Pixel Scroll 7/11/21 Why, Sir I Shall Call The Pixel Squad. You Are In Need Of Pixelation. They Will Scroll You

(1) TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. The Salam Award, which promotes imaginative fiction in and about Pakistan, released this video by Mushba Said to remind Pakistani writers they have until midnight July 31 to submit entries for the award. See full guidelines at the link. Participants must either be currently residing in Pakistan, or be of Pakistani birth/descent.

(2) GO ASK ALICE. This article in The New Yorker will pique your interest in the Victoria & Albert’s exhibition about “The Beguiling Legacy of ‘Alice in Wonderland’”.

The origins of Alice’s tumble into Wonderland and its long cultural afterlife—everything from Carroll’s tentative first sketches to cheery, Alice-themed advertisements for Guinness and tomato juice produced a hundred years later (“Welcome to a Wonderland of good drinking!”)—are the subject of a beguiling new exhibition, “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser,” at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. 

Here’s a link to the Victoria & Albert museum’s webpage about the exhibit: “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser – Exhibition at South Kensington”.

Exploring its origins, adaptations and reinventions over 157 years, this immersive and theatrical show charts the evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from manuscript to a global phenomenon beloved by all ages.

They also offer a virtual reality tour: “V&A · Curious Alice: The Vr Experience”.

From rabbit holes to psychedelic mushrooms, flamingos to hedgehogs, Wonderland is the perfect world to explore in virtual reality. Curious Alice encourages audiences to reward their curiosity by navigating a fantastical landscape, interacting with the book’s famous characters and completing a series of curious challenges. Race against the clock to capture the White Rabbit’s missing glove; solve the Caterpillar’s mind-bending riddles; defeat the Queen of Hearts in a curious game of croquet.

(3) WENDIG AND KHAW. Powell’s Books presents “Chuck Wendig in Conversation With Cassandra Khaw,” promoting Wendig’s new book, on July 29 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for the virtual event here.

A family returns to their hometown — and to the dark past that haunts them still — in The Book of Accidents (Del Rey), a new masterpiece of literary horror by Chuck Wendig, bestselling author of Wanderers…. Wendig will be joined in conversation by Cassandra Khaw, game writer and author of Nothing but Blackened Teeth.

(4) POWER OF SFF POETRY. Sandra J. Lindow reviews Greg Beatty’s poetry collection Cosmic Songs for Human Ears at SPECPO, which includes his 2005 Rhysling winner “No Ruined Lunar City.”

An introductory essay published in 2005, “Driving the Machine Backward Through the Graveyard of Dead Narrative,” explains the evolution of genre poetry through reference to Johanna Russ’s 1971 critical essay, “The Wearing Out of Genre Materials.” Which argues that genre tropes progress through three distinct stages: “Innocence” which seems to be characterized by novelty and sense of wonder, “Plausibility,” which describes how authors use the rules of verisimilitude to support readers suspension of disbelief, and finally “Decadence” where a petrification of genre rules, “stylized, like ballet,” tempts writers to break long established conventions, for instance, combining magic with aliens and dinosaurs. Although Russ writes that it is not possible for a genre to return to Innocence, Beatty argues that it is possible for genre poetry to create a “liminal space” where tropes from fantasy and science become metaphor for human experience, thereby avoiding Decadence and possibly returning to the novelty and energy of Innocence.

(5) IT HAD TO BE SNAKE. The Guardian celebrates “Escape From New York at 40: John Carpenter rebelling against the system”.

With a pirate’s eyepatch and a scowl that seems as fixed and enigmatic as Mona Lisa’s smile, Snake Plissken, the hero of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, drifts through a cataclysmic future like a man condemned, forced into a mission that, at best, might save a world he doesn’t care about anyway. The allegiances he forges along the way are hard-earned but only temporary, swiftly discarded as he survives one assignment and looks ahead to another one. He is deeply suspicious of authority, too, from the two-faced benefactor who’s forcing him through an impossible gauntlet to an aloof president who’s openly contemptuous of him and others like him.

In other words, Snake Plissken is John Carpenter, and Escape from New York was the first of three films in the 1980s in which Kurt Russell would serve as his charismatic stand-in – an iconoclast who had no home in the new Hollywood, but would take up residence on its fringes. As Plissken runs and guns his way through a Manhattan that’s been turned into maximum security prison, it’s easy to imagine it as an allegory for a film production, where Carpenter weaves his way through an impossible job with the help of fellow ne’er-do-wells that he’ll have to leave behind at the end. If he survives, it’s onto the next gauntlet….

(6) THE SHARP END. Netflix dropped a trailer for season 2 of The Witcher. Premieres December 17.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 11, 2011 — A decade ago, Alphas premiered on Syfy. It was created by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow. It is in the same universe as Warehouse 13 and Eureka, a fact confirmed when Vanessa Calder who is a recurring character on Warehouse 13 appeared in one episode of the series. (Thanks Andrew (not Werdna) for confirming that in a recent Scroll.)  It had far too many Executive Producers and Producers to list here, a puzzle for a series that would last but two seasons and twenty four episodes. It starred David Strathairn, Ryan Cartwright, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba and Erin Way. Critics in general loved it and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a most excellent seventy seven rating. Syfy cancelled it on an unresolved cliffhanger. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 — E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. Along with William Strunk Jr., he is the co-author of the The Elements of Style English language style guide. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1913 — Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I read once upon a time in fragments. The usual suspects are well stocked with his novels and short stories including Scanners Live in Vain, a most excellent novella. (Died 1966.)
  • Born July 11, 1920 — Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. Are we considering The King and I genre or even genre adjacent?  If we are, he played King Mongkut in the short-lived Anna and the King TV series as well. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1925 — David Graham, 96. The voice of Daleks in the early years of Doctor Who including two non-canon films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.; his voice work made him a sought after worker and he’d be used on ThunderbirdsAsterix & Obelix Take On Caesar, Timeslip, Moomin, Stingray and even the recent Thunderbirds Are Go. And yes, he’s still doing voice work as his last genre work was for the Nebula-75 series just last year.
  • Born July 11, 1950 — Bruce McGill, 71. His first role was as Director Eugene Matuzak in Time Cop. He later got one-offs in Quantum Leap (twice), Babylon 5Voyager and Tales from the Crypt. He’s in the television remake of The Man Who Fell to Earth as Vernon Gage. If MacGyver counts as genre, he has the recurring role of Jack Dalton. 
  • Born July 11, 1956 — Amitav Ghosh, 65. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Really just go read it and we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. His newest work is about the medieval Bengali tale about the forest (Sundarbans) goddess, Bon Bibi.
  • Born July 11, 1958 — Alan Gutierrez, 63. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog magazine, Aboriginal Science FictionAsimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines. He’s been nominated for five Asimov’s Readers Awards and two Analog Awards as well. 
  • Born July 11, 1984 — Serinda Swan, 37. She first graces our corner of the multiverse in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief as Aphrodite. Later on she’s in Tron: Legacy as Siren #2. Currently she’s Medusa in The Inhumans. She’s got one-offs in Supernatural, Smallville and The Tomorrow People.

(9) PUT TO THE TEST. DUST’s new sci-fi short film release is “Intelligentia”.

Lisa receives a butler A.I. to Turing test, and over the course of the procedure, she discovers the A.I. is not what it seems and her entire world disrupted.

(10) FLIGHT TO THE EDGE OF SPACE. The 70-year-old British billionaire and crew members of Virgin Galactic launched the commercial space plane Unity from New Mexico, reached the edge of space and landed safely back at the spaceport on Sunday. The New York Times posted “Highlights From Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Flight”.

…The rocket plane, a type called SpaceShipTwo, is about the size of an executive jet. In addition to the two pilots, there can be up to four people in the cabin. The particular SpaceShipTwo that flew on Sunday is named V.S.S. Unity.

To get off the ground, Unity was carried by a larger plane to an altitude of about 50,000 feet. There, Unity was released, and the rocket plane’s motor ignited. The acceleration made people on board feel a force up to 3.5 times their normal weight on the way to an altitude of more than 50 miles.

At the top of the arc, those on board were able to see the blackness of space as well as the curve of Earth from the plane’s windows. They also got out of their seats and experienced about four minutes of apparent weightlessness. Fifty miles up, Earth’s downward gravitational pull is essentially just as strong as it is on the ground; rather, the passengers were falling at the same pace as the plane around them.

The two tail booms at the back of the space plane then rotated up to a “feathered” configuration that created more drag and stability, allowing the plane to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere more gently. This configuration SpaceShipTwo like a badminton shuttlecock, which always falls with the pointy side oriented down, than a plane.

Still, the forces felt by the passengers on the way down were greater than on the way up, reaching six times the force of gravity.

Branson gets all the attention – but who piloted the mission and were the other crew members?

The pilots are David Mackay and Michael Masucci….

In addition to Mr. Branson, three Virgin Galactic employees joined the flight to evaluate how the experience will be for future paying customers. They were Beth Moses, the chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations.

In 2018 The New Yorker profiled a predecessor in “Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man”, “The ace pilot risking his life to fulfill Richard Branson’s billion-dollar quest to make commercial space travel a reality.”

At 5 a.m. on April 5th, Mark Stucky drove to an airstrip in Mojave, California, and gazed at SpaceShipTwo, a sixty-foot-long craft that is owned by Virgin Galactic, a part of the Virgin Group. Painted white and bathed in floodlight, it resembled a sleek fighter plane, but its mission was to ferry thousands of tourists to and from space.

Stucky had piloted SpaceShipTwo on two dozen previous test flights, including three of the four times that it had fired its rocket booster, which was necessary to propel it into space. On October 31, 2014, he watched the fourth such flight from mission control; it crashed in the desert, killing his best friend. On this morning, Stucky would be piloting the fifth rocket-powered flight, on a new iteration of the spaceship. A successful test would restore the program’s lustre.

Stucky walked into Virgin Galactic’s large beige hangar. He is fifty-nine and has a loose-legged stroll, tousled salt-and-pepper hair, and sunken, suntanned cheeks. In other settings, he could pass for a retired beachcomber. He wears the smirk of someone who feels certain that he’s having more fun than you are…

(11) SKYSCRAPER CAT. CBS This Morning devoted a short segment to the 3-D cat billboard in Tokyo that was recently covered by the Scroll. Their report includes video callbacks to several previous 3-D billboards.

(12) SO BAD YOU CAN’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF IT. In “The Schlock-Horror Drive-In That Rose From the Grave”, the New York Times tells about a drive-in revival in Pennsylvania.  

It was about 2 a.m. on a Sunday when the gross-out horror-comedy “Class of Nuke ’Em High” started playing at the Mahoning Drive-In. This was the last screening at TromaDance, an annual showcase of low-budget horror and sex comedies produced by the Queens-based Troma movie studio. Earlier that evening, about 600 cars had piled into the drive-in in Lehighton, Pa., but by 2 a.m., only the die-hards remained. Kevin Schmidt, an extra in the film, was among them.

He had driven to the Mahoning from Summit, N.J., and hadn’t seen the movie projected on screen since it was first shown in Jersey City in December 1986. “This is the only time I can justify driving 100 miles to see a movie,” Mr. Schmidt said much earlier in the evening.

By the time the evening was over, it had been another success for the Mahoning, a 72-year-old drive-in theater that was left for dead just seven years ago….

…Movie screenings at the Mahoning Drive-In often feel like events. Films are shown in double and triple features, sandwiched between older (and often bizarre) movie trailers. You might take in “Escape From New York” and “Invasion U.S.A.,” which play after vintage church advertisements (“Worship at the church of your choice”) or an anti-cable-TV screed (“Don’t let pay TV be the monster in your living room”). It is, in the words of Mr. Schmidt, “a special place.”…

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Director Mel Stuart reminiscences about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in this short from 2011 that Warner Bros. released two weeks ago.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Dann.]

Pixel Scroll 5/23/21 Looking Up Out Of An Inkwell

(1) BANDFORMER ROBOT. Daði Freyr’s (Daði & Gagnamagnið) song “10 Years” finished fourth in the 2021 Eurovision contest. The official video is entertainingly science fictional.

(2) POWELL BOOKS. Emily Inkpen was able to have “A Conversation with Gareth L. Powell”, creator of Silversands, The Recollection, and the trilogies; Ack Ack Macaque and Embers of War.

I know that for the Japanese translation of Embers of War, the title of the book was changed, can you tell us what it’s known as in Japan?

[GLP] The Japanese title translates as “Warship Girl,” which puts the emphasis firmly on the character of the sentient starship Trouble Dog.

Deciding on a title for a book can be difficult. The Japanese title switches the emphasis from the wider political context of the book, to one of the main characters. Do you think this will change the way people in Japan approach the book?

[GLP] I’m not sure. The Japanese cover has a very cool manga-style illustration of Trouble Dog’s human persona, so coupled with the title change, I think the publishers are very much positioning her as the main character/selling point. She’s young but hooked into this powerful weapon, and I think in that way perhaps they see her in the same sort of light as the main characters in Ghost in the Machine or Akira.

(3) FUTURE CRIMES. Jed S. Rakoff questions the rationale of being “Sentenced by Algorithm” at The New York Review. (Complete article is behind a paywall.)

Is it fair for a judge to increase a defendant’s prison time on the basis of an algorithmic score that predicts the likelihood that he will commit future crimes? Many states now say yes, even when the algorithms they use for this purpose have a high error rate, a secret design, and a demonstrable racial bias. The former federal judge Katherine Forrest, in her short but incisive When Machines Can Be Judge, Jury, and Executioner, says this is both unfair and irrational.

One might think that the very notion of a defendant having his prison time determined not just by the crime of which he was convicted, but also by a prediction that he will commit other crimes in the future, would be troubling on its face. Such “incapacitation”—depriving the defendant of the capacity to commit future crimes—is usually defended on the grounds that it protects the public and is justifiable as long as the sentence is still within the limits set by the legislature for the crime. But the reality is that the defendant is receiving enhanced punishment for crimes he hasn’t committed, and that seems wrong.

Nonetheless, Congress and state legislatures have long treated incapacitation as a legitimate goal of sentencing. For example, the primary federal statute setting forth the “factors to be considered in imposing a sentence” (18 U.S.C. sec. 3553, enacted in 1984) provides, among other things, that “the court, in determining the particular sentence to be imposed, shall consider…the need for the sentence imposed…to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.”

How is the likelihood of “further crimes of the defendant” to be determined?

(4) THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY. Mohammad Reza Kamali delves into “The Tale of the annotated map and Tolkien’s hidden riddles – Part Four”.

To find out whether Europe or anywhere else was really the source of inspiration for Tolkien’s work, we need to have documented evidence. The most famous evidence from Tolkien’s writings about comparing our earth to Middle-earth is his famous Letter 294:

The action of the story takes place in the North-west of ‘Middle-earth’, equivalent in latitude to coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean… If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy.

But as we saw in detail in part 1 of this article series, Tolkien’s note on the annotated map that was discovered fairly recently helps us understand he is not saying in Letter 294 that he was inspired by Europe itself in creating his Middle-earth map, but that he was using well-known European locations to illustrate the position and dimensions of Middle-earth.

We have talked many times about Letter 294 in my article series because has long been considered the greatest enemy of my research, which considers Tolkienian influences further east than Europe. Because of this letter, for years my research has been quickly dismissed almost as a joke, and few took it seriously. But when the annotated map notes were found, the situation suddenly changed. Let’s look at the situation afresh….

(5) LONE STARS. In the Washington Post, Matt Hurwitz has a preview of Solos, a near-future original anthology series on Amazon Prime which has one performer (including Anthony Mackie and Dame Helen Mirren) in every episode. “In ‘Solos,’ Helen Mirren, Anthony Mackie and Constance Wu are part of an impressive cast. Here’s why it needed ‘true masters of the craft.’”

