Pixel Scroll 5/28/20 When There Is No Pixel Tossed, Nor Wind To Scroll.

(1) PETAL PUSHERS. The latest story in ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Fourth and Most Important,” a story about coded messages, clandestine drone deliveries, and surprising alliances by Nisi Shawl.

The fourth of the Five Petals of the New Bedford Rose, Integration, is called by some its most important. Primacy of place goes to the first petal, Thought, of course—but linear primacy is deemed by practitioners of the Five Petals to be overrated.

—From “A Thousand Flowers of Thought: Schisms within the New Bedford Rose”

On Monday, June 1 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Nisi Shawl in conversation with Ayana Jamieson, founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network.  

(2) FIRST FIFTH. Happy blogoversary Camestros! “Happy Five Years Today”. How could we have gotten through those puppy days without you?

…The very last post of May was the other thing I needed a blog to explain: how to vote in an era of trolls https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/hugo-voting-strategy-high-bar-no-award/ What I was anticipating was more spoilery/trolling tactics in the future. The idea was that we might end up with slates every year and on the slates there would be some stuff that actually was good put there to mess with our heads — what we would later call ‘hostages’.

(3) WHAT’S ON THE MENU? Scott Edelman invites listeners to join New York Times best-selling novelist Justina Ireland in Episode 122 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Justina Ireland

Once upon a time, I had a wonderful Persian lunch with Justina Ireland at Orchard Market & Cafe outside of Baltimore. The food was delicious, and the conversation on which you were meant to eavesdrop was delightful. Unfortunately, after that, things did not go as planned.

If you want to know what I mean by that, check out our chat on the latest episode of Eating the Fantastic.

Justina Ireland is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel Dread Nation, as well as the recently published sequel Dark Divide. She’s a World Fantasy Award-winner for her former role as the co-editor in chief of FIYAH Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction. She also written Star Wars: Flight of the Falcon: Lando’s Luck, several novels in the middle grade fantasy series Devils’ Pass, including Evie Allen vs. the Quiz Bowl Zombies and Zach Lopez vs. the Unicorns of Doom, and many more. Vulture has called her “the most controversial figure in young-adult literature.”

We discussed whether having written zombie novels has helped her deal with the pandemic, her biggest pet peeve when she hears other writers talk about writing, where she falls in the fast vs. slow zombies debate (and how she’s managed to have the best of both worlds), our very different reasons for not having read Harry Potter, the way she avoided sequelitis in Dark Divide, what it was like playing in the Star Wars sandbox, why it’s easier to lie when writing from a first person point of view, the franchise character she most wishes she could write a novel about, the main difference between science fiction and YA communities, how Law & Order gives comfort during these trying times, and much more.

(4) WHAT THE WELL-DRESSED BIRD WILL BE READING. The Bookseller applauds as “Penguin Classics boldly goes into science fiction”.

Penguin Classics is to launch a new series of science fiction—with livery designed by Penguin art director Jim Stoddart—which will aim “to challenge stereotypes about the genre and celebrate science fiction as the essential genre of modern times”. 

Penguin Classics Science Fiction will kick off with 10 titles in August, with a further 10 to follow in November. The launch list will include two books by giants of world SF who have not often been published in English: Andreas Eschbach’s The Hair Carpet Weavers (translated by Doryl Jensen) and Angélica Gorodischer’s Trafalgar (Amelia Gladhart). German superstar Eschbach has only had three of his more than 40 novels translated into English; The Hair Carpet Weavers is his 1995 space opera debut. The 91-year-old Argentine Gorodischer is arguably Latin America’s best-known SF writer and Trafalgar follows the titular roguish intergalatic trader through a series of adventures. 

… Other titles on the August launch are Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, Edwin Abbott’s Flatland and Ten Thousand Light-years from Home by James Tiptree Jr, the pseudonym of pioneering American feminist SF writer Alice Bradley Sheldon.

(5) WHERE ELSE CAN SHE SEARCH? [Item by Cmm.]  I recently read the story “A Witch in Time” by Herb Williams for a Librivox short SF collection. It appears to be his only publication, from If magazine, February 1955. He’s new to our catalog so I’ve been trying to find any birth or death date. He is not in Wikipedia or the Science Fiction encyclopedia, and I’m not sure his Goodreads listing is accurate — I think he may be lumped under another Herb Williams there. HIs name is too common to have much luck with searching obituaries or Find A Grave, which is another of my go-tos when I’m trying to track down info on an obscure author.

I’m wondering if the name might ring a bell with you or some of the elders in the fan community as one of those authors who was mainly known as a fan but who published professionally once or twice? Anything that might give me a thread to pull, like a guy with that name who was in Chicago or something, would help.

Also if you or any of the other fandom and older-SF knowledgeable folks know of additional resources that I could try to see if I could figure out anymore would be really helpful, like maybe where If magazine’s archives are collected (if there is such a thing) or a person to reach out to who has done bibliographies or has a great memory for 50s SF authors or something?

The other possibility is if “Herb Williams” was a pseudonym used one time — sometimes taht seems to have happened in the 30s-50s era magazines when an author had two stories in the same issue. I tried searching on just the story title to see if it connects to any other author but no luck there.

(6) WOTW IS ON THE AIR. The LA Times’ Justin Chang calls “‘The Vast of Night’ is an ingenious, beautifully crafted ode to 1950s sci-fi paranoia”.

The first thing you see in “The Vast of Night,” Andrew Patterson’s ingenious and surprising debut feature, is an old 1950s-style TV set broadcasting a show called “Paradox Theater.” It’s clearly modeled on classic anthology series like “The Twilight Zone,” complete with portentous Rod Serling-esque narration that ushers us into “a realm between clandestine and forgotten,” then goes on to rattle off nearly half a dozen charmingly overwrought synonyms, including “a frequency caught between logic and myth.”

Forced to supply my own description, I’d say that “The Vast of Night” exists somewhere at the intersection of radio, television and cinema, and that it excavates some of our fondest old-timey memories of all three in order to build something playfully, strikingly new…. 

…There are lengthy passages in “The Vast of Night” when you could close your eyes with little loss of dramatic impact. And Patterson, perhaps eager to test the limits of his experiment, sometimes cuts to a black screen mid-dialogue, an audacious touch that allows the dialogue to carry the story. Elsewhere, however, the director gives you a lot to look at. Adam Dietrich’s production design is a marvel of vintage automobiles and analog recording equipment. The gifted cinematographer Miguel I. Littin-Menz pulls off a handful of arresting transitional moments, his camera showily traversing the New Mexico nightscape in sinuous extended tracking shots.

(7) DIAGNOSIS GENRE. Rob Latham surveys a specialized field in “Zones of Possibility: Science Fiction and the Coronavirus” in LA Review of Books.

…   In any case, no form of literature has more boldly confronted the possibility of global crisis and catastrophe than SF has, from its outset in the 19th century. Mary Shelley’s 1826 novel The Last Man is the quintessential tale of a worldwide pandemic — an outbreak of plague that gradually kills off the entire population, leaving at the end a single, lonely survivor. A recent essay on the novel in TLS shows how its conception emerged, in part, from a massive cholera outbreak that was exacerbated by incompetent public health measures, leading Shelley to conclude that “humanity is the author of its own disasters, even those that seem purely natural or beyond our control.” With its geographic sweep, attention to the interplay of science and politics, and vivid rendering of deserted cities and depopulated landscapes, The Last Man established a template that has been followed by most subsequent narratives of apocalyptic pandemics, in and outside the SF genre, from Stephen King’s The Stand (1978) to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) to Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (2014).

(8) NOVIK NEWS. Deadline reports another popular sff author’s work may get adapted into a motion picture: “Universal & Mandeville Films Partner On Naomi Novik’s ‘Scholomance’ Series”.

Universal has won the film rights for Naomi Novik’s YA novel Scholomance Random House series, putting the first novel A Deadly Education into development with Mandeville Films’ Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman.

The first book takes us into a dangerous school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death. There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die. 

(9) SAVED FROM KRYPTON’S CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. We Got This Covered says there’s yet another bonus in the director’s cut: “Justice League Snyder Cut Will Reportedly Feature Supergirl”.

