Pixel Scroll 1/5/19 Mr. Gorn, Tear Down This Suit

(1) NOVIK SPEAKS OUT FOR FANFIC. In “Freed From Copyright, These Classic Works Are Yours To Adapt”, NPR discusses works newly entering public domain, and the writerly impulse to appropriate or retell stories.

A large body of films, music, and books from that year entered the public domain on Jan. 1, the first time that’s happened in 20 years. And that means they can be used according to the will of new creators who wish to adopt or adapt them.

…Those lengthy copyrights can be a barrier to the creation of new art. “Copyright has been overextended so many times, largely at the behest of major copyright holders,” says author Naomi Novik. “Even though what that actually does is inhibit people from creating new works and sharing these older works.” Novik is a founding member of the Organization for Transformative Works, a nonprofit that focuses on preserving fan fiction and art — that is, work created by fans, based on characters and worlds from their favorite written works, film, and TV, which can occasionally come into conflict with copyright law.

… Novik says that the impulse to re-imagine art is innate. “That kind of process of imagination is just something that our brains do. It doesn’t matter what law you put around it, our brains are still going to do it,” she says.

Inevitably, the spring of adaptations will bring about bad versions of these classic works. As Blake Hazard, great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald, told The New York Times, “I hope people maybe will be energized to do something original with the work, but of course the fear is that there will be some degradation of the text.”

Miller, who adapted Homer, does worry about the possibility of betraying the texts. But as she was working on Circe, she says, “I came to the understanding that I can’t hurt Homer. He’s fine. Whatever I do, that’s just my response to him. But the original text will be just fine.”

(2) DEAMERICANIZING THE HUGOS. Australian writer T.R. Napper wants to broaden the meaning of diversity: “The Hugos: Putting the World into WorldCon”.

It’s time to put the world into WorldCon. Time to include geography and national culture in the definition of diversity. Past time.

This here is just a discussion in good faith. Remember those? There’s no outrage; no political side. All I’m saying is this: historically, the winner of the Hugo for best novel has been from the US, 82% of the time. If we take just the past five years (2014 – 2018) Americans have been nominated 90% of the time (27/30) and won 90% (the latter number comes from Ken Liu (as translator) sharing the award with Cixin Liu for The Three-Body Problem). For the Nebulas – while not related to WorldCon directly, still reflective of what is happening in the genre – the picture is worse: US writers have been nominated 91% of the time (30/34) and won 100%….

Of course, right in the sweet spot of Napper’s 5-year sample are three years deeply affected by Sad/Rabid Puppy slate voting. Diversity of all kinds suffered in those years. What happens if I go back and pick my own sample – say, the year 2010? The Worldcon was in Australia, and the five Best Novel nominees included two Canadians and a Brit – 60% — leaving Americans at only 40%. Or 2009 when it was in Montreal – the five nominees included two Brits – 40% — and Americans were 60%.

And are people really expected to stop thinking that diversity looks like N.K. Jemisin’s three-year run, an unmatched achievement, and dismiss it as just another bunch of Hugos predictably won by an American writer?

The remainder of Napper’s post is a suggested reading list of international novels, a positive contribution, and always in order.

Unfortunately, the next part of being constructive is putting up a list of potential novels and short stories to read. This is why outrage is so much easier than informed discussion: it doesn’t come with so much fucking homework.

But I’ve done my homework. I’ve talked to editors and writers from Australia, Zimbabwe, the UK, New Zealand, Singapore, and – yes – the United States. And I’ve come up with a list. It’s not a comprehensive one. I don’t have that sort of time, and I wouldn’t want it to be. A comprehensive list would be so eye-rollingly long the reader would have no idea where to start. And any such claim to completeness would be immediately debunked. I’m not aiming for perfection or quantity.

Also note that none of these are my nominations (yet). I will add my own to the list over the next few weeks as I get my reading done. I have two I’d like to include from my reading as Aurealis judge, though unfortunately I cannot divulge those until the awards are announced.

All these caveats aside, I present to you a flawed and partial list of stories that entirely reasonable humans from all across the world have recommended. Which is about as good as it gets…

(3) EX NIHILIS. Popular Science explains “Zero is just 1,500 years old. Before it, there was nothing.”