“My dad always used to say, ‘If you talk to yourself, that’s fine, but if you answer yourself, it’s a problem,’?” recalls actor Anthony Mackie. In Amazon Prime’s “Solos,” however, he kind of does just that.

In fact, most of his esteemed colleagues — including Oscar winners Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Anne Hathaway, along with Constance Wu, Dan Stevens, Nicole Beharie and Uzo Aduba — do as well. Each of the show’s seven episodesfeatures, with slight exception, a single actor. Going it alone.

….As a sci-fi fan, Weil gave each “Solos” tale a futuristic bent. “Just a few minutes in the future, though. Sometimes we need a little bit of distance to appreciate the experiences and emotions we’re feeling today,” he says. “What if there was an A.I. that could replace your loved one who passes away? What if, in the future, there was a fertility drug that could ensure 100 percent success? What if, in the future, we had smart homes that were a participant in our own lives?”

The concept gave him and his co-writers a chance to take some of those occasional character ideas that don’t always have a place and give them their day. “All writers have ideas we scribble on the back of a bar napkin, or that we log in on our computer at 2 a.m. and don’t know how they’re going to fit in something we’re working on,” he says. “This was a moment to pluck those characters from obscurity and give them life, a moment onstage.”…

Vogue also profiles Helen Mirren and her character’s Dior wardrobe.

(6) STOKER CEREMONY. You can hear the deeply touching speeches and acceptance remarks while viewing yesterday’s online 2020 Bram Stoker Awards® Ceremony at YouTube.

(7) GET YOUR CARD PUNCHED. Scott Edelman followed last night’s ceremony with an induction of his own.

Another Bram Stoker awards ceremony means — there are new winners — but also new losers. Some of them who like me are in the Never Winner category said they’re looking forward to having me give a new punch to their “It is an honor to be nominated” cards when we meet next year in Denver. But if there are any *new* Never Winner losers out there who’d like this Susan Lucci of the HWA to mail you one — just ask!

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 22, 1957 — On this day in 1957, Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest.  It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 23, 1915 – Oliver Butterworth.  Four decades a Professor of English at Hartford College; staged a yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday party.  Six children’s books: we can claim The Enormous Egg which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, two more.  The egg was enormous because it had to hatch a triceratops, eventually named Uncle Beazley.  Egg was made into a play, produced on television by NBC Children’s Theater.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1915 – William Timmins.  A run of 46 Astounding covers including for The World of Null-A, six more; here’s his last; fifty interiors. Outside our field, All AcesThe Boy Scout HandbookCluesDime SportsFamily CircleLibertyThe ShadowWestern Storyoilswatercolors.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1921 — James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in FlightA Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek pieces of fiction though he certainly pumped them out with nearly ninety all told if I’m reading ISFDB right. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name (Arthur Merlyn). (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1934 – Phil Castora.  Quiet and unassuming fan, joined us in 1951 at Pittsburgh, then Washington, D.C., then Los Angeles where I met him.  Quiet, that is, unless something struck him as really funny, when he would collapse laughing, rolling on the floor and startling the cat.  I was like that in law school.  His letters to File 770 in paper days were gems, as Our Gracious Host has told us.  And OGH should know; he too served as LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) Secretary.  Luckily PC left a memoir, Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 – Isidore Haiblum.  City College of New York with honors.  Eighteen novels, a good number; thirteen are ours, a good number for those of us among whom eighteen is a good number.  Roger Zelazny called Interworld a mix of hard-boiled and zany, and he should know.  Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (with Stuart Silver) about Golden Age radio.  Interviewed Isaac Bashevis Singer in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1941 – Brenda Seabrooke, age 80.  Six novels for us.  “Believably weaves the supernatural elements into the story,” said one reviewer.  Here is the Dutch edition of The Vampire in My Bathtub.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1967 — Sean Williams, 54. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1974 – Sarah Beth Durst, age 47.  A score of fantasies.  Alex Award from American Lib’y Ass’n.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Drink, Slay, Love made into a Lifetime movie.  About The Reluctant Queen, here’s her Big Idea.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1979 — Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1986 — Ryan Coogler, 35, Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also was Director for as he will be for Black Panther 2. Producer, Space Jam 2 (pre-production) producer of the forthcoming Wankanda series on Disney+. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy makes a cartoon from an idea that goes back to the early days of television.

(11) THIS IS NOT THE BBC. Get a few more giggles from the pages of fandom’s antiquity while you listen to this recording of the broadcast spoof “1960 TAFF RACE: ELECTION NIGHT” at Rob Hansen’s THEN site.

Relive the excitement of the 1960 election courtesy of the Liverpool group as results for candidates Mal Ashworth, Eric Bentcliffe, and Sandy Sanderson pour in from across the country.

**********

Script by John Roles and Stan Nuttall.

Cast: Marjorie Dendon, Eddie Jones, Pat Milnes (formerly Doolan), Stan, Norman and Ina Shorrock, Norman Weedall, John Roles and Stan Nuttall.

(12) FASHION STATEMENT. In case you ever wondered, here are “All of Batgirl’s Costumes, Ranked” by Nerdist’s Eric Diaz.

Batgirl is finally getting her own feature film, coming to us from the Bad Boys for Life directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. Barbara Gordon is one of DC Comics’ most famous heroes, and it’s about time she got her due. But just which costume is the heroine going to use when protecting Gotham City on screen?

Since 1967, Batgirl has worn several variations of her world-famous costume. Both in the comic book pages, and in other media. We’re sure her live-action suit will take inspiration from her entire wardrobe spanning the last five decades. And we’re here to rank them all, from least favorite to greatest…

In last place –

11. DC Super Hero Girls (2015)

The DC Super Hero Girls cartoon and toyline came out in 2015 and successfully sold the concept of DC heroines to young girls. All of their costumes were reinvented. Some more successfully than others. In the initial concept, Batgirl loses her famous cowl and cape, and replaces them with a hoodie and mini bat wings. It’s totally cute, but loses too many essential elements of the original costume’s silhouette. So for that reason, it comes in last.

(13) AUCTION SURPRISE. “Handwritten example of famous Einstein equation fetches $1.2 million” reports the Los Angeles Times.

A letter from Albert Einstein in which he writes out his famous E = mc2 equation has sold at auction for more than $1.2 million, about three times more than it was expected to get, Boston-based RR Auction said Friday.

Archivists at the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem say there are only three other known examples of Einstein writing the world-changing equation in his own hand.

This fourth example, the only one in a private collection, became public only recently, according to RR Auction, which had expected it to sell for about $400,000.

“It’s an important letter from both a holographic and a physics point of view,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction, calling the equation the most famous in the world.

The equation — energy equals mass times the speed of light squared — changed physics by demonstrating that time was not absolute and that mass and energy were equivalent.

The one-page letter, written in German to Polish American physicist Ludwik Silberstein, is dated Oct. 26, 1946. Silberstein was a well-known critic and challenger to some of Einstein’s theories.

“Your question can be answered from the E = mc2 formula, without any erudition,” Einstein wrote in the letter on Princeton University letterhead, according to a translation provided by RR Auction.

(14) SECRET INGREDIENTS? “$100 Disneyland sandwich ranks as one of the world’s most expensive” – the Orange County Register may let you read the story if you do it very fast before the paywall crashes down. Maybe it’s a test of your superhero qualifications to eat this sandwich. (Even then, you’ll need Tony Stark to float you a loan.)

The new $99.99 Quantum-sized Pym-ini Sandwich coming to the Pym Test Kitchen when Avengers Campus debuts June 4 at Disney California Adventure ranks among the world’s most expensive sandwiches.

What’s in the sandwich? For that price, it better come with super powers and side of immortality.

(15) BOOK LOVE. Lela E. Buis does a “Review of ‘Little Free Library’ by Naomi Kritzer”, a 2021 Hugo finalist.  

…So, this is absorbing and really entertaining. Most of the story is made up of Meigan’s loving preparation and stocking of the library (attractive for book lovers), and the increasingly strange results as her books disappear and the odd gifts and correspondence begin to appear in their place….

(16) VIRGIN TEST FLIGHT. “Virgin Galactic rocket ship ascends from New Mexico” – a local CBS affiliate has the story.

Virgin Galactic on Saturday made its first rocket-powered flight from New Mexico to the fringe of space in a manned shuttle, as the company forges toward offering tourist flights to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.

High above the desert in a cloudless sky, the VSS Unity ignited its rocket to hurtle the ship and two pilots toward space. A live feed by NASASpaceFlight.com showed the ship accelerating upward and confirmed a landing later via radar.

Virgin Galactic announced that its VSS Unity shuttle accelerated to three times the speed of sound and reached an altitude of just over 55 miles (89 kilometers) above sea level before making its gliding return through the atmosphere.

… Virgin Galactic has reached space twice before. The first time was from California in December 2018.

The flights are designed to reach an altitude of at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) as the rocket motor is turned off and the crew prepares to reenter the atmosphere and glide to a landing.

As part of the return trip, a feathering system slows and stabilizes the craft as it re-enters the atmosphere.

New Mexico taxpayers have invested over $200 million in the Spaceport America hangar and launch facility, near Truth or Consequences, after Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, pitched the plan for the facility, with Virgin Galactic as the anchor tenant.

(17) DON’T GET LOST. “Europe plans sat-nav and telecoms network at the Moon”BBC has the plan.

The European Space Agency is proposing a precise navigation system at the Moon, much like the sat-nav technology we have here on Earth.

It would enable spacecraft and astronauts to know exactly where they are when moving around the lunar body and to land with precision.

The initiative, known as Moonlight, would also incorporate a telecommunications function.

A large flotilla of lunar missions will be launched this decade.

Chief among them will be the US space agency-led successor to Apollo. Called Project Artemis, this will put crews on the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Netflix’s anime division dropped a trailer for Trese, based on an acclaimed Flilipino comic series.

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jeffrey Jones with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 9/29/20 The Three-Tribble Problem

(1) TREK THE VOTE. Trek fans are called on to volunteer their time to help protect election integrity in this YouTube clip featuring many stars from all of the shows, including Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, and Armin Shimmerman.

(2) R.U.R. EXHIBIT. Radio Prague International posted on its English language page “Karel Capek’s ‘robots’ at 100 – new exhibition highlights foreign productions of R.U.R.” (although, of course, they used the proper character to begin the author’s last name, for which we have substituted “C” because WordPress turns the other into a question mark.)

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of R.U.R., the dystopian theatre play by Karel Capek that introduced the word ‘robot’ into English – and to science fiction as a whole. A new exhibition called A Journey into the Depths of the Robot’s Soul focuses on how Capek’s ground-breaking play was received and staged abroad.

R.U.R. (or ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’) was Karel ?apek’s most popular work during his lifetime, both in Czechoslovakia and abroad. By 1923, a couple of years after its premiere in Prague, the dystopian play had been translated into 30 languages and been staged in major theatres in Europe and across the Atlantic.

Exhibition curator Zdenek Vacek is director of the Karel Capek Memorial, a museum housed in the writer’s summer residence in Stará Hu?, south of Prague. For the centennial anniversary, he says, they decided to focus on the history of R.U.R.’s early foreign performances and influence on writers around the world.

(3) BOLDLY GOING? A comic con in LA in December? Don’t count on it: “L.A. Comic Con announces in-person event, but conventions are still banned in the state” – the LA Times has the story.

L.A. Comic Con says it is moving forward with its plan to hold an in-person convention in December at the L.A. Convention Center, but large gatherings — such as conventions and conferences — are currently not permitted anywhere in California amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event’s organizers explained in a Sunday announcement on the L.A. Comic Con website that they have been working with the convention center and taking guidance from state and local officials to plan an event they think will “be both safe and fun” for attendees and exhibitors.

But Doane Liu, the executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development, told The Times on Monday that this announcement came as a surprise and is premature.

“Under current state health guidelines, conventions are not allowed,” Liu said. “It’s not known when they will be allowed.”

…In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, the chief executive of L.A. Comic Con parent company Comikaze Entertainment, Chris DeMoulin, clarified that L.A. Comic Con is currently “a potential show.”

(4) DISNEY RETRENCHING. In fact, here’s more of the news we’re really expecting to see: “Disney to lay off 28,000 workers at domestic theme parks” reports the LA Times.

The Burbank-based company said Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 employees at its domestic parks division, which includes Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The company’s once-mighty parks division has been severely hobbled by the coronavirus health crisis. In March, Disney announced it was furloughing more than 100,000 workers after the pandemic forced the company to shut down its lucrative theme parks.

Walt Disney World has been operating with strict capacity limits and social distancing requirements. California has not yet allowed theme parks including Disneyland to resume business.

(5) TRAILER PARK. SciFiNow alerted viewers to “Cognition: Trailer Revealed For Sci-Fi Short”.

COGNITION is a short dystopian sci-fi drama / thriller about a son confronting his past trauma. Journeying through the symbolic landscape of the subconscious mind, the story follows an unbreakable bond between father and son…. A bond that transcends SPACE AND TIME…..

(6) ASHKIN DIES. Nobel laureate Arthur Ashkin, who the New York Times styles as having invented a ‘Tractor Beam’, died September 21 at the age of 98.

Arthur Ashkin, a physicist who was awarded a 2018 Nobel Prize for figuring out how to harness the power of light to trap microscopic objects for closer study, calling his invention optical tweezers, died on Sept. 21 at his home in Rumson, N.J. He was 98.

Optical tweezers — or optical traps, as they are more properly known — use the pressure from a highly focused laser beam to manipulate microscopic objects, from atoms to living organisms, like viruses and bacteria.

As the Nobel committee wrote, Dr. Ashkin had “invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, molecules, and living cells with their laser beam fingers.”

Trapping biological material proved to have groundbreaking practical applications in research and in understanding the behavior of the basic building blocks of life, like DNA, and other biological systems. Today, optical tweezers are widely manufactured and sold to researchers.

Dr. Ashkin’s “tweezer” is created by shining a laser — a beam of coherent monochromatic light — through a tiny magnifying lens. The lens creates a focal point for the laser, and, by a strange twist of nature, particles are drawn near that focal point and trapped there, unable to move up or down or backward or forward.

Steven M. Block, a professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford University, compared optical tweezers to the kind of immobilizing technology postulated in “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” calling them “the closest thing to a tractor beam that humans have ever produced.”…

(7) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

  • Fifty years ago, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness won the Hugo Award for Best Novel at Heicon ’70. (It would win the Nebula Award as well.) (The  runner-ups for the Hugo were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony‘s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.‘s  Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron.)  It was published first by Ace Books in their paperback Ace SF Special, Series 1 in 1969, and has had at least thirty editions in eleven languages though not Finnish. The first edition of The Left Hand of Darkness did not contain an introduction though later editions do. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 78. Setting aside Deadwood which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, though I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 76. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. Finally, she has played a starring role as Sally in the BBC’s alternate history An Englishman’s Castle series. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1949 – Joêlle Wintrebert, 71.  Nine novels, three dozen shorter stories; three years editing Univers; essays, reviews in Alerte!FictionFuturs; edited Petite anthologie de la science-fiction (all in French).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1952 – Lou Stathis.  Fan and pro.  Part of the SF Forum that gave birth to ICON.  Wrote for FantasticMississippi ReviewSF EyeThrustVertigo (i.e. DC Comics’). One novel.  Here is a Jeff Schalles photo from the mid-1980s.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 61. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next Gen, VoyagerDeep Space Nine, and  Enterprise. He’s also on Space Above and BeyondBabylon 5X-FilesStargate: SG-1Carnivale and Threshold.. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 59. A Whovian among Whoians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off, he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Dale Dickey, 59. She was Martha Bozeman in a recurring role on True Blood. She’s also been on Them: CovenantThe X-Files and Bones, and in two genre films, Changeling and Iron Man 3. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 – John O’Halloran, 59.  Long active at SF cons.  Webmaster for the Int’l Costumers Guild, 1989.  “Gerard” in the Best of Show “Trumps of Amber”, Torcon 3 (61st Worldcon) Masquerade, see here (at right) and here; judge, LoneStarCon 3 Masquerade (71st).  Official Photographer of Events, Loncon 3 (72nd); Official Photographer for Candid Shots, Sasquan (73rd) – see his Sasquan album here.  Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Chris), Baycon 2013.  Taiko drummer (as Chris is too).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1978 – Aislinn Batstone, 42.  (Forename is Irish, pronounced like “Aish-lin”.)  “What the Witch Wants” in Stupefying, “Instructions in My Absence” in Timeless Tales, a dozen more.  Master’s degree in Philosophy, taught philosophy, married a philosopher.  So there.  [JH, B.A. in Philosophy]
  • Born September 29, 1983 – Elisa McCausland, 37.  Half a dozen books (some collaborative).  Ignotus award for Wonder Woman about feminism as a superpower; later, with Diego Salgado, Supernovas, a feminist history of audiovisual SF; McC also does “Postheroic Transmutations”, about the subversive power of superheroines, on the Rock & Comics podcast (all in Spanish, i.e. her section of R&C is «Transmutaciones Postheroicas»).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) STOCKING UP. Virgin Galactic SPCE stock recorded big gains after more financial firms recommended it to investors: “Virgin Galactic jumps 25% in its second best day ever after getting Wall Street’s full endorsement”.

