Pixel Scroll 9/9/19 How Odd. It Wasn’t Science Fiction At All

(1) COSPLAY ON THE HOOF. Andrew Liptak’s latest Wordplay starts off with a parade — “Reading List: The Cosplayers of Dragon Con”

…For someone familiar with the world of cosplayers and conventions, it’s an overwhelming affair. For those unfamiliar, it’s an alien world; a new, bizarre mashup of everything pop culture. It’s not quite as big — around 85,000 people attended this year — half that of what the San Diego con typically draws. And while its bigger cousins attract plenty of cosplayers, Dragon Con is a mecca for them. Everywhere you turn, you see your typical superheroes: Spider-man is big this year, as are variations of Marvel’s Tony Stark, depressed Thor from Avengers: Endgame, Valkyrie, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Superman and Superwoman, and of course Batman.

There are plenty of other properties represented in the crowds. Zelda and Link from various Legends of Zelda mingle with Master Chief and his fellow Spartans from the Halo games. Humanized versions of Pokémon march behind characters from Witcher. There are characters from webcomics, Aziraphale and Crowley from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, members of Star Trek’s Starfleet Command, of the Night Watch from Game of Thrones, a long column of Spartans from Frank Miller’s 300, spaceship crew members and soldiers from The Expanse, and members of the 501st and Rebel Legions…

(2) SEE AND HEAR SF HISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a video of Rusty Hevelin interviewing Jack Williamson at MagiCon, the 1992 Worldcon.

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews author Jack Williamson. Jack talks candidly about his life and career, from his experiences with psychoanalysis to his apprenticeship with (early SF writer) Miles J. Breuer to how he changed with the market over 50 years. WARNING: You have to listen closely as Jack speaks softly, and the interview is very slow till about midway. There’s a lot of “I don’t recall” early on. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with insights into one of the field’s most important early writers.

(3) NOT A DRY SUBJECT. Timothy the Talking Cat inaugurates a new feature at Camestros Felapton: “Timothy Reads: The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin”.

…Of course I immediately dropped the book on discovering it had politics in it. I will not abide politics in my science fiction. Science fiction should be apolitical and concern itself with mighty space empires and their impressive armies colonising new worlds and fighting evil aliens who want to destroy our liberties and steal my guns just like Venezuela and don’t get me started on California.

Anyway, not long after Camestros was shouting “Timothy did you put my book in the toilet!” And he was really angry but it wasn’t me and I don’t know how it got there but he still blamed me even though he didn’t see me do it and whatever happened until innocent until proven guilty? I am most unjustly persecuted….

(4) TV ADAPTATION OF ANDERS BOOK. ScienceFiction.com’s report “Sony Is Bringing Charlie Jane Anders’ ‘The City In The Middle Of The Night’ To The Small Screen” might be a little bit of the news that could not yet be revealed in Carl Slaughter’s recent interview with the author:

Fans of Charlie Jane Anders’ work have something to look forward to as she has struck a deal with Sony Pictures Television to bring ‘The City In The Middle Of The Night’ to the small screen! Sharon Hall (‘The Expanse‘,’Utopia’) is serving as an executive producer and is helping bring the series to life through her Mom de Guerre Productions. Hall’s company has a first-look deal with Sony, and it appears the studios agree that this one is going to be a hit! Nate Miller and Dan Halsted are also slated to be executive producers through Manage-ment who reps Anders.

(5) CREAM OF CONDENSED PANEL. For those who couldn’t make it to her Dublin 2019 panel, Sara L. Uckelman shared the gist of it on the Worldcon’s Facebook page:

Here’s a link to the slides from my talk (the first one in the academic track!) on “Names: Form and Function in Worldbuilding and Conlangs”

And for more background and detail that I didn’t have time to get to in the talk, see these three blog posts:

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 9, 1900 James Hilton. Author of the novel Lost Horizon which was  turned into a film, also called Lost Horizon by director Frank Capra. It is best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La. (Died 1954.)
  • Born September 9, 1915 Richard Webb. Captain Midnight on the Captain Midnight series in the Fifties on CBS. Called Jet Jackson, Flying Commando when it was syndicated. He play Lieutenant Commander Ben Finney in “Court Martial” of Star Trek. And in the Fifties, he was Lane Carson, the lead investigator in The Invisible Monster. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 9, 1922 Pauline Baynes. She was the first illustrator of some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s lesser known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major and of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of cartographers from the Bordon military camp in Hampshire, Baynes created a map that Allen & Unwin published as a poster in 1970. Tolkien was generally pleased with it, though he didn’t particularly like her creatures especially her spider. (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 9, 1929 Joseph Wrzos, 90. He edited Amazing Stories and Fantastic under the name Joseph Ross from August 1965 through early 1967. He was responsible for their move to mostly reprints and a bimonthly schedule while the publisher refused to pay authors for the reprints saying he held the rights to them without needing pay additional renumeration and leading to severe conflict with SFWA. With Hannes Bok, he edited in 2012, Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration.
  • Born September 9, 1943 Tom Shippey, 76. Largely known as a Tolkien expert, though I see he wrote a scholarly 21-page introduction to Flights of Eagles, a collection of James Blish work, and under the pseudonym of John Holm, he is also the co-author, with Harry Harrison, of The Hammer and the Cross trilogy of alternate history novels. And early on, he did a lot of SF related non-fiction tomes such as Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative (edited with George Slusser). 
  • Born September 9, 1949 Jason Van Hollander, 69. A book designer, illustrator, and occasional author. His stories and collaborations with Darrell Schweitzer earned a World Fantasy Award nomination. It was in the Collection category, for Necromancies and Netherworlds: Uncanny Stories. I’m fairly sure he’s done a lot of work for Cemetery Dance which make sense as he’d fit their house style.
  • Born September 9, 1952 Angela Cartwright, 67. Fondly remembered as Penny Robinson on the original Lost in Space. She, like several of her fellow cast members, made an appearance in the Lost in Space film. She appeared in the Logan’s Run series in “The Collectors” episode as Karen, and in Airwolf as Mrs. Cranovich in the “Eruption” episode. 
  • Born September 9, 1952 Tony Magistrale, 67. There’s a particular type of academic mania you sometimes encounter when a professor dives deep into a genre writer. Here we have such when one encounters Stephen King. Between 1988 and 2011, he wrote ten tomes on King and his work ranging from Landscape of Fear: Stephen King’s American Gothic to The Films of Stephen King: From Carrie to The Mist with I think my favorite being The Dark Descent: Essays Defining Stephen King’s Horrorscape. He’s a poet too with such scintillating titles as “Ode for a Dead Werewolf” and “To Edgar Poe on Father’s Day”.
  • Born September 9, 1954 Jeffrey Combs, 65. Though no doubt his best known genre role was as Weyoun, a Vorta, on Deep Space Nine. However, his genre portfolio is really, really long. it starts with Frightmare, a horror film in the early Eighties and encompasses some forty films, twenty-six series and ten genre games. He’s appeared on Babylon 5, plus three Trek series, Voyager and Enterprise being the other two, the Enterprise appearance being the only time an actor played two distinct roles in the same episode.  He’s played H.P. Lovecraft and Herbert West, a character by that author. Each multiple times. 
  • Born September 9, 1955 Janet Fielding,  64. Tegan Jovanka, companion to the Fifth Doctor. The actress had a rather short performing career starting with the Hammer House of Horror series in 1980 where she was Secretary Mandy on the “Charlie Boy” episode” before landing the the Doctor Who gig through 1984 before her career ending in the early Nineties. She was part of the 2013 50th Anniversary The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born September 9, 1960 Hugh Grant, 59. He appeared in The Lair of the White Worm as Lord James D’Ampton and in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E as Mr. Waverly. And he was the Handsome Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the 1999 Doctor Who special made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon. 
  • Born September 9, 1971 Henry Thomas, 48. Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Let’s just say that he’s had a busy if mostly undistinguished post-E.T. acting career, though I will single him out for his rather good work in Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House series. He’s playing Doctor Mid-Nite in the forthcoming Stargirl series on the DCU streaming service. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) PINEWOOD’S NEW TENANT. BBC ponders “What does Disney’s Pinewood deal mean for Marvel, Bond and British film?”

Disney is to make more blockbusters at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire after signing a deal to take over most of the complex for at least a decade.

The film and TV giant behind the Star Wars, Marvel and Avatar movies will lease 20 stages plus other facilities.

Pinewood is famously the home of James Bond, not a Disney franchise – throwing 007’s future at the site into question.

The deal comes two months after Netflix announced it had taken a long-term lease at Pinewood’s Shepperton Studios.

…From next year, it will have near-exclusive use of the UK’s most famous studio complex. In fact, it will have the whole site except three TV studios and an underwater stage.

Disney hasn’t commented on the deal. But with studio space at a premium, this gives them the security of a long-term dedicated UK base capable of handling their biggest films.

…Which films will be made there?

Disney won’t confirm, but it will continue to be the home of Star Wars movies, three of which are scheduled for the next seven years.

The company is planning four Avatar sequels, a fifth Indiana Jones film and numerous other live action flicks. Many of those can be expected to come to Pinewood….

(9) A FORMER JAMES SAYS HE’S READY FOR JANE BOND. “Next 007 should be a woman says Bond star Pierce Brosnan” – BBC has the story.

The Goldeneye actor, who played the role in four films, told the Hollywood Reporter he believes it would be “exhilarating” and “exciting” to see a female Bond.

“I think we’ve watched the guys do it for the last 40 years,” said the 66-year-old.

“Get out of the way guys and put a woman up there!” he added.

…There have been reports British actress Lashana Lynch will take over Bond’s famous codename after his character leaves MI6 in the new film, but she will not be the next Bond.

(10) SHRINKAGE. “Book Expo attendance is now smaller than some Worldcons,” says Andrew Porter. “I remember when it had 45,000 attendees.” Publishers Weekly reports, “Amid Changes, BookExpo Limits Exhibit Hours to Two Days”.

After experimenting with different time frames for BookExpo, Reed Exhibitions has decided to return to an event that features two days of exhibits preceded by a full day of educational programming.

In a letter sent to industry members, event manager Jenny Martin said that, after analyzing customer feedback, the consensus was that the three-day 2019 show proved “challenging and costly” for many. As a result, BookExpo 2020 will open Wednesday, May 27, with a day dedicated exclusively to educational programming. That day will be followed by two days of exhibits. BookCon will be held immediately after BookExpo, running May 30-31. Exhibitors will once again have the option of exhibiting at both shows, or at just one.

 (11) IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At Worldcon in Dublin at the Memphis 2023 bid party of all things, I not only ran into the assembled German SMOFdom, but also into Alex Weidemann, a reporter of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s most prestigious newspapers. Though the FAZ is a quality newspaper they are surprisingly genre friendly. Alex Weidemann’s article about WorldCon is now online, though most of it is sadly behind a paywall: “Sie kommen in Frieden”.

(12) WITH MALLARDS TOWARDS 87,000+ The Outline profiles “A Good Place: The fake town where everybody knows your name”.

…Strange, new places do take some getting used to and it might take you a few minutes to get the hang of subreddit r/HaveWeMet’s premise, where users roleplay as longtime neighbors in a non-existent town called “Lower Duck Pond.” The joke’s attracted over 87,000 users since the community started two years ago, making it the fastest-growing open-source fictional town on Earth. While the residents, streets, and buildings are fake, the absurdity, purity, and sense of community for its daily users has become very real.

Reddit user u/Devuluh, who’s really a sophomore computer science major named David (he declined to share his last name), started r/HaveWeMet in early 2017 when he was still in high school. The idea was to create an online space where everyone pretends to know each other….

(13) HIGH & TIGHT OR LOW & AWAY? Tagline: “Get yourself a heat shield, and throw the parcel really hard—backward.” An excerpt from Randall Munroe’s latest book, How To, appeared online at WIRED. Before you click, note that there’s a partial paywall, limiting you to just a few free Wired articles each month. 

Based on the 2001–2018 average, 1 out of every 1.5 billion humans is in space at any given time, most of them on board the International Space Station.

ISS crew members ferry packages down from the station by putting them in the spacecraft carrying crew back to Earth. But if there’s no planned departure for Earth any time soon—or if NASA gets sick of delivering your internet shopping returns—you might have to take matters into your own hands.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/9/19 Jonathan Scrollaston Pixel

(1) ON THEIR WATCH. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mohtar answers the question “Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?” Tagline: At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten.

…Mascarenhas has said of her novel that time travel “[makes] you constantly think of what stories people leave behind”. Every time we recover a female author, scientist, doctor, activist, every time we affirm that black people lived in medieval Europe, that queer people have always existed and often led happy lives, we change history – not the past, crucially, but history, our story about the past, our narratives and paradigms. And as we change history, we change the future. I’d worried that our book wouldn’t be relevant – it turns out all of us were right on time.

(2) WORLDCON DINING. Now is when this massive project pays off – Dublin 2019 Eats – compiled by Guest of Honour Diane Duane and Peter Morwood.

…For a lot of years now, SFF conventions have often had local restaurant guides to help their attendees find out what the local food options were. With this concept in mind, and as a way of assisting our thousands of convention visitors in finding their way around the Dublin food scene, in 2018 we came up with the concept of this casual online guide to food that’s either in the immediate area of the Dublin Convention Centre, the Worldcon’s main venue, or accessible from that area via public transport. Your two site managers — locally-based science fiction and fantasy novelists and screenwriters Peter Morwood and Diane Duane — have between them some seventy years of experience at the fine art of tracking down and enjoying great Dublin food.

For the purposes of this guide, our attention is focused mostly on food located near the city’s fabulous Luas tram system — mainly the Red Line that serves the DCC, but also the Luas Green Line that connects to it.

