Pixel Scroll 6/24/19 The Beast That Shouted “It’s Too Dark In Here To Read!*@%#$” At The Heart (Of Darkness) In The World

(1) TIME FOR A CHAT. Juliette Wade’s new Dive Into Worldbuilding features inventive storyteller Jaymee Goh. Watch and listen on YouTube, or read the synopsis posted on the site. (Or both!)

It was a pleasure to have Jaymee Goh on the show after seeing her at SF in SF last month! If you’d like to learn about SF in SF (Science Fiction in San Francisco), go here. At that event, Jaymee read a horror story called “When the Bough Breaks,” so we started out by talking about that story….

“When the Bough Breaks” is set in Malaysia, and has a condominium building that is similar to the one in the real world collapse. There are many buildings designed with a courtyard in the middle so kids can play. In her story, the courtyard is between the condos and the face of the hill, and it’s called “The Cradle.”

I was really fascinated by the way Jaymee used language in her story. She explained to us that this is exactly how Malaysians talk. She described it as the country having several major languages, and people having a basolect – one main language – to which they would add grammar and vocabulary from others. Maybe the base would be Malay, with Chinese and English added. Maybe if the person was middle class it might be English with Malay and Chinese added. In the story, it’s very clear that this is not an exclusively English-speaking community. When she was hanging with friends there would be various groups with different accents.

I asked Jaymee if she found it at all hard to balance the authenticity of the speech with the need for the audience to understand it. She said it’s not too hard to balance because there’s high compatibility, with a lot of vocabulary and grammar coming from English.

“This is literally how my family talks,” she explains. There are degrees of difference from family to family. She compares her work to the short fiction of Zen Cho, who uses more Hokkien in the text.

(2) STRANGER THINGS FINAL TRAILER. It’s almost time. Stranger Things 3 premieres July 4.

(3) THE FALCON FLIES TONIGHT. SpaceX launches their Falcon Heavy rocket tonight from Cape Canaveral… the first-ever night launch for Falcon Heavy, and carrying a huge complement of various projects. Besides both civilian and military payloads (including the STP-2 mission for the Air Force), two of the projects JPL has been working on for over a decade — the Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) and a US/Taiwan joint weather data satellite called COSMIC-2 — are aboard the rocket. .

Forbes has a pre-launch story: “SpaceX Prepares For Its Most Difficult Launch With First-Ever Falcon Heavy Night Flight”.

A four-hour launch window for the rocket opens tonight, Monday June [24] at 11.30pm Eastern time. The rocket is set to lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch will be streamed live online, which you can follow here about 20 minutes before liftoff.

SpaceX webcast

Falcon Heavy’s side boosters for the STP-2 mission previously supported the Arabsat-6A mission in April 2019. Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters will attempt to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Falcon Heavy’s center core will attempt to land on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

(4) TOP CHILDREN’S BOOKS. The Independent’s Philip Womack lists the “30 best children’s books: From Artemis Fowl to Harry Potter”. I’ve read 14 of these.

But there isn’t room in this list for everything. I’m sure that every single reader will gasp at omissions and query the order. There are many personal favourites that I’ve left out, and many more 20th- and 21st-century writers whom I would have liked to include. 

This isn’t intended as a definitive ranking; but as an overview, and a guide. You’ll recognise many; a few perhaps will be not so well known, but deserve more attention. I’ve considered influence as well as originality; but crucially, all of the books here have stood the tests of time, taste and, most importantly, readers. Each one, whenever it was published, can be read and enjoyed by a child today as much as it was by the children of the past.

 (5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 24, 1983 Twilight Zone – The Movie premiered theatrically.
  • June 24, 1987 Spaceballs debuted.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 Ambrose Bierce. The Devil’s Dictionary is certainly worth reading but it’s not genre. For his best genre work, I’d say it’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” which along with his “The Tail of the Sphinx” gives you range of his talents. Both iBooks and Kindle offer up everything (as near as I can tell) he’s written, much of it free. (Died 1914.)
  • Born June 24, 1925 Fred Hoyle. Astronomer of course, but also author of a number of SF works including October the First Is Too Late which I think is among the best genre novels done. I’m also fond of Ossian’s Ride which keep its SF elements hidden until late in the story. 
  • Born June 24, 1937 Charles N. Brown. Founder and editor of Locus. I’m going to stop here and turn this over to those of you who knew him far better than I did as my only connection to him is as a reader of Locus for some decades now. (Died 2009.)
  • Born June 24, 1950 Nancy Allen, 69. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct to video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. (Oh that sounds awful.) And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. 
  • Born June 24, 1947 Peter Weller, 72. Yes, it’s his Birthday today too. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is Naked Lunch genre? Well Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise
  • Born June 24, 1950 Mercedes Lackey, 69. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year.  Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Gunn and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edgehill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. 
  • Born June 24, 1982 Lotte Verbeek,37. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the cross-world Counterpart series. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grimmy offers a surprising hint about what Batman does in the bat’room.
  • The aliens almost give the traditional greeting to the first human they meet: The Argyle Sweater.

(8) NSFWWW. They made a little mistake: “Samuel L. Jackson is furious over ‘Spider-Man’ poster error”.

Living up to the name of his Marvel character Nick Fury, Samuel L. Jackson unleashed an expletive-laden rant on Instagram about an error in a “Spider-Man: Far From Home” poster.  

(9) TALK TO THE BUG. “Chatty cockroach gets Greeks talking on Athens streets” says the BBC.

“Hello, I live in the sewers of Athens,” says the cockroach. “Yes, me too,” says an Athenian walking past, apparently unfazed by the idea of an insect talking to him from a drain.

Little does he know that, only a few feet away, artists Myrto Sarma and Dimitra Trousa are crouching over a tiny microphone, impersonating the cockroach in a voice they have rehearsed over and over.

The artists are delighted the man is engaging with their insect, explaining how his life has changed over the past decade. He was recently made redundant and has struggled to support himself ever since.

“It’s not nice up here any more,” he complains, speaking into the drain. “I think you’re better off staying down there.”

(10) THE PLAY’S THE THING. BBC reports “Toy Story 4 breaks global box office record for animation”.

Toy Story 4, the long awaited fourth film in the animated franchise, has broken global box office records for an animated movie.

It earned $238m (£187m) since opening worldwide over the weekend, performing particularly well in Latin America and Europe.

The film struggled in China, however, and also failed to meet expectations in the US, where its $118m (£93m) fell short of a predicted $140m (£110m).

(11) OUTSIDE OF AN OCTOPUS. In the Washington Post, Lela Nargi interviews Alon Gorodetsky, lead researcher of a team at the University of California (Irvine) who is looking at the color-changing abilities of octopi (known as biomimicry) to come up with clothes that can make a user warmer or colder depending on what she desires. “How can an octopus help us stay warm?”

…Ever since, Gorodetsky’s lab at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) has been trying to make what he calls “technologically valuable things” based on cephalopods’ camouflaging skills. They’ve finally succeeded in creating a material that will let people, not disguise themselves as rocks and algae, but regulate how warm or cool they feel. The UCI team built this material using biomimicry — watching how a biological organism behaves, then imitating it.

Cephalopods have a layer of skin that’s packed with pigment-containing cells called chromatophores. When you can’t see the cephalopod, it’s expanding and contracting its chromatophores between little upright points and big, flat disks. Think about drawing dots on a piece of plastic wrap, says Gorodetsky, then stretching the plastic so that those dots get much bigger….