Shares of Virgin Galactic surged nearly 25% in trading Monday after Wall Street firms continued to set higher expectations for the space tourism stock.

The stock jump came after Bank of America and Susquehanna began coverage of Virgin Galactic. Notably, the two firms join six others in recommending Virgin Galactic’s stock to investors, giving the company the eight Wall Street buy ratings – and zero to hold or sell.

“No company in our coverage universe has anywhere near comparable growth potential,” Bank of America analyst Ron Epstein said.

Virgin Galactic’s 24.8% jump, with shares closing at $20.51, was its second-biggest in a trading day since its public debut last year. Including Monday’s climb, the stock is up about 78% this year.

(11) ALWAYS THOSE DARNED MUGGLES. “Scots Harry Potter fans slammed for cramming station to see Hogwarts Express” reports the UK’s Daly Record.

Scots Harry Potter fans have been slammed as ‘idiotic’ after scores of people crammed onto a railway platform to watch a train from the iconic film franchise pass by.

The steam train, made famous by the blockbuster movie series, travelled from its winter base in Carnforth in Lancashire on Monday.

The ‘Hogwarts Express’ route had several stops at a number of Scots stations, including Dalmuir in West Dunbartonshire.

The locomotive chuntered past the gathered Potter fanatics at around 5.45pm.

But photos that emerged of the fleeting moment sparked fury on social media.

Locals slammed Dalmuir residents for ignoring social distancing guidelines.

Some claimed that many among the large crowd on the platform were not wearing face masks or coverings and were also not staying two metres away from each other.

Many took to Facebook to vent their anger after the image was shared online.

One wrote: “Yes, it’s a train from Harry Potter, but I think there are much more important things going on.

“Covid-19 is so strong right now, Christmas is under threat.

“We are meant to be social distancing and none of this is happening whatsoever for a train.

“This is shameful, disgusting and very disappointing.”

Another added: “Where is the social distance there?”

A third commented: “I cannot believe the stupidity of these people all for the sake of a Harry Potter train….

(12) ABOUT YOUR STAR WARS KNOWLEDGE. Ranker contends there are “25 Things You Didn’t Know About The Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy”. (If I didn’t know that many answers on my driver’s exam, I’d be walking!) Here’s Number One —

1. James Earl Jones Wasn’t Credited By Request

James Earl Jones’ long career is filled with exceptional roles, but he’s probably best known for providing the voice of Darth Vader. David Prowse spoke all the dialogue as the movie was filmed, but his British West Country accent wasn’t working for George Lucas.

It’s unclear whether Lucas always planned to dub over Prowse’s dialogue, but in the end, that’s what he did, using Jones’ dialogue instead. Jones, however, asked that he not be given credit for his work in the film’s credit reel, and in the original, he wasn’t. 

Jones felt that his contribution to the film was minimal and he didn’t deserve credit. Over time, he realized the significance his voice gave to the character and reprised the role in subsequent movies, television series, and video games.

(13) BUSINESS OUTREACH. “How do you know you’ve arrived at the Uncommon Open Air weekend? You see the bookshop with a sea monster coming out of the windows,” the owners said on Facebook.  This landmark is the River Bookstore in Amherstburg, Ontario.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Screen Junkies, in “Firefly Honest Trailer” on YouTube, invite viewers to “suit up in their dustiest browns and beiges” to watch Firefly, the show with so much “quippy dialogue” that “if the ship goes under 50 quips an hour, it’s primed to explode!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cyril Simsa, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “One-Body” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/31/20 And I Won’t Forget To Scroll Pixels On Your Grave

(1) GALACTIC WALKTHROUGH. Journalists get a virtual tour as “Virgin Galactic Unveils Comfy Cabin for Jet-Setting to the Edge of Space” reports the New York Times.

The inside of Virgin Galactic’s space plane is like a space-age executive jet.

The seats recline to absorb the forces of acceleration toward space. Mood lighting shifts during each phase of the flight. Twelve windows — two for each of the six passengers, who have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each for a seat — provide an impressive view of Earth and the darkness of space. Sixteen cameras will capture you floating. And the back of the cabin includes a big circular mirror so that you can watch yourself enjoying a few minutes escaping the effects of gravity.

Virgin Galactic will be offering short up-and-down trips to the edge of space, essentially like giant roller coaster rides with better views, in its space plane, SpaceShipTwo.

But how can the company unveil the fancy new interior of its space plane in the middle of a global pandemic when journalists are not able to gather for a fancy media event?

Modern technology provided an imaginative solution. Virgin Galactic sent Oculus virtual reality headsets as loaners to journalists so that they could chat with the designers of the cabin while walking through a computer-generated version of it — an experience of almost being there while being nowhere near there….

(2) REASONS FOR SITE SELECTION WRITE-INS. Yeah. No.

(3) DRAGON AWARDS. Almost there – Dragon Awards.

Dragon Awards dates

Ballots for the awards will be released in the first week of August.

Voting registration closes on 9/4/20.

Voting closes on 9/5/20.

(3) JUST LIBRARIANS. “Internet Archive Answers Publishers’ Copyright Lawsuit”Publishers Weekly distills the defendant’s legal reply to the lawsuit.

In a July 28 filing, the Internet Archive answered a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by four major publishers, asserting that its long-running book scanning and lending program is designed to fulfill the role of a traditional library in the digital age, and is protected by fair use.

“The Internet Archive does what libraries have always done: buy, collect, preserve, and share our common culture,” reads the IA’s preliminary statement to its answer, contending that its collection of roughly 1.3 million scans of mostly 20th century books, many of which are out of print, is a good faith and legal effort to “mirror traditional library lending online” via a process called Controlled Digital Lending (CDL).

“Contrary to the publishers’ accusations, the Internet Archive, and the hundreds of libraries and archives that support it, are not pirates or thieves,” the filing states. “They are librarians, striving to serve their patrons online just as they have done for centuries in the brick-and-mortar world. Copyright law does not stand in the way of libraries’ right to lend, and patrons’ right to borrow, the books that libraries own.”

The IA’s answer comes in response to a June 1 copyright infringement lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York by Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and coordinated by the Association of American Publishers….

(4) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Elizabeth Hand and Michael Libling in a YouTube livestreamed event on Wednesday, August 19 at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Elizabeth Hand

Elizabeth Hand is the author of sixteen multiple-award-winning novels and collections of short fiction including Curious ToysWylding Hall, and Generation LossThe Book of Lamps and Banners, her fourth noir novel featuring punk provocateur and photographer Cass Neary, will be out this year. She divides her time between the Maine coast and North London.

Michael Libling

Michael Libling is a World Fantasy Award-nominated author whose short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Amazing Stories, and many others. His debut novel, Hollywood North: A Novel in Six Reels, was published in 2019. Michael is the father of three daughters and lives on Montreal’s West Island with his wife, Pat, and a big black dog named Piper.

 (5) CEASELESS GIVEAWAY. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is running a giveaway of Marie Brennan’s upcoming book Driftwood. The rules and other details can be found here: “First Marie Brennan Driftwood Book Giveaway”

To enter the giveaway that’s in this very post, comment on this post (here) and tell us what your favorite Marie Brennan short story is. Whether a Driftwood story or one of her many other stories; whether published in BCS or elsewhere.

Your comment will enter you in a random drawing for the signed copy of Driftwood. This giveaway ends Wed. Aug. 12. (Full Rules are here, at the end of this post.)

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 31, 1930 — The Shadow first made his appearance as the narrator of the Detective Story Hour radio program which was intended  to boost sales of Street & Smith’s monthly Detective Story Magazine. Harry Engman Charlot, a scriptwriter for the Detective Story Hour was responsible for the name. The Shadow would be developed into the character that we know a year later by Walter B. Gibson. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 31, 1807 – Clara de Chatelain.  In her Child’s Own Book of Fairy Tales, two more, retold fifty classics and wrote a hundred forty.  The Sedan Chair and Sir Wilfred’s Seven Flights comprises two for adults.  Translated four hundred songs for music publishers e.g. Schott; tr. Cammarano’s Italian lyrics for Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (whose protagonist is Scots).  Wrote widely under “Leopold Wray” and other names.  Friend of Victor Hugo.  (Died 1876) [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1879 – Kenneth Morris. Ranked by Le Guin with Eddison, MacDonald, Tolkien as master 20th Century fantasy prose stylist.  Three novels (this one published posthumously), forty shorter stories, sometimes under the Welsh form of his name Cenydd Morus.  (Died 1937) [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1924 – Waldemar Kumming.  Leading German fan for decades.  Joined SFCD (Science Fiction Club Deutschland; note combined English-German name) 1956, chair 1962-1968.  Fan Guest of Honour at Seacon ’84  – combining Eastercon 35 (U.K. nat’l con) + Eurocon 8.  Published Munich_Round_Up with Walter Reinicke until WR died 1981, then alone until 2014; I was glad to contribute.  Kurd_Laßwitz_Special Award for MRU and life achievement.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  Wolf von Witting’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1928 – Allen Lang, 92.  One novel (Wild and Outside, US baseball shortstop sent to civilize the planet Melon), a score of shorter stories translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, most recently (“Fuel Me Once”) in the Jul-Aug 20 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1929 – Lynne Reid Banks, 91.  A dozen novels for us, forty other books including The L-Shaped Room.  Children’s fantasy The Indian in the Cupboard, ten million copies sold; four sequels.  Eight years teaching on a kibbutz (“not a Jew, but Jew-ish”).  Barrie Award. “Writing for a living is a great life, if you don’t weaken.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. if you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek, and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the episode “The Corbomite Maneuver” and the Gorn in the episode “Arena”. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair”, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. (Died 1979.) (CE) 
  • Born July 31, 1935 –Dave Van Arnam.  Seven novels (some with Ted White), translated into Dutch, Japanese, Spanish. Two anthologies (with Kris Neville, William Tenn).  “How I Learned to Love Fandom” in NyCon 3 Program & Memory Book (25th Worldcon; DVA was co-chair).  Co-founded, or something, APA-F.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 69. Though best-known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 64. Best-known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnitude Tombstone film. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 61. Though best-known For his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88,  a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 58. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though their name escapes right now.) I also like him as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 44. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond of The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West which he did. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed and Nightmare Magazine since the early part of this decade. (CE)
  • Born July 31, 1979 – B.J. Novak, 41.  Author, actor, writer-director.  Fifteen short stories ours in The New YorkerZoetrope, and collection One More Thing (it has 64 total; six weeks a NY Times Hardcover Fiction Best-Seller).  For children The Book With No Pictures (also a best-seller; “a lot of the other one-star reviews are from people who object to speaking of a hippo named Boo Boo Butt”).  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe needs help finding a dystopian book.

(9) COMING TO A MT. TBR NEAR YOU. Andrew Liptak has released his book list for August. (Formerly published by Polygon.)

(10) NEW HONOR FOR HOPPER. In line with the Rosalind Franklin Mars rover, Google announces “The Grace Hopper subsea cable, linking the U.S., U.K. and Spain”. Press release.

Today, 98% of international internet traffic is ferried around the world by subsea cables. A vast underwater network of cables crisscrossing the ocean makes it possible to share, search, send, and receive information around the world at the speed of light. In today’s day and age, as the ways that we work, play and connect are becoming increasingly digital, reliable connectivity is more important than ever before. That’s why we’re excited to announce a new subsea cable—Grace Hopper—which will run between the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain, providing better resilience for the network that underpins Google’s consumer and enterprise products.

Grace Hopper joins our other private subsea cables, Curie, Dunant and Equiano to connect far-flung continents along the ocean floor. Private subsea cables allow us to plan effectively for the future capacity needs of our customers and users around the world, and add a layer of security beyond what’s available over the public internet.

Once commissioned, the Grace Hopper cable will be one of the first new cables to connect the U.S. and U.K. since 2003, increasing capacity on this busy global crossroads and powering Google services like Meet, Gmail and Google Cloud. It also marks our first investment in a private subsea cable route to the U.K., and our first-ever route to Spain. The Spanish landing point will more tightly integrate the upcoming Google Cloud region in Madrid into our global infrastructure. The Grace Hopper cable will be equipped with 16 fiber pairs (32 fibers), a significant upgrade to the internet infrastructure connecting the U.S. with Europe. A contract to build the cable was signed earlier this year with Eatontown, N.J.-based subsea cable provider, SubCom, and the project is expected to be completed in 2022.

(11) MOVIE AMBIENCE. [Item by algorithm connoisseur Martin Morse Wooster.] The YouTube algorithm introduced me to a website called Ambient Worlds, whose creator has come up with Harry Potter Movie Ambience: “Hogsmeade Relaxing Music, Crowd Noise And Snow”, which is an hour of music from the Harry Potter movies mixed into background music for whatever you happen to be doing (in my case, writing, because I write with music or baseball in the background).  I’ve never heard of such a thing.

Ambient Worlds has a Lord of the Rings background music video that’s three hours!

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Nothing to do with sff, I just want to share my appreciation of this editing job!

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/20 We Have Pixelsign The Likes Of Godstalk Has Never Seen!

(1) OPEN DISCUSSION OF OPEN LETTER. Several authors have responded to the challenges raised in the letter posted here: “Writers Circulate Letter of Concern About Saudi Worldcon Bid”.

  • Robert J. Sawyer wrote extensive comments about the Open Letter in this public Facebook post.
  • Seanan McGuire, an author who’s also been a Worldcon runner, has added her insights on Twitter, Thread starts here.
  • Cat Valente’s thread starts here, and the comments are along these lines —

(2) EVANIER ON MALTIN PODCAST. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest podcast is with their long-time friend, Mark Evanier. (Click here.)  Evanier talks about how he began his career as Jack Kirby’s assistant and then goes on to discuss his years at Hanna-Barbera, including what it was like to work with Tex Avery and Mel Blanc and how Jonathan Winters once used some downtime to do some improv in his office.  Also discussed was his six-year run as the writer of Garfield and Friends, and how he gave work to such comedy legends as George O’Hanlon (the original voice of George Jetson) and Rose Marie.  He also discusses his role at Comic-Con, where he is one of six people who has attended every Comic-Con.  As part of his Comic-Con segment, he gives some valuable advice about running panels.  He is also an author, with his edition of the seventh volume of The Complete Pogo about to be sent to the printer.  Evanier’s long-time partner was Carolyn Kelly, daughter of Pogo creator Walt Kelly, and Evanier vows to finish the definitive Pogo collection Carolyn Kelly began.