We have a focus on affordable food — because we, like a lot of our Worldcon guests, have often had to spend enough just getting to the venue to make the cost of eating an issue.

(3) INTERESTING TIMES. Abigail Nussbaum returns to the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with a commentary on Russell T. Davies’s recent miniseries about the times to come: “A Political History of the Future: Years and Years”.

…The result is a show suffused with anxiety. When discussing Years and Years, I’ve found that people tend to reference its big dramatic moments, such as the ending of episode 1, in which an air raid siren alerts the gathered family to the fact that the US has dropped an atomic bomb on a Chinese military base (Davies doesn’t try too hard to ground his predictions in carefully-reasoned reality, but his speculation that Donald Trump would do something like this on his final day in office is scarily plausible). Or that of episode 4, in which Daniel and Viktor board an overloaded inflatable raft in a desperate attempt to cross the handful of miles separating Calais from England. But I think the scene that will hit a lot of viewers where they live is actually the end of episode 2, in which Stephen and Celeste race to their bank to try to retrieve even some of their money, and find themselves in a crowd of people hoping to do the same, all equally doomed. The first two are things that you can imagine happening, but maybe not to you. The second feels like exactly the sort of calamity that the comfortably middle class people the show has been aimed at are most likely to experience in the coming decades….

(4) SENDAK FOR THE STAGE. A major exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s work runs until October 6 at The Morgan Library in New York City: “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet”.

Renowned for his beloved and acclaimed children’s books, Maurice Sendak (1928–2012) was also an avid music and opera lover. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful second career as a designer of sets and costumes for the stage. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet will be the first museum exhibition dedicated to this aspect of his career. It will include storyboards, preparatory sketches, costume studies, luminous watercolors, and meticulous dioramas from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Janá?ek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and an opera based on Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

The exhibition will include nearly 150 objects drawn primarily from the artist’s bequest to the Morgan of over 900 drawings. Sendak borrowed gleefully from a personal pantheon of artists, some of whom he encountered firsthand at the Morgan. Several such works, by William Blake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Domenico and Giambattista Tiepolo, will be displayed alongside his designs. Although less well known than his book illustrations, Sendak’s drawings for the stage embody his singular hand, fantastical mode of storytelling, keen—sometimes bawdy—sense of humor, and profound love of music and art history.

(5) “VERTIGINOUS TASK.” Jordy Rosenberg writes “In Praise of Samuel R. Delany” for the New York Times.

…The emotional dynamism of Delany’s sentences has been perhaps less acknowledged than his world-building, or the sweep of his vision. But when asked to speak about writing as a practice, Delany himself often turns to the art of sentences, and of how to imbue words with such “ekphrastic force” that they summon the material presence of an imagined world. When Korga and Marq return to themselves they are awe-struck, struggling to narrate the intensity of their own transformative experience. It is impossible not to hear in that a metatextual echo of the obsession of Delany’s practice: that of creating the most immersive possible aesthetic experience for us, his readers and devoted enthusiasts….

(6) COMMON SCENTS. James P. Blaylock shares “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” at Poets & Writers.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975. My wife, Viki, and I took off on a road trip a few days later in our old Volkswagen Bug, and I brought the book along. It mysteriously disappeared early one rainy morning in central Canada, and I didn’t find it again until a year later, after the car’s battery died. The VW’s battery was under the back seat, and when I pulled out the seat to get at the battery, there was Dr. Bloodmoney, its cover partly eaten by battery acid. I was monumentally happy to find it. The book is inscribed to “Jim Blaylock, a hell of a neat dude,” the only existing written evidence of that allegation….

(7) IN THE SPIRIT. The Tonopah Westercon committee (2021) hurried to tell Facebook followers that “Our headquarters hotel for Westercon 74 is in the running for ‘Best Haunted Hotel’” as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Built in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel in haunted Tonopah has many spirits supposedly roaming its halls, including Rose, a prostitute murdered by a jealous gambler. Guests report items that mysteriously move and an old elevator whose doors randomly open and close.

(8) EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING. GQ’s Tom Philip argues that “Horror Movies Can Be Great, Even When They’re Not ‘Scary’”.

…Also, I’ve only ever seen one scene from the entire movie, when a hooded figure wielding a hook stabs a dude in the stomach and blood starts coming out of that man’s mouth. I have watched hundreds of horror films since, but stop me in the street and ask me: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? and I will unwaveringly answer “I Know What You Did Last Summer, because I was a seven-year-old wuss who had never seen a grown man run through with a sheep hook in a gas station lot before.”

What I’m saying is, “scary” is a silly metric by which to measure a horror movie’s quality, especially if it’s the only one you use. Not to get all “I own a thesaurus” on you, but there are distinct differences between something that’s scary, spooky, threatening, shocking, dreadful, et cetera. The new big horror release, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, for example, writes a check the movie needs to cash. It’s right there in the title…

(9) TODAY’S DAY. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Moomin Day today:

But not everyone is happy. Here are demonstrators from last weeks manifestation against the placement of a new Moomin theme park in the Swedish city of Karlstad. Anti-Moonin feelings are running high. The picture says it all: “Flera hinder för Mumin”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop debuted in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 1989 — James Cameron’s The Abyss premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 P.L. Travers. Yes, she’s genre. A flying nanny is certainly fantasy. Did you know there are total of eight books? I’m sure I’ve seen the film but it’s been so long that I remember ‘nought about it. Anyone here seen the new film? (Died 1996.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Fannish song-writing (before the term “filk” was coined) and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned and that I remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 75. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits,  Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 72. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 70. Author of two novels in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 51. The ever-skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Currently playing Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMIC. “Clevelander Joe Shuster’s Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel” at IdeaStream — I missed this when it came out last year.

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would’ve taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in “The Joe Shuster Story” by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi…. 

(13) POSSIBLE SAINT. Paul Weimer tells how the fight against tyranny is progressing in “Microreview [book]: The Queen of Crows, by Myke Cole” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In Queen of Crows, author Myke Cole explores the burning question: Now what? A blow for freedom has been struck, yes, but the Sacred Throne, and in particular, the Inquisition-like Order is not going to take this lying down. Heloise may well be a saintly figure, possibly even a holy  Palatinate, but her actions are not an unalloyed good. The Empire will, indeed, Strike Back, and it is only a question of time before overwhelming force is brought to bear on Heloise and the people she has sworn to protect. This leads to Heloise and her people going on the road, meeting others who have not done well under the Empire’s tyranny, and asking hard questions about oppression, revolt, tyranny, resistance, prejudice, and at the same time providing solid medieval fantastic action….

(14) SILENCE OF THE TWEETS. Jon Del Arroz is in Twitter jail again.

JDA’s version: “Suspended On Twitter For Defending A Woman From Harassment” [Internet Archive link].

(15) AT GEN CON. Brian’s “Pop Up Gen Con!” report for Nerds of a Feather begins with an intriguing summary of “We’re Doomed, a game where the world is ending and the governments of the world (each government is a player) need to jointly construct a rocket ship.”

(16) CHOW QUEST. In “Military Logistics for Fantasy Writers” at the SFWA Blog, Mollie M. Madden, holder of a Ph.D. in medieval history, challenges authors to explain how the big armies of their imaginations avoid starving to death.

We all know ‘an army marches on its stomach,’ but it’s not like Napoleon discovered something new. Vegetius (De re militari) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) were well aware of this concept, as was Alexander the Great (Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, 1980). And it wasn’t news to them, either. Pre-modern military commanders knew this; they planned for this. They paid attention to logistics.

Fantasy writers should, too.

(17) FACE THE MUSIC. NPR reports “Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Software, Court Rules”. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel, and Facebook plans to contest the result by asking for an en banc hearing by the full court.

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can sue the company over face recognition technology, meaning a class action can move forward.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Thursday. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s the first decision by a U.S. appellate court to directly address privacy concerns posed by facial recognition technology.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook told NPR that the company plans to ask the full circuit court to review the decision of the three-judge panel. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. Information about its facial recognition technology is available in the company policy online.

The case concerns Facebook users in Illinois who accused the social media giant of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Facebook argued that the users had experienced no concrete harm. But the 9th Circuit panel noted that intangible injuries can still be concrete, and it noted the Supreme Court has said advances in technology can lead to more personal privacy intrusions.

The appeals panel decided that Facebook’s technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”

(18) THE NEW ZARDOZ? “Mark Hamill: Darth Vader balloon makes Luke Skywalker’s week” – BBC has the story

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has hailed the uplifting impact of a Darth Vader hot air balloon.

Hamill, who plays Vader’s son in Star Wars, posted on social media after spotting a video from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

He said the giant balloon of Vader’s mask had “raised his spirits” after a “horrible, no good, terrible week”, adding “thanks dad”.

(19) SWEATSHOP. “Amazon Echo devices made by Chinese teens ‘working through night’ – reports” – at BBC.

Amazon has pledged to investigate allegations that hundreds of teenagers are working illegal hours at a Chinese factory producing its Echo devices.

A new report by China Labor Watch claims more than 1,500 “interns” were manufacturing the smart assistants at a factory run by supplier Foxconn.

The teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, were reportedly pressured into work 60 hours a week and night shifts.

Foxconn has blamed local managers and vowed to improve monitoring of staff.

The company, which makes products for a number of technology giants, has allegedly fired two senior staff members at the site in Hengyang, Bloomberg reports.

It is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding working conditions at the manufacturer, which is headquartered in Taiwan.

(20) RADICAL COMFORT FICTION. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy finds something lacking in the latest Becky Chambers novel: “Microreview [book]: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers”.

…On one level, this constant release of tension from individual incidents is quite nice – no need to worry about Chekov’s gun on the mantlepiece, in this universe it’s going to stay right where it is. However, it also means that the link between individual incidents and the emotional arc of the novella – as the characters grapple with their place in the universe, without a link to Earth calling them back – is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how generous one feels….

(21) WALK INTO LEGEND. “Controversial and late, Tintagel footbridge in Cornwall to open”: The Guardian says, “After 650 years – and four months – visitors can follow in Uther Pendragon’s footsteps.”

A £5m footbridge to a dramatic, wind-battered headland that is at the heart of Arthurian legend will this weekend finally open to the public.

The bridge, one of the most ambitious, complicated and at times controversial heritage projects seen in the UK in recent years, will, says English Heritage, restore the lost crossing of Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

(22) LE GUIN NEWS. Paul Di Filippo asks whether he’s found a unique item: “ISFDB does not record the existence of this Le Guin essay from TV Guide, making me think it’s never been reprinted.” Read it at the Internet Archive: “’The Lathe of Heaven’ When facts look crazyyou’re your imagination shivers, — that’s science fiction at its best” (Jan. 5, 1980). 

(23) THE EATIN’ OF THE GREEN. Delish experienced a sugar rush just thinking about it: “FunkO Is Making Oogie Boogie Cereal Just In Time For Halloween”.

Sugary cereal, toys inside the box, Disney characters—does it get any more nostalgic than this? FunkO has announced the latest additions to its cereal portfolio, and my inner child is pumped.

Disney fanatics will want to get their hands on the Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) cereal, a purple version of the FunkO multigrain O’s. Tim Burton devotees and former mall goths will obviously need to try the Oogie Boogie—of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame—version, a green take on the breakfast treat. Insider reports that both cereals will come with Pocket Pop! versions of the characters’ figurines. Considering that FunkO’s Pop! figures are established as cool collectibles, these cute minis are a pretty great prize to get in your cereal box.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Top Elf, PhilRM, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, 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 8/3/19 Dublin, Dublin, Scroll And Tribble

(1) STONES WILL ROLL. The Broken Earth is becoming an RPG setting: “Green Ronin To Publish The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game”.

“I’ve heard from many of my readers that they’re fascinated enough by the world of the Broken Earth that they’d like to visit it (nobody wants to live there tho!) and now they’ll get their chance,” said N.K. Jemisin. “I’ll be working with Green Ronin to try and make sure the spirit and feel of the books is rendered successfully in this new form.”

Green Ronin will publish The Fifth Season RPG in the Fall of 2020. Tanya DePass (I Need Diverse Games, Rivals of Waterdeep) and Joseph D. Carriker (Blue Rose, Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting) will co-develop the game. The Fifth Season RPG will use a revised and customized version of Green Ronin’s Chronicle System, which powered the company’s long-running Game of Thrones RPG, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying.

(2) LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. At least one PBS outlet is allowing online viewing of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, aired last night as part of the American Masters series. The info indicates it will be available through August 30.

(3) PRACTICAL PRATCHETT. In “The Tao of Sir Terry: Pratchett and Political Philosophy” by Canadian novelist J.R.H. Lawless on Tor.com, is an analysis of politics in Discworld that argues that Pratchett’s satire is a tool for “a brave, humanist outlook that fuels a deep-rooted hope for a responsible political future.”

…If the social contract produces political systems as petty and vile as the citizens themselves, then the opposite is also true—and this is the saving grace of the political systems Sir Terry develops throughout his work: a deep-rooted belief in the fundamental goodness of humankind and in our ability to strive towards greater social justice, however difficult or ridiculous the path towards it may be…

(4) TECHNOTHRILLER NEWS. Tom Chatfield, in “Towards a New Canon of Technothrillers” on Crimereads, explains why Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, and Charles Stross really wrote technothrillers.

…As someone who spent their teens eating up sci-fi and fantasy, I particularly love writers who bend or break the barriers between genres, and I guess I see techno-thrillers in these terms: as a fertile colliding ground for technology, conspiracy, crime, politics, the factual and the fantastical. If you’re interested in crime, today, you need to be interested in technology—because we’re living at a time where the kind of crimes being committed, and what it means to obey or break the law, are being rewritten in the form of code. Information itself is the battleground. It’s strange and terrifying and marvelous—and the gift of fiction is to make its urgency feel real, human and tractable….