Given that he recently claimed up to 75% of the movie will be footage that we’ve never seen before, Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League already looks to have enough plot threads to resolve without the possibility of introducing any more. However, the filmmaker’s time at the helm of the DCEU wasn’t exactly characterized by light and breezy narratives, with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in particular packed with enough content to fill three movies, and now that he’s finally got the chance to realize his original vision, he may as well go for broke.

In a recent watch party for Man of Steel, Snyder confirmed that a glimpse of an open pod on the Kryptonian ship was a deliberate nod towards his plans to expand the mythology and eventually introduce Supergirl into the shared universe, even though he’d already denied the very same thing two years previously….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 28, 1847 – Bithia Croker.  Irish horsewoman who hunted with the Kildare; married, moved to British India, wrote for a distraction during the hot season.  Forty-two novels (17 set in India, 1 Burma, 7 Ireland), translated into French, German, Hungarian, Norwegian; we can claim Beyond the Pale and her seven collections of shorter stories. (Died 1920.)  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1908 – Ian Fleming.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about a flying car.  Of IF’s James Bond books, Moonraker is SF, as we discussed at Boskone L, with Peter Weston testifying where the British rocket program was at the time; at the end of the story, Bond and the girl (as she would have been called in 1955) – oh, I won’t spoil it.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1919 — Don Day. A fan active in the 1940s and ’50s In Portland, Oregon, and a member of the local club.  He was editor of The Fanscient (and of its parody, Fan-Scent), and perhaps the greatest of the early bibliographers of sf. He published bibliographies in The Fanscient and also published the Day Index, the Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950.   He ran Perri Press, a small press which produced The Fanscient and the Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950.  He chaired NorWesCon, the 1950 Worldcon, after the resignation of Jack de Courcy. (Died 1979.) (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1923 Natalie Norwick. She had a number of genre roles in the Sixties including being Martha Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”, a Trek episode, and appearing as Josette duPres Collins on Dark Shadows. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1929 Shane Rimmer. A Canadian actor and voice actor,  best remembered for being the voice of Scott Tracy in puppet based Thunderbirds during the Sixties. Less known was that he was in Dr. Strangelove as Captain “Ace” Owens, and Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die in uncredited roles. He even shows up in Star Wars as a Rebel Fighter Technician, again uncredited. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1930 – Frank Drake, 90.  Astronomer and astrophysicist.  National Academy of Sciences, American Acad. of Arts & Sciences.  Co-designed the Pioneer Plaques; supervised the Voyager Golden Records; thus our next-door neighbor.  Lapidarist.  Raises orchids.  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1936 Fred Chappell, 84. Dagon, his first novel, retells a Cthulhu Mythos story as a realistic Southern Gothic tale. His Falco the Shadow Master’s Apprentice series has a handful of excellent stories, uncollected so far as I can tell, plus a novel, A Shadow All of Light, which is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1954 – Kees van Toorn.  Dutch fan, translator, publisher.  Chaired 48th Worldcon, at the Hague.  Served on con committees in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Canada. Two European SF Awards.  This Website https://confiction1990.com is about his Worldcon and a planned reunion.  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1954 – Betsy Mitchell.  Long fruitful career at Baen, Bantam, Warner, Del Rey, editing 150 titles, several becoming N.Y. Times Best Sellers; now, Betsy Mitchell Editorial Services.  Guest of Honor at Archon XIV, 4th Street Fantasy Con (1992), Armadillocon XXII, Bosone XLI, Ad Astra XXV, Loscon XL.  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1977 – Ursula Vernon.  Oor Wombat has published two dozen novels, as many shorter stories, and as many covers too, sometimes as T. Kingfisher.  Two Hugos, a Nebula, two Mythopoeic and two WSFA (Washington, D.C, SF Ass’n) Small Press awards.  Here’s her Amazon author page.  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1984 Max Gladstone, 36. His debut novel, Three Parts Dead, is part of the Craft Sequence series, and his shared Bookburners serial is most excellent. This Is How You Lose the Time War (co-written with Amal El-Mohtar) is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novella this year. (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1985 Carey Mulligan, 35. She’s here because she shows up in a very scary Tenth Doctor story, “Blink”, in which she plays Sally Sparrow. Genre adjacent, she was in Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Sittaford Mystery as Violet Willett. (Christie gets a shout-out in another Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and the Wasp”. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UH, FELLOWSHIP, THAT’S THE WORD. End the month on a high note – Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart brings together the cast of Lord of the Rings on Sunday, May 31 at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET. Here’s a teaser with Sean Astin.

SYFY Wire reports Josh Gad has already delivered a mermaid reunion: “Splash Stars Tom Hanks & Daryl Hannah Dive Into Charity Reunion (And Talk Tail Tales)”

After posting a teaser video in which he demanded Ron Howard — who directed the classic fantasy rom-com back in 1984 — deliver Tom Hanks to viewers, both Gad and Howard made good on their tease Tuesday when they convened for a chat that included Hanks himself, as well as costars Daryl Hannah and Eugene Levy, co-writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and producer Brian Grazer. The chat doubled as a fundraiser for DIGDEEP, a nonprofit working to provide water and sanitation access to more than two million Americans who still don’t have those utilities.

(13) THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS. Bob Madle’s about to celebrate his 100th birthday on June 2. First Fandom Experience turned back the pages to acquaint readers with “Robert A. Madle In 1930s Fandom”. Lots of scans of photos and fanzine items.

… In a 2006 conversation with John L. Coker III, Madle recalled:

“My very first letter appeared in the July 1935 Pirate Stories.  I was a Gernsback fan, and anything he published I picked up.  I read his editorial in the first issue.  He said that they will publish pirate stories of the past, the present, and yes, even of the future.  So, I wrote a letter saying that they ought to publish a novel about a space pirate and they should get Edmond Hamilton to write it.  They printed the letter and I won a year’s subscription to Wonder Stories.  I was fourteen years old and I thought that this was one of the greatest things that ever happened.”

(14) BOK TALK. “Rediscovered: A Letter from Hannes Bok” at Don Herron’s website. The scan of a typewritten letter from 1943.

[Noted] book and pulp (and autograph, and letter, and miscellania) collector Kevin Cook thought some of you might like to peruse a letter the legendary fantasy artist Hannes Bok… 

(15) THEY STAB IT WITH THEIR STEELY KNIVES. James Davis Nicoll “Five SF Stories That Mix Swords and Starships” at Tor.com.

Inspired by an engaging time-filler meme on social media , my thoughts returned to that venerable roleplaying game Travellerprofiled on Tor.com earlier this year. Anyone who has played Traveller (or even just played with online character generation sites like this one) might have noticed that a surprising number of the characters one can generate are skilled with blades. This may see as an odd choice for a game like Traveller that is set in the 57th century CE, or indeed for any game in which swords and starships co-exist. Why do game authors make these choices?

(16) SOMETHING TO DO. “Ministry of Silly Walks comes to Sonning during lockdown”, a BBC video.

The residents of a Berkshire village have been filmed re-enacting one of British comedy’s most famous sketches.

Monty Python fan James Ruffell put up signs outside his house in Sonning informing people they were entering the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

He filmed the results with a motion-controlled webcam and uploaded the subsequent silliness to Facebook.

(17) WEIRD, NOT SILLY. LA’s NBC affiliate recommends you “Walk Haunted Pasadena (While Staying at Home)”.

So you’ve popped by Old Pasadena in the past, to pick up dinner or to find the perfect scarf for your mom or to search for something rosy for that one cousin who is obsessed with what happens along Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day each and every year.

But while strolling through the century-old alleys, on the way to the restaurant or shop, you suddenly feel a chill, a skin prickle, a sense that something vaporous or strange is nearby.

Is it a ghost? Or the knowledge that the historic city is a favorite among phantom fans?

Venture deeper into the strange and chilling tales of the Crown City on Friday evening, May 29.

That’s when Pasadena Walking Tours will lead its “Haunted Pasadena” tour, an at-home adventure that you can enjoy from your couch.

So, for sure: Stay in your slippers for this one and leave the sneakers by the front door.