Ray Bradbury is discussed beginning at minute 56, and Evanier discusses what it was like to interview Bradbury in front of several thousand Comic-Con attendees.  (He routinely asked Harlan Ellison fr advice about what questions to ask Bradbury). He notes that Bradbury always liked to go to the hucksters room to see what was new in comics and how he would always happily sign his works.  Leonard Maltin noted that Bradbury had a youthful spirit throughout his life and “never lost his sense of wonder.”

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The July 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Legal Salvage,” by Holli Mintzer, a story about artificial intelligence, thrifting, and taste.

Twenty, 25 years ago, someone lost a building.

It started as a U-Haul self-storage franchise, and switched allegiance between a few other companies as it changed owners. The last owner had been running it as an independent when he died. His heirs were halfway across the country, and before they could do anything about it, one of them died and the other two spent down the rest of the estate fighting over how to split it….

It was published along with a response essay, “How Can an A.I. Develop Taste?” by Kate Compton, an artificial intelligence coder, artist, and educator.

…As humans, our possessions mean many different things to us. Their value may be practical. We need a blender to make smoothies and a bike to get to work on time. But many objects also have sentimental value and hook into the complex web of human emotions and relationships. We may have aspirational objects that tell us who we want to be (someone who goes camping more, exercises more, would wear those impractical shoes). We also keep nostalgic objects that remind us, through memory or our senses, of people or values that we want to remember. Sometimes our collections simply “spark joy” (in Marie Kondo’s words) in some unknowable way.

In “Legal Salvage,” we meet three collectors: Mika, Ash, and Roz. We also learn about people who abandoned power tools or neon signs or commemorative saltshakers in their storage lockers. We don’t know what these objects meant to the vanished collectors…. 

(4) JACKSON ON SCREEN. “Josephine Decker Releases A New Film About The Horror Writer Shirley Jackson” – transcript of an NPR inetrview.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The new movie “Shirley” starts after the author Shirley Jackson has published her most famous short story. It’s called “The Lottery.” You might have read it in high school.

JOSEPHINE DECKER: The town annually stones to death one of its members because that’s just what’s done. You know, I think there’s a reason that that has stayed in our canon. It’s incredibly intense to talk about institutionalized oppression.

SHAPIRO: That’s the movie’s director Josephine Decker. Her film “Shirley” is a fictional story about a real person. And so I asked Decker how she compares the author, who died in 1965, to the character Shirley Jackson that Elisabeth Moss plays in the movie.

DECKER: It was a tricky challenge I guess you could say. But our MO was really just to prioritize making the audience feel like they were inside of a Shirley Jackson story. We put that above all else. So we were always adventuring into her fiction as the primary source for our inspiration of how to approach the film. We were very clear that we wanted to make a film that wouldn’t be mistaken for a biopic, even though I think it totally (laughter) has. It’s hard – when you call a film “Shirley,” I guess people get confused.

(5) CAMP IN TROUBLE. Huntsville’s Space Camp, and the US Space & Rocket Center museum in general, are in deep financial trouble due to knock-on effects of the pandemic and are seeking donations to help stay open: “U.S. Space & Rocket Center launches ‘Save Space Camp’ Campaign” on WAFF 48.

(6) THAT’S STRANGE! Yahoo! News shares tweeted footage from four years ago in “Benedict Cumberbatch Surprised Fans In Comic Store As Doctor Strange In New Video”.

A behind-the-scenes video of Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange delightfully stopping by a comic bookstore is making the rounds, and it’s exactly a bright spot the internet needed these days.

Scott Derrickson, the director and co-writer of “Doctor Strange,” on Monday night shared a “never before shown moment” of Cumberbatch, in full character regalia, casually walking into. a comic book store in New York City during the filming of the 2016 superhero flick. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 28, 1940 – Bugs Bunny, the iconic cartoon character, made his official debut in the 1940 Oscar nominated short, The Wild Hare. The Looney Tunes standout was first voiced by actor Mel Blanc. NPR “Morning Edition.” “What’s Up, Doc? Bugs Bunny’s Age. Cartoon Rabbit Turns 80”.
  • July 28, 1955 — X Minus One’s “The Embassy” first aired. The story is that a man walks into a detective agency wanting to hire them to find the Martians that he says are here on Earth. It’s based on a story by Donald Wollheim published in Astounding Science Fiction in the March 1942 issue. The script is by George Lefferts. The cast includes Joseph Julian and Barry Kroger. (CE)  

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 28, 1844 – Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Including this original extraordinary poet will startle any Christian.  “What?  That’s not fantasy!”  Be kind, brothers and sisters.  Discovering him was worth all the quarreling with my teacher after high test scores put me in English IV my freshman year in college.  Read this; and yes, it’s a sonnet.  If you didn’t look up “Heraclitean” and you should have, shame on you.  (Died 1889) [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1866 – Beatrix Potter.  Famous for The Tale of Peter Rabbit; two dozen of these.  Prizewinning breeder of Herdwick sheep.  Conservationist.  Careful mycological paintings finally published in W.P.K. Findlay’s Wayside & Woodland Fungi (1967); Linnean Society finally apologized for sexist disregard of her research (1997).  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • 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 here (Died 1943.) (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 92. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1931 – Jay Kay Klein.  For decades he was fandom’s photographer.  He wrote Analog’s Biologfor thirty years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Discon II the 32nd Worldcon.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  At the end he donated some 70,000 photos to the Eaton Collection at U. Cal. Riverside; so far 6,000 digitized and available electronically.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • 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.) (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1947 – Colin Hay, 73.  Six dozen covers, a few interiors.  Here is The Left Hand of Darkness.  Here is Orbitsville.  Here is Rendezvous with Rama.  Here is Before the Golden Age vol. 2.   [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1955 – Ed Green, 65.  Hard worker at cons within reach, local, regional, world.  Chaired Loscon 24 and 31, co-chaired La-la’s Eleven (9th in a series of relaxacons, named with variations of “La-la Con” i.e. for Los Angeles and La-la Land).  Served as LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) President.  Evans-Freehafer Award for service to LASFS.  [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 54. Husband of Mercedes Lackey, both GoHs of CoNZealand, 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 AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 52. 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. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1980 – Kelly van der Laan, 40.  Four novels, three shorter stories in her Spring (in Dutch, Lentagon) series – first novel came from Nanowrimo; a dozen more short stories. “Pink Water” won first prize in the Fantastic Story contest.  Collection Lost Souls just released in February.  Likes Corey, King, Lynch, Martin, Sanderson, Rothfuss.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is Herman the subject of alien catch-and-release?

(10) FROSTY IN SPACE. Official ice cream of the Space Force TV show, “Ben and Jerry’s Boots on The Mooooo’N.” Here are four minutes of laughs about the ice cream in “Boots on the Moooon:  Space Force R & D Diaries.”

(11) LAST CHANCE TO SEE. BBC reports “Van Gogh: Postcard helps experts ‘find location of final masterpiece'”.

A postcard has helped to find the probable spot where Vincent van Gogh painted what may have been his final masterpiece, art experts say.

The likely location for Tree Roots was found by Wouter van der Veen, the scientific director of the Institut Van Gogh.

He recognised similarities between the painting and a postcard dating from 1900 to 1910.

The postcard shows trees on a bank near the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise.

The site is 150m (492ft) from the Auberge Ravoux, the inn in the village, where Van Gogh stayed for 70 days before taking his own life in 1890.

(12) STEVEN KNOWS BEST. In Yahoo! Entertainment’s “‘Waterworld’ at 25: How Kevin Costner’s choice to ignore Steven Spielberg resulted in one of the most expensive movies ever”, Ethan Alter interviews Waterworld screenwriter Peter Rader, who says that Steven Spielberg’s advice to director Kevin Reynolds and star Kevin Costner to film most of Waterworld in a tank rather than on the water led to colossal cost overruns when the film’s sets were destroyed in a typhoon.

Memo to all aspiring filmmakers: When Steven Spielberg tells you not to do something, you’d be wise to listen. Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds learned that lesson the hard way during the production of their 1995 action epic, Waterworld. Set in a dystopian tomorrow where the polar ice caps have melted, erasing “dryland” and bathing the world in water, the movie was conceived as an ambitious aquatic Western with a science-fiction twist. But when Waterworld washed ashore in theaters 25 years ago this summer, all anyone could talk about was the out-of-control budget and behind-the-scenes creative battles that culminated with Costner replacing Reynolds in the editing room. According to Waterworld screenwriter, Peter Rader, the source of the movie’s many troubles stemmed from one fateful decision: the choice to shoot the entire film on the open water rather than in a controlled environment like a studio water tank….

(13) IN THE QUEUE. “Virgin Galactic set for last key rocket test flights”.

Virgin Galactic is about to start a key series of powered test flights of its passenger rocket plane.

The company’s Unity vehicle has so far conducted only glide flights after moving into its operational base in New Mexico earlier this year.

The powered ascents will see Unity ignite its hybrid rocket motor to climb to the edge of space.

These tests will set the stage for Virgin Galactic to introduce its commercial service.

Six hundred individuals have so far paid deposits to take a ride on Unity, with many of these individuals having put down their money a good number of years ago.

But George Whitesides, the company’s chief space officer, said their wait would soon be over.

“Our next flight will be just purely two pilots in the front to do a systems check,” he told BBC News.

“And then, once we’ve done that – well, we’re in pretty exciting territory because the plan is to start putting [four of our] people in the back. We haven’t shared exactly how many flights that will be because we’ve got to see how it goes. But it could be a fairly small number.”

(14) HAVE A LOOK AROUND. “The interior design of Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane” – BBC video.

Fare-paying passengers will have big windows to view space from the vehicle’s cabin.

(15) PUTTING IT TOGETHER. “Iter: World’s largest nuclear fusion project begins assembly” – BBC has the story.

The world’s biggest nuclear fusion project has entered its five-year assembly phase.

After this is finished, the facility will be able to start generating the super-hot “plasma” required for fusion power.

The £18.2bn (€20bn; $23.5bn) facility has been under construction in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, southern France.

Advocates say fusion could be a source of clean, unlimited power that would help tackle the climate crisis.

Iter is a collaboration between China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US. All members share in the cost of construction.

(16) STUCK IN A GROOVE. At the New York Times, two space journalists say “Too Much Mars? Let’s Discuss Other Worlds”.

Three government space agencies around the world are getting ready to return to Mars this summer. Along with China and the United Arab Emirates, the United States plans to land the fifth NASA rover, Perseverance, on the red planet (along with a small, experimental helicopter, Ingenuity). But the rover’s most important job will be scooping up and caching some samples that humans or robots may eventually retrieve.

The planetary science community will cheer these missions. But many researchers have started asking, more loudly than usual, why we’re going back to Mars yet again. So we invited Rebecca Boyle and David W. Brown, two journalists who have devoted a fair share of their careers to interviewing space researchers at NASA and in academia, to discuss why Mars, a planet that lost its atmosphere long ago, seems to absorb so much of the oxygen — and budgetary resources — in the rooms where explorations of our solar system are decided.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Screen Junkies take on a classic in Honest Trailers:  E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial on YouTube. The junkies spend most of their time bashing the ’80s cheesefest Mac And Me, which they show is almost like E.T. “except for one major difference:  E.T. is good!” (DId you know Jennifer Aniston made her debut in Mac And Me?)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/20 Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Pixels How Do You Measure, Measure A Scroll?

(1) THE SANTA FE. Now he’ll really be George Railroad Martin: “George R. R. Martin Buys Part of Historic Santa Fe Railroad”.

George R. R. Martin, who wrote the book series that was adapted into the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and two co-investors have bought an abandoned, 18-mile spur railroad line from Santa Fe to Lamy, New Mexico, with the intent of restoring it to its former glory as a tourist attraction, The Business Insider reported on Monday.

No price was mentioned for the purchase, which also includes 10 antique rail cars, two vintage locomotives, and a station house at Lamy currently leased by Amtrak that is part of its twice daily line from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“There are a lot of opportunities for a new tourist attraction,” Martin told the Albuquerque Journal. “COVID has thrown a monkey wrench into our plan. We had hoped to get things up and running in 2021, but now it won’t be until 2022.”

I’ve caught a train at the Lamy station, after visiting my sister in Santa Fe. It’s miles out of town — despite the city’s iconic railroad name, the Amtrak line doesn’t run through the city.

Martin explains his plans in more detail in his blog post “All Aboard for Lamy” which concludes:

…It is going to take a lot of work, more than a few bucks, and a fair amount of time to get the railroad running again.   There are tracks and trestles to inspect and repair, old historic coaches to restore to their former splendor, a dead locomotive to bring back to life.   And the coronavirus has slowed the process way down.   But sooner or later, we do hope to have the old Lamy Line chuffing and puffing once again, and we have all sorts of fun ideas for the future, live music and murder mysteries and train robberies and escape rooms and… well, we shall see.

And best of all, we won’t need to pull up the tracks when Christmas is over.

(2) CON CANCELLATION. Pulpfest, planned for August, has been cancelled, too. They made the announcement today: “There is Nothing Wrong with Your Television Set . . .”

…We regret to announce that PulpFest is being postponed until August 2021.

Although it is likely that businesses and events in the region where PulpFest is staged will be allowed to resume operations in June, they will have to follow guidelines issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

…Given the substantial risks involved and our desire to maintain the health and well-being of our many supporters, the PulpFest organizing committee voted unanimously to postpone this year’s convention until early August 2021.

(3) LEAP, BUT NOT QUANTUM. Chancellor Agard, in “Watch Legends of Tomorrow jump from Friends to Downton Abbey in exclusive sneak peek” on Entertainment Weekly discusses tomorrow’s episode, where the Legends jump from the world of a show like Friends to one like Downton Abbey to one like Star Trek.

(4) A HORSE, OF COURSE. Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of the debut of the third Back to the Future movie. Yahoo! Entertaiment put together a quiz — “‘Back to the Future Part III’ turns 30: Take this quiz to test your knowledge”. I really blew this one – only 6 out of 14. And one of my right answers was about how special effects manure was made – am I supposed to be proud of that?

… On May 24, 1990, the final film in Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s Back to the Future trilogy premiered in theaters. Directly picking up from the cliffhanger of 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, where Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and the DeLorean time machine accidentally being struck by lightning, sending him back to the Old West. Part III picks up with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traveling to 1885 to rescue Doc and return him to the present. 

(5) SPACE FORCE REDUX. Netflix dropped a second trailer for Space Force, which they have cleverly called Space Force Trailer 2.

Steve Carell was also on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday  promoting Space Force but he doesn’t talk about the show until 5-1/2 minutes into the segment.

(6) STILES REMEMBERED. Balticon 54’s website includes a tribute to the late fanartist: “In Memoriam: Steve Stiles (1943-2020)”. Includes lots of photos and art.

Steve Stiles became a science fiction fan in 1957; he’d been illustrating fanzines from then until his death, earning him the first Rotsler Fan Artist Award in 1998, and a Fan Artist Hugo in 2016. Professionally, he worked in numerous comic book genres since 1973 (horror, super hero, science fiction, humor), including the award-winning Xenozoic Tales and perhaps the first steampunk graphic novel, The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle, with author Richard Lupoff.