(5) LEXOPHILE. Andrew Porter introduced me to the term.Jokes of the Day explains it and I’ve copied four examples:

“Lexophile” describes those that have a love for words, such as “you can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish”, or “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.” An annual competition is held by the New York Times see who can create the best original lexophile.

  • No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
  • If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.
  • I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

(6) MICE REMEMBERED. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna notes that Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie Mouse, married Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse, in 1989 and they stayed married for 19 years until Allwine’s death in 2008. He quotes Cartoon Art museum curator Andrew Farago as saying “I think Russi and Wayne were Minnie and Mickey, in all the ways that mattered” adding they were “good-hearted, generous, kind to everyone they met.” — “She was the voice of Minnie Mouse. He was the voice of Mickey Mouse. That’s how their romance began.”

The romance between Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse was more than just an act. For two of their real-life voice actors, it was magic, and soon love, at first sound bite.

Russi Taylor, who died Friday in Glendale, Calif., won the role of Minnie Mouse in 1986, beating out more than 150 other actors with her high, pitch-perfect sound. The next year, she was on the voice-over stage for the Disney special “Totally Minnie” when she met Wayne Allwine, who had inherited the role of Mickey about a decade earlier — only the third person, including creator Walt Disney, to officially inhabit the role.

As soon as Taylor and Allwine began working together, they could make theatrical sparks fly.

“They were Mickey and Minnie,” Bill Farmer, then newly cast as the voice of Goofy, told The Washington Post on Monday. “It was typecasting.”

(7) GENOVESE OBIT. “Cosmo Genovese, Script Supervisor on ‘Star Trek’ Series, Dies at 95” says The Hollywood Reporter:

Cosmo Genovese, a veteran script supervisor whose credits include Perry MasonThe A-Team and two Star Trek series, died Tuesday, his family said. He was 95.

His first job in Hollywood was on William Wyler’s Oscar best-picture nominee Friendly Persuasion (1956), starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire and Anthony Perkins.

Genovese served as a script supervisor on Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1987-94 and Star Trek: Voyager from 1995-2000 for a total of 275 episodes.

Star Trek: TNG and Voyager writers made subtle tributes to him on their series, putting his name on dedication plaques and directories, calling a flower shop “Genovese’s Flowers” and a coffee shop “Cosimo” and dubbing an energetic carbon-based biological reactant “bio-genovesium.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 3, 1841 Juliana Horatia Ewing (née Gatty). Yorkshire writer of children’s fiction whose tales are very close to folklore. There are four known collections of her stories, Melchior’s Dream and Other Tales, The Brownies and Other Tales, Old-Fashioned Fairy Tales and The Land of Lost Toys. Kindle has several of her collections available, iBooks has none. (Died 1885.)
  • Born August 3, 1861 Michel Jean Pierre Verne. Son of Jules Verne who we now know rewrote some of his father’s later novels. These novels have since been restored using the original manuscripts which were preserved. He also wrote and published short stories using his father’s name. None of these were the major works Jules is now known for. (Died 1925.)
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is horror? (Died 1988.)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she has said she likes despite it being substantially different than her novel. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 79. So that who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be him. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but this is the role that I like most. 
  • Born August 3, 1946 John DeChancie, 73. A native of Pittsburgh, he is best known for his Castle fantasy series, and his SF Skyway series. He’s fairly prolific even having done a Witchblade novel. Who here has read him? Opinions please. 
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 69. He make this if all he’d done An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which was the best Tim Curry role ever. And he Executive Produced one of the best SAF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 47. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish red headed colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The Embrace, American Gothic, Sliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly Edition, Angel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), Grimm, Supernatural and currently on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. 
  • Born August 3, 1980 Aaron Dembski-Bowden, 39. Author of many a Warhammer Universe novel. I’m including him so as to ask y’all a question. The only thing I’ve read in this Universe is “Monastery of Death”, a short story by Stross which was quite intriguing as stories go.  Are there novels set here worth reading? Where would I start? 

(9) EVERY CONDIMENT HAS ITS DAY. Popsugar’s Lindsay Miller celebrates National Mustard Day: “French’s Mustard Ice Cream Is Blindingly Yellow and Upsettingly Good”.

I’m walking home when my boyfriend texts me: “You got this horror show.” He attaches a photo of a navy blue cooler, inside which is nestled a pint of French’s Mustard Ice Cream. In honor — or defiance? — of National Mustard Day on Aug. 3, LA-based ice creamery Coolhaus is joining forces with the brand-name condiment. When I got the press release promising their questionable concoction would “have Americans enjoying mustard in a way it’s never been seen before,” I knew I couldn’t shirk my responsibility as a journalist deeply committed to serving the public interest. I had to try it.

(10) NEW JOBS. Entertainment Weekly reviews that “Man Who Fell to Earth TV series coming from Star Trek producer”

‘What if Steve Jobs was an alien?’ Alex Kurtzman is re-imagining the David Bowie classic

The new series for CBS All Access is based on Walter Tevis’ 1962 novel and the 1976 film starring David Bowie. The story followed a humanoid alien who arrives on Earth searching for a way to get water to his drought-struck planet and uses his advanced technology to create many inventions and become a tech mogul.

Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard) will write the series along with Jenny Lumet and serve as co-showrunners. Kurtzman will also direct.

“Walter Tevis’ visionary novel gave us a tech god Willy Wonka from another planet, brought to life by David Bowie’s legendary performance, that foretold Steve Jobs’ and Elon Musk’s impact on our world,” said Kurtzman and Lumet in a statement. “The series will imagine the next step in our evolution, seen through the eyes of an alien who must learn what it means to become human, even as he fights for the survival of his species.”

(11) YANG APPRAISED. Andrew Liptak declares “JY Yang’s Tensorate series is a sweeping, experimental blend of sci-fi and fantasy” in a review for The Verge.

Genre is an odd thing. At times, it’s merely a sales tactic, where similar books are grouped together in a bookstore to make them easier to find. But it can also be a codified canon of literature in which authors are engaged in a decades-long conversation, bouncing themes and tropes off one another. Every now and again, a book or author will come along that really breaks away from the conversation and ignores those tropes and conventions. One recent example is Singaporean author JY Yang, who published the final installment of their genre-blending Tensorate series last month.

The series is made up of four short novellas: The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, The Descent of Monsters, and The Ascent to Godhood. It’s set in a world where an oppressive monarchy called the Protectorate is facing an entrenched revolution from a rebel group called the Machinists. The Protectorate holds onto power by controlling who can utilize a magical system known as Slackcraft, and it utterly controls the lives of its subjects. However, it’s grown decadent and corrupt over the decades, and under the reign of Lady Sanao Hekate, The Protector, it’s brutally cracked down on its citizens. That’s given rise to the Machinists, who work to topple the government, all while bringing power to the people with the help of machines that take the place of Slackcraft and those who control it.

(12) A NETFLIX BOMB. Camestros Felapton explains why “I didn’t finish even one episode of ‘Another Life’ on Netflix”. At the risk of stealing his thunder, basically, it sucks.

…It was more the little things. When the central character wakes up from space hibernation and just sort of spills out onto the floor of a corridor, like nobody put any thought into how the crew will wake up. If the series was set in some grungy future of second hand spaceships, I could believe that but this is supposed to be the state of the art spaceship at the peak of human technology. The science is one thing, but seriously somebody would have thought that bit through (or at least the ship’s hologram would be there waiting when the captain woke up)….

(13) BEACHCOMBING ON PLUTO. The Express (UK) unpacks one of New Horizon’s discoveries:“NASA breakthrough: Scientists believe ‘ocean of water’ exists on distant world – ‘Huge!'”

“And, at its edge, lies a range of mountains made of pure frozen water ice that rise up to 6km above the plain. 

“But there’s something very strange about the region, something that sets it apart from the rest of this dwarf planet.”

Dr Cox went on to reveal how NASA noticed something particularly strange about this region.

He added: “The surface of Pluto is covered in craters, the scars of impact that have taken place over many billions of years. 

“Except, if you look at Sputnik Planitia, it is absolutely smooth…. 

(14) EXPERIMENTATION. “First human-monkey chimera raises concern among scientists”The Guardian has the story.

Efforts to create human-animal chimeras have rebooted an ethical debate after reports emerged that scientists have produced monkey embryos containing human cells.

A chimera is an organism whose cells come from two or more “individuals”, with recent work looking at combinations from different species. The word comes from a beast from Greek mythology which was said to be part lion, part goat and part snake.

The latest report, published in the Spanish newspaper El País, claims a team of researchers led by Prof Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte from the Salk Institute in the US have produced monkey-human chimeras. The research was conducted in China “to avoid legal issues”, according to the report.

Chimeras are seen as a potential way to address the lack of organs for transplantation, as well as problems of organ rejection….

(15) THE DOORBELL OPENED A BLUE EYE AND SPIED AT HIM. Here’s looking at you, kid — “Amazon Ring: Police tie-up criticised by anti-surveillance campaigners”.

Amazon has been criticised for partnering with at least 200 law enforcement agencies to carry out surveillance via its Ring doorbells.

The partnerships came to light after a Freedom of Information request made by Vice’s Motherboard tech news website.

The bells send live video of customers’ doorsteps to their smartphones, computers or Amazon Echo devices.

Digital rights campaign group Fight for the Future says Amazon is encouraging neighbours to spy on each other.

The partnerships allow police officers to ask customers to “share videos” and information about crime and safety issues in their area via the Ring app.

In response to the story Ring told the BBC: “Law enforcement can only submit video requests to users in a given area when investigating an active case. Ring facilitates these requests and user consent is required in order for any footage or information to be shared with law enforcement.”

Motherboard says officers do not need a warrant to ask for footage or information.

“Amazon has found the perfect end-run around the democratic process,” Fight the Future said.

(16) IT’S BENT! BBC learns “Milky Way galaxy is warped and twisted, not flat”.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is “warped and twisted” and not flat as previously thought, new research shows.

Analysis of the brightest stars in the galaxy shows that they do not lie on a flat plane as shown in academic texts and popular science books.

Astronomers from Warsaw University speculate that it might have been bent out of shape by past interactions with nearby galaxies.

The new three dimensional map has been published in the journal Science.

The popular picture of the Milky Way as a flat disc is based on the observation of 2.5 million stars out of a possible 2.5 billion. The artists’ impressions are therefore rough approximations of the truer shape of our galaxy, according to Dr Dorota Skowron of Warsaw University.

“The internal structure and history of the Milky Way is still far from being understood, in part because it is extremely difficult to measure distances to stars at the outer regions of our galaxy,” she said.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Oscar-nominated “Negative Space” on Vimeo by Max Porter and Ru Kawabata is animation about a young man bonding with his father while packing luggage.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/1/19 The Last Fan On Earth Was Reading A Pixel Scroll When Suddenly A New Comment Was Posted

(1) BRADBURY SCULPTURE. The Waukegan (IL) Public Library says the triumphant moment is at hand — “Ray Bradbury Sculpture: We’re Under Construction!”

…For the past four years, active community arts leaders have campaigned and fundraised to install a new piece of public art in downtown Waukegan: Zachary Oxman’s Fantastical Traveler. The sculpture features an elder Bradbury astride a rocket ship, waving a book as he journeys forth.

…As part of the sculpture installation, Oxman also designed a small plaza around the statue, so you’ll be seeing hard hats and fencing at the Library’s front entrance very soon. Construction will not impact the Library’s operating hours, and our main entrance should remain easily accessible throughout the process.

…And mark your calendars – our sculpture is set to be unveiled to the public at a special dedication ceremony on Thursday, August 22. That’s Ray’s 99th birthday! We’ll celebrate with family-friendly activities right outside the Library at the corner of County & Clayton Sts. The fun will begin at 6:30pm, and all ages are welcome!

…We are very grateful to the local contractors who are donating their services as part of the construction effort, as well as all those whose donations have made the sculpture’s arrival in Waukegan a reality!

Check out this post on the library’s Facebook page for a peek inside the sculptor’s studio.

(2) INTERNET HIGHWAY ROBBERY. In an LA Times op-ed, Douglas Preston tells how “Online book-selling scams steal a living from writers”.

…Author doppelganging, for example, occurs when someone starts publishing books just like yours, using your name, in order to game Amazon’s search algorithms. I write a series of thrillers with a partner named Lincoln Child, and our nom de plume is “Preston & Child.” Half a dozen years ago, an entity named “Preston Child” started publishing thrillers amazingly like ours, with strikingly similar covers and titles.

For years, Amazon’s algorithms mingled the books of “Preston Child” along with our books, as if they were by the same author. Our publisher investigated and was unable to confirm the existence of Preston Child. (It’s next to impossible to prove someone doesn’t exist.) It took Amazon several years before it adjusted its algorithms to distinguish “Preston Child” from “Preston & Child.”

Title cloning, like author doppelganging, is legal, since you typically cannot copyright a title. Duplicate book titles are an old problem, now exacerbated by Amazon’s search algorithms. Seven months after my nonfiction book “The Lost City of the Monkey God,” about an expedition that discovered a lost city in the Honduran jungle, was published in 2017, a novel appeared, titled “Lost City of the Monkey God,” published using Amazon’s CreateSpace platform. It was also about an “expedition to discover a lost city in the Honduran jungle.” The last time I searched for my bestselling book on Amazon, the other one popped up in the number 3 position — above some editions of my book.

The cheats get weirder. Nora Roberts, the author of romance novels, discovered that books were being sold on Amazon containing extensive passages lifted from her books. She found a person in Brazil who appeared to be running a plagiarism factory, in which she took Roberts’ books and those of other romance authors, cut, pasted, rearranged and rewrote them to make new books to be sold on Amazon….

(3) LET US SAY IT AGAIN. Arwen Curry’s Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary is being broadcast on PBS at 9 p.m.on Friday, August 2 as part of its American Masters series.