(18) LOST AND FOUND. “Half the matter in the universe was missing – we found it hiding in the cosmos” reports Yahoo! There were several steps in finding the solution. One of them was —

…In 2007, an entirely unanticipated opportunity appeared. Duncan Lorimer, an astronomer at the University of West Virginia, reported the serendipitous discovery of a cosmological phenomenon known as a fast radio burst (FRB). FRBs are extremely brief, highly energetic pulses of radio emissions. Cosmologists and astronomers still don’t know what creates them, but they seem to come from galaxies far, far away.

As these bursts of radiation traverse the universe and pass through gasses and the theorized WHIM, they undergo something called dispersion.

The initial mysterious cause of these FRBs lasts for less a thousandth of a second and all the wavelengths start out in a tight clump. If someone was lucky enough – or unlucky enough – to be near the spot where an FRB was produced, all the wavelengths would hit them simultaneously.

But when radio waves pass through matter, they are briefly slowed down. The longer the wavelength, the more a radio wave “feels” the matter. Think of it like wind resistance. A bigger car feels more wind resistance than a smaller car.

The “wind resistance” effect on radio waves is incredibly small, but space is big. By the time an FRB has traveled millions or billions of light-years to reach Earth, dispersion has slowed the longer wavelengths so much that they arrive nearly a second later than the shorter wavelengths.

Therein lay the potential of FRBs to weigh the universe’s baryons, an opportunity we recognized on the spot. By measuring the spread of different wavelengths within one FRB, we could calculate exactly how much matter – how many baryons – the radio waves passed through on their way to Earth…

(19) GETTIING THE POINT. Charles Veley and Anna Elliott, in “Sherlock Holmes And The Womanly Art Of Self-Defense” on CrimeReads, discuss their series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches with Holmes and his daughter, Lucy James, and what sort of self-defense skills Victorian women had.

…A woman’s chief weapon, as the female self-defense movement began to gain traction, was the hat pin. These long (up to 6 inches), frequently jeweled pins were used to secure the elaborate hats of the day to a woman’s hair, but they could also be wielded with dangerous purpose in the event that a woman was attacked or threatened by a “masher.” In 1912, a hatpin was even used to foil an attempted robbery. Elizabeth Foley, an 18-year-old bank employee, was walking home with a male colleague who carried the entire payroll for the bank staff. They were attacked by a robber who knocked the male colleague down. But Elizabeth, undaunted, reached for her hatpin and jabbed at the robber’s face. The attacker ran away.

(20) NOT DESPICABLE THIS TIME. Gru and the Minions have made a PSA.

The World Health Organization, the United Nations Foundation and Illumination have partnered to release a public service announcement featuring the famous Minions characters and Gru, voiced by actor Steve Carrell, to show how people can stay safe from COVID-19

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Jon Ault, Martin Morse Wooster, John King TArpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/20 You Will Scroll Eternal, Shiny And Chrome

(1) MOOT COURT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from Robert Barnes’ Washington Post report of a Supreme Court hearing an argument about whether states have the right to punish “faithless electors” who cast a vote in the Electoral College other than the candidate who won a state’s electoral votes.

“What of the elector who decides after the election ‘I really like Frodo Baggins,’” asked Justice Clarence Thomas, referencing one of the principal protagonists of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings.  That person is free to vote his or her convictions, a lawyer challenging state restrictions said, but not for a hobbit; the candidate must be a real person.

(Link: “Supreme Court considers ‘faithless’ presidential electors and finds more questions than answers”.)

(2) US IN FLUX. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched the latest story in their Us in Flux project today, Tina Connolly’s “Skating Without Streetlights”, a story about virtual reality and friendship, with a bit of a YA spin.

On Monday, May 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Connolly in conversation with VR developer Dennis Bonilla.  

(3) WINDING DOWN NASFIC. Columbus 2020 NASFiC announced today it is cancelled. Their statement “We will not be offering any refunds but, that being said, we still plan on publishing a souvenir book for all attending and supporting members” received some pushback in a public Facebook conrunners’ group. Treasurer Kim Williams has responded with a supplementary statement:

We don’t know what our bills are going to be or what will be left over, And now unfortunately one person has escalated their unhappiness about no refund to PayPal and is encouraging her entire group of friends to do likewise.

So, why did NASFIC say no refunds?

1. We just got to the point of cancellation This Morning. It’s hard to be in the land of “who knows?” so we got the main piece of information out to everyone as soon as possible. We didn’t want people making travel plans and fighting to cancel those too. I treated you with the respect I would have hoped for.

2. We do not have all the information from the hotel or any of our other vendors on what we owe them. We don’t know what is going to be left! I’m negotiating with each vendor doing the best I can.

3. We have to say no refunds at this point because we can’t even begin to know what might be left over.

4. We really would like to do a Souvenir/Program Book because we want to do something for our guests. We put a lot of thought into our choice of guests and feel horrible about not having a convention for them.

5. One of the issues we discussed TODAY is what we should do if any funds are left after that. What we would like to do is participate in the “pass along” program, just like any other WSFS event even though we didn’t receive any.

But if this person continues her claim, it risks all of the above, She wants her refund before anyone else even has a chance.

So, now I really don’t know what is going to happen. .

(4) MORE CONVENTION CANCELLATIONS. Oxonmoot and KublaCon are two more of the many fannish events now off the calendar.

Oxonmoot 2020’s co-chairs Elena Davison and Mike Percival told members the Tolkien Society’s fall event is off for this year.

It is with great sadness that we have reached the decision that it will be impossible to hold a face-to-face Oxonmoot in 2020.

At all times, we have had in mind that we would only run Oxonmoot if we could do so in a way which was safe for our members.

Following the publication on Monday 11th May of the UK Government document “Our Plan to Rebuild”, describing their Covid-19 recovery strategy, it is clear that some level of social distancing will still be required in September, and this has a dramatic impact on the way the spaces in college can be used – for example the capacity of the Hall is reduced by almost 80%. This has led the college to advise that they do not feel able to accommodate our event. In addition, the proposed introduction of a 14-day self-isolation period for overseas travellers would make it difficult for overseas members to attend….

KublaCon’s Executive Producer Mike Eckert says the Oakland, CA gaming convention is cancelled.

…We know this will disappoint many of you, we are disappointed along with you.  We also know there will be questions as to what comes next.

Some of us on Staff, myself included, lost their day job amid this pandemic, many more staff are at home, quarantined; just like you. You may be wondering what happens to your badge fees, ticket fees or booth fees. We want to help answer all of that and we humbly ask for your help too….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman is still “Social Distancing” – which means eating at home and withstanding the sharp cross-examination conducted by fans of his podcast, something the accomplished raconteur is thoroughly prepared to do,.

Two episodes ago, we sheltered in place together as I ate lunch and answered 33 questions from listeners and former guests of Eating the Fantastic. Since it’ll be awhile before the convention circuit starts up again and restaurants are back in business, I decided to once more invite you into my home to join me for a meal.

After all, my original call for questions had yielded 95 of them, and there was no way I was going to let that meat go to waste!

So after having roasted up a pork butt and assorted vegetables, I pulled together a plate and attempted to answer as many as I could while (metaphorically) breaking bread with you.

…I talked about my early days in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, the many things legendary editor Gardner Dozois and I shoved up our noses, when my food and fandom interests began to overlap, what I would have said to Harlan Ellison had he been in Barry Malzberg’s shoes, whether experiencing personal tragedy helps or harms a writer, the cognitive dissonance I feel about comics having taken over the world, which character caused me to start writing (hint: it was Conan the Barbarian), what I wishes I knew less about, who I was the most thrilled to have met in my life, whether I still get a kick out of my favorite childhood treats, what a terrible collaborator I am, and much, much more.

(6) NEWTON OBIT. Barry Newton, past President of the Washington Science Fiction Association (2014), died May 12 of cancer. He was 70. Barry was part of WSFA for nearly 50 years, having joined in June 1970.

He contributed items to the Scroll in years gone by.

