Pixel Scroll 8/13/20 There’s A Right Way To Pixel, A Wrong Way To Pixel, And There’s The Scroll Way To Pixel

(1) BLYLY IN STAR-TRIBUNE AGAIN. Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore owner Don Blyly, who made the front page in Minneapolis yesterday, was back in the news today when the city announced it has reversed a policy that has made it hard to get demolition permits: “City removes tax demand that was blocking rebuilding of riot-torn Minneapolis”.

Minneapolis officials will no longer require property owners to prepay the second half of their property taxes in order to start removing rubble from sites damaged in the May riots.

Mayor Jacob Frey announced the change Thursday after the Star Tribune reported on the controversy.

…Minneapolis property owners have complained that the policy was slowing the pace of recovery and turning piles of debris into public safety hazards. The situation is different in St. Paul, which has been issuing demolition permits without requiring the prepayment of the second half of 2020 property taxes, which are due in October.

…“This will remove one small roadblock, but I am not sure how much it will actually speed up the entire rebuilding process,” said Don Blyly, owner of Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s bookstores in Minneapolis, which were destroyed in the riots. “You are still going to have the problem of a whole lot of demolition permits being handled by people who are working at home because of COVID-19.”

Blyly, who hired a contractor to remove the rubble from his lot a month ago, still doesn’t have his demolition permit, even though he paid his taxes last week.

Minneapolis City Council Member Andrew Johnson said he will introduce legislation at Friday’s council meeting that would require city officials to expedite the approval process for riot-damaged properties and waive all administrative fees.

“We should be processing their applications first, in front of everyone else’s, and they shouldn’t be subject to any unnecessary steps that are slowing stuff down,” Johnson said. “We need to bend over backward and do everything possible to help them with rebuilding.”

(2) F&SF COVER. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Sept/Oct 2020 cover art is by Bob Eggleton for “The Shadows of Alexandrium” by David Gerrold.

(3) QUITE A FASCINATING ARTICLE. In “My First Thriller: David Morrell” on CrimeReads, Rick Pullen interviews Morrell, who explains that sf writer and Penn State English professor Philip Klass not only inspired Morrell to find the path he needed to complete First Blood (whose protagonist was John Rambo) but also introduced Morrell to his first agent.

…He read the show’s credits, noting that Stirling Silliphant was the creator. His local library found the address for the “Route 66” production company (the beginning of Morrell’s love affair with libraries). He mailed Silliphant a hand-written letter, saying “I want to be you.” Surprisingly, Silliphant wrote back with a single-spaced, two-page letter within the week. (The framed letter now hangs in Morrell’s office.)

“I wish I had some specific advice for you or encouragement,” wrote Silliphant, “but what I have to say is certainly not new. Keep writing…eventually if you have something of promise to say, someone will help you or hire you.”

…While at Penn State, he met science fiction writer Philip Klass, better known by the pseudonym William Tenn, who taught the basics of fiction writing.

“It was astonishing that a university would hire a real writer. He did not have a degree. He was the backbone of their creative writing department…I couldn’t get into his classes. They filled up right away. So Klass agreed to meet me during office hours.”

To test Morrell, Klass instructed him to turn in a short story every week, and every week he did.

Eventually Klass summoned Morrell to his office and begged him to stop writing fiction. “You’re terrible,” he said.

“He was right,” Morrell says. “I was writing bad Joyce and Faulkner.”

From Klass, he learned “every writer has a dominant emotion.” Morrell’s was fear. Maybe if he wrote honestly about fear, Klass told him, he would stop writing all of his horrible imitation fiction.

“I took him at his word.”…

(4) HELP NEEDED. Filer Lenora Rose hopes someone can lend a hand:

I have a writer’s issue to do with language — specifically semi-Nordic language — and I think this might be the right place to ask for help?

So I’m dealing with a fantasy setting that is used for the course of at least three books. One of the countries major characters come from speaks something I have been rendering, for the purpose of getting through the rough drafts, as quasi-Nordic — sometimes actually looking up words in Swedish or Norwegian or Icelandic and picking the one that sounds the least like English, and also going a Germanic style take two or three words and squish them together. It didn’t help that I decided they were the culture where the names of humans mostly translate to other nouns (Snow, Willow, etc) and the names of the non-human sapient race are usually those Germanic-style squished-together compounds (Bright Witty Magpie is one, as is Stream in Spring Flood). The protagonist is a multi-linguist and cares about this stuff.

Well, the story is now getting into final draft stages in every other way, and the placeholder language is still something that would almost certainly give any linguist or speaker of any of the related Scandinavian languages creeping horrors.

It certainly bothers me, because in the “I don’t know what I don’t know” way, I’m terrified I am going to end up, (as one author did when inventing names she thought sounded Welsh), naming someone a slang term for women’s hygiene products or something similarly terrible.

So basically I need a consult with someone who speaks a related language and would be willing to make non-painful translations or naming suggestions, or a linguist to do the same. *I am assuming this is something where I should pay for their time in some way*, at least if it goes past an initial consultation.

If anyone is willing to help, please relay your email through OGH – mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

(5) HUGO RIPPLES. The KPBS website keeps the story alive: “Criticism Of 2020 Hugo Awards Spotlights A Lack Of Inclusivity In Literary Fiction World”.

….With 2020 seeing the re-emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, leading to many conversations about inclusivity, [George R.R.] Martin’s mispronunciations have taken on a deeper meaning.

“The backlash is absolutely justified,” said Hugo award winner and British fantasy author Jeanette Ng. “But I am sometimes frustrated that it gets reduced down to an anger about him mispronouncing names rather than this deeper tension between competing visions of the genre and the award…Whilst the mispronunciations matter, they are ultimately a symptom of that deeper disconnect of what the [awards are meant to do].”

(6) ASFA SPONSORS BIPOC MEMBERSHIPS. The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists is offering “Sponsored Memberships For BIPOC”. Donations have raised the number available to 15.

In recognition of systemic biases against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & other People of Color)  both within the Speculative Fiction & Fantasy communities and without, the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists intends to sponsor memberships in the organization for BIPOC artists. These sponsorships will be open to up-and-coming artists as well as established artists, and each membership will convey voting rights in the annual Chesley Awards in addition to periodic opportunities to exhibit in shows with other ASFA artists. Additionally, ASFA encourages its BIPOC members to participate in our Board elections, as candidates for Board positions and as voters, to ensure that the organization’s representatives are truly representative of our membership and our aspirations for the community overall.

If you are interested in receiving one of these memberships please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/YF23aYPvMPe4mob86

(7) MARK ON HISTORY. “NASA wants nuclear-contaminated Santa Susana site to be made a historic landmark”. I guess that this is the first time I ever heard about the meltdown is inherently explained by the cover-up. But I grew up at the other end of the San Fernando Valley feeling the earth tremble when they used to test rockets over there.

The site of America’s first nuclear meltdown — and subsequent cover-up — in the picturesque hills of Ventura County may soon join Hearst Castle, the cable cars of San Francisco, and the Santa Barbara Mission as an official landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.

In what some have described as a cynical attempt by a U.S. government agency to avoid a long-promised cleanup of toxic and radioactive contaminants, NASA has nominated the Santa Susana Field Laboratory for official listing asa traditional cultural property.

…Hidden within the chaparral and rocky peaks of the Simi Hills, the Santa Susana Field Lab conducted research that was critical to the nation’s Cold War ambitions, yet toxic to the Earth. The partial meltdown released radioactive gasses that the public was never warned about, and spent rocket fuel, heavy metals and other toxins contaminated the soil and groundwater.

…Now, NASA and a coalition of Native American groups have proposed the area be designated a traditional cultural district. The move has been opposed by critics, who fear that strict laws protecting Native American artifacts, combined with terms of the 2010 agreement, could make it difficult to clean up contamination.

(8) WHY JUST BEING NOMINATED IS A PLUS. The Dragon Awards nominations inspired John Scalzi to signal boost his 2019 post “Hey, Let’s Talk Awards For a Bit: A Handy Guide For Dealing With Them”. He makes many points drawn from his experience as a nominated writer. For example —  

4. Winning an award is not always as important as being a finalist. I can speak to this personally: In terms of my career, it was far more important for me to have been nominated for the Best Novel Hugo award in 2006, than it was for me to win it in 2013. Why? Because in 2006 I was new to the field, and having my first novel nominated was a thing, especially when coupled with the nomination for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I was the first person in more than twenty years to get nominated for the Campbell and Best Novel in the same year, and it changed my status in the field from “who is John Scalzi” to “oh, that’s John Scalzi.”

I didn’t win the Hugo that year (nor should I have: Spin by Robert Charles Wilson won, and deservedly so), but it didn’t matter because the boost put me in a different career orbit. When I did win the Best Novel award, several years later, it was great, and I loved it, and I wouldn’t trade the experience. But careerwise, it wasn’t a transforming event. It was a confirming event. My professional career didn’t change all that much after I won. Whereas being nominated earlier was transforming, and ultimately more important to my career.

(9) BOOKS ARE FLYING OUT THE DOOR. Entertainment Weekly reports “Twilight companion novel Midnight Sun sells 1 million copies in first week”.

…The novel, which follows the love story between vampire Edward Cullen and high schooler Bella Swan that fans originally fell for in the first Twilight book back in 2005, is currently No. 1 on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List as well as on The New York Times’s Children’s Series List. While the original book series —which was adapted into a franchise of movies starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the leading roles — was told from the point of view of Bella, this version takes readers inside the mind of her bloodsucking boyfriend, Edward.

Something about that last line sounds a little off….

(10) BITING FOR BYTES. What made me think of that headline, I wonder, “The Big Idea: Julie E. Czerneda” at Whatever.

…Esen the Living Archive

When I first envisioned Web-beings, it was a thought experiment on a biological basis for being semi-immortal. I arrived at the notion of organisms who manipulate their molecular structure using energy to repair aging and damage. It led me to aliens who’d hide themselves by cycling, as I called it, into the form of shorter-lived intelligent species. To be convincing, they’d need to know how to behave as one. Thus I had them (there were six at the start) collect and share everything they discovered about a species, from its biology (and thus how to be that form) to every aspect of society and culture.

When your memory consists of your flesh, you’re able to store vast amounts of information, which Web-beings exchange by biting off bits of one another. (I love my job.)…

(11) A CONZEALAND SOUVENIR. W.O.O.F. #45 put together by the Worldcon Order of Fan-Editors for CoNZealand is a free download from eFanzines [PDF file]. It boasts a cover by Tim Kirk, and contributions from John Purcell, Chris Garcia, Rich Lynch, Chuck Connor, Ahrvid Engholm, Evelyn & Mark Leeper, David Schlosser, Mark Blackman, Andrew Hooper, Murray Moore, Kees van Toorn, Wolf von Witting, R. Laurraine Tutihasi, Roger Hill, Alan Stewart, and Phil Wlodarczyk. Guy H. Lillian III served as the Offcial Editor.  

(12) I DON’T KNOW — THIRD BLAST! On the Dragon Awards site: “A Blast from the Past (Winners) – Part 3” with Kevin J. Anderson, Nick Cole, Larry Correia, Richard Fox, Claudia Gray, Brian Niemeier, S.M. Stirling, and Harry Turtledove.

If you were a voting electorate of one, what book by any other author would you give a Dragon Award to? What books by other authors would you recommend to those who voted for or enjoyed your book?

Nick Cole: I’m going to decline naming any authors because I have too many talented friends. If you enjoyed Ctrl Alt Revolt!, I guess I would recommend that you read any book by any author who’s been cancelled. Instead of just arbitrarily listening to someone’s opinion on some author and why they should be banned, blacklisted, and their works burned in a bonfire either digital or physical, I think you should take the time to read that book, listen to that person, and come to the conclusion yourself.

(13) BOOK ANNVERSARY.

  • August 2015 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] The House of Shattered Wings, the first of her Dominion of The Fallen series by French-Vietnamese author Aliette de Bodard was published by Roc in the U.S.  It would be the first novel in what has been a prolific and award-rich writing career. In addition to the decadent, ruined Paris set of the Dominion of The Fallen series, there’s her Xuya stellar empire where she makes rich use of her French-Vietnamese heritage. Of the new writers I’ve been reading (and most are female), I think she’s one that bears watching as it’ll be interesting to see what new universes come from her. And yes I’m waiting for the first Xuya novel somewhat impatiently.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard cover art by Nekro
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard cover art by Nekro

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 13, 1953 — George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds premiered in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Not New York City as is popularly believed.) It was directed by Byron Haskin from the screenplay by Barré Lyndon. It starred Gene Barry and Anne Robinson. It was narrated by Cedric Hardwicke. The film was both a critical and box office success with it earning back its budget in its first run. And it would won an Academy Award for Special Effects. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 71% rating. (CE)

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr. Best remembered  and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though In the war film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part was awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin. He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in. “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.) (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1928 – Sir George Pollock, Bt.  The 5th baronet (an oversimplification); pursued photography that had light itself as its subject; invented color photographs using controlled light, originally through glass, which he called Vitrograph; later, large-scale photographic murals.  Five book and magazine covers for us; here is New Writings in SF 3.  Two album covers for His Master’s Voice; here is HQM 1008 with Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale (translation in part by Michael Flanders!), here is HQM 1026 with Prokofievand Shostakovich.  Here is Galactic Event.  Website here (under re-construction but some help).  Appreciation by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain here (“NGV” is Nat’l Gallery of Victoria) (PDF).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1932 – John Berkey.  A hundred seventy covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Mixed his own colors.  Here is Starman Jones.  Here is Star SF 6.  Here is the Nov 94 SF Age.  Here is a Star Wars book.  Here is One Giant Leap.  Four artbooks; lastly J. Frank ed., The Art of John Berkey.  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Website here.   (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1945 – Rita Krupowicz.  (She usually signed “R.J. Krupowicz”.)  Ten covers, as many interiors.  Here is The Dark Cry of the Moon.  Here is the Nov 85 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  This is from The Vortex Library on Twitter.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1952 – Donna Barr, 68.  Enlisted in the U.S. Army, school-trained Teletype operator.  Much of her work self-published, available electronically.  Stinz was serialized in the Eclipse Comics series The Dreamery (hello, Lex Nakashima).  GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) and Traveller role-playing books.  “I usually do a rough on scrap paper (junk mail has lots of blank backs!), happily cutting and pasting, then I copy the whole thing (so the back is clear), rearrange the copy backwards on the back of the final paper, slap in some lettering guides, flip it over on a light table, and use it as a rough guide while I ink.  No penciling, and no erasing.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1974 – Christina Henry, 46.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Alice, Red Queen and Looking Glass are “a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”; The Girl in Red is “a post-apocalyptic Red Riding Hood novel”.  The Ghost Tree, expected next month, is “an homage to all the coming-of-age horror novels I read when I was younger – except all those books featured boys as the protagonists when I longed for more stories about girls.  Just to clarify, though – this is not a young adult novel; it’s intended for an adult audience (like all of my work).”  [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1977 Damian O’Hare, 43. Though you might know him from  the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and  On Stranger Tides where he played Gillette, I know him as the voice of John Constantine on Justice League Action. He also showed up in Agent Carter. (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 30. She plays the complex role of Baldwin on the Counterpart series which I’ve got on the iPad for watching soon. Anyone watch this? (CE) 
  • Born August 13, 1990 – Marlon Pierre-Antoine, 30.  “Helena’s Empire” is an E-book novelette.  Its sequel Wandering Stars explores a teenage girl’s whblooming romance with Lucifer (i.e. after his fall), whom she meets on a beach.  MP ranks The Divine Comedy above Animal Farm, both below The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  [JH]

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) DC SECRET HISTORY. “John Ridley Unveils ‘The Other History of the DC Universe'”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Years after the completion of the second outing of his alternate history series The American Way12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley is returning to comics to reveal The Other History of the DC Universe. The long-awaited series, exploring DC’s lengthy comic book mythology from a new angle, has been newly scheduled for a November release.

The five-part series, originally announced in 2018, re-examines important and iconic moments from DC’s comic book history from the point of view of characters from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including Jefferson Pierce — better known as Black Lightning — and Renee Montoya (The Question). Giuseppe “Cammo” Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, and colorist José Villarrubia are the artists for the series, with covers from Camuncoli and Jamal Campbell (Far Sector, Naomi)….

(18) THE AIRING OF GRIEVANCES. “Netflix soured the live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender, its showrunners say” – a story on Vox.

In a rare public fallout for Netflix, the creators of the platform’s highly anticipated, live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the acclaimed Nickelodeon cartoon, have walked away from the project.

Avatar: The Last Airbender’s full run became available on Netflix this past June, attracting a huge audience and reigniting the 2000s cartoon’s popularity. But in separate posts published to their respective blogs and InstagramsAvatar franchise creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko said they were no longer involved with the previously announced Netflix remake, due to prolonged creative differences.

“When Netflix brought me on board to run this series alongside Mike two years ago,” Konietzko wrote in his Instagram post, “they made a very public promise to support our vision. Unfortunately, there was no follow-through on that promise. … [T]he general handling of the project created what I felt was a negative and unsupportive environment.”

“I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded,” DiMartino added on his own website. “So, I chose to leave the project.”…

(19) HALLOWEEN CUISINE. The Horror Writers Association calls on members to stir up some entries for the “Horror D’oeuvres Recipe Contest”.

(20) THE FORUM ON BRADBURY. Today’s episode of BBC’s The Forum: “Ray Bradbury, a master of science fiction”.

”People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it.” Ray Bradbury has been acclaimed as the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream but, as the quote above shows, he regarded himself as the author of modern philosophical fables, rather than a sci-fi writer. In his dystopian works, such as Fahrenheit 451, he holds up a mirror to contemporary society and then transposes it into fantastical and futuristic scenarios. Bradbury was a prolific writer who tried his hand at everything from poems and novels to TV and radio scripts but it’s his early short stories which he produced in his twenties that are perhaps the most imaginative.