The film dives into Le Guin’s childhood, steeped in the myths and stories of Native Americans she heard growing up in Berkeley, California, as the daughter of prominent 19th century anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and writer Theodora Kroeber, author of the influential book “Ishi in Two Worlds.” This deep childhood understanding of cultural relativism infused her work with a unique perspective; her otherworldly societies are all in some way reflections of our own.

At the heart of the film is Le Guin’s intimate journey of self-discovery as she comes into her own as a major feminist author. “What I was doing was being a woman pretending to think like a man,” she says, reflecting on why her early novels put men at the center of the action. But as second-wave feminism crashed into the science fiction world in the 1970s, Le Guin recognized her own internalized notions about heroism and power. Initially defensive, she found truth in the criticisms of her work. When revisiting the realm of “Earthsea,” she turned her gaze to its women, instead of powerful male wizards. The result was a transformation that echoed throughout the rest of her oeuvre. By embracing her own identity and learning to write as a woman, she eventually rose to the height of her literary power. Working across many genres, Le Guin received numerous honors, including the National Book Award, Hugo Award, Nebula Award, PEN-Malamud, and she was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin had its world premiere at the Sheffield Documentary Festival and has shown internationally at dozens of festivals, garnering numerous awards.

(4) THUNDER WITHOUT A LIZARD. Camestros Felapton does a fine analysis of a story which lacks any literal dinosaurs, anyway: “Hugosauriad 3.3: Dinosaurs by Walter Jon Williams”.

…Dinosaurs has a distinctly not dinosaur-like alien species being visited by a human diplomat. The aliens are justly outraged by human attempts to terraform their worlds. They have assumed this was a pre-meditated attack by humanity against them. The diplomat has been despatched to broker a peace agreement….

(5) TAKING A READING. The Brooklyn Book Festival blog has posted “The BKBF Interview: Marlon James”.

The BKBF Interview with literary giant Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

Where is your favorite place to read?

On the G train.

What is your favorite book to give an adult or a child?

An Adult: Dogeaters, by Jessica Hagedorn. Child: Anything by Walter Moers.

Tell us your best book-receiving experience.

My friends are way too intimidated to buy me books. So I just tell them what to get me….

(6) DUVERNAY’S DC PROJECT. The Hollywood Reporter eavesdropped on this Twitter Q&A: “Ava DuVernay Confirms Villains for DC’s ‘New Gods’ Movie”.

Ava DuVernay’s big-screen version of DC’s New Gods is years away from release, but the writer-director teased the project — and offered small updates — Tuesday afternoon during a Twitter Q&A.

In response to fans’ questions, DuVernay confirmed that both Darkseid and the Female Furies will appear in the movie. The former is no surprise, as Darkseid is the main antagonist of the Jack Kirby-created comic book mythology DuVernay and co-writer Tom King will be drawing from. The latter, DuVernay suggested, is the result of her fandom of the character Big Barda, the leader of the all-woman fighting force. “I’m looking forward to [the Furies] so much,” she said.

(7) NOT SO FAST. NPR’s Chris Klimek summarizes Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw as “Better Stunts & Actors, Just As Derivative”. (Classified as genresque due to cyborg badguy.)

While we were all arguing whether Idris Elba should be the new 007, he opted to become the next T-800 instead.

In Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the most agreeable of the innumerable Fast & Furious presentations, The Wire’s Stringer Bell plays a straight-up Terminator, with stainless steel innards, glowing orange eyeballs, and a Google-glass-like POV datastream that gives him helpful notifications such as ATTACK IMMINENT whenever bickering-buddy good guys Dwayne Johnson (aka Hobbs) or Jason Statham (aka Shaw) cock a fist in his direction.

But he has also got more than a little Darth Vader in him, in that he’s shown to be doing the bidding of a unseen superior with a digitally scrambled voice who scolds Brixton for his failures while his more-machine-now-than-man-body is welded back together, post-battle. The disembodied voice of Supreme Leader Snoke or whatever even orders Brixton to attempt to turn Hobbs & Shaw to the Dark Side instead of simply rubbing them out! There’s petty larceny, there’s grand theft auto.

(8) AUTHOR READINGS ON THE AIR. The New Jersey freeform radio station WFMU started a new show, Radiovert with Nicole, in June (Weds. 7-8 p.m.) which features readings from science fiction writers such as Tobias S. Buckell , Maureen F. McHugh, etc. (“Far out stories from fantastic authors “) Here’s a link to the archive page: Radiovert with Nicole: Playlists and Archives. Jack Adkins promises, “It’s a great show!” And here is their masthead art – tell me, Filers, can there be any doubt this show is for you?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 1, 1862 M.R. James. Writer of some of the best ghost stories ever done. A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings, released in 2001 from Ash-Tree Press has forty stories which includes the thirty stories from Collected Ghost Stories plus the 3 tales published after that, and the seven from The Fenstanton Witch and Others. It’s apparently the most complete collection of his stories to date. (Died 1936.)
  • Born August 1, 1904 Russell R. Winterbotham. Writer of both Western and SF novels under various names. His SF novels were all written between the late Fifties and mid Sixties and had such pulpish titles as The Space Egg and The Puppet Planet.  He wrote a lot of short fiction but almost none of it nor his novels is available digitally. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available in digital form. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 1, 1914 Edd Cartier. Illustrator who in 1992 received the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, being the first artist to receive that honor. His artwork was first published in Street and Smith publications, including The Shadow, to which he provided many interior illustrations, and Astounding Science Fiction, Doc Savage Magazine and Unknown as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. Best remembered for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in an Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 1, 1954 James Gleick, 65. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us, which is that he writes genre reviews — collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein ‘s “By His Bootstraps”.
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 64. Film and TV director who  was first  a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series.
  • Born August 1, 1979 Jason Momoa, 40. I knew it seen before he showed up as Aquaman in the DC film universe and I was right as he was Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis for five seasons. He was also Khal Drogo in the first season of A Game of Thrones. And not surprisingly, he was the title character in Conan the Barbarian

(10) ANCIENT LIBRARY. In Mauretania is a largely forgotten ancient desert library — the thread starts here.

(11) WILL YOU DARE TO WEAR A SHIRT OF RED? “Sandbox VR to Launch “Star Trek” Location-Based Reality Experience”Variety has the story.

San Francisco-based virtual reality startup Sandbox VR has teamed up with CBS Interactive to launch a new “Star Trek” virtual reality (VR) experience this fall. “Star Trek: Discovery Away Mission” will allow up to 6 friends to enter the world of the series, complete with phasers and tricoders, and a holodeck to boot.

The new location will first be available at existing Sandbox VR locations in Hong Kong, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, and come to new locations in New York, Austin, San Diego and Chicago soon after.

(12) SOURCE OF CRAZY IDEAS. Behind a paywall in the July 27 Financial Times, famous people were asked how they were spending their summers.  Guillermo Del Toro said he was scouting locations and working on a script for his remake of Pinocchio.

FINANCIAL TIMES:  “What’s your best memory of childhood summer holidays?”

DEL TORO:  “Reading Ray Bradbury in a hammock, by an avocado tree in Lake Chapala, Mexico.”

(13) SIGNED BRADBURY PRINTS. Gauntlet Press is running a Bradbury Oil Painting Special:

To celebrate the Ray Bradbury’s birthday (August 22) when he would be 99-years old, we are offering a special on Bradbury prints.

Besides being an acclaimed author he was also well-known for his oil paintings, a number of which we used for the covers of his signed limited editions. We have two we’re making available to commemorate his birthday, both SIGNED by Bradbury.

His oil painting from IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE & His oil painting from SOMEWHERE A BAND IS PLAYING.

(14) DARK VIEWING. For your information, there’s a Netflix Official Site for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance with the latest trailer and other videos.

In this prequel to the fantasy classic, three young Gelfling inspire a rebellion against the cruel Emperor when they discover a horrifying secret.

(15) HUNTING THE 99 PERCENT. Slate’s Matthew Dessem introduces a film’s trailer — “Capturing the Zeitgeist: The Hunt Is About Rich People Hunting Poor People for Sport”.

It’s a truism that horror, science fiction, and exploitation films often wrestle with a society’s ills earlier and more frankly than other genres, even if they dress the problem up in a Godzilla suit. We’re facing our fair share of brand new, atom-bomb-class impending catastrophes today, but one of America’s biggest problems was already ancient when Paul sat down to drop Timothy a line, and, judging from the trailer, The Hunt is aiming to shoot it in the lungs with an arrow. The rest of cinema hasn’t exactly ignored greed or money as a subject: from President Business all the way back to Eisenstein’s smoke-filled rooms, cinema’s got no shortage of greedy capitalist villains. But there have been far fewer films that have played around with the unpleasant fact that, as a general rule, the wealthiest people in the world don’t see, think about, or treat the rest of us like human beings. Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You recently literalized this for a science-fiction take in which capitalists develop an alarming solution to building the workforce of tomorrow, and now director Craig Zobel and screenwriters Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof are chiming in from the horror section, as the trailer for The Hunt makes clear:

(16) DON’T BOGART THAT CREDIT. BBC reports claims that “AI system ‘should be recognised as inventor'”.

An artificial intelligence system should be recognised as the inventor of two ideas in patents filed on its behalf, a team of UK academics says.

The AI has designed interlocking food containers that are easy for robots to grasp and a warning light that flashes in a rhythm that is hard to ignore.

Patents offices insist innovations are attributed to humans – to avoid legal complications that would arise if corporate inventorship were recognised.

The academics say this is “outdated”.

And it could see patent offices refusing to assign any intellectual property rights for AI-generated creations.

As a result, two professors from the University of Surrey have teamed up with the Missouri-based inventor of Dabus AI to file patents in the system’s name with the relevant authorities in the UK, Europe and US.

(17) PRESS ENTER. NPR’s profile “Our Language Is Evolving, ‘Because Internet'” should be good for a few arguments…

The Internet has become a place where we cultivate relationships. Through quick messages that we type with our thumbs on our phones, we keep in touch with friends and family; we flirt and fall in love.

And the potential for miscommunication abounds. Who among us hasn’t wondered whether a message in ALL CAPS meant it was especially urgent? Furious? Or just enthusiastic?

The linguist Gretchen McCulloch aims to clear some things up with her new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. The “new” rules, she says in an interview, are “emergent.”

“So the old rules are these top-down, ‘here’s how you use an apostrophe,’ ‘here’s how you use a semicolon’ type of thing,” McCulloch says. “The new rules are about: How are other people going to interpret your tone of voice? … The old rules are about using language to demonstrate intellectual superiority, and the new rules are about using language to create connection between people.”

McCulloch says a lot of the confusion stems from the fact that people read Internet writing differently, depending on when they first went online. She gives NPR a few examples.

The author also features at Whatever today in “The Big Idea: Gretchen McCulloch”.

In 2014, I started writing a book about internet language. Every so often, while I was working on it, I would look at myself and think, surely this is a fool’s errand. How could I possibly sum up the entirety of the living, breathing language of the internet within a couple hundred static pages? 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin More Wooster, Jack Adkins, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Rob Thornton, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee and Greg Hullender in magnificent collaboration.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/19 Scrolling To Montana Soon – Gonna Be A Pixel-Floss Tycoon!

(1) EXPANSE GETS FIFTH SEASON. The Expanse has been renewed for Season 5 at Amazon reports Variety.

The announcement was made during the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Saturday. Season 4 of the series is set to debut on Dec. 13.

The Expanse” aired its first three seasons on Syfy, with the cable networking having cancelled the series back in 2019. Shortly after it was cancelled, it was reported that Amazon was in talks to continue the series, which is produced and fully financed by Alcon Television Group.

(2) SF AUTHOR’S PREDICTION FULFILLED. A writer for Britain’s Private Eye rediscovered Norman Spinrad’s Agent of Chaos (1967) with its prescient comments about another political leader named Boris Johnson.

(3) SIX WILL GET YOU ONE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At The Atlantic, contributing writer Dr. Yascha Mounk (Johns Hopkins University associate professor and German Marshall Fund senior fellow) has his own ideas on “How Not to Run a Panel” (tagline: “Panel discussions can be very boring, but they don’t have to be if you follow these six rules.”).

I could write a whole book about the panels that have gone wrong in particularly strange or hilarious fashion: the one where the moderator fell asleep. The one where the opening statements lasted longer than the time allotted for the whole event. The one, high up on the 10th floor, when the acrobatic window washer stole the show.

These exotic horrors notwithstanding, I disagree with Leo Tolstoy: Every unhappy panel is unhappy in some of the same ways.

Mind you, he’s talking about academic panels (his field is political science), but one wonders how much his advice crosses over to convention panels. He elaborates on each of his six points:

1. Don’t have more than four people onstage.
2. Keep introductions to a minimum.
3. Ax the opening statements.
4. Guide the conversation.
5. Cut off the cranks.*
6. Pick panelists who have something to say to one another.

* NB: He’s talking about cranks in the audience. He doesn’t seem to consider cranks on the panel.

(4) THE VERDICT. Camestros Felapton reports from the scene: “Michael Z Williamson’s Wikipedia page has not been deleted”.

For those keeping score, the Michael Z Williamson article on Wikipedia has not been deleted after a long and fractious discussion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Log/2019_July_21#Michael_Z._Williamson

The outcome of the deletion discussion was ‘no consensus’ i.e. notability wasn’t decided one way or another. This was mainly because of the brigade of trolls who descended on the discussion at Williamson’s request.