He was retired from the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

His daughter, Meridel, said on Facebook  he will be cremated and inurned in Arlington National Cemetery whenever they resume burials. A celebration of life will be held when gatherings become possible again.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 14, 1996 Doctor Who aired on the Fox Television Network in the United States. Starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway and Eric Roberts as The Master. It was directed by Geoffrey Sax off a script by Matthew Jacobs. It was intended as a pilot to American produced and based Who series but internal politics at BBC killed it off. Some critics loved, some hated it; the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave it a decent forty eight percent rating.  He has since reprised the role, briefly in video form and quite extensively in audio form for Big Finish. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 14, 1848 – Albert Robida.  French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist.  Edited and published Caricature magazine 1880-1893; 520 illustrations for Pierre Giffard’s weekly serial The Infernal War (1908); 60,000 during AR’s life.  In The Twentieth Century (1882; set in 1952), War in the Twentieth Century (1887), Electric Life (1890), five more, imagined technological developments integrated with daily living, e.g. the telephonoscope, whose flat-screen display shows news, plays, conferences, 24 hours a day; here’s an aerial rotating house.  Books about Brittany, the Touraine, Normandy, Provence, Paris, The Old Towns of ItalyThe Old Towns of Spain, text, drawings, lithographs.  Illustrated Cyrano de Bergerac, Rabelais, Swift.  Clock of the CenturiesThe End of Books (with Octave Uzanne); The Long-Ago Is With Us TodayIn 1965.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1852 – Henri Julien.  First full-time newspaper editorial cartoonist in Canada.  Interiors for Douglas Erskine’s novel A Bit of Atlantis (1900), reviewed by Everett Bleiler in Science Fiction, the Early Years (1991).  Here’s a flying canoe.  Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850-1917) called him the most original talent in the country.  Posthumous collection, Album Henri Julien (1916).  (Died 1908) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1853 – Sir Hall Caine.  Novelist, dramatist, short-story writer, poet, critic.  Secretary to Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Recollections of Rossetti (rev. 1928).  Son of a Manxman, moved there, elected to its legislature; Bram Stoker dedicated Dracula to him in Manx.  The Christian, first novel in Britain to sell a million copies; The MahdiThe Eternal City (translated into thirteen languages), The ScapegoatThe White ProphetThe Prime Minister (play), fantasy; fifteen more novels, seventeen plays, four films (plus more made from his books); The Supernatural in Shakespere (HC’s spelling), The Supernatural Element in Poetry, eighteen more books of non-fiction; ten million books sold.  Went to Russia, Morocco, Iceland, Egypt.  Sixty thousand people at his funeral.  (Died 1931) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1929 – George Scithers.  His fanzine Amra 1959-1982 won two Hugos.  Chaired three Disclaves and the 21st Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at the 2nd NASFiC (N. Am. Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas) and the 59th Worldcon; frequent chair of the annual WSFS (World SF Society) Business Meeting.  Served as President of WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) and Official Arbiter of The Cult (an apa – amateur press ass’n – famous in song and story).  First editor of Asimov’s; two Hugos as Best Professional Editor.  Perpetrated the Scithers SFL (Science Fiction League) Hoax.  Revived Weird Tales (with John Betancourt).  World Fantasy special award for Weird Tales (with Darrell Schweitzer), 1992.  World Fantasy lifetime-achievement award, 2002.  (Died 2010) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1933 – Ron Bennett.  British fanwriter, collector, publisher, used-book dealer, even while living in Singapore.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, 1958; trip report, Colonial Excursion.  Chaired the 13th Eastercon (United Kingdom natcon, i.e. nat’l convention), ran the Dealers’ Room at the 45th Worldcon.  Member variously of OMPA (Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n, serving awhile as its Official Editor), FAPA (Fantasy Am. Press Ass’n), The Cult (see G. Scithers note); best-known fanzines, Skyrack (rhyming with “beer hack” because, as RB well knew, it meant shire oak, but what a name), Ploy.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1935 Peter J. Reed, 85. A Vonnegut specialist with a long history starting with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: The Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays that he wrote with Marc Leeds, and Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations with Leeds again. He also wrote a handful of essays such as “Hurting ’til It Laughs: The Painful-Comic Science Fiction Stories of Kurt Vonnegut“ and “Kurt Vonnegut’s Bitter Fool: Kilgore Trout”. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 76. For better and worse I suppose, he created the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine. Several Star Wars films are.) And let’s not forget THX 1138. My fave works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost ArkThe Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Oh, and and The Young Indy Jones series. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1947 Edward James, 73. Winner at Interaction of Best Related Non-Fiction Book for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction which he did with Farah Mendlesohn. A companion volume, The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, was also edited with Mendlesohn. He was the editor of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction from 1986 to 2001. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1952 – Kathleen Ann Goonan, 68.  Author, Montessori certified teacher, professor at Georgia Tech (Ga. Inst. of Technology).  Three Nebula nominations; John W. Campbell Memorial Award for In War Times; first novel Queen City Jazz, a N.Y. Times Notable Book; six more novels, forty shorter stories, translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish; cover art for her collection Angels and You Dogs.  Reviews in SF EyeN.Y. Rev. SF.  John Clute caught her allusion to Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) and said of her Nanotech Cycle (QC Jazz the first published) that its heavy plotting only partially coats over the intellectual ferment of the whole.  [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1968 Greg Davies, 52. He played King Hydroflaxq In the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Husbands of River Song“. A man who’s just a head. Literally. He’s also the Balloon Man in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. (CE)

(11) SCALZI Q&A. It’s a good interview about a writer’s interaction with literature, but the New York Times’ headline has no relevance to any of his answers that I can see: “The Science Fiction Writer John Scalzi Readily Quits Reading”. (If I’m wrong, I’m sure you’ll let me know!)

Any comfort reads?

I reread James Clavell’s “Shogun” a lot when I travel; I tend to think of it as epic fantasy as I am unsure of its historical and cultural accuracy. Speaking of epic fantasy, Katherine Addison’s “The Goblin Emperor” is always a joy to reread; I leaned on it a lot when creating my own unready imperial ruler for the Interdependency series, the last book of which is out very soon now. And I always have at least one Susan Orlean book on my phone for when I’m stuck in the airport and in the mood for nonfiction; the current one I have at the ready is “The Library Book.” She writes books that are comforting and fascinating at the same time. That’s a good skill to have.

(12) TWO REVIEWS OF SNOWPIERCER. [Item by N.] I’m personally skeptical because the creators seemed to excise all the Bong Joon-ho-isms I enjoyed from the movie but it looks like they kept all the sociological critique. Will be interesting to see. 

The New York Times: “On Track for the Apocalypse, ‘Snowpiercer’ Comes to Television”.

… But the world that this “Snowpiercer” arrives in is one that has moved incrementally closer to the catastrophe that the series anticipates. Though the themes of the show may be more resonant now, the people who made “Snowpiercer” cannot be sure whether it will be more compelling or more terrifying to audiences as a result.The power of good science fiction, [Daveed] Diggs said, is a universality that extends beyond the moment in which it was created. “No matter what time we’re living in, it allows us to reflect on ourselves through a particular lens,” he said. “We certainly did not know that this would be the lens through which we’d be viewing our own show.”

“In TNT’s Series, Snowpiercer Is No Longer a Dark Prophesy but a Mirror”

… We are now coming up on two full months of quarantine here in the States, and though we are not exactly survivors aboard a 1,001-car high speed train careening around a frozen planet, it’s hard for dialogue like this not to resonate. Or for scenes depicting horrendous displays of classism to not gnaw at our collective conscience as we watch our ugly realities play out on a TV screen.

“Do you remember hugs? Do you remember leaving the house without a mask and gloves at the ready? Do you remember what it was like before?”

What happens when there is less to learn from the allegory than from reality itself? When simile becomes metaphor? It’s not that the society we live in is like the fictional world of Snowpiercer; it’s that the society we live in is Snowpiercer.

(13) LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDERS. The Boston Globe story “Brattle Book Shop is curating bookshelves for Zoom meetings and FaceTime hangouts” is probably paywalled, but this gives the essentials —

Friends and coworkers aren’t the only ones silently taking stock of what’s going on in the backgrounds of people’s daily virtual calls these days.

Staff at the Brattle Book Shop have also been scanning the scenes with a watchful eye. And as experts in the book trade, they’ve come to a conclusion: That shelf just beyond your upper torso? Yes, that one, with the torn edition of “Twilight” that’s next to the lilting fern. Perhaps it could use some touching up if it’s going to be on camera.