To mark the centenary of Bradbury’s birth, Rajan Datar is joined by three Bradbury experts to help him navigate through the author’s prodigious output: Professor Jonathan Eller from Indiana University who is also the Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies; Dr. Miranda Corcoran who teaches American literature at University College Cork with particular interest in science fiction, horror and the gothic; and Dr. Phil Nichols who combines research into Bradbury’s TV and other media work with the teaching of Film and Television Production at Wolverhampton University.

(21) TOONING OUT. Camestros Felapton’s attention was drawn to “The Webtoon Short Story Contest” by Vox Day’s complaints that his Arkhaven Comics entry got no love from the judges:

Where there are stories gathered together there are story competitions and Webtoon is no different. They recently held their Short Story competition with the winners announced here https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/contest/us-contest-2020. It’s a juried award with cash prizes that splits winners and runners up into two categories: “Brain” for stories that blow your mind and “Heart” for stories that warm your heart (Rules and FAQs).

“Why are you telling us all this Camestros?” I hear you say….

Camestros proceeds to make some interesting observations.

After looking at those, you can also read Vox’s complaints in “Unappreciated and unawarded” [Internet Archive]. (Or not!)

And it wasn’t just unawarded. Midnight’s War somehow didn’t even qualify as one of the 36 runners-up despite being one of the top 10 ranked in Popularity and earning a higher rating than two out of the three Silver winners.

This tells me that Arkhaven needs to seriously rethink our plan to use Webtoons as a platform…. 

(22) NUH-UHHH! “Dwayne Johnson Can’t Convince His Daughter He Starred In ‘Moana'”NPR transcript.

Dwayne Johnson’s character in the Disney film Moana is beloved by kids everywhere. However, his daughter refuses to believe that her dad lent the character his voice.

(23) FIRST-PERSON NON-SHOOTERS. “The U.S. Military Is Using Esports As A Recruitment Tool” – another NPR transcript.

…JAY PRICE, BYLINE: Esports has exploded in the past few years. There are pro leagues, bricks and mortar arenas, players with six-figure salaries. Millions of people log on to streaming platforms like the Amazon owned Twitch to watch games and interact with players and each other. Many are of recruiting age. The military has taken notice. Major General Frank Muth just finished a stint leading U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

FRANK MUTH: This really has brought us into the modern era of where this generation and the next generation – they’re mainly hanging out online all the time.

PRICE: The four largest military services all now have teams or official players. Sergeant Nicole Ortiz is on the Army’s team. Her role includes playing games while socializing and explaining military life to viewers, like her own as an IT specialist.

NICOLE ORTIZ: A lot of them, they look at movies and think that the Army is just about war and shooting guns. In reality, I used to work at a help desk.

PRICE: Recruiting brass say the new esports push is already helping, especially given the difficulties of face-to-face recruiting during the pandemic. Part of the allure is being able to interact directly with viewers through the chat function. And that’s where the military’s esports initiative ran into some trouble.

KATIE FALLOW: What they did here is impermissible under the First Amendment.

PRICE: Attorney Katie Fallow is with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She represents an activist named Jordan Uhl. On the Army and Navy Twitch channels, he posted messages including, what’s your favorite U.S. war crime? Uhl was banned from both, along with dozens of others who posted similar messages or other comments the military gamers deemed improper.

FALLOW: Because they basically said, we don’t like that you’re raising questions about war crimes or things that the military is sensitive about. And they blocked people based on their viewpoints.

(24) SOONER OF LATER IT ALL ADDS UP. In “The Cost of Perseverance, in Context”, the Planetary Society says the cost of the latest Mars Exploration Rover mission sounds quite modest compared to some other chosen figures.

NASA expects to spend approximately $2.7 billion on the Perseverance rover project. This number can sound large, even excessive, to some—but it’s a number that demands context. Let’s give it some….

The total cost of the Perseverance rover is equivalent to…

(25) FAILURE TO LAUNCH. “Bird watching: The robin that thinks a cuckoo is its baby” (despite the cuckoo being bigger than the robin…) Short BBC video.

They say birds of a feather flock together, but what are the chances of a robin and cuckoo sharing a bit of lunch?

Well, County Donegal woman Maureen Carr captured the moment a red-breasted bird shared its meal.

(26) PUT IT IN REVERSE. BBC reports “London bus garage to become world’s largest ‘trial power station’”.

…Northumberland Park garage will host vehicle-to-grid technology, which feeds energy stored in parked electric buses back into the electricity network.

If the government-funded Bus2Grid project is rolled out across London it could power an estimated 150,000 homes.

The project will begin in November and run for three years.

Putting energy back into the grid when demand is high and recharging buses when demand is low helps make the network more efficient by balancing the peaks and troughs.

Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “A fleet of bus batteries harnesses large amounts of electricity and they are habitual, with regular and predictable routes, driving patterns and timings.

“That means we can easily predict and plan for how we can use any spare electrical capacity they can offer.”

(27) FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE. Forbidden Planet, the world’s largest and best-known comic book and cult entertainment retail chain, is throwing itself a 42nd birthday party — Forbidden Planet 42 – an online event featuring many genre and other celebrities. 

On Saturday August 29th 2020ForbiddenPlanet.com will play host to a huge range of celebrity interviews, as alumni from the worlds of science fiction, comics & popular culture come together to help the store celebrate 42 years of pop-culture addiction – and ponder the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everythingwith an all-star cast of our oldest friends & customers! 

This star-studded online event will feature new, exclusive interviews with some of Forbidden Planet’s most celebrated customers including William ShatnerDMCNeil Gaiman, Alice CooperJonathan RossGerard WayGarth EnnisKevin Smith, Michael Moorcock, Simon Pegg, Mark MillarDan Slott, V.E. Schwab, Dave GibbonsBrian BollandDirk MaggsChris Claremont & Ben Aaronovich amongst others, hosted by Forbidden Planet’s Andrew Sumner.

 As part of the Forbidden Planet 42 celebrations, this online extravaganza will also host a tribute to Forbidden Planet’s old friend – the late, great Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) in the shape of a rare, never-before-heard interview with Douglas (recently discovered in the Forbidden Planet vaults) conducted by another old pal, celebrated author Neil Gaiman.

[Thanks to Kathryn Sullivan, John King Tarpinian, JJ, John Hertz, Rose Embolism, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gordon Van Gelder, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of the ridiculous number of stories in today’s Scroll. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 6/15/20 Where The File Things Are

(1) FLORIDA FAN. How’s the reopening going in Florida? Take a wild guess. “Florida attempted a small pop culture event last weekend and it went exactly as you would expect. Because Florida”. Tom Croom went there —

… On Sunday, June 15th, a group called Florida Toy Shows Expos decided to go ahead with their planned event called the “Orlando Area Toy Collectors Summer Pop-Up Show” in Apopka, Florida located just northwest of Orlando. This marked Florida’s first “geek event” since mid-March

The event started at 9:00 AM, but I didn’t pull up until around 11:00 AM to see it firsthand. I came armed with a face mask, hand sanitizer, and a healthy dose of common sense. The photo I took outside at the entrance showed about 40% people were wearing masks.

… There was no apparent capacity limit. No one was managing the number of people inside. Just crowds of attendees on top of each other and, as you can see in the photos, only about 20% of them are wearing masks. I did a rough count while walking around and saw that there were over three hundred people in the event’s one and only room…

And to make things perfect, someone was handing out flyers for a forthcoming event featuring the fabulous Vic Mignogna!

(2) ILK GET THEIR DAY IN COURT. Whether they want it or not. “Vox Day’s ‘Replatforming’ Backfires” – Camestros Felapton analyzes the court documents.

Vox Day has managed to have a large number of his supporters legally doxxed in court documents with the help of his even less competent side-kick former comedian Owen Benjamin. A case filed in the Superior Court of California by crowdfunding tech company Patreon, cites seventy-two people whom they are suing due to a ‘lawfare’ campaign instigated by Day and Benjamin. I’m not linking directly to the court documents but the case “PATREON, INC. VS. PAUL MICHAEL AYURE ET AL” (Case Number: CGC20584586) can be found online via the Superior Court of California’s page https://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/

The case connects with Day’s struggles with crowdfunding (see past coverage from me here and here) but specifically connects to Owen Benjamin (see past coverage from me here and here) who was kicked off Patreon last year according to the court documents…

… Instead, it seems the individuals may end up liable for Patreon’s court costs. According to Day this is Patreon “playing dirty” (warning: link to his blog [Internet Archive link here Instead.])…

(3) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. The New York Times suggests: “Stick a Starry Night Sky on Your Ceiling”. Once upon a time I lived where there were stars on the ceiling. How many lifetimes ago was that?

First, think about what you hope to see.

Some people get overwhelmed by the astronomically gargantuan number of stars they’ve been told are visible from earth. With 170 billion galaxies, spanning 45.7 billion light years, there are roughly a septillion stars in the observable universe (that’s the number one followed by 24 zeros). The Milky Way alone has more than 400 billion stars.

These are numbers none of us can even begin to conceptualize. But don’t be daunted: There are ways to narrow down what you’d like to look at from home to make this experience more accessible.

If you’ve ever been to a planetarium, perhaps you remember seeing a vibrant representation of a night sky from the perspective of where you were sitting in that moment. If the presenter then spun the sky to take you into the past or into the future, you know how exciting it can be to see the sky from the point of view of someone who lived on a different continent in a different time in history.

To that end, NASA has a website where you can plug in your birthday and immediately receive a picture of what the Hubble telescope captured on that day, along with an in-depth description (search “Hubble Birthday”). Another free site, In-The-Sky.org, has a Planetarium section that can give you an image of the constellations as they appeared from any location on any day and time in history. These resources will help you imagine what kind of sky you’d like to recreate indoors.

(4) ODYSSEY Q&A. “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose”.

Author and Odyssey graduate E.C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including The Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series (as Elaine Isaak), and the Bone Guard international thrillers (as E. Chris Ambrose). 

You’re known for being tough on your characters. What advice do you have for writers to make things harder on their characters and raise the stakes?

I often custom-make conflicts to push the buttons of a particular character. What will make this person really uncomfortable? What, based on their own fears/hopes/background/goal, would be the worst thing to happen to them? Part of it comes down to, “Why is this the right protagonist to confront this conflict?” Specificity is key. I’m also looking for collisions between internal and external conflicts—getting the character into a position where they must choose between two priorities or values, both of which they believe they can’t compromise. To that end, I brainstorm large and small conflicts on several levels: internal, personal, interpersonal, local, regional, societal, national, epic, existential. Then I interweave them through my outlining process.

(5) IT TAKES A VILLAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the June 12 Financial Times, Kristina Foster reviews Dark, a German sf series with its first three seasons on Netflix and set in the fictional town of Winden.

Dark’s art direction, which takes a German autumn and cranks up the dreariness in full caliginous despair, reflects the moral decay that has fallen over Winden.  Like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things, Dark leans heavily on the potential for horror and unease in the small town. Rumour and intrigue bubble over into violence, and there’s a marked disconnect between private and public appearance,  But this self-contained ‘nowhere’ place, where inhabitants dream of leaving but rarely never do and where nothing ever seems to change, is also the perfect setting to which to explore the circularity of time.  In this way Dark balances its outlandish transtemporal plot with more realistic portrayals of human flaws…

…Netflix’s first German-language series has an enormous entertainment value.  With its underground passages, secret horological societies, suspicious priests and menacing forests, it exudes an unmistakeable Gothic gloom, perfect for nights at home with the lights off.

(6) IN THE SPIRIT. Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart summoned the 1984 Ghostbusters crew. SYFY Wire sets the frame: “Ghostbusters Cast And Crew Remember Harold Ramis, Stay Puft Marshallow Man During Virtual Reunion”.

…”I sure miss him [Harold Ramis],” said director Ivan Reitman, also a part of the virtual reunion. “I keep thinking of him as sort of a brother figure. I ended up working with him about five times, and he’s really missed.”

“He was an incredible writing collaborator,” added Aykroyd, who penned the screenplay with Ramis. “He was not a believer in ghosts … He was very well educated in myth and mystique and [he was] such a great writing partner because the references were there in an intelligent way and harnessed for laughter. A brilliant man, a brilliant collaborator. I miss him, too, obviously.”

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1991 — Ian McDonald’s King of Morning, Queen of Day was first published. It would win the Philip K. Dick Award for best original science fiction paperback published in the U.S. in 1992, and it would win the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Award for its French translation in the same year. It had but one physical printing in English in paperback but was printed in French and German hardcopy editions. It’s currently available at all the usual digital suspects. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 15, 1397 – Paolo Uccello.  Painter and mathematician, pioneer in visual perspective; see Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.  Look at Ucello’s work used centuries later on our covers here and here and here and here and here.  (Died 1475; birthdate an educated guess) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1910 – Hugh Walters.  Two dozen SF novels 1957-1981 written for juveniles i.e. ages about 11-16, most about a UNEXA (United Nations Exploration Agency) under which Earthlings went around planets of the Solar System.  The author troubled to get the science right.  Outside this pen name he was a member of the British Interplanetary Society and the British Astronomical HAssociation, a businessman, a local magistrate.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1910 Harold Lawlor. April 1942 saw “The Eternal Priestess” published in Fantastic Adventures, his first sale. His first story for Weird Tales was “Specter in the Steel,” May 1943. Over the next decade, twenty-nine stories by him would appear in Weird Tales. “Mayaya’s Little Green Men” in Weird Tales, November 1946 is of interest as it’s considered the earliest genre appearance of that phrase. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1930 Victor Lundin. He’s best remembered as appearing in Robinson Crusoe on Mars as Friday, and for having been the first Klingon seen on Star Trek, specifically a Klingon Lt. in “Errand of Mercy”. Remarkably his entire tv career save two appearances was in genre series, to wit Time TunnelGet SmartBatman (three times, twice each  as Octopus and Chief Standing Pat), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Babylon 5. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1935 – Ellie Frazetta.  Wife, business manager, and in every sense partner of graphic artist Frank Frazetta.  An appreciation of her is here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1940 – Michael Barrier.  Founder of Funnyworld magazine.  Historian of cartoons and animation.  Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book.  With Martin Williams, A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics.  Hollywood Cartoons (rev. 2003).  Audio commentaries on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, with interviews and like that.  The Animated Man (Walt Disney).  Funnybooks.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1941 Neal Adams, 79. Comic book artist who worked for both DC and Marvel. Among his achievements was the creation with writer Dennis O’Neil of Ra’s al Ghul. I’m a DC fan so I can’t speak for his work on Marvel but he did amazing work on DeadmanBatmanGreen Lantern and Green Arrow. All of this work is now available on the DC Universe app.  It should be noted he was instrumental in the lobbying efforts that resulted in Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster receiving long overdue credit and  financial remuneration from DC. (CE) 
  • Born June 15, 1960 Sabrina Vourvoulias, 60. Thai-born author, an American citizen from birth brought up in Guatemala, but here since her teens. Her novel, Ink, deals with immigrants who are tattooed with biometric implants that are used to keep track of them no matter where they are. I’m assuming that the “Skin in the Game” story which appeared first on Tor.com is set in the future. Fair guess that “The Ways of Walls and Words” which also appeared on Tor.com is also set there. The Readercon 25 panel she was on, “East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction” is available for free on iBooks. (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1962 – Jane Routley.  Six novels, nine shorter stories.  Lived in Denmark, in Germany, now back in Australia. Two Aurealis Awards for fantasy.  Nice review in 21 May 20 Publishers Weekly of Shadow in the Empire of Light, scheduled for release during CoNZealand.  I’d provoke a storm of comment if I said she appears to have misused the word melded in a title, so I’d better not.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1963 Mark Morris, 57. English author known for his horror novels, although he has also written several novels based on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Given his horror background, these tend to be darker than many similar novels are, I recommend Forever Autumn and Bay of the Dead if you like a good chill. (CE) 
  • Born June 15, 1966 – Rob Alexander.  Twenty covers, as many interiors.  Here is a cover drawn for Pohl’s Stopping at Slowyear.  Here is a cover for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Here is a frontispiece drawn for Resnick’s Pink Elephants and Hairy Toads.  Here is a cover for Deep Magic (RA interviewed in this issue).  Art book, Welcome to My Worlds.  His Website shows playmats for Magic, the Gathering, and other recent work.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1973 Neil Patrick Harris, 47. His first genre role was not Carl Jenkins in Starships Troopers, but rather Billy Johnson in Purple People Eater, an SF comedy best forgotten I suspect. Post-Starship Troopers, I’ve got him voicing Barry Allen / The Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier and Dick Grayson / Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He also voiced Peter Parker and her superhero alias in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Finally, he’s currently Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events which he also produces. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nothing to do with Bradbury. It’s just Bizarro remembering an old toy.

(10) LOVE LETTERS. “I Long to Read More in the Book of You: Moomins Creator Tove Jansson’s Tender and Passionate Letters to the Love of Her Life” by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

… The tender delirium of their early love and the magmatic core of their lifelong devotion emanate from the pages of Letters from Tove (public library) — the altogether wonderful collection of Jansson’s correspondence with friends, family, and other artists, spanning her meditations on the creative process, her exuberant cherishment of the natural world and of what is best in human beings, her unfaltering love for Tooti. What emerges, above all, is the radiant warmth of her personhood — this person of such uncommon imagination, warmhearted humor, and stubborn buoyancy of spirit, always so thoroughly herself, who as a young woman had declared to her mother: “I’ve got to become free myself if I’m to be free in my painting.”

(11) PAGING STAN ROBINSON. “Mars: Green glow detected on the Red Planet”.