Accounting is an ancient profession. Sumer, the earliest known Mesopotamian civilization, had a positional numbering system, so there was no need for placeholders. A subsequent empire, Babylon, had different demands, so its number-crunching class used two empty wedges to represent a sum like 507. Across the world, the Mayan civilization came up with its own solution to a similar problem, placing a shell where modern mathematicians might place a 0. Some experts argue these wedges are ground zero, to borrow a phrase, but most academics attribute the invention of zero as a number—not as a warm body but a symbol in its own right, one that can be used in equations—to India.

(4) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED. Now that Camestros Felapton has excused himself from the Hugo race, he knows it’s safe to resume writing hilarious stuff like “Other Revised Canon Aspects of Poo”, which would have increased his risks of winning one. Where are we going with this? Well, here’s the premise, with his second example

The other day J.K.Rowling’s Pottermore revealed that Hogwarts was originally built without toilets because wizards just pooped anyway and then magicked it away. Below are other poo related details about other franchises that you might not know….

Star Wars: there are no bathrooms in Star Wars but there are small toilet robots who follow you around waiting for you to do your business and clean it up. That’s what those little boxy droids are.

(5) EINSTEIN OBIT. The actor known as Super Dave Osborne died January 2. Mark Evanier paid tribute in “Bob Einstein, R.I.P.”

[His work included a] long run as the self-immolating daredevil Super Dave Osborne. You never knew what daring feat Super Dave would attempt; only that at the end of it, he would meet some fate previously met by Wile E. Coyote.

GIMBEL OBIT. Lyricist Norman Gimbel died December 19. His Washington Post obit, “Norman Gimbel, Oscar-winning lyricist of ‘Happy Days’ theme and ‘Girl From Ipanema,’ dies at 91”, notes that “The Girl from Ipanema” was written for a science fiction musical in Brazil, to answer the musical question “Why is an alien hanging around in Brazil?” Gimbel also wrote the lyrics for the 1970s Wonder Woman theme.  

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 5, 1950The Flying Saucer opened in theaters.
  • January 5, 1951Two Lost Worlds premiered…with dinosaurs in Australia.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Best known for his role as the title role in The Adventures of Superman and several associated films. I remember the show fondly from much later syndication and thought that both the acting and stories were well done. He also played the lead role in The Adventures of Sir Galahad and was Mike Patton in The Jungle Goddess. He was in a fair number of series as well but I can’t determine if any of them were genre.  (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1929Russ Manning. An artist  who created and drew the Gold Key comic book character Magnus: Robot Fighter; who drew the Tarzan comic book from 1965 – 1969 and the Tarzan newspaper comic strip from 1967 – 1972; and the Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979 – 1980. (Credit to Bill here at File 770 for this Birthday.) (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 5, 1941 Hayao Miyazaki, 78. A masterful storyteller who chose animation as his medium. He co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 and has directed some of the best loved films of all time. His films include the Oscar winning film Spirited Away, My Neighbor Tortoro, and adapting the classic novel Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones for the big screen. (Thanks to Matt Russell for this Birthday.)
  • Born January 5, 1959Clancy Brown, 60. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive to list here, but I’ll single out his work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of favorite weird series, Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1978 January Jones, 41. Emma Frost In X-Men: First Class is her only film role to dates but earlier when searching the net I did find her in The Last Man on Earth which is, and I quote, “an American post-apocalyptic comedy television series.”  Anyone seen this? 
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 41. Ahhhh one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novels but they didn’t tickle my fancy. I’ve not read her Mira Grant work so do advise on how it is. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) BORG LICENSE REVOKED. A Canadian Star Trek fan is going to court after the government insurance company revoked his “ASIMIL8” license plate, that he got because he likes the Borg, and had a frame that added the tag “Resistance is Futile.” The term was considered insulting to First Nations people, who have often been asked to assimilate to settler culture. The Edmonton Journal has the story — “’Obviously inappropriate:’ Insurer says ASIMIL8 plate shouldn’t have been issued”.

In a recently filed legal brief, Troller explained that he drove around with the plate for nearly two years and no one complained. He renewed it with MPI in 2016 without issue.

An Ontario woman posted a photo of the licence plate on Facebook on April 22, 2017. Court filings show a transcript of a call she made to MPI in which she said the plate was offensive because of the history of government assimilation policies.

Not all plate requests go sailing through:

The documents include a 47-page list of licence plates that were denied by MPI. They include BITE ME, VINO, MMMBEER, SKODEN, HYZNBRG, HOLYCOW, PWALKER and 50 GREY.