While the Wikipedia is keeping the article, the record of the debate preserves these additional facts:

I note that the subject of this article, Michael Z. Williamson, has edited Wikipedia as Mzmadmike. He has been banned from Wikipedia as a result of a community discussion that concluded that Williamson has disrupted Wikipedia through his edits as a Wikipedia user and through comments on social media, which (according to the community discussion) have included canvassing, legal threats (admin-only diff) and harassment of Wikipedians. This has no bearing on the outcome of this deletion discussion, because having an article is not an indication of merit (as a person, author or otherwise), but only of what Wikipedia calls “notability“, i.e., being covered in some detail by reliable sources. But it bears mentioning here as a context of what may be necessary future administrative actions to protect the article and Wikipedia from further disruption.

(5) THE MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON. The New York Times profiles the conflicting family views behind an auction that has already yielded $16.7 million in sales: “‘Would Dad Approve?’ Neil Armstrong’s Heirs Divide Over a Lucrative Legacy”.

Those sales by the brothers, who also pursued a newly disclosed $6 million wrongful death settlement over their father’s medical care, have exposed deep differences among those who knew Neil Armstrong about his legacy — and what he would have wanted.

Some relatives, friends and archivists find the sales unseemly, citing the astronaut’s aversion to cashing in on his celebrity and flying career and the loss of historical objects to the public.

“I seriously doubt Neil would approve of selling off his artifacts and memorabilia,” said James R. Hansen, his biographer. “He never did any of that in his lifetime.”

(6) ERB-DOM ANNUAL GATHERING. Burroughs fans will hold DUM-DUM 2019 in Willcox, AZ from August 1-4.

(7) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s latest, newly BFS Award-nominated The Full Lid for 26th July 2019″ includes a look at the first three episodes of The Space Race. An epic dramatized account of the birth and evolution of crewed spaceflight it starts in the future, takes in Gagarin, Armstrong and the rest of the past and throws light on some surprising elements of the story.

As does the deeply eccentric Apollo 11 anniversary coverage. Says Stuart, “I was especially impressed with the choices made by a BBC movie about the flight and the little moments of humanity we glimpse outside the history books in Channel 4’s programming.”

He also salutes “the monarch of the kitchen warriors, the king of the B movie and the crown prince of charming villainy, the one, the only Rutger Hauer. Rest well, sir.”

The Full Lid is free and comes out every Friday.

(8) DRAGON ANATOMY. From the New York Times Magazine: “Judge John Hodgman on Whether a Tail Is Part of the Butt” (January 17).

“Paul writes:  My wife, Samantha, and her grandmother Gigi have a disagreement about whether a creature’s tail is part of his butt.  Gigi says that because poop can get stuck in a butt, it is part of the butt.  Sam argues that a tail  only starts at the butt.  Are tails butts?  (Specifically a dragon’s tail, which is what sparked this argument.)

JOHN HODGMAN SAYS:  “What a surprise twist at the end!  Before we walked through this wardrobe into fantasy land, I was confident in my ruling:  tails are NOT butts, as they have specific balance and display functions.  And also let’s face it:  Poop can get on anything.  But as I am no expert on dragon anatomy, I turned to the actual George R.R. Martin, whose number I actually have, who reports:  ‘Poop can also get stuck to a dragon’s leg, but that does not make it part of the butt.  Dragon poop is hot, by the way.  Fire hazard.'”

Martin Morse Wooster sent the link with a postscript: “How many points do I get for finding George R.R. Martin’s opinions on ‘dragon poop?’”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1926 T. G. L. Cockcroft. Mike has his obituary here. Not surprisingly none of his works are currently in-print. 
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 91. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got by translated by Ursula Le Guin into English.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here. I will note that he was a published author having “On Conquered Earth” in If, December 1967 as edited by Frederik Pohl. I don’t think it’s been republished since. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Though primarily a writer of horror fiction, he did write three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard, The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Meta-verse. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 53. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental Adventures, Epic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. Dixon and Lackey are the 2020 Worldcon’s Author Guests of Honour.
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 51. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 50. For my money his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LE GUIN ON TV. This Friday night on PBS the program American Masters is highlighting Ursula Le Guin. That’s when they’ll air the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary.

(12) JOHNSON’S WALK. In the Washington Post, Hau Chu interviews Richard Kelly, whose obscure 2006 sci-fi film Southland Tales might have been pivotal in advancing the film career of Dwayne Johnson: “The delightfully bonkers film that turned the Rock into Dwayne Johnson”.

…Survey a theater of moviegoers and they all might tell you a different interpretation of what “Southland Tales” is actually about. The short version is that a nuclear explosion has gone off in Texas, thrusting the United States into World War III. Taking place in 2008 Los Angeles at the end of the world, the film consequently delves into the post-Iraq War militarization of the country, the rise of the surveillance state and, naturally, rifts on the space-time continuum.

The movie, which would go on to become a critical and commercial failure, contains a who’s who of character actors, as well as once- and soon-to-be notable stars. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a porn star who simultaneously has a hit single (“Teen Horniness is Not a Crime”) and accurately foretells the imminent apocalypse in a screenplay she’s written. Amy Poehler delivers a slam poetry performance in her last seconds on Earth before she is gunned down by a racist cop played by Jon Lovitz. Justin Timberlake, in a confounding, drugged-out dream sequence, lip-syncs the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done.”

To steer his often messy but engaging opus — and eventual cult classic — director Richard Kelly needed a truly magnetic force. Enter Johnson.

(13) BRYAN FULLER. [Item by Carl Slaughter.]According to Midnight’s Edge and Nerdrotic, Bryan Fuller pitched the Picard series concept to CBS as one of 5 possible series. Fuller also approached Jeri Ryan and Brent Spiner about starring in it.  Fuller has yet to get any credit it for the Picard show.

(14) ONE VOTER’S DECISION. Rich Horton rolls out his “Hugo Ballot Thoughts, Short Fiction, 2019” on Strange at Ecbatan. Which actually begins with his argument against having AO3 up in the Best Related Works category. But he soon veers back to the topic, such as these comments about Best Novella:

Of these only Artificial Condition was on my nomination ballot, but I didn’t get to The Black God’s Drums until later, and it would have been on my ballot. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach struck me as impressively ambitious – probably the most ambitious of the nominees – but I think the ending is a mess. Still a story worth reading. The Tea Master and the Detective is nice work, not quite brilliant. And, I say with guilt, I haven’t read Beneath the Sugar Sky, which I suspect will be very fine work.

(15) BUTTERFAT CHANCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Author, crafter, and freelance journalist Bonnie Burton has a knack for spotting odd news—her CNET article “NASA’s Apollo 11 astronauts honored in… a butter sculpture” in this case. (Tagline: “Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins look just as legendary carved in butter at the Ohio State Fair.”)

If you want to celebrate NASA‘s 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, you might as well do it with butter.

At this year’s Ohio State Fair, visitors can see highly detailed, life-sized butter sculptures of the Apollo 11 moon crew — Neil ArmstrongBuzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

There’s also a separate butter sculpture of Armstrong in his spacesuit saluting the American flag while standing near the lunar module Eagle.

Armstrong — who was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio — is considered a state icon for his trip to the moon. In addition, Armstrong bought a dairy farm in Ohio after leaving NASA in 1971. 

You can see the entire butter sculpture unveiling ceremony posted by The Columbus Dispatch on YouTube.

(16) EN FUEGO. Space is getting hotter…but not that much (AP: “New Mexico chile plant selected to be grown in space”). The first fruiting plant to be grown on the International Space Station will be the Española Improved hot pepper. However, it’s said to max out at a relatively modest 2,000 Scoville units, well less than the typical Jalapeño much less really hot hot peppers.

A hybrid version of a New Mexico chile plant has been selected to be grown in space as part of a NASA experiment.

The chile, from Española, New Mexico, is tentatively scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station for testing in March 2020, the Albuquerque Journal reports .

A NASA group testing how to produce food beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and the chile plant was created with input from Jacob Torres — an Española native and NASA researcher.

Torres said the point of sending the chiles into space is to demonstrate how NASA’s Advanced Plant Habitat – which recreates environmental needs for plant growth like CO2, humidity and lighting – works not only for leafy greens, but for fruiting crops, as well.

(17) TRAILER BREAKDOWN. New Rockstars answers questions you didn’t even know you had about the newest Star Trek: Picard trailer.

Star Trek Picard Trailer from Comic Con teases the return of Data, Seven of Nine, the Borgs, and more nods to The Next Generation and Voyager! Where will this new Picard series on CBS All Access take Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) after the events of Star Trek Nemesis and First Contact? Erik Voss gets an assist from friend and Trekkie Marina Mastros, who breaks down this Star Trek trailer shot by shot for all the Easter Eggs you may have overlooked! What is the secret identity of the new mystery woman, Dahj? Why are the Romulans experimenting with Borg technology? Has Data really returned, or is it his alternate version, B-4?

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/19 With Mullets Towards None

(1) THOUGHTS ON A PROPOSED HUGO CATEGORY. Neil Clarke explains why he opposes “Hugo Proposal for Best Translated Novel”

…The biggest problem I have with this proposal is the message it sends not only to domestic readers, but foreign authors, editors, and publishers: translated works are not as good as ours, so we’re making a special category for you so you can get awards too. I don’t believe that’s the intention of those who drafted this proposal. I think they approached it with the best of intentions, but simply got it wrong. For years now, I have been making the case that we should be treating translated and international works as equals: stories worthy of standing alongside those we have routinely seen published. This proposal sends the opposite message, and on those grounds intend to vote no.

Translated works are capable of winning the Hugo without any special treatment. As they point out in their own commentary, three translated works have won since 2015, despite the relatively low number of translations published among a wide sea of domestic releases….

(2) ‘TOPIARY. Juliette Wade’s Dive Into Worldbuilding encounters winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Nebula nominee “Sam J. Miller and Blackfish City”. Read the synopsis at the link, and/or watch the video:

…There are some utopian elements in the story as well as dystopian ones. A lot of energy problems can be solved. The city uses methane generators to produce light. They also don’t need militarized police. Sam remarked how any place can have both utopian and dystopian elements depending on who you are. To the people who live in the Capital, the Hunger Games world is a utopia.

I asked if this book was strictly speaking science fiction or whether it had fantastical elements. He explained that it is a science fiction story, but that he uses nanites to do things that might seem magical. The nanites allow some humans to bond with animals. That bond could seem fantastical but it has technological underpinnings.

There are people called orcamancers. Sam explained that the origins of the orcamancers are  with illegal pharmaceutical testing that happened in the period between the present and the time period of the novel. Rival drugs were tested on people at different times. This accidentally led to a form of bonding with animals that Sam compared to the daemons in The Golden Compass. He explained that cultural practices regulate why you would bond with particular animals….

(3) CICERO – NOT ILLINOIS. Ada Palmer dives into “Stoicism’s Appeal to the Rich and Powerful” at Ex Urbe

I was recently interviewed for a piece in the Times on why the philosophy of stoicism has become very popular in the Silicon Valley tech crowd. Only a sliver of my thoughts made it into the article, but the question from Nellie Bowles was very stimulating so I wanted to share more of my thoughts.

To begin with, like any ancient philosophy, stoicism has a physics and metaphysics–how it thinks the universe works–and separately an ethics–how it advises one to live, and judge good and bad action. The ethics is based on the physics and metaphysics, but can be divorced from it, and the ethics has long been far more popular than the metaphysics.  This is a big part of why stoic texts surviving from antiquity focus on the ethics; people transcribing manuscripts cared more about these than about the others.  And this is why thinkers from Cicero to Petrarch to today have celebrated stoicism’s moral and ethical advice while following utterly different cosmologies and metaphysicses.  (For serious engagement with stoic ontology & metaphysics you want Spinoza.)  The current fad for stoicism, like all past fads for stoicism (except Spinoza) focuses on the ethics.

(4) DRAGON TRAINER NOW LAUREATE. “How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell named new children’s laureate”The Guardian has the story.

Cressida Cowell has become the new UK Children’s Laureate.

The author of How To Train Your Dragon, and the Wizards of Once will take over from previous laureate, Lauren Childs..

She said: “Books and reading are magic, and this magic must be available to absolutely everyone. I’m honoured to be chosen to be the eleventh Waterstones Children’s Laureate. I will be a laureate who fights for books and children’s interests with passion, conviction and action. Practical magic, empathy and creative intelligence, is the plan.”

Cressida has also revealed a ‘giant to-do list’ to help make sure that books and reading are available to everyone. It says that every child has the right to:

  1. Read for the joy of it.
  2. Access NEW books in schools, libraries and bookshops.
  3. Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller.
  4. Own their OWN book.
  5. See themselves reflected in a book.
  6. Be read aloud to.
  7. Have some choice in what they read.
  8. Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week.
  9. See an author event at least ONCE.
  10. Have a planet to read on.

(5) GEEKY GETAWAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] For your vacationing pleasure, SYFY Wire has lists and descriptions of 10 hotels “Geek Road Trip: 10 nerdy hotels that’ll turn vacation into a fandom pilgrimage” and 6 Airbnbs “Geek Road Trip: 6 extra-nerdy Airbnb to book for your next vacation” with fan welcoming accommodations. The latter include a Harry Potter themed apartment in Atlanta GA, an ’80s throwback gaming room in Lisbon, Portugal (& other themed rooms in the same building), a Marvel-ous studio apartment in Manila Philippines, a Star Wars suite in Melbourne Australia, a riverside Hobbit hole in Orondo, WA and Pixar paradise (with differently-themed rooms) in Anaheim CA.

(6) NAMELESS DREAD. The series doesn’t have a title yet, but it does have characters: “George RR Martin Says ‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Includes the Starks, Direwolves and White Walkers”.

HBO’s untitled Naomi Watts-led “Game of Thrones” prequel pilot may not have Targaryens and dragons — but it does have Starks, direwolves and, of course, White Walkers.

“The Starks will definitely be there,” George R.R. Martin, co-creator and executive producer on the project alongside showrunner Jane Goldman, told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published Tuesday.