(12) THE FUTURE? WE’RE THERE. The New York Times weighs in on a new HBO series scripted by veteran Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies: “Review: In ‘Years and Years,’ Things Fall Apart, Fast”.

Ever feel like there’s too much happening? That the news is out of control? That there’s barely time to process one outrage before another replaces it, leaving just the faint memory and a little bit of scar tissue from the previous Worst Thing to Ever Happen?

“Years and Years” is not the escape for you.

The HBO limited series, from the British writer Russell T Davies, is about a lot of ideas: runaway technology, European nationalism, the failure of liberal democracy. But its overarching idea, driven home by its pell-mell narrative, is, “Man, there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on these days.”

This six-episode limited series, beginning Monday, is half family drama, half speculative fiction. It starts in the present, with the adult children of the Lyons clan of Manchester welcoming a new baby into the family. Then it tears ahead five years into the future, its foot jammed on the accelerator, and shows us what rough beasts are being born elsewhere.

World governments continue to lurch toward right-wing xenophobia. China builds a military installation on an artificial island. War breaks out in Ukraine. A nutty, populist entrepreneur, Vivienne Rook (Emma Thompson), runs for Parliament. Oh, P.S.: There are no more butterflies!

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

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 6/14/19 Of All The Pixel Joints In All The Scrolls In All The World, She Files Into Mine

(1) DUBBED. The Daily Mail’s headline is apt: “The knight who says Ni! Actor Michael Palin receives his knighthood from Prince William in 50th anniversary year of Monty Python”.

Sir Michael Palin managed to suppress a joke when collecting the ‘unbelievable’ honour of a knighthood from the Duke of Cambridge for his post-Monty Python career.

The writer and broadcaster was dubbed a knight by William for services to travel, culture and geography, making him the first star of the sketch show to receive the honour.

(2) CHANGING FORMULAS IN STORYTELLING. In “Love isn’t what it was” on Aeon, graduate student Sophus Helle says that animated films Disney has released in this decade, including Brave, Frozen, Finding Dory, and Inside Out, show that in these films “the ideal of heterosexual romance has been replaced by a new ideal: family love. The happy ending of our most watched childhood stories is no longer a kiss.”

…It’s not just the word ‘love’ that has changed meaning over the past 10 years of Disney. The word ‘family’ has done the same. Neither Mother Gothel nor the fairy godmother of Maleficent are the biological parents of the films’ main characters, but they still end up taking emotional centre-stage because the actual biological parents are either cruel and psychotic, as in Maleficent, or distant and idealised, as in Tangled. Parenthood is determined by one’s emotional bonds. As a result, the very question of what counts as a ‘family’ in Disney has become more ambiguous and more modern.

(3) BOMBS AWAY. NPR’s Scott Tobias advises, “Erase The Awful ‘Men In Black: International’ From Your Mind”.

If Hollywood studios are content to cannibalize the vaults in search of new hits, the first thing they should remember is why the original films were hits in the first place. For all the bells and whistles that went along with the original 1997 Men in Black, with its cutting-edge alien effects, the reason it works is extremely old-fashioned, rooted in an effective cross-pollination between fish-out-of-water comedy and mismatched buddy comedy.

…There’s a lot of plotting in Men In Black: International, which makes room for a diabolical three-armed seductress (Rebecca Ferguson) and a compact weapon of planet-destroying power, but the more the story unfurls, the deeper the film sinks into quicksand. Director F. Gary Gray and his screenwriters, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, have made the crucial mistake of believing the franchise needs complex world-building instead of streamlined comedy. Even if the events in the film made any kind of sense, they were never going to matter as much as the good time Hemsworth, Neeson and the two Thompsons are supposed to be showing us. And yet that’s where the emphasis lies.

The Boston Globe gives it 2.5/4 stars.

(4) FIRE TWO. NPR’s Andrew Lapin says “‘The Dead Don’t Die’ In Jarmusch’s Latest, But Your Patience Will”.

“This is going to end badly,” Adam Driver says, over and over with slight variations, in the new zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die. It’s both the movie’s catchphrase and raison d’être. Things tend not to end well in general, because people have a habit of taking bad situations and making them worse, and there’s no reason to suspect that will change when the dead are rising from their graves and feasting on the bodies of the living. To the extent that the film has a joke, this is it: Humans mess everything up, and in the end probably aren’t worth saving.

All fair points. But does that sound fun to watch? Maybe it could have been, in another universe, with this exact cast and this exact director. Jim Jarmusch is a national treasure, after all, and he’s already proven himself a master of idiosyncratic, cracker-dry comedies that play with our love of dead or dying cultural icons, from Elvis to diners to samurai. But as The Dead Don’t Die smirks through its ironic corpse pile-up, dispatching a parade of beloved actors like rancid meat and playing the same original Sturgill Simpson tune on loop, it’s hard not to wonder if the joke is on us for watching it.

And the Boston Globe gives this one only 1.5 stars.

(5) THEY LOVE TOY STORY 4. But wait! BBC says this one’s getting good reviews — Toy Story 4: What did the critics think?” Out today in the UK, the fourth (and supposedly final) instalment of Toy Story has been warmly welcomed.

Woody, Buzz and Jessie are returning nine years after they said goodbye to Andy and settled into their new home with Bonnie at the end of Toy Story 3.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy said: “It’s now certain what one of the summer’s blockbusters will be.

“More than that, how many other film series can legitimately claim to have hit four home runs in a row?” he added.

Variety’s Peter Debruge said the movie gives “satisfying emotional closure”, adding that “the fourth movie wraps up the saga beautifully”.

He added the film “explores the idea of purgatory: What’s it like for a plaything to be ignored, overlooked or entirely unused?”

(6) WOODY ON TOUR. Tom Hanks went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to promote the movie, and showed he didn’t think much of the heavy-handed guidance he was given by the marketing division: “Tom Hanks Shares Disney’s Strict Rules for ‘Toy Story 4’ Media Tour”.

Hanks also decided to poke more fun at the late-night host by reading a surprising note Disney gave him for any time he would make an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! “When doing Kimmel, please do not mention the Academy Awards. What’s that about?” Hanks asked. After Kimmel questioned why they would add that note, the actor replied: “You got bounced, my friend!” 

With fans anticipating the fourth installment of the popular franchise, Hanks celebrated Toy Story 4 for adding new talent in Tony Hale, Keanu Reeves and Carl Weathers. Though he’s starred as Woody since the original film, Hanks revealed that Toy Story 4 may be the best film in the franchise. 

“I know it sounds ridiculous because I’m in it, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life.” 

Hanks also revealed that he didn’t know Weathers was in the film. “We never see each other. We maybe will run into each other when somebody’s session finishes and the other is waiting to go on, but at the premiere I saw Carl Weathers and I had to go shake the man’s hand because not only was he Apollo Creed, he was Action Jackson,” said Hanks.

(7) FAMILIAR VOICE. The new Maltin on Movies podcast brings us “Alan Tudyk”.