A man in Nova Scotia has also gone to court over a personalized licence plate. Lorne Grabher has been trying to reinstate his “GRABHER” plate since it was revoked in 2016 by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles following an anonymous complaint.

(10) DOWNWIND FROM HOLLYWOOD. Just became aware of this fine blog entry published last year by Kip W: “Classical Gas”. Examples at the link.

The Disney corporation, ever sensitive to the winds of change, and (since at least the 1950s) ever willing to recut their old products up for present-day sensibilities, determined to get out on the cutting edge of kid appeal by folding flatulence humor into their classic releases. Leaked memo from 2008 reveals some of the specific ideas explored…

(11) IT’S A STING. Jalopnik: “You Can Buy All Four Bumblebee Camaros From Transformers, but They’re Not Street Legal”.

Perhaps you’ve seen a Transformers movie, or two, or six, in the past 11 years. (Google says there are six now.) Perhaps you’ve liked them, even, to the point that you’ve dreamed of one day owning the sporty, automatic stunt cars that turn into robots on the big screen. Now’s your chance to own four.

There’s one big catch, though: All four of the vehicles will come with a scrap title and none of them will be street legal. There go your carpool plans for the next Transformers movie premiere. Darn.

Barrett-Jackson is auctioning off four Transformers movie cars as a package deal in Scottsdale, Arizona later this month—all four of them black-and-yellow Chevrolet Camaros representing the robot character Bumblebee, who (which?) recently starred in an unnecessarily sexy movie of his (its?) namesake. Money from the Camaros’ auction will go to charity, and the person who wins will get a 2010 model from the first and second movies, a 2010 model from the third movie, a 2013 model from the fourth movie and a 2016 one from the fifth movie

(12) IS THIS WHAT SCIENCE IS FOR? Here’s another thing that’s coming – “Buttered Popcorn Oreos Are in the Works, and TBH, I Don’t Know What to Feel”.

We’re less than a week into the new year, and we already have a handful of new Oreo flavors to fuel us through 2019. As if the news of flavors like Carrot Cake and Dark Chocolate haven’t been enough to pique your interest, perhaps the rumors of Oreo’s latest out-of-the-box offering, Buttered Popcorn, will do the trick.

(13) HOW’S THEIR SFF SECTION? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The National Geographic website seems pretty certain that, “This is the world’s most beautiful bookstore.” Given that it was converted from a rather splendid theater, the Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore certainly had a leg up in achieving that appellation.

On a bustling commercial street in the fashionable Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos AiresArgentina, you can visit a serene temple of books. The lighting is soft, with accents that showcase the best in early 20th-century craftsmanship. Conversations are hushed, as if in a grand library, yet the space is so warm and welcoming that the raised café at the back of the cavernous room is filled with patrons reading and sipping cappuccinos and chocolate submarinos.

You’ve entered the Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore, which blogs and guidebooks often dub “the world’s most beautiful bookstore.” They may not be wrong. The sprawling shop is housed in a beautifully preserved antique theater. Only instead of tango dancers and singers, the stars are now the printed word.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Onion knows many claim success using other ways — but this really works: “Increase Your Cognitive Ability By Reading A Fucking Book For Once”.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/26/18 And The Fur Suit Of Happiness

(1) NEW BUJOLD NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Bujold announced it on Goodreads — a “new Lakerwalker novella impending”.

…I am pleased to report that I have finished the first draft of a new novella in the world of The Sharing Knife. Functionally a novella, anyway; its length, at the moment, is a tad over 49,000 words, so it’s technically a short novel. This falls in an odd limbo in categorization — the official cap for a novella is 40k or 45k words, but the minimum contractual length for a commercially published novel is usually 100k. (It was 80k back when I started, but word-count inflation has occurred since then.) Since it’s headed for original e-publication, I don’t have to care, so the main concern is to label it so readers won’t charge in expecting something twice as long.

The working title was “Barr & Lily”, which is also its subject matter, being a sort of slice-of-Lakewalker-life character study. However, that won’t do for the final, since it sounds a bit too much like the name of a tea company. The current front-runner is “Knife Children”, but I’m not sure yet if that is going to stick.

