Sixty Years of The Twilight Zone

By Steve Vertlieb: Rod Serling’s iconic, landmark television series The Twilight Zone, premiered over the CBS Television Network on Friday night, October 2, 1959. The program featured the brilliant literary poetry of its creator, as well as the writings of Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and Ray Bradbury. It’s science fiction/fantasy premise often camouflaged Serling’s own deeply sensitive social commentary, and profound pleas for understanding and tolerance.

The program broke new ground with its reverent, often haunting, sometimes heartbreaking allegories, and remains one of the most eloquent and influential network television series in the history of the medium. For its sixtieth anniversary, the city of Binghamton, New York, which cradled the author’s birth place, has scheduled a celebration of the acclaimed tv show this weekend, commemorating the anniversary of the premiere of this wondrous television anthology series.

The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time” is my published 2009 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the classic Rod Serling television series. With original teleplays by Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and the visionary pen of host Rod Serling, along with accompanying scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Franz Waxman and Fred Steiner, among others, this tender recollection of the iconic sci-fi/fantasy anthology series is dedicated to the memory of its beloved creator, Rod Serling, who left us far too soon on June 28th, 1975 at age 50.

 His legendary television series, and his revered memory, live on beyond “shadow and substance.” “That’s the signpost up ahead.” Be swept away into another dimension with this sweet remembrance, adrift upon rippling currents of time and space, only to be found in…The Twilight Zone.


See Steve’s extended writeup The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time” at American Music Preservation which begins

There is an obscure Air Force term relating to a moment when a plane is coming down on approach and a pilot cannot see the horizon. It’s called The…

Pixel Scroll 9/29/19 My Room In The Luna Hotel Had A Harsh Mattress

(1) ALL’S WELLS THAT ENDS WELLES. This meeting between H.G. Wells and Orson Welles was broadcast on Radio KTSA San Antonio on October 28, 1940.

(2) DIFFERENCE DECIDERS. Rochelle Spencer assesses “A New Hope: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s Vision for “The Dark Fantastic”” at LA Review of Books.

…Thomas’s investigation leads to one of the most radiant and thought-provoking descriptions of the potentials of fantastic literature. In particular, what Thomas terms “the dark fantastic” — fantasy that includes but hinders or stereotypes people of color — is problematic. Still, if we’re to write what Thomas terms “an emancipatory dark fantastic” — stories that break the cycle of the tragic, sacrificial Dark Girl, and instead, reveal her as complex, defiant, central, and vibrant — we may ultimately succeed in “decolonizing our fantasies and our dreams.” And, as Thomas suggests, the ability to reconsider and reinterpret “the crisis of race in our storied imagination has the potential to make our world anew.”

…Thomas wants us to consider difference as relative and circumscribed by power. Who has the power to label someone as different or monstrous?

(3) FINALLY RETURNING TO LONG FORM. Only her second, Susanna Clarke’s next novel will be sff and appear next fall.

Bloomsbury nabbed world English rights to the sophomore novel by the author of the 2004 bestseller Jonathan Strange & Mr. NorrellSusanna Clarke’s Piranesiis slated for a global laydown in September 2020. A Bloomsbury spokesperson said the novel is set in “a richly imagined, very unusual world.” The title character lives in a place called the House and is needed by his friend, the Other, to work on a scientific project. The publisher went on: “Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems. A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls.” Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has, per Bloomsbury, sold more than four million copies worldwide. Clarke, who’s won both a Hugo Award and a World Fantasy Award, was represented by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown.

(4) FATHOM EVENTS. “‘Twilight Zone’ Anniversary Show Set for Nov. 14”Variety has the story. The Fathom Events info is here.

Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment have scheduled a Nov. 14 showing for “The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration” at more than 600 North American cinemas.

The shows will combine digitally restored versions of six episodes with an all-new documentary short titled “Remembering Rod Serling” about the life, imagination and creativity of the show’s creator. It’s the first time that original episodes of the series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, have been presented on the big screen.

Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt said, “‘The Twilight Zone’ has inspired many filmmakers and storytellers, so it is a great honor to be able to bring these classic stories to the big screen, and to offer such an incisive look into the mind of the man who created them.”

(5) 2020 ACCESSIBILITY. CoNZealand asks those coming to the 2020 Worldcon: “Let us know if you have accessible accommodation needs”.

Do you have disability or accessibility requests for your accommodation in Wellington? We are busy confirming hotel information to share with our members later this year, and need to know your current accessibility requests as part of this planning by 15 October 2019.

If you have hotel accessibility needs, please email access-hotels@conzealand.nz with details of your hotel accessibility requests and an indication of the number of nights you think you will be staying as well.

(6) PRISING OFF THE LID. Alasdair Stuart previews this week’s Full Lid (27th September 2019). It opens with —

— the UK strand of Netflix’s new anthology show [Criminal UK] which is massively impressive and COLD in a way very little drama manages to be.  Then it’s a very welcome return for Warren Ellis, Jason Howard and co’s Trees from Image Comics. The third series is a Strugatskian deep dive into one of the oddest places in the scarred and painfully human world of the series and it’s off to a great start. Finally, I take a look at Ad Astra, equal parts towering spectacle, moments of surprising emotion and near total tonal misfire. 

(7) NELSON OBIT. VentriloquistJimmy Nelson, Jimmy Nelson – known for his Farfel and Danny O’Day characters – died September 24 at age 90.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 29, 1967 Trek aired the “The Changeling” episode. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in 1979, many fans suggested that the plot was simply a remake of this episode. 
  • September 29, 1967Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons first premiered into Supermarionation. This process was used extensively in the puppet series of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 29, 1873 Theodore Lorch. He might have the earliest birthdate in these Birthday Honors so far. He’s the High Priest in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial. He’s also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial as well. (Died 1947.)
  • Born September 29, 1930 Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes, she was a redhead. Unless you can her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. Though in 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 77. Setting aside Deadwood, which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, although I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. 
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 75. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. 
  • Born September 29, 1952 Lou Stathis. During the last four years of his life, he was an editor for Vertigo. He had a fascinating work history including collaborating with cartoonist Matt Howarth by co-writing the first few issues of Those Annoying Post Bros. (Kindle has them available.) He was also a columnist and editor for Heavy Metal and a columnist for Ted White’s Fantastic magazine during the late Seventies through early Eighties. His fanwriting included the “Urban Blitz” column for OGH’s Scientifriction (the first installment appearing in 1977, Issue 9, page 29). (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 60. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next GenerationVoyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise. He’s also up on Space Above and Beyond, Babylon 5X-Files, Stargate: SG-1, Carnivale and Threshold. He was also in Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a film which you can guess the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is. 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 58. A Whovian among Whoians. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audioworks company that has produced more Doctor Who, Torchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. 
  • Born September 29, 1969 Erika Eleniak, 50. Her film debut was a small part in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as one of Elliott’s classmates.  Her first film role as an adult was as Vicki De Soto, a victim of the creature in the 1988 horror remake The Blob. She’s Vice-Captain Aurora in Dracula 3000, a film that had to have a disclaimer that it wasn’t a sequel to Dracula 2000
  • Born September 29, 1981 Shay Astar, 38. At age eleven, she portrayed Isabella, the imaginary friend of a young girl aboard the Enterprise in the Next Generation episode “Imaginary Friend”. She’s best known for her work as August Leffler, a recurring character on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Her only other genre role is as Mary Elroy in the “A Tale of Two Sweeties (February 25, 1958)” episode of Quantum Leap.

(10) FUR CHRONICLES. The late Fred Patten’s nonfiction book Furry Tales: A Review of Essential Anthropomorphic Fiction is now available from McFarland.

Tales featuring anthropomorphic animals have been around as long as there have been storytellers to spin them, from Aesop’s Fables to Reynard the Fox to Alice in Wonderland. The genre really took off following the explosion of furry fandom in the 21st century, with talking animals featuring in everything from science fiction to fantasy to LGBTQ coming-out stories.

In his lifetime, Fred Patten (1940–2018)—one of the founders of furry fandom and a scholar of anthropomorphic animal literature—authored hundreds of book reviews that comprise a comprehensive critical survey of the genre. This selected compilation provides an overview from 1784 through the 2010s, covering such popular novels as Watership Down and Redwall, along with forgotten gems like The Stray Lamb and Where the Blue Begins, and science fiction works like Sundiver and Decision at Doona.

(11) EMSH EXHIBITION. “Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller”, the first major monographic exhibition of the artist’s groundbreaking work in film, video, and visual art, will be presented at the Lightbox Film Center in Philadelphia from October 18-December 7. Full details and ticket information at the link. See Vimeo preview here.

With an immensely diverse body of creative work, Ed Emshwiller (1925-90) is perhaps one of the most significant yet under-recognized artists of the latter half of the 20th century. 

Emshwiller’s career spanned abstract expressionist painting, commercial illustration, film, video and computer art, and collaborations with dancers, choreographers, and composers.  Dream Dance includes the preservation of two of Emshwiller’s earliest films, Dance Chromatic (1959) and Lifelines (1960), which will be screened at Lightbox along with 19 of his other films—some of which have never been publicly presented in Philadelphia—as well as notable films by other filmmakers for which he served as cinematographer. 

A concurrent exhibition at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery highlights Emshwiller’s visual and fine art background, including video works, early paintings, notes, sketches, ephemera, and many early science fiction cover paintings. Dream Dance is a full scale investigation of the artist’s legacy, presenting his multidisciplinary oeuvre to a new generation of audiences.

(12) VOYAGE TO THE INDIES. Cora Buhlert signs in with the highlights of “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 2019”.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, military fantasy, dark fantasy, Arthurian fantasy, Asian fantasy, Wuxia, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, time travel romance, Steampunk, LitRPG, horror, ghosts, fae, pirates, space marines, conscientious objectors, traffickers, trailblazers, time travel, crime-busting witches, crime-busting werewolves, literary characters come to life, Arthur and Merlin, defiant empires and much more.

(13) THOSE DARN REPLICANTS. By the time you reach the end of this list — “Blade Runner: 10 Things That Make No Sense”ScreenRant will have you thinking the whole movie makes no sense. (Maybe it doesn’t?)

10 IDENTIFYING A REPLICANT

In the beginning of the film, it’s established that in order to retire a replicant, they must be subject to a VK test to determine their empathy levels. When Holden is sent to give the test to Leon, why doesn’t he recognize him? It’s established that all replicants have dossiers, because we see their mugshots lined up later on in the film. This proves there’s a unique database that exists of every replicant’s face on record.

Also, if it comes to identifying replicants in the streets, why can’t Deckard or other Blade Runners use an EMF reader to locate them? They have machine components under their synthetic flesh, so their electromagnetic impulses would assuredly register on such devices.

(14) STARSHIP NEWS.  “SpaceX knows what a rocket should look like!” says John King Tarpinian, who sent in this photo. Meanwhie,BBC reports “Elon Musk upbeat on Starship test flights”.

The American entrepreneur Elon Musk has given a further update on his Starship and Super Heavy rocket system.

He plans to use the new vehicles to send people to the Moon and Mars, and also to move them swiftly around the Earth.

The SpaceX CEO is in the process of building prototypes and plans to start flying them in the coming months.

…Both parts of the new rocket system, which together will stand 118m tall on the launch pad, are being designed to be fully reusable, making propulsive landings at the end of their mission.

Mr Musk is well known for his aggressive scheduling, which even has a name: “Elon time”.

The scheduling often slips, but eventually he does tend to deliver.

(15) MARS SOCIETY. The organization has posted the “2019 Mars Society Convention Schedule Online”.

The full itinerary for the 22nd Annual International Mars Society Convention is now available for viewing online. Please visit https://bit.ly/2kPIDqa to see the four-day conference schedule, running from October 17-20 at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles).

The Mars Society convention program includes a series of plenary talks, panel discussions and public debates on important issues related to planning for a human mission to the Red Planet and general space exploration.

Conference highlights will include an update about NASA’s Curiosity rover with Ashwin Vasavada, a talk about SpaceX and its mission to Mars by Paul Wooster, a debate about NASA’s proposed Lunar Gateway project, an update about the Mars InSight mission by Tom Hoffman, a review by Shannon Rupert of her experiences with Mars analog research, the finals of the Mars Colony Prize Contest involving student teams from around the world and, as always, an address by Mars Society President Robert Zubrin.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/28/19 “This Title Is Too Hot” Said Glyerlocks. “And This One Is Too Long!”

(1) HAUNTING VERSES. Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Halloween readings can be listened to at the link.

SFPA’s Halloween Poetry Reading shares our enjoyment of speculative poetry with a broader audience, increases awareness of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and promotes the individual poets who take part. All SFPA members are welcome to submit one audio file per person of themselves reading one of their spooky, haunting, ghoulish, or humorous Halloween or horror poems.

(2) HE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. Timothy the Talking Cat chooses the nuclear option for an answer to the question “How Come Cats are All the Same Size?” at Camestros Felapton.

….Here I am at the Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire or “CERN” in Geneva. Only here at the pinnacle of modern sub-atomic particle research can scientists determine the minute differences in cat length. To better understand our question I have taken two dogs and placed them within the seventeen mile long Large Hadron Collider. Within this massive apparatus, the two dogs will be accelerated to extraordinarily high speeds until, somewhere close to the Swiss-France border the two dogs will collide resulting in a cascade of elementary dog-particles.

(3) ADDAMS CHOW. The International House of Pancakes is on the movie’s marketing bandwagon — “New! Addams Family Menu”.