“Zoom calls: no one can see your legs,” store employees tweeted recently, “but everyone can see your apartment. We’re here to help, with the bookshelves at least.”

Like many businesses impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, Brattle Book Shop was forced to close its doors to walk-in customers back in early March. But to help fill the downtime while also staying connected to clientele both old and new, the downtown Boston business decided to tap into a niche market — one that’s been propelled by our newfound reliance on teleconferencing services like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime.

In April, bookstore owner Ken Gloss and his team began offering to curate people’s shelves with hand-picked selections of books to display during video meetings. The service, staff says, can help add a pop of character to the otherwise disorganized backdrops being scrutinized by people on the other side of the computer screen.

To Gloss, having some aesthetically-pleasing spines perfectly arranged at eye level, or even a few well-known titles neatly stacked up for show, “offers a lot of prestige.”

“When you look at someone’s books, you can tell a lot about them,” he said. “Put back there the impression that you want to give.”

This concept of cleverly organizing backgrounds specifically for Zoom calls isn’t altogether novel, Gloss explained. It’s more of an inventive take on a familiar practice at the historic family-owned business.

For years, the bookstore has fielded requests from customers looking to decorate their shelves with carefully selected reading materials and antique-looking books, items that create a more homey atmosphere.

(14) GO BOOM FALL DOWN. “Spectacular demolition at German nuclear site” – BBC shares the video taken from multiple viewpoints.

Two cooling towers have been demolished in spectacular controlled explosions at a disused nuclear power plant in south-western Germany.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Alex and Mr Fluffkins” on Vimeo, Adeena Grubb and Andy Biddle discuss what happens to a man and his cat when the lockdown is finally over and they can go out.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, N., Chip Hitchcock, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/20 Send Me The Pixel That You Scroll On

(1) THE TEN DOCTORS. The BBC’s Big Night In fundraising telethon broadcast April 23 included “The Doctors’ inspiring message to all frontline workers” delivered by regiment of actors who have played Doctor Who — Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, and Jo Martin.

Doctors, past and present, unite together to send a powerful message to all frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus. Comic Relief and Children in Need join forces for the first time to deliver a very special night of television during these unprecedented times.The Big Night In brings the nation an evening of unforgettable entertainment in a way we’ve never seen before. More importantly, it will also raise money for and pay tribute to those on the front line fighting Covid-19 and all the unsung heroes going that extra mile to support their communities.

An excerpt from the YouTube transcript:

…We have all come together together together together together together together together for one important reason to praise salute and give the heartfelt thanks to real-life special doctors nurses and everyone everyone working on the phone lines in our NHS and care homes and hospices what you all do and have done for all of us is amazing it’s crucial phenomenal…

(2) HOLLAND CON DELAYED. Kees Van Toorn’s Reunicon 2020, a 30th anniversary celebration of the Worldcon in The Hague, has been postponed until August 2021.

Due to official regulations enforced by many countries worldwide concerning the covid-19 virus, all public events and travelling restrictions have been scrapped or postponed. That includes REUNICON 2020, alas. However, we have rescheduled the convention in August 20-22 in 2021. We are confident we will be able to host REUNICON next year, making it a good place to come to and share memories of CONFICTION 1990 as well as to remember all those we have lost in the past years and the grim period we now face. In the meantime, be well, stay healthy and take care of each other. And stay tuned for more information!

(3) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Steven Saus found a problem: “Minecraft Bug: Despawning Named Zombie Villagers”.

We discovered what seems to be a bug in Minecraft. Named mobs are not supposed to despawn when the chunk unloads, but named villagers that are turned into (named) zombie villagers end up despawning too.

.. My named villager “Bait” was turned into a named zombie villager all right, but he also immediately despawned when the chunk unloaded.

If you want to spend 90 seconds you can watch it happen – yes, I admit I did…

(4) ACHIEVEMENTS TO UNLOCK. At the SFWA Blog, Cat Rambo begins “Effective Goal Setting for Writers” with this overview:

Something I work on with my coaching clients is goal setting, which is made up of several parts:

  • figuring out where they want to be in six months to a year
  • figuring out what the milestones of that goal are and mapping them against the schedule
  • figuring out the monthly goals they need to hit in order to achieve that schedule
  • figuring out the weekly goals necessary to achieve those monthly goals

(5) US IN FLUX. The third story for Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “When We Call a Place Home,” by Chinelo Onwualu.

On Monday, April 27 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Chinelo in conversation with Robert Evans, a conflict journalist and host of the podcasts Behind the Bastards and The Women’s War about the story “When We Call a Place Home” and the real-world community in Northern Syria that inspired the tale.

(6) REASONS REVISITED. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] In a free reprint from 2001, The London Review of Books’ Jenny Turner discusses “Reasons for liking Tolkien” — long, meaty, and balanced.

A writer, born around 1890, is famous for three novels. The first is short, elegant, an instant classic. The second, the masterpiece, has the same characters in it, is much longer and more complicated, and increasingly interested in myth and language games. The third is enormous, mad, unreadable. One answer is Joyce, of course. Another – The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1955), The Silmarillion (1977) – is J.R.R. Tolkien.

A writer, born around 1890, raged against ‘mass-production robot factories and the roar of self-obstructive mechanical traffic’ and ‘the rawness and ugliness of modern European life’. Instead he loved the trees and hedgerows of the English Midlands he had known as a boy, and the tales of ‘little, ultimate creatures’ he came across in the legends of the North. Clue: it wasn’t D.H. Lawrence.

A writer, born around 1890, worked bits of ancient writings into his own massive masterwork, magnificently misprising them as he went. Clue: it wasn’t Pound.

…A writer, born around 1890, declared himself a monarchist and a Catholic; and no, it wasn’t Eliot. In form, in content, in everything about it, The Lord of the Rings is the most anti-Modernist of novels. It is really very funny to think about how similar it is in so many ways to the works of the great Modernists.

(7) WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO? From The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood’s lockdown diary: life as an eccentric self-isolationist”.

As the first world war dragged on, volunteer women’s groups of all kinds formed in aid of the troops in the trenches: bandage rolling, preserved foods box packing, knitting. My grandmother joined a knitting group in rural Nova Scotia. You started on washcloths, progressed to scarves; then, if you were sufficiently adroit, you moved on to balaclavas and socks, and ultimately – the pinnacle! – to gloves. My grandmother was a terrible knitter. She never got beyond washcloths.

I’ve often wondered about these knitting groups. What were they for, really? Were they providing much-needed knitted items, or were they boosting morale by giving a bunch of otherwise very anxious civilians, whose sons and husbands were in jeopardy, something to do with their hands while waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting? I can see the socks and gloves making it to the frontlines, but the washcloths? Photographs of muddy, cramped, stinky trench life don’t show much washing going on. And my grandmother’s wonky, hole-filled washcloths in particular – were they sent to a secret depot where they were unraveled, and their wool reclaimed for something more functional?

So, in the spirit of my grandmother’s washcloths – not ultimately useful, perhaps, but let’s hope they focused the mind and gave a sense of accomplishment – I present some of my more bizarre self-isolation activities. You can do some of them at home. Though perhaps you won’t wish to.

…Another activity I’ve been doing lately is squirrel foiling. Hear a gnawing sound in the ceiling? These are your choices, in this part of the world: raccoons, possums, rats, squirrels, Google Earth. Probably squirrels, I thought, and so it proved to be. At first I foiled them by playing hot jazz and acid rock right under their gnawing station, but they got used to the wailing and screaming, so I climbed up a stepladder, placed a large steel bowl against the ceiling, and whacked it with a big metal serving spoon. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been doing that alone at night – the Younger Generation will scold when they read this – because people my age fall off ladders and break their necks, especially when not holding on because you need two hands for steel bowl banging. I won’t do it again, promise. (Until next time.)…

(8) MANDALORIAN MAKERS. Here’s a two-minute teaser for the next season of The Mandalorian, with appearances by Jon Favreau (creator/writer/executive producer), Dave Filoni (writer/director/executive producer), Deborah Chow (director), Bryce Dallas Howard (director), Taika Waititi (director/IG-11), Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin), Gina Carano (Cara Dune), and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga). Starts starts streaming May the 4th, on Disney+.