It takes place about a dozen years after the events of the tetralogy, but should be perfectly readable as a stand-alone. (Old readers will gratify me if they can refrain from fending off potential new readers by telling them they have to read four other books first.)…

(2) 9W HIATUS. On December 22, London’s Nine Worlds convention governance committee made a response to some recent critical tweets, and acknowledged there will be no 9W in 2019. Thread starts here.

(3) WHATEVER’S NUMBERS. While John Scalzi’s annual statistical roundup shows it’s getting very hard to measure anyone’s social media reach, I still read these breakdowns in rapt fascination: “Top Whatever Posts and Social Media Stats, 2018”.

 Every year I post stats on traffic for Whatever, and every year it gets harder to see how it accurately reflects my actual readership, because of the way people read things I post here. Bluntly, relatively few people visit the site directly at this point in time — As of this moment, for 2018, Whatever has had 2.82 million direct visits in 2018, down from last year’s 4.1 million, and substantially down from the 2012 high of 8.16 million. At the same time, Whatever has 30k+ followers through WordPress and email, another 10k+ on Feedly and other RSS aggregators, a few thousand though social media feeds, and there an unknown number of people reading the site’s content on mobile, through AMP versions of the site. None of those impressions/reads get tracked through the WordPress stats suite.

(4) SANS SERIF FACTOR THREE, MR. SULU. Hyperallergenic contends that “Many Stories Are Told Through the Typography in Science Fiction Films”.

In film, there is a shorthand for the future, the typeface Eurostile Bold Extended. It appears on the interface screens of the time-traveling Delorean in Back to the Future (1985), and in the logo of Lunar Industries at the lonely lunar station in Moon (2009). It adorns the exterior of the USS Enterprise starship in the Star Trek franchise, and the Federal Colonies intergalactic megacorporation branding in Total Recall (1990). It gives both the Battlestar Galactica series title and the credits of District 9 (2009) an ultramodern tone.

As blogger and designer Dave Addey explains in his new book Typeset in the Future, out now from Abrams, he first noticed the ubiquity of the typeface in 2013. 

(5) THE YEAR IN SCIENCE. BBC picked its “Ten big science stories of 2018”. Second on the list —  

The earliest animals

The one-million-plus animal species alive today are staggeringly diverse, from the giant oceanic blue whale to the wriggly earthworms beneath our feet. But their early evolution from single-celled ancestors remains shrouded in mystery.

In the hunt for the earliest animal life, much attention has been focused on a group of enigmatic life forms – known as the “Ediacaran biota” – from more than 500 million years ago. These were some of the first complex organisms to appear on Earth.

But their position on the tree of life is difficult decipher. These curious creatures have been variously categorised as lichens, fungi, and even as a halfway house between plants and animals.

In September, scientists were able to extract molecules of cholesterol from a fossilised Ediacaran life form called Dickinsonia, which resembled a flat jellyfish. Cholesterol is one of the molecular hallmarks of animal life, clearly demonstrating that the Ediacaran biota were animals.

(6) THE SIGN OF THE ZERO. A.V. Club is impressed, in a negative sort of way: Holmes & Watson crack the case of the 0 percent Rotten Tomatoes score”.

Entering into a robust fraternity of cinematic triumphs that includes such highlights as Gotti and Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s new comedy Holmes & Watson has joined the storied pantheon of movies rocking a 0 percent “rotten” score on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. For those unfamiliar with the site’s system, that means that not a single one of the 15 critics currently being polled for the film’s merits have said it’s even marginally worth the 89 minutes of your life it would take to watch, making this a real anti-Paddington 2 situation.

(7) DOA ON BAKER STREET. Here’s The Hollywood Reporter’s contribution to the funeral cortege: “‘Holmes & Watson’: Film Review”.

You can feel the flop sweat emanating from the third onscreen pairing of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Making their previous vehicles Step Brothers and Talladega Nights seem the height of comic sophistication by comparison, Holmes & Watson features the duo parodying Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous characters to devastatingly unfunny effect. Numerous talented British thespians are wasted in supporting roles in this Christmas turkey that, not surprisingly, wasn’t screened in advance for critics. Although making them troop out to theaters Christmas morning is something of which even Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn’t have approved.

(8) EISENBERG OBIT. Scientist and sff author Larry Eisenberg achieved his greatest fame writing limericks in comments to the online New York Times over the past decade: “Larry Eisenberg, 99, Dead; His Limericks Were Very Well Read”. Eisenberg died December 25 from complications of acute myeloid leukemia.

