding an event in 660BC that’s an order of magnitude greater than anything seen in modern times suggests we haven’t appreciated how powerful such events can be.

(18) KEEPING THE BEAT. “‘Greatest drummer ever’ Hal Blaine dies aged 90” — no, not genre — but a subtle influence on a lot of us.

Hal Blaine, one of the most prolific and influential drummers of his generation, has died at the age of 90.

Over the course of his career, he played on countless hits by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys and John Lennon, amongst others.

But his most recognisable riff was the “boom-ba-boom-crack” bar that opened The Ronnettes’ Be My Baby.

…According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 2000, Blaine “certainly played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era, including 40 number one singles and 150 that made the [US] top 10.”

Among those songs were Elvis Presley’s Return to Sender, The Byrds’ Mr Tambourine Man, the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations, Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson, The Mamas and the Papas’ California Dreamin’ and the theme song to Batman.

Blaine also played on eight songs that won a Grammy for record of the year, including Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, 5th Dimension’s Aquarius/Let The Sunshine and Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In the Night.

(19) A HOLE IN YOUR POCKET. Coin designer has a novel goal: “Prof Stephen Hawking commemorated on new 50p coin”.

Prof Stephen Hawking has been honoured on a new 50p coin inspired by his pioneering work on black holes.

The physicist died last year at the age of 76, having become one of the most renowned leaders in his field.

He joins an elite group of scientists to have appeared on coins, including Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

Designer Edwina Ellis said: “I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought.”

(20) UNHAPPY ENDING. Anastasia Hunter told Facebook readers this video was taken at San Diego Comic Fest this past weekend and the speaker will not be invited back.

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