(9) MILLER OBIT. Ryder W. Miller (1965-2020)  passed away March 15 after a six-month fight with pancreatic cancer. A critic, poet, writer, and journalist, he was a regular contributor to The Mythic Circle, Beyond Bree, Mythprint, EGJ, and Rain Taxi, and also appeared in Mythlore. He published stories at The Lost Souls website. He is the author of Tales of Suspense and Horror, co-author of San Francisco: A Natural History, and editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (ibooks, 2005).

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite distance, and we can travel thanks to imagination.

In concert, Wikipedia has selected as its word of the day unputdownable:

Of a person, etc.: difficult or impossible to put down (in various senses). (specifically) Of a book or other written work: so captivating or engrossing that one cannot bear to stop reading it.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada.

Doctor Who is a sci-fi series that first aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1963. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a time-travelling alien, who travels through time and space in a time machine and spacecraft called Time and Relative Dimension in Space or TARDIS. The TARDIS looks like a London police box from the 1960s.

Called The Impossible Astronaut, the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 23, 1974 Planet Earth premiered. Created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, it was — not surprisingly – also based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a 45% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 85. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field.
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 74. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role was Kate Durning on Elementary.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 65. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction, 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 64. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 58. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 47. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a  Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as is her newest novel Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) STILL IN THE DUGOUT. Last year Chris Barkley sent retiring Cincinnati Reds baseball broadcaster Marty Brennaman a copy of his “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask” column full of advice about how to improve Major League Baseball, and he was ecstatic to finally receive an answer.

(15) EARTH DAY. Brain Pickings will celebrate Earth Day on April 25 with its The Universe in Verse event, a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry, streaming on Vimeo.

“I don’t think it would have been conceivable to me when I was seventeen that science would ever need defending, let alone by a poet,” the poet Jane Hirshfield says in her beautiful and poignant meditation on her memory of the first Earth Day in 1970, prefacing her reading at the 2020 Universe in Verse, celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. (Tune into the global broadcast at 4:30PM EST on Saturday, April 25, to hear Hirshfield and a constellation of other radiant minds.

…Expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry, Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and other titans of poetic perspective, performed by a largehearted cast of scientists and artists, astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna LevinKip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne CashPatti SmithAmanda PalmerZoë KeatingMorley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane HirshfieldRoss GayMarie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca SolnitElizabeth GilbertMasha GessenRoxane GayRobert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie MillmanDustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestini with the Young People’s Chorus. As always, there are some thrilling surprises in wait.

(16) ANATOMY OF A BLACK HOLE. “In a photo of a black hole, a possible key to mysteries” from the Harvard Gazette.

So little is known about them and the image hints at a path to a higher-resolution image and more and better data

Billions of people worldwide marveled at the first image ever captured of a black hole. The photo of the glowing, blurry doughnut, taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team, showed the massive dark region, a monster the size of our solar system, that, like its peers, gobbles up everything — even light — that ventures too close.

“I definitely got shivers down my spine,” said Alexander Lupsasca, a junior fellow in Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, remembering the moment he saw the photo for the first time. It was thrilling because so very little is known about black holes. And now, Lupsasca and a team of scientists at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative say the image may help provide more answers: Hidden within the glowing ring are an infinite number of sub-rings that offer a way to capture an even higher-resolution image and more precise data on the massive enigmas of the universe.

“They’re paradoxical objects. They’re the epitome of what we don’t understand,” said Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard. “And it’s very exciting to see something that you don’t understand.” Black holes are one of the great puzzles of modern physics — where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics collide. Scientists still know so little about them — their mass, how fast they spin, what’s inside their warped space-time. Until the EHT produced the first actual image, Strominger could only investigate their mysteries with complex mathematics, pencil, and paper. “I cried when I saw their picture,” he said. Then, he asked: “What can we learn from this?”

…“As we peer into these rings, first, second, third, etc., we are looking at light from all over the visible universe; we are seeing farther and farther into the past, a movie, so to speak, of the history of the visible universe,” said Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, in the Black Hole Initiative’s press release.

(17) A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new project at MIT may allow one to control lucid dreams (those in which you’re aware you’re dreaming)… at least a bit. As one drops into hypnagogia, that liminal state between being awake and being asleep, a wearable in development detects this and triggers a pre-selected one-word audio cue. In theory this may help the wearer to be like David Beckham and bend a lucid dream to follow a desired trajectory.

To say that the Popular Mechanics article’s author, Caroline Delbert, is skeptical of the usefulness of this would be an understatement. “Would You Wear This Glove to Hack Your Dreams?”

(18) DRAWING FOR HEALTH. “The Japanese monster going viral” – BBC has the story.

People across the world are drawing images of a mythical Japanese spirit believed to help ward off plagues.

In Japan, as parts of the country declare a state of emergency, people here have been reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic in a unique way: by sharing images online of a mystical, mermaid-like being believed to ward off plagues.

Largely forgotten for generations, Amabie, as it’s known, is an auspicious yokai (a class of supernatural spirits popularised through Japanese folklore) that was first documented in 1846. As the story goes, a government official was investigating a mysterious green light in the water in the former Higo province (present-day Kumamoto prefecture). When he arrived at the spot of the light, a glowing-green creature with fishy scales, long hair, three fin-like legs and a beak emerged from the sea.

Amabie introduced itself to the man and predicted two things: a rich harvest would bless Japan for the next six years, and a pandemic would ravage the country. However, the mysterious merperson instructed that in order to stave off the disease, people should draw an image of it and share it with as many people as possible.

(19) HEAL, SPOT HEAL! Spot the Robot Dog is trying out for a job as a telemedicine worker reports Forbes: “Spot The Robot Dog Roams The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Front Lines”.

Spot, the famous robot dog from Boston Dynamics, has been conscripted into service to work on the front lines helping medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers at the company, which was formerly a subsidiary of Google before being purchased by Softbank, have been working for the past six weeks to develop the means for Spot to help reduce the exposure of healthcare workers.

So far Spot has been working with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where robots outfitted with a special payload are deployed in triage tents and parking lots to help staff receive patients suspected to have COVID-19 and perform initial assessments.

“With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to reduce the number of necessary medical staff at the scene and conserve their limited PPE supply,” explains a release from Boston Dynamics.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A video on YouTube as “vol. 5 Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798/1861)” is an animation by Pasquale D’Amico of works by a 19th-century macabre Japanese artist.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/16/20 And Faintly Falling, Like The Descent Of Their Last End, Upon All The Scrolling And The Filed

(1) STUCK INSIDE. BBC’s Doctor Who site has posted a new short story by Paul Cornell, “The Shadow Passes”. The setup is —

… She’d been thinking that when Graham had found the sign. It had said, the letters wobbling a little in the way that indicated the TARDIS was translating for them, ‘This way to the shelters’.

‘Am I over-reacting,’ Graham had said, ‘or is that just a tiny bit worrying?’

Which was how they’d ended up in a bare room, one hundred feet underground, sitting in a circle, with the names of famous people stuck to their foreheads….

(2) BOUCHERCON CANCELLED. The annual mystery convention, which was to have been held in Sacramento, CA in October has been cancelled. Provisions will be made for the Anthony Awards and some other components of the con.

We’re terribly sad to tell you this, but out of an abundance of caution and concern for the health and safety of our community, we are canceling Bouchercon 2020.

We have no way of knowing what the balance of this year holds for groups of people gathering, nor can we tell what the state of travel will be.

While we are canceling the actual Bouchercon convention, we are working to develop a different format for some of the Bouchercon events and activities such as the Anthony Awards, the short story anthology and the General Membership meeting. Nominations will continue to be open until June 5 for the Anthony Awards. As we work to develop other ways to present a traditional Bouchercon experience, we’ll keep in touch with you.

(3) VINTAGE ROLL. Via Shelf Awareness, a photo from the owners of a Sewickley, PA bookstore: “Toilet Paper Shortage Update: Penguin Bookshop”.