Dr. Eisenberg joined Rockefeller University in 1958 and later became a director of its electronics laboratory. Early in his tenure at Rockefeller, he helped develop a transistorized, battery-operated cardiac pacemaker, which was considered a vast improvement over the wire-laden earlier models. He taught at the university until 2000.

As a science-fiction writer, Dr. Eisenberg was best known for his short story “What Happened to Auguste Clarot?” The comic tale of a disappearing Parisian scientist, it was published in “Dangerous Visions” (1967), the noted anthology edited by Harlan Ellison.

He was also known for his stories featuring Prof. Emmett Duckworth, an amiably hapless Nobel Prize-winning scientist. (Duckworth’s inventions include an intensely addictive aphrodisiac containing 150,000 calories per ounce.)

…In a 2011 feature, Dr. Eisenberg was asked by The 6th Floor, a Times Magazine blog, to supply a brief biographical summary for readers. He replied — a mere 20 minutes later — in the form he knew best:

A nonagenarian, I,
A sometime writer of sci-fi,
Biomed engineer,
Gen’rally of good cheer,
With lim’ricks in ready supply.

(9) ISAACS OBIT. Boston area conrunning fan Fred Isaacs died December 26 after a long battle with COPD. Just a few items from his extensive resume — he chaired Boskone 9 (1972), and was co-inventor of the concourse format of organizing exhibits and fan tables for the 1989 Worldcon, which was frequently emulated by later Worldcons.  

(10) GRAU OBIT. Jorge Grau (1930-2018): Spanish screenwriter and director, reportedly died today, aged 88. Best known for the horror film The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974, aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie). Also directed The Legend of Blood Castle (1973, aka The Female Butcher) and Violent Blood Bath (1974).

(11) MOSIMAN OBIT. Billie Sue Mosiman (1947-2018) has died. She had her first fiction published in the 1980s, and went on to become an Edgar nominee for her novel Night Cruise and a Stoker nominee for Widow. She authored eight suspense novels and more than 150 short stories, and coedited six anthologies.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 26, 1911Milton Luros. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines from 1942 to 1954 (yes I’ve expansive on what I consider to be to the Golden Age). His work graced Science Fiction Quarterly, Astounding Stories,  Future Combined with Science Fiction StoriesFuture Science Fiction StoriesDynamic Science Fiction and  Science Fiction Quarterly. He had an amazing ability to illustrate women in outfits in hostile environments that simply were impractical such as one for Science Fiction Quarterly (UK), October 1952 cover had a cut out in her spacesuit so her décolletage was bare. (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 26, 1930Donald Moffat. Yes he just passed on several days ago but his Birthday is today so he gets written up. Yes The Thing indeed was first SF undertaking followed by License to KillThe Terminal Man, Exo-Man, Monster in the Closet and Earthquake films, plus The Twilight Zone and Six Million Dollar Man series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 57. Daughter of Raquel Welch, she has  shows up in Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return; also in Sleeping Beauty, Johnny 2.0 and Black Light. She also appears in a SF video game called Ripper that took place in 2040 NYC and uses Jack as the basis for the plot there.
  • Born December 26, 1974Danielle Cormack, 44. Performer of New Zealander status so you can guess what that means — Ephiny on  Xena: Warrior Princess, a one shot as Lady Marie DeValle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Ephiny on the same series, Katherine on Jack of All Trades (which I’ve mentioned before was one of Kage Baker’s fav shows), Raina on Cleopatra 2525 and Shota on the Legend of the Seeker. Genre television has been very, very good for the New Zealand economy! 
  • Born December 26, 1986Kit Harington, 32. Jon Snow on Game of Thornes of course but also voiced the Eret character in the How to Train Your Dragon films, a considerably lighter affair I’d say. Also played Bill Bradley in Seventh Son and is voicing Sir Gadabout In Zog, yet another dragon-centred film, I gather. 
  • Born December 26, 1960Temuera Morrison, 58. New Zealand performer known for being Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (and Commander Cody in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. He also voiced the clone troopers in both films. He is also voiced Chief Tui, the father of the title character in Disney’s Moana, and for playing Arthur Curry’s father in Aquaman.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD on feathered dinosaurs.