“Obviously the White Walkers are here — or as they’re called in my books, The Others — and that will be an aspect of it,” the “A Song of Ice and Fire” author said, adding: “There are things like direwolves and mammoths.”

The appearance of the Starks, descendants of the First Men, shouldn’t be a shock to fans who remember the prequel — which is reportedly currently filming in North Ireland — takes place roughly 5,000 years before the events of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

(7) THE REEL DEAL. Yahoo! Finance expects big bucks to change hands: “‘Lost’ tapes of first moonwalk to be sold; former NASA intern may make millions”.

A former intern at NASA may become a millionaire when he sells three metal reels that contain original videotape recordings of man’s first steps on the moon.  

The videotapes will be offered in a live auction on July 20th at Sotheby’s New York, but interested parties are able to place bids now at Sothebys.com. The sale coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The price could reach $2 million.

According to the auction site, Gary George was awarded a cooperative work internship at the NASA Johnson Space Center in June 1973. Three years later, he bought more than 1,100 reels at a government surplus auction for $218, Reuters reported.

(8) GAIMAN’S STUDY. Variety’s photo essay takes you “Inside Neil Gaiman’s Rural Writing Retreat”. (Hey, we have the same interior decorator!)

Although Gaiman has won multiple Hugo Awards, he only keeps one in his office; the others are in his house in Wisconsin. The one he earned in 2016 for “The Sandman: Overture” receives extra special placement not only because of his long history with the franchise (“It had a ‘you can go home again’ quality to it,” he says) but also because “there is something magical in knowing I was awarded it for a graphic novel. I remember I was there, not too long ago, fighting for whether comics could get awards and things like that. But people loved it; it got its audience; it got awards; people cared.”

(9) NATIVE TONGUE TRILOGY EVENT. On Thursday, July 18, there will be a panel discussion on feminist sci-fi with Rebecca Romney, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Bethany C. Morrow, and moderated by Eliza Cushman Rose focusing on “The Legacy of Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue Trilogy”. This event is hosted by The Feminist Press and will be held at Books are Magic, 225 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Ok I’ll admit I’ve not read the Gormenghast novels, nor have I seen the various video adaptations. Please tell me what I’ve been missing. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 Glen Cook, 75. With the exception of the new novel which I need to read, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also his far lighter Garrett P.I. Which unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it.
  • Born July 9, 1945 Dean Koontz, 74. The genres of of mystery. horror, fantasy and science fiction are all home to him. Author of over a hundred novels, his first novel was SF — it being Star Quest (not in print) published as an Ace Double with Doom of the Green Planet by Emil Petaja. ISFDB claims over half of his output is genre, I’d say that a low estimate. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 Ellen Klages, 65. Her novelette “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, which published by Tachyon Publications, my boutique favorite publisher of fantasy. Passing Strange, her 1940 set San Francisco novel is really great.
  • Born July 9, 1970 Ekaterina Sedia, 49. Her Heart of Iron novel is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow as well. It’s worth noting that both iBooks and Kindle list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilful Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. I’m off to buy them now. 
  • Born July 9, 1978 Linda Park, 41. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer character Hoshi Sato on the Enterprise. Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, she was Renee Hansen in Spectres which Marina Sirtis is also in. She was in some called Star Trek: Captain Pike three years back as Captain Grace Shintal. 

(11) DISTURBING TREND? Yesterday, “Jar Jar Binks spent the day trending on Twitter, baffling Star Wars fans” says SYFY Wire.

Earlier this morning, Jar Jar Binks was inexplicably one of the trending topics on Twitter. No one seemed to understand why, although there have been some theories. The Tampa Bay Times looked into the matter, which traced it back to a meme that predicts your Star Wars fate. While the image had been making the rounds online, it was shared by Mark Hamill earlier this morning, giving it some serious traction. 

(12) VINTAGE 2018 FINNCON. Karl-Johan Norén’s report on his 2018 Nordic Fan Fund trip to Finncon 2018 is up on eFanzines in both epub (preferred) and PDF formats.

…Meanwhile, Hulda and Therese participated in the Klingon language workshop, where they learnt some helpful Klingon phrases and Hulda impressed by showing a basic knowledge of the IPA symbols. Later on, when Hulda accidentally tickled Therese, Therese gave off a very Klingon-like sound, leading Hulda to ask if Klingons are ticklish. That gave rise to a very spirited discussion, including if Klingons would admit that they could possibly be ticklish, and if empirical research was advised…

(13) BUSTED. The Daily Beast reports on Streamliner Lines’ inaugural run through western Nevada: “Redditors Say This Is a Nazi Bus. The Owner Says It’s a Misunderstanding.”

It bans “social justice warriors” and drives across Nevada with a logo that looks suspiciously like a Nazi flag. It’s Reno’s new bus line and the owner says the racist reputation is all just a misunderstanding.

On Friday, Streamliner Lines launched its maiden bus run from Reno to Las Vegas. Streamliner president John Wang told The Daily Beast it ran a little behind schedule (traffic), and sold few tickets (the Nazi reputation). Still, the trip was the first victory for Streamliner, which previously failed inspection on its only bus and has spent the past month embroiled in spats with Redditors over the company’s logo and its ban on some left-wing passengers.

(14) BLADE RUNNER. Titan Comics advertises Blade Runner 2019 as “the first comic to tell new stories set in the Blade Runner universe!”

(15) KORNBLUTH TRIBUTE. Andrew Porter passed along a scanned clipping of Cyril Kornbluth’s obituary in a 1958 New York Times.

(16) UMM, YUM? Gastro Obscura calls her ‘Annabel Lecter’ because “These Made-to-Order Cakes Look Like Beautiful Nightmares”.

English pastry chef Annabel de Vetten crafts what may be the world’s most fantastically morbid confections. Her Birmingham studio and cooking space, the Conjurer’s Kitchen, is filled with feasts of macabre eye candy rendered with ghoulish precision.

Here is a plate heaped with thumb-sized maggots and grubs. There a bloodied human heart lies in a pool of green, molar-strewn slime. A stainless-steel coroner’s table hosts the disemboweled upper-torso of a corpse. It’s flanked by a four-foot statue of a saint, his face melting away to bone. On the counter, the neck of a deer’s partially fleshless head sinks its roots into a bisected flowerpot; a sapling bursts from its skull like a unicorn horn.

(17) THE ART OF FILLING OUT THE HUGO BALLOT. Steve J. Wright moves on to review “Hugo Category: Best Art Book”.

…Taking a look at this year’s offerings – well, the Hugo voters’ packet contains partial content (the images, really) from three of the six, and the full text and images from a fourth, which last was something I really didn’t expect.  I bought one of the remaining two myself… but the last one, Julie Dillon’s Daydreamer’s Journey, is a self-published job funded by a Kickstarter project and put together using indie tools, and the ultimate result was, I figured I could just about afford the book, but then I looked at the cost of overseas shipping, and my wallet instinctively snapped shut.  Pity, really.  Julie Dillon is a familiar name from recent Pro Artist final lists, and a book of her artwork (with accompanying descriptions of her creative process for each piece) would be a very nice thing to have.  The Kickstarter makes it look very enticing indeed….

(18) THEY CAME FROM SPACE. NPR finds that “Moon Rocks Still Awe, And Scientists Hope To Get Their Hands On More”

Darby Dyar says that as a kid, whenever Apollo astronauts returned from the moon, she and her classmates would get ushered into the school library to watch it on TV.

She remembers seeing the space capsules bobbing in the ocean as the astronauts emerged. “They climbed out and then they very carefully took the lunar samples and put them in the little rubber boat,” Dyar says, recalling that the storage box looked like an ice chest.

Nearly a half-ton of moon rocks were collected by the six Apollo missions to the lunar surface. And as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first landing mission approaches, NASA has decided to open up a still-sealed, never-studied moon rock sample that has been carefully saved for decades, waiting for technology to advance.

(19) I PRAY FOR ONE FIRST LANDING. Even if it’s not one of Glyer’s Chinese ‘bots I’m sure you’ll cheer when “AI pilot ‘sees’ runway and lands automatically”.

An automatic pilot has landed a plane using image-recognition artificial intelligence to locate the runway.

At large airports, systems on the ground beam up the position of the runway to guide automatic systems.

But in late May a new AI tool landed a small plane carrying passengers, by “sight” alone at Austria’s Diamond Aircraft airfield.

One expert said it could potentially improve flight safety.

The new system, developed by researchers at the technical universities of Braunschweig and Munich, processes visual data of the runway and then adjusts the plane’s flight controls, without human assistance.

Because it can detect both infrared light as well as the normal visible spectrum, it can handle weather conditions such as fog that might make it difficult for the human pilot to make out the landing strip.

Another advantage of the technology is it does not rely on the radio signals provided by the existing Instrument Landing System (ILS). Smaller airports often cannot justify the cost of this equipment and it can suffer from interference.

(20) LE GUIN ON PBS.  THIRTEEN’s American Masters presents the U.S. broadcast premiere of the “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” documentary on August 2.

Produced with Le Guin’s participation over the course of a decade, American Masters – Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin tells the intimate coming-of-age story of the Portland, Oregon, housewife and mother of three who forever transformed American literature by bringing science fiction into the literary mainstream. Through her influential work, Le Guin opened doors for generations of younger writers like Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon and David Mitchell — all of whom appear in the film — to explore fantastic elements in their writing.

The film explores the personal and professional life of the notoriously private author through revealing conversations with Le Guin as well as her family, friends and the generations of renowned writers she influenced. Visually rich, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin illustrates the dramatic real-world settings that shaped Le Guin’s invented places using lush original animations over her own readings of her work to provide a firsthand experience of her fantastic worlds.

(21) TOUGH TIME AT NASFiC. Artist Newton Ewell had a terrible experience at SpikeCon and wrote about it on Facebook. Friends of his told me he’s okay with sharing it on File 770. (I’m adding this at the last minute, in preference to waiting for tomorrow’s Scroll.)

Have you ever been invited to a convention, only to be treated like you don’t belong there? I have.

Thursday was really hard on me. I felt very unwelcome at Spikecon, and have realized that driving an hour one-way, being shoved off into an unlit corner and having to confront people who hate me just really isn’t my thing.

Frankly, I’m afraid to come back to the convention. Libertarian Loudmouth Guy came by the table yesterday evening to drone on at me like a broken record about the same crap (his skewed politics) as usual. Being buttonholed by wackos who see my skin color and use it as a pretext to spew hateful talk at me does not make a good convention experience. Racist DrawGirl’s grudge against me was on full display. I’m not there to compete with anyone, nor am I there to be hated on by weirdos with strange fetishy grudges. Right-Wing Space Guy still can’t grasp that I don’t want to talk to him either, because of the Trump fanaticism displayed toward me.

I have friends there, but I was isolated from them, making the whole experience into an ordeal for me. I wanted to bring my large pieces, but something said, “don’t”. I’m glad I listened to that inner voice, because if I’d brought them, they’d have been ruined by the rain. I was supposed to have an electrical outlet for my drawing light, but all the outlets were taken up by the USS Dildo-prise people.

I don’t have money to afford driving back out there, let alone commuting back-and-forth, food etc. Being placed into a hostile working environment is too much pain for too little reward.

I realized that being presented with a symbol of racial oppression and corporate greed (a plastic golden spike) really hurt. All I feel from that is the pain and death dealt out to the people who worked so hard to join the two railroads, and it makes me sad. I’m hurt that my art is on all the con badges, but once I get there I’m made into a problem, a bothersome individual who’s not worth having the space I contracted for….

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

Extending the
Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

Few people have had the chance to see Arwen Curry’s documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, which began making the rounds of film festivals in June 2018 but won’t be available to a mass audience until it airs on PBS in late 2019. It isn’t a finalist for this year’s Hugo Awards, and some who feel that might be the result of underexposure have announced plans to ask the Dublin 2019 business meeting to extend the film’s eligibility.

Here is the draft text of their motion:


Short Title: Hugo Eligibility Extension for Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

Moved, to extend for one year the Hugo Award eligibility of the film documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, based on limited availability, as authorized by Section 3.4.3 of the WSFS Constitution.

Proposed by: Jo Van Ekeren, Hampus Eckerman, Adri Joy, Theodora Goss, Terry L Neill, Juliette Wade, Paul Weimer, Ziv Wities

This motion extends eligibility for the Hugo Awards under Section 3.4.3; therefore, it requires a two-thirds vote of approval.

Commentary: Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin is a documentary film by Arwen Curry exploring the life and legacy of the late feminist author Ursula K. Le Guin. Work on the documentary began as early as 2009, and the filmmaker was able to complete the many hours of filming prior to the author’s death in January 2018. The film premiered at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival on June 10, 2018. Since then there have been a number of screenings at film festivals in various locations around the world; however, the film has not yet been made available for viewing by the general public. Arrangements are in progress for the film to be shown at Worldcon in Dublin in August, and the film will be broadcast in the U.S. on PBS American Masters in October 2019.

Due to its limited release in 2018, very few members of Dublin 2019 had the opportunity to view the film before the deadline for nominating for the 2019 Hugo Awards. Passage of this proposal would make the documentary eligible for nomination in the Best Related Work category for the 2020 Hugo Awards next year.


As noted in the motion, the authority for extending the eligibility period comes from WSFS Constitution Section 3.4.3:

In the event that a potential Hugo Award nominee receives extremely limited distribution in the year of its first publication or presentation, its eligibility may be extended for an additional year by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the intervening Business Meeting of WSFS.

This provision of the WSFS Constitution was used in 2015 to extend eligibility for the film Predestination and for the short film I Remember the Future, and to extend the eligibility of the anime Summer Wars in 2011.

Pixel Scroll 4/6/19 A Scroll Without A Pixel Is Like A Walrus Without An Antenna

(1) HUGO CONTENDING ART BOOKS. The Daily Beast gives a rundown — “These Are 2019’s Hugo Awards Art Book Finalists”.