Alan Tudyk is a gifted actor and a familiar face who achieved cult status as a costar of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its follow-up feature-film Serenity…but he’s also become the man of a thousand voices. If you’ve seen Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, or even Rogue One: A Star Wars Story you’ve heard his facility with accents, dialects, and the ability to embody colorful characters. He also stars in one of Leonard and Jessie’s favorite unsung movies, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Alan is only too happy to demonstrate his vocal talents during our hilarious interview. Angelenos can currently see him onstage in Mysterious Circumstances at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 14, 1908 Stephen Tall aka Compton Crook. Stephen Tall was the most common pseudonym of American science fiction writer Compton Newby Crook. He wrote two novels, The Ramsgate Paradox (in his Stardust series) and The People Beyond the WallThe Stardust Voyages collects the short stories in that series. The Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award was established by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in his name for best first novel in a given year. He is not available in digital form in either iBooks or Kindle. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 14, 1909 Burl Ives. No, I’m not including because of being him voicing  Sam the Snowman, narrator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in that film though I could argue it is  genre. No, I’m including him because he was on The Night Gallery (“The Other Way Out” episode) and appeared in several comic SF films, Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Earthbound. He also appeared in The Bermuda Depths which is more of a horror film. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 14, 1914 Ruthven Todd. Scottish author of mostly children’s books whose series The Space Cats begins with Space Cat and features a cat who stows away on a spaceship.  He wrote several more conventional genre novels as well, Over the Mountain and The Lost Traveller. A Space Cats omnibusand The Lost Traveller are available at iBooks and Kindle. (Died 1978.)
  • Born June 14, 1921 William L. Hamling. He was a lifelong member of First Fandom. Editor of the Stardust fanzine in 1940, and Imagination and Imaginative Tales in the Fifties. He did the 1940 Chicon program book with Mark Reinsberg.  And his Regency publishing concern in the Fifties would do paperback editions of Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Bloch and Philip José Farmer. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 14, 1949 Harry Turtledove, 70. I wouldn’t know where to begin with him considering how many series he’s done. I’m fairly sure I first read novels in his Agent of Byzantium series and I know his Crosstime Traffic series was fun reading. 
  • Born June 14, 1972 Adrian Tchaikovsky, 47. He is best known for his Shadows of the Apt series, and for Children of Time which won an Arthur C. Clarke Award. The After War series is multi author. He wrote the first, Redemption’s Blade, and Justina Robson wrote the second, Salvation’s Fire

(9) THINKGEEK SALE. The ThinkGeek website is moving its business the main GameStop website, and they’re doing a 50% off sales-final sale on the whole site if you use the code MOVINGDAY. While supplies last, of course. As for the future —

IS THINKGEEK SHUTTING DOWN?

Nope. On July 2nd, 2019, ThinkGeek.com will be moving in with our parent company GameStop. After this move, you will be able to shop a curated selection of unique items historically found on ThinkGeek.com via a ThinkGeek section at GameStop

Daniel Dern returns from a personal scouting expedition to say, “Alas, the Con Survival Bag of Holding is out of stock, and I don’t even see the class Bag of Holding (which had been revised/updated in the past year, although I haven’t yet seen it up close and personal).”

(10) TROJAN APP. According to NPR, “Spain’s Top Soccer League Fined For Using App To Spy On Fans In Fight To Curb Piracy”.

On Tuesday, Spain’s premier soccer league, La Liga, was hit with a 250,000-euro fine — about $280,000 — for using its mobile phone app to spy on millions of fans as part of a ploy to catch venues showing unlicensed broadcasts of professional matches.

The country’s data protection agency said the league’s app, which was marketed as a tool to track game scores, schedules, player rankings and other news, was also systematically accessing phones’ microphones and geolocation data to listen in on people’s surroundings during matches. When it detected that users were in bars, the app would record audio — much like Shazam — to determine if a game was being illegally shown at the venue.

(11) VENICE OF THE NORTH. Like they say, if it’s not Scottish, it’s… “Scotland’s crannogs are older than Stonehenge”

Archaeologists have discovered that some Scottish crannogs are thousands of years older than previously thought.

Crannogs were fortified settlements constructed on artificial islands in lochs.

It was thought they were first built in the Iron Age, a period that began around 800 BC.

But four Western Isles sites have been radiocarbon dated to about 3640-3360 BC in the Neolithic period – before the erection of Stonehenge’s stone circle.

(12) BUILT TO LAST. BBC asks “How to build something that lasts 10000 years”.

Alexander Rose and a team of engineers at The Long Now Foundation are building a clock in the Texan desert that will last for 10,000 years. He explains what he’s learnt about designing for extreme longevity.

…Over the last two decades, I have been working at The Long Now Foundation to build a monument-scale “10,000 Year Clock” as an icon to long-term thinking, with computer scientist Danny Hillis and a team of engineers. The idea is to create a provocation large enough in both scale and time that, when confronted by it, we have to engage our long-term future. One could imagine that if given only five years to solve an issue like climate change, it is very difficult to even know where to begin because the time scale is unreasonable. But if you reset the scale to 500 years, even the impossible can start to seem tractable.

Building a 10,000-year machine required diving into both history and the present to see how artefacts have lasted. While we can slow the workings of the clock itself down so that it only ticks as many times in 10,000 years as a watch does in a person’s lifetime, what about the materials and location? Over the last 20 years I have studied how other structures and systems have lasted over time, and visited as many of them as I can. Some sites have been conserved by simply being lost or buried, some have survived in plain sight by their sheer mass, others have had much more subtle strategies.

(13) URSA MINOR. In Mission: Unbearable, Kuma Bear is tasked with a Mission to SpikeCon.

(14) DOCTOR SLEEP. The official trailer has been released for Doctor Sleep, based on Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/21/19 The Pixelyon Fifth Project Was The Last Best Hope For Scrolls. It Filed

(1) STICK A FORK IN IT. The second official trailer for Toy Story 4 dropped today. Features Keanu Reeves, who adds Canadian content to the movie as stuntman Duke Caboom. The film comes to U.S. theaters on June 21.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

(2) ARF SAYS SANDY. The Dick Tracy strip seems to be starting an arc involving Annie and Daddy Warbucks. Daniel Dern says, “I’ve been following sundry daily strips via GoComics but it appears to have started a week ago here.”

(3) SFWA’S AGENT. Michael Capobianco penned “An Appreciation of Eleanor Wood” for the SFWA Blog.

SFWA thanks Eleanor Wood and Spectrum Literary Agency for more than twenty years of service to the organization….

I still vividly remember how much Eleanor helped when SFWA’s auditor found a serious discrepancy in how Pocket Books was paying royalties for Star Trek books exported to the UK and Australia – they weren’t paying anything, contrary to the language in their boilerplate contract. SFWA complained to Pocket but was met with repeated demurrals; it was only when Eleanor took over that they capitulated, not only paying a fair compensation to all the authors affected, but getting the contract changed to more fairly pay authors in the future….

(4) THE SPIDER SYNDROME. Maurice Broaddus delivers today’s “The Big Idea” at Whatever.

The Usual Suspects is a bit of a departure for me. It’s a middle school detective novel (think “Elmore Leonard for kids” or, as it was pitched, “Encyclopedia Brown meets The Wire”), because I work a lot with children who want to read what I write and, frankly, most of my stuff isn’t “age inappropriate.” In fact, I originally wrote the book to both entertain my oldest son and chronicle some of my children’s antics (it’s the only thing of mine he’s read and he still refers to himself as my original editor). The premise of the story is The Big Idea: when something goes wrong in the school, they round up The Usual Suspects….

(5) AI AT BARBICAN. This is from a review by Simon Ings behind the Financial Times paywall of the “AI:  More Than Human” exhibit now showing at London’s Barbican Centre through August 26.