(4) OH, WHAT A FINANCIAL WEB WE WEAVE. Anthony D’Alessandro, in the Deadline story “Spider-Man Back In Action As Sony Agrees To Disney Co-Fi For New Movie, Return To MCU: How Spidey’s Web Got Untangled” says that Sony and Disney made a pact whereby Disney puts up a quarter of the cost for the third Tom Holland Spider-Man film and gets a quarter of the profits, returning Spider-Man to the MCU for Spider-Man 3 and one other MCU film.

This is also a big win for Sony here in continuing a series that will likely give it another $1 billion-plus-grossing film along with an 8% distribution fee or higher. Additionally, the deal keeps intact the creative steering of Disney’s Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who led two of the best and most profitable fan-pleasing pics in the Spidey film canon to $2 billion worldwide.

(5) TWILIGHT BEEB. BBC Radio 4’s documentary You’re Entering Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone is available to listen to at the website for another four weeks.

October 1959, America was deep into the ‘age of unease’ as viewers took their first steps into ‘another dimension, not only of sight & sound but of mind. Their ‘next stop, The Twilight Zone.

…Rod Serling, America’s most famous television playwright, astonished people with his announcement that he was to explore the realms of science fiction and fantasy in a new anthology show. Like Dennis Potter starting up Dr Who. But Serling, an impeccable liberal haunted by war, racial strife & the possibilities of nuclear Armageddon smuggled stories of conscience, doubt and possibility into 5 seasons of a remarkable show that has never died & has been revisited for a fourth time with Jordan Peele as host. In truth, nothing can match a realm of the American weird that Serling made uniquely his own.

In this special Radio 4 Extra documentary Alan Dein hears from Serling’s family, veteran directors Richard Donner & John Frankenheimer, actors Earl Holliman (star of the first ever episode) & Jean Marsh as well as the writers Jonathan Lethem & David Thomson & Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker. 2 Twilight Zone radio episodes accompany the documentary.

(6) JOKER AUDIENCE WARNING. Dell Cameron, in “U.S. Military Issues Warning to Troops About Incel Violence at Joker Screenings [Updated]” at Gizmodo, says the military has issued an warning to troops (which they obtained) saying that screenings of Joker could be attacked by incels and to be careful when attending them.

The U.S. military has warned service members about the potential for a mass shooter at screenings of the Warner Bros. film Joker, which has sparked wide concerns from, among others, the families of those killed during the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

The U.S. Army confirmed on Tuesday that the warning was widely distributed after social media posts related to extremists classified as “incels,” were uncovered by intelligence officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 28, 1858 — First photograph of a comet.
  • September 28, 1990 I Come In Peace (aka Dark Angel) premiered. Starring Dolph Lundgren, it scores 31% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • September 28, 2012 Looper premiered. Starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, it scored 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, and lost to The Avengers for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, Hugo Award in 2013. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1909 Al Capp. Cartoonist responsible of course for the Li’l Abner strip. Is it genre? Of course. (Died 1979.)
  • Born September 28, 1913 Ellis Peters. Writer of two excellent ghost novels, The City Lies Four-Square and By This Strange Fire. These alas are not available on iBooks or Kindle. (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 28, 1923 William Windom. Commodore Matt Decker, commander of the doomed USS Constellation in “The Doomsday Machine” episode, one of the best Trek stories told. Norman Spinrad was the writer. Other genre appearances include being the President on Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Major in “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” episode of Twilight Zone and Ben Victor in the “The Night of the Flying Pie Plate” story of The Wild Wild West. This is a sampling only! (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 28, 1926 Bernard Behrens. He voiced Obi-Wan Kenobi in the BBC radio adaptations of the original trilogy. He also was Gustav Helsing in Dracula: The TV Series, played several different characters on the War of the Worlds and The Bionic Woman series and was even in a Roger Corman film, Galaxy of Terror. The latter scored 33% at Rotten Tomatoes begging the question whether any film he did score well there? (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 28, 1934 Janet Horsburgh. She’s likely best remembered as Katie O’Gill in Darby O’Gill and the Little People. She was also Anne Pilgrim in The Trollenberg Terror and Jeannie Craig in The Day the Earth Caught Fire. (Died 1972.)
  • Born September 28, 1935 Ronald Lacey. He’s very best remembered as Gestapo agent Major Arnold Ernst Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark. (A series where they should’ve stopped with first film.) he’s actually in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as Heinrich Himmler though it’s uncredited role. One of his first genre appearances was as the Strange Young Man in The Avengers episode “The Joker”.  In that same period, he was the village idiot in The Fearless Vampire Killers which actually premiered as The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck. And he’s in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as President Widmark. This is but a thin wafer of his genre roles so do feel free to add your favorite.  (Died 1991.)
  • Born September 28, 1946 Jeffrey Jones, 73. I see his first SFF role was as Mayor Lepescu in Transylvania 6-5000 which followed by being in Howard the Duck as Dr. Walter Jenning / Dark Overlord. He recovered from that movie flop by being Charles Deetz in Beetlejuice, and Dick Nelson in Mom and Dad Save the World. He’s Uncle Crenshaw Little in Stuart Little, and I see he shows in Sleepy Hollow as Reverend Steenwyck. He’s does series one-offs in The Twilight ZoneTales from the Crypt, Amazing Stories and The Outer Limits.
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 69. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of Piranha, Alligator, Battle Beyond the Stars, The HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1966 Maria Pilar Canals-Barrera, 53. She’s getting Birthday Honors for being the voice of Hawkgirl on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. She’s also voiced Commissioner Ellen Yindel in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and voiced Rio Morales, the mother of the Spider-Man, Miles Morales, on the Ultimate Spider-Man series. I just picked this to watch as it’s look very good. 
  • Born September 28, 1967 Mira Sorvino, 51. She’s Sara in Falling Skies in a recurring role in the last two seasons, and she’s Amy Whelan in Intruders. She voices Ingrid Cortez on Spy Kids: Mission Critical, and she’s Tess Chaplin in The Last Templar

(9) FUTURE TENSE. At Slate, the new Future Tense story is Marcy Kelly’s “Double Spiral”. Tagline: “Read a new short story about genetic testing, privacy, and profit.”

She was lucky.

Lucky, and then unlucky, and then lucky again, she thought, guiltily, seeing this child on the subway.

It was obvious, instantly. The shape of his head. The low-set mouth. The boy’s mother turned toward Rada and she looked away, not wanting to be caught staring.

The response essay, “Crossing the Germline” is by Josephine Johnston, an expert on the ethical, legal, and policy implications of biomedical technologies.

…Primarily as a result of our seemingly benign interest in family trees, several U.S. companies have already amassed proprietary databases of DNA from 26 million customers. There are an estimated 15 million samples in Ancestry’s database, while 23andMe says it has tested 10 million customers. Having learned that a minority of traits, such as Huntington’s disease or cystic fibrosis, can be explained by single genetic differences, scientists are now bringing big data approaches to genome sequencing to calculate “polygenic risk scores” quantifying the likelihood that people will develop schizophrenia, graduate from high school, or score highly on IQ tests.

(10) PATREON. WIRED’s article “Jack Conte, Patreon, and the Plight of the Creative Class” by Jonah Weiner, a profile of Patreon creator Jack Conte, includes this interesting statistic —

The most popular musician on Patreon is the extremely online singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer, who has more than 15,000 patrons and doesn’t disclose her earnings.

…By and large, he (Conte) says, Patreon privileges those creators who tend toward higher-frequency output and whose fans regard them as (mistake them for?) dear friends.  ‘Amanda Palmer loves her fans and they love her,,’ Conte adds.  ‘They actually feel love for her.  That’s a particular type of artists.  Not every artist wants that vulnerable, close, open relationship with their fans.  Like, really tactically:  Do you run fan-art contests>  Do you respond to comments on Twitter>  Do you sell soap–do a weird fun thing with your fans then send them a thing in the mail, thanking them for what they contributed>’  If not, don’t count on making your rent via Patreon.

(11) TODAY’S CONSPIRACY THEORY. Someone who thought it would enhance the paranoid theme of his latest blog post asked why Dan Simmons’ official site today is displaying the message “We’ll be up and running soon” – essentially an “under construction” sign. The blogger wonders, did someone hack it to show displeasure about the author’s Thunberg comments? Maybe the blogger’s lack of research is what should be suspected. The Internet Archive shows this message has been on Simmons’ front page for over a year — https://web.archive.org/web/20180804122809/http://dansimmons.com/.

(12) SKELETON IN THE GARDEN. Yahoo! News learned the truth is out there – in this case, buried under a pile of dirt: “Family dig up Jurassic fossil hidden by ‘god-fearing’ Victorian ancestors for 170 years”.

A man whose Victorian ancestors buried a giant Jurassic fossil because it threatened their religious beliefs has put it on display 170 years later.

Cider brandy maker Julian Temperley knew that a Jurassic period 90 million-year-old ichthyosaurus fossil was buried in the garden at his family’s home in Thorney, Somerset.

But his god-fearing ancestors kept it hidden for years after its discovery in 1850, worried they would be ‘denying God’ by flashing it around.

When recent flooding forced him to dig the stunning relic up for good, Mr Temperley paid £3,000 for it to be cleaned – and he’s now having its image printed on his cider brandy bottles.

(13) FIGURES. Titan Merchandise previewed their DC Hero Titans, which will be showcased in Booth #2142 at New York Comic-Con starting October 3.

(14) MORE UNDERWATER REAL ESTATE. LAist heralds a new attraction in Downtown Los Angeles: “A Childhood Obsession Led To This New Atlantis-Themed DTLA Escape Room”.

There are more than 2,000 escape rooms across the country, with hundreds available here in Los Angeles. One of the most popular homes for escape rooms, Escape Room L.A., opens one of their most ambitious projects to date this weekend: Atlantis.

Escape room designer John Hennessy said that the idea for this room has been brewing for a long time.

…We went to a media preview and tried out the new game. The story begins with an eccentric professor who, like Hennessy, is obsessed with Atlantis. The professor has discovered how to open a portal to Atlantis, with your mission involving a search for the mysterious MacGuffin of the Poseidon Crystal.

You start inside the professor’s office, solving clues to activate his machine and open up the portal. The professor gifts your group with the ability to breathe underwater through a special hand stamp (just go with us here) and four Atlantean pendants.

Note: whenever you start out with an item in an escape room, you’re always going to need to use that item somewhere else. A door opens, and you’re whisked away to Atlantis.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, who found one that was “Just right.”]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/19 The Filer Who Went Up A Scroll But Came Down A Pixel

(1) NEBULA LIVESTREAM. You can see it on SFWA’s YouTube channel at 8:00 p.m. Pacific.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are presenting the 2018 Nebula Awards for excellence in science fiction and fantasy writing, live from the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA.

(2) NEW OWNERSHIP. Have you ever rescued something a neighbor put out in the yard? The Toronto Globe and Mail has a story to share: “Starship Enterprise replica seeks new life, new civilization with new Toronto owner”.

The Starship Enterprise has travelled far and wide throughout the galaxy, encountering countless civilizations — and now it is sitting in a garage in eastern Toronto.

…Bill Doern, a 51-year-old who runs a boutique public relations and marketing firm in Toronto, watched reruns of the original Star Trek television series as a boy. His favourite character is Spock. His favourite captain is Picard. When his wife was pregnant with their first child, he hoped to name the boy Mr. Sulu (they ended up naming him Elijah).

Mr. Doern is, in other words, about as much of a Trekkie as a Trekkie can be.

The Saturday before Mother’s Day, he was driving home from doing some grocery shopping when he saw a scale replica of the Enterprise NCC-1701-A, last seen in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, released in 1991, on a neighbour’s front lawn.

Mr. Doern stopped to get a picture of the ship, which is about as big as a small car. As he was snapping a pic, the homeowner came out with a “For sale” sign.

(3) ARTIFICIAL OBSTREPOROUSNESS. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has a lot of fun foretelling “The Coming of the Fanbots”.

…It should come as no surprise then that a joint team comprised of members of MIT’s Media Lab (Artificial Intelligence Division) and Hanson Robotics was recently formed to address the need for Fanbots – electronic replacements for geeks and nerds.

“This project actually began in Hollywood”, said Dr. Calvin, Chief Administrator for the project.  “Studio heads approached us a few years ago and asked us to blue-sky a response to the negativity that was surrounding, among other things, Disney’s evisceration of the Star Wars extended universe, not to mention Paramount’s problems with Star Trek fan films, the on-going complaints about Fox’s cancellation of Firefly, the regular eruption of re-make hysteria, the encroachment of real world politics into entertainment.”

Calvin went on to explain that the studios were expressing grave concern over the reliability of fans, and concern over the increasing sense of “ownership” fans were expressing regarding favored properties.  One director stated that he was “sick and tired of being told what prior works he had stolen his ideas from; another expressed dismay over fan’s insistence that some degree of logicality accompany the plots of entirely fictional characters; marketing division heads complained about the complete and utter unreliability of fan audiences who seemed to select favorites and stinkers in an entirely arbitrary and fickle manner.”…

(4) FIRST UNMEN IN THE MOON. Print covers the release of “Robert Grossman’s Moon Walk”.

Three years before he died last year, the brilliant caricaturist, illustrator, animator and comic strip artist, Robert Grossman completed his as-of-then unpublished magnum opus, a decade long passion titled Life On The Moon: A Completely Illustrated Novel (Yoe Books). Grossman prided himself on illustrating “the un-illustratable” — an historical graphic novel based on the “Great Moon Hoax,” the most successful  fake news story ever published.

Robert Grossman and the Moon

In 1835, The New York Sun published a series of six articles declaring the discovery of life–and advanced civilization–on the moon, which the newspaper attributed to the famous contemporary astronomer Sir John Herschel. According to the Sun, the lunar inhabitants included unicorns, bison, bipedal tail-less beavers, and intelligent humanoids with bat-like wings.