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

May 25Towel Day which is celebrated by fans every year on May 25 as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams. Fans carry a towel with them as described in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held May 25, 2001 two weeks after Douglas Adams’ death. [Via Rocketmail.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 25, 1977 Star Wars premiered. Later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it was written and directed by George Lucas. You know who the cast is so we’ll not list all of them here. Lucas envisioned the film as being in the tradition of Buck Rodgers which he originally intended to remake but couldn’t get the rights to.  Reception by critics and fans alike was fantastic with IguanaCon II voting it the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo over Close Encounters of The Third Kind. It holds a stellar 96% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • May 25, 1983 Return of the Jedi, the last of the original trilogy, premiered. Later retitled Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, it came out six years after Star Wars. It is directed not by Lucas this time but by Richard Marquand from a screenplay by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan who co-wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The principal cast is the same as the first film. Critics were ever so slightly less pleased with this concluding film of the trilogy but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an equally stellar 94% rating as the first film. It would win The Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at L.A. con II beating Right Stuff and WarGames. Box office wise, it sold more tickets for most of its first eight week American run than any other film.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 25, 1915 – DeeDee Lavender.  Four decades an active fan with her husband Roy.  Together they were Secretary-Treasurer of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n in 1950.  They were at Aussiecon I the 33rd World Science Fiction Convention (I wasn’t), and Noreascon II the 38th (I was).  They’re in Harlan Ellison’s forewords to his collections I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Angry Candy; they knew Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, and were guests at the B&H homes in Ohio and California.  They were part of a Southern California fannish social group called the Petards, named by one of Rick Sneary’s famous misspellings, hoist for host.  Here she is with Roy at a Petards meeting in 1983 (Dik Daniels photo), and thirty years earlier in New York (L to R, Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, DeeDee, Roy, Stan Skirvin; Mike Resnick collection).  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1916 – Charles Hornig.  Publishing his fanzine The Fantasy Fan in 1933, thus First Fandom (i.e. active by at least the first Worldcon, 1939), and hired, age 17, by Hugo Gernsback to edit Wonder Stories.  Founded the Science Fiction League with HG, 1934; later edited Fantasy; also Future and Science Fiction (they eventually combined); SF Quarterly.  See his notes on Nycon I, the first Worldcon, here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1926 – Phyllis Gotlieb.  Prix Aurora for A Judgement of Dragons (note spelling; she was Canadian).  The Sunburst Award is named for her first novel.  Thirteen SF novels, twenty shorter stories, eight poetry collections (the first being Who Knows One?).  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian.  Among her husband’s Physics students was Cory Doctorow’s father.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1946 Frank Oz, 74. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1946 Janet Morris, 74. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy,  the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. And let’s not over overlook her Heroes in Hell series she wrote,most co-authorEd with her husband Chris Morris, some with C J Cherryh and David Drake. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1950 – Kathryn Daugherty.  Engineer.  Married four decades to James Stanley Daugherty.  Back when FORTRAN wasn’t even Two-tran she fed punch-cards to a Control Data CDC 6400.  For ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, Official Editor of the con committee’s APA (Amateur Press Ass’n, a collection of fanzines) The Never-Ending Meeting.  At Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon, headed Contents of Tables; a typo made it “Contests of Tables”: in each newsletter I announced “Today’s winner is the Picnic”, “Today’s winner is the Periodic”.  Chaired Westercon LIII, a hard one: it was at Honolulu, see my report here [PDF; p. 11].  Luckily not exhausted; she and JSD were Fan Guests of Honor at Baycon in 2001, and Loscon XXXI (2004).  Joined me in liking Mission of Gravity.  Obituary by OGH here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1952 Al Sarrantonio, 68. His horror short stories are brilliant and they‘ve earned him a Stoker for 999: New Tales of Horror and Suspense and a Jackson for Stories: All-New Tales, the latter co-edited with Gaiman. His Masters of Mars series is SF and he’s written a Babylon 5 novel as well, Personal Agendas. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1953 – Stan Sakai.  Lettered Groo the Wanderer comics; since 1984, author of Usagi Yojimbo comics about samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, who has (wouldn’t you know it) crossed paths with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The rônin lifeis hard.  During the most recent Year of the Rabbit (2011), the Japanese-American Nat’l Museum in Los Angeles had an Usagi Yojimbo exhibit.  Sakai has won a Parents’ Choice award, an Inkpot, six Eisners, an Inkwell, two Harveys, two Haxturs (Spain), a Plumilla de Plata (Mexico), a Cultural Ambassador award, and a Nat’l Cartoonists Society award.  [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1960 Eric Brown, 60. Well-deserved winner of two BSFA awards for his short stories, “Hunting the Slarqye” and “The Children of The Winter”.  He’s very prolific, averaging a novel a year over the past three decades and countless novellas and short stories. As far as SF goes, I’d start with his Binary System and Bengal Station series, both of which are superb. And I’m going to single out his Sherlock Holmes metaverse novel, The Martian Menace, in which The Great Detective meets and defeats those Invaders. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 54. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tanith Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1982 – Bertrand Bonnet.  Six dozen reviews in Bifrost (French-language prozine; European SF Society award for Best Magazine, 2016), of Blish, Le Guin, Pohl (with and without Kornbluth), Resnick, Tolkien (including the Letters, yay).  [JH] 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur’s birds learn about their ancestors.
  • Non Sequitur sells foresight.
  • Non Sequitur has an SJWC intervention.
  • Mikey Heller drew a comic about a cat café. It’s got sjw credentials, sf, everything!

(11) LID OVERFLOW. In The Full Lid 22nd May 2020 Alasdair Stuart takes a look “at how now is very much the time for Strange New Worlds and what the Short Treks set on Pike’s Enterprise can teach us about the show’s tone.”

I also take a look at excellent, furious and overlooked movie Assassination Nation and Bog Bodies, a superb crime graphic novel out this week. Signal Boost is big this week but the YA/MG Author spotlight that follows it is much bigger and full of amazing books.

This week Stuart also launched The Full Lid Plus! A monthly supplement covering Disney Plus.

It’s first issue covers what we learn in the first for episodes of The Mandalorian and looks at award winning free-climbing documentary Free Solo. Oh and Will Smith sings.

The Full Lid Plus is published monthly and run off a paid subscription model, Details at the link.

Stuart’s Hugo Voting Packet for 2020 is also available at his website. “It touches on all my non-fiction work, has links to every piece and a consolidated PDF of everything too.”

(12) NO GO. It barely got out of California:“Virgin Orbit rocket fails on debut flight”

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has tried unsuccessfully to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean.

The booster was released from under the wing of one of the UK entrepreneur’s old jumbos which had been specially converted for the task.

The rocket should have ignited its engine seconds later but engineers had to terminate the flight.

Virgin Orbit’s goal is to try to capture a share of the emerging market for the launch of small satellites.

It’s not clear at this stage what went wrong but the firm had warned beforehand that the chances of success might be in the region of 50:50.

The history of rocketry shows that maiden outings very often encounter technical problems.

The firm is sure to be back for another attempt pretty soon – depending on the outcome of the post-mission analysis.

(13) FLOCKING OFF. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] I just noticed this monologue from the May 18th Late Night with Seth Meyers. There was no genre-related sketch that night. However!

When Seth Meyers first started broadcasting from home, he apparently (to my eyes, at least) ordered several feet of cheap respectable-looking trade paper and hardcover books from a local used book store. One that caught my eye was Shardik, which has a lot of whitespace on the spine and that weird symbol. The two copies of a book about Thessalonica were the big tip-off to me these were surplus and not garage detritus.

And then there was The Thorn Birds. No one seemed to believe Seth Meyers was a Thorn Birds fan.

Soon Meyers moved out of his garage and into his attic, where he has a plain backdrop…and an end table with a small stack of books. I’ve seen two dust-jacketed books claiming to be The Thorn Birds and one unjacketed copy between them. The Janelle Monae clip has a stack of Thorn Birds, Thorn Birds II: More Thorns, and Thorn Birds III: Something written in script too fine for me to read.

But the best one yet you can see in this clip, in the lower left-hand corner:

(14) JUST WHEN THE PREZ LEARNED HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT. BBC reports “WHO halts trials of hydroxychloroquine over safety fears”.

Testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus has been halted because of safety fears, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Trials in several countries are being “temporarily” suspended as a precaution, the agency said on Monday.

It comes after a recent medical study suggested the drug could increase the risk of patients dying from Covid-19.

(15) DON’T KNOW HOW GOOD YOU’VE GOT IT. And we close with this benediction from The Onion: “Nation’s Politicians, Law Enforcement, Corporate Executives Marvel At Futuristic Utopia They’re Living In”.

“To think that I have all this at my fingertips, whether it’s automated high-volume stock trading or unlimited surveillance footage of my employees, it’s like something out of a science fiction paradise,” said pharmaceutical executive Ron Pollard, who claimed previous generations of police officers, elected officials, and business leaders could never comprehend the world of unlimited possibilities that has been created for them, where they are free to do whatever they want all the time.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/11/20 My Chief Pixel Has Told Me To Scroll And Fifth This File

(1) BEST TRANSLATED BOOK AWARDS FICTION FINALISTS. One work of genre interest survived the cut to make the finals for the 2020 Best Translated Book Awards, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Japan, Pantheon). The complete shortlist is at the link.

The award, founded by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, comes with $10,000 in prizes from the Amazon Literary Partnership. The prize will be split evenly between the winning authors and translators. The winners will be announced on May 27.

(2) SFWA REFERENDUM. An overwhelming majority of SFWA members favor including authorship of sff/h graphic novels and comics as qualifications for membership according to the ”2020 Election Question Results” posted today on the SFWA Blog.

During the recent SFWA elections… the voting members of the organization also voted on two questions.

Question: Should SFWA allow writing of graphic novels and comics in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and related genres to be used as qualification for membership?

Yes      95.18%

No       4.82%

Question: As noted in the January 31st email to members, “active members” has a specific meaning, thus leading to our need to change our membership class name for Active members. Which name would you prefer to be called?

Full Member      47.19%
General Member   11.99%
Regular Member   6.89%
Voting Member     33.93%

In the coming weeks, the board will be discussing the implementation of the graphic novel question and will make an announcement when the rules for admittance under the new rules are open.

(3) BSFA AWARDS STREAMING SCHEDULE. BSFA, the British Science Fiction Association, invites fans to attend their award ceremony for works published in 2019 on YouTube here on Sunday May 17. They will be announcing the winners of Best Novel, Best Shorter Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Artwork from 7 p.m. BST.

(4) THE SIMPLE BARE NECESSITIES. Tor.com’s Emmett Asher-Perrin really fired up the commenters with “Thought Exercise: Do Jedi Sleep Naked?” I’m envious!

Sometimes you’re watching a lot of Clone Wars, and sometimes your brain points out little innocuous things to you… like the fact that Jedi never seem to have luggage.

So, during the Clone Wars, Jedi are dispatched across the galaxy constantly to handle various galactic disputes, battles, and diplomatic messes. Often, they take Jedi starfighters and land them on big Republic cruisers, giving them flexibility to come and go as they need to. When they sleep, it’s typically on planets during missions, or it’s in quarters on the bigger ships. Sometimes there’s a chance to get back to the Jedi Temple and sleep in quarters there, but generally, they’re on the go all the time.

Yet you’ll never find them slinging a weekender over their shoulder, or dragging a little rolly carry-on bag behind them….

(5) FREAKAZOIDS PLEASE REPORT TO THE DANCE FLOOR. Production Club’s “Micrashell” is “A Suit That Allows You To Safely Socialize in Times of a Pandemic”.

Micrashell was born as a socially responsible solution to safely allow people to interact in close proximity. Specifically designed to satisfy the needs of nightlife, live events and entertainment industries, Micrashell is a virus-shielded, easy to control, fun to wear, disinfectable, fast to deploy personal protective equipment (PPE) that allows socializing without distancing….

Here’s a snip from the long list of advantages:

BASIC NEEDS & SUIT HANDLING
• “Top only” suit design allows the user to wear their normal clothes, use the toilet and engage in intercourse without being exposed to respiratory risks
• Hand latch system to facilitate dressing and undressing the suit

(6) WILL THE U.S. MAIL BE STAMPED OUT? The New York Times finds “A Fight Over the Future of the Mail Breaks Down Along Familiar Lines”.

…Postal leaders and their allies have made unusually blunt appeals for support in recent weeks, running advertisements on President Trump’s favorite Fox News programs and laying out an urgent account of how the pandemic has had a “devastating effect” on the U.S. mail service. Without a financial rescue from Congress, they have warned, an agency that normally runs without taxpayer funds could run out of cash as soon as late September, raising the specter of bankruptcy and an interruption in regular delivery for millions of Americans.

But after nearly reaching a bipartisan deal for a multibillion dollar bailout in the last coronavirus rescue package in late March, Republicans and Democrats have sharply diverged over whether to provide a lifeline. Now, the fight over the future of the Postal Service has spilled onto the campaign trail, increasingly freighted by deeply held disagreements about labor rights, the role of government versus private enterprise in providing basic services, and voting access.

(7) NIGHT AFTER NIGHT. “Travelling Text”: The London Review of Books’ Marina Warner discurses on The Arabian Nights and a book of essays about them.

Like a dance craze or a charismatic cult, The Arabian Nights seized readers’ imaginations as soon as translations first appeared – in French between 1704 and 1717, and in English from 1708. Oriental fever swept through salons and coffee-houses, the offices of broadsheet publishers and theatrical impresarios; the book fired a train of imitations, spoofs, turqueries, Oriental tales, extravaganzas. It changed tastes in dress and furniture – the sofa, the brocade dressing-gown – and even enhanced the taste of coffee. In fact its diaspora almost mimics the triumphant progress of coffee, as it metamorphosed from the thimbles of thick dark syrup drunk in Damascus and Istanbul and Cairo to today’s skinny latte, macchiato et al. Antoine Galland, the French savant and explorer who discovered and translated the earliest manuscript in Syria in the late 17th century, also published a translation of an Arabic treatise in praise of coffee, one of the first if not the first of its kind. It is his bowdlerised version of the stories that dominated their diaspora, from the ‘Arabian Nights’ Entertainments’, serialised in 445 instalments over three years in the London News, to the fantasies of the Ballets Russes, to the 1924 Thief of Baghdad, to Disney’s Aladdin and Sinbad.

In the countries of the book’s origin, the stories were considered popular trash, and excluded from the canon. In Europe, a similar sense that they had negligible status as literature came about because so many of their early enthusiasts were women. The Earl of Shaftesbury, writing in 1711, three years after the book’s first appearance in English, denounced the Desdemona tendency, claiming that the tales ‘excite’ in women ‘a passion for a mysterious Race of black Enchanters: such as of old were said to creep into Houses, and lead captive silly Women’. It’s significant, in the history of East-West relations, that Shaftesbury could only understand the alien bogeys in terms of beliefs rather closer to home than Baghdad or Cairo.