Scientists have identified a green light in the atmosphere of Mars.

A similar glow is sometimes seen by astronauts on the space station when they look to the Earth’s limb.

The glow comes from oxygen atoms when they’re excited by sunlight.

The phenomenon has long been predicted to occur on other planets, but the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) – a joint European-Russian satellite at Mars – is the first to make the observation beyond Earth.

“It’s a nice result,” said Dr Manish Patel from the UK’s Open University.

“You’d never plan a mission to go look for this kind of thing. Today, we have to be very clear about the science we’re going to do before we get to Mars. But having got there, we thought, ‘well, let’s have a look’. And it worked.”

(12) STEEP ORBIT? “‘Space race’ hots up with first Shetland rocket launch”. (A story like this, there must be a pony in there somewhere.)

Scotland’s “space race” has seen the first test rocket being fired from Shetland.

The Shetland islands are one of three proposed locations bidding to launch commercial satellites into space.

Edinburgh-based Skyrora launched its Skylark Nano rocket from the Fethaland peninsula at North Roe over the weekend.

The 6.5ft (2m) rocket successfully reached an altitude of about 20,000ft (6,100m).

(13) GETTING WARM. “Solar Orbiter: Europe’s Sun mission makes first close pass”.

Europe’s Solar Orbiter (SolO) probe makes its first close pass of the Sun on Monday, tracking by at a distance of just over 77 million km.

SolO was launched in February and is on a mission to understand what drives our star’s dynamic behaviour.

The close pass, known as a perihelion, puts the probe between the orbits of Venus and Mercury.

In the coming years, SolO will go nearer still, closing to within 43 million km of the Sun on occasions.

As it stands today, only five other missions have dived deeper into the inner Solar System: Mariner 10, Helios 1 & 2, Messenger, and Parker Solar Probe.

(14) GIVING IT A HEARING. Mogsy gets into a popular entry in the 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off competition in “Audiobook Review: Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams” at BiblioSanctum.

…The story wastes no time plunging readers into the action. In fact, it makes Pax all the more sympathetic because in many ways we can understand the confusion and overload of information she must feel. The details and explanations come at us hard and fast, and the pacing hardly slows which is something I can appreciate when it comes to UF, though it does make for slippery transitions. At the beginning, it’s especially imperative to pay attention to everything and stay on top of things, lest you get left behind and become lost. Despite my best efforts, even I found myself floundering in some places, wondering if the narration had skipped over an important detail or if I might have blanked out momentarily and missed something….

(15) MUG IMPROVEMENT. Maybe CSI was onto something. “New Algorithm Is A Lot Like The “Enhance!” Feature In “CSI”” at Futurism.

Researchers at Duke University have developed an algorithm that can upsample a detailed computer-generated portrait of a human face from a heavily pixelated version. It’s strikingly similar to the much-memed “Enhance!” tool from TV crime dramas like “CSI,” which can seemingly pull information out of thin air.

The researchers’ AI, dubbed PULSE (Self-Supervised Photo Upsampling via Latent Space Exploration of Generative Models), can generate photorealistic images of faces that are 64 times the resolution of the source image. For instance, a heavily pixelated 16×16-pixel image of a face can be converted into a 1024 x 1024 pixel image….

To be clear, the researchers didn’t just turn made-up technology from “CSI” into reality. The tool is only capable of generating new realistic faces, using the pixelated source as a guide — not definitively piece together what the original face actually looked like. Still, the results can be eerily similar to the input image — even if it probably wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law….

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/19 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Tsundoku. Attempt No Pixels There

(1) MARVEL SNAPSHOTS. Kurt Busiek is overseeing a Marvel showcase series featuring history-making characters.

This March, prepare to see the greatest moments of Marvel’s 80-year history told like never before! In MARVEL SNAPSHOTS, industry legend Kurt Busiek will bring together incredible creative teams for eight standalone, double sized issues showcasing Marvel’s most beloved characters from the golden age to today. Like 1994’s critically acclaimed MARVELS series, MARVEL SNAPSHOTS will be tales told through the eyes of ordinary people, offering unique insights on the legendary mythos of the Marvel Universe. MARVELS SNAPSHOTS also reunites Busiek with renowned MARVELS co-creator Alex Ross who will be providing the series with his iconic painted covers.

It all begins with SUB-MARINER: MARVELS SNAPSHOT #1 when best-selling novelist and Emmy Award-winning TV writer Alan Brennert (L.A. LAW, TWILIGHT ZONE) and superstar artist Jerry Ordway (ALL-STAR SQUADRON, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) unite to tell an unforgettable story about Marvel’s original antihero: Prince Namor!

Set circa World War II, things kick off with an action-packed tale featuring Namor, Betty Dean, and the All-Winners Squad–a dream come true for Brennert. “I can honestly say that I enjoyed working on this story more than any comics story I’ve done in years. I grew up reading (and loving) Marvel’s Golden Age heroes in the 1960s, in reprints in FANTASY MASTERPIECES. But I never thought I’d have a shot at writing them–especially the All-Winners Squad!–and I’m grateful to Kurt Busiek and Tom Brevoort for providing me the opportunity, and to Jerry Ordway for bringing it all to glorious life,” Brennert says. “I’m enormously proud of ‘Reunion’ and honored to be the first story published in MARVELS SNAPSHOTS.”

Artist Jerry Ordway is just as passionate about bringing this tale to life. “When I was offered this project, I jumped at it, being a big fan of the original MARVELS book by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Getting to draw a Sub-Mariner story set in the 1940s, with appearances by the All-Winners Squad, lets me connect with Marvel’s World War II era history, and the work of Subby’s creator, Bill Everett,” says Ordway. “I’ve been a Marvel maniac from the age of 10, so this is pretty cool! Alan Brennert wrote a great script which fits neatly into the bigger tapestry that is the Marvel Universe. I’m thrilled to get to play in this sandbox after so many years as an artist.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Listeners are invited to join host Scott Edelman and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry for lunch in Little Italy on Episode 111 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

My guest this time around is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, who was a winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award earlier this year for her work as a Guest Editor of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue. She was also a 2019 Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer. Her fiction has appeared in such magazines as Fireside and Uncanny, as well the anthologies Ghost in the Cogs and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. She’s written non-fiction for The Boston Globe, Barnes & Noble, Tor.com, and other venues. She is a feminist scholar and disability rights activist (which I knew), but also a burlesque historian (which I did not know).

We lunched at La Tavola, where I’d previously joined Marv Wolfman during the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con. We discussed her roller coaster of emotions the night she won a Hugo Award earlier this year during the Dublin Worldcon, how that editorial gig increased her empathy, the way writing roleplaying games and being a Sherlock Holmes nerd taught her about world-building and led to her first professional fiction sales, the dinosaur-themed Twitter feed that gave birth to her most recently published short story, the novel she’s working on which she describes as The Conjuring meets The Stand, her expertise in obscenity law and fascination with the history of burlesque, why she felt the Bird Box novel handled blindness better than the movie, her background in competitive improv and the way that helped her within science fiction, advice on how not to let Internet trolls get you down, and much more.

(3) PILE PELION ON OSSA. John Scalzi chronicled the results of his Twitter poll which asks: “Would Baby Yoda eat a porg?” (Is it cannibalism if one cute thing eats another cute thing?) Thread starts here.

(4) JUST PLAIN FOLKS TALES. RS Benedict has released another episode of the Rite Gud podcast, “No More Heroes with JR Dawson”. In this interview with sff short fiction author JR Dawson, they talk about writing fiction that doesn’t focus on Big Important Heroes of Destiny. It’s called No More Heroes.

Much of speculative literature focuses on superheroes and Chosen Ones. But what about ordinary people or flawed people who don’t save the world? Do they matter?

Sci-fi/fantasy author JR Dawson joins us to talk about why she writes about ordinary people, and how privilege and inequality warp our idea of whose story deserves to be told. She also talks about being a Midwestern writer, her favorite literary losers and that time Hans Christian Andersen got really weird with Charles Dickens’ family.

(5) BEST SFF. Andrew Liptak chimes in with “The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” at Polygon. (It’s interesting to see that several of the year’s most-discussed books only made his Honorable Mentions.)

Here’s one that made the list —

The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan

Cixin Liu might have become the best-known science fiction writers to come out of China, but he’s far from the only one. Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide is a far cry from Liu’s epic science fiction tales, taking a grim look at the near future of China, where impoverished workers struggle to make a living from the world’s electronic waste.

Waste Tide follows a series of people who come together in Silicone Isle: Mimi, a worker who heads there for work; Scott Brandle, an American who is trying to arrange a contract; and Chen Kaizong, a translator, all of whom find themselves wrapped up in a greater plot for control. It’s a book that reminded me quite a bit of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, with a pointed commentary on class warfare and the lifecycle of the devices we use.

(6) HAPPY BLANDINGS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll wryly claims “SFF Needs More Incompetent Autocrats”. This turns out to be a Wodehouse tribute as much as anything.

One of SFF’s grand traditions is carefully filing the serial numbers off historical events (the American Revolutionary War, perhaps, or the Napoleonic Wars), or famous and classic works (Lord of the Rings, the Hornblower series, Zulu), and re-purposing the result as SFF. This is usually known as “research” (See Tom Lehrer on this point). Examples abound—my disinclination to deal with crowds of irate authors protesting at my door precludes naming them here….

(7) HOLLYWOOD HISTORY. Profiles in History’s “Hollywood: A Collector’s Ransom Auction” has all kinds of genre movie props, models, and figurines. It even has examples of correspondence between director Sam Peckinpah and Ray Bradbury. “Ray and Sam would lunch (hoist a few pints) at the Formosa Café,” recalls John King Tarpinian.

(8) A PYTHON SPEAKS. Leonard and Jesse interviewed Terry Gilliam for their Maltin on Movies podcast.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote completes a quest that has consumed Terry Gilliam for thirty years, but as Leonard and Jessie learned, he bears his burdens lightly. He made his name supplying unique animated sequences for   Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his films include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Brazil, and The Fisher King. He’s a delightful man with stories to tell (about everyone from Robin Williams to Heath Ledger) and a great outlook on life.

(9) MICROLOAN. Rachel Swirsky signal-boosted an “Opportunity to Support a Palestinian Library” and so will we.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva.org through years, and this project caught my eye. A Palestinian woman is looking to convert an old house into a library and bookshop: 

Check it out at Kiva: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1893559

Duha is a nice girl who lives with her family in a small humble house near Ramallah. Duha has an amazing idea: she decided to restore an old house to make it a library and a place to sell books and other stationery.

She went to Palestine for Credit and Development (FATEN) to request a loan to help her to cover all restoration expenses to convert the old house into a library. Duha hopes that all the students and residents of the area will benefit from the library.

(10) OVERCOMING REJECTION. Alex Woolf advocates “Seven Ways to Grow Your Resilience as a Writer” at the SFWA Blog.

Study the nuances of rejection
In the miserable miasma of reading a fresh rejection, it can be easy to miss the nuggets of positivity and constructive feedback that are often contained in the message too. Some messages are form rejections, but it’s well-known that many venues have form messages that vary according to their take on the writer. A writer a venue wishes to encourage, for example, may get a standard message that’s quite different from the standard message that’s sent to a writer that for whatever reason they are never likely to publish.

So once the initial disappointment has subsided, make a point of going back to the message and seeing what you can learn from it for your next project or submission. Sometimes there is a valuable nugget in there (e.g. Try to use fewer adverbs or We felt we wanted to know more about what was happening from the protagonist’s perspective.) These are valuable insights that you can work with.

However disappointing the message, always send an acknowledgment – stay polite and professional. And if a venue says you should submit again, then do so, once or twice more at least. They didn’t have to say that, after all.

(11) YIKES! Bloomberg confirms “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments”.

Amazon declined interview requests for this story. In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman wrote, “Privacy is foundational to how every team and employee designs and develops Alexa features and Echo devices. All Alexa employees are trained on customer data handling as part of our security training.” The company and its competitors have said computers perform the vast majority of voice requests without human review.

Yet so-called smart devices inarguably depend on thousands of low-paid humans who annotate sound snippets so tech companies can upgrade their electronic ears; our faintest whispers have become one of their most valuable datasets. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News was first to report on the scope of the technology industry’s use of humans to review audio collected from their users without disclosures, including at Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Few executives and engineers who spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek for this story say they anticipated that setting up vast networks of human listeners would be problematic or intrusive. To them, it was and is simply an obvious way to improve their products.

… Several of the big tech companies tweaked their virtual-assistant programs this year after a steady drip of news reports. While Google has paused human transcriptions of Assistant audio, Apple has begun letting users delete their Siri history and opt out of sharing more, made sharing recordings optional, and hired many former contractors directly to increase its control over human listening. Facebook and Microsoft have added clearer disclaimers to their privacy policies. And Amazon has introduced a similar disclosure and started letting Alexa users opt out of manual reviews. “It’s a well-known thing in the industry,” Amazon’s Limp recently said about human transcription teams. “Whether it was well known among press or customers, it’s pretty clear we weren’t good enough there.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Cat Eldridge emailed that he needed urgent care for some physical problems – I hope they are able to get him feeling better soon. Go ahead and mention birthdays you know about in the comments.]

(13) STAR TREK SHIP IN A BOTTLE. So is there a teeny-tiny Kirk and Spock in there somewhere?

On this episode of Ben’s Worx I make a ship in a bottle with epoxy resin and Australian burl.

(14) RABID IN THE NORTHWEST. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, was referenced by the Guardian in a story about a Washington state representative: “Report on far-right Republican Matt Shea in hands of Washington legislators”

Outside investigators have submitted a report to the Washington state house about the activities of the far-right Republican state representative Matt Shea, but legislators on both sides of the aisle remain tight-lipped about its contents.

…Last Monday the independent investigator, the Rampart Group, presented their findings to the chief clerk of the Washington state legislature . He in turn delivered the findings to the executive rules committee, composed of leaders of both parties in the house.

…Shea, meanwhile, was interviewed last week on Infowars’ David Knight Show, where he attacked perceived critics.

Shea then quoted Theodore Beale, whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes as a “champion of the alt right movement”, and whose blog is described as a home of “misogynistic, white supremacist diatribes”.

“Social justice warriors always lie, they always double down on their lie, and they always try to project on to you how they really are themselves,” Shea said.

(15) HIGH-STAKES COMICS AUCTION. Heritage Auctions brought home the bacon again: “Marvel Comics #1 Brings Record $1.26 Million to Lead Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction Beyond $14.9 Million”.

The finest known copy of Marvel Comics No. 1, sold for $1,260,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ record-setting Comics & Comic Art auction to $14,936,295 Nov. 21 in Dallas, Texas.

The second-largest comic auction of all time, trailing only the $15,121,405 realized in Heritage Auctions’ Chicago Comics & Comic Art Auction in May 2019, this sale included 15 lots that sold for at least $100,000.

…The issue, with famous cover art by Frank R. Paul and interior art by a group of illustrators that included Bill Everett, Carl Burgos and Paul Gustavson, was purchased by a Pennsylvania postal carrier who bought every No. 1 issue he could of both comic books and magazines, beginning in the 1940s. It’s grade of 9.4 on a scale of 1-10 makes it the best copy of the issue ever found, according to Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

More than two dozen collectors made bids for Robert Crumb Your Hytone Comix #nn “Stoned Agin!” Inside Back Cover Original Art (Apex Novelties, 1971) before it closed at $690,000, breaking the record for the most ever paid for an interior piece of comic art. Created at the height of the artist’s popularity, the image is instantly recognizable, even by many who don’t know the work of Crumb, who is revered for his contribution to the underground comics movement in the 1960s. This iconic image was reproduced countless times, including on a blacklight poster, on pinback buttons, postcards and t-shirts.

Neal Adams Batman #251 Cover The Joker Original Art (DC, 1973) sold for $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage Auctions for a piece of DC art. The spectacular image of one of the most famous Joker covers of all time debuted a new version of the villain, trumpeting the return of the Joker after a four-year hiatus from Batman comics….

(16) HE CREATED THE UBIQUITOUS MARKS. NPR reports “IBM Engineer Who Designed The Universal Product Code Dies At 94”.

On a June morning in 1974, a Marsh Supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, rang up a 67-cent pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum using something novel — the black and white stripes of a universal bar code.

The Universal Product Code is now a packaging mainstay on everything from cereal boxes and produce to electronics and airplane tickets, but it might not have worked without IBM engineer George Laurer.

Laurer, who died this month at 94 in North Carolina, had been given an assignment by his manager: Write a proposal for grocery executives explaining how IBM would take a previously invented bar code pattern, in the shape of a bull’s-eye, and make it work in supermarkets across the country.

But when that manager returned from a vacation, Laurer was there to meet him. “I didn’t do what you asked,” he said.

Instead, Laurer had created something else — the bull’s-eye was gone and in its place was a linear bar code. Laurer had deemed the bull’s-eye design unworkable. The circular code, inspired by Morse code and patented by N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was too small, and it would smear when run through the poor-quality printing presses used for most food labels at the time.

(17) SIMMERING. Kotaku discovered that “Baby Yoda Can Be Bought In The Sims 4”.

Because EA owns The Sims, and because EA also has the rights to Star Wars video games, we finally have a digital tie-in with the new live-action Mandalorian series. It’s not a Carl Weathers outfit. It’s not a “Bounty Hunter” job for your Sim. It’s a Baby Yoda statue you can buy and put in your yard.

(18) IN SEARCH OF REPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. They hope a tool will make them easier to come by. “Can A Research Accelerator Solve The Psychology Replication Crisis?”

In 2008, psychologists proposed that when humans are shown an unfamiliar face, they judge it on two main dimensions: trustworthiness and physical strength. These form the basis of first impressions, which may help people make important social decisions, from whom to vote for to how long a prison sentence should be.