AI is part of the Barbican’s ‘Life Rewired’ season of films, workshops, concerts, and talks.  What is emerging from the project is less that we must learn how machines think and create, and more that we must stop carelessly running down our own abilities.  Human values and practices persist well beyond the moment we learn to automate them.  Music has been produced algorithmically since Bach’s, and Mozart wrote generative algorithms to power street organs.  Chess computers do nothing but encourage the playing of chess.

The first tented spaces in the Barbican’s gallery do a good job of exploring and to some degree disarming our anxieties about being taken over by thinking machines.  We are shown how the west, under the shadow of Rabbi Loew’s 16th century Golem, adopted a strictly instrumentalist view of human intelligence.  The US science fiction writer Isaac Asimov can be heard channeling the Abrahamic tradition when he insists that ‘A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.’

(6) INSIDE THE SUIT. Patch O’Furr continues a deep dive into furry fandom with “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 2)”.

Furry fandom often has DIY ethics (intentional or not). That can mean nonprofit volunteer-led events, and directly supporting each other’s art instead of just consuming corporate products. A Daily Beast reporter asked about it and I shared lots of info that didn’t all make the news — so here’s a followup in 3 parts.

Fandom is big business in the mainstream – but furries have their own place apart. Why does this fandom grow independently? Let’s look at unique expression at the heart of it. Of course furries do a lot more things than this story can look at, but one aspect brings insight about decentralized structure.

Some subcultures rise and fall with media they consume. But the influences seen in Part 1 didn’t make one property in common for every furry. They didn’t rise with a movie like Zootopia. Instead, this fandom is fans of each other….

(7) GHOST OF COLAS PAST. This is hilarious. Food & Wine reports “‘New Coke’ Is Coming Back This Summer, Thanks to ‘Stranger Things'” – a product I definitely feel no nostalgia for, at all.

Season three of the spooky Netflix series takes place in 1985, the year of the soft drink brand’s most infamous product launch.

What Crystal Pepsi was to the 1990s, New Coke was to the ’80s. With the cola wars in full swing, the competition to out-do one another meant multi-million dollar, celebrity-filled ad campaigns and some less-than-successful product innovations. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company made an ill-fated attempt to improve its core product by changing the formula up….

Starting at 5 p.m ET on Thursday, May 23, 12-ounce cans of New Coke will be available as a gift with purchase at CokeStore.com/1985, which will also feature limited-edition, numbered Stranger Things-themed glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Coke Zero Sugar.

(8) CELEBRITY CREDENTIALS. Ten cats from SFF movies made Business Insider’s list — “RANKED: 15 of the best movie cats of all time”.

15. Jonesy in “Alien” (1979) and “Aliens” (1986) is a survivor.

In the space thriller “Alien,” Jonesy the orange tabby cat is a source of comfort for protagonist Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as her spaceship and crewmates are viciously attacked by an elusive alien creature called a Xenomorph.

Toward the end of the film, Jonesy and Ripley remain as the lone survivors on the spaceship, which means Jonesy is one tough cat.

Jonesy also made a reappearance in the sequel “Aliens” after he and Ripley traveled in hypersleep for 57 years, officially making him the oldest fictional cat on this list.

(9) ALIEN SPOTTED. A UFO will beam up this rare creature any moment now.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Another big day in genre movie history.

  • May 21, 1971 Escape from the Planet of the Apes premiered in theaters
  • May 21, 1980 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters.
  • May 21, 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior debuted in theaters.
  • May 21, 2009 Terminator Salvation opened theatrically.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau which is considered the first such filming. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 21, 1903 Manly Wade Wellman. I remember reading the John the Balladeer collectionKarl E. Wagner did and then seeking out the rest of those stories. Amazing stuff! Read the Complete John Thunstone a few years back — strongly recommended. What else by him should I read? (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason.  It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise, as Steve Martin. And unfortunately he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 21, 1945 Richard Hatch. He’s best known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of tie-in novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 21, 1974 Fairuza Balk, 43. She made her film debut as Dorothy Gale in Return to Oz. She later Aissa in The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch.

(12) KNITTING UP THE STEEL WOOL. Cora Buhlert does an exhaustive review of GoT’s conclusion: “And the Iron Throne Goes to…”. The executive summary is —

…So in short, Game of Thrones got a better ending than at least I expected. It’s maybe not the ending most fans wanted or expected, but it is an ending and a surprisingly satisfying one.

(13) GAME OF GROANS. Daniel Dern asks, “Given GoT’s dragon-strafing episode, combined with family tree revelations, is/was Jon Snow referring to Daenerys as ‘Aunt Misbehaving’?”

(14) CONFESSIONS OF A DRAGON RIDER. Sarah Larson, in “Daenerys Tells All!” in The New Yorker, has an extensive interview with Emilia Clarke, including how whoever had the Starbucks cup on the set wasn’t a member of the cast (they don’t drink Starbucks) and telling children named Daenarys, “Work it, girls!”

“I see this vision, this angel, this incredible woman float towards me,” Clarke recalled the other day. “I can’t quite control myself. And Beyoncé says to me, ‘Oh, my goodness, it’s so wonderful to meet you. I think you’re brilliant.’ I just couldn’t handle it! I was on the verge of tears. I could see myself reflected in her eyes. I could see her go, ‘Oh, no. I misjudged this. This girl is crazy and I’m not going to have a real conversation with another celebrity. I’m having a conversation with a crazed fan who’s looking at me like a rabbit in the headlights.’ Which is exactly what I was. I said, ‘I’ve seen you live in concert and I think you’re amazing and wonderful! Wonderful!’ And all I wanted to scream was ‘Please, please still like me even though my character turns into a mass-killing dictator! Please still think that I’m representing women in a really fabulous way.’ ”

(15) FROM GRRM HIMSELF. George R.R. Martin shared a few of his feelings about “An Ending” at Not A Blog. Here are a couple of the less spoilery lines —

..Book or show, which will be the “real” ending?   It’s a silly question.   How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have?

How about this?  I’ll write it.   You read it.  Then everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the internet.

(16) GOOD TO THE LAST BOOK. Bustle knows the way to work this dilemma for some clicks: “The New ‘Game Of Thrones’ Book May Not Be Finished, But These 15 Fantasy Series Definitely Are”.

If you’re a fan frustrated by the incompletion of one of the fantasy series listed above, or you’re waiting on the return of a different series entirely, this list will help you choose your next reading project. All of the fantasy series on the list below have been completed, which means you won’t have to wait to read the next book — unless you want to.

(17) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. You would be hard pressed to find a household that doesn’t have a microwave. But do you know how the beloved appliance came to be? In 1945, a Raytheon engineer was walking around a radar test room with a chocolate bar in his pocket. The bar began to melt when he got too close to a magnetron tube. His curiosity was peaked and he began experimenting with other things like kernels of corn and eggs. Soon after, Raytheon employees began sampling “microwaved” food and thus began the evolution of what we now know as the microwave. (Source: Business Insider)

Jon King Tarpinian includes a postscript: “A family friend worked at Raytheon, in Chatsworth/Canoga Park.  Her family had one before they were offered commercially.  Everybody raved about a grey steak.”

(18) BEYOND BAKING SODA. More than a science-fair project: “To Safely Study Volcanoes, Scientists Bring The Blast To Them” (includes video.)