Another reason the work wasn’t taken seriously was that it eluded concepts of authorship: the stories were anonymous and composed at different periods in different places. The architecture of the frame story – Scheherazade telling stories to the sultan every night till dawn to save her life – insisted on the oral, collective, immemorial character of the tales, presenting them as a compendium of collective wisdom, or at least as literature with a thousand and one owners and users. Madeleine Dobie, in the opening essay of ‘The Arabian Nights’ in Historical Context, a collection edited by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum, shows how Galland’s work set the trend. A brilliant linguist, antiquarian and Orientalist, Galland began the process of treating the book as something that could be altered and made to express fantasy. The most popular tales of all, the ones that have become synonymous with The Arabian Nights and have been retold in children’s books and films (‘Aladdin’, ‘Ali Baba’, ‘The Ebony Horse’, ‘Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Peri Banou’), are probably Galland’s invention, concocted of pomegranates and ebony, damask and jasmine, in tribute to the style of the original stories.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 11, 1899 — E.  B. White. He’s a co-author with William Strunk Jr. of The Elements of Style. In addition, he wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1904 – Salvador Dalí.  Two Basket of Bread paintings twenty years apart – The Persistence of Memory between them – show he could be realistic if he felt like it.  Having said “The difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad,” he told a group of Surrealists “The difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.”  He put an unfolded tesseract in Crucifixion; created in 1950 a Costume for 2045 with Christian Dior; drew, etched, sculpted; illustrated The Divine Comedy and The Arabian Nights.  Memoir, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.  (Died 1989) [JH
  • Born May 11, 1916 — Maurice Nahum. ISFDB credits him with being editor in the Fifties of the Futuristic Science StoriesOut of This World MagazineSupernatural Stories and several other publications. Langford at the usual source says of them that ‘All were juvenile, undated and of poor quality.’ (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1918  – Sheila Burnford.  In The Incredible Journey a Bull Terrier, a Siamese cat, and a Labrador Retriever travel 300 miles (480 km) through the Canadian wilderness to find their humans; a Disney film was made.  Later Burnford spent two summers on Baffin Island, traveling by komatik (a dog sled) and seeing the narwhals migrate. “Poor Albert Floated When He Died” was in Women of the Weird with a Gorey cover.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1918 – Richard Feynman.  He had a gift for looking from the abstract to the concrete: hence Feynman diagrams; plunging a piece of O-ring material into ice water at a hearing on the Challenger disaster; winning a Nobel Prize and teaching undergraduates. Kept a notebook Things I Don’t Know About.  A curved-space lecture handout had a bug on a sphere: “the bug and any rulers he uses are all made of the same material which expands when it is heated.” Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman reviewed by Alma Jo Williams in Science Fiction Review.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1920 — Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into  SpaceTwilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1927 – Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  Three fantasies won the Newbery Honor; a score of books for us, four dozen in all.  Below the Root is the first of her Green Sky trilogy; after the third, she worked closely with a programmer and a graphic artist on a Below the Root computer game.  Cover for Song of the Gargoyle by Jody Lee, who was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor when I was Fan GoH at Lunacon XLIV.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1936 — Gordon  Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1952 — Frances Fisher, 67. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on MediumX-Files, Outer LimitsResurrectionThe Expanse and has some role in the forthcoming Watchmen series. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range finds a UFO that may be unidentified but does not look unfamiliar.

(10) ANIMAL MAGNETISM. “Early drawings and letters by Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter dating back to the 1890s sell for £213,000 at auction” – the Daily Mail has the story.

…Peter Costanzo, specialist at Doyle Auctions, said: ‘Part of the charm of this early period is that Potter apparently did not intend to publish books for children.

‘She simply sought a simple and affectionate way to communicate with them, and in combining an early mastery of the drawing of animals and a playful love of verse, Potter created a style all her own.

‘This was truly an insightful, important and whimsical group, one of the finest collections of early Beatrix Potter artwork and it represented a rare opportunity for collectors and institutions alike.’

…Her most famous book, The Tale of Petter Rabbit (1901), has been translated into 36 languages and sold 45 million copies.

She died aged 77 in 1943.

(11) STEPPING UP. A slightly creepy use for tech’s best friend: “Robot dog enforces social distancing in Singapore park”.

A robot dog is patrolling one of Singapore’s parks as part of coronavirus-related trial.

The machine – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – is fitted with a camera to monitor how busy Bishan-Ang Moh Kio Park becomes.

It also carries a loudspeaker to broadcast social-distancing messages.

(12) OWN A PIECE OF SPACE! “Branson to sell Galactic stake to prop up Virgin”

Sir Richard Branson is selling a stake in Virgin Galactic to raise $500m to prop up his other businesses including Virgin Atlantic.

The billionaire has been criticised for seeking financial help from the taxpayer for the airline.

Sir Richard will now sell a share of his space tourism business.

Virgin Group said it will use the proceeds to support its “leisure, holiday and travel businesses” hit by “the unprecedented impact” of Covid-19.

(13) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. BBC reports “Longer overlap for modern humans and Neanderthals”.

Modern humans began to edge out the Neanderthals in Europe earlier than previously thought, a new study shows.

Tests on remains from a cave in northern Bulgaria suggest Homo sapiens was there as early as 46,000 years ago.

This is up to 2,000 years older than evidence from Italy and the UK.

Around this time, Europe was populated by sparse groups of Neanderthals – a distinct type of human that vanished shortly after modern humans appeared on the scene.

There’s considerable debate about the length of time that modern humans overlapped with Neanderthals in Europe and other parts of Eurasia.

This has implications for the nature of contact between the two groups – and perhaps clues to why Neanderthals went extinct.

(14) KEEPS ON TICKING. Quanta Magazine’s “Arrows of Time” infographic tracks the development of human ideas about the concept of time.

The human mind has long grappled with the elusive nature of time: what it is, how to record it, how it regulates life, and whether it exists as a fundamental building block of the universe. This timeline traces our evolving understanding of time through a history of observations in CULTURE, PHYSICS, TIMEKEEPING and BIOLOGY.

It begins with —

c. 50,000 BCE

Australia’s first inhabitants, the ancestors of today’s aboriginal peoples, are believed to have embraced a timeless view of nature, in which the present and past are intimately connected. The spirits of long-dead ancestors, for example, were believed to inhabit the living. These spirits reflected a long-ago golden age sometimes known as the Dreamtime.

(15) GASSY TOOTS IN SPACE. Yahoo!’s headline is more aspirational than literal right now, but it might come true soon: “Look Up! A Dazzling Comet Is Now Visible to the Naked Eye to Viewers Across the World”.

Officially named C/2020 F8 (SWAN), the comet, which is technically an “outgassing interplanetary iceberg,” will be closest to Earth on May 13, and nearest to the sun May 27, according to NASA. (The warmth of the sun causes comets to vaporize.) Right now, it’s only visible to individuals in the Southern hemisphere, including those in Australia, Chile, and New Zealand, but if it continues to brighten along its journey, those of us in the Northern hemisphere could see it soon. NASA reports that people might be able to see it with the naked eye in June.  Space.com notes the best times to see it will be in the West-Northwest sky after sunset, and in the East-Northeast sky before sunrise.

However, just because it’s visible now, doesn’t mean it will stay that way…. 

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

Pixel Scroll 2/26/20 The Scroll Goes Ever On And On, Down From The Pixel Where It Began

(1) AT LONG LAST. “‘Last and First Men’ Exclusive Trailer: Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Gorgeous First and Last Directorial Feature”

One the most emotional world premieres at the upcoming 2020 Berlin International Film Festival is bound to be “Last and First Men,” the directorial feature debut of the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. The musician died in February 2018 at the age of 48 amid an acclaimed career that saw him score back-to-back Oscar nominations for Best Original Score in 2015 and 2016 thanks to his work on “The Theory of Everything” and “Sicario.” The latter was one of several collaborations between Jóhannsson and Denis Villeneuve. Jóhannsson’s other score credits include Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” and “Arrival,” plus “Mandy” and “The Mercy.” Jóhannsson served as a mentor to Hildur Guðnádottir, who recently won the Oscar for her “Joker” original score.

Jóhannsson’s only directorial feature, “Last and First Men” is an adaptation of his touring multimedia project of the same name. The movie — shot on 16mm black-and-white film with “Victoria” and “Rams” cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen — played in concert halls, accompanied by Jóhannsson’s score with a live orchestra. The feature film playing at Berlin includes the composer’s original score and narration from Tilda Swinton….

The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the film has this to say — 

Long considered one of the most unfilmable classics of science fiction, Last And First Men has been adapted to the screen by Oscar-nominated Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson. The results are being lauded as “dazzling” and “visionary. This might be one of the films I’m most anticipating this year. 

“Halfway between fiction and documentary, Last and First Men is a visionary work about the final days of humankind that stretches the audience’s ability to imagine not only an immense time frame reaching over billions of years, but huge steps in human evolution.”

(2) SOCIAL MEDIA NEVER FAILS TO GET WORSE. A Twitter thread contends Bronys (My Little Pony fandom) has been co-opted by white nationalists. Wootmaster’s thread starts here. Warning about the images, which is why the tweets are not fully reproduced here.

For many years the pony fandom has been a decidedly neutral, “apolitical” one. Even with its origins on 4chan, there was a sort of innocence and naivete that pervaded the fandom, and even the internet as a whole. Hell, even the 4chan of 2010 hardly resembled the 4chan of today….

Then in 2016 something happened that would transform both 4chan and the fandom forever, even if most bronies wouldn’t realize it for years. The polarization of politics reached its peak with the election of Donald Trump. Right-wing populism entered its heyday, with 4chan in tow….

Only a year later another event happened, almost in tandem with the first. For April Fool’s 2017 4chan’s then admin moot thought it’d be hilarious to combine several boards together. As a cheap joke, he combined My Little Pony and the political board into one entity. /mlpol/…

It was supposed to be a joke. The two communities should have hated each other. A fandom of full of guys who idolized a girl’s cartoon show, and community of far-right fascists LARPers who idolized hitler and wanted to massacre jews. But a strange thing happened. They got along.

(3) BRADBURY POSTERS. Three poster sets are being published by the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) through an Illinois Humanities grant. The poster sets are free for schools, libraries, and other public display.

Poster Set 1 currently available now: “How did I get from Waukegan to Red Planet Mars?” highlights places named for Ray Bradbury in Waukegan, Hollywood, on the Moon and, yes, even on Mars. Click here for full information.  Sets 2 and 3 will be available this spring.

How To Obtain   Download Poster Set 1 below! Limited additional poster sets are available. For more information, contact us or email terry@rbemuseum.org.

(4) MOOSE & SQUIRREL BACK IN TOWN. The City of West Hollywood will celebrate the permanent installation of the “Rocky & Bullwinkle” statue on the Sunset Strip at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Holloway Drive on March 28 at 10:00 a.m. “Rocky & Bullwinkle” Statue Unveiling.  Los Angeles Magazine traced the history of the icon last August: “WeHo Has Strong Feelings About a Rotating Moose Returning to the Sunset Strip”

He’s 14 feet tall, 700 pounds and, some would say, a bit of an icon.

A beloved spinning statue of Bullwinkle holding his friend Rocky was first installed outside Jay Ward Productions’ animations studios on the Sunset Strip in 1961, across the street from the Chateau Marmont. Meant to parody a twirling showgirl advertising the Sahara Hotel, Bullwinkle’s outfit would change colors whenever hers did, injecting a dose of silliness and whimsy into the Strip’s capitalist jousting.

The statue was hoisted away in 2013 to the lament of neighbors and fans, many of whom made their voices heard at a recent, bizarre West Hollywood city council meeting. The night’s agenda? Re-anointing the moose on a traffic island where Holloway and Sunset meet….

(5) CUSSLER OBIT. Dirk Pitt’s creator author Clive Cussler, who also funded searches for historic wrecks, died February 24. The New York Times traces his career: “Clive Cussler, Best-Selling Author and Adventurer, Is Dead at 88”.  (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has an entry about his work here.)

… Despite an improbable plot and negative reviews, “Raise the Titanic!” sold 150,000 copies, was a Times best seller for six months and became a 1980 film starring Richard Jordan and Jason Robards Jr.

While Dirk Pitt books appeared throughout his career, Mr. Cussler also wrote other series: “The NUMA Files,” featuring the hero Kurt Austin and written with Graham Brown or Paul Kemprecos; “The Fargo Adventures,” about husband-and-wife treasure hunters, written with Grant Blackwood or Thomas Perry; “The Oregon Files,” set on a high-tech spy ship disguised as a freighter, written with Jack DuBrul or Mr. Dirgo; and “The Isaac Bell Adventures,” about an early-20th-century detective, written with Justin Scott.

…With Mr. Cussler leading expeditions and joining dives, the organization eventually located some 60 wrecks. Among them were the Cunard steamship Carpathia, first to reach survivors of the lost Titanic on April 15, 1912, then itself sunk by German torpedoes off Ireland in 1918; Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt’s coastal steamer Lexington, which caught fire and went down in Long Island Sound in 1840; and Manassas, the Confederacy’s first Civil War ironclad, sunk in battle in the Lower Mississippi in 1862.

(6) TODAY’S DAY.

What were once oral histories, myths, and legends retold around the fire or by traveling storytellers, have been written down and become known the world over as fairy tales.

The origins of most fairy tales were unseemly and would not be approved or rated as appropriate for children by the Association of Fairy Tales by today’s standards. Most were told as a way to make children behave, teach a lesson or pass the time much like ghost stories around a campfire today.

Many of the stories have some basis in truth. For example, some believe the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is inspired by the real-life of Margarete von Waldeck, the daughter of the 16th century Count of Waldeck. The area of Germany where the family lived was known for mining. Some of the tunnels were so tight they had to use children – or small people such as dwarfs – to work the mines.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 26, 1988 The Alien From L.A. premiered. directed by Albert Pyun. It was produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus from a story written  by Regina Davis,  Albert Pyun and Debra Ricci.  It starred Kathy Ireland in what was supposed to be a break-out role for her. William Mose and Richard Haines also had lead roles with the latter playing Arnold Saknussemm, a reference to Arne Saknussemm in Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. How it was received is best judged by it being featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Band the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is 4%.  You can see it here.
  • February 26, 1977 Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not accidental take-off of Fu Manchu. You can see the first part here with links to the rest of the story there as well. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 26, 1921 Bill Evans. First Fandom member who wrote a number of important works, With Bob Pavlat, Evans edited/published the Evans-Pavlat Fanzine Index during the Fifties which he followed up with Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1926 – 1948 that Bob Petersen co-wrote. With Francis T. Laney, Evans published Howard Philips Lovecraft (1890-1937): A Tentative Bibliography. His final work was with Ron Ellik, The Universes of E. E. Smith. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. Damn, I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) 
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 75. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 72. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print which is interesting as I know she took out of print for awhile.
  • Born February 26, 1957 John Jude Palencar, 63. Illustrator whose artwork graces over a hundred genre covers. In my collection, he’s on the covers of de Lint’s The Onion Girl and Forests of the Heart (one of my top ten novels of SFF), Priest’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds and Le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of EarthseaOrigins: The Art of John Jude Palencar is a perfect look at his work and marvelous eye candy as well. 
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current incarnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series features as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material puts it. 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 55. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic Chinese city Singapore Three, its favourite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read.
  • Born February 26, 1977 Ingrid Oliver, 43. She’s played the rare secondary character in the Who verse who had a recurring presence as she was around for quite awhile and I’m going to let Doctor Who Online tell her tale: “She appeared in the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, ‘The Day of The Doctor’, as Osgood. She was seen wearing the Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf. In November 2014 she appeared again as Osgood in the series finale of Peter Capaldi’s first series, dressed as The Doctor, this time mimicking Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor (shirt and red bow tie) as well as David Tennant’s 10th Doctor (blue trousers and red Converse shoes) as they faced the Cybermen, where she is vaporized by Missy.” 

(9) SCALING UP. George R.R. Martin is delighted by this news about “Real Life Prehistoric Dragons”.

This is really too cool.

A new genus of pteradon has been discovered, and named after the dragons of House Targaryen.

https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/soaring-dragonlike-dinosaur-named-for-game-of-thrones-house-targaryen/

I am delighted, needless to say.   Especially by the kind words of the discoverer, paleontologist Rodrigo Pegas, who is solidly on my side about dragons having two legs, not four, and pfui on those medieval heralds with their wyvern talk.

(10) ACQUISITION NEWS. Riverdale Avenue Books has acquired the assets of sff publisher Circlet Press, which specializes in science fiction erotica. They will continue to publish Circlet’s over 170-title catalog under a new Circlet imprint. Founder Cecilia Tan will remain on staff to edit upcoming titles.

Cecilia Tan. Photo by and © Andrew Porter

(11) NOT-SO-HIDDEN FIGURE. “This NASA Engineer Is Bringing Math And Science To Hip Hop” — transcript of NPR’s interview.

… DAJAE WILLIAMS: Mmm hmm. So I get to get in the cleanroom every day and do a lot of inspections on how tight a screw is being tight or how – are we keeping this hardware clean so that we don’t get our germs into space? We make sure this thing actually works once it is launched.