… We compiled the six art book finalists below to give you an idea of what’s competing for the venerable award in August, along with some information about them from Amazon….

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, $36 on Amazon: Illustrated by Charles Vess, Written by Ursula K. Le Guin. “Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the timeless and beloved A Wizard of Earthsea, this complete omnibus edition of the entire Earthsea chronicles includes over fifty illustrations illuminating Le Guin’s vision of her classic saga.”

(2) LARSON & JACKSON TOGETHER AGAIN. NPR’s Linda Holmes says “Brie Larson’s Directorial Debut Glitters With The Charming ‘Unicorn Store'”.

“Bringing a unicorn here is not an easy or inexpensive endeavor. You have to be the right sort of girl.”

The right sort of girl.

The backbone of Brie Larson’s offbeat directorial debut, the comedy Unicorn Store, is the idea of what it means to be the right sort of girl. Larson plays Kit, a woman pushing 30 who lives with her parents and favors an aesthetic heavy on rainbows, glitter and — yes — unicorns. And after she receives a couple of mysterious magical letters, she finds herself in the company of a man who calls himself The Salesman (Samuel L. Jackson). He’s the one who says these words, who tells her that she’s in line for a unicorn of her own. But she has to earn it. She has to be stable. She has to make a home for it. She has to be an adult, ironically, to be the right companion for a unicorn.

(3) NICE TRY? BBC reports “Google’s ethics board shut down”.

An independent group set up to oversee Google’s artificial intelligence efforts, has been shut down less than a fortnight after it was launched.

The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) was due to look at the ethics around AI, machine learning and facial recognition.

One member resigned and there were calls for another to be removed.

The debacle raises questions about whether firms should set up such bodies.

Google told the BBC: “It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted.

“So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board. We’ll continue to be responsible in our work on the important issues that AI raises, and will find different ways of getting outside opinions on these topics.”

There had been an outcry over the appointment of Kay Coles James, who is president of conservative thinktank The Heritage Foundation. Thousands of Google employees signed a petition calling for her removal, over what they described as “anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant” comments.

(4) HEY RUBE. Steve Davidson complains that he can’t evaluate what technical changes make Archive of Our Own eligible in the 2019 Hugo category for which it was nominated, then, disregarding the argument he just made, asks why AO3 wasn’t nominated in another category that isn’t designed to recognize technical changes: “The Hugo Awards Best Related Work Category and the AO3 Nomination” at Amazing Stories.

In terms of AO3, since I can’t see the “change”, how am I to judge the substantiability?  Maybe, in my mind, it isn’t transformative enough to warrant a vote.  But I can’t make that judgement because I have no reference. I do not have the opportunity to weigh in on the Hugo Administrator’s choices.

Third:  we’ve already determined that websites can qualify under the Best Fanzine category and we can read right in the definition of Best Related Work that works qualify for that category “provided that they do not qualify for another category”.

Why doesn’t a website featuring fanfic qualify for the Best Fanzine category?  Call me a rube, but I can hardly think of a better category for a collection of fanfic than Best Fanzine.  In fact, I seem to recall that a bunch of highly regarded professional authors published their fanfic in…fanzines.  (The printed kind that some of you may not be familiar with.)

(5) BOOKS SHE LOVES. Shelf Awareness brings you “Reading with… Sarah Pinsker”:

Book you’re an evangelist for:

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. It’s a wordless depiction of an immigration experience. The protagonist doesn’t share a language with anyone in his new country; their language is gibberish to him and gibberish to the reader. Any item we might recognize is rendered in such a way as to make it foreign to the reader as well, so we experience the confusion that the man feels: strange fruit, strange animals, strange monuments. Tan’s illustrations tell the immigrant’s story a thousand times better than words could have.

Book you’ve bought for the cover:

Saga Press is reissuing three Molly Gloss novels over the next few months (Outside the Gates,Dazzle of DayandWild Life) followed by her first collection, Unforeseen. I already had two of the books, but I’ve preordered all four of these both for her prose and the gorgeously stark matching covers by Jeffrey Alan Love.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 6, 1967Star Trek’s “City on the Edge of Forever”, written by Harlan Ellison, first aired.
  • April 6, 19682001: A Space Odyssey was released.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 6, 1905 Thomas P. Kelley. Writer of Thirties pulp novels that were serialised first in Weird Tales (The Last PharaohA Million Years in the Future and I Found Cleopatra), Uncanny Tales (The Talking Heads) and Eerie Tales (The Weird Queen). (Died 1982.)
  • Born April 6, 1918 Kaaren Verne. She appeared in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon as Charlotte Eberli. The film btw was very much fanfic bearing little resemblance to the original premise of Holmes. She also appeared in The Twilight ZoneKraft Suspense Theatre and Fireside Theatre (freelance writers such as Rod Serling were a script source for the latter). (Died 1967.)
  • Born April 6, 1935 Douglas Hill. Prolific writer of short novels for both adults and younger of a sword and sorcery bent even when within an SF setting. Best known series include The Last Legionary, Demon Stalker and Huntsman. He served for a short period as assistant editor of the New Worlds magazine under Michael Moorcock. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 82. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie
  • Born April 6, 1947 John Ratzenberger, 72. In-house voice actor for Pixar whose roles have included Hamm in the Toy Story franchise, The Abominable Snowman in the Monsters, Inc. franchise, The Underminer in The Incredibles franchise, and Mack in the Cars franchise. He made minor live appearances in Superman and Superman II
  • Born April 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 71. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination magazines being three of his venues. He also did some writing for If magazine. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet
  • Born April 6, 1981 Eliza  Coupe, 38. Tiger, one three main roles in Future Man, a web series where a video game apparently is actually real and deadly. She also had a recurring role on Quantico as Hannah Wyland, a series I swear is edging into genre. She was also in Monster Mash (also known as Monster Mash: The Movie and Frankenstein Sings), based on the Bobby “Boris” Pickett song “Monster Mash” and other sources.

(8) SPOTTED OWL. Mike Lawson has won the Spotted Owl Award for his mystery House Witness. The Spotted Owl Award is handed out by a group called Friends of Mystery, based in Portland, Oregon. Eligible are mysteries written by authors from the Pacific Northwest. The finalists were —

  • Baron Birtcher – Fistful Of Rain
  • Robert Dugoni – A Steep Price
  • Warren Easley – Moving Targets
  • G.M. Ford – Soul Survivor
  • Elizabeth George – The Punishment She Deserves
  • Stephen Holgate – Madagascar
  • Mike Lawson – House Witness – winner
  • Martin Limon – The Line
  • John Straley – Baby’s First Felony
  • Jon Talton – The Bomb Shelter

(9) CARTER BROWN. The winner of the inaugural Carter Brown Mystery Writing Award has also been announced:

  • Alibi for a Dead Man by Wilson Toney

The award is named in honor of the prolific Australian author Alan Geoffrey Yates (aka Carter Brown).

(10) MARKETPLACE. Here’s a service someone should start:

(11) WATCH OUT FOR THOSE BOUNDERS. Jim C. Hines referees “Bounding Into Comics vs. Fonda Lee” and finds it’s definitely not a fight by the Marquis of Queensbury rules.

I got to meet and hang out with author Fonda Lee at the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop a few years back. Recently, Lee was at Barnes and Noble and observed:

“This is what modern fantasy writers are up against. In my local B&N, most authors are lucky to find a copy of their book, super lucky if it’s face out. There are 3.5 shelves for Tolkien. 1.5 for Jordan. Here’s who we compete against for shelf space: not each other, but dead guys.” (Source)

Her Tweets got a lot of attention, leading to an article by John Trent at Bounding Into Comics that derides Lee and accuses her, among other things, of criticizing Tolkien. Not that Lee ever did this. Her second Tweet in that thread said, “Before you @ me about the importance of classics, I love LOTR too, okay?” One might almost suspect Trent’s comment, “Lee isn’t the first person to criticize Tolkien,” of being an attempt to stir up shit.

An effective attempt, it seems. Lee has been barraged by Tolkien Defenders over on Twitter….

(12) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. “How Artificial Intelligence Is Used To Make Beer”.—Forbes has the story.

There are many ways artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can make our world more productive and effective. There are even breweries that are using AI to enhance beer production. Is this brilliant or unbelievable? While it’s admittedly too soon to tell, using data to inform brewmasters’ decisions and the possibility of personalized brews makes AI-brewed beer definitely intriguing.

(13) SJWC RETRACTION. Yesterday’s NPR-headline Pixel was quickly corrected: “All Right. Some Cats Do Fetch”.

A tongue-in-cheek NPR.org headline comparing the fetching abilities of cats and dogs revealed a truth known by countless cat owners: Some cats do fetch.

“Cats Don’t Fetch, But Know Their Names As Well As Dogs, Researchers Say,” the original headline proclaimed. This didn’t sit well with some readers.

“In what world do cats not fetch?” Kate Haffey commented on Facebook.

“Artemis knows her name and fetches,” Brandi Whitson said on Twitter. “She’s obsessed.” …

(14) HAPPINESS IS… And while we’re pushing your buttons, read this article in the Portland (ME) Press-Herald “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds”.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population – nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one -they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type – cats, dogs or both – a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

(15) HISTORIC GADGET. “Heath Robinson: WW2 codebreaking machine reconstructed” – BBC has the story. For any Filers not in on the joke: the US equivalent to Heath Robinson is Rube Goldberg — but this machine worked.

A World War Two codebreaking machine has been reconstructed after a seven-year project so it can run in public for the first time.

The Heath Robinson has been restored at The National Museum of Computing in Milton Keynes by a team of six.

The machine was an early attempt to automate code-cracking and, due to its complexity, was named after the illustrator W Heath Robinson.

Phil Hayes, of the museum, said the work was “quite an achievement”.

He said it completed using a hand-drawn circuit diagram along with replica circuits based on 1940s technology.

(16) OLD HABITS DIE HARD. CNN wondered why “Why 2.7 million Americans still get Netflix DVDs in the mail”. They came up with six reasons. In the process, they made Cat Eldridge’s day: “Years ago I had an argument with a techie who insisted that new technologies always drive out old technologies. I said that’s simply not true. And here’s proof of that.” Cat and Bruce Sterling agree.

Remember when Netflix used to be a DVD-by-mail company? Well, for 2.7 million subscribers in the US, it still is.

The familiar red envelopes have been arriving in customers’ mailboxes since 1998 and helped earn the company a healthy $212 million profit last year.

Why are so many people still using this old-school service in the age of streaming? There are a number of reasons.

(17) FIRE IN THE HOLE. NPR watches as “Japan (Very Carefully) Drops Plastic Explosives Onto An Asteroid”.

Early Friday morning, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft detonated an explosive device over a small asteroid. The goal was to create a fresh crater that will later be studied by the spacecraft.

Researchers watched from mission control in Sagamihara, Japan, and clapped politely as Hayabusa2 released an experiment known as the Small Carry-on Impactor. The device consisted of a copper disk packed with HMX high-explosive. Once the mothership had safely moved out of the line of fire, the impactor apparently detonated, firing the disk into the side of the asteroid. A camera released by Hayabusa2 appeared to catch the moment of impact, which sent a stream of ejecta into space.

…”These particular asteroids are the precursors to what Earth was made from,” Connolly says. Ryugu is rich in carbon, and minerals on its surface contain water and so-called prebiotic compounds that could have started life on this planet.

“Ryugu is a time capsule,” says Connolly.

This is not Hayabusa2’s first attack. In February, the spacecraft physically touched down on Ryugu and fired a small pellet into its surface. The dust kicked up by that opening shot was collected and eventually will provide researchers with detailed information about the asteroid’s makeup.

But to really understand Ryugu, researchers also want to know what’s down there, and that’s why they created Friday’s crater. In a few weeks, after the dust has settled, the little spacecraft will survey the blast site to see what lies beneath. It may even land a second time to collect subsurface samples.

(18) CLASSIC APOLLO 11 PUBLICITY RESOURCE. In honor of the flight’s 50th anniversary, David Meerman Scott has scanned in his collection of Apollo 11 press kits:

Press kits prepared by the public relations staff at the major contractors for the Apollo 11 mission provided valuable additional information not found in NASA issued news releases. Reporters and editors from media outlets including television and newspapers had access to such documents from dozens of manufacturers while working on stories about the first lunar landing.

(19) STAR TREK FAN FILM. Gizmodo/io9 is drawing your attention to a fan film (“Temporal Anomaly is a Star Trek Fan Film Half a Decade in the Making”). The film appears as two parts, each from 24–27 minutes each.

First conceived and pitched to Kickstarter backers in 2013, Temporal Anomaly is an ambitious fan project set in the Star Trek universe, a nearly hour-long fan film created by Power543 Fan Films

(20) DISCOVERY. The Popcast analyzes The Borg Paradox.

If you thought the last Paradox was good, you’re going to love this one. The Borg are here and Resistance is Futile!

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Cunnane, in “Gary the Gargoyle: Short and Breakdown” on Vimeo, offers a short fiilm about a gargoyle and an analysis of how the creatures in the film were designed.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, Conrarius, John King Tarpinian, Bill, rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 3/15/19 Pixelflay Hraka, Scroll Embleer Rah!

(1) THE NEW NUMBER TWO. Future Science Fiction Digest’s second issue was released today. The contents are available for immediate purchase, or you can read the stories when they become available as free reads on the site between now and May 15.

From the time of the dinosaurs to the heat death of the universe, from thinking and feeling androids to human consciousness spanning multiple bodies, from cats on the Moon to alien salad dressing that makes plastic digestible and delicious, these tales have something for everyone.