(5) SCOFFER. Karen Yossman gives a right-wing take on the various controversies in YA publishing at Spectator: “Writers blocked: Even fantasy fiction is now offensive”.

…Nor is the contagion confined to American authors. Last month John Boyne, best known for the Holocaust novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, received such a barrage of abuse prior to the publication of his latest book, My Brother’s Name Is Jessica, which features a transgender central character, that he was briefly forced off Twitter. Critics labelled the book ‘transphobic’, suggesting that because Boyne is not transgender the story ‘lacked authenticity’ and its title ‘misgendered’ the fictional protagonist.

At almost the same moment that Boyne was deleting his Twitter account, Lincolnshire-based Zoe Marriott, a prolific writer of YA fiction, was also being hounded on the site over her new fantasy novel, The Hand, the Eye and the Heart, because it’s set in ‘fairy-tale China’. One prominent YA blogger warned: ‘White authors need to stay the hell away from the stories of people of color.’ Curiously, said blogger’s day job involves manning the tills at Foyles, one of London’s most revered bookshops — pity the poor sod who dares trouble her for a copy of Othello, or Tolkien for that matter.  The father of fantasy fiction has come in for criticism for his portrayal of orcs in The Lord of the Rings. Some feel his work is ‘racialized’. And what’s a sensitive young bookseller to do if a young customer requests a C.S. Lewis, whose Narnia books were branded ‘blatantly racist’ and misogynistic by fellow fantasy author Philip Pullman? Pullman has since been labelled ‘transphobic’ himself after tweeting in October that he was ‘finding the trans argument impossible to follow’.

(6) FELDGRAU DISCOURAGED. Unsurprisingly, Bounding Into Comics needles this new policy: “Anime NYC Institutes Ban on Cosplays of ‘Fictitious Nazis or Nazi-Like Organizations’”

…Though the rule in question specifically targets the promotion or display of “fictitious Nazis or Nazi-like organizations,” Anime NYC has been highly inconsistent in its application of the rule. Tanya the Evil, a series specifically noted in the rules, features allusions to aspects of World War II (such as the appearance of the World War II-era MP40 submachine guns or a character based on Werner Von Braun) but is entirely set in a fictional country based heavily on World War I-era Europe.

Furthermore, in a move deemed hypocritical by some fans, the close professional partnership between LeftField Media and Crunchyroll led to Anime NYC promoting a special screening of The Saga of Tanya the Evil – the Movie:…

(7) THE SCIENTIFIC ANSWER. Readers can discover “The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones” at Scientific American.

… The show did indeed take a turn for the worse, but the reasons for that downturn goes way deeper than the usual suspects that have been identified (new and inferior writers, shortened season, too many plot holes). It’s not that these are incorrect, but they’re just superficial shifts. In fact, the souring of Game of Thrones exposes a fundamental shortcoming of our storytelling culture in general: we don’t really know how to tell sociological stories.

At its best, GOT was a beast as rare as a friendly dragon in King’s Landing: it was sociological and institutional storytelling in a medium dominated by the psychological and the individual. This structural storytelling era of the show lasted through the seasons when it was based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, who seemed to specialize in having characters evolve in response to the broader institutional settings, incentives and norms that surround them.

After the show ran ahead of the novels, however, it was taken over by powerful Hollywood showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Some fans and critics have been assuming that the duo changed the narrative to fit Hollywood tropes or to speed things up, but that’s unlikely. In fact, they probably stuck to the narrative points that were given to them, if only in outline form, by the original author. What they did is something different, but in many ways more fundamental: Benioff and Weiss steer the narrative lane away from the sociological and shifted to the psychological. That’s the main, and often only, way Hollywood and most television writers tell stories….

(8) SJWS CAN WALK. Kevin Standlee and Lisa Hayes thought there was good news for the Tonopah in 2021 Westercon bid – that Streamliner Lines is inaugurating bus service to the city:

We’re pleased to see that an inter-city bus carrier has begun to sell tickets for intercity bus service Reno-Tonopah-Las Vegas-Phoenix, starting July 3, 2019. This should give people traveling to Tonopah by air to Reno or Las Vegas an additional way of getting to Tonopah without having to rent a vehicle or group with other people doing so.

The good feeling only lasted until Lenore Jones told Filers what she read in Streamliner’s “contract of carriage”, a document with many remarkable restrictions, such as:  

Prohibition of Social Justice Warriors

Due to attempted vandalism, Social Justice Warriors may not travel on Streamliner. Social Justice Warriors include:

  • Persons self-proclaiming to be “Social Justice Warriors” or “SJWs”.
  • Persons supporting California regulations prohibiting or restricting Streamliner operations.
  • Persons supporting boycotts, sabotage, agitation, protests, and terrorism against Streamliner.

(9) SMITH OBIT. Artist Dennis Neal Smith, chair of the first WesterCon in San Diego in 1966, has died reports Greg Bear.

Fond farewell to Dennis Neal Smith, famous for many things, and scholar of many things, who inspired Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” with his richly textured illustrations, and who illustrated my first story collection for Arkham House, as well as Joanna Russ’ collection.

Jackie Estrada says Smith died of cancer:

But his biggest claim to fame was his artwork. Harlan Ellison based several of his short stories on drawings by Dennis, including “Bright Eyes,” “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” and “Delusions for a Dragonslayer.” He also did the art for the first progress report for the 1972 San Diego Comic-Con and served on the committee back then.

The 1966 San Diego Westercon hotel inspired Poul Anderson to write the immortal filk “Bouncing Potatoes”.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

May 18, 1962The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” based on a story by Ray Bradbury.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 18, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series. Some are outstanding, some less so. Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think read is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out. (Died 2007.)
  • Born May 18, 1934 Elizabeth Rogers. Trek geeking time. She had two roles in the series. She provided the uncredited voice for “The Companion” in the “Metamorphosis” episode. She also portrayed Lt. Palmer, a communications officer who took the place of Uhura, in “The Doomsday Machine”, “The Way to Eden”, and the very last episode of the series, “Turnabout Intruder”. She also had appearances on Time Tunnel, Land of The Giants, Bewitched, The Swarm and Something Evil. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 18, 1946 Andreas Katsulas. I knew him as Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5 but had forgottenhe played played the Romulan Commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation. His first genre role on television was playing Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and he had a recurring role in Max Headroom as Mr. Bartlett. He alsohad appearances on Alien NationThe Death of the Incredible HulkMillenniumStar Trek: Enterprise and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 18, 1948 R-Laurraine Tutihasi, 71. She’s a member of LASFS and the N3F. She publishes Feline Mewsings for FAPA. Not surprisingly, she’s had a number of SJW credentials in her life and her website gives honour to them here.
  • Born May 18, 1949 Rick Wakeman, 70. English musician who did a number of genre themed recordings including Journey to the Centre of the EarthThe Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Nineteen Eighty-four
  • Born May 18, 1952 Diane Duane, 67. She’s known for the the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. 
  • Born May 18, 1958 Jonathan Maberry, 61. The only thing I’ve read by him is a number of works in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra. 
  • Born May 18, 1969 Ty Franck, 50. Half of the writing team along with Daniel Abraham that s James Corey, author of the Expanse series. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind by a volume or two as there’s just too many good series out there too keep up with all of them, damn it!

(12) SCARES THAT CARE. [Item by Dann.] Episode 219 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene included an announcement of the 3rd Horror Show telethon to benefit the Scares That Care charity. The first telethon in 2017 raised over $10,000, last year’s telethon raised over $20,000.  Both events took place in Pennsylvania and heavily featured guests living on the east coast of the United States.

This year’s event will take place on September 27-28 at Dark Delicacies located at 822 N. Hollywood Way located in Burbank, CA.  This is a new location for the bookstore that bills itself as the “Home of Horror”.

One feature of holding this year’s event in California is the ability to draw on the talented people in the horror genre that live and work on the west coast of the United States.

Unlike the first two telethons, this year’s event will take place in a location with less room for live viewing.  It is hoped that attendees will circulate in and out of the viewing area that patrons of the store will still be able to shop.

The telethon will be broadcast live via one of the streaming services.  Online fundraising will be performed via the Scares That Care website.

Fans wanting to participate in a Scares That Care event on the east coast can attend the “Scares That Care Weekend from August 1 to August 4 in Williamsburg, VA.

(13) GEOGRAPHY OF FANTASY. At Fantasy Literature, Brad Hawley reviews “God Country: A Sentient Sword Comes to Texas”.

…The sword, Valofax, is a giant sentient blade that is the embodiment of all swords and knives throughout the universe. It changes the life of a small family: Grandfather Emmett Quinlan, his son, and his son’s wife and young daughter. The story takes us from Texas to Hell and finally to the far-off home of Valofax, whose creator wants the sword back even as his planet dies all around him….

Does that mean it’s supposed to be a long distance between Texas and Hell?

(15) AT THE KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the KGB Readings on May 15.

Kai Ashante Wilson and Simon Strantzas read from their short work and they were riveting

(16) THOSE DARNED HUGOS. Galactic Journey’s Traveler notes with asperity that almost none of the Hugo nominees this year (that being 1964) were good enough to be shortlisted for his own Galactic Stars. “[May 18, 1964] Aspirations (June 1964 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”. (The Traveler needs to buy a bigger hat.)

If you plunked down your $2 for a Worldcon membership (Pacificon II in San Francisco this year), then you probably sent in your nominations for the Hugo Awards, honoring the best works of 1963. Last month, you got the finalists ballot. Maybe, like me, you were surprised….

(17) ANDERS ANSWERS. “Bay Area sci-fi author Charlie Jane Anders dishes on planets, books” in the Mercury News.

What do you think accounts for the recent boom in speculative fiction?

There’s been a trend over the last 20 years of “mainstream” literary authors dipping into speculative fiction — Margaret Atwood, John Updike. (But) we’re living in a time where everything is a little more science fictional. Technology has transformed lives in a short time, things like smartphones, medical technologies. A third thing is that speculative fiction is finally opening out and including authors who had previously been kept out of the genre: people of color, women, queer people, transgendered people, disabled people. That, I think, leads to an explosion of creativity and a ton of really interesting stories.

(18) NEBULA CONFERENCE VIDEOS. SFWA has posted several panel discussions from this weekend’s event.

  • Shifting To Games. With Phoebe Barton, Kate Dollarhyde, Darusha Wehm, Natalia Theodoridou, and Kate Heartfield.
  • Now What? Emerging writers discuss life after their debut. With Rebecca Roanhorse, Peng Shepherd, Mike Chen, R.R. Virdi and R.F. Kuang
  • How do the writers of 2019 incorporate modern themes while writing in past settings? With Susan Forest, Connie Willis, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kate Heartfield

(19) STAR WARS PITCH. ScreenRant lets you step inside the pitch meeting that led to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/29/19 The Task Of Filling Up This Scroll I’d Rather Leave To You

(1) EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. Ian Sales’ “Top five science fiction films” is a good post made even more interesting by the choice of John Carter (2012) as one of the five – not a movie many viewers would pick.

I saw someone recently tweet for requests for people’s top five science fiction films and I thought, I can do that. Then it occurred to me I’ve watched around 3000 movies in the past few years, and many of them were science fiction. So those films I think of as my favourites… well, surely I’d seen something that might lead to a new top five? Even if nothing sprung immediately to mind… True, I’m not that big a fan of science fiction cinema, and most of my favourite movies are dramas. And most of the sf films I have seen were commercial tentpole US movies, a genre I like even less…

I went back over my records, and pulled together a rough list of about fifteen films – it seems most of the sf films I’ve seen didn’t impress me very much – and then whittled that down to five. And they were pretty much old favourites. Which sort of rendered the whole exercise a bit pointless.

Or was it?…

(2) FILER SCORES SCALZI Q&A. While John Scalzi was in Hungary for the Budapest International Book Festival, he gave an interview to blogger Bence Pintér:

I will present an English version for my blog in a few days, but until then there is a short video interview at the end of the article, which is in English: “John Scalzi: A szélsojobbos trollok csak jót tettek a science fictionnel”.

(3) HELP ED NAHA. Lots of fans know Ed Naha as the creator and screenwriter for Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and a writer for Starlog, Fangoria and Heavy Metal. He also wrote scripts for the movies Doll, Trolls, and other horror/sf movies.

Paul Sanchez says, “Ed is facing an upcoming major life-threatening surgery. The great American health care system being what it is, it is not nearly enough (Shocking, right?)” So he’s launches a GoFundMe appeal —“Honey, I Shrunk Naha’s Medical Bills!”

In the first two days people have contributed $1,605 toward its $19,998 goal.

(4) ZHAO RETURNS. The author who pulled her book in response to a Twitter uproar now is ready for it to go to press.

The New York Times elaborates: “She Pulled Her Debut Book When Critics Found It Racist. Now She Plans to Publish.”

(5) WHY WAIT? “‘The Twilight Zone’ Renewed for Season 2 at CBS All Access” says The Hollywood Reporter.

CBS All Access and Jordan Peele will spend some more time in another dimension.

The streamer has renewed Peele and Simon Kinberg’s Twilight Zone revival for a second season. The pickup comes five episodes into the anthology’s run; new installments are released each Thursday.

(6) HORROR AT GETTYSBURG. Dann writes: “Via episode 216 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, I learned about a new Con.”

The inaugural Creature Feature Weekend is scheduled to take place Labor Day weekend of 2019. (August 30 to September 1) In Gettysburg, PA. The con will feature the usual vendor’s room, autograph opportunities, nightly ghost/film location tours, and host an independent film festival.