To date, the 2008 paper — written by Nikolaas Oosterhof of Dartmouth College and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University — has attracted more than a thousand citations, and several studies have obtained similar findings. But until now, the theory has been replicated successfully only in a handful of settings, making its findings biased toward nations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic — or WEIRD, a common acronym used in academic literature.

Now, one large-scale study suggests that although the 2008 theory may apply in many parts of the world, the overall picture remains complex. An early version was published at PsyArXiv Preprints on Oct. 31. The study is under review at the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The study is the first conducted through the Psychological Science Accelerator, a global network of more than 500 labs in more than 70 countries. The accelerator, which launched in 2017, aims to redo older psychology experiments but on a mass scale in several different settings. The effort is one of many targeting a problem that has plagued the discipline for years: the inability of psychologists to get consistent results across similar experiments, or the lack of reproducibility.

(19) THEY LIE, YOU KNOW. “How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings” – BBC will explain.

If you’ve wondered whether there were actually 30 people trying to book the same flight as you, you’re not alone. As Chris Baraniuk finds, the numbers may not be all they seem.

Ophir Harpaz just wanted to get a good deal on a flight to London. She was on travel website OneTravel, scouring various options for her trip. As she browsed, she noticed a seemingly helpful prompt: “38 people are looking at this flight”. A nudge that implied the flight might soon get booked up, or perhaps that the price of a seat would rise as they became scarcer.

Except it wasn’t a true statement. As Harpaz looked at that number, “38 people”, she began to feel sceptical. Were 38 people really looking at that budget flight to London at the same exact moment?

Being a cyber-security researcher, she was familiar with web code so she decided to examine how OneTravel displayed its web pages. (Anyone can do this by using the “inspect” function on web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.) After a little bit of digging she made a startling discovery – the number wasn’t genuine. The OneTravel web page she was browsing was simply designed to claim that between 28 and 45 people were viewing a flight at any given moment. The exact figure was chosen at random.

Not only that, the website’s innards were surprisingly blatant about what was going on. The bit of code that defined the number shown to users was even labelled “view_notification_random”.

(20) MECHANICAL BULLS***. “General Election 2019: How computers wrote BBC election result stories”.

For the first time, BBC News published a news story for every constituency that declared election results overnight – all written by a computer.

It was the BBC’s biggest test of machine-generated journalism so far.

Each of nearly 700 articles – most in English but 40 of them in Welsh – was checked by a human editor before publication.

The head of the project said the tech was designed to enhance the service provided rather than to replace humans.

“This is about doing journalism that we cannot do with human beings at the moment,” said Robert McKenzie, editor of BBC News Labs.

“Using machine assistance, we generated a story for every single constituency that declared last night with the exception of the one that hasn’t finished counting yet. That would never have been possible.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Quail on Vimeo, Grant Kolton explains that if you want to be a quail, it’s hard work!

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

Pixel Scroll 8/25/19 Pixel, Pixel, Scrolling Bright, In The Files Of The Night

(1) WORLDCON PHOTOS. Simon Bubb, part of Dublin 2019’s staff photography team, has posted albums of his photos from the Worldcon at Facebook. Beautiful photos. So many good memories for those who participated.

Worldcon Dublin 2019 – Wednesday 14th August

Worldcon 2019 – Thursday

Worldcon 2019 – Day 2 (Friday)

Worldcon – Saturday

Worldcon 2019 – Sunday

Worldcon 2019 – Hugos

Worldcon 2019 – Monday & Closing

(2) DINO SQUIRREL REVIVAL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s episode of Stranger than Sci-Fi on Beeb Beeb Ceeb Radio 4 was the penultimate episode. Next week is the final in the series and is on telekinesis.

Alice Fraser and Jen Gupta.

The latest episode, “Jurassic Park” (available for a month), looked at de-extinction. Crichton not only read up on the science, he was so taken with one paper that hypothesized possibly near-future DNA technology that he went to visit the researchers.  And the rest is history.

The programme pointed to the limits of de-extinction but did say that we could digitize DNA of current endangered species and bring them back if we had to.

Astro-physicist Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser travel the parallel worlds of science and sci-fi.

Starting with the latest books and films, they discover real life science that sounds too strange to be true – from babies grown in bags, via black hole Jacuzzis, to flowers that behave like our ears.

In this episode, they tackle the question everyone wants to know the answer to – can we bring the dinosaurs back to life? They talk to the journalist Britt Wray about the surprising origin story for the book Jurassic Park. Then they dive into the world of de-extinction research and find out why there is a group of scientists who focus all their time on reviving extinct species.

They ask if we might soon see woolly mammoths roaming the Siberian steppe once again. What are the potential pitfalls of resurrecting the dead?

(3) UPDATED 2018 BESTS. Eric Wong of Rocket Stack Rank sends the link to RSR’s 2018 Best SF/F list with the scores updated and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019 stories highlighted (all 20 in TOC + 33 notable stories that scored 2 or more) with links to stories that are free online.

(4) AN AUTHOR’S PICK. Silvia Moreno-Garcia tells NPR that “In ‘Automatic Eve,’ Steampunk Meets ‘Blade Runner’ — In Japan”. A publisher’s last gasp is a winner.

I’m going to give you the Hollywood elevator pitch in order to secure your attention: This is a Japanese steampunk novel for fans of Blade Runner. Do I have your attention now? Good. Because we’re going to flash back in time to 2009, when Haikasoru popped into the world.

…Unfortunately, Haikasoru didn’t quite catch the imagination of the public in the United States. Its biggest hit was probably All You Need is Kill, adapted into the Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow, but otherwise it sadly went on being ignored by most of the speculative fiction fans, while ironically producing the stuff fans say they hunger for.

…But the first incarnation of the imprint has one last, lyrical swan song before it drifts to sleep: Automatic Eve, a mosaic novel.

I like mosaic novels thanks to having read Clifford D. Simak’s City as a teenager. Some people despise them, the break with non-linearity, the short episodes building up to something more, frustrate certain readers. But even if you don’t exactly fancy that format, Rokuro Inui’s Automatic Eve, translated by Matt Treyvaud, works well. Characters, situations and plot points reoccur during the course of the book, so that you are left with a feeling of coherence rather than of stories thinly strung together, which can be the issue that turns readers away from mosaic novels in the first place – and sometimes earns them the pejorative term of “fix-ups.”

Much of the wonder of the book derives from its setting and mechanics. In a steampunk Japan where artisans can produce automatons that perfectly mimic humans and animals, an intricate web of deceit and secrets has been laid down. At the center of this web sits the beautiful, mysterious Eve and her father, an inventor with ties to both the shogunate and the ruling imperial house, which are locked in a battle for power.

(5) CORRECTION. The participants James Davis Nicoll is recruiting participants for the next phase of Young People Read Old SFF must have been born after 1990. The post still says “1980,” however, he later corrected this in the comments. Uh, never mind!

(6) WHAT A FAN DOES TO A $40K CAR. [Item by Dale Arnold.] Baltimore area fan Miriam Winder Kelly recently bought a brand new Tesla Model 3 for over $40,000.00 and immediately put bumper stickers for  her favorite causes on it. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society, The Red Cross and Middle Earth?  The BSFS bumper sticker is quite old and apparently she saved several from 20 years ago so she could always have one on her car.

By the way the bumper sticker was designed by a committee chaired by the late costuming fan Bobby Gear. (wife of the late multiple Worldcon Masquerade MC Marty Gear) Bobby said when she delivered the design, “I am never helping design anything with a committee again!”

(7) LOOMIS OBIT. Game publisher Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo Incorporated died August 24, his birthday, after battling cancer. He was 73.  A “Help Gaming Legend Rick Loomis” for his medical expenses had been started just recently.

Rick was one of the founding members of the Game Manufacturing Association and served as its President several times when they needed him. He started Flying Buffalo Games back in 1970 and was one of the first people to ever run a Play-by Mail game on a dedicated computer. He has traveled the world to promote role-playing and card games and over the years Rick has befriended hundreds (thousands!) of people at conventions from his Flying Buffalo Games booth and company.  He published Tunnels & Trolls, the Nuclear War Card Game, Grimtooth’s Traps and so much more…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • August 25, 1851 George Parsons Lathrop. Noted for co-authoring In the Deep of Time novella with Thomas A. Edison which ran in English Illustrated Magazine on the third of March 1897. (Died 1898.)
  • August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on The Lost World as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1971.)
  • August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released Pogo in six stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1960. They’re planning to do all of his strips eventually. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? (Died 1973.)
  • August 25, 1930 Sean Connery, 89. Worst film? Zardoz. Best film? From Russia with Love. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want go for silly.
  • August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 79. She was a Boston-area fan who lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • August 25, 1947 Michael Kaluta, 72. He’s best known for his 1970s take on The Shadow with writer Dennis O’Neil for DC in 1973–1974. He’d reprise his work on The Shadow for Dark Horse a generation later. And Kaluta and O’Neil reunited on The Shadow: 1941 – Hitler’s Astrologer graphic novel published in 1988.
  • August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 64. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written. Favorite series? The Nightside, Hawk & Fisher and Secret History are my favorite ones with Drinking Midnight Wine the novel I’ve re-read the most. 
  • August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 61. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman is interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was, and Sleepy Hollow is just damn weird. 
  • August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 49. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio mourns the loss of a favorite magazine.

(10) HE GAVE US SUPE’S DIGITS. CBR.com wants to know “When Did We Learn the Address of Clark Kent’s Apartment?” Hint: Bill Finger thought it up.

In “When We First Met,” we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, “Avengers Assemble!” or the first appearance of Batman’s giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man’s face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Riccardo N., we look into the first time that Clark Kent’s apartment was given the address of 344 Clinton Street, Apartment 3-D.

Obviously, in the early days, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were not really all that considered about world-building. No one in comics really was. Batman’s set-up was different from issue to issue early on (my favorite is where Bruce Wayne just kept his Batman costume in a chest at the foot of his bed). So when they say Superman is in his apartment, there really was no thought into it beyond “Superman is in his apartment”…

(11) WEBS ON THE WAY. SYFY Wire got this straight from the spider’s mouth: “Tom Holland says his third Spider-Man film has already been pitched, describes it as ‘something very different'”.

During his first-ever visit to Philadelphia at Keystone Comic Con, Tom Holland teased his third live-action Spider-Man film, teasing that it’s already been pitched and will be “something very special and something very different” from what we saw in Homecoming and Far From Home, while having a deep personal connection to the actor’s own life. Moreover, he gave an enthusiastic “of course!” when asked if Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) has a long-term romantic shot with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). 

Holland also took a moment to tackle the headline-making split between Disney and Sony, which many see as Peter Parker’s removal from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Uh, it’s been a crazy week,” he said, echoing his statement at D23 Expo yesterday. “The news came as a bit of a shock, but we’ve made five great movies … you guys have made it so special for me and it’s not the end of me playing Spider-Man. There’s definitely more to come … I’m just really excited for everything … It’s only gonna get bigger and better … It’s pretty crazy.”

(12) COINING A WORD. John M. Jordan, in “The Czech Play That Gave Us the Word ‘Robot’” on the MIT Press website reminds us that, although we might know that Karel Capek coined the term “robot” most people don’t know the plot of Capek’s play R.U.R. or know that robota is Czech for “forced labor.”  The post is an excerpt from Jordan’s MIT Press book Robots.

The contrast between robots as mechanical slaves and potentially rebellious destroyers of their human makers echoes Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and helps set the tone for later Western characterizations of robots as slaves straining against their lot, ready to burst out of control. The duality echoes throughout the twentieth century: Terminator, HAL 9000, Blade Runner’s replicants.

The character Helena in “R.U.R.” is sympathetic, wanting the robots to have freedom. Radius is the robot that understands his station and chafes at the idiocy of his makers, having acted out his frustrations by smashing statues.

(13) CASTALIA’S BUSINESS PLAN. Vox Day addresses the retrenchment at Castalia House in “A change to the Caligan campaign” [Internet Archive link.]

In light of the changes in the ebook market and our retreat from the Kindle Unlimited space, we’ve been making some strategic changes at Arkhaven and Castalia House. Now that we’ve successfully entered the video space, we’re concentrating our efforts on our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties, primarily because we don’t have the bandwidth to devote to everything.

This is why we’ve returned the publishing rights to their books to a number of our authors, although we continue to support them and their self-publishing efforts, and why we have methodically reduced the number of books that we are publishing. Our sales remain strong, which tends to indicate that our revised approach is a viable one.

Day responded to a complaint in comments:

It’s not a democracy. And given some of the lessons we’ve learned, we are no longer going to push IP that we do not control into other media.

Publishers are in a trap of sorts. If a book doesn’t sell well, the author thinks he should have self-published. If the book sells really well, the author thinks he should have self-published.

And in another comment he said:

I was told a lot of things that didn’t come to pass too. So I am not going to accept being held accountable for things that were entirely contingent upon other’s responsibilities.

If you want a refund, we’ll give you one. You have that option. But I’m not going to waste my time or the backers’ resources on projects that should not have been done in the first place. We all meant well, but the foundation was not solid.

We are going to be in the red on this no matter what due to the need to produce 18 comics. So I want to make sure at least some of them will sell well enough to give us a shot at breaking even on it.

(14) WHO STAYS, WHO GOES. Camestros Felapton identifies the affected creators in “Day confirms the Castalia retreat”.

…So what does Day mean be ‘our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties’. There are some clues.

  • We know John C Wright has at least partially been dropped or moved on.
  • We know that the core of this announcement was shifting what comic would be provided to people who had pledged to a crowd funding campaign. Day is shifting from a story by Rolf Nelson to an adaptation of one of his own books.
  • In a comment Day says: “And given some of the lessons we’ve learned, we are no longer going to push IP that we do not control into other media.” What IP does Day control? What he writes himself.

The problem with being a publishing house is you have to deal with two groups of people best avoided in business: writers and readers. Castalia’s business model also includes a third: Amazon. It sounds like Day has problems with all three….

(15) YES BUGS M’LADY. NPR’s “Nailed It: Bringing Science Into Nail Art” shows photos of parasites and other things you never expected to find on fingernails.

Of all the things I love about being a girl, I love doing nail art the most. But I’m also a scientist, and scientists aren’t usually associated with perfectly manicured nails. Nail art became my way of debunking some common stereotypes, including those that associate scientists with being cold or unapproachable.

I got into nail art four years ago after a friend of mine bought a beginner nail art kit. It contained one metal plate with various nail-sized designs etched on the surface – animals, flowers, food – along with nail polish, a scraper and a silicone stamper.

…At the time, I was working as a research scientist studying Alzheimer’s disease at Cornell University, where I was looking for ways to get lay people interested in science. On Instagram, I found some science communicators using drawings or video to explain concepts like how stem cells help heal wounds.

Then I had an epiphany! None of these science communicators were using nail art as a platform. And none of the nail artists I followed were doing scientific designs.

I had been blogging about science for a while, but I wanted to try something new. So on October 10, 2018, I started an Instagram account (@nailsciart) where I’d use nail art to reach a very specific demographic: teenage girls. I wanted to show them the fun side of science through an art form many of them could find appealing — and that it’s possible to have polished nails and work on cool science.

[Thanks to Simon Bubb, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Dale Arnold, Eric Wong, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, BravoLimaPoppa, Danny SIchel, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 8/20/19 My Name Is Pixel, Scrolled Pixel

(1) HUGO STATS. Dublin 2019 Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte has published his analysis of the voting: “2019 Hugos in detail, and reflections on the viability of Best Fanzine”. It begins —

All but two of the winners had the most first preferences in their categories. The exceptions

  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Good Place: “Janet(s)” came from third place to overtake Dirty Computer and The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate”.
  • Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven started in second place but got enough transfers to overtake Black Panther: Long Live the King.

The only category where fewer than six rounds of counting were required to determine the winner was Best Fancast, where Our Opinions Are Correct won on the fifth count.

The closest results were:

  • Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven beat Black Panther: Long Live the King by 8 votes.
  • Best Novella: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” beat “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by 9 votes.
  • John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Jeannette Ng beat Rivers Solomon by 43 votes.

At lower rankings, there were three closer results:

  • Best Related Work: The Mexicanx Initiative beat Astounding by 4 votes for fourth place.
  • Best Fancast: The Skiffy and Fanty Show beat The Coode Street Podcast also by 4 votes for fifth place.
  • Best Fan Writer: Bogi Takács beat Elsa Sjunneson-Henry again by 4 votes for second place.

(2) AFTER ACTION REPORT. Cheryl Morgan tries to figure out what went wrong at the Hugo Losers Party in “Worldcon #77—Day 5”.

…Quite why so many finalists were turned away isn’t clear. It isn’t the fault of the Dublin committee, because they have nothing to do with the party other than pass on invitations to the finalists. It probably isn’t the fault of the NZ people because these days I understand that organisation of the event is passed on to people who work for George. People on Twitter inevitably blamed George personally (and doubtless complained that he should be writing books rather than running parties). The fault may lie with the staff at the venue. It is all a bit murky.

What is clear is that a whole lot of people who were not Hugo finalists had got into the party long before the Hugo Ceremony finished. This is the publishing industry in action. If there is a swank party going, publishing people will find a way to get into it. And the fact that they did led to the venue being (allegedly) overcrowded and people being turned away.

(3) FUND RAISING FOR SARAH NEWTON. Sarah Newton is a game designer and author of the Mindjammer game and novels and other RPGs. Over the past 6 months she’s been caring for her husband who had with stage IV cancer and she is now raising money for his funeral expenses, to get back on her feet, and get her company up and running again: “We?re raising £3,500 to help fund the funeral expenses of Chris James, the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” The appeal has brought in £7,231.