NADIA SOFIA, HOST: She loves her job, but it didn’t start that way. When Dajae got to NASA in 2018, just out of college…

WILLIAMS: It was very exciting, a little bit overwhelming. I suffered from a little bit of imposter syndrome, for sure – and a bit confusing, I will be honest.

SOFIA: What do you mean by a bit confusing?

WILLIAMS: There’s no women in my group. There are only a few African Americans in my group or people of color, for that matter. So nobody looks like me. No one acted like me. So it was definitely different, and I did not fit in.

SOFIA: That feeling of not fitting in at a place like NASA is something that Dajae is working to change. And she’s doing it in kind of an awesome way, a way that helped her fall in love with math and science when she was a teenager.

WILLIAMS: (Singing) Energy of force, mathematics, studying the Big Bang. I’m observing something, and it may be nothing. A hypothesis could change the game, OK.

(12) SURGIN’ VIRGIN. We’re not quite at the stage of “Requiem”, the Heinlein story in which people can take short rocket rides at county fairs, but “Virgin Galactic sees demand for space travel surge”.

Virgin Galactic has said it will release more tickets for flights into space amid surging demand.

Sir Richard Branson’s firm, which completed its first sub-orbital test flight in 2018, said it had received almost 8,000 registrations of interest for future commercial flights.

That is more than double the amount it recorded at the end of September 2019.

The firm has so far sold 600 tickets for its inaugural flights, scheduled for later this year.

(13) NOSTALGIA. They’re obsolete but coming back — “Solari boards: The disappearing sound of airports”?

As day turns to night in Singapore’s Changi Airport, a queue of people wait patiently for a picture with an old star.

They leave their bags by a bench, turn their cameras on themselves, and pose for a photo.

Some smile; some jump like starfish; one even dances. As they upload to Instagram, the old star watches on, unmoved.

And then – a noise. The moment they’ve been waiting for. The travellers turn their cameras round, and the star begins one last turn.

In a blur of rotation, Kuala Lumpur becomes Colombo; Brunei turns into Tokyo; and a dozen other cities whirr into somewhere else.

Two people taking photos, Eileen Lim and Nicole Lee, aren’t even flying. They have come especially to see the departures board.

“It’s therapeutic to see the names turn round,” says Eileen, a teacher in Singapore. “And that sound – I love it.”

Every time she comes to Terminal 2, Eileen takes a photo with the board. But now, she is saying goodbye.

In less than three hours, the hoardings will come up, and the sign will come down. Changi Airport, like hundreds of others already, will whirr, spin, and flap for the final time.

…Solari di Udine, as it is now known, was founded in 1725 – more than 250 years before Changi Airport opened – in a small town in northern Italy. It specialised in clocks for towers.

After World War Two, the company began working with designer Gino Valle. He and Remigio Solari developed a sign with four flaps, each containing ten digits – perfect for telling the time.

The now-familiar design, with white numbers on black flaps, won the prestigious Compasso D’Oro award in 1956. In the same year, Solari sold its first moving sign to Liege railway station in Belgium.

…In 2013, six engineers who worked together at Drexel University, Philadelphia, formed Oat Foundry – a company that built “cool mechanical things for brands and companies”.

Three years later, they were approached by a “fast-casual” restaurant who wanted to display orders in a “non-digital way…without guests bathing in that blue light glow”.

The client suggested “an old-school train departure board”, and, after four months of research, they had a prototype.

The product was a mixture of old – they tested a number of materials “to get that iconic sound of 1960s airports and stations” – and new: it was integrated with an iPad point of sales system.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/17/20 From Rishathra With Love

(1) NOT FAR FROM THE TREE. Apple TV+ has dropped the Amazing Stories — Official Trailer. The show debuts March 6 on the Apple TV app – if you have an Apple TV+ subscription: Amazing Stories.

From visionary executive producers Steven Spielberg and Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, this reimagining of the classic anthology series transports everyday characters into worlds of wonder, possibility, and imagination

(2) IN THE AUDIENCE AT BOSKONE. Filer Mlex posted a report about the sessions he attended at this weekend’s “Boskone 2020”.

Fairy Tales from the Dark Side

Theodora Goss started off this session by noting that she spent some years of her childhood in Budapest and that she takes particular interest in the fairy tales of Hungary, with their typical strong heroines. She went on to say that fairies vary quite a lot, not only in different cultural traditions, but depending on the date and conditions where they were formed. Victorians had their small flower fairies, for example, and subtle messages could be presented in the form of fairy tales about feminism or other social and political movements. Think of the women brewing eels, bats, herbs, and potions. The fairy represents the human encounter with the magical other.

Isabel Yap noted that Fillipino fairies do not play by human rules. They are not so clearly anthropomorphized and might often turn into fish, or other creatures. These fairy tales might be quite violent, and the fairies are not on our side.

(3) LISTENING TO A CULTURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There is something of a theme taking place in British culture this spring.

Second Sleep

First we had The Second Sleep by Robert Harris which then became BBC Radio 4’s book at bed time last month (and still downloadable in 15 minute episodes. Here the end of the world was IT related (not really a spoiler as it is hypothesized in first few chapters).

Then on the non-fiction front a vaguely respected Brit senior politician (i.e. pre-Boris /Trump) is to have a book published next month warning that our IT society has no fall-back back-up system in place. This book uses an SF novelette interspersed with factual comment and explanation to elucidate such things as Black Swan events among much else.

And finally, back at the BBC, Radio 4 has just launched another season of its SFnal Dangerous Visions the first episode of 4 is ‘Blackout’ and concerns what happens when the internet (hence power as the grid is web managed) crashes…

Be thankful you can still read this post….

Dangerous Visions

(4) VISUALIZING THE CULTURE. I don’t know how I missed this — The Culture: Notes and Drawings by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod is set for a November 26 release date.

Iain M. Banks, the modern master of SF, created many original drawings detailing the universe of his bestselling Culture novels. Now these illustrations – many of them annotated – are being published for the very first time in a book that celebrates Banks’s grand vision, with additional notes and material by Banks’s longtime friend and fellow SF author Ken MacLeod. It is an essential addition to the collection of any Iain M. Banks fan.

(5) CROWDFUNDING. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to raise $20,000 to publish Invisible Threads: Cutting the Binds That Hold Us edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner.

No matter who you are or where you come from, there are boundaries and barriers that dictate what you can do, where you can go, and who you can become. Invisible threads running through society, pulling you this way or that, tripping you when you try to better yourself, ensnaring and holding you back.  Invisible Threads is an anthology of dark sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories that examine these barriers.

Confirmed authors include Alix Harrow, Andi Buchanan, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Chesya Burke, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Stephanie Malia Morris, Jordan Kurella, K.T. Bryski, ZZ Claybourne, A.C. Buchanan, Damien Angelica Walters, Beth Dawkins, Geoffrey Girard, Sabrina Vourvoulias, A.C. Wise, and Michael Wehunt. We plan to hold an open submissions call should we fund.

(6) EVEN IF IT IS JOSHI. The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2020-2021 S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 13, 2020.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library (projects do not need to relate to Lovecraft directly). The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $2,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2020 and June 2021. The fellowship is open to students, faculty, librarians, artists, and independent scholars.

(7) DOOM IN BLOOM. In “The Pleasure (Reading) of Impending Doom” at CrimeReads, Tosca Lee recommends novels by Ben H. Winters, William Fortschen, A.G. Riddle if you want to read novels about global apocalypses.

As a lifelong lover of a good doomsday story, I’ve always considered the tenacity and resourcefulness of the human spirit to be the category’s major appeal—along with the it-could-really-happen scary plausibility and ingenious “prepping” specifics, of course. But it wasn’t until I started writing my apocalyptic thriller, The Line Between, that the real charm of the genre became apparent to me. 

I’d recently married a single father and become an insta-mom to four. Life was busy and crowded with details. But as I began to plot my literary cataclysm, the chaos of daily life—work, bills, school schedules, errands, house stuff, holidays, political noise, grocery lists, social media, bucket lists, and those ever-elusive last ten pounds—fell away in the face of a story with a single goal: survival. Suddenly, that looming list of to-dos doesn’t seem so insurmountable—or even important—compared to savoring time with those we love while we’re all here on earth together.

(8) NAKAHARA OBIT. Kellye Nakahara, best known for her work on M*A*S*H but who also had several genre roles, died February 17. Consequence of Sound paid tribute: “R.I.P. Kellye Nakahara, M*A*S*H Actress Dies at 72”.

…Nakahara portrayed Nurse Kellye Yamato for 167 episodes of the hit show (according to IMDb). It would go on to be her largest and most memorable role. She followed it up with bit parts in television series such as At Ease, Hunter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and with film roles in Clue (the cook, Mrs. Ho), Black Day Blue Night (as Fat Mama), and Eddie Murphy’s version of Doctor Dolittle (credited as Beagle Woman).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 17, 1959 The Cosmic Man premiered. It produced by Robert A. Terry and directed by Herbert S. Greene. The film stars John Carradine, Bruce Bennett and Angela Greene. The film was shot quickly, primarily on a hotel lobby set, and in Griffith Park in L.A., where the Griffith Observatory was used as stand-in for the Pacific Institute of Technology. At least in Los Angeles, it played on a double bill with House on Haunted Hill. With the notable exception of Variety who really didn’t like it, most critics at the time found it to be a pleasant, fun experience. The audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes does not reflect that — it has a 0% rating from the very few, only thirty four, who’ve given it a score. You can see it here.
  • February 17, 1966 — On this day in Dublin, The Projected Man premiered. It was directed by Ian Curteis from a script by Peter Bryan, John C. Cooper, and Frank Quattrocchi, and starred Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Norman Wooland, Ronald Allen, and Derek Farr. Universal Studios released it on a double bill with Terror Island. Critics noted the monster’s resemblance to that of one in The Fly but those involved here denied that film inspired the look of the creature in this movie. It was featured in a ninth season episode of  Mystery Science Theater 3000, and currently the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 3% rating. You can see it here.

February 17, 1966 — In the United Kingdom, Episode Twenty-one of the first season of The Thunderbirds,  “The Duchess Assignment”, aired. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and. filmed by their production company. The electronic marionette puppetry which they called Supermarionation  was combined with scale-model special effects sequences.  It was the fifth such project by their company. You can see this episode of the Thunderbirds here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1903 Kenne Duncan. He’s got a number of genre credits starting with the 1938 Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars serial where he was the Airdrome Captain. He’d play Ram Singh, the butler to the Spider, in The Spider’s Web and The Spider Returns serials, and he’d be Lt. Lacy in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial. Several years later, he’d be Cheney Hencheman Barnett in The Adventures of Captain Marvel serial. You can see him in the first chapter of Spider’s Web serial here. (Died 1972.)
  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre  Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with some fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1920 Curt Swan. He’s the artist most associated with Superman during the Silver Age, and he produced hundreds of covers and stories from the Fifties through the Eighties. He would be let go in the DC reorganization of the Eighties with his last work as a regular artist on Superman being the 1986 story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” that was written by Alan Moore. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 17, 1930 Ruth Rendell. I’ve read and enjoyed some of her mysteries down the decade but am not familiar at all with the three listed as genre by ISFDB (The Killing Doll, The Tree of Hands and The Bridesmaid). Who of you is familiar with these? (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 17, 1931 Johnny Hart. The creator of B.C. and The Wizard of Id. (Brant Pant was the other creator of the latter strip.)  He certainly wasn’t without controversy as this strip attests. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 66. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 49. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. She’ll be a few years later Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She’s been announced as playing Victoria Darw in the still to be scheduled Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1974 Jerry O’Connell, 46. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind the broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League Dark, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent. 

(11) SH-BOOM. High Seas Trading Co. has reason to brag about its “Outer Space” design:

The Hawaiian Shirt that the Astronauts wore on Aloha Friday on the International Space Station.This space themed Hawaiian shirt is out of this world.

(12) FRESH LID. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 14th February 2020” maps the abstractions of nautical horror with Underwater and The Lighthouse, take a look at the amazing Parasite and shows him learning to Hack the Panic!

Signal Boost this week is Mockery Manor ,Mike UnderwoodKevin Petker‘s Princess World is live on Kickstarter from next week. Be sure to check it outRosarium are currently crowdfunding ‘Hellraiser meets Black History Month’ graphic novel, Box of Bones.. Gordon B. White‘s splendidly titled anthology As Summer’s Mask Slips, and Other Disruptions just got a starred PW review!!

Finally Tracacy Barnett’s current project, This Thing We Started is crowdfunding now. They’ve also recommended Descent into Midnight, launching on Saturday and VERY much my sort of thing.

(13) SPATIAL DELIVERY. James Davis Nicoll found copies of “Five SF Stories About Teleportation Systems Gone Awry” at Tor.com. At least.

In Thomas Disch’s 1967 novel Echo Round His Bones, Nathan Hansard is transmitted to America’s Camp Jackson Mars via teleporter. This is a routine operation…or so it is believed. Wrongly. Hansard is surprised to discover himself somewhere other than Mars. Teleportation creates phantom duplicates on Earth, living ghosts dependent on the phantom duplicates of supplies sent to Mars. Food is in short supply, but no matter. Some of Hansard’s predecessors have solved the problem in a straightforward manner: by eating their fellow phantoms….

But if they eat The Phantom, who will remain to leave comments on Lela Buis’ blog?

(14) EASY DOES IT. So, more like smushing together mudpies? “New Horizons spacecraft ‘alters theory of planet formation'”.

Scientists say they have “decisively” overturned the prevailing theory for how planets in our Solar System formed.

The established view is that material violently crashed together to form ever larger clumps until they became worlds.

New results suggest the process was less catastrophic – with matter gently clumping together instead.

The study appears in Science journal and has been presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.

…The claim arises from detailed study of an object in the outer reaches of the Solar System. Named Arrokoth, the object is more than six billion km from the Sun in a region called the Kuiper belt. It is a pristine remnant of planet formation in action as the Solar System emerged 4.6 billion years ago, with two bodies combining to form a larger one.

Scientists obtained high-resolution pictures of Arrokoth when Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew close to it just over a year ago. It gave scientists their first opportunity to test which of the two competing theories was correct: did the two components crash together or was there gentle contact?

The analysis by Dr Stern and his team could find no evidence of violent impact. The researchers found no stress fractures, nor was there any flattening, indicating that the objects were squashed together gently.

(15) HIGH FLIGHT. BBC is there: “Virgin Galactic: Unity rocket ship moves to operational base”.

Sir Richard Branson has moved his rocket plane from its development base in California to what will be its operational centre in New Mexico.

The transfer of the Unity vehicle and its mothership, Eve, to the Spaceport America complex signals the start of final testing.

Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic company is now close to beginning commercial service.

More than 600 individuals have paid deposits to ride Unity to over 80km.

The trip will enable them to experience a few minutes of weightlessness around the top of the rocket ship’s climb.

Already almost 100 Virgin Galactic staff have moved to the southern New Mexico spaceport to prepare it – and themselves – for operations.

Unity will now perform a series of test flights above the desert.

Some of these will see it dropped from altitude to simply glide back to the runway. Others will involve firing its rocket motor to power skyward.

(16) WHAT A CAST. Does a show about Skeletor and He-Man deserve this array of talent? “Mark Hamill and Lena Heady Lead Expansive Voice Cast for Kevin Smith’s ‘Masters of the Universe’ Series”.

Netflix and Mattel TV announced an expansive voice cast for its upcoming “Masters of the Universe” series from Kevin Smith. The cast is led by Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn and Chris Wood as Prince Adam aka He-Man.

The new series, “Masters of the Universe: Revelations,” will focus on the unresolved storylines of the original 1982 TV series, picking up many of the characters’ journeys where they left off decades ago.