Scheduled guests include Corey Feldman, Patty Mullen, Joe Bob Briggs, Geretta Geretta, Jason Brooks, Brandon Novak, Chalet Lizette Branna, Billy Bryan, David Eisenhauer John Russo, Glenn Ennis, and others.

Thought this might be of interest to fans of the horror corner of the genre pool.

(7) ANTHOLOGY ARCHITECTURE. In “Time Capsule: SF – The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1956)”, Nerds of a Feather contributors Adri Joy, Joe Sherry and Paul Weimer use a single work to focus their discussion of editor Judith Merril.

… Today we’re talking about Judith Merril’s first Year’s Best anthology: SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, originally published in 1956….

Paul: I am reminded that rights make it difficult to get many of these older anthologies except in falling-apart paperbacks. I do think there is something lost when these things fall out of print, because the notes make this more, in my view, than just the sum of the stories. There is value in reading this collection above and beyond the individual stories themselves.

On that note, one thing I did like in this anthology that you don’t get in a lot of modern anthologies is the “Sewing together” that Merrill does in providing explicit direction as to what she was thinking in placement of stories on subject and theme. I don’t think that gets enough play these days, and too often, anthologies seem to have stories in any old order without a sense of how they reflect and refract on each other. Merrill WANTS you to know what she is thinking. It’s a more “present” place for an anthologist than what you get these days.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Game are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way, several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; also did editing of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1955 Kate Mulgrew, 64. Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Other genre roles include voicing Red Claw on Batman: The Animated Series, Jane Lattimer on Warehouse 13 and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia at the Signature Theatre Company. 
  • Born April 29, 1968 Michelle Pfeiffer, 61. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. I saw it once which was quite enough. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?h in The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 49. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film, and Irene in Gattaca.

(9) GAME OF ROT-13. BEWARE SPOILERS for last night’s Game of Thrones episode.The Mary Sue asks “Ubj va gur Jbeyq Pna Nalbar Fnl Neln Fgnex Vf n Znel Fhr?”.

Gvzr sbe zr gb erne zl htyl urnq va guvf pbairefngvba naq fgneg fpernzvat ng crbcyr, orpnhfr gur tebff pbafrafhf nsgre gur yngrfg rcvfbqr bs UOB’f Tnzr bs Guebarf vf gung Neln Fgnex, n jbzna jub qrqvpngrq ure yvsr gb pbzong genvavat, vf abj n Znel Fhr. Nsgre fur raqrq hc qrsrngvat gur Avtug Xvat ol fgnoovat uvz jvgu qentbatynff, zra ner znq gung n jbzna qvq vg vafgrnq bs gurve cerpvbhf Wba Fabj.

(10) QUICK, WATSON. Paul Weimer reviews a Holmes-inspired novel in “Microreview [book]: The Hound of Justice, by Claire O’Dell” at Nerds of a Feather.

By the end of A Study in Honor, the first in Claire O’Dell’s Janet Watson Chronicles, the writer had established the parameters of her world, introduced our two main characters in full, Dr. Janet Watson and Sara Holmes. These two queer women of color as posited are indeed this world’s versions of the classic detective duo, in a near future 21st century Washington D.C, where America, after the divisiveness of a Trump administration is wracked by something even worse: A new Civil War. The two meet, and a first step toward Watson engaging with the war-torn past that cost her an arm is the central mystery at the heart of that novel.

In The Hound of Justice (yet a second novel title in homage to Doyle)., Dr. Watson’s story continues…

(11) XENON. “Scientists witness the rarest event in the Universe yet seen” — at SYFY Wire, Phil Plait tells what made it possible.

Over a kilometer below the surface of Italy, deep beneath the Gran Sasso mountain, lies a cylindrical tank. It’s roughly a meter high, a bit less than that wide, and it’s filled with an extraordinary substance: three and a half tons of ultra-pure xenon, kept liquid at a temperature of almost a hundred degrees Celsius below zero.

The tank is part of an experiment called XENON1T, and scientist built it in the hopes of detecting an incredibly rare event: an interaction of a dark matter particle with a xenon nucleus, predicted to occur if dark matter is a very specific kind of particle itself. Should they see such an event, it will nail down what dark matter is, and change the course of astronomy.

Unfortunately, they haven’t seen that yet. But instead, what they have seen is something far, far more rare: the decay of xenon-124 into tellurium-124. The conditions need to be so perfect for this to happen inside the nucleus of a xenon-124 atom that the half-life* for this event is staggeringly rare: It’s 1.8 x 1022 years.

(12) SOURCE OF OLD EARWORMS. NPR’s “From Betty Boop To Popeye, Franz Von Suppé Survives In Cartoons” includes the cartoons mentioned in the headline.

On April 18, 2019, Franz von Suppé was born on 200 years ago in what is now Croatia, but he went to Vienna as a young man and built a successful career as a conductor and composer. And while you may never have heard of von Suppé, if you like movies, cartoons, or video games, odds are you’ve heard his music.

(13) BEFORE THE BREAKTHROUGH. BBC delves into “‘The Wandering Earth’ and China’s sci-fi heritage”.

The Wandering Earth has been billed as a breakthrough for Chinese sci-fi.

The film tells the story of our planet, doomed by the expanding Sun, being moved across space to a safer place. The Chinese heroes have to save the mission – and humanity – when Earth gets caught in Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

Based on Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin’s short story of the same name, Wandering Earth has already grossed $600m (£464m) at the Chinese box office and was called China’s “giant leap into science fiction” by the Financial Times. It’s been bought by Netflix and will debut there on 30 April.

But while this may be the first time many in the West have heard of “kehuan” – Chinese science fiction – Chinese cinema has a long sci-fi history, which has given support to scientific endeavour, offered escapism from harsh times and inspired generations of film-goers.

So for Western audiences eager to plot the rise of the Chinese sci-fi movie, here are five films I think are worth renewed attention….

(14) PLEASE TO RETURN TO SENDER. “Norway finds ‘Russian spy whale’ off Arctic coast”: BBC has the story.

A beluga whale found off Norway’s coast wearing a special Russian harness was probably trained by the Russian navy, a Norwegian expert says.

Marine biologist Prof Audun Rikardsen said the harness had a GoPro camera holder and a label sourcing it to St Petersburg. A Norwegian fisherman managed to remove it from the whale.

He said a Russian fellow scientist had told him that it was not the sort of kit that Russian scientists would use.

Russia has a naval base in the region.

The tame beluga repeatedly approached Norwegian boats off Ingoya, an Arctic island about 415km (258 miles) from Murmansk, where Russia’s Northern Fleet is based. Belugas are native to Arctic waters.

…A Russian reserve colonel, who has written previously about the military use of marine mammals, shrugged off Norway’s concern about the beluga. But he did not deny that it could have escaped from the Russian navy.

Interviewed by Russian broadcaster Govorit Moskva, Col Viktor Baranets said “if we were using this animal for spying do you really think we’d attach a mobile phone number with the message ‘please call this number’?”

(15) WHAT TO WANT. I learned something about Murderbot, and something about the reviewer, Andrea, in “Exit Strategy by Martha Wells” at Little Red Reviewer.

…When I first started reading Exit Strategy, I thought the plot was thin and weak. I felt like I wasn’t connecting with this book as much as I had with earlier entries, and that annoyed me. Call it user-error.  More on that later, I promise….

(16) WHERE’S OSHA DURING ALL THIS? It’s James Davis Nicoll’s turn to deconstruct a classic: “On Needless Cruelty in SF: Tom Godwin’s ‘The Cold Equations’”.

Science fiction celebrates all manner of things; one of them is what some people might call “making hard decisions” and other people call “needless cruelty driven by contrived and arbitrary worldbuilding chosen to facilitate facile philosophical positions.” Tomato, tomato.

Few works exemplify this as perfectly as Tom Godwin’s classic tale “The Cold Equations.”…

James has a good time, and doubtless some of you will, too. Teenaged me, on the other hand, considers his feelings mocked….

(17) TURNING UP THE LOST VOLUME. “Christopher Columbus’ son’s universal library is newly rediscovered in this lost tome”.

Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Italian colonizer Christopher Columbus, had an obsession with books. Colón traveled the world to attempt an ambitious dream: to collect and store all of the world’s books in one library. Summaries of the volumes he gathered were distilled in the “Libro de los Epítomes,” or “The Book of Epitomes” — that repository had been lost to history for centuries.

…This was right at the dawn of the era of print, so the number of books was rising exponentially. He realized that the idea of this library was a wonderful one, but of course, it might become unmanageable if he was just collecting the books and not finding a way to organize and distill them. So he paid an army of readers to read every book in the library and to distill it down to a short summary so that all of this knowledge could be put at the disposal of a single person.

It’s this book, the “Libro de los Epítomes,” that is described by his last librarian in a document at the end of Hernando’s life, but then disappears and isn’t really heard of for basically 500 years because it’s been sitting for at least 350 of those years in Scandinavia, where it was unrecognized….

Somehow this reminds me of Forry Ackerman’s answer to the question of whether he’d read all the books in his collection – “Every last word.” By which he meant he’d looked at the last word on the last page of all of them.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/1/19 Scroll Over Beethoven

(1) A WISE SAYING TO SUIT THE DAY.

(2) APRIL FOOLISHNESS. Here’s a prank that was hard to miss – because the perpetrators e-mailed me the link to the Haines in 2021 Westercon bid.

Haines in 2021 is the byproduct of several days of post-travel exhaustion and mild annoyance at all of the kvetching about the Tonopah bid. You want a bid somewhere that isn’t dry and hot, has no risk of you wandering out into the desert, and that you don’t have to drive several hours to get to? Fine, then! Haines, Alaska solves ALL of those problems!

What we lack in experience, we make up for in location! What we lack in location, we make up for in…well, you didn’t want the experienced team putting together your Westercon, so that’s on you.

Getting there is twice the fun of being there:

By Road: The Alaska Marine Highway System accepts cars for transport. However, if you want to avoid a long ferry ride you can drive from Seattle to Haines in only 34 hours (entering and exiting Canada) via Skagway, involving a short ferry ride.

(3) A MORE OBVIOUS JOKE: Nerdbot gets into the spirit of the day with a news flash — “BREAKING: George Lucas to Film New Star Wars Trilogy”. Clever artwork accompanies the rumor “of a new Jar Jar Binks story line, including the confirmation of him being the one, true Sith lord and the current Emperor of the New Galactic Empire.”

(4) DIVE INTO THE PACIFIC. Juliette Wade’s latest Dive Into Worldbuilding interview is with Vida Cruz about Philippine mythology.

…We started by discussing Vida’s story “Odd and Ugly,” which she describes as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Spanish colonial Philippines. In this tale, the Beast is a Kapre, a kind of hairy giant who lives in a tree and smokes cigars, while Beauty is a farm girl. The story is told in second person from the Beast’s point of view. Vida told us that she had written about these two characters in different iterations, and the Beauty and the Beast portion of the story came last.

Since the Spanish were in the Philippines for over 300 years, education has been heavily influenced by them. There is a dearth of good literature about the early colonial period. When Vida attended Clarion workshop in 2014, she did more research for that story….

Read the summary and/or watch the interview video:

(5) BACK TO THE HAGUE. Here’s a new flyer for Reunicon 2020, the celebration planned for the 30th anniversary of the Worldcon in the Netherlands.

In short, we have now organized a World Science Fiction Congress in The Hague 28 years ago (and 30 years in August in 2020), in which we had rented the congress building and also many hotel rooms in The Hague, including the then Bel Air hotel was our headquarters. The SF congress lasted five days and had around 3500 visitors from around the world, in addition to thousands of so-called “supporting” members, who could not come but did support our congress. More information via: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/48th_World_Science_Fiction_Convention

It was a huge success at the time. And they have been asked for a follow-up for years. As remaining committee members, we have decided to respond to this at the 30th anniversary in 2020 in the form of a kind of reunion meeting, a so-called REUNICON 2020.

(6) TIPTREE CORRECTION. Ben Roimola, Editor-in-chief and publisher of the only Swedish language sf-fanzine in Finland, Enhörningen (www.enhorningen.net) spotted something in the Tiptree Award press release that needed correcting. He contacted Pat Murphy, who shared it with me, and you may find the explanation equally interesting. He writes: 

I am thrilled and extremely happy to see Maria Turtschaninoff’s novel ”Maresi” on the Tiptree Honor List! It’s such a great novel (as are all her novels) for readers of all ages from YA upwards. Thank you for choosing it among the honor list!

BUT, there is a small error in the text about the novel. On the web page (https://tiptree.org/2019/03/gabriela-damian-miravete-wins-2018-tiptree-award-honor-and-long-list-announced) your write ”This young adult novel was translated from Finnish.”, but the novel was actually translated from Swedish. You see, Finland is a bilingual country with Finnish and Swedish as the official languages (and Sami as a third one in the northern parts). Maria Turtschaninoff is part of the minority of Finns who have Swedish as their main language. Yes, she is a Finn and the novel is published in Finland and it is a Finnish novel, BUT it is written and published in Swedish. ”Maresi” has been translated in Finnish, but the English translation is, of course, made from the original Swedish language novel.

We Swedish speaking Finns are such a small minority (anly about 5% of the population), that it is understandable to make an error such as the one you made, but we do exist and want to point out the fact that we do. 🙂

(7) EYES WIDE SHUT. At The Believer, B. Alexandra Szerlip revives one of Hugo Gernsback’s enthusiasms in “Vintage Tech: Learn While You Sleep (Hypnopaedia)”, about programs that allegedly educate you while you are sleeping.

“Hypnopaedia aka Sleep Learning had been thrust upon the world in 1921, courtesy of a Science and Invention cover story. Echoing Poe, Hugo Gernsback informed his readers that sleep ‘is only another form of death,’ but our subconsciousness “is always on the alert.’  If we could ‘superimpose’ learning on our sleeping senses, would it not be ‘an insatiable boon to humanity?/’ Would it not ‘lift the entire human race to a truly unimaginable extent?’