Volcanoes have been crucial to life on earth. Oozing lava helped form the earth’s land masses. Gasses from volcanoes helped create our atmosphere. But despite the growing field of volcanology, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about volcanic eruptions.

That’s partly because volcanoes aren’t easy to study. Getting the right equipment into remote locations under unpredictable circumstances can be difficult. More importantly, studying active volcanos can be dangerous.

Which is why a group of 40 scientists and engineers from all over the world came together to simulate volcanic eruptions. We tagged along with them as they conducted their experiments at the University at Buffalo’s Geohazards Field Station, a former ballistics test site for military weapons in upstate New York.

The scientists simulated volcanic eruptions by detonating underground explosives. They wanted to study what happened during rapid fire eruptions in a safe and controlled environment. Although big eruptions are often what make the news, small rapid-fire volcanic eruptions are far more common.

(19) SPAM FROM THE CAN. BBC introduces us to “The pun-loving computer programs that write adverts”.

Machines are now writing advertising copy as well as basic news reports, but are their efforts any good and can they be taught to be more inventive?

“Have a suite stay” read an ad for a hotel offering all-suite rooms. A neat – if obvious – pun you might think.

But what made this ad noteworthy was that it was created by an automated copywriting programme developed by Dentsu Aegis Network, the marketing giant.

The firm launched its natural language generation algorithm last year to increase output after changes were made to Google’s advertising system, explains Audrey Kuah, the firm’s managing director.

The programme creates 20 to 25 full ads a second in English and is “trained” by feeding it thousands of the kind of ads it is meant to produce, she says.

(20) ARCHIE MCPHEE. What does this have to do with sff? If you know, leave your answer in comments.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Perspective on Vimeo, Fernando Livschitz dreams of really odd forms of transportation.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/20/19 You Can Do Such A Lot With A Pixel. You Can Use Every Part Of It Too

(1) DON’T BLAB. Mary Robinette Kowal dispenses some wisdom in “Debut Author Lessons: So you’ve been nominated for an award…”

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things and so here’s the stuff that I’ve told new Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell finalists.

When they say confidential… What they mean is that they don’t want the news to get out into the wider world. There are two reasons for this.

  1. They want to get as much traction with the news as possible. If it trickles out into the world a little at a time, it’s less good for everyone, including you.
  2. People are notified at different times. Sometimes this is because of categories and sometimes it is because a nominee declines and they go to the next person on the list.

And that’s just the beginning….

(2) TRAILER TIME. Disney Pixar has put out a full trailer for Toy Story 4.

Netflix has released its trailer for the third season of Stranger Things.

(3) WHEN TO EREWHON. The Erewhon Literary Salon will feature Ilana C. Myer and Nicholas Kaufmann on April 11. The readings will take place in the offices of independent speculative fiction publisher Erewhon Books in the Flatiron/NoMad district of Manhattan. To RSVP click here.

ILANA C. MYER has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance. She lives in New York.

NICHOLAS KAUFMANN is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated, Thriller Award-nominated, and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of six novels and two short story collections. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Black Static, Nightmare Magazine, Dark Discoveries, and others. In addition to his own original work, he has written for such properties as Zombies vs. Robots and The Rocketeer. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and two ridiculous cats.

(4) REGISTER ON THE RICHTER SCALE. Their ambition isn’t to end with a bang, but with a big “Cha-ching!” “CBS Seeks Up to $1.5 Million for Ads in ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Series Finale”.

The average cost for a 30-second ad in “Big Bang” for the current season hovers around $258,500, according to estimates from four media buyers. At $1.5 million, the price for a 30-second spot in the series finale would represent a 480% premium over current-season ad costs.

Yet series finales often draw bigger crowds than a normal episode. The last episode of “Seinfeld” drew 76 million viewers, for example, when NBC showed it on May 14, 1998. And the final original broadcast of “M*A*S*H” lured a whopping 105.9 million viewers when CBS ran it in 1983 – and remains one of the most-watched TV events of all time.

The cost to advertise in each of those shows was eye-popping: NBC sought between $1.4 million and $1.8 million for a 30-second spot in the “Seinfeld” ending, while CBS pressed for $450,000 to run a spot in the last broadcast of “M*A*S*H.”

(5) WHEN YOU GIVE AWAY THE STORE. Neil Clarke says the low percentage of readers who subscribe to or financially support sff magazines that make their fiction available free online (obviously) has a big impact on how staff/authors/artists are paid. Discussion thread starts here.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 20, 1948 John de Lancie, 71. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse. He also was Jack O’Neill’s enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar ManBattlestar Galactica (1978 version), The New Twilight ZoneMacGyverMission: Impossible (Australian edition), Get Smart, Again!Batman: The Animated Series, Legend (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it) and I’m going to stop there. 
  • Born March 20, 1948 Pamela Sargent, 71. She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy ilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a women determined to terraform that world at all costs, and the Watchstar trilogy which I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels. 
  • Born March 20, 1950 William Hurt, 69. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, a career-making film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, a Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows it’s that not bad really Lost in Space as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of Inspector Frank Bumstead follows for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby and performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Up next was horror film Hellgate and his role as Warren Mills, a lot more watchable than The Host, and Jebediah’s character from Winter’s Tale as adapted from the Mark Helprin novel was interesting as wax the entire film. His final, to date that is, is in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of note, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitized blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. The other role worth noting is him as Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands
  • Born March 20, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 64. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Born March 20, 1958 Holly Hunter, 61. Voiced Helen Parr / Elastigirl In The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2. Also was in  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as Senator Finch. Her very first film role was as Sophie in The Burning, a slasher film. 
  • Born March 20, 1963 David Thewlis, 56. His best-known roles to date have been that of Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter film franchise and Sir Patrick Morgan/Ares in Wonder Woman. He also voiced the Earthworm in the animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach as envision by Tim Burton. Earthworms, werewolves, and war gods — great trifecta! 
  • Born March 20, 1974 Andrzej Pilipiuk, 45. Polish writer with two genre series currently, the most long running being the one involving Jakub W?drowycz, an alcoholic exorcist. The other is his Ksi??niczka series with three women: a more than thousand-year-old apparently teenage vampire, a three hundred or so year old alchemist-szlachcianka, and her relative, a former Polish secret agent from the CB?. 
  • Born March 20, 1979 Freema Agyeman, 40. Best known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised thot role briefly in Torchwood. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. Currently she’s on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some seventeen years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. 

(7) PEEPS STEM. Let Vox tell you “How crafters are using Peeps to explain science”.


“The Anatomy Lesson by Rembrandt Van Peep”

What don’t I love about this Peep science contest? A Museum of Natural Peepstory with a mastodon made of Peeps? No, I love it. A diorama of Peepola Tesla which was, according to its description, made by “two teens” with “no input or assistance” from any adults? No, I love it. A replica of the Apollo 11 lunar module surrounded by Peep astronauts, created by “Ben (age 7)” and the entry is captioned, “All peeps and marshmallow material were safely retired into Ben and his little sister’s stomach”? No, I love it!

…For the first annual Peep science contest, Mika McKinnon, a geophysicist and disaster researcher, submitted a cross-section of a landslide that took place in the town of Frank, Alberta, in 1903. “At 4:10 AM on April 29, 1903 on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, 30 million cubic meters of rock slammed down Turtle Mountain,” reads the horrifying description of the deadly event that, when acted out by Peeps, looks charming and delicious. “The 17 nightshift coal miners buried beneath the slide couldn’t reopen the sealed shaft, but instead dug along a coal seam. Just three withstood the increasingly toxic air to break free into the rubble, dragging the others to safety despite their shock over the altered land.” And true, there are 17 Peeps, all heroes.