Table of contents

  • “Tideline Treasures, or Growing Up Along the Mile-High Dyke” by Tais Teng and Jaap Boekestein
  • “The Roost of Ash and Fire” by David Walton
  • “The Lord of Rivers” by Wanxiang Fengnian (translated by Nathan Faries)
  • “No Body Enough” by Dantzel Cherry
  • “An Actual Fish” by Natalia Theodoridou
  • “The Peculiar Gravity of Home” by Beth Cato
  • “The Zest for Life” by N. R. M. Roshak
  • “The Token” by Mike Resnick
  • “To Save a Human” by Svyatoslav Loginov (translated by Max Hrabrov)

Future Science Fiction Digest, edited by Alex Shvartsman, is a collaboration between Future Affairs Administration and UFO Publishing.

(2) OOPS REPAIR. “Marvel Fixes ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Poster Snubbing Danai Gurira After Fan Backlash”Yahoo! covers the kerfuffle:

Nothing — not spoilers, Easter eggs or even mistakes — gets past eagle-eyed Marvel fans.

When the new trailer and poster for the highly anticipated “Avengers: Endgamearrived on Thursday, superhero devotees pored over every last detail only to discover a glaring omission. 

The top credits feature every actor on the poster, including Josh Brolin who plays big bad Thanos and Bradley Cooper who voices a souped-up raccoon, except actress Danai Gurira.

(3) COPING STRATEGY. At Ink and Bourbon, Patrick LeClerc offers his advice for surviving a bad review: “Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth”.

…It’s going to happen. If you put your work out there, it’s going to get reviewed, and some people aren’t going to like it. We may love the good reviews, and I’ve been very fortunate that most of mine have been positive, but sooner or later, somebody’s gonna land a glove on you.

So how do you take it?

Ideally, you need to do three things. Most people don’t. Many people can get through one or maybe two. But to be great, you need to do all three.

First of all, you need to get back up.

These things happen. And they hurt and they suck, but it’s part of the game. It’s a part that you agreed to, tacitly at least, when you put your work out there. It’s not unfair. It hurts, because when we write, we basically stand naked on a stage, and that’s a very vulnerable place to be. But you decided to be there. So the first test is: Can you get back up? Can you write another book?

(4) SEMIOTIC BAGGAGE. Christopher Maverick’s post “Call For Comments: The (super)Power of Fashion and Symbols” at Vox Populorum follows this excerpt with analysis of the reaction to Alt-Hero comics. (The coincidental resemblance of the blog’s name to that of Vox Day’s appears to involve nothing more than taking inspiration from the same Latin term.)

…One of the most interesting thing about communication through symbols is that the meaning inherent in them isn’t just built by the person using the symbol. It has as much to do with the person viewing the symbol as well. I once got into a political argument with a cop on Facebook about #BlackLivesMatter vs. #BlueLivesMatter where he was trying to argue that cops don’t disproportionately kill black men and that they needed to have the discretion to discharge their weapons whenever they felt their safety was threatened. My counterargument was that it was hard to take his sense of professional discretion even remotely seriously when he had chosen a #BlueLivesMatter Punisher logo as his Facebook avatar, because no matter what he says, it’s always going to come across as “and also, I want to set myself up as judges jury and executioner, because I like to kill people for funsies!” He tried defend the icon by saying that it just meant that he was a fan of the character and implied nothing about his personal values. I retorted that it implied EVERYTHING about his personal values, because that is the image that he has chosen to announce himself and associate his identity with and therefore he bears all the semiotic baggage associated with it by anyone who comes into contact with him and sees it. Also, I’m kind of a dick….

(5) WEARIN’ O’THE GREEN. Speaking of semiotic baggage, the Beverly Cinema in LA made a fascinating decision to pair these two films on a St. Patrick’s Day double bill.

(6) NOT A CLOSE ADAPTATION. BBC’s Nicholas Barber asks “Is Jodorowsky’s Dune the greatest film never made?”

…As bamboozling as they were, El Topo and The Holy Mountain were so profitable that a French producer, Michel Seydoux, contacted Jodorowsky in 1974 and offered to fund whichever film he fancied making next. Jodorowsky chose a science-fiction novel, Dune. When Seydoux agreed, Jodorowsky realised that he’d now have to sit down and read it.

Published in 1965, Herbert’s novel chronicles the battle for control of a desert planet called Arrakis – or Dune. Its teenage hero, Paul Atreides, leads armies and rides giant worms, and so, in the days before digital effects, putting Herbert’s sprawling interstellar saga on screen would have been a colossal feat. But Jodorowsky didn’t just want to adapt a book, he wanted to “change the public’s perceptions… change the young minds of all the world”. He wouldn’t be making a mere film, he recalls in a 2014 documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune. He’d be making an “artistical, cinematographical god”.

This grandly mystical tone was typical of the project. Seydoux rented a castle for Jodorowsky to write in, and when his screenplay was finished, the auteur set about recruiting collaborators – or, as he put it, fellow ‘spiritual warriors’. The first of these was Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, one of France’s most acclaimed comic artists. Working at what Jodorowsky has called a ‘superhuman’ pace, Giraud broke down the entire film into a storyboard of 3000 drawings. He began with a long, unbroken shot inspired by the opening of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, the difference being that the camera doesn’t just rove around a town, it crosses the universe. And he ended with pictures of Paul being murdered and then transforming into a sentient planet, before flying off to spread good vibes throughout the galaxy. Needless to say, none of this happens in Herbert’s novel….

(7) WALKING CARPET WEAVER. Michael Heilemann seeks the real origin story of “Chewbacca” at Kitbashed. Did Ralph McQuarrie or John Schoenherr have more to do with the character’s look? You decide!

The creation of Star Wars is a comprehensive mythology onto itself, populated by rarely documented anecdotes, like how The Millenium Falcon was inspired by a hamburger, with the cockpit being an olive off to the side” [1] (took me years, but I finally disproved that one) or “My original inspiration for Chewbacca was my dog Indiana.” [2], compelling enough to be repeated until they’re so prevalent that they must be true, and are accepted even by hardcore fans and Lucasfilm itself. Unfortunately sometimes they’re embellished truths or half-truths, sometimes entirely false and in pretty much all cases oversimplifying a truly interesting, and luckily exceptionally well documented creative process….

But while the official sources are often great, compiling from many different sources to dispel myths about Boba Fett’s ship, Slave 1 or tell in staggering detail the creation of the film from beginning till end as in the case of books like The Making of Star Wars, there are still plenty of dim, and in some cases even seemingly purposefully blacked out areas in the development of Star Wars.

The story of how Chewbacca came to be is one of these. A fascinating look at what happens in the space between idea, page and screen….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 15, 1935 Judd Hirsch, 84. Best known in genre circles for playing Julius Levinson on Independence Day and Independence Day: Resurgence. Other than anappearance on Warehouse 13 in the amazing “Secret Santa” episode as Isadore Weisfelt, he’s done virtually no genre acting other than a cameo on The Muppets and The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t where he was Count Dracula.
  • Born March 15, 1939 Joseph D. Olander, 80. Anthologists aiming for works that we’re to be, I’d guess, within the University market in the Eighties, as American Government Through Science Fiction  co-authored with Martin H. Greenberg and Patricia S. Warrick, or Run to Starlight, Sports Through Science Fiction, with the same co-authors.
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 75. In him, there’s something to make anyone horrified from such as Scanners and Videodrome to the later Existenz. Me I’ll take The Fly for pure grossness. 
  • Born March 15, 1946 Chris Morris, 73. First genre writing was in the exemplary Thieves’ World shared universe, such as “What Women Do Best” with Janet Morris, and “Red Light, Love Light”.  He’s also written in the Merovingen Nights, Heroes in Hell and Sacred Band of Stepsons saga series.
  • Born March 15, 1967 Isa Dick Hackett, 52. An Amazon producer and writer for and helped produce The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and The Adjustment Bureau, all of which are based as you know on works by her father. 
  • Born March 15, 1985 Kellan Lutz, 34. He’s best known for playing Emmett Cullen in the Twilight Saga franchise. He has since played Poseidon in Immortals, Tarzan in the animated film of the same name and Hercules in The Legend of Hercules. He also was Ridley in the Chinese fantasy Guardians of the Tomb, and appeared in A Nightmare on Elm Street as Dean Russell. 
  • Born March 15, 1986 Jai Courtney, 33. He portrayed hero Kyle Reese in Terminator Genisys and villain Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad. Other genre roles portraying Eric in Divergent and in the sequel, Insurgent. He was Macbeth in a 2017 production of the Scottish Play at Melbourne Theatre Company. 

(9) HE’S BACK. Deadline can only report it happened, they can’t explain why: “Disney Reinstates Director James Gunn For ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy 3’”.

…The decision to rehire Gunn –he was fired last July by Disney after alt-right journalists made public a fusillade of decade old social media missives that made light of pedophilia and rape — was one that was mulled and actually made months ago, following conversations with Disney studio leadership and the team at Marvel Studios. Why the change of heart? After the firing, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn met with Gunn on multiple occasions to discuss the situation. Persuaded by Gunn’s public apology and his handling of the situation after, Horn decided to reverse course and reinstate Gunn.

… There will be an inevitable chorus of those who will gripe about Gunn’s return, but creatively, Guardians will benefit from his return. The entire cast of the film was outspoken in its desire to have Gunn back, saying that those satiric tweets did not match his personal actions.

(10) A DIFFERENT WAY. Charlie Jane Anders salutes “The Left Hand of Darkness at Fifty” in The Paris Review.

When I first read The Left Hand of Darkness, it struck me as a guidebook to a place I desperately wanted to visit but had never known how to reach. This novel showed me a reality where storytelling could help me question the ideas about gender and sexuality that had been handed down to all of us, take-it-or-leave-it style, from childhood. But also, Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic novel felt like an invitation to a different kind of storytelling, one based on understanding the inner workings of societies as well as individual people.

Of course, The Left Hand of Darkness is literally a guidebook to the fictional world of Gethen, also known as Winter. The book takes the form of a travelogue, roaming around the nations of Karhide and Orgoreyn. And by the time you finish reading, you might actually feel like you’ve been to these places, to the point where you kind of know what their food tastes like and how the people act. But for me, and for a lot of other people, The Left Hand of Darkness also left us with a map that leads to another way of telling stories.

(11) SIGNED UP FOR THE DURATION. Gary Tognetti kicks off a collection of “Novel Reviews – March 2019” at The 1000 Year Plan with a look at Elizabeth Bear’s new novel. Other authors reviewed: Zen Cho, John Scalzi, Brad Torgersen, and Brian Trent.

…An early moment in Elizabeth Bear’s expansive new space opera Ancestral Night has narrator Haimey Dz offer a meta-commentary on the ancient, 19th century novels she reads during the long hours spent drifting through space: “They’re great for space travel because they were designed for people with time on their hands. Middlemarch. Gorgeous, but it just goes on and on.” Ancestral Night is a busy and boisterous novel, complex and beautifully composed, but also with a tendency to labor its points.

(12) TEMPORARILY HAPPY. Paul Weimer finds things to admire about this romance space opera novel — “Microreview [book]: Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik” at Nerds of a Feather.

The novel does play the genre conventions of romance more than it does the conventions of science fiction. The plot and character beats fall into a relatively conventional pattern, but they are well executed and they mesh well with both the characters and the space opera universe. Readers who come to the novel for the romance plotline between Ada and Loch should be well satisfied with the storyline. Since this is a first novel set in a greater universe, I suspect this would be classified as a HFN (Happy for now) rather than strictly a HEA (Happily ever after) conclusion.

(13) PAPA REPLACEMENT THEORY. BBC reports on science showing an “Ancient migration transformed Spain’s DNA”.

A migration from Central Europe transformed the genetic make-up of people in Spain during the Bronze Age, a study reveals.

DNA evidence shows the migrants streamed over the Pyrenees, replacing existing male lineages across the region within a space of 400 years.

It remains unclear whether violence played a role or whether a male-centric social structure was more important.

The result comes from the most extensive study of its kind.

Researchers reconstructed the population history of Iberia (modern Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Andorra) over 8,000 years – the biggest slice of time tackled by a single ancient DNA study. The region has been a crossroads for different cultures over time.

(14) SSTO? Prepare to launch: “UK’s air-breathing rocket engine set for key tests”.

The UK project to develop a hypersonic engine that could take a plane from London to Sydney in about four hours is set for a key demonstration.

The Sabre engine is part jet, part rocket, and relies on a novel pre-cooler heat-exchanger technology.

This pre-cooler system will begin a new phase of testing in the next month or so in Colorado, US.

Meanwhile, the core part of the engine has just gone through its preliminary design review.

Signed off by experts at the European Space Agency, the review sets the stage for this central section of Sabre to begin its own demonstration campaign at Wescott Space Cluster in Buckinghamshire next year.

The company behind the project, Reaction Engines Ltd (REL), says it is making good progress.

Not only would Sabre power units enable rapid, point-to-point transport inside the atmosphere, but they would also allow reusable vehicles to make the jump straight to orbit without the need for multiple propellant stages – as is the case now with conventional rockets.

(15) ARE WE THERE YET? They’re on the way: “Astronauts who survived Soyuz breakdown blast off to ISS”.

Two astronauts who survived a failed Soyuz launch last year are now on their way to the International Space Station.

Nasa’s Nick Hague and his Russian colleague Alexey Ovchinin were on the rocket when it malfunctioned in mid-air on 11 October.

The two men are now flying with US astronaut Christina Koch after a successful lift-off from the Russian Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz MS-12 launched at 01:14 on Friday local time (19:14 GMT Thursday).

This is Mr Hague and Mr Ovchinin’s first flight since the aborted launch last October.

That time, the rocket was forced to make an emergency landing two minutes after take-off because a sensor had been damaged while it was being built.

[Thanks to Bill, JJ, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Alex Shvartsman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]