Gernsback proposed that talking machines, operating on the Poulsen  Telgraphone Principle (magnetic recordings on steel wires) be installed in people’s bedrooms.  The recordings library would be housed in a large central exchange; subscribers could place their orders by radiophone.  Then, between midnight and 6 AM,requests would be ‘flashed out’ over those same radiophones, onto reels, each with enough wire to last for one hour of continuous service.  Eight reels would give the sleeper enough material for a whole nights’ work!”

(8) AH! SWEET IDIOCY! “Laney himself would not allow it to be reprinted during his lifetime, evidently fearing lawsuits,” says Fancyclopedia 3. What fan can resist that bait? Today David Langford added Francis T. Laney’s Ah! Sweet Idiocy! to his free ebook page – download it here. And chip in a bit for fan funds if you please.

This infamous memoir and polemic about the 1940s Los Angeles fan scene was published in 1948. This first ebook edition was added to the TAFF site on 1 April 2019. Cover painting of Laney by Dan Steffan. 85,000 words of Laney plus 18,000 of additional material for a total of 103,000 words.

Please be warned that a few passages display a level of homophobia perhaps excessive even by 1948 standards.

Francis Towner Laney’s many brief and often affectionate character sketches of contemporaries may be of more interest now than all the fiery rhetoric about political machinations and (gasp) homosexuality in and around the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, a gigantic arena of controversy in which world-shaking elections could be deadlocked with 8 votes to 8. Still-remembered subjects of Laney “vignettes” include Forrest J Ackerman (alternately a close friend and deadly rival), Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith and A.E. van Vogt, while among his offstage correspondents were Anthony Boucher and August Derleth. Ah! Sweet Idiocy! has always been controversial: Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “Canadian faned Beak Taylor reportedly quit fandom after reading it. Laney himself would not allow it to be reprinted during his lifetime, evidently fearing lawsuits.”

David Langford has added brief notes on abbreviations never or only belatedly explained in the text; with help from Robert Lichtman, a summary of its reissues since Laney died; and from Rob Hansen’s photo archive, contemporary snapshots of Laney and many other featured fans. Also included are Harry Warner Jr’s 1961 appraisal and Alva Rogers’s 1963 rebuttal of Ah! Sweet Idiocy!, “FTL & ASI”.

Rob Hansen has posted a page of photos from the 1930s and 1940s that are in addition to those he supplied for the ebook: “LASFS & Others, 1930s/40s”.

(9) TAILS OF THE TEXAS RANGERS. In “A Dinosaur Tried To Throw The First Pitch at a Rangers Game And It Did Not Go Well” on mlb.com, Andrew Mearns says the Texas Rangers had Roxy the dinosaur throw out the first pitch at Globe Life Park to promote Dino Day at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  But Roxy didn’t do well because dinosaurs have very weak arms!

(10) WHERE THE SCARES COME FROM. NPR’s Linda Holmes discusses how “Fears Are Forever In Jordan Peele’s ‘Twilight Zone'”. SEMI-SPOILER WARNING — lots of context/spoilers for older work; spoiler-free for first four new episodes.

What is the scariest thing you can imagine?

The Twilight Zone ran from 1959 to 1964. It was adapted into a film in 1983, then revived on television for brief runs in 1985 and 2002. Now, it returns on CBS’s streaming service CBS All Access, hosted and executive produced by the man who may be America’s most exciting filmmaker, Jordan Peele. He developed the new version alongside a team of executive producers including Simon Kinberg and Glen Morgan (Morgan was one of the primary writers behind The X-Files). Peele, in his films Get Out and Us, has spent a lot of time thinking about one of The Twilight Zone’s central questions, going back to original creator and host Rod Serling: What is the scariest thing you can imagine?

It’s true that Serling’s show was always connected, both in text and in subtext, to events of the moment. The fear of nuclear annihilation was ever-present in characters who built shelters and feared missiles. Allegories connected to the civil rights movement and other efforts to escape systemic injustices were common. Space travel was everywhere, both as opportunity and threat. The human legacy of endless war hung over the world always. Not-fully-trusted technology, like robots and large airplanes, held dangers, while technology that felt like it might arrive soon, like time travel, perhaps held even more.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 1, 1885 Wallace  Beery. He starred in the first adaptation of Doyle’s The Lost World, filmed in 1925. He’d be Long John Silver in a 1930s adaptation of Treasure Island, and he was in Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 1, 1926 Anne McCaffrey. I read both the original trilogy and what’s called the Harper Hall trilogy oh so many years ago. Enjoyed them immensely. No interest in the later works she set here. And I confess that I had no idea she’d written so much other genre fiction! (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 1, 1930 Grace Lee Whitney. Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek. She would reach the rank of Lt. Commander in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Folks, I just noticed that IMDB says she was only on eight episodes of Trek. It seemed like a lot more at the time. Oh, and she was in two video fanfics, Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 1, 1942 Samuel R. Delany, 77. His best works include Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection and the Return to Nevèrÿon series. He is one of the most honored writers in the history of the genre, a well-deserved accolade. My short must read list for him includes The Jewels of AptorDhalgrenBabel-17 and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
  • Born April 1, 1953 Barry Sonnenfeld, 66. Director of The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values (both of which I like), the Men in Black trilogy (well one out of three ain’t bad), and Wild Wild West (what a piece of shit that is). He also executive produced Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve not seen, and is the same for Men in Black: International, the forthcoming possible reboot of that series. 
  • Born April 1, 1960 Michael Praed, 59. Robin of Loxley on Robin of Sherwood which no doubt is one of the finest genre series ever done of a fantasy nature. He also played Phileas Fogg on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, an amazing series that think ever got released on DVD. 
  • Born April 1, 1963 James Robinson, 56. Writer, both comics and film. Some of his best known comics are the series centered on the Justice Society of America, in particular the Starman character he co-created with Tony Harris. His Starman series is without doubt some of the finest work ever done. His screenwriting not so much. Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Well that’s him. 
  • Born April 1, 1964 Marcus Hutton, 55. He’s making the Birthday list because he played Sgt. Leigh In “The Curse of Fenric” story on Doctor Who during the Seventh Doctor. It’s one of the best stories done in the Sylvester McCoy years. 
  • Born April 1, 1997 Asa Butterfield, 22. He played the young Mordred in the Merlin series and Norman in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, also was in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as Jacob “Jake” Portman. He was Gardner Elliot, a Martian boy who travelled to earth in The Space Between Us. 

(12) SIGNAL BOOSTED. Wow – we made the big time!

(13) THE HORROR. I Like Scary Movies is making its first stop in Los Angeles. Ticket info at the link.

I Like Scary Movies is a groundbreaking interactive art installation celebrating some of your favorite films, including the first chapter of IT, The Shining, The Lost Boys, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Beetlejuice!

• We have timed entry every 15 minutes so that you aren’t waiting in line just to get in! Visitors can expect to spend an average of 90 minutes on their quest to capture their own iconic moments as they explore the rich worlds that have come to life.

• This first-of-its-kind exhibit spans 25,000 square feet (nearly half a football field!) and features amazing large-scale photo opportunities!

• Come play with us! “Sink” into the infamous carpet from the The Shining’s Overlook hotel and explore “redrum” hedges. Swallow your fear as you pass through the jaws of IT’s Pennywise and explore the clown’s sewer lair. Have a seat in the throne of Freddy Krueger and step into his boiler room to become snatched by his giant glove from A Nightmare on Elm St. Then have a turn as recently deceased guests in the Netherworld waiting room before visiting Beetlejuice’s graveyard. Test your strength as you hang from the Santa Clara train tracks before becoming part of a “noodle” dinner from The Lost Boys. These are just a few things that fans will interact with on their way to the Gift Shop at the end of the journey, where we’ll have exclusive merchandise for you to take a part of your experience home with you!

• The exhibit does not feature “scare actors” or strobe lights.

(13) HERLAND AUTHOR. Kate Bolick, in “The Equivocal Legacy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman” at the New York Review of Books website, praises Gilman’s pioneering horror short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and her dystopia Herland, but also notes her support of racism and eugenics.

… There is a snake in this garden, however—not in the plot, but in Gilman’s conception of this utopia-in-her-time: a desire for racial purity. For all her progressiveness when it came to equality for the sexes, Gilman was a xenophobe, a regrettably common response at the turn of the last century to the waves of immigrants resettling in urban areas. This prejudice dovetailed with her simultaneous embrace of eugenics, then a respectable academic field and a widespread enthusiasm even among, or especially among, social reformers. Between her passion for science and sociology and her constitutional faith in the forward march of progress, Gilman was quick to adopt the idea that some human populations are genetically superior to others, and that by playing to the strengths inherent to each race, poverty could be eradicated and society vastly improved. 

Moreover, at a time when sex education and effective birth control weren’t widely available, Gilman saw in eugenics an answer to the scourges of sexually transmitted diseases (a major public-health issue until penicillin was found to treat syphilis in 1943) and involuntary motherhood. Feminists and activists in general were divided over eugenics: Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman, and Olive Schreiner all shared Gilman’s views, while Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, and Florence Kelley fought against them.

(14) BE HISTORY. Marquette University, which has a huge J.R.R. Tolkien collection, wants to hear from fanboys and girls for an oral history project about the author. 

Check out this story on USATODAY.com: “Here’s your chance to become part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s oral history”.

Marquette is kind of a pilgrimage site for Tolkien fans. I thought we should collect their voices,” says William Fliss, curator of Marquette’s Tolkien collection.

Fans are given just three minutes to briefly expound on why they love Tolkien. To help people distill their thoughts, Fliss asks them to answer three questions:

When did you first encounter the works of J.R.R. Tolkien?

Why are you a Tolkien fan?

What has he meant to you?

(15) AFRO FANTASY ALBUM. NPR’s Michel Martin reports that “Fantasy Collides With African Culture In Blitz The Ambassador’s ‘Burial Of Kojo'”.

On his 2014 album, Afropolitan Dreams, hip-hop artist Samuel Bazawule, also known as “Blitz the Ambassador,” vividly describes his journey from wide-eyed immigrant to multinational success story. In one song he declares: “I think I’m relocating back to Ghana for good.”

And, he did.

Taking leave from his home in Brooklyn and returning to the country of his birth was a fateful decision that Bazawule credits as the inspiration for his first feature film, The Burial of Kojo. The modern fable of a young girl navigating the spirit realm to find her father after his mysterious disappearance, the film takes place entirely in Ghana, using a cast and crew made up almost entirely of locals.

The Burial of Kojo caught the eye of producer and director Ava DuVernay , who acquired it earlier this year for distribution by her production company, ARRAY. On Sunday, the film makes its premieres on Netflix — the first original film from Ghana to be released on the streaming platform.

(16) THRONE FOR A LOOP. “A Game of Thrones Fan Traveled To The Arctic As Part Of A Worldwide Scavenger Hunt”. Chip Hitchcock comments, “As someone who works convention logistics, I want to know how the throne got there without everyone noticing the activity.”

Some fans watch Game of Thrones. Others live it.

The final season of the HBO hit television series premieres in two weeks. But some fans got an early treat this month when the TV network challenged people to a worldwide scavenger hunt.

For those who don’t watch the show, the ultimate symbol of power in the fictional Game of Thrones kingdom of Westeros is the Iron Throne. So, HBO placed six of them in different locations around the world and tweeted the hashtag #ForTheThrone, along with a cryptic 12 second video. Fans could also view hour-long 360-degree videos of the thrones in various terrains.

Soon after, fans around the world began their quests.

One of those individuals was Josefine Wallenå, a 25-year-old gamer and project manager from Sweden.

After looking at one of HBO’s tweeted clues closely and its caption, she realized one of the thrones might be nearby.

(17) LIVE! FROM THEIR MOTHER’S BASEMENT. “Dead Pixels: A comedy ‘about gamers for gamers'” — looks like this is UK-only for now, but most UK content seems to get spread around eventually.

Dead Pixels is a new comedy about gamers that promises to be “on their side”.

One of the stars of the show, Alexa Davies, tells Newsbeat: “It’s about fully understanding where people who play come from.”

Part live action and part computer animation, the show is based on a fictional game called Kingdom Scrolls.

“A lot of the funny bits are about characters’ frustrations with the balance between real life and the game,” says Alexa.

(18) WELL, DID IT? The question in Rowan J. Coleman’s headline is a tad blunt – “Crusade – Did It Suck?”

Following the landmark Babylon 5 is no easy task, but J.Michael Straczynski took a stab at it with Crusade. Was it any good?

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

Pixel Scroll 3/30/19 ///Pixel.Scroll.Comment Is In The Middle Of Nowhere In Australia

(1) CATS SLEEP ON $FF. Cat Rambo issues a warning about “Writing Contests and Fees”, and rebuts several arguments she’s heard trying to justify them.

Here’s one of her answers:

Charging a fee means better submissions. Great reason for editors and magazines; meaningless to writers and in fact, means people that self-reject will be even more likely to do so. It also ensures economically disadvantaged people don’t get to participate. The price of a latte for one person may be the next person’s daily food budget.

(2) PROBLEMS FOR JUDGE WHO ENGAGED KRAMER’S COMPUTER SERVICES. More revelations about the judge, from the Gwinett Daily Post. Recent news proves that not only did the judge know about Kramer, but that she was in phone contact with him. She currently is being asked to recuse herself following making false statements and recording the DA during a meeting without his permission or knowledge. “Gwinnett DA files motion for Superior Court judge to recuse herself from all criminal cases”.