I wanted to explain what any money above Chris’s funeral expenses will be used for. The week after next, I’ll take Chris’s ashes to the UK by car and ferry, appx £400. I’ll return to work in France by 1 October. Mindjammer Press has been mothballed since February. It’ll take me the rest of the year to start delivery, meaning I need to cover the period financially. With your blessing, it would be useful to use your gifts to reduce any loan I’ll eventually need. My outgoings are low – appx 1000 euros a month. Please let me know your thoughts.

(4) IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED. Jezebel notes “Once Again, Women Casually Dominated the Hugo Awards” (based on a post at The Verge.)

… The streak is notable, because it comes even after a Gamergate-style pushback attempt in 2015.

(5) INTERNATIONAL COVERAGE. And one of those winners got a nice writeup in MalaysiaKini: “Malaysian author Zen Cho wins Hugo Award”.

Malaysian author Zen Cho has bagged the Hugo Award, a prestigious literary award for science fiction writing.

Cho’s ‘If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again’ won in the Best Novelette category.

… “It was unexpected – I was pleased to be nominated because I was attending Worldcon this year anyway, and I was keen to go to the Hugo Losers party hosted each year by Martin.

“But I had my bets about who would win and it wasn’t me!” she was quoted as saying….

(6) GONE FROM THE VERGE. Bad news for Andrew Liptak and those of us who like to read his coverage of the sff field: Reading List: Well, that was unexpected.

So, last week didn’t turn out as I’d expected it to. I was let go from The Verge: my last day was Wednesday. The reasons are both simple and complicated, and I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail, other than to say that I’m bummed to be out, will miss a bunch of my former co-workers, and being able to talk about some of the things that I really love to a big audience. I began work there three years ago, after applying on a complete whim. My time there has made me a much better writer from where I started, so that’s a plus. 

(7) BOND FILM GETS NAME. Esquire, in “‘No Time To Die’: Bond 25 Title And Release Date Are Finally Confirmed” says we know what the new Bond movie is and when it will be released.

At last – at long, long, long last – the next James Bond film has its title. Bond 25 can officially nestle in the bin with Shatterhand, Eclipse, A Reason To Die and however many other mooted titles which came and went….

It’s officially titled No Time To Die. It’s got a very punchy logo, and it’s out in the UK on 3 April 2020 and 8 April 2020 in the US.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 20, 1973 — George Lucas signed the contract to shoot a movie called Star Wars.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. (Died 1931.)
  • Born August 20, 1890 Howard P. Lovecraft. Virtually unknown during his lifetime, he was published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty. He’s regarded now as one of our most important authors of horror and weird fiction. He is not the originator of the term Cthulhu mythos, that honor goes to August Derleth. (Died 1937.)
  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 76. The Seventh Doctor and the last until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1947 Alan Lee, 72. Book illustration and film conceptual designer. I think one of his most impressive works is the Tolkien centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings which he did all the art for. Though his first edition cover of Holdstock’s Lavondyss: Journey to an Unknown Region s damn impressive too. Though I don’t  like the storytelling of The Hobbit films, his and John Howe ‘s conceptual design is fantastic.
  • Born August 20, 1948 John Noble, 71. He’s best known as Dr. Walter Bishop on Fringe, and Henry Parrish on Sleepy Hollow. He’s also played Denethor in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And he voiced Brainiac in Superman: Unbound, a superb film. 
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 68. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery.
  • Born August 20, 1957 Mary Stävin, 62. It’s not often we get someone in two Bond films, both of them Roger Moore affairs. In Octopussy, she played an Octopussy girl, and in A View to a Kill, she played agent Kimberley Jones. In the low budget Italian SF film Alien Terminator, she’s Maureen De Havilland, and in Howling V: The Rebirth, she’s Anna. 
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 57. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures. 
  • Born August 20, 1962 James Marsters, 57. Spike in Buffyverse. He’s also played Brainiac on Smallville, Captain John Hart on Torchwood, Barnabas Greeley on Caprica, and Victor Stein on the Runaways. Oh and he voiced Lex Luthor in Superman: Doomsday.
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 56. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well crafted. She shows up in other genre series such as Super ForceThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-Files, Conan and Highlander: The Series

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Speed Bump is about a disappointing turnout for an author’s event.

(11) UNDER THE LID. This week Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid dives into the heady, deadly romance of This is How You Lose The Time War and explores what happens to aging when we live…Longer. Rounded out by an early review of the wonderful Moonbase Theta, and Out’s second season, click here to read it: “The Full Lid 16th August 2019”. Excerpt from the Time War review —

A duel is a romance with different syncopation. A game is a conversation with rules. A dance is a fight you both get to win. A waltz between the seconds, a volta across parallel timelines. All of it driven by tempo and need, the percussion of war, the brass of ideologies clashing. The Hans Zimmer siren of massive concepts crashing against each other, of miniature disasters and minor catastrophes stitching themselves into the quilt of the world.

In the midst of all of this, Red and Blue. Soldiers. Assassins, Gardeners (Although only one would think of themselves as such), rivals and slowly, surely, something much, much more.

(12) ARE THE LIGHTS STILL ON? Camestros Felapton surmises that Vox Day’s “Castalia House has stopped publishing new science fiction”.

…The last blog post at Castalia’s blog leading with “Castalia New Release” was in November 2018 and was Day’s non-fiction riposte to Jordan Peterson. ISFDB has only one entry for Castalia in 2018 (Nick Cole’s republished Soda Pop Soldier) and while I know they are missing some titles (e.g. Cole’s sequel to that book from 2018), it is a sharp contrast from 2014-2017.

John C Wright’s “Nowither: The Drowned World” was published in 2019 but the series has shifted from Castalia to Superversive Press. Newer writer Kai Weah Cheah published a sequel with Castalia early in 2018 but his more recent books have been with Russell Newquist’s Silver Empire….

(13) BOOTH OBIT. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “Richard Booth: Bookshop owner and ‘king of Hay-on-Wye’ dies”. “I made the pilgrimage there before Conspiracy; If I recall, Jo Walton got married there.”

Richard Booth, who turned Hay-on-Wye into a second-hand bookshop capital, has died aged 80.

He was responsible for transforming the market town in Powys into the world’s foremost home for books.

Mr Booth – who dubbed himself “king of Hay” opened his first bookshop in the town’s former fire station in 1961 and was honoured with an MBE in 2004.

Anne Addyman, from Addyman’s Books, said: “This town has become what it is because of him.”

(14) PORTALESS FANTASY? A BBC writer takes “A bizarre journey beyond Earth’s borders”.

The Kcymaerxthaere is our global link to a ‘parallel universe’. So why don’t more people know it exists?

There’s a well-known saying from Ralph Waldo Emerson that goes: ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey’.

That’s kind of how I was feeling, standing in the middle of the Malzfabrik – an enormous art and design centre that began as a malting plant more than a century ago – in Berlin’s Tempelhof neighbourhood. I’d walked 20 minutes from the closest U-Bahn station, along wide, tree-lined streets almost vacant of other pedestrians to reach these towering red-brick buildings and their main square.

I was well off the city’s typical tourist routes, and since my phone’s wi-fi kept cutting out (and the lovely woman at the Malzfabrik’s front desk had never heard of the ‘Kcymaerxthaere’), I’d been wandering around this massive industrial property for over half an hour, searching for signs to a parallel universe. Finding the first one – a pillar-mounted plaque describing Sentrists, a people so self-absorbed that the centre of the universe shifts a bit when more than a few of them get together – was fairly easy, but the others (including a marker tucked within the Malzfabrik’s entry garden) took a bit more sleuthing.

“You’re looking for what?” asked my friend Maria, with whom I was staying in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighbourhood, when I told her about the Kcymaerxthaere, or ‘Kcy’ – an ongoing, global, three-dimensional storytelling experience that has 140 installations, including a series of mostly square bronze plaques (or ‘markers’) and more complex ‘historic sites’, spread over six continents and 29 countries. Each installation pays tribute to a conceived ‘parallel universe’ called the Kcymaerxthaere, and shares bits of larger stories that are said to have taken place at or around corresponding locations in our own ‘linear’ world, but within an alternate dimension. It can be a heady thing to wrap your mind around.

(15) MACROPROCESSOR. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite what Bill Higgins and Barry Gehm wrote of 40 years ago (*), but big enough: “Cerebras reveals world’s ‘largest computer chip’ for AI tasks”.

A Californian-based start-up has unveiled what it says is the world’s largest computer chip.

The Wafer Scale Engine, designed by Cerebras Systems, is slightly bigger than a standard iPad.

The firm says a single chip can drive complex artificial intelligence (AI) systems in everything from driverless cars to surveillance software.

…Cerebras’ new chip has 400,000 cores, all linked to each other by high-bandwidth connections.

The firm suggests this gives it an advantage at handling complex machine learning challenges with less lag and lower power requirements than combinations of the other options.

Cerebras claims the Wafer Scale Engine will reduce the time it takes to process some complex data from months to minutes.

(*) from “Home on Lagrange” (with respect to the advertised possibility of growing huge crystals in orbit): “It had 392 pins, drew fifty-seven amps of current, had a heat sink the size of a Cadillac. They called it … Macroprocessor”. (Per The NESFA Hymnal — the addition does not appear on the permitted onlining at http://www.jamesoberg.com/humor.html, so I’m not sure whether it’s original or part of the filk process.)

(16) INDIA CRAFT ARRIVES IN LUNAR ORBIT. BBC reports“Chandrayaan-2: India spacecraft begins orbiting Moon”.

India’s second lunar exploration mission has entered the Moon’s orbit, nearly a month after blasting off, officials have said.

Chandrayaan-2 began its orbit of the Moon at 09:02 local time (04:32 GMT) on Tuesday.

The craft completed the manoeuvre in around 30 minutes, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the mission as “an important step in the landmark journey”.

K Sivan, head of Isro, said he was confident Chandrayaan-2 would land on the Moon as planned on 7 September.

…Chandrayaan-2 (Moon vehicle 2) will try to land near the little-explored south pole of the Moon.

The mission will focus on the lunar surface, searching for water and minerals and measuring moonquakes, among other things.

See near the end of this BBC article for the orbital reason it took most of a month after launch to reach the moon.

(17) SHOW’S OVER. “‘World’s oldest webcam’ to be switched off” – BBC has the story.

The world’s oldest continuously working webcam is being switched off after 25 years.

The Fogcam was set up in 1994 to watch how the weather changed on the San Francisco State University campus.

It has broadcast almost continuously since then barring regular maintenance and the occasional need for it to be re-sited to maintain its view.

Its creators said it was being shut down because there were now no good places to put the webcam.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/19 We Always Lived In The Castle, But We’re Now AirBnB’ing It Out Instead

(1) DUBLIN 2019 WRITING WORKSHOP. To be led by GoH Diane Duane.

(2) IN THE BEGINNING. Here’s part two of Anne-Louise Fortune’s video series Worldcon 101 – Dublin 2019.

(3) MAD NO MORE. ComicBook.com originally reported “MAD Magazine to Cease Publication”:

MAD Magazine will cease publication later this year, according to reports. Blogger Jedidiah Leland reportedly discovered the news after a MAD editor confessed to the magazine’s doom in a Facebook group, and shortly thereafter, cartoonist Ruben Bolling seemed to confirm the report on Twitter….

But as it turned out, MAD – unlike the Wicked Witch of the West — is not really and completely dead: “Details Surface About Plans for MAD Magazine’s Future”:

MAD magazine will not be completely closing down, as previously reported — although most of its new content will cease, and availability for the iconic humor magazine will be reduced. Earlier tonight, the news broke that MAD was set to cease publication after two more issues of new content, with the magazine using archival content to fulfill its obligation to existing subscribers. This is a little true, and a little not, and ComicBook.com has heard from a source with knowledge of the situation who clarified what is going on.

MAD will be leaving the newsstand after issue #9, which will land on newsstands in early August with all-new content. MAD #10 will also contain new content, but will be available only via direct market comic book retailers and subscriptions. Rather than closing up shop, the plan at present is to continue publishing issues that will feature reprinted classic MAD pieces, wrapped with new covers art. Further, MAD will continue to publish its end of year specials, as well as books and special collections, capitalizing on the value of the MAD brand in spite of the loss of new content in the magazine

(4) FRIGHTENING FLICK. NPR’s Justin Chang reports that “‘Midsommar’ Shines: A Solstice Nightmare Unfolds In Broad Daylight”:

In the viscerally unnerving films of Ari Aster, there’s nothing more horrific than the reality of human grief. His haunted-house thriller, Hereditary, followed a family rocked by traumas so devastating that the eventual scenes of devil-worshipping naked boogeymen almost came as a relief. Aster’s new movie, Midsommar, doesn’t pack quite as terrifying a knockout punch, but it casts its own weirdly hypnotic spell. This is a slow-burning and deeply absorbing piece of filmmaking, full of strikingly beautiful images and driven less by shocks than ideas. It’s not interested in frightening you so much as seeping into your nervous system.

And like Hereditary, Midsommar is very much rooted in loss. It begins with a young American woman named Dani, played by the great English actress Florence Pugh, panicking over a family emergency that moves swiftly toward its worst possible outcome. As she tries to pick up the broken pieces of her life, Dani seeks solace from her boyfriend, Christian, and is surprised to learn that he’s about to go on a trip with some of his grad-school buddies. They’re headed to a remote Swedish commune that is holding a nine-day festival to observe the summer solstice. Dani presses him about why he didn’t tell her earlier, and an argument ensues.

They fly to Sweden and, after a few hours’ drive, arrive at a remote, centuries-old village where they are greeted by about 60 men and women wearing white robes embroidered with mysterious symbols. They are known as the Hårga, and they invite their American guests to participate in each day’s festivities, which include lavish feasts, silent meditations, exhausting maypole dances and the consumption of various mind-altering drugs. Aster has a gift for dreaming up fictitious subcultures, and he visualizes these ancient customs and artifacts with an almost anthropological attention to detail. The Hårga seem benevolent enough at first, and there’s something comforting about their strange rituals and their intimate communion with nature.

(5) MORE TOOLS FOR FINDING GOOD SFF. Rocket Stack Rank, says Eric Wong in “New Recommenders and Improved Scoring” “has added 10 more recommenders, improved how story scores are calculated from 13 awards, 12 ‘year’s best’ anthologies, and 11 prolific reviewers, and updated the Best SF/F lists for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 YTD.”

(6) ASTRONOMY HISTORY, The Atlas Obscura Society can get you in to see “The Second Largest Public Telescope in the World” on July 6 and 7. It’s on Mount Wilson near Los Angeles. See schedule and details at the link. (Note: Observatory is not ADA compliant,.)

Collecting ancient light in a 60-inch mirror, the Hale Telescope reflects images in your eye of beautiful objects, some that lie millions of light years away from Earth.

Join Atlas Obscura for an exclusive evening of observation with Mount Wilson Observatory’s historic 60-inch telescope. Assisted by a telescope operator and a session director, you will investigate objects in the night sky and get up close and personal with our solar system. Depending on the evening’s weather conditions, you could get a glimpse of faraway planets, a staggeringly close-up look at the moon, or star clusters looming over Mount Wilson, where the seed of the idea for this groundbreaking scientific invention was planted.

In 1903, astrophysicist George Ellery Hale went hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains. Resting at the summit of Mount Wilson, he gazed at his surroundings and realized he had found the perfect place to build an observatory. Five years later, at the very same spot, he unveiled the world’s largest operational telescope, a 60-inch reflector that attracted preeminent scientists such as Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble. In fact, it was with this telescope that Harlow Shapley discovered that the Sun’s position was not the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. It now operates as the second largest telescope made exclusively for the public.

(7) MOTION IN LIBRARY. NPR’s Bethanne Patrick finds “In ‘The Ghost Clause,’ 2 Marriages, A Missing Child, And Yes, A Ghost”.

Howard Norman writes elegant prose — but really, that’s because everything about Howard Norman is elegant. The Vermont-based novelist and scholar of Native American lore sprinkles his fiction with all the things that interest him, from literary to culinary to planetary. Like many of Norman’s previous books, The Ghost Clause pays attention to Japanese poetry, binge-reading Trollope, what makes an intimate supper (mushroom omelets, salad, cherry pie with ice cream), and varieties of Northeast Kingdom moths.

The denizens of Adamant, Vt. — was there ever a better place name? — have a lot going on, even if by “a lot going on” one simply means making sure to leave time to have your cranberry scone toasted at the local café presided over by grumpy Vanessa. The first two people we meet are newly minted PhD Muriel Streuth and her husband Zach, a private investigator at the Green Mountain Agency. They’ve bought an old house with a library room, and their modern security system keeps picking up “Motion in Library.”

Investigations into the unknown motion-detector blips don’t reveal much. Fortunately for readers, our narrator soon reveals all (and this is not a spoiler): He is novelist Simon Inescort, whose widow, painter Lorca Pell, sold the house to Muriel and Zach after Simon’s untimely death by heart attack on the ferry from Maine to Canada. He also informs us of the title’s meaning, which refers to a perhaps-apocryphal Vermont statute whereby if new owners of a building discover it is inhabited by a “malevolent presence,” the sale can be nullified.

(8) CASTING FOR MERMAIDS. Here’s who they caught: “Halle Bailey: Disney announces singer to play Little Mermaid”.

Disney has cast singer Halle Bailey in the starring role of Ariel in a live action remake of The Little Mermaid.

“Halle possesses a rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance, plus a glorious singing voice,” director Rob Marshall said.

Halle, 19, half of R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle, “said it was a “dream come true”.

The film, which will start shooting in 2020, will feature new songs written by Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda.

(9) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. In 2015, Westword published an article about a community spawned from the Shaver Mystery: “Maurice Doreal and His Brotherhood of the White Temple Awaited the Apocalypse in Colorado”.