“The problem with working with disasters is that it doesn’t always fit in light-hearted ideas,” McKinnon tells me. “If you’re going to do death and doom and destruction and Peeps, you have to find a way to do it that’s respectful to the situation and to history.” She chose the Frank landslide because it happened more than 100 years ago, and because in the midst of all the death and destruction, 17 night-shift coal miners managed to pull each other out of the dirt.

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES From 2015: “You can buy 8ft tall teddy bears and no one can handle it”.

They used to do a 53? bear but 4.5 feet of soft teddy loving just wasn’t enough. Hugbear is only suitable for those aged years three and above. Presumably because it would crush a small child. It costs £199.99 and, amazingly, delivery’s included.

(9) SKATING UP THE THAMES. BBC heralds news that “Frozen musical heads from Broadway to London’s West End” but Chip Hitchcock adds, “Just in case people across the pond care — Time Out‘s reaction to the NYC production amounts to ‘meh’.”

The stage adaptation of Frozen, which opened on Broadway early last year, is coming to London’s West End.

It will reopen the Drury Lane Theatre in Autumn 2020 after the theatre’s refurbishment, producers confirmed.

The musical is based on the 2013 Disney movie of the same name – the most successful animated film ever, with box office takings of more than £1.25bn,

The storyline of the musical is broadly the same as in the movie, but extra songs have been written for the stage.

Actors currently starring in the Broadway production will stay in New York, while a new British cast will appear in the West End.

(10) THE DEAL IS SEALED. “Disney Officially Owns 21st Century Fox” – got to love this lede:

Homer Simpson probably won’t become the newest member of the Avengers, but anything’s possible now that Disney owns 21st Century Fox.

One year after Disney announced the $71.3 billion merger, it’s finally official. The deal, which closed Wednesday at 12:02 a.m. eastern time, reshapes the media landscape and makes Disney an even greater entertainment behemoth. In bolstering its trove of characters and stories, the acquisition also puts Disney in a stronger position to take on Netflix and other streaming companies, when it launches its own service, Disney+, later this year.

Disney, which already owns the Pixar, Marvel and the Star Wars brands, will now also get Deadpool and the Fox-owned Marvel characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, allowing for the full Marvel family to be united. Disney also now owns former Fox television networks such as FX Networks and National Geographic Partners. Disney will also get Fox’s 30 percent ownership of Hulu, giving Disney a controlling share of 60 percent.

(11) IF ONLY. This was mentioned in comments, but here’s the NPR story: “Economic Report Of The President … And Some Superhero Friends”.

With great power, comes great responsibility.

Or the chance to pull a practical joke.

Pranksters included some whimsical credits buried in the fine print of an annual White House economic report, making it seem that Peter Parker and Aunt May had joined the staff of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Spider-Man’s alter ego and his aunt are listed among the interns who contributed to the 705-page report, which is nearly a year in the making. Other high-profile interns listed include John Cleese of Monty Python fame, Star Trek character Kathryn Janeway and the uncaped Batman, Bruce Wayne — suggesting the CEA plays no favorites between the Marvel and DC Comics universes.

(12) PEBBLES IN THE SKY. “Hayabusa-2: Asteroid mission exploring a ‘rubble pile'”. “Brother Guy talked at Boskone about about remote findings that small asteroids aren’t solid,” remembers Chip Hitchcock. “Here’s a locally-confirmed example.”

The asteroid being explored by the Japanese mission Hayabusa-2 is a “rubble pile” formed when rocks were blasted off a bigger asteroid and came back together again.

The discovery means that asteroid Ryugu has a parent body out there somewhere, and scientists already have two candidates.

They have also found a chemical signature across the asteroid that can indicate the presence of water, but this needs confirmation.

Ryugu’s unusual shape is also a sign that it must have been spinning much faster in the past.

Scientists from the Japanese Space Agency (Jaxa) mission and from Nasa’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft, which is exploring a different asteroid called Bennu, have been presenting their latest findings at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas.

(13) EXPLAINING THAT PANCAKE MAKEUP. “New Horizons: Ultima Thule ‘a time machine’ to early Solar System” – BBC has the story.

Scientists are getting closer to understanding how the distant object known as Ultima Thule came to be.

Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by the 35km-long world on 1 January at a distance of 3,500km.

It’s made up of two distinct pieces that once orbited each other before colliding at a gentle speed, team members told a major US conference.

The scientists may also be close to understanding why it’s flattened like a pancake, rather than spherical.

(14) WROUGHTEN TO THE CORE. Readers of old SF may recall Heinlein’s rolling Stones sifting through asteroids trying to find core: “Psyche: Metal world mission targets ‘iron volcanoes'”.

Up until now, the worlds we’ve visited with robotic spacecraft have been composed largely of rock, ice and gas.

But a Nasa mission due to launch in 2022 will visit an object thought to be made largely of metal.

…A widely held idea is that 16 Psyche is the exposed core of an extinct world, perhaps as large as Mars. This proto-planet must have been pounded by other objects, removing the rocky outer layers and leaving just the iron-nickel innards prone to the vacuum of space.

So, while we can’t directly study the Earth’s core, 16 Psyche provides an opportunity to study one in outer space.

(15) OLYMPIC ROBOTS. Maybe not in the events themselves, but everywhere else: “Tokyo 2020: Robots to feature at Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

Sporting events rely on having an army of volunteers to help them run smoothly but Tokyo 2020 will be a little different – robots will be helping out.

The Tokyo 2020 Robot Project will assist wheelchair users at the Olympic Stadium with robots carrying food and drink and providing event information.

Power assisted suits will also be used at venues and athlete villages.

The suits are designed to ease human workload and will be used to move heavy objects and for waste disposal.

“This project will not simply be about exhibiting robots but showcasing their practical real-life deployment helping people,” Hirohisa Hirukawa, leader of the project said.

“So there will be not only sports at the Tokyo 2020 Games, but some cool robots at work to look forward to as well.

(16) VIRAL VIDEO. Yesterday’s news that dormant viruses reactivate during spaceflight inspired this sketch on Late Night with Stephen Colbert.

The original Star Trek cast suffers a new and very visible indignity…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Cat Eldridge. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/12/18 Could He Show Up In A Noodle-Poodle, Bottle-Beetle, Paddle-Battle, Pixle-Scroodle?

(1) FIRE MISSES DEL TORO’S “BLEAK HOUSE”. Unlike houses belonging to some other celebrities in the area, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Bleak House has survived the Woolsey fire Remezcla reports:

Bleak House is not actually where del Toro lives (he lives nearby), but it is home to his collection of more than 700 pieces of art, props, and memorabilia. He has everything from concept sketches from Disney’s Fantasia to figures from his Blade 2 to a life-sized statue of Edgar Allan Poe. These serve as his inspiration from both his own films and the movies he hopes to make in the future. In 2016, del Toro let fans inside his Bleak House with a curated exhibit that traveled to museums around North America showing off some of his items. Looking at pictures from the collection you can almost imagine the inside of the fantastical and dark director’s mind.

Luckily, del Toro’s collection has been spared by the Woosley fire. He tweeted about returning to his home to find it still standing with only some minor smoke damage.