Just days after a court filing alleged that Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader expressly gave a convicted sex offender access to the county’s computer network, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter is calling for her to recuse herself from all criminal cases.

…In Friday’s filing, which included an affidavit, Porter said he confronted the judge about her computer being monitored, but “at no time during this meeting did Judge Schrader disclose that she had any direct knowledge of this monitoring, or that she had hired Ward, Karic and Kramer to do so.”

The judge also recorded the meeting “through a video on her phone without (Porter’s) knowledge or consent,” Porter wrote in the affidavit.

On March 15, when the GBI interviewed Schrader, she accused Porter of hacking her computer, Porter’s affidavit said.

“Because Judge Schrader has alleged that I committed a criminal offense against her, I have grounds to reasonably question her impartiality in any criminal case that my office handles before her,” Porter’s affidavit said. “This is further supported by the fact that Judge Schrader has surreptitiously recorded our private conversations without my knowledge or consent, while feigning ignorance of the very individuals she had employed and allowed to access the entire Gwinnett County Computer network.”

(3) AGED, BUT NOT GOLDEN. Is reviewer Christopher Priest so eager to lash out at a writer who died 30 years ago, or was this an irresistible opportunity to downcheck a favorite of some of his living American colleagues? He reviews Farah Mendlesohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein for The Spectator: “Robert A. Heinlein: the ‘giant of SF’ was sexist, racist — and certainly no stylist”.  

…Mendlesohn describes how Heinlein, who when younger had made a well-earned name for himself as an author of serious and innovative speculative fiction, became a rotten writer in the second half of his career. He always told stories well, but his style was execrable. From Starship Troopers (1959) onwards, his books had an endlessly hectoring, lecturing tone, almost always phrased in long and unconvincing conversations full of paternalistic advice, sexual remarks, libertarian dogma and folksy slang. Reading one of his later novels produced the weird effect of meaningless receptivity: you could get through 20 pages at a gallop, but at the end you couldn’t remember anything that had been said, by whom or for what reason. The next 20 pages would be the same (but seemed longer).

… At the end of the war he began a series of juvenile novels, aimed unerringly at young readers but told in the same didactic voice. These novels, not published in the UK until years later when Heinlein was famous, had a profound effect on their American readers. There is still today a generation of middle- aged and elderly American science fiction writers for whom Heinlein is in a position of seminal influence, similar to Hemingway in other literary circles. Heinlein’s influence on modern American science fiction is not universal, but still detectable….

(4) SWATTER GETS 20 YEARS. On December 28, 2017 Andrew “Andy” Finch was killed when police officers in Wichita, Kansas responded to a 911 call about a hostage/murder situation. Tyler Barriss, who made the call, has now been convicted and sentenced: “20 years for man behind hoax call that led to fatal shooting”.

A California man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for making bogus emergency calls to authorities across the U.S., including one that led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man following a dispute between two online players over a $1.50 bet in the Call of Duty: WWII video game.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Tyler R. Barriss, 26, under a deal in which he pleaded guilty in November to a total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats. The plea agreement called for a sentence of at least 20 years — well over the 10 years recommended under sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors believe it is the longest prison sentence ever imposed for the practice of “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address.

(5) LIKE A JAWA MARRIOTT. Take one look at the picture and you can have no doubts: “The upside down hotel said to have inspired Star Wars faces demolition”.

Much of the shooting for the original Star Wars movies took place in Tunisia, and legend has it that one local landmark made a powerful impression on its creator, George Lucas.

The influence of Hotel du Lac in Tunis, shaped like an upside-down pyramid with serrated edges, would later be seen in the fictional Sandcrawler vehicle used by the Jawas of the Tatooine desert planet in the film.

(6) WOMEN AT THE FOREFRONT. The Bustle lists “12 Female-Driven Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels That You Definitely Don’t Want To Miss”. One of them is —

‘The Priory of the Orange Tree’ by Samantha Shannon

A millennium ago, a powerful, evil dragon, known only as the Nameless One, was locked away in the Abyss. The people of three nations want to keep the dragon sealed away, but fear that his return is imminent. In Samantha Shannon’s sweeping new fantasy novel, three women, one from each nation, must join forces if they want to keep their world safe.

(7) ADVANCED DEGREES. As Women’s History Month winds up, Yahoo! Entertainment explores the “Six Degrees of Peggy Carter: Why the S.H.I.E.L.D. Founder Is the Lynchpin of the Entire MCU”.

While there may not be direct links from Peggy to every single Avenger, her status as a founding member of S.H.I.E.L.D. links her intrinsically to the heroic group and their efforts to save the world from evil time and time again. So here is a very unofficial, fan-centric look at the impact Peggy Carter has had on the MCU, and the ways in which she helped bring Earth’s mightiest heroes together as a team. “All we can do is our best,” after all….

2. Iron Man

A “self-made man” in the same way that Kylie Jenner is a self-made billionaire, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) likely spent his childhood years on the receiving end of some very disapproving glances from his father’s friend and close confidante. Howard’s working relationship with Peggy — sans fondue, of course — is established in The First Avenger, but their friendship is explored even further in Agent Carter’sstellar two-season run on ABC. The pair teamed up to save the world more than a few times, forging a bond so strong, it’s impossible to believe that Peggy wasn’t a part of young Tony’s life — and that she didn’t have an impact on the hero he grew up to be.

And besides that, if Howard had died in Agent Carter’s season one finale, as he came very close to doing, Tony would have gotten scrubbed from the timeline, Marty McFly-style. Thanks, Aunt Peggy.

(8) CLASSIC TREK CONTRIBUTOR At Den of Geek, “Star Trek’s D.C. Fontana Talks the Origin of Spock’s Family”.

… For fans of Star Trek: Discovery, specifically, Fontana’s script for the animated episode “Yesteryear,” has been the visual and thematic backbone of nearly all of Discovery Vulcan-centric flashbacks in the second season, which has informed this version of Spock’s character. And, for those who love Spock parent’s— Amanda Grayson and Sarek—Fontana is the person who straight-up invented them.

…In The Original Series, Amanda and Sarek only appeared in “Journey to Babel,” written by Fontana. But, because that episode also featured a huge diplomatic summit on the Enterprise, this also means she created several of the big classic Trek aliens, too, including the Andorians and the Tellarites, who have both made huge appearances in Discovery first two seasons.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads similarly to Heinlein. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1930 John Astin, 89. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 69. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at the airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film.
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 61. Voice actor primarily known for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 20. She’s only here because in researching Birthdays for this date, one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics. Though IMDB has a cast listed for it, that’s about all I could find on it. If I was betting a cask of Romulan ale, I’d wager this was one of the productions that Paramount got shut down three years back. 

(10) IN THE ZONE Some TV history leading up to the Jordan Peele reboot, in the New York Times: “‘The Twilight Zone’: Here’s Why We Still Care”.

Today we live in a world where the words “Twilight Zone” are used as an adjective whenever anyone wants to describe stories (or real-life events) that are fearless, insightful, ironic and just a little bit spooky. And that theme song was killer too.

(11) FLIGHTS OF FANTASY. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky analyzes a new graphic novel: “In ‘She Could Fly,’ A Teen Wrestles With A Host Of Psychological Mysteries”.

“Would you rather be able to fly or turn invisible?” It’s the archetypal party question. It was already popular way back in 2001, when This American Life addressed it, and the years haven’t lessened its appeal. As recently as 2015, Forbes posed the question to 7,065 “business and professional leaders … across the globe” and Vulture brought it up with the stars of Ant-Man.

Fly, or turn invisible? The question’s popularity is probably due to its uncanny psychological subtext. The two powers don’t seem to conflict at first, but a closer look reveals that they represent opposing tendencies. To fly is to be triumphant, dominant, powerful. To be invisible is to recede, to hide.

Christopher Cantwell nods to this duality in She Could Fly, a graphic novel whose protagonist wishes she could fly and feels like she’s invisible…
Luna seems to be suffering from a particularly intense form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but she hasn’t been diagnosed or received any treatment. Taking it for granted that there’s no help for her, she shuts out such well-meaning people as the aforementioned guidance counselor. Luna has only one source of hope, and it’s a doozy: A mysterious woman spotted flying, superhero-style, around the skies of Chicago.

(12) MODERN MILSF. Andrew Liptak intends this as a compliment, I wonder if Hurley takes it as one? In The Verge: “The Light Brigade is a worthy successor to Starship Troopers”.

The world Hurley presents in The Light Brigade is a feudalistic nightmare, and makes a sharp commentary on the growing influence and dangers of a world ruled by corporations. Corporations control all aspects of the lives of the citizens, from the information they have access to, to how they’re educated and where they live, their lives given up to supporting whatever unknowable corporate goals their overlords have planned. It’s a perverse twist on Heinlein’s arguments about serving to earn citizenship, which implied that one has to earn their freedom through service. In Hurley’s world, freedom is an illusion. It doesn’t matter what you do, you end up serving your host corporation.

(13) THEY’LL SCARE THE CHOCOLATE OUT OF YOU. If you thought this happened only in Monty Python, not so, says Open Culture: “Killer Rabbits in Medieval Manuscripts: Why So Many Drawings in the Margins Depict Bunnies Going Bad”.

In all the kingdom of nature, does any creature threaten us less than the gentle rabbit? Though the question may sound entirely rhetorical today, our medieval ancestors took it more seriously — especially if they could read illuminated manuscripts, and even more so if they drew in the margins of those manuscripts themselves. “Often, in medieval manuscripts’ marginalia we find odd images with all sorts of monsters, half man-beasts, monkeys, and more,” writes Sexy Codicology’s Marjolein de Vos. “Even in religious books the margins sometimes have drawings that simply are making fun of monks, nuns and bishops.” And then there are the killer bunnies.

Hunting scenes, de Vos adds, also commonly appear in medieval marginalia, and “this usually means that the bunny is the hunted; however, as we discovered, often the illuminators decided to change the roles around.”…

Numerous illustrations at the link.

(14) SURVIVAL AT STAKE. “Tasmanian devils ‘adapting to coexist with cancer'” – BBC has the story.

There’s fresh hope for the survival of endangered Tasmanian devils after large numbers were killed off by facial tumours.

The world’s largest carnivorous marsupials have been battling Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) for over 20 years.

But researchers have found the animals’ immune system to be modifying to combat the assault.

And according to an international team of scientists from Australia, UK, US and France, the future for the devils is now looking brighter.

“In the past, we were managing devil populations to avoid extinction. Now, we are progressively moving to an adaptive management strategy, enhancing those selective adaptations for the evolution of devil/DFTD coexistence,” explains Dr Rodrigo Hamede, from the University of Tasmania.

First discovered in north-eastern Tasmania in 1996, the disease has since spread across 95% of the species’ range, with local population losses of over 90%.

(15) CAMELIDS VISIT COMIC CON. Two events in the same facility find they are unexpectedly compatible.

(16) PLATE SPECIAL. AMC’s series based on the novel by Joe Hill premieres June 2. Here’s the NOS4A2 “A Fight For Their Souls” official trailer.

[Thanks to Nancy A. Collins, JJ, Mlex, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/19 A Pixel Traveling At 0.72C Is Approving a Rotating Scroll Travelling At 0.4C. Where’s The Best Place To Get Souvenir Turtles?

(1) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. Bones isn’t a sff show (most of the time) but the litigation will send ripples throughout all the media empires: “Fox hit with $179-million judgment in dispute over profits from ‘Bones’ TV show” (LA Times).

In a stunning decision that could have widespread repercussions in the TV industry, Fox has been hit with a $178.7-million judgment in its profit participation dispute with the team behind the hit series “Bones.”

The ruling, which was decided in arbitration, excoriated senior Fox executives and criticized the studio and network for its conduct. The decision has also rattled other studios, including the highest echelons of the Walt Disney Co., which is bringing aboard some of the same executives in its $71 billion acquisition of Fox.

Hulu is also at the center of the storm, with accusations that Fox withheld revenues from “Bones” when the series became available for streaming on the digital platform. Fox owns a 30% stake in Hulu, along with other major studios.

… “The Arbitrator is convinced that perjury was committed by the Fox witnesses,” the ruling stated. “Accordingly, if perjury is not reprehensible then reprehensibility has taken on a new meaning.”

(2) STAND AND DELIVER. It’s Facebook’s ambition to supplant Patreon, but how greedy can you get? Very. See ComicsBeat’s roundup on the topic: “Shocker: Details of Facebook’s version of Patreon reveal very creator unfriendly terms”.

Despite some bumps, it’s obvious that Patreon’s subcription model for crowdfunding is a success, to the tune of $500 million in creat or payouts in 2019. With that kind of money floating around, it’s no wonder that some other giant entities – including YouTube and Facebook –  want to tap into the cash stream and launch their own subcription models to support creators.

Facebook’s version, “Fan Subscriptions,” rolled out last year in a very private test, offering to charge fans $4.99 a month for access to exclusive content by their favorite creators.

The program just expanded to offer its services to more content creators. And as Tech Crunch reports, reading the terms reveals, to the surprise of no one, that they are vastly less favorable to content creators than Patreon.

The Tech Crunch article says:

Facebook  will drive a hard bargain with influencers and artists judging by the terms of service for the social network’s Patreon-like Fan Subscriptions feature that lets people pay a monthly fee for access to a creator’s exclusive content. The policy document attained by TechCrunch shows Facebook plans to take up to a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue minus fees, compared to 5 percent by Patreon,  30 percent by YouTube, which covers fees and 50 percent by Twitch.

Facebook also reserves the right to offer free trials to subscriptions that won’t compensate creators. And Facebook demands a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use” creators’ content and “This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.”