… The American science-fiction community was still in an uproar over the Shaver Mystery, “The Most Sensational True Story Ever Told,” according to Amazing Stories magazine, a publication whose circulation had skyrocketed after it published “I Remember Lemuria!,” a fantastic story purporting to be a memoir of the extraordinary subterranean-world encounters of writer/artist Richard Sharpe Shaver, in 1945.

…One of those letters, published in the October 1946 issue of Amazing Stories, came from Dr. Maurice Doreal, the Denver-based “Supreme Voice” for the Ascended Masters, super-evolved human beings who live below Tibet. Doreal had recently announced that he was moving his Brotherhood of the White Temple from central Denver to rural Colorado to wait out the coming nuclear holocaust. “Like Mr. Shaver, I have had personal contact with the Dero and even visited their underground caverns,” he now wrote. “In the outer world they are represented by an organization known loosely as ‘the Black Brotherhood,’ whose purpose is the destruction of the good principle in man…. The underground cities and caverns are, in the most part, protected by space warps, a science known to the ancients, but only touched on by modern science…. I note that many are wanting to enter these caves. For one who has not developed a protective screen this would be suicide and one who revealed their location would be a murderer….”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 4, 1865 — Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 4, 1883 Rube Goldberg. Not genre, but certainly genre adjacent. Born Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, he was a sculptor, author, cartoonist, engineer, and inventor who’s certainly best known for his very popular cartoons showing overly complex machines doing simple tasks in a terribly convoluted manner, hence the phrase “Rube Goldberg machines”. The X-Files episode titled “The Goldberg Variation” involved an apartment rigged as a Goldberg machine. (Died 1970)
  • Born July 4, 1901 Guy Endore. Writer of The Werewolf of Paris which is said by Stableford in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers as “entitled to be considered the werewolf novel”. He also wrote “The Day of the Dragon” which Stableford likes as well. He was a scriptwriter hence for writing Mark of the Vampire starring Bela Lugosi. He also the treatment for The Raven but never got credited. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1910 Gloria Stuart. She was cast as Flora Cranley opposite Claude Rains in The Invisible Man in 1933, and 68 years later she played Madeline Fawkes in The Invisible Man series. She was in The Old Dark House as Margaret Waverton which is considered horror largely because Boris Karloff was in it. And she was in the time travelling The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 4, 1949 Peter Crowther, 70. He is the founder (with Simon Conway) of PS Publishing where he’s editor now. He edited a series of genre anthologies that DAW published. And he’s written a number of horror novels of which I’d say After Happily Ever and By Wizard Oak are good introductions to him. He’s also done a lot of short fiction but I see he’s not really available in digital form all that much for short fiction or novels.   
  • Born July 4, 1967 Christopher McKitterick, 52. Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, a program at the University of Kansas that supports an annual series of awards, lectures, classes, workshops, the Campbell Conference, and AboutSF, a resource for teachers and readers of science fiction. He’s also a juror for and Chair of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel from 2002 onward. And yes, he does write genre fiction with one novel to date, Transcendence, more than a double handful of stories, and being an academic, critical essays such as  “John W. Campbell: The Man Who Invented Modern Fantasy and the Golden Age of Science Fiction” which was published in Steven H. Silver Hugo-nominated Argentus. 
  • Born July 4, 1977 David Petersen, 42. Writer and illustrator of the brilliant Mouse Guard series. If you haven’t read it, do so — it’s that good. It almost got developed as a film but got axed due to corporate politics. IDW published The Wind in The Willows with over sixty of his illustrations several years back. 
  • Born July 4, 1989 Emily Coutts, 30. She plays the role of helmsman Keyla Detmer on Discovery. She’s also her mirror universe counterpart, who is the first officer of that universe’s Shenzhou. (I like the series and am definitely looking forward to it when it jumps a thousand years into the future next season!) She was in one episode of the SF series Dark Matter and in Crimson Peak, a horror film but that’s it for genre appearances.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A court judge and Frankenstein help Bizarro live up to its name today.

(13) SANDMAN TO TV. Deadline reports: “Netflix Orders ‘The Sandman’ Series Based On Neil Gaiman’s DC Comic”.

Netflix has given an 11-episode series order to The Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s DC comic, from Warner Bros TV.

Allan Heinberg (Wonder WomanGrey’s Anatomy) is slated to write and serve as showrunner on the series, with Gaiman executive producing alongside David Goyer.

(14) THE ITALIAN SFF SCENE. The subject is Italian Science Fiction when Arielle Saiber is interviewed by Lex Berman for the Diamond Bay Radio podcast.

Lex Berman is the publisher of Diamond Bay Press.

Arielle Saiber is a professor of Italian literature and romance languages, and also a big science fiction fan!

Recorded with Zencaster on 8th May, 2019.

Find out about the history of Science Fiction and fandom in Italy, and why flying saucers would totally land at Lucca!

(15) VOX DAY AT THE MOVIES. “I look forward to the shrieks and wails,” writes aspiring moviemaker Vox Day. The Rebel’s Run Teaser Trailer has dropped, publicizing that a movie based on one of Arkhaven’s Alt-Hero characters, is now in pre-production. A one-minute trailer is followed by Chuck Dixon extolling the comics, and even a shot of Vox smiling happily. So if any of that is the kind of thing you need a warning about, you won’t click.

(16) LIPLESS READING. Extra Credits devotes a video to Harlan Ellison’s story and game in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – The End of the Apocalypse.

Harlan Ellison was a little dismissive of this short story that you’ve might only heard of because you saw it on a Steam summer sale, but at the time of its publication (1967) its ideas about the possibility of “evil AI,” as well as the possible degeneracy of humanity, were shocking and unexpected, and it set the stage for the wave of sci-fi we’ll talk about next season.

(17) WHAT’S BUZZING? Nature has a nice artist’s impression and short description of the drone proposed for use on Saturn’s moon, Titan — “NASA drone to soar across Titan”.

Named Dragonfly, the US$850-million mission will launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in mid-2034. The nuclear-powered drone (pictured, artist’s impression) could traverse hundreds of kilometres during its two-year mission.

(18) IDENTIFYING PROS IN THE WILD. Orbit Books tweeted an amusing guide for telling two of its similarly-named writers apart.

(19) HARD WORK. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver ripped Amazon’s treatment of warehouse employees, now Amazon is trying to recover – Deadline has the story: “Amazon Calls John Oliver’s Report On Warehouse Work Conditions ‘Insulting’ To Employees”.

Amazon is calling John Oliver’s depiction of conditions at the company’s shipping and warehouse facilities “insulting” to Amazon workers.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s SVP Worldwide Operations, responded to a harsh segment that aired Sunday on HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In the 20-minute segment, Amazon — as well as other companies with quick online-delivery systems — was lambasted for the exhausting chores required of the warehouse workers.

“The injury and illness rate in the warehouse industry is higher than coal mining, construction and logging,” Oliver said during the HBO show, in which he called Amazon the “Michael Jackson” of shipping because they’re “the best at what they do, everybody tries to imitate them, and nobody who learns a third thing about them is happy they did.”

(20) CHARACTERS WITH AGENCY. TV Sins wants you to know “Everything Wrong With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘Pilot’”

This week we head into the MTU by finding everything wrong with the pilot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! It’s was a show with a lot of promise, and also a lot of sins.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Eric Wong, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, mlex, Chip Hitchcock, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/9/19 It’s the Great Pixel, Churlie Brown!

(1) WHITE SPACE. The public radio investigative news show Reveal included Vox Day and his foray into alt-right comics in its program “Hate in the homeland”. (He’s the topic of the second of the program’s three segments.)

The mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue and the burning of churches in Louisiana are reminders that hate crimes are on the rise in the U.S. This episode surveys the state of the white supremacist movement in America, focusing on how hate groups are spreading their message.

The first segment is a discussion with Megan Squire, a professor of computer science at Elon University who’s been studying how hate groups are using the internet to win converts. She says that despite attempts to silence extreme sites, they are finding ways to stay online.

Al Letson then explores how comic books are being weaponized by the far right to spread the message of white supremacy.

We end with a conversation with Pastor Mike McBride, founder of The Way Church in Berkeley, California. He talks about how communities of color are standing up to attacks from white supremacists.

(2) SENSITIVITY. Vicky Who Reads takes on a big YA issue with “So. Your Favorite Books Are Problematic. Now What?”

…I’ve been thinking about this since January, especially with a lot of realizations on my part about some of the books I loved when I was younger.

Books like . . .

  • Eleanor & Park, which is extremely racist to Koreans & biracial Koreans
  • Cinder, which has questionable Asian representation and worldbuilding
  • The Grishaverse, which has bad Shu (aka East Asian) rep and magic yellowface

And so many others. These are the most stark to me, because all of them include negative portrayals of identities very close to my own (I’m East & Southeast Asian), yet these were also some of my favorite books when I was 14.

And there are so many other formative YA novels that are extremely popular, and also portray some minority group(s) badly.

(Okay, we definitely still are being hurt sometimes, but we’re letting less people hurt us.)

But these are our favorites. They hold a special place in our hearts. They’re almost untouchable.

Key word: almost.

Are you saying we should cancel them?

No, actually. I’m not.

I know you wanted to scream “cAnCeL cUlTuRe!!!1!!11!” at me, but not today, Satan.

I don’t think mass-cancelling them will do anything. I don’t think issuing a community-wide “Six of Crows is officially cancelled for bad Asian rep!!!” statement will do anything productive, nor will it help us do better in the future.

(And some people see themselves in that rep. I don’t, but some people do, and I respect this.)

I do think, that some people might want to individually-cancel books, in different extents….

(3) CANCELLATION FOLLOWED BY LITIGATION. In the Washington Post,  Deanna Paul and Lindsey Beyer report that Jordanian American writer Natasha Tynes is suing her former publisher, Rare Bird Books, for $13 million after they cancelled her forthcoming novel They Called Me Wyatt, “about a murdered Jordanian student whose ‘consciousness’ inhabits a 3-year-old boy with speech delays.”  At issue is a tweet Tynes wrote (and withdrew) showing an African-American woman working for the Metro subway eating her breakfast on a train, (which is against the rules) and whether, as her publisher claims, this deleted tweet was about “the policing of a black woman’s body.” “An author lost her book deal after tweeting about a Metro worker. She’s suing for $13 million”.

Natasha Tynes, an award-winning Jordanian American author who lost a book deal following claims of online racism, is suing her publishing house for $13 million. The lawsuit, filed in California on Friday, alleges that Rare Bird Books breached its contract and defamed her, causing “extreme emotional distress” and destroying her reputation.

… On the morning of May 10, the World Bank communications officer and mother of three tweeted a photo of a black female Metro worker who was breaking the D.C. region transportation agency’s rules by eating breakfast on a train….

…Hours later, Rare Bird released a statement, calling Tynes’s tweet — which it described as the policing of a black woman‘s body — “something truly horrible.”

As The Washington Post previously reported, in response to the tweet, Rare Bird announced it had decided not to distribute her book. “We think this is unacceptable and have no desire to be involved with anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to jeopardize a person’s safety and employment in this way,” the company announced on Twitter.

By the following day, the publisher had announced plans to halt shipments of the book and postpone the publication date while taking the “appropriate next steps to officially cancel the book’s publication.” Preorders for the novel were also canceled, even though sales had skyrocketed, court documents say.

… Court papers also said she temporarily returned to Jordan on May 21, fearing her family “would be the subject of violence, reprisals and harassment at the hands of a mob incited by Rare Bird if she remained in the United States.”

“What Rare Bird has done to Natasha Tynes is just beyond abhorrent,” said attorney William Moran, who is representing Tynes. “I’ve never seen a publisher throw an author under the bus like this before.”

(4) RIPLEY: BELIEVE IT. Sigourney Weaver chats with Parade about the 40th anniversary of Alien and her future roles: “Sigourney Weaver Reminisces on Her Career, Alien, Avatar and the New Ghostbusters

…She’ll soon head back to New Zealand, where she’s been at work filming the live and CGI portions of the long-awaited, effects-driven Avatar sequels. (Because her Avatar character died at the end of the 2009 original, she’ll be playing someone new in the next four installments, the first of which is scheduled for the big screen in 2021.) She’s also set to reunite with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in the new Ghostbusters, due July 2020. “It’s going to be crazy working with the guys again!” she says. She won’t reveal any details except to confirm she’s reprising her role as hauntee Dana Barrett.

(5) CLEARANCE. Heather Rose Jones sorts her garage in anticipation of a “Yes, I’m ready to admit I’m not doing SCA any more” giveaway open house in “The Great SCA Gear Divestment Project”.

…The hardest part of this process isn’t the “stuff” itself, but the investment I put into making and adapting things for my “ideal medieval environment”. Some of those things I only enjoyed a few times. Some were still in the process of being perfected. But here’s the thing: I’m *not* using them. And I have no rational expectation of using them in the future. And I’d rather that someone else used them to help build *their* “ideal medieval environment” rather than having the stuff continue to collect dust in my garage.

There’s been a recurring theme in my life of needing to distinguish between living the life I will truly enjoy, and trying to live a fantasy life that I only *want* to want. Let me unpack that. The example I usually use to illustrate this struggle is My Fantasy Canopy Bed.

(6) HEERMAN SHARES EXPERIENCES. The Odyssey Workshop’s “Interview: Graduate Travis Heermann (Part 1 of 2)” includes advice about Kickstarter campaigns.

Your latest novel, The Hammer Falls, was funded on Kickstarter in only twelve hours. Congratulations on both a successful Kickstarter and on the release of a new novel! You wrote a post in 2016 for the Odyssey blog on running a Kickstarter. Would you share some tips for getting the word out about Kickstarters? How did you encourage people to participate?

The key is stoking up your friends, family, and fans. 90% of this campaign’s backers were friends, family, fans, and repeat business people who had supported my Kickstarters in the past. And then you have to ask. For many of us, that’s the hardest part.

For this campaign, I used several strategies to get the word out:

1. Facebook ads. Resulted in no traffic AT ALL. It’s like going back to an abusive, gold-digging ex, and you think it’ll be different this time…

2. Posting on Facebook. Way, way, way less useful than it used to be. Their algorithms make sure your link doesn’t get seen by anybody. Posting a textual message to your wall and then posting the link in the comments helps with this somewhat,but the results were not nearly as good as the campaign I ran in 2015.

3. Posting on Twitter. Similar problem to Facebook with its incomprehensible black box algorithm. Practically no engagement.

4. Posting updates in previous Kickstarter campaigns, so that all my previous backers could see that I had a new project coming. Theoretically, these are my staunchest supporters, most likely to come back for another go.

5. Appealing to my email list. This is where nearly half of the contributions came from. These are people I send communications to regularly. I got about a 30% click-through from the email list to the campaign. Not everybody who clicked contributed, but that’s a good click-through ratio….

(7) NOT A HIPPPOPOTAMUS. NPR’s Liza Graham reports that Sarah Gailey’s “‘Magic For Liars’ Asks, What If You’re Actually Not Magic?”

You are not the chosen one. You don’t get to leave your humdrum life behind and go to the mysterious school where they teach magic. You will not discover powers you never dreamed you had. The reason you don’t fit in socially is not because you’re a once-in-a-generation sorcerer. Your blemishes and aches and colds and unfulfilled longings will not miraculously fade away as you become the marvelous creature you were always meant to be. You are not magic.

But your twin sister is.

Ivy Gamble, PI, protagonist of Sarah Gailey’s Magic For Liars, has lived with disappointment for years. She wasn’t the chosen one — single and solitary in her 40s, she couldn’t be less chosen if she tried. But she’s smart and damn good at her job, and she keeps going. Until one day, she’s called into the magicians’ school — Osthorne Academy, where her brilliant sister is now a faculty member — to investigate a case no magician can crack….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 9, 1925 Keith Laumer. I remember his Bolo series fondly and read quite a bit of it. Can’t say which novels at this point, though Bolo definitely and Last Command almost certainly. The Imperium and Retief series were also very enjoyable though the latter is the one I’d re-read at this point. Amazon and iBooks have decent though not complete ebooks listings for him, heavy on Imperium and Retief, no Bolo. (Died 1993)
  • Born June 9, 1930 Lin Carter. He is best known for his work in the 1970s as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. As a writer, His first professional publication was the short story “Masters of the Metropolis”, co-written with Randall Garrett, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1957. He would be a prolific writer, average as many as six novels a year. In addition, he was influential as a critic of the fantasy genre and an early historian of the genre. (Died 1988.)
  • Born June 9, 1934 Donald Duck, 85. He made his first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” on June 9, 1934. In this cartoon, Donald and his friend, Peter Pig, lie their way out of helping the titular little hen tend to her corn. 
  • Born June 9, 1943 Joe Haldeman, 76. Whether or not, it was written as a response to Starship Troopers as some critics thought at time, The Forever War is a damn great novel. No surprise that it won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards. 
  • Born June 9, 1949 Drew Sanders, 70. He’s an LA resident who’s active in con-running and costuming. He has worked on many Worldcons and is a member of LASFS and SCIFI, and has been a officer of both groups. He co-chaired Costume-Con 4 in 1986.
  • Born June 9, 1954 Gregory Maguire, 65. He is the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West based of course on the Oz Mythos; Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister retelling the tale of Cinderella; and Mirror, Mirror, a revisionist retelling of the Snow White tale. Well you get the idea. He’s damn good at this schtick.
  • Born June 9, 1961 Michael J. Fox, 58. The Back to The Future trilogy stands as one of the best SF series ever done and his acting was brilliant. Since 1999 due to his Parkinson’s Disease, he’s has mainly worked as a voice-over actor in films such as Stuart Little and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Prior to his diagnosis, he performed on Tales from the Crypt and directed “The Trap” episode. He would return to live action performing in 2014, bless him, with The Michael J. Fox Show series. 
  • Born June 9, 1967 Dave McCarty, 52. He’s a Chicago-area con-running fan who chaired Chicon 7. He also headed the Chicago Worldcon Bid who lost out in 2008 and was victorious in 2012. He is married to fellow fan Elizabeth McCarty. He was the Hugo Administrator for Loncon (2014), MidAmeriCon II (2016), and for Worldcon 76 (2018).
  • Born June 9, 1981 Natalie Portman, 38. Padmé Amidala in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. She also played Evey Hammond in V for Vendetta. (Very weird film.) And, of course, Jane Foster in Thor and Thor: The Dark World.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity explains why a leprechaun might object to Judy Garland singing her old standard.