I inherited this 25-year-old roll of penguin toilet paper when I bought the Penguin in 2014. And darn it! Come hell or high water (or no more tp) we aren’t going to use it now.

Jim Freund said online, “I think The Penguin Shop, formerly headquartered in Brooklyn and with a physical store at the South Street Seaport called ‘Next Stop, South Pole’ used to carry that TP.  25 years ago sounds about right, so they may well have gotten it from there.”

(4) PAINT YOUR STARSHIP. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler finds women sff authors in 1965 – but it isn’t easy: “[Apr. 16, 1965] The Second Sex In Sff, Part VIII”. Six are named in this post.

It’s been almost two years since the last edition of our The Second Sex in SFF series came out.  In that time, women have only gotten more underrepresented in our genre.  Nevertheless, new women authors continue to arrive on the scene, and some who produced under gender-ambiguous names have become known to me…

(5) WHY THE FUTURE IS COVERED IN KUDZU. Geoff Manaugh, in “Tax Incentives and the Human Imagination” on Bldgblog, says that the landscape of horror films often depends on which state or country offers the biggest tax deductions, including such obscure ones as the amount of expenses caterers can deduct.

…My point is that an entire generation of people—not just Americans, but film viewers and coronavirus quarantine streamers and TV binge-watchers around the world—might have their imaginative landscapes shaped not by immaterial forces, by symbolic archetypes or universal rules bubbling up from the high-pressure depths of human psychology, but instead by tax breaks offered in particular U.S. states at particular moments in American history.

You grow up thinking about Gothic pine forests, or you fall asleep at night with visions of rain-soaked Georgia parking lots crowding your head, but it’s not just because of the aesthetic or atmospheric appeal of those landscapes; it’s because those landscapes are, in effect, receiving imaginative subsidies from local business bureaus. You’re dreaming of them for a reason….

(6) READ A KIJ JOHNSON STORY. Us in Flux is a new series of short stories and virtual gatherings from the Center for Science and the Imagination that explore themes of community, collaboration, and collective imagination in response to transformative events. The project’s second story launched today: “An Attempt at Exhausting My Deck,” by Kij Johnson.

On Monday, April 20 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have a virtual event on Zoom with Kij in conversation with Jessie Rack, an ecologist and coordinator for the Supporting Environmental Education and Communities program at the University of Arizona.

Programming Note: They’ll have two more weekly installments (stories by Chinelo Onwualu and Tochi Onyebuchi), then continue publishing on a biweekly schedule.  

(7) DENNEHY OBIT. Actor Brian Dennehy has died at the age of 81. His genre work included the movie Cocoon (1985), the Masters of Science Fiction episode “The Discarded” (2007) – based on a Harlan Ellison story, and voice work in Ratatouille (2007).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 15, 1955 Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 16, 1913 Lester Tremayne. Between 1953 and 1962, he appeared in these in these genre films: The War of the WorldsForbidden PlanetThe Monolith MonstersThe Angry Red Planet and Kong vs. Godzilla. He’d later appear in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaMy Favorite MartianMy Living Doll (yes, it’s SF) and Shazam! (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 16, 1918 Spike Milligan. Writer and principal star of The Goon Show which lampooned  a number of genre works such as H. Rider Haggard’s She, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, James Hilton’s Lost Horizon and Quatermass and the Pit. You can find these scripts in The Goon Show Scripts and More Goon Show Scripts. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: a James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction sounds fascinating published in the late Fifties, he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both a radio and television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 58. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb.
  • Born April 16, 1963 Scott Nicolay, 57. Navajo writer whose “Do You Like to Look At Monsters?“ was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. It’s found in his Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer the Other the Damned and the Doomed collection. He hosts The Outer Dark, a weekly podcast about weird fiction.
  • Born April 16, 1983 Thomas Olde Heuvelt, 37. He won a Novelette Hugo at Sasquan for “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” (translated by Lia Belt). He’s best for HEX, a horror novel, and  “You Know How the Story Goes: A Tor.com Original”  is his other English language story. 

(10) BIRTHDAY QUIZ. And via Lise Andreasen (translated from this tweet):

Who am I?
One of my names is þórhildur.
I appear on stamps from Greenland.
One of my ancestors was Harald Bluetooth.
I illustrated Tolkien under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer.
I turn 80 today. 

Answer: The Danish queen. 

(11) CAN YOU DO THIS? Wil Wheaton publicized an opportunity for 3D makers to help frontline workers: “Gamers vs. COVID-19”. Contact info at the link.

My upcoming eSports competition show, Gamemaster, has been delayed like everything else, but the people involved wanted to use the resources they had already mustered for production to do some good at a moment in time when it’s so desperately needed.

So we’re organizing to 3D print what we can for our frontline healthcare workers!

(12) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Anna Nemtova, in “Chernobyl Is Burning and a Sci-Fi Cult Is Blamed” on The Daily Beast, says that there are substantial fires in Ukraine near Chenobyl (closed to all visitors because of the coronavirus) and authorities blame “stalkers,” devotees of the Arkady and Boris Strugatsky novel Roadside Picnic, who are living on refuse left behind in the new sealed-off region, just like the “stalkers” in the Strugatsky brothers’ novel were scavengers who lived on refuse left behind by alien visitors.

…The Ukrainian state agency monitoring radiation levels has reported toxic lithium in the air, but the health minister reportedly says radiation levels are normal. Meanwhile, winds have brought the smoke in the direction of Kyiv, making hundreds of thousands of people under COVID-19 quarantine think twice before opening windows.

As often happens with wildfires, the cause of the blaze is not entirely clear. But in a truly strange twist, many in the region blame people who call themselves “stalkers,” inspired by characters in the classic science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic published back in 1972, in the Soviet era, by authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. 

It’s a story of how people on Earth deal with a visit by aliens who seem to have stopped off, paid little attention to the inhabitants, and, like irresponsible picnickers, left a lot of their junk lying around in half a dozen “Zones” on the planet. The aliens’ discarded refuse has enormous potential to change life on the planet, if only humans can figure out what it’s for. 

Most of the present-day stalkers are respectful of the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl and some have even fixed up abandoned apartments in the abandoned town of Pripyat. But there are also criminals, and there are constant conflicts with what had been booming legal tourism in the area before coronavirus lockdowns began March 16.

“They hate us tourist guides and our tourists,” Olena Gnes from Chernobyl Tour told The Daily Beast. “Now, when no tourists can travel to Chernobyl’s zone, the ghost city and the villages around belong to them.” 

“The fire started right on the paths, where stalkers normally walk,” said Yaroslav Emelianenko, director of the Chernobyl Tour group, who saw the fire and visited burned villages Sunday, then returned to Kyiv to collect generators, respirators, and other aid for firefighters….

(13) SILVER SLATE. To make sure the Dragon Awards continue to enjoy the reputation they have today, Superversive SF signal boosted “Silver Empire’s Slate for the 2020 Dragon Awards”. Silver Empire publisher Russell Newquist’s stable includes all of these authors, plus John C. Wright and more.

Silver Empire’s Slate for the 2020 Dragon Awards

  • Best Sci Fi: Overlook by Jon Mollison
  • Best Fantasy (incl. Paranormal): Victory’s Kiss by Bokerah Brumley
  • Best YA: The Unbearable Heaviness of Remembering by L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright
  • Best Mi-SF: Justified by Jon Del Arroz
  • Best Alt History: This Deadly Engine by (Philip) Matt Ligon
  • Best Horror: Deus Vult by Declan Finn

(14) RHETORIC…ARISTOTLE…SOMETHING. Five years later (!), Chris Nuttall is still trying to reshape what the Sad and Rabid Puppies did into an argument he can win: “The Right to be Wrong”.

…For example, a few years ago, I attended a panel at a convention that touched on the Sad Puppies controversy.  One of the panellists put forward an argument that went a little like this: “Vox Day supports the Sad Puppies, Vox Day is a fascist bastard, therefore the Sad Puppies are evil.”  Quite apart from the sheer number of inaccuracies in the statement, it misses the fundamental point that [whatever] is not rendered right or wrong by whoever says it.  Just because Vox Day said something doesn’t make it automatically wrong.  That argument leads to logical fallacies like “Hitler was a vegetarian and openly promoted the lifestyle, therefore vegetarians are evil.”  I’m pretty sure that every last vegetarian would find that fallacy offensive.