(3) NUMBER NINE. [Item by Greg Hullender.] Mike Brown just presented a paper with new results that significantly narrow down the parameters for a hypothetical Planet Nine beyond Neptune. He wrote a few blog posts about it, the most useful of which is probably this one: “version 2.X”.

The upshot is that this should make it easier to find, but it also seems more likely than ever that it’s really out there. Looking at that projected orbit, it’s way, way beyond Neptune. And, yes, it’s massive enough to have “cleared its orbit,” so it’s still a planet, even by the new definition.

In principle, there is so much more that I would like to say, but at this point I think it’s becoming progressively clearer that my coffee supply ran out a couple paragraphs ago, and in an effort to prevent further degradation of the text, I will get straight to the final point: if Planet Nine is smaller, does that mean it’s harder to find with a telescope? Counterintuitively, it’s the opposite. The smaller distance from the sun more than makes up for the diminished surface area. Indeed, if we make naive baseline assumptions about P9’s albedo and adopt the interpolated exoplanet mass-radius relation to estimate P9’s size, Planet Nine turns out to be about one magnitude brighter than we previously thought. Annoyingly, though, the aphelion is very close to (in?) the galactic plane, where confusion due to background stars can readily impede detection. Still, unless we are unlucky and P9 is unexpectedly small and/or dark, it should be within the reach of LSST and comparable telescopes like Subaru. The good news is that in the case of Planet Nine hypothesis, time truly will tell.

(4) OR HE COULD PHONE IT IN. A.V. Club reports “George R.R. Martin turned down a Game Of Thrones cameo for a very good reason”.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Martin revealed that series showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss asked him to travel all the way from his house in New Mexico to Ireland to film a cameo in one of the final season eight episodes, which, he says, he was “tempted to do.” Unfortunately, he’s a little too busy working on The Winds Of Winter, the next novel in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series–or so he says.

Anyway, if everyone wants this badly enough they can find a studio with a green screen in New Mexico, have Martin perform his bit, and fill in the rest with CGI.

(5) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has put together another Women’s History Month bundle, The 2019 Feminist Futures Bundle. She says –

This one has a great range of stuff in it, with some terrific indie and small press reads. One book I am particularly pleased to have there is K.C. Ball’s collection, which I edited. K.C. was a dear friend whose passing I wrote about here.

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

  • Snapshots from a Black Hole and Other Oddities by K.C. Ball
  • Sunspot Jungle by Bill Campbell
  • Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
  • Queen of Roses by Elizabeth McCoy

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

  • Albatross by R.A. MacAvoy and Nancy L. Palmer
  • Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories by Naomi Kritzer
  • The Child Goddess by Louise Marley
  • Exile by Lisa M. Bradley
  • The Goodall Mutiny by Gretchen Rix
  • Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

(6) MEET THE CAST. SciFiNow has packaged them in one post — The Twilight Zone teaser videos: meet the cast of the West End stage show”.

Reprising their highly praised performances from the Almeida run are Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Adrianna Bertola and Neil Haigh, who will be joined for the West End premiere by Alisha Bailey, Natasha J Barnes, Nicholas Karimi, Dan Crossley, Dyfan Dwyfor, Lauren O’Neill and Matthew Steer.

Here they are, talking about it…

(7) GET YOUR KICKS. Take a break and enjoy Genevieve Valentine’s lively and humorous “Red Carpet Rundown: The 2019 Oscars”.

Glenn Close. This is why some people who can reasonably expect a win still dress simply rather than go for something Fashiony; there’s no shame in seeming surprised you won, but the biggest shared glance-and-nod on this entire red carpet was Glenn Close dressing like the Oscar she was here to collect, and of course she was, because she had it in the bag, because she’d spent the entire red-carpet season in toned-down suits and gowns that looked extremely Career Oscar and reserved and dignified while she collected awards, and she threw it all out the window at the very last turn for this cape with four million beads (four MILLION beads!) to show up and get her statue, and then she didn’t get it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He teamed for one season with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1957 Timothy Spall, 62. Before his more famous roles, he started off in late Sixties horror film Demon Dream as Peck Much later he’ll appear as Rosencrantz In Hamlet. And then we came to him as Mr. Poe in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve yet to see. And of course he’s Peter Pettigrew, nicknamed Wormtail, in the Harry Potter franchise.  And yes, he’s done much, much more than that for genre roles, so do feel free to chastize me for not listing what you think is his best role. 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 59. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits has “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
  • Born February 27, 1962 Adam Baldwin, 57. Genre roles include Firefly and its continuation in Serenity as Jayne Cobb. Colonel John Casey in Chuck, Independence Day as Major Mitchell and Mike Slattery in The Last Ship. He’s also done voice work such as Hal Jordan and Jonah Hex on Justice League Unlimited, and Metamorpho on Beware the Batman
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 55. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie. he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for some episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship asTex Nolan. 
  • Born February 27, 1966 Peter Swirski, 53. He’s a academic specialist on the late SF writer and philosopher Stanis?aw Lem. As such, he’s written the usual treatises on him with such titles as Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the FutureLemography: Stanislaw Lem in the Eyes of the World and From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Monty & Doc visit the past to find out how the Egyptian pyramids were constructed only to be surprised…
  • …but Monty still needs to be careful with his eggplant emoji; the Pharaoh might get the wrong idea.

(10) MAINTAIN AN EVEN STRAIN. Another dead author gets his name on a book above the title, though at least they acknowledge he didn’t write it (AP News: “Sequel to Michael Crichton’s ‘Andromeda Strain’ due in fall”). An authorized sequel to The Andromeda StrainThe Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson—is due for a November 12 release by HarperCollins.

Its publication marks the 50th anniversary of “The Andromeda Strain,” Crichton’s techno-thriller about scientists fighting a lethal extraterrestrial microorganism. Released when Crichton was just 27, it was later adapted into a feature film and television miniseries, with Ridley Scott among the producers.

“It’s exciting to be shining a spotlight on the world that Michael so brilliantly created and to collaborate with Daniel Wilson,” [his widow,] Sherri Crichton[,] said in a statement. “This novel is for Crichton fans; it’s a celebration of Michael’s universe and a way to introduce him to new generations, and to those discovering his worlds for the first time.”

[…] “As a lifelong fan of Michael Crichton, it’s been an unbelievable honor to revisit the iconic world that he created and to continue this adventure,” Wilson said in a statement.

(11) MARS NEEDS LEGS. Wired UK says that, “Astronauts arriving on Mars won’t be able to walk. VR may save them.” It sounds a bit odd, but (re)training the brain to pay attention to signals from your inner ear is important after a long period of weightlessness.

It lasts around 23 minutes and feels “like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on fire, then crashing really hard.”

That’s how retired Nasa astronaut Ron Garan describes the return from space, strapped into the tight confines of a Soyuz capsule plummeting through the atmosphere back to Earth. The touchdown, slowed by a parachute and – at the very end – six small rockets, is called “soft,” but in reality it’s extremely rough.

We’ve all seen the scenes once the capsule has landed – astronauts and cosmonauts being carried away from Soyuz and carefully lowered into chairs. This is not a precaution; people returning from space literally cannot walk. The reason, however, is not the rough re-entry, but the fact that while in space, they have kind of lost their legs – albeit temporarily.

(12) DON’T YOU WANT SHORT FICTION TO LOVE: Continuing to read with cupidity,  Jason once again points to some February fiction he enjoyed including a possibly odd combination of horror and a Valentine’s Day tale in “Month in Review: February 2019”.

Counting a few stories from the late-breaking Tor.com Short Fiction and the last BCS and Terraform stories from January, February produced 48 stories of 210K words. It also produced the odd results of two recommended dark fantasy/horror stories with no SF or general fantasy and five otherwise noted SF stories with no fantasy (though one could easily be considered yet another sort of dark fantasy/horror). Three of the five come from my two February Tangent reviews of Constellary Tales and InterGalactic Medicine Show, which have some oddness of their own. The former was born recently and I reviewed the second issue. The latter contained the surprising announcement of its death in the editorial. So the gods of short fiction giveth and taketh away.

(13) MORE ON NEBULAS. J.A. Sutherland shines light on sff’s major awards and their different goals. Thread starts here.

Efforts to cast the kerfuffle over the 20BooksTo50K Nebula list as tradpub vs. indie civil war are tripped up by some of the facts.

It has come to our attention that one of our books, THE CONTINUUM by Wendy Nikel, was included in the 20booksto50K “slate” Nebula recommendation list. Neither the author nor anyone involved with World Weaver Press was aware of this list until yesterday, nor do we endorse it. While we would be thrilled to see this novella nominated for any of the major SFF awards, it needs to be nominated on its own merits, not as some sort of statement regarding “indie” vs. “trad pub.” Besides, we are actually a traditional publisher. Just a small one.

And JDA didn’t pay attention to Yudhanjaya Wijeratne saying he has a five book contract with HarperCollins.

Meanwhile, Wijeratne and his co-author are keeping the nomination but considering turning down the award if they win.

Cora Buhlert has an extensive review of what all parties have been saying in “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”. She concludes:

As for the whole “indie versus traditional” rhetoric, honestly, that debate is so 2012. The stigma against self-publishing has long since evaporated. Can’t we move on and accept that indies, traditionally published authors and hybrids are all part of the same genre? The Nebulas aren’t hostile to indie works – the 2014 Best Novel finalist The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata was self-published, at a time when SFWA wasn’t even open to indie writers yet. The Hugos aren’t hostile to indie works  – the novelette “In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire in 2013 was the first self-published finalist and there have been several since.

Besides, most people were initially willing to give 20Booksto50K the benefit of a doubt. The reaction was mostly along the lines of, “Well, they’re new and don’t know the culture and etiquette. They’ll learn and maybe some of the stories are good.” But the huffy responses from some 20Booksto50K Nebula finalists and other members of the group (Lawsuits? Really?) have destroyed a lot of good will, not just towards this group, but also towards indie writers in general. And I really doubt that was the intent.

(14) IF THIS GOES ON. Bernard Lee’s cover art for Parvus Press’ forthcoming collection of original science fiction, IF THIS GOES ON: A Science Fiction Look at the Politics of Our Future, has been accepted into the exhibitions for both the Society of Illustrators East and West annual exhibitions.

Bernard is a California artist and illustrator and painted this cover as oil on canvas. It pictures the Lincoln Memorial lost to the waters of the Chesapeake following rampant, unchecked global warming. Underwater flora rise ominously behind the statue of the Great Emancipator and sandbar sharks, native to the Chesapeake, have taken residence inside the Memorial’s remains.

Said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press, “It was nearly impossible to provide clear direction for the cover of a collection this diverse. But Bernard Lee rose to the challenge and produced a beautiful work of art that’s really a stand-alone contribution to the collection in its own right.”

The Society of Illustrators Exhibition in New York runs through March 9, 2019 as part of “Illustration 61” at the Society of Illustrations Museum in New York, located on 128 East 63rd Street. “Illustration West 57”, the annual exhibition of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles will be exhibiting the artwork in March. IF THIS GOES ON releases on March 5.

(15) NETFLIX. The OA Part II airs March 22.

No one survives alone.

(16) OPEN THE BOOK BOMB BAY DOORS. Following last week’s avalnche of posts by romance writers calling foul on people’s unscrupulous exploitation of Amazon’s business model comes one from Larry Correia defending himself for doing something no one has complained about: “A Note About Book Bombs” [Internet Archive link.] Isn’t there’s a Bible verse “The wicked flee where no man pursueth”?

A Book Bomb is when you get as many people as possible to buy a specific book on a specific day, with the goal of pushing it as high up in the sales rankings as possible on Amazon, with the goal of getting it onto some bestseller lists, so that more new eyeballs see it. This is a great way to expose an author to new readers.

Lots of people do this, but the ones we do here on Monster Hunter Nation tend to work better than average….

I’ve had bitter cranks whine about how this is “gaming the system” because apparently authors are supposed to sit quietly while tastemakers and critics decide what should be popular. No thanks. I’ll game that system then, and appointed myself a tastemaking critic. But a BB ain’t cheating because these are all legit sales using actual money, being purchased by actual human beings, who will hopefully enjoy the book enough to leave a review and purchase the author’s other books…. 

An altruistic effort to share his platform – what’s to complain about that?

(17) DREAM BIG. “OneWeb satellite internet mega-constellation set to fly” – BBC has the story.

London-based start-up OneWeb is set to launch the first six satellites in its multi-billion-pound project to take the internet to every corner of the globe.

The plans could eventually see some 2,000 spacecraft orbiting overhead.

Other companies are also promising so-called mega-constellations, but OneWeb believes it has first-mover advantage with an operational system.

…Assuming these pathfinders perform as expected, OneWeb will then begin the mass rollout of the rest of the constellation towards the end of the year.

This will see Soyuz rockets launching every month, lofting up to 36 satellites at a time.

To provide global internet coverage, there will need to be 648 units in orbit.

(18) SNEAK PREVIEW. “Sir Philip Pullman’s second Book of Dust out in October”. Here a clip from the top of the story; also has author commentary.

Sir Philip Pullman’s second instalment in his Book of Dust series, where he returns to the world of His Dark Materials, will be released in October.

Heroine Lyra Silvertongue is back as an adult in The Secret Commonwealth.

Lyra was a baby in the first book in the Book of Dust trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, which was critically acclaimed when it was released in 2017.

The new book is set 20 years after that, and seven years after the end of the His Dark Materials series.

Sir Philip’s publishers have released an extract from the start of the new book which sees Lyra at odds with her daemon Pantalaimon after they unwittingly witness a murder.