(2) FUTURE HISTORY. Professor James Davis Nicoll today lectures the class on “World States and Mega Empires in SF” at Tor.com.

How stable would a World State be, in practice? Sure, one could argue (and people have) that without external enemies there’s no particular reason for a world-spanning government to fall apart. That was the argument in A World Out of Time: the state controlled all the apparatus necessary to sustain Earth’s vast population, making rebellion suicidal.

The problem is that one can point to historic polities that managed to dissolve into independent regions without much help from the outside…

(3) BARBIE WHO? The Guardian disapproves: “Doctor Who Barbie: time-travelling back to the sexist 1970s”.

Name: Doctor Who Barbie.

Age: About a week old.

Appearance: Like Barbie, if she went to a Halloween party as the Doctor.

This is a doll we’re talking about, is it? Yes. The “Doctor Who Barbie doll is sculpted to the likeness of the 13th Doctor and comes dressed in her iconic look.”

What do you mean, iconic? These are not my words, but the words of the US manufacturer, Mattel. “Additional true-to-character details include Doctor Who Barbie doll’s signature suspenders and lace-up boots.”

I don’t remember any suspenders. Are they from a later, more risque episode? They mean braces – Americans!

(4) UNLEASH IMAGINATION AWARDS. The Arthur C. Clarke “Unleash Imagination” Awards were  presented November 8 in Washington, D.C. [Via Locus Online.]

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Irwin Jacobs, Chairman of the Salk Institute, co-founder and former Chairman of Qualcomm, co-developer of CDMA, Philanthropist
  • Innovator Award – Jill Tarter, astronomer, Emeritus Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, and seeker of the answer to “Are we alone?”
  • Imagination in Service to Society – Liu Cixin acclaimed author of The Three Body Problem and other science fiction works, winner of the Hugo and five Chinese Galaxy Awards

(5) ASTOUNDING AUTHOR IN PERSON. Alec Nevala-Lee will be appearing at two library events this week to discuss his new book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction:

  • Chicago

The Golden Age of Science Fiction with Alec Nevala-Lee and Gary K. Wolfe

Sulzer Regional Library (4455 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago)

Thursday, November 15

7-8pm

Join Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding, and Gary K. Wolfe, critic and co-host of the science fiction podcast Coode Street, for an engaging discussion on the history and evolution of science fiction. (Note: The event is sponsored by One Book, One Chicago, which has chosen the science fiction classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick as this year’s selection.)

  • Oak Park

Astounding: Oak Park Author Alec Nevala-Lee

Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St., Oak Park)

Sunday, November 18

2-4pm

Meet Oak Park author Alec Nevala-Lee and hear about his newly released book, Astounding. The Book Table will have books for sale and signing.

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. Disney has put up the first teaser trailer for Toy Story 4, where we learn about Forky the Spork! The movie comes to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

 

(7) IT’S BEASTLY. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber says Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an “ultimately numbing sprawl that seems to drag on forever.” The BBC critic gives it 2/5 stars:

Considering that JK Rowling’s books have made several zillion pounds and her films have made several zillion more, it would take a lot of gall to read one of her screenplays and say, actually, could you cut 50 pages? But her latest ‘Wizarding World’ instalment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, would have been improved if someone had said just that.

(8) WHEN BEZOS MET STEPHENSON. The cover story of the November WIRED is about Jeff Bezos’s efforts to fund private space exploration through his company Blue Origin: “Jeff Bezos Wants Us All to Leave Earth—for Good”. Writer Steven Levy says that Neal Stephenson was recruited for Bezos’s space exploration efforts very early —

Bezos went to Princeton, where he attended seminars led by O’Neill and became president of the campus chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. At one meeting, Bezos was regaling attendees with visions of hollowing out asteroids and transforming them into space arks when a woman leapt to her feet. “How dare you rape the universe!” she said, and stormed out. “There was a pause, and Jeff didn’t make a public comment,” says Kevin Polk, another member of the club. “But after things broke up, Jeff said, ‘Did she really defend the inalienable rights of barren rocks?’?”

After Princeton, Bezos put his energies toward finance, working at a hedge fund. He left it to move to Seattle and start Amazon. Not long after, he was seated at a dinner party with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Their conversation quickly left the bounds of Earth. “There’s sort of a matching game that goes on where you climb a ladder, figuring out the level of someone’s fanaticism about space by how many details they know,” Stephenson says. “He was incredibly high on that ladder.” The two began spending weekend afternoons shooting off model rockets.

In 1999, Stephenson and Bezos went to see the movie October Sky, about a boy obsessed with rocketry, and stopped for coffee afterward. Bezos said he’d been thinking for a long time about starting a space company. “Why not start it today?” Stephenson asked. The next year, Bezos incorporated a company called Blue Operations LLC. Stephenson secured space in a former envelope factory in a funky industrial area in south Seattle.

(9) LEE OBIT. Legendary comics creator Stan Lee died November 12 at the age of 95.

Great photo of Stan Lee writing in
his backyard in Hewlett Harbor, on the jury-rigged arrangement he worked out,
tables placed on top of one another. This is precisely how Lee wrote some of the most widely read words of fantasy in
the 1960s.

When Stan Lee was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2017 the citation read:

Stan Lee

One of the most influential comic book writers of all time, Stan Lee is responsible for the creation of numerous Marvel Comics characters including Spider-Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Lee began working as an assistant at Timely Comics when he was just seventeen and became the editor soon after, writing every style of comic from romance and westerns to horror. In 1961, while considering switching careers, Lee decided to take his wife’s advice and write a comics story to please himself. The story, about four people given superpowers after being exposed to cosmic rays, was called The Fantastic Four, and it began an era of unparalleled success for the newly renamed Marvel Comics. Lee’s creations captured fans’ imaginations through a combination of relatable characters and the idea of a shared universe inhabited by all of Marvel’s characters.

Lee’s characters and storylines have appeared across all types of media including animated series, video games, television shows, and the long-standing Marvel Cinematic Universe. A self-proclaimed frustrated actor, Lee has made a cameo in every Marvel film to date.

Hollywood celebrities including the leadership at Marvel and Disney paid tribute to his accomplishments in the Los Angeles Times obituary.

Marvel Comics and the Walt Disney Company honored Lee in a statement posted online Monday.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. “A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

“No one has had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee,” tweeted Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. “Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all.”

File 770 readers saw Lee’s name in the news all the time for anything from his signature cologne to sharing the 2013 J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Awards with Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Harryhausen (Lee’s acceptance was on video).