The Sad Puppies affair does show, on a small scale, the problems caused by bad faith arguments.  No one would have objected to a statement that started “the Sad Puppy books are not Hugo-worthy” and gone on to give a calm and reasonable argument.  Even if the arguments were unconvincing, they would not have the corrosive effects of bad faith arguments like the one I mentioned above and many more. …

(15) AT THE CORE. “Astronomers saw a star dancing around a black hole. And it proves Einstein’s theory was right”CNN has the details.

… Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity suggested the orbit would look like an ellipse, but it doesn’t. The rosette shape, however, holds up Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“Einstein’s general relativity predicts that bound orbits of one object around another are not closed, as in Newtonian gravity, but precess forwards in the plane of motion,” said Reinhard Genzel, in a statement. He is the director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

…Sagittarius A* is the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It’s 26,000 light-years from the sun. Our solar system exists on the edge of one of the Milky Way’s massive spiral arms.

Dense stars can be found around the black hole. One of them, the star known as S2 in this observation, passes closest to the black hole within less than 20 billion kilometers.

It’s one of the closest stars to be found orbiting the black hole.

And when it nears the black hole, the star is moving at 3% the speed of light. It takes 16 Earth years for the star to complete an orbit around the black hole.

“After following the star in its orbit for over two and a half decades, our exquisite measurements robustly detect S2’s Schwarzschild precession in its path around Sagittarius A*,” said Stefan Gillessen, who led the analysis of the measurements at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.

(16) PYRAMID IN THE SKY. “Europe’s Cheops telescope begins study of far-off worlds”.

Europe’s newest space telescope has begun ramping up its science operations.

Cheops was launched in December to study and characterise planets outside our Solar System.

And after a period of commissioning and testing, the orbiting observatory is now ready to fulfil its mission.

Early targets for investigation include the so-called “Styrofoam world” Kelt-11b; the “lava planet” 55 Cancri-e; and the “evaporating planet” GJ-436b.

Discovered in previous surveys of the sky, Cheops hopes to add to the knowledge of what these and hundreds of other far-flung objects are really like.

…Kelt-11b has provided a good early demonstration. This is a giant exoplanet some 30% larger than our own Jupiter that orbits very close to a star called HD 93396. Kelt-11b is a seemingly “puffed up” world with a very low density – hence the comparison with expanded foam.

From the way the light from the star dips when Kelt-11b moves in front to make its transit, Cheops’ exquisite photometer instrument is able to determine the planet’s diameter to be 181,600km (plus or minus 4,290km). This measurement is over five times more precise than was possible using a ground-based telescope.

(17) MATTER OF IMPORTANCE. BBC reports “Biggest cosmic mystery ‘step closer’ to solution”.

Stars, galaxies, planets, pretty much everything that makes up our everyday lives owes its existence to a cosmic quirk.

The nature of this quirk, which allowed matter to dominate the Universe at the expense of antimatter, remains a mystery.

Now, results from an experiment in Japan could help researchers solve the puzzle – one of the biggest in science.

It hinges on a difference in the way matter and antimatter particles behave.

…During the first fractions of a second of the Big Bang, the hot, dense Universe was fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs popping in and out of existence. Without some other, unknown mechanism at play, the Universe should contain nothing but leftover energy.

“It would be pretty boring and we wouldn’t be here,” Prof Stefan Söldner-Rembold, head of the particle physics group at the University of Manchester, told BBC News.

So what happened to tip the balance?

That’s where the T2K experiment comes in. T2K is based at the Super-Kamiokande neutrino observatory, based underground in the Kamioka area of Hida, Japan.

(18) VACCINE RESEARCH. “Global race to a COVID-19 vaccine” — a bit Harvard-centric, but a lot of detail on various approaches.

In Dan Barouch’s lab, many researchers have not taken a day off since early January, and virtually all are working nearly seven days week to develop a vaccine that could help end the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everybody wants to contribute to this global crisis as best they can,” said Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The team hopes their work will be worth it. There is cause for optimism.

The lab developed a vaccine in collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos., the drug-making arm of Johnson & Johnson. It plans to launch clinical trials in the fall as part of a joint $1 billion collaboration agreement announced by the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson on March 30…..

(19) ALGOLRITHIM AND BLUES. “Coronavirus: Facebook alters virus policy after damning misinformation report”.

Facebook is changing how it treats Covid-19 misinformation after a damning report into its handling of the virus.

Users who have read, watched or shared false coronavirus content will receive a pop-up alert urging them to go the World Health Organisation’s website.

A study had indicated Facebook was frequently failing to clamp down on false posts, particularly when they were in languages other than English.

Facebook said the research did not reflect the work it had done recently.

The California tech firm says it will start showing the messages at the top of news feeds “in the coming weeks”.

The messages will direct people to a World Health Organisation webpage where myths are debunked.

The changes have been prompted by a major study of misinformation on the platform across six languages by Avaaz, a crowdfunded activist group.

Researchers say millions of Facebook users continue to be exposed to coronavirus misinformation, without any warning on the platform.

The group found some of the most dangerous falsehoods had received hundreds of thousands of views, including claims like “black people are resistant to coronavirus” and “Coronavirus is destroyed by chlorine dioxide”.

(20) WHAT GOES AROUND. The coronavirus has turned this bus into the “Dave Kyle says you can’t sit here” Express. (Reference explained at the link.)

(21) KEEP THEM DOGIES ROLLIN’. Digital Trends tells how “Stanford’s shape-shifting ‘balloon animal’ robot could one day explore space”.

The cool thing about balloon animals is that, using the same basic inflatable building blocks, a skilled person can create just about anything you could ask for. That same methodology is what’s at the heart of a recent Stanford University and University of California, Santa Barbara, soft robotics project. Described by its creators as a “large-scale isoperimetric soft robot,” it’s a human-scale robot created from a series of identical robot roller modules that are mounted onto inflatable fabric tubes. Just like the balloon animals you remember, this leads to some impressive shape-shifting inventiveness….

[Thanks to Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff (this is the other half of a suggestion, the first part of which ran last year on June 15).]

“Us in Flux” Project from Center for Science and the Imagination

Us in Flux, a new series of stories and virtual live events about community, collaboration, and collective imagination in times of transformative change, has been launched by The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University. They will publish an original flash fiction story every Thursday, and the following Monday at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll host a conversation between the author and an expert in a related field.

The first story, released April 9, is “The Parable of the Tares” by Christopher Rowe, about food, monoculture, and communities that draw together the human and non-human. On Monday, April 13 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they will host their first virtual event, putting Rowe in conversation with Michael Bell, chair of the Community & Environmental Sociology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Their press release outlines the mission —

“The only lasting truth is change.” — Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Sower

As the ground shifts under our feet and we ponder the far-reaching effects of this global crisis, Octavia Butler’s words ring true. Uncertainty abounds even in the best of times, and our responses to it determine our fate. Understanding, anticipating, and responding to change is at the heart of science fiction— envisioning ourselves amid the strange and the fantastic attunes us to the unexpected and helps us chart a course to a better future.

With this in mind, we’re proud to launch Us in Flux, a weekly series of flash fiction stories and virtual events about community, collaboration, and collective imagination in the face of transformative change. But fear not: these aren’t tales of the apocalypse. We’ve invited a group of talented authors, scholars, and creators to give us glimpses of new worlds; of people and systems in transition; and of the different ways we might flourish in times of adversity.

Upcoming pieces will be by Kij Johnson (April 16), Chinelo Onwualu (April 23), Tochi Onyebuchi (April 30), Tina Connolly, and Nisi Shawl.

On Monday, April 13, at 1:00 pm Arizona time (4:00 pm Eastern), Christopher Rowe will be joined by Michael Bell, professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for a deeper dive into “The Parable of the Tares.”

During this live event, Christopher and Mike will talk about the origins of the story, their shared passion for agroecology and politics, and what this story has to say about our current moment. The discussion will be broadcast live on Zoom and available on-demand shortly after. Register today!