The book sees Lyra, now an independent young woman, “forced to navigate a complex and dangerous new world as she searches for an elusive town said to be haunted by daemons.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/19 So Come On, Come On, Scroll The Pixellation With Me

(1) MCINTYRE HEALTH UPDATE. Vonda McIntyre, one of sff’s most loved figures, is seriously ill. A Caringbridge page has been started: “Vonda N.’s Story”.

Vonda spent much of Seattle’s snow week at Swedish Hospital with jaundice and some vertigo, having many tests. The test results are in now, and the news is not good. The diagnosis is inoperable metastatic pancreatic cancer. Her doctor said it isn’t stupid to hope for a year, but it could be less. She’ll probably be getting treatment that may or may not slow things down, no way to know for sure.

(2) #COPYPASTECRIS. Nora Roberts tells some things she’s learned about plagiarists and people scamming Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited author revenue system in “Not a Rant, but a promise”.

The count of my books lifted from is now five. And the count of writers victimized has gone up.

I’m getting one hell of an education on the sick, greedy, opportunistic culture that games Amazon’s absurdly weak system. And everything I learn enrages me.

There are black hat teams, working together, who routinely hire ghosts on the cheap, have them throw books together, push them out–many and fast–to make money, to smother out competition from those self-pubbed writers who do their own work. Those who do their own work can’t possibly keep up with the volume these teams produce by these fraudulent tactics.

They tutor others how to scam the system….

(3) A WHIRLWIND OF FANAC. Joe Siclari of Fanac.org reports “We’ve been getting a lot done, and last weekend we had a particularly productive Boskone.” 

At Boskone, the FANAC scanning station scanned almost 2000 pages of material. Scanning by Mark Olson, Edie Stern and Joe Siclari. History-minded fans stopped by and provided material (thanks Geri Sullivan!), and promised more. We have promises of photos and fanzines, and have already received a historical recording from Fred Lerner, and new scanning hardware too. 

The zines scanned at Boskone will be so marked in the index pages of the title, so you can see what we did. So far, we have put online about 850 pages of it.  So far from the Boston scanning we’ve put up issues of George Locke’s Smoke, Richard Bergeron’s Warhoon, Charles Lee Riddle’s Peon, Don Miller’s WSFA Journal, the Coulsons’ Yandro and brown and Katz’s Focal Point.

They can all be accessed from the Classic Fanzines List. More issues will be forthcoming. 

(4) RIGHT IN THE EYE. How would you like to go out this way? From NPR: “NOAA Researcher’s Ashes Were Dropped Into The Eye Of Hurricane Michael”.

Last fall, as Hurricane Michael was swirling toward the Florida panhandle, NOAA officials say it was carrying something in addition to rain and wind — the ashes of long-time hurricane researcher, Michael Black. Black was a research meteorologist who worked at the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Virginia Key, just across the bridge from downtown Miami.

He was a pioneer in the use of dropwindsondes — small measuring devices dropped from airplanes that record wind speed, air pressure, temperature and humidity.

In 1997, on a mission flying through Hurricane Guillermo in the Pacific, he had an audacious idea. Why not drop some dropwindsondes — sometimes called dropsondes — directly into the eyewall of a hurricane?

NOAA research meteorologist Stan Goldenberg, who worked with Michael Black for more than two decades, recalls that flight with Black 21 years ago: “I remember the excitement we felt at seeing these winds and knowing these ‘sondes’ could handle it.” Black’s idea suddenly provided hurricane researchers with an important new data tool.

(5) PARSEC AWARDS. Bruce Press will step down as chair of the Parsec Awards Committee if he can find somebody to take his place. The sff podcast awards organizers have been reeling since December, when four 2018 Parsec Awards winners declined because the committee sustained the decision to give an award an alleged harasser. Today Press sent this statement to his distribution list:

After a pretty grueling 2018 for the committee, we were taking a bit of a breather to get our collective heads together.

We very much want to get trophies out to winners who want them, but we are without funds having done absolutely no fundraising in 2018. Our lack of resources is due to lack of resources. So, that’s item 1.

Item 2 is our perennial problem of manpower and leadership. The committee is severely short-staffed. We hoped to grow by creating sub-committee’s like ceremony and fundraising. However, it turns out that takes leadership and we only had me.

Item 3 is me. While item 2 might have been enough reason alone, I have some really good personal reasons to step down as committee chair. The timing of this is not ideal, but life rarely operates on a convenient schedule. Like previous chairs, I am not immediately leaving the committee.

So, here’s what I’m asking. If you think you have what it takes to lead. If you have a plan and can execute it. Whether overall, ceremony or fundraising. Send us an email parsecawards@gmail.com.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1896 –Tootsie Roll introduced
  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire starred Gene Autry, it was an SF musical western.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Look, ISFDB lists him, so he must be genre. More to the point Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which is highly recommended. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties Story Editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for Doctor Who, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation who created the Daleks made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most ship computer interfaces throughout the Star Trek series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused (TOS) Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 54. Founder, Tachyon Publications which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1970 Marie-Josée Croze, 49. Bibiane Champagne In Maelström which is genre if only because it’s narrated by a talking fish. In Canada movie theatres, she was in Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 as Mara. Yeah, that film with a long title. Doubt it improved it.  It looks like her first genre acting was on The Hunger in two episodes, in “A Matter of Style” as Dominique and in “I’m Dangerous Tonight” as Mimi. Oh, and she had the lead as Pregnant Woman in Ascension which just looks weird.
  • Born February 23, 1994 Dakota Fanning, 25. Genre roles include Sally Walden in The Cat in the Hat which is on my worst films of all time list, Katie In Hansel and Gretel, Rachel Ferrier In War of the Worlds which, errr, is on the same list, and as the voice of Fern Arable In Charlotte’s Web which is brilliant.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 17. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday I’ve done. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows the monstrous side of photography.

(10) CRITICAL FAVORITES. On the Strange at Ecbatan blog Rich Horton is working through his Hugo recommendations.

Of these stories – none of which would disappoint me if they won the Hugo – my four favorites, in no particular order, are…

2.       David Gerrold and Ctein, “Bubble and Squeak” – About a gay couple, hoping to get married, who have their plans interrupted by a tsunami heading to Los Angeles, and who have to find a way to get to higher ground – and, as it turns out, help a bunch of others as well. It’s simply terrifically exciting, involving a plausible mix of heroism, foolishness, brutality, luck, and intelligence, on their part and others, as they struggle to find a way to a safe place, and as various options are closed off over time.

4.       Kelly Robson, “Intervention” (Infinity’s End) — A very intelligent story about child rearing in a heavily inhabited future Solar System. The narrator is from Luna, where creche work is socially frowned upon, so she leaves to work on an asteroid-based creche – and then later gets a chance to work on a bid to reform Luna’s failing creche system. This is just really interesting social speculation; and the characters are also very solidly portrayed, very honest.

5.       Karen Russell, “Orange World” (The New Yorker, 6/4/18) – An older first time mother is driven to make a deal with a literal devil to save the life of her child, and only the intervention of her support group allows her to cope … Really well written, really convincing.

(11) STAR WARS WRAPS. Entertainment Tonight did a red carpet interview of “J.J. Abrams on Wrapping ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ and Bringing Back Lando (Exclusive)” (video).

(12) DOLLARS AND SENSE. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid for February 22 includes a wryly-named commentary on cancelled cable sff shows – “Boulevard of Broken Streams.”

Netflix have done what Thanos couldn’t; wiped out an entire section of the Marvel universe. It was announced this week that The Punisher is done with season 2 and Jessica Jones with season 3. That will air later this year and be the swan song for a five (and a half) show mini-universe.

My feelings about this are, to mis-quote the best line in the entire Mission: Impossible franchise, complicated.

For a start there’s the Rat King of fan speculation and business practice to try and untie. We can all clap as loud as we want, the shows were never going to the Disney streaming platform because that platform has to aim for the widest possible audience. It’s also almost certainly what raised the renewal costs for the shows beyond practical. So, rationally, this all makes sense. It’s annoying, but it does make sense….

(13) PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER. And here I thought it was a disaster of Biblical proportions: “What An Insect Can Teach Us About Adapting To Stress”.

What if we told you that you could learn a lot about handling adversity from the life of a bug? In their explorations of humans and how we interact with the world around us, the team that makes NPR’s Invisibilia stumbled on a surprising fact about the insect world — one that could inspire a new way of looking at ourselves.

The epic destruction wrought by swarms of locusts is downright biblical. Exodus tells of a plague that left nothing green in all of Egypt, and we’ve seen these harbingers of destruction at work in modern day Australia, Argentina and Israel, just to name a few. But for centuries, one essential piece of information about these strange insects eluded scientists: Where do they come from?

These massive swarms just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, decimate everything and then vanish.

(14) GRIND YOUR GOGGLES INTO PLOWSHARES. NPR reports “Microsoft Workers Protest Army Contract With Tech ‘Designed To Help People Kill'”.

Microsoft workers are calling on the giant tech company to cancel its nearly $480 million U.S. Army contract, saying the deal has “crossed the line” into weapons development by Microsoft for the first time. They say the use of the company’s HoloLens augmented reality technology under the contract “is designed to help people kill.”

In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, the workers also say the company is failing to inform its engineers “on the intent of the software they are building.”

The November contract is for what’s called an Integrated Visual Augmentation System.

“The contract’s stated objective is to ‘rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries,’ ” the letter said.

(15) KNOCKING THE COMPETITION. A Business Insider reporter was there: “Jeff Bezos just gave a private talk in New York. From utopian space colonies to dissing Elon Musk’s Martian dream, here are the most notable things he said.”

• Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, gave a talk to a members-only event at the Yale Club in New York on Tuesday. 

• During the 30-minute lecture, Bezos said his private aerospace company, Blue Origin, would launch its first people into space aboard a New Shepard rocket in 2019. 

• Bezos also questioned the capabilities of a space tourism competitor, Virgin Galactic, and criticized the goal of Elon Musk and SpaceX to settle Mars with humans. 

• Ultimately, Bezos said he wants Blue Origin to enable a space-faring civilization where “a Mark Zuckerberg of space” and “1,000 Mozarts and 1,000 Einsteins” can flourish. 

• Bezos advised the crowd to hold a powerful, personal long-term vision, but to devote “the vast majority of your energy and attention” on shorter-term activities and those ranging up to 2- or 3-year timeframes. 

(16) THE WEST END ZONE. In the February 16 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Matt Trueman profiles Anne Washburn, whose play based on The Twilight Zone is opening March 4 at The Ambassador Theatre in London.

“Her stage version of The Twilight Zone transfers into town next month.  On the surface, it’s a straightforward celebration of Rod Serling’s cult TV series.  Having watched all 156 episodes,she selected those stories that stuck in America’s psyche.  ‘I was polling anyone I ran into: What Twilight Zone episode traumatized you as a small child? People would answer immediately.  That’s where it lives in our culture.”

“In April, The Twilight Zone‘s getting a high profile reboot by Get Out director Jordan Peele, but Washburn’s incarnation celebrates its loveable, low-fi 1950s charm. Its schlockiness, essentially.’It’s morality,comedy, and horror at the same time,’ beams Washburn.  ‘That’s very appealing.’  The show sends up its arched-eyebrowed asides and cheap cardboard cut-outs.  ‘Where things are less adept, you can see right to its heart.  That’s always moving.’

“Insightful, too, as Washburn unpeels The Twilight Zone‘s skin to show us a glimpse of America’s soul in its recurring images: alien invasions and nuclear oblivion. ‘The Twilight Zone is about America dreaming–or America’s nightmare.'”

(17) SPIDER-SAN. CBR.com: shares the image: Spider-Man: Far From Home Gets Spectacular Japanese Poster”.

Sony Pictures has released a new poster promoting the Japanese release of the upcoming Marvel film Spider-Man: Far From Home, and it’s really awesome.

This exceptionally creative poster features a typographic image of Spider-Man’s mask composed almost entirely of bold, red Japanese text. The words and phrases used to create Spidey’s face mostly reference different aspects of the film, with the text repeating “summer vacation.” There are also numerous references to Nick Fury. Moreover, where Spider-Man’s mouth ought to be, there is a QR code that links to Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s Japanese trailer, which is the same as the international trailer.

(18) PUMP, BROTHERS. Food Network advises, “Throw Away Your Peanut Butter Knife!” This clearly isn’t genre, but it is a “great” “scientific” advance. Or it is you can’t resist both peanut butter and silly gadgets.

Who knew the world was clamoring for a better – or at least different – way to prepare a peanut butter sandwich?

One week after a Burbank, California, inventor/entrepreneur named Andrew Scherer launched an Indiegogo page to raise funds for his new Peanut Butter Pump, promising a way to eat “Peanut Butter Without the Knife,” the project has raised $46,955 (from more than 1,220 backers) and counting – more than twice its $20,000 goal.

[…] It’s basically a jar top – made to fit onto your standard 40-ounce grocery-store or name-brand peanut butter jar – with a pump top and a plunger inside that presses down the peanut butter, leaving the sides of the jar clean as it goes, and dispensing the peanut butter out the top and directly onto your bread or celery stick or wherever you’re aiming it.

(19) WITH AUTOMATIC UPSELL. Welcome to Uncanny Valley Restaurant. “This Fast Food Drive-Thru Is Now Using AI to Take Orders”Futurism has the story.

We already had a robot that could make fast food burgers. And now we have an artificial intelligence that can take your order for one.

Earlier this month, Colorado-based startup Valyant AI announced the launch of a voice-based AI customer service platform, which is now taking customer orders at the drive-thru at Denver’s Good Times Burgers and Frozen Custard.

“We’re excited to deliver a customer service experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before,” Valyant AI CEO Rob Carpenter said in a press release.

A video demonstration is here.

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