And everyone knows how he followed Alfred Hitchcock’s example by making a cameo appearance in every Marvel film. I have it on the authority of Christian B. McGuire that “For those of you who imagine there will be no more cameos for Stan, listen up! In Stan Lee’s contract it specifies that he will appear in ALL Marvel films in perpetuity. And that this contract MUST be accepted by anyone buying the Marvel universe. There’s enough video; image and sound, for the purveyors of Marvel Magic to synthesize him and put him in everything they make.” If someone feels like fact-checking that claim, help yourself.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 12, 1917  Dahlov Ipcar, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator. Though primarily an artist — and you really should go visit her website — she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978, which are The Warlock of Night, The Que’en of Spells, and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! A gallery of her fantastical works can be seen here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende, Writer from Germany who is best known for the novel The Neverending Story; it was turned into three adaptations, of which The Neverending Story was the first film — and certainly the best known version. The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter was the next version, and it is a sort of sequel to the first; I never saw the third, The NeverEnding Story III, but it apparently only uses the characters and has nothing to do with the tale itself. Momo, or The Strange Story of the Time-Thieves and the Child Who Brought the Stolen Time Back to the People as it translates in English, is a charming if strange novel worth your time. The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from  German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years, but unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943Wallace Shawn. First genre appearance was in All That Jazz. Best known genre role is Vizzini in The Princess Bride but what would you put in second place? No doubt Grand Nagus Zek in Deep Space Nine but he has other performances to note including as Warren Hughes in Eureka, Van Helsing in Vamps and the voice of Gilbert Hugh in The Incredibles.
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 73, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Critic whose Urban Nucleus series and Georgia Stories are especially popular. He has won two Nebulas along with Mythopoeic, Shirley Jackson, and Rhysling Awards, and his works have garnered a multitude of Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and British Science Fiction Award nominations. He was honored with Southern Fandom’s Phoenix Award, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born November 12, 1950 Michael Capobianco, 68, Writer and Linguist, author of several SFF novels and some shorter works who has made major contributions for the benefit of genre writers as a Past President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of SFWA. Currently, he is a member of several SFWA writers’ advocacy committees, and writes informational pieces for Writer Beware, a writing scam investigation and warning site created by his wife A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss. He and Crispin were joint recipients of the Service to SFWA Award in 2003.
  • Born November 12, 1973 Radha Mitchell, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer, who broke into genre film with a role as a kickass spaceship pilot in Pitch Black, then played the obsessed J.M. Barrie’s long-suffering wife in Finding Neverland. Other genre appearances include Silent Hill, Rogue, Surrogates, The Crazies, and The Darkness.
  • Born November 12, 1980 Ryan Gosling, 38, Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer who debuted at the age of 15 in Frankenstein and Me; other genre appearances include Stay, the Hugo-nominated and Oscar- and Saturn-winning Blade Runner 2049 (for which he also received a Saturn nomination), and his role as Neil Armstrong in First Man (we’ll ignore the ill-conceived Lost River, which he wrote, produced, and directed). He has also had guest roles on episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Goosebumps, Flash Forward, Young Hercules, and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. For more on Baby Gooseman, see here.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 36, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who received Saturn nominations for her roles in The Dark Knight Rises and the Hugo finalist Interstellar, and appeared in Ella Enchanted, Get Smart, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, Passengers, Colossal, and the Ruritanian film series The Princess Diaries. Voice roles include parts in Hoodwinked!, The Cat Returns, the Rio films, and three episodes of The Simpsons.

(11) SPIDER-GWEN. The Comics Beat’s Joe Grunenwald asks the questions in this — “INTERVIEW: Seanan McGuire on writing SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST-SPIDER under the watchful eye of Marvel’s ‘snipers’”.

Grunenwald: Gwen is sort of having a Moment right now, too, between, obviously, the new series and then in other media there’s Marvel Rising and she’s going to be in the Into the Spider-Verse movie, so she’s got a higher profile now arguably that she’s ever had before. Has there been any pressure as a result of that, coming onto the character and having to keep that momentum going?

McGuire: My editors are amazing. I love them. And they hired me because they were reasonably sure I could keep that momentum going. Most of the pressure is internal. When you’re a novelist and represented by a literary agent, one of the first things they’ll do is sit you down and say, ‘Where do you see your career going?’ And this is because if you say ‘I want to be the next J.K. Rowling,’ they want to be ready to kind of talk you down. That’s the ‘No, no, honey, let’s be reasonable’ conversation.

When my agent sat me down for that conversation ten years ago, I said, “I want to write the X-Men.” And she went, ‘Excuse me?’ And I said, “I need you to make me famous enough that they will let me write the X-Men.’ So writing for Marvel is my life’s dream. This is what I’ve been working toward all this time, so there’s a huge amount of pressure but it’s all internal. I’m very aware that I’m making canon.

(12) TRANSFORMERS FANDOM. BBC covers “Transformers: Misfit robots and the women who love them”.

Over three decades Transformers has grown from a line of children’s toys to a media franchise encompassing film, TV and gaming. Perhaps its most radical spin-off though is a comic that has used wit and humanity to reach a new, diverse fan base.

Transformers started out as a boy’s toy. The robot characters, which could be quickly reconfigured into guns and cars – tapped into the young male zeitgeist of 1984.

Those children have grown into today’s adult collectors. But thanks to a cult comic, the franchise’s male-dominated audience has crossed the gender divide.

At Europe’s largest Transformers convention this year, TFNation, women accounted for almost half of attendees aged 21 to 31. It caps a three-year trend in which female attendance grew by a third. Taking the credit is the comic Lost Light.

(13) CENTENNIAL. This was one of the many commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I tweeted yesterday –

(14) BREATHING LIFE INTO OLD FOOTAGE. New technology enables full color restoration. This week the Smithsonian Channel will broadcast a new season of America in Color with even better images than ever before:

Witness defining moments of early 20th century America like never before: in dramatic color. Roam the untamed Wild West, visit burgeoning cities, and enter the dream factory of Hollywood. Follow larger-than-life figures who drove America’s industrial transformation, turned crime into an organized business, and built political dynasties. Using cutting-edge digital technology, we bring our young country’s most seminal landmarks, people, and moments to vibrant life.

Mark Kermode also discusses Peter Jackson and team’s painstaking restoration and colorization of First World War footage: “They Shall Not Grow Old review – an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches” in The Guardian.

The challenges involved in achieving this miracle are manifold. Most obviously, the digital restoration and colourisation of the original films has been painstakingly carried out with meticulous attention to detail, rendering everything from skin tones to scenery in impressively natural hues. (For theatrical presentation, a moderate 3D enhancement has also been applied.)

More complex is the correction of the film’s pace. The century-old footage with which Jackson was working was shot at anything from 10 to 18 frames per second, with the rate often changing within a single reel. We’ve all seen old movies projected at the modern speed of 24fps, creating that skittering, agitated effect that fixes such footage in the dim and distant past. Here, Jackson and his team have used computers to build interstitial frames that recapture the rhythms of real life, tuning into the music of the soldiers’ movements, breathing intimate life into their smallest gestures. The process may sound nerdily technical but the effect is powerfully emotional. It’s as if the technology had somehow pierced the surface of the film, causing (virtual?) memories to come pouring out.

 

(15) REVERE THE SJWC. “Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb” — The real surprise: mummified scarabs. No reports whether the scarabs were for the cats to play with…

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.

The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.

(16) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING KILOGRAM. Twitter thread discusses why the kilogram is the one measure that still relies on a material instance rather than a definition-by-physics, and how this is being fixed.

(17) HARRYHAUSEN THE ARTIST. David Rosler praises the animator to the skies in “RAY HARRYHAUSEN: The Twentieth Century Leonardo da Vinci” at Films in Review.

Da Vinci’s time of Renaissance humanism recognized virtually no mutually exclusive differences between sciences and the arts, and artists often thought in terms of science and scientists delved into the arts, heedless of any abstract concept now assumed to separate them. Both Ray and da Vinci were Renaissance men of the highest caliber of their respective times, both became positively revered by their contemporaries and, most importantly, both changed much of how the world saw their forms of art by leading the way with uniquely original creations, significantly changing the larger world around them.

Ray Harryhausen self-portrait

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