(10) DUBLIN 2019. Now live — Dublin 2019 Irish WorldCon Member’s Page.

Hello and welcome members of Dublin 2019, An Irish WorldCon! This page has been created as a place where WorldCon members can chat, share information, sell memberships or swap accomdation with each other. This is not an official page and as such is not regulated by WorldCon staff. Please treat each other with respect and dignity. Can’t wait to see ye in Dublin this August!

(11) MINTY FRESH. A whole flock of coins celebrating the first manned Moon landing are on sale from the U.S. Mint. Here’s one in gold struck at West Point.

(12) GOING MONTHLY. At Galactic Journey, Gideon Marcus cheers Fred Pohl’s latest (1964) plans for IF: [June 8, 1964] Be Prepared! (July 1964 IF).

IF Worlds of Science Fiction, Galaxy’s scrappy younger sister, has also launched a big operation, the result of a long-ranged plan.  For years, the magazine has been a bi-monthly, alternating publication with Galaxy.  Now, editor Fred Pohl says it’s going monthly.  To that end, he lined up a slew of big-name authors to contribute enough material to sustain the increased publication rate.  Moreover, Pohl intends IF to be the adventurous throwback mag, in contrast to the more cerebral digests under his direction (Galaxy and Worlds of Tomorrow.  Or in his words:

“Adventure.  Excitement.  Drama.  Color.  Not hack pulp-writing or gory comic-strip blood and thunder, but the sort of story that attracted most of us to science fiction in the first place.”

Frankly, it was Galaxy that got me into SF in 1950, so I’m not sure I want a return to the “Golden Age”.  But I’m willing to see how this works out, and in fact, this month’s issue is encouragingly decent, as you shall soon see.

(13) DIFFERENCES IN THE ORIGINAL. Luke, I am your second cousin twice removed on your mother’s side: “The Original ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Script Shows Darth Vader Wasn’t Supposed to Be Luke’s Father” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

George Lucas once described his own father as a “domineering, ultra right-wing businessman”-a man who is largely believed to have inspired the relationship between Luke and Anakin Skywalker. In 1980, The Empire Strikes Back revealed that Darth Vader was actually Luke’s father, a twist that has become one of the most famous father-son stories of the century. That reveal marked a pivotal moment in the Star Wars franchise-one that turned this into a decades-long narrative about fathers and sons that has resonated in virtually every major plot point of the eight films in the Skywalker Saga.

But that major twist almost didn’t even happen. A transcript of what is allegedly the original script for The Empire Strikes Back has appeared online and includes a number of key differences.

(14) UNWANTED SJWCS. You know that plastic polluting the sea you always hear about? “Garfield phones beach mystery finally solved after 35 years”.

A French coastal community has finally cracked the mystery behind the Garfield telephones that have plagued its picturesque beaches for decades.

Since the 1980s, the Iroise coast in Brittany has received a supply of bright orange landline novelty phones shaped like the famous cartoon cat.

Anti-litter campaigners have been collecting fragments of the feline for years as they clean the beaches.

…The beach-cleaning teams had long suspected that a lost shipping container – perhaps blown overboard – had regurgitated its precious orange cargo. But they had never been able to find it.

(15) THREE MILE (SAND) ISLAND. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the Martian wind: “Exploring The Mysterious Origins Of Mars’ 3-Mile-High Sand Pile” at NPR.

… “We don’t have a gravimeter on the surface of Mars, but we do have accelerometers,” he says, “and gravity is just an acceleration.”

You may not think of gravity that way, but you can, and scientists do.

So with the help of engineers Stephen Peters and Kurt Gonter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he was able to adjust the way the data from the RIMU were handled; that gave Lewis his gravimeter.

He knew just what he wanted to do with it: Try to figure out how a 15,000-foot-tall mountain could form in the middle of Gale crater, the crater Curiosity landed in.

(16) RAKSURA. Nina Shepardson reviews The Siren Depths by Martha Wells for Outside of a Dog.

In the third installment of Martha Wells’s Books of the Raksura series, Moon finds himself with exactly the opposite problem from what he’s used to. As he finally starts to settle into his home at Indigo Cloud, he discovers that another group of Raksura has taken an interest in him—and because of Raksura society’s complex rules, they may be able to force him to take up residence with them instead. Combined with gradually emerging hints about the reasons behind the Fell’s repeated attacks on Raksura settlements, this makes for a tense and dramatic story.

(17) CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Paul Weimer tells what he likes about a new novel in “Microreview [book]: Velocity Weapon, by Megan E. O’Keefe” at Nerds of a Feather.

In Velocity Weapon, Megan O’Keefe takes her talents honed in steampunk fantasy and expands her oeuvre to an intriguing interplanetary space opera.

…The novel has lots of interesting ideas right down to character beats. Sanda’s war-manifested disability, the loss of a leg, is an abiding and recurring problem for her throughout the book. The author doesn’t trivialize the loss of the limb with magic future tech, especially given the impoverished, solitary future she now lives in, and we can see and understand the frustration that a soldier feels when so horrendously injured. On a similar beat, back in the past, Biran’s unexpected change in role and status when he is fruitlessly simply trying to find his sister means that he has to level up into a leadership role quickly.The author does a great job showing how he has to rise to this challenge and deal with the issues emerging from his rise. The two siblings, even though separated in time and space, make a strong core of a resonant pair of main characters to support action, plot and theme….

(18) UNDONE. Watch the first official teaser for Undone, a genre-bending animated series starring Rosa Salazar and Bob Odenkirk destined for Amazon Prime.

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

YouTube Ejects Some Vox Day Videos

Vox Day told readers of Vox Popoli yesterday that YouTube has taken down three of his videos [Internet Archive link] for violating its guidelines.

Hi Voxiversity,

As you may know, our Community Guidelines describe which content we allow – and don’t allow – on YouTube. Your video Immigration and War was flagged to us for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines and we’ve removed it from YouTube.

Please note that this removal has not resulted in a Community Guidelines strike or penalty on your account. 

Sincerely,
– The YouTube Team

And:

As you may know, our Community Guidelines describe which content we allow – and don’t allow – on YouTube. Your video Voxday Darkstream 04.25.2018 The Problem with Jordan Peterson was flagged to us for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines and we’ve removed it from YouTube.

And:

As you may know, our Community Guidelines describe which content we allow – and don’t allow – on YouTube. Your video Voxday Darkstream 04.28.2018 The Culling of the Cucks was flagged to us for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines and we’ve removed it from YouTube.

This happened the same day YouTube announced its latest policy updates in “Our ongoing work to tackle hate”:

Over the past few years, we’ve been investing in the policies, resources and products needed to live up to our responsibility and protect the YouTube community from harmful content. This work has focused on four pillars: removing violative content, raising up authoritative content, reducing the spread of borderline content and rewarding trusted creators. Thanks to these investments, videos that violate our policies are removed faster than ever and users are seeing less borderline content and harmful misinformation. As we do this, we’re partnering closely with lawmakers and civil society around the globe to limit the spread of violent extremist content online.

… We’ve been taking a close look at our approach towards hateful content in consultation with dozens of experts in subjects like violent extremism, supremacism, civil rights, and free speech. Based on those learnings, we are making several updates:

…Today, we’re taking another step in our hate speech policy by specifically prohibiting videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status. This would include, for example, videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory. Finally, we will remove content denying that well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, took place.

…In addition to removing videos that violate our policies, we also want to reduce the spread of content that comes right up to the line. In January, we piloted an update of our systems in the U.S. to limit recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation, such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, or claiming the earth is flat. …Thanks to this change, the number of views this type of content gets from recommendations has dropped by over 50% in the U.S.

…In the case of hate speech, we are strengthening enforcement of our existing YouTube Partner Program policies. Channels that repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies will be suspended from the YouTube Partner program, meaning they can’t run ads on their channel or use other monetization features like Super Chat.

The New York Times story about the policies, “YouTube to Remove Thousands of Videos Pushing Extreme Views”, noted —

YouTube did not name any specific channels or videos that would be banned. But on Wednesday, numerous far-right creators began complaining that their videos had been deleted, or had been stripped of ads, presumably a result of the new policy.

…The kind of content that will be prohibited under YouTube’s new hate speech policies includes videos that claim Jews secretly control the world, that say women are intellectually inferior to men and therefore should be denied certain rights, or that suggest that the white race is superior to another race, a YouTube spokesman said.

Channels that post some hateful content, but that do not violate YouTube’s rules with the majority of their videos, may receive strikes under YouTube’s three-strike enforcement system, but would not be immediately banned.

A Google search shows a number of other YouTube accounts represent they still host Vox Day’s banned videos.

Pixel Scroll 5/7/19 What The Pixel Saw, It Was Against The Law

(1) IT’S GONE, MAN. Those who view the episode on streaming services won’t be seeing it — “HBO Edits ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode to Remove Errant Coffee Cup” reports Variety.

HBO has quietly scrubbed the misplaced coffee cup out of the “Game of Thrones” episode that aired Sunday night.

The premium cabler acknowledged the gaffe Monday after fans spotted the takeout cup on a table in front of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in a scene in episode 4 of season 8 just before the 17:40 mark. It resembled a Starbucks cup but in fact came from the production’s craft services — and where someone left it behind in Winterfell.

“The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea,” HBO said in a statement.

As of Tuesday morning, the streaming version of the “GOT” episode available on HBO Now and HBO Go had removed the offending cup from the scene. A rep for HBO confirmed the coffee cup was deleted and that future airings of the episode, “The Last of the Starks,” would be of the updated version

(2) CHIANG COLLECTION. Joyce Carol Oates says “Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian” in a brilliant review of Ted Chiang’s new collection Exhalation for The New Yorker.

…Indeed, irony is sparse in Ted Chiang’s cosmology. It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with something of the ardor and earnestness of much young-adult fiction, asking anew philosophical questions that have been posed repeatedly through millennia to no avail. Chiang’s materialist universe is a secular place, in which God, if there is one, belongs to the phenomenal realm of scientific investigation and usually has no particular interest in humankind. But it is also a place in which the natural inquisitiveness of our species leads us to ever more astonishing truths, and an alliance with technological advances is likely to enhance us, not diminish us. Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress….

(3) MILES TO GO. Rudy Rucker’s entry for Whatever’s The Big Idea is really big!

Real-life road trips end before you want them to. You run into a coastline. The road stops. I wanted a road trip that goes on and on, with ever new adventures, and with opportunities to reach terrain never tread upon before. But how to do that in a car?

I peeled Earth like a grape, snipped out the oceans, shaped the flattened skin into a disk, and put a mountain range around it. Then I laid down a bunch more of these planetary rinds, arranging them like hexagonal tiles on a very wide-ranging floor. All set for a Million Mile Road Trip.

(4) CURRENCY EVENTS. The New York Times tells about an unexpected comics publisher in “Splat! Bam! It’s the Federal Reserve to the Rescue”.  The basic info is that the New York Federal Reserve bank produces comics as teaching tools, and all three have a scifi bent.

…In one scene, a group of itinerant monetary experts lands on Alpha-Numerica (“voted 3,675,927th best place to live”), where a severe recession is underway. Residents of the planet look like pencil erasers, gumdrops and other forms of geometrically sculpted goop. Unemployment is soaring, businesses are failing, and retirees are struggling to survive.

“This is not where I wanted to be at this point in my life,” says one resident, an old purple jelly bean who is sweeping a public square. “Tell me about it,” a younger resident says to itself. This individual, a green egg, wears a cap and gown. In one hand, it holds a diploma; in the other, a sign saying, “HIRE ME?”

The situation is dire but can be solved. What is needed is “expansionary monetary policy,” declares Glix, a green, lizardlike creature who likes to sing and wear capes.

Here is a link to the New York Fed’s download site for its comic books. 

The New York Fed’s Educational Comic Book Series teaches students about basic economic principles and the Federal Reserve’s role in the financial system.

Created for students at the middle school, high school, and introductory college levels, the series can help stimulate their curiosity and raise their awareness of careers in economics and finance. In addition, lesson plans created for each comic book meet national and state standards for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The New York Fed has published comic books since the 1950s and is reintroducing this popular series with a modern spin. While the comic books are intended for a student audience, they are also available to the public.

(5) AGAINST THE HOUSE. ScienceFiction.com brings word that “Maisie Williams Is Currently Shooting Comic-Based Thriller ‘The Owners’”.

Filming of a new comic book adaptation, ‘The Owners’ has begun outside of London, in an isolated Victorian mansion in Kent.  Based on a Belgian comic book by award-winning artist Hermann (last name Huppen), and written by his son Yves H. ‘The Owners’ is being directed by Julius Berg (‘La forêt’), with a screenplay by Berg and Mathieu Gompel (‘The Dream Kids’).  The film’s producers, XYZ Films, are currently shopping the picture around at the Cannes Film Festival.

Heading up the cast is ‘Game of Thrones’ alum Maisie Williams.  Joining her are Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Ian Kenny, Jake Curran, Andrew Ellis, and Stacha Hicks….

(6) HELP IS ON THE WAY. I bet readers of the Scroll can’t wait til I get this — “Microsoft Word AI ‘to improve writing'”. On the other hand, Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a skeptical comment, “I’ll believe it when the spellchecker starts handling context well enough to not make dumb corrections.”

A new feature in Microsoft’s Word aims to help improve writing beyond the usual grammar fixes.

Using artificial intelligence, Ideas will suggest rewrites for clunky sentences as well as changes to make sure language is gender inclusive.

It will help users lay out different parts of a document, including tables, and suggest synonyms and alternative phrases to make writing more concise.

It will be cloud-based and initially available to users of Word Online only.

A test version of Ideas will go live in June, becoming more widely available in the autumn.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s often said to be best known for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room as contains her original screenplays for the films The Company of Wolves and The Magic Toyshop, both of which were based on her own original stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 68. SF reviewer for the LA Times, Internet Review of Science Fiction and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
  • Born May 7, 1968 Traci Lords, 51. Yes, she did a number of reasonably legit genre appearances after her, errr, long adult acting career. She was for example in The Tommyknockers series along with the first Blade film. She’s also in the SF comedy Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (I know, weird title that.) And finally, I should note she was Dejah Thoris in Princess of Mars which later re-released as John Carter of Mars. But the way her first post-adult film was a genre undertaking and that was Not of This Earth. Yes, it is a remake of Roger Corman’s 1957 film of the same name.
  • Born May 7, 1972 Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 46. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The Darkest Minds is a dystopian SF film which RT gives a rating of 17% to. Ouch. 

(8) DRAGON AWARDS SEASON. Vox Day kicks off a “Dragon Awards discussion” [Internet Archive link] with his ideas about what comics published by his Arkhaven imprint ought to win Best Comic and Best Graphic Novel. Declan Finn jumps in to tell people which of his and his friends’ books should win the other categories, but meets resistance from a commenter who says he’d rather vote for Brian Neimeier (another Sad Puppy). There might not be enough kibble to go around!

(9) POP CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. “Viggo Mortensen: Vox ‘ridiculous’ to use Aragorn image” – BBC has the story.

Viggo Mortensen has denounced far right Spanish political party Vox after it tweeted a meme featuring the actor playing Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

The meme, shared by the nationalist party’s official Twitter account in April, showed Aragorn lining up to face off against the assembled hordes of Vox’s apparent enemies, including the media, Catalan separatists and a small ghost wearing the colours of the rainbow flag typically used to represent LGBT pride.

“Let the battle begin,” the party tweeted.

In a letter to the editor of Spanish newspaper El Pais, published on Tuesday, Mortensen said Vox’s use of his image was “absurd”.

“Not only is it absurd that I, the actor who embodied this character for [Lord of the Rings director] Peter Jackson, and a person interested in the rich variety of cultures and languages that exist in Spain and the world, is linked to an ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist political party,” the actor wrote, “it is even more ridiculous to use the character of Aragorn, a polyglot statesman who advocates knowledge and inclusion of the diverse races, customs and languages of Middle Earth, to legitimise an anti-immigrant, anti-feminist and Islamophobic political group.”

(10) GO OUT, YOUNG HUMAN! The Washington Post: “Buzz Aldrin: It’s time to focus on the great migration of humankind to Mars”. In a WaPo oped, Buzz Aldrin advocates for not just returning to the Moon, but going to Mars. And sooner rather than later. He also calls for international cooperation with other countries to make it happen.

Last month, Vice President Pence announced that we are headed back to the moon. I am with him, in spirit and aspiration. Having been there, I can say it is high time we returned. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and I went to the moon 50 years ago this July, we did so with a mission. Apollo 11 aimed to prove America’s can-do commitment to space exploration, as well as its national security and technological superiority. We did all that. We also “Came in Peace for all Mankind.” More of that is needed now.

Today, many nations have eyes for the moon, from China and Russia to friends in Europe and Middle East. That is all good. The United States should cooperate — and offer itself as a willing team leader — in exploring every aspect of the moon, from its geology and topography to its hydrology and cosmic history. In doing so, we can take “low-Earth orbit” cooperation to the moon, openly, eagerly and collegially.