In addition to those three, the cast also includes Sarah Michelle Gellar (Teela), Liam Cunningham (Man-At-Arms), Stephen Root (Cringer), Diedrich Bader (King Randor/Trap Jaw), Griffin Newman (Orko), Tiffany Smith (Andra), Henry Rollins (Tri-Klops), Susan Eisenberg (Sorceress), Alicia Silverstone (Queen Marlena), Justin Long (Roboto), Jason Mewes (Stinkor), Phil LaMarr (He-Ro), Tony Todd (Scare Glow), Cree Summer (Priestess), Kevin Michael Richardson (Beast Man), Kevin Conroy (Mer-Man) and Harley Quinn Smith (Ileena).

(17) INSPECTOR SPOT-ET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spot may not be designed to follow the Three Laws (yet?), but it is starting to protect humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. Of course, some people would argue that it’s also starting to threaten humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. SYFY Wire: “Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog gets a job working an offshore oil rig”.

See Spot walk. See Spot sit. See Spot roll over. See Spot run onto a Norwegian oil rig to sniff out lethal gas leaks!

Boston Dynamics’ next-generation robotic device, affectionately nicknamed Spot, will soon be embarking on a new test mission aboard an offshore oil rig for petroleum product producer Aker BP and AI software company Cognite. The newly announced project will be rolled out to test a number of advanced robots and drones on Aker BP’s Skarv installation in the Norwegian Sea later this year.

[…] “Our vision is to digitalize all our operations from cradle to grave in order to increase productivity, enhance quality, and improve the safety of our employees,” Aker BP’s CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik said in a press release. “Exploring the potential of robotics offshore underpin our digital journey.”

(18) COLLECTIBLE ROBOT. Michael Crawford provides a review and photos of Wal-Mart’s “Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet action figure” at Captain Toy.

Sculpting – ****
The sculpt isn’t particularly detailed, but the original robot had a lot of smooth surfaces.

What sets this guy apart is all the individual pieces that went into making him, particularly inside and attached to the dome. Check out the levers and doo-dads which would spin and turn and clack along as he spoke and moved, demonstrating the very analog way we looked at robots back then. You could almost see the zeroes and ones flitting through his mechanical brain. Of course none of the interior dome pieces on this figure move, but the detail work is quite impressive for this price point.

The body recreates the original look quite well, although the proportions are a smidge off. Still, at a solid 14″ tall, he’s about the right height and scale to fit in great with other sixth scale figures, including the old Lost In Space characters.

(19) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. (A) Vous Regardez Un Film on Vimeo is a cartoon by Jon Boutin about the drudgery of going to the office.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/12/20 Mongo Only Pawn In Scroll Of Pixels

(1) AVOIDING CALENDRICAL ROT. Odyssey Writing Workshop presents “Interview: Guest Lecturer Yoon Ha Lee”.

You recently completed the Hugo Award-nominated Machineries of Empire trilogy. Did you know how the trilogy would end when you began writing the first book? Are you more of a planner, or more of a pantser?

I didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy! I originally intended Ninefox Gambit to be a standalone. But after I finished drafting it, I had an idea for a sequel. And after I committed to Raven Stratagem, I had another idea, and that became Revenant Gun. I plan individual novels because I’m not smart enough to figure out the plots on the fly. But on the series level…well, I didn’t plan to write a trilogy. It just happened.

(2) SOMTOW IN THE NEWS. Forward’s Benjamin Ivry interviews Somtow Sucharitkul: “A new Holocaust opera premieres — in Thailand”.

Thailand might not seem the most probable point of origin for a new opera about the Holocaust, but on January 16, the world premiere of “Helena Citrónová” by the composer Somtow Sucharitkul, 67, will be staged in Bangkok.

It is about a real-life Auschwitz survivor of Slovak Jewish origin who at a trial in 1972, testified that a Nazi officer had fallen in love with her and thereafter, saved her and her sister. Despite testimony from others attesting to his crimes, the Nazi was allowed to go free due to a statute of limitations.

Citrónová’s story gained further currency in a 2005 BBC-TV documentary, “Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution’” in which she was interviewed.

It inspired a controversial romance novel about a Jewish prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp whose love for a Nazi commandant redeems him. As The Forward reported in August 2015, this book sparked objections, notably from Katherine Locke, a Jewish writer based in Philadelphia.

Far from Auschwitz and Philadelphia, Somtow Sucharitkul, who writes and composes under the name S.P. Somtow, published his libretto for Helena Citrónová in 2018….

Last October, you tweeted a response to those who wonder why you chose the subject of Helena Citrónová by citing lines from Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar,” about Nazi atrocities in the USSR: “Today, I am as old/ As the entire Jewish race itself,” adding “This story belongs to all of us.” What did you mean by that?

Somtow Sucharitkul: People ask me all the time why should I talk about these things as if I were somehow schnorring in on someone else’s life. I was born in Thailand, but left when I was six months old and lived in Europe for most of my childhood, so it feels like more of my past than what happened in Asian countries. The reason I started getting involved in Jewish issues in Thailand were that none of my students here knew whether Thailand had won or lost the Second World War. I was in the Terminal 21 Shopping Mall [in Bangkok] and saw a statue of Hitler dressed as Ronald McDonald. No one meant anything by it, but it was a terrible moment of disjunction, and I felt that I should explain to young people around me and those in a wider range.

You posted on Facebook in October that in the opera’s final scene, when you set the heroine’s words, “My father told me once, never forget you’re a Jew,” you chose to rework a melody from Wagner’s “Die Walküre.” You add that this was done “unconsciously,” but using the notorious anti-Semite Wagner’s music in this context was an “allusion so cogent and so trenchant that my unconscious must have intended it.” So was it intentional or unconscious?

I imagine it was unconsciously intentional. At the time I wrote those notes, I thought to myself, this is Wagner, but I couldn’t place it. That was an odd moment, I have to admit….

(3) A COMPLETE TRIUMPH. Edgar Allan Poe’s “William Wilson” is Library of America’s “Story of the Week.” It’s preceded by a long and interesting note about its reception.

Since returning from Europe in 1832, Irving had done much to help younger American writers, and he responded without hesitation as soon as the letter reached him at his home in Tarrytown. “I have read your little tale of ‘William Wilson’ with much pleasure,” Irving wrote. “It is managed in a highly picturesque style, and the singular and mysterious interest is well sustained throughout. . . . I cannot but think a series of articles of like style and merit would be extremely well received by the public.” Irving added that he much preferred this new work over Poe’s previous story in the magazine, which suffered from “too much coloring.” (That tale, incidentally, was “The Fall of the House of Usher.”) While the endorsement might seem somewhat equivocal, Poe boasted to one editor that Irving’s support represented “a complete triumph over those little critics who would endeavor to put me down by raising hue and cry of exaggeration in style, of Germanism & such twaddle.” The quote from Irving was featured prominently in publicity for Poe’s new book, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.

(4) NISI SHAWL CLASS. Cat Rambo tweeted “Highlights from Nisi Shawl’s A Taste of Writing the Other”

(5) AN ALLUSION, In The Village Voice, Thulani Davis recounts how “Black Women Writers Reclaim Their Past”. Tagline: “Like a number of other black women writers, I have made it a point to speak of our ‘tradition,’ yet I know that no such tradition is assumed by the rest of the world, primarily because our books have not been read or taught”

…Imagine a John Coltrane who had only heard one 78 by Charlie Parker, one LP by Billie Holiday. Imagine a Cecil Taylor who did not grow up with the sounds of Art Tatum and Duke Ellington, and you have some idea how amazing it is that we have writers like Lorraine Hansberry and Toni Morrison.

Each generation of black women has cer­tainly taken ideas from known forms, yet in the matter of content — the telling of black women’s stories — the same impulses appear time and again, with little revision over the decades. Only lately have we seen work that makes conscious nods to the past. And no wonder: Morrison, Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, Toni Cade Bambara, Gloria Naylor, Sherley Anne Williams, Ntozake Shange, and others are the first generation to have a body of work on the black woman’s condi­tion readily at hand.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 12, 1932 – In Mexico, Doctor X premiered. A pre-Code film, it was directed by Michael Curtiz and was headlined by Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray. Because it was pre-Code, murder, rape, cannibalism, and prostitution were part of the story. It’s based on the play titled “The Terror (New York, February 9, 1931) by Howard W. Comstock and Allen C. Miller. It was well received both by critics and at did very well at the box office. Warner Bros. followed up with Mystery of the Wax Museum, another pre-Code film.  Critics at Rotten Tomatoes rate it considerably higher (75%) than reviewers do (48%). 
  • January 12, 1940The Invisible Man Returns, the sequel to The Invisible Man, premiered. Directed by John May and produced by Ken Goldsmith, it starred Vincent Price in the title role. The screenplay was written by Lester Cole and Curt Siodmak (as Kurt Siodmak). Its success led to a third film, The Invisible Woman, a comedy billed as a sequel. Critics at Rotten Tomatoes love it giving a 82% rating while reviewers give a not so bad 58% rating.
  • January 12, 1966 Batman made its television debut.
  • January 12, 1967 Star Trek’s “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series. 
  • January 12, 2018 — Amazon dropped Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams unto the public for viewing.  The first episode of the first season was titled “The Hood Maker”.  It was originally published in the June 1955 issue of Imagination hich was born in the Fifties and ceased publishing in the the Fifties as well.The screenplay was by Matthew Graham. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 12, 1916 House Peters Jr. Though he’s best remembered as Mr. Clean in the Procter and Gamble commercials of the Fifties and Sixties, he did appear in a fair amount of SFF including Flash Gordon, Batman and Robin, King of the Rocket Men, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Red Planet Mars, Target Earth and The Twilight Zone. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 83. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. 
  • Born January 12, 1948 Tim Underwood, 72. Bibliographer with such works as Fantasy and Science Fiction by Jack Vance (done with Jack Miller), Shameless Art: Paintings of Dames, Dolls, Pin-ups, and Bad Girls (genre adjacent at the very least) and Stephen King Spills the Beans: Career-Spanning Interviews with America’s Bestselling Author.  
  • Born January 12, 1951 Kirstie Alley, 69. She’s here for being Saavik on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was, errr, interesting reading the various rumors why this was her only Trek film. Her SFF experience otherwise was brief limited to being an uncredited handmaiden on Quark, and being in the Village of the Damned as Dr. Susan Verner.
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 68. An odd one as I  have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue Light, Futureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent Future, The Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB.
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 68. He’s The genius behind  Farscape, SeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter couldn’t I get interested in. 

(7) TAKE A RIDE ON THE READING. “For William Gibson, Seeing the Future Is Easy. But the Past?” – a New York Times interview.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

The ideal reading experience, for me, is wholly induced by the text, with a complete lack of interruption. My most memorable adult experience of this remains my initial reading of Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” which I began in the cab, in Vancouver, on my way to the airport, in 1991 or so, for my first visit to Berlin. I remember nothing of the journey, between my door in Vancouver and the hotel room in which I finished the book. Just the Judge and I, here to there. Leaving him (as much as any receptive reader ever can) I stepped to the window, blinking out at this city, whenever and wherever it was. I was late getting to the Kunsthalle, to greet Samuel Delany and Wim Wenders, though I was able to later.

(8) FARSIGHT. “Everybody talks about the weather,” begins a Mark Twain quote. Now they’ll have even more to talk about: “Aeolus: Weather forecasts start using space laser data”.

Europe’s novel wind-measuring satellite, Aeolus, has reached a key milestone in its mission.

The space laser’s data is now being used in operational weather forecasts.

Aeolus monitors the wind by firing an ultraviolet beam down into the atmosphere and catching the light’s reflection as it scatters off molecules and particles carried along in the air

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts says the information is now robust enough for routine use.

The Reading, UK-based organisation is ingesting the data into its numerical models that look from one to several days ahead.

Forecast improvements are most apparent for the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere.

…The European Space Agency’s Aeolus satellite is regarded as a breakthrough concept.

Wind measurements have traditionally been very patchy.

You can get data from anemometers, weather balloons and aeroplanes – and even from satellites that infer air movements from the way clouds track across the sky or from how rough the sea surface appears at different locations.

But these are all limited indications that tell us what is happening in particular places or at particular heights.

Aeolus on the other hand gathers its wind data across the entire Earth, from the ground to the stratosphere (30km) above thick clouds.

(9) IF YOU’VE GOT IT… BBC reports that “The woman who paid $250,000 to go into space” may get there yet.

Ketty Maisonrouge has waited 15 years for a trip that she knows will be out of this world.

The 61-year-old business school professor signed up back in 2005 for the promise of five minutes in zero-gravity, paying $250,000 (£190,500) to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

Now the company that sold her the ticket, Virgin Galactic, says it will finally begin flights this year. Its founder, Sir Richard Branson, will be on the first trip, and Mrs Maisonrouge won’t be far behind.

“Hopefully it will be as amazing as I think,” says Mrs Maisonrouge.

If all goes to plan, Virgin Galactic will be the first private company to take tourists into space. The company says 600 people have already purchased tickets, including celebrities like Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

But rival firms are close behind. Blue Origin, started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has also starting speaking to possible passengers for trips it hopes to start this year, while SpaceX, founded by Tesla’s Elon Musk, announced in 2019 that a Japanese billionaire would be its first passenger for a trip around the moon.

(10) ANOTHER HITCHHIKER. Martin Plimmer lets us share a ride “In Roald Dahl’s Car” in his essay for the New York Times.

…I told him I was a reporter on the local paper, The Bucks Herald. I needed to get back for work the next day. My first task every Monday morning, as the most junior reporter on the paper, was to call on the town’s undertakers and compile a list of people who had died over the weekend. Then I had to phone or visit the next of kin. It was my job to populate the newspaper’s obituary column.

He chuckled. “Sounds grim,” he said.

“It’s not really,” I said. “Well, the undertakers are grim, but people are actually very happy to be approached for an obituary. And they’re good stories too. Obituaries celebrate whole lives. It would be hard not to find a couple hundred interesting words to write about someone’s whole life.”

“I can see that,” he said. “I also do a bit of writing.”

I’d had a feeling this was coming. In my experience of conversations with people who stopped to give me lifts, it was quite common to be told that they were also “writers.” Sometimes it would be a couple of articles in the parish magazine, or a half-finished novel in a bedroom drawer, or, more commonly, they would claim to have easily a book’s worth of fascinating ideas in their heads, just itching to become a best seller. This man had the look of a gentleman tinkerer, someone who might do a bit of scribbling in his spare time. “What sort of writing?” I asked.

“Oh, plays, film screenplays, some TV. Children’s novels seem to be taking up a lot of my time just lately. I suppose, though, that I’m best known for short stories. Stories with a macabre element — I’ve written quite a lot of them.”

His answer surprised me. I asked him his name.

“Roald Dahl,” he said.

It meant nothing to me. “I haven’t come across your work,” I said. “So … ‘a macabre element’ — are these horror stories?”

“Not exactly,” he said, “though, unlike your jolly obituaries, they can be pretty horrible. They don’t always end well; there’s often a twist in the tail. Actually, I think I’m writing funny stories, because they can be very comical. There’s such a narrow line between the macabre and laughter.” I could sense him smiling as he said it….

(11) LONG REMEMBERED THUNDER. In “Samuel R. Delany: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Super-Nova, Jeet Heer rediscovers that the field’s reception of this new author had its bright spots, too, despite the resistance of editors John W. Campbell and Michael Moorcock.

…It was only after his appearance at the 24th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Cleveland in 1966, that Delany’s existence was recognized, which led to the quick consensus that he was a leading figure in the field. In 1967, the contentious editor Harlan Ellison wrote that Delany gave “an indefinable but commanding impression that this was a young man with great work in him.” The following year, Algis Budrys, a respected novelist and at the time the sharpest critic in science fiction, hailed Nova by saying the novel proved that “right now, as of this book” Delany is “the best science-fiction writer in the world, at a time when competition for that status is intense.” Delany was all of twenty-six years old when he earned that accolade.

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