(14) SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME. Io9 has a cool décor suggestion: “Hang Iconic Doctor Who Moments on Your Wall With These Fantastic Framed Prints”.

Over the past few months, Classic Stills has been capturing high-res moments from genre faves like Jurassic Park and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as artsy prints you can frame on your wall. Now, it’s turning its hand to TV, in the form of another genre icon: 55 years of Doctor Who’s adventures in time and space….

(15) DO YOU PREFER LEINSTER OR JENKINS? Now’s your chance to find out. Murray Leinster’s daughter recently put together a short collection of mainstream short stories published under his real name of Will F. Jenkins which was, as Bruce D. Arthurs notes, was “Apparently the actual majority, and bread-and-butter, of his writing career.” Intro by Michael Swanwick. Available on Amazon. Link to Swanwick’s blog post: “The Mainstream Murray Leinster”.

…In a career that began in 1913 and ended with his death in 1975, Jenkins published some 1,800 stories in more than 150 periodicals, as well as 74 novels and collections. Only a small part of his output was science fiction — and that was written over the horrified objections of his agent. (SF didn’t pay as well as the slicks, which were his usual markets.) But Jenkins loved science and wrote science fiction for the fun of it, utilizing the Leinster pen name to protect his other fiction….

(16) SUCCESSFUL DEMONSTRATION. NPR asks “What’s Next For Tiny Satellites?” but doesn’t really have much of an answer yet.

On Nov. 26, as the probe known as InSight plummeted through the Martian atmosphere on its way to the planet’s surface, two miniature spacecraft — known collectively as MarCO — relayed telemetry from InSight to Earth, assuring all those watching that the landing of the probe was proceeding successfully and was soft.

In the past, spacecraft were only able to transmit back to Earth simple tones during a landing. Those tones would change for major milestones, such as parachute deployment, the firing of landing rockets or touchdown.

This time, as InSight team member Christine Szalai called out altitudes from the control room in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, she was reading off actual data from InSight’s onboard radar. It was live play-by-play, bearing in mind that the radio signal from Mars took approximately eight minutes to reach Earth.

… After its relay mission was over, the MarCOs sailed past Mars; they’ll go into orbit around the sun. Marinan says the research team on Earth will check in on the cubesats from time to time, just to see how long they last.

(17) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. A crossover comic brings together two characters played by actor Bruce Campbell: “Interview: Scott Duvall on How Ash Meets Bubba Ho-Tep in Dynamite’s New Army of Darkness Crossover”.

Worlds collide this February when Ash meets Elvis and a foul-mouthed mummy in Dynamite’s latest crossover Army of Darkness vs. Bubba Ho-Tep. The four-issue mini-series not only brings together two beloved cult classics, it also pits Bruce Campbell’s infamous character against another of his best personas (the actor played Ash in the Evil Dead series as well as Elvis Presley in Bubba Ho-Tep in 2002).

Written by Scott Duvall (They Called Us Enemy, Heavy Metal) and with art by Vincenzo Federici (Grimm Fairy Tales), the story follows Ash on a road trip through Texas in search of Elvis, who is rumored to be alive and taking down evil mummies. With a time-traveling Elvis jumpsuit and a new evil Book of the Dead, Ash must then come face to face with Bubba Ho-Tep, the soul-sucking mummy.

(18) THIS SCEPTRED ISLE. For those of us beyond the range of Her Majesty’s broadcast, Camestros Felapton helpfully supplies a transcript: “And now a message from the Queen to her commonwealth”.

When the creatures of the void break through the veil of cosmogyny and come to rend your essence from your bones and then marke sport with your skeleton while your howling soul looks on, to whom would you turn? Your milquetoast post-modernist professors? Your “Jeremiah Corbills”? Your “republicans” and constitutional reformers?

Or instead will you turn to a family that are the heirs to Boudicca, King Arthur, William the Conqueror, or my namesake Glorianna herself Elizabeth the First?

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE MURDERBOTS. Meredith advised:

For those who may not be aware: Transformative works fandom has a yearly secret santa gift exchange called Yuletide where people write small-fandom fanfiction for each other, and book fandoms usually make quite a good showing. This year’s collection can be found here.

(It’s also one of several fannish endeavours founded by Astolat, who also writes some really excellent and Hugo-nominated books when she’s not writing fanfic.)

Then JJ discovered –

There are 8 Murderbot fics!

And one of them features Timothy!

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