[…] As matter of orbital mechanics, missions from Earth to Mars for migration are complex. That said, human nature — and potentially the ultimate survival of our species — demands humanity’s continued outward reach into the universe. Call it curiosity or calculation, strategic planning or destiny. Put simply: We explore, or we expire. That is why we must get on with it.

In a world of division and distraction, this mission is unifying — for all Americans and for all humankind. So, I am personally glad we are headed back to the moon — and I thank President Trump and the vice p

(11) DECOROUS THEATERS. According to The Week:

The Roxy 8 multiplex in Dickson, Tennessee, is defending its decision to call the new HELLBOY movie HECKBOY in signs outside the theater.  Manager Belinda Daniel explained that the theater does not use ‘profanity’ on signs.  ‘We are located next to an elementary school and across from a church,’ she said.

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF GOOD TASTE. BBC introduces you to“The man who discovered umami”, long before it made news in the West.

For centuries, humanity lived with the concept of sweet, salty, bitter and sour – but another flavour was hiding on the sidelines

Kikunae Ikeda had been thinking a lot about soup.

The Japanese chemist had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes, called dashi. Dashi has a very specific flavour – warm, tasty, savoury – and through laborious, lengthy separations in a chemistry lab, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. He felt sure that there was some connection between a molecule’s shape and the flavor perception it produced in humans.

But as it was just a few years past the turn of the 19th Century, there was not yet a great deal of evidence to support the idea.

Eventually, Ikeda did manage to isolate an important taste molecule from the seaweed in dashi: the amino acid glutamate, a key building block of proteins. In a 1909 paper, the Tokyo Imperial University professor suggested that the savoury sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavour, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.

(13) LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR KIWI TOUR. Good news! Natural heated swimming hole available to visit on your CoNZealand2020 trip!

Bad News! May contain a staple of SciFi — The Brain-Eating Amoebas of Kerosene Creek

Kerosene Creek is a natural hot spring near Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand. And there have been official warnings for years: don’t put your head under water. It turns out that “brain-eating amoebas”, naegleria fowleri, are a real, if rare, thing.

[Thanks to Chris M. Barkley, JJ, Errolwi, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Tom Boswell, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/19 We Can Scroll It For You Wholesale

(1) GAME OF LUNCH. Ethnic cuisine of Westeros? Gothamist tells you how to order it in “Shake Shack Offering ‘Secret’ Game Of Thrones Items For Valyrian Speakers ONLY”.

Below, you’ll find a little guide explaining what you need to say in order to actually purchase these items. It’s more “bend the tongue” than “bend the knee,” but you get the drift

(2) BLOCKING TECHNIQUE. Foz Meadows takes stock of social media as various platforms enter their teenage years: “Cancel Culture: The Internet Eating Itself”.

…I’m tired of cancel culture, just as I was dully tired of everything that preceded it and will doubtless grow tired of everything that comes after it in turn, until our fundamental sense of what the internet is and how it should be managed finally changes. Like it or not, the internet both is and is of the world, and that is too much for any one person to sensibly try and curate at an individual level. Where nothing is moderated for us, everything must be moderated by us; and wherever people form communities, those communities will grow cultures, which will develop rules and customs that spill over into neighbouring communities, both digitally and offline, with mixed and ever-changing results. Cancel culture is particularly tricky in this regard, as the ease with which we block someone online can seldom be replicated offline, which makes it all the more intoxicating a power to wield when possible: we can’t do anything about the awful coworker who rants at us in the breakroom, but by God, we can block every person who reminds us of them on Twitter.

(3) A WARRIOR HANGS UP HIS SHIELD. Fulk Beauxarmes’ protests against the growing influence of white supremacists in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and use of their symbols in its heraldry, inspired me to nominate him for Best Fanwriter. In a new post he decries the continued inaction of the Society’s leadership and also announces that he’s “Leaving the SCA”.

On February 15th a post that Ronan Blackmoor had recently made was brought to my attention. He’d apparently posted to his Facebook page a triumphant announcement that he and Balder had been “completely cleared” of all accusations of wrongdoing and that there would be “consequences” for all the “leftists”, “SJWs” and “SCAntifa” who had brought “fake charges” against him.

…That was the last straw for me….

(4) AIRBNB ISSUE. Do you need to check your reservations?

(5) SURVIVAL REQUIREMENT. James Wallace Harris does a good job of describing the problem and of identifying a solution. If only he sounded more enthusiastic about it! “Subscribe to SF Magazines – Become a Patron of an Art” at Worlds Without End.

…I’ve come to realize that I have to pay if I want certain things in this world to exist, even if I don’t use them.

I subscribe to four SF magazines that I seldom read. I read when I can, or when I see a story recommended, or when a friend tells me about a story. I subscribe because I want them to exist. I subscribe because I want a place for new SF writers to get published. I subscribe because one day if I can ever get back into writing fiction I’ll have a place to submit my stories.

We have to realize that free content on the internet isn’t free. We’ve got to come up with revenue systems that work. I think the internet needs to remain free, so we can always have instant access to content, but we need to find ways to pay publishers who present free content on the web.

(6) THE KISS OF SOMETHING. Chuck Tingle mingles praise and profitmaking in his response to Archive of Our Own’s Hugo nomination.

(7) GHOST OF A MACHINE. In “A Crime Novel for Future Urban Planners” on CrimeReads, Benjamin Samuel interviews Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists, a near future novel in which detective Henry Thompson solves a cyberattack with the aid of OWEN, “an experimental, highly intelligent hologram…who’s developed his own protocol for day drinking.”

Despite being a holographic projection of a supercomputer, OWEN can sometimes feel more human than Henry—or at least OWEN seems to enjoy life a little more. But ultimately, there are limitations to what he can do. What were some of challenges of having an AI character?

OWEN was a lot of fun to write. Since he’s a shape-shifting light projection, he’s essentially a superhero who can’t physically interact with anyone. So anything he wants to accomplish has to come through trickery or convincing Henry to give some life-threatening strategem the old college try. 

(8) FRENCH ADDRESSING. Some authors had fun responding to this idea – Seanan McGuire and John Chu among them – but one took offense (see the thread).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 5, 1900 Spencer Tracy. Yes, he did some genre, to wit he was in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he played Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde! The film even featured Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. (Died 1967.)
  • Born April 5, 1908 Bette Davis. She’s in Burnt Offerings, am Eighties horror film that did well with the audience and not so well with the critics; I also see she’s in Madame Sin which I think is SF given the premise. (Died 1989.)
  • Born April 5, 1909 Albert Broccoli. He’s mostly known as the producer of many of the James Bond films, and his heirs continue to produce new Bond films. With Harry Saltzman, he produced the first eight Bond films including From Russia with Love which is still my favorite Bond film though You Only Live Twice with a screenplay by Roald Dahl comes close. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommend. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him I’ve read the most. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 93. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for what I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996.
  • Born April 5, 1920 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton.  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 54. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which was an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense.
  • Born April 5, 1982Hayley Atwell, 37. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit has been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire that I’ve flat enjoyed so far. Even the misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh, and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin.

(10) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman calls on everyone to “bond over bing bread” with Malka Older in Episode 92 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Malka Older

This turns out to be a perfectly timed episode of Eating the Fantastic, though I didn’t plan it that way, and had no idea while recording such would be the case. The reason for my feeling of serendipity is because my guest is Malka Older, author of the novels InfomocracyNull States, and State Tectonics — which comprise the Centenal Cycle — and which just a few days ago was announced as having made the final Hugo Awards ballot in the category of Best Series….

She joined me for lunch at Momofuku CCDC, a restaurant which will be familiar to regular listeners of this podcast, because Rosemary Claire Smith joined me there a little more than two years ago in Episode 32. I try not to be a repeat customer at any of the spots I visit — at least not while recording for the podcast — but a lot has changed since that visit. David Chang installed a new executive chef, Tae Strain, and gave him orders to “destroy” the menu (according to an article in the Washingtonian), which meant ditching the ramen and pork buns for which Momofuku is so famous. But hey, where else am I going to get a chance to try kimchee potato salad?

We discussed why democracy is a radical concept which scares people (and what marriage has to say about the dramatic potential of democracy), the pachinko parlor which helped give birth to her science fictional universe, how what was intended to be a standalone novel turned into a trilogy, her secrets (and role models) when it comes to writing action scenes, which of her characters moves more merchandise, how (and why) editor Carl Engle-Laird helped her add 20,000 words to her first novel, what she learned about herself from the collaborative Serialbox project, the one thing about her background I was embarrassed to admit I’d never realized, and much more.

(11) OVERFLOWING JOY. Alasdair Stuart’s latest issue of Full Lid includes piece on Mac Rogers’ movie The Horror at Gallery Kay, a look at Us, a detailed look at Project Blue Book (Stuart says “Turns out you can take the boy out of ufology but the man keeps watching tv shows about it”) and some Hugos joy.

Project Blue Book was a real thing, the USAF’s probably whitewashed investigation into the UFO phenomena. Doctor J. Allen Hynek was a real person and remains one of the vanishingly small amount of actual scientists to look into UFOlogy as a field and not a snake oil vending machine. His son Joel is a prolific special effects technician who designed the camouflage effect for the Predator by the way. The cases the episodes are based on are real too, the first two episodes dealing with the Gorman (renamed Fuller) Dogfight and the The Flatwoods Monster. In the first, a pilot engaged a UFO in something approximating combat. In the second, a family were first terrified by what they were sure was a downed UFO and second by the enraged townsfolk who refused to believe them.

(12) FUTURE PLAY. “Books that would make great video games” were considered by Quirk Books. First on their list –

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

This sci-fi novel features space battles, espionage, and cute talking robots. Obviously, we see this book being turned into a space opera-esque RPG ala Mass Effect, with a touch of shoot ‘em style space battles. Think Galaga but with interdimensional space politics and dueling. 10/10 would play for days.

(13) MORE APRIL FOOLISHNESS. Space.com finds this joke had multiple layers — “Behind the Scent: Lockheed Martin Bottles Astronaut’s Smell of Space”.

Lockheed Martin’s April Fools’ Day joke passed the smell test.

The aerospace company on Monday (April 1) kicked off its prank by announcing a launch, but rather than it being of a rocket or a spacecraft, it was Vector, “the first ever fragrance to capture the aroma of space.” And no sooner did the liftoff occur, than thousands of people came to Lockheed Martin’s website to request a sample.

One might expect that to be the gag, but the company went a step further, not only creating a spot-on ad for the bottled essence of space, but also producing the scent for real, as in actual vials of the unisex (if not also universal) eau de (zero-g) toilette

(14) MONETIZING. “Rare Harry Potter first edition with typos sells for $90,074” – UPI has the news.

Auction house Bonhams said the first-edition copy of Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone — known in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — attracted a high bid of $90,074.

The specific edition is famed in the Potter fandom for containing a handful of typos, including misspelling the word “Philosopher” and the repetition of “1 wand” on the list of items the boy wizard needs to obtain for school.

Think of all the rare typos I make here – I wonder how much Bonhams could get for my blog?

(15) FAILURE TO LAUNCH. SHAZAM! Never Takes Off” for Leonard Maltin.

Shazam! wants to be slick and smartassy except when it suddenly chooses to be warm and sincere—like a TV commercial for some medication or life insurance. You can’t have it both ways but this film repeatedly tries to do so. I’ve always loved the character who originated as Captain Marvel in 1940s comic books (and lost that name to Marvel in a famous lawsuit). He was essentially a rip-off of Superman but he had his own style and flavor. This movie, however, is a muddle.

(16) SLAG HEAPER. Vox Day sneers at this year’s Hugo-nominated novels in “From pulp to Puppies” [Internet Archive link] at Vox Popoli.

Total nonentities. All six of these novels together won’t sell as many copies as a single Galaxy’s Edge novel. Novik would have been considered a C-level talent at best in the 1980s. And people could be forgiven for thinking that the Rabid Puppies were still dictating the nominees with titles such as “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” on the short list.

(17) FURTHER VIEWS. Ian Mond remarked on Facebook:

Congrats to all the Hugo nominees. I won’t whinge that the best novel category doesn’t, for the most part, reflect my tastes. Nor will I set up a movement of like minded people to ensure it does so in the future….

Jonathan Strahan responded in a comment:

For about 20 seconds I considered trying to put together an Alternate Hugos Best Novel list, and then I realised (1) there are a lot of those and (2) you can’t have an Alternate Hugo list really. These are the books that fans who nominated *liked* the most. That’s fine and pretty cool.

(18) WHERE IS IT? Adri Joy begins this review with many questions: “Microreview [Book]: Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman” at Nerds of a Feather.

I thought I knew what to expect, going in to Terra Nullius. I’d seen the book recommended on speculative sites, I’d read enough about it to know that its take on colonisation and extermination of indigineous people was almost but not quite based on the experience of Australia’s indigenous communities following the British invasion in 1788. And yet, by a hundred pages in, I was starting to doubt what everyone and everything (including the book’s own blurb) was telling me. Was I missing clues to a larger mystery? Were there adjectives that I was misreading or apparently historical references that I was misinterpreting? Where, to be blunt, was all the science fiction?

Of course, if you’re paying attention, that’s an intentional feature of Claire G. Coleman’s brilliant debut novel, which offers a perspective on the invasion of Australia which is very much a speculative novel, and yet still inexctricably and uncomfortably intertwined with the real historical treatment of Aboriginal Australians over centuries of white rule. Coleman herself is Noongar, a community from the south coast of what is now Western Australia, and Terra Nullius is the product of a black&write! indigenous writers fellowship. Despite being a first novel, this is a book that’s utterly confident both in its content and its narrative structure, and for very good reason….

(19) CHICXULUB SNAPSHOT. Douglas Preston tells about the discovery of fossils laid down on “The Day the Dinosaurs Died”.

He began shovelling off the layers of soil above where he’d found the fish. This “overburden” is typically material that was deposited long after the specimen lived; there’s little in it to interest a paleontologist, and it is usually discarded. But as soon as DePalma started digging he noticed grayish-white specks in the layers which looked like grains of sand but which, under a hand lens, proved to be tiny spheres and elongated ­droplets. “I think, Holy shit, these look like microtektites!” DePalma recalled. Micro­tektites are the blobs of glass that form when molten rock is blasted into the air by an asteroid impact and falls back to Earth in a solidifying drizzle. The site appeared to contain micro­tektites by the million.

As DePalma carefully excavated the upper layers, he began uncovering an extraordinary array of fossils, exceedingly delicate but marvellously well preserved. “There’s amazing plant material in there, all interlaced and interlocked,” he recalled. “There are logjams of wood, fish pressed against cypress-­tree root bundles, tree trunks smeared with amber.” Most fossils end up being squashed flat by the pressure of the overlying stone, but here everything was three-dimensional, including the fish, having been encased in sediment all at once, which acted as a support. “You see skin, you see dorsal fins literally sticking straight up in the sediments, species new to science,” he said. As he dug, the momentousness of what he had come across slowly dawned on him. If the site was what he hoped, he had made the most important paleontological discovery of the new century.

(20) HIGH LIFE REVIEW. NPR’s Andrew Lapin concluded: “In The Art-House Sci-Fi Film ‘High Life,’ No Aliens — Just Alienation”.

The spaceship hurtling away from Earth is staffed with men and women sprung from death row to aid in a mysterious science experiment. The once-condemned crew believe they’ve been given a chance to redeem themselves and do one final good deed for humanity. Only later, as their signals to Earth begin to go unanswered and their true mission comes into focus, do they realize they have in fact been condemned twice.

High Life is strange and wondrous, less a traditional sci-fi film than it is a seductive journey into the long, black night of death. For many Americans it will also be a wormhole into the work of French director Claire Denis, who’s been active in cinephile circles for three decades but has never before helmed a movie entirely in English. Of course, having the hipness cred of A24 and Robert Pattinson providing the rocket fuel doesn’t hurt.

A prologue that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarkovsky film shows Pattinson’s human guinea pig Monte in the aftermath of something horrible, wandering alone on the deck of this rocket to nowhere, with only a mysterious baby keeping him company. It’s a great hook — what the hell happened here? — shot at Denis’ familiar meandering pace, proving that even lightspeed won’t rush her story. It’s also a mission statement. As he hurtles toward oblivion, Monte’s acts of paternal care exist in a kind of vacuum. Maybe life and love are possible within a universe of infinite cruelty, and it’s up to the individual to determine their worth.

(21) ON TRACK. When they write the book it should be titled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Moby Dick“Fossil of ancient four-legged whale found in Peru”.

The fossil of a 43-million-year-old whale with four legs, webbed feet and hooves has been discovered in Peru.

Palaeontologists believe the marine mammal’s four-metre-long (13 ft) body was adapted to swim and walk on land.

With four limbs capable of carrying its weight and a powerful tail, the semi-aquatic whale has been compared to an otter or a beaver.

Researchers believe the discovery could shed light on the evolution of the whale and how it spread.

“This is the most complete specimen ever found for a four-legged whale outside of India and Pakistan,” Dr Olivier Lambert, a scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and co-author of the study, said.

(22) SJWCS ARE JUST IGNORING YOU. NPR reports: “Cats Don’t Fetch, But Know Their Names As Well As Dogs, Researchers Say”.

Call a dog by his name, and his tail wags, he starts panting happily, and he showers you with love and affection.

Call a cat by his name, and… well, cats are a bit harder to read. Does the cat even know what his name is?

So researchers in Japan set out to answer the question: Can a cat understand the difference between its name and any other random word that sounds like it?

Research on cats is slim compared to research on dogs. That may be because cats can’t be bothered to participate in the experiments. But in a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, the Japanese researchers devised a way to get results whether or not the cats cared to cooperate.

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