Pixel Scroll 4/19/19 There’s A Broken Heart For Every Pixel On The Internet

(1) THE OTHER SHOE DROPS. There are now two bids for the 2021 Westercon, with Phoenix, AZ having officially filed.

Bid Location: Phoenix, AZ

Venue: Hyatt Regency Phoenix

Dates: 2nd to 5th July, 2021, with a preview night on the 1st

Bid officers are: • Chair: Hal C. F. Astell • Treasurer: Stephanie Bannon

Phoenix makes it a race by challenging the bid for Tonopah, NV. Site selection voting is being conducted by Spikecon, which among other things is this year’s Westercon.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to enjoy an enchilada with Steve Stiles in Episode 93 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steve Stiles

This latest episode of Eating the Fantastic — recorded at Mezcal Mexican restaurant in Owings Mills — quickly turns nostalgic, because guest Steve Stiles and I were the proverbial ships that passed in the night at mid-‘70s Marvel Comics. My first job there was as the associate editor for the company’s line of British reprint books, which was a department he only started working at the following year, once I’d already moved over to the Bullpen to work on the American originals.

Stiles may be best-known for the post-apocalyptic dinosaur-filled future of Xenozoic Tales, which he drew for eight years, but he’s also appeared in titles such as Death Rattle, Bizarre Sex, and Anarchy Comics for underground publishers like Kitchen Sink and Last Gasp. He’s also done kid-friendly work, though, like The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Royal Roy.

And so much more — like the fanzine art which has made him a 17-time nominee for the Hugo Award, with nominations spread over a 50-year period from 1967 to 2018, an award which he won in 2016.

We discussed what it was like to work at Marvel Comics in the mid-’70s, the ironic reason he no longer owns his Silver Age Marvels, the time he thought he’d gotten the gig to draw Dr. Strange (but really hadn’t), what it was like being taught by the great Burne Hogarth at the School of Visual Arts, his first professional art sale (and why it ended up hanging on Hugh Hefner’s wall), how his famed comic strip The Adventures Of Professor Thintwhistle And His Incredible Aether Flier was born, why he didn’t like being art-directed by Marie Severin, which current comics he keeps up with, what Robert Silverberg said to him when he won his first Hugo Award after 14 tries and 49 years, the phrase he most wants carved onto his gravestone, and much more.

(3) LEAVES AN EMPTY SPACE. The Hollywood Reporter says “Fans Are Already Mourning The Avengers”.

‘Endgame’ will be goodbye to several characters, and as UCLA psychology professor Yalda Uhls notes: “Absolutely that can feel like real grief.”

“God, it seems like a thousand years ago,” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) says in the second trailer for Avengers: Endgame. “I fought my way out of that cave, became Iron Man…”

While it hasn’t quite been a thousand years, the final installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga represents an unprecedented moment in movie history, partly because some of the characters who have been a consistent presence in movie theaters since 2008 might retire, or even die.

And over time, those characters have started to feel like real friends to audiences.

(4) SIGNAL BOOST. The Free Times of Columbia, SC led its piece about “What’s at Stake With the Stakes of Avengers: Endgame” with a juicy quote from Paul Weimer:

In fantasy stories, like any stories, the stakes matter.

In 2012, writing for the now-defunct fan site SF Signal, Paul Weimer suggested a classification for such tales based on the relative size of what’s at stake, ranging from sagas in which only a city or smaller community is in peril to those where the whole universe hangs in the balance. Wherever a story lands on that scale, one thing remains crucial: The stakes have to feel real.

“Stakes are what the actions or inactions of the protagonist cause to happen, or fail to happen, depending on their success or failure,” Weimer wrote in “Stakes in Fantasy Novels: A Schemata of Classification.” “You can have multiple sets of stakes going on at one time, but you can look at a work of fantasy in terms the largest stakes, and use that to give an overall sense of the scale of the conflict in that book.”

(5) OUT OF NOLLYWOOD. Okayafrica’s Daniel Okechukwu discusses “6 Films Showing How Sci-Fi Stories Can Be Relevant in Nollywood”  — “An introduction to a subgenre in Nigeria’s film industry that’s only getting started.”

Nollywood screenwriter and director Dimeji Ajibola recently released a 1-minute teaser of his upcoming dystopian movie, Ratnik. Impressed by the visual effects and dystopian locations, local publications waxed lyrical about the film. YNaija! called it “the dystopian action-thriller we deserve in 2019.” Ratnik deserves its early praise; it is an ambitious project and its visual effects are impressive.

For some, a sci-fi Nigerian movie is unheard of, but Ratnik is not the first time a Nollywood sci-fi film will generate this much buzz. Kajola—the last one that did—was an utter disappointment. The debut film of now Nollywood box office king, Niyi Akinmolayan, it was released in 2009 to much fanfare. Akinmolayan was tired of Nollywood filmmakers: “those yeye people that don’t know how to make cool stuff.” Young and naïve, he thought he would change Nollywood forever by making “the greatest Nigerian movie ever. It will be action/sci-fi with lots of effects and we are going to win an Oscar.”

(6) NOT DEAD YET. The Digital Antiquarian studies the history of Activision in “An Unlikely Savior”.

Activision Blizzard is the largest game publisher in the Western world today, generating a staggering $7.5 billion in revenue every year. Along with the only slightly smaller behemoth Electronic Arts and a few Japanese competitors, Activision for all intents and purposes is the face of gaming as a mainstream, mass-media phenomenon. Even as the gaming intelligentsia looks askance at Activision for their unshakeable fixation on sequels and tried-and-true formulas, the general public just can’t seem to get enough Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush Saga. Likewise, Bobby Kotick, who has sat in the CEO’s chair at Activision for over a quarter of a century now, is as hated by gamers of a certain progressive sensibility as he is loved by the investment community.

But Activision’s story could have — perhaps by all rights should have — gone very differently. When Kotick became CEO, the company was a shambling wreck that hadn’t been consistently profitable in almost a decade. Mismanagement combined with bad luck had driven it to the ragged edge of oblivion. What to a large degree saved Activision and made the world safe for World of Warcraft was, of all things, a defunct maker of text adventures which longtime readers of this ongoing history have gotten to know quite well. The fact that Infocom, the red-headed stepchild a previous Activision CEO had never wanted, is directly responsible for Activision’s continuing existence today is one of the strangest aspects of both companies’ stories….

(7) UNSOUND ADVICE. io9/Gizmodo names “8 Silent Films Every Sci-Fi and Horror Fan Should See”. I don’t know, my reaction to this advice is about the same as Queen Elizabeth I’s opinion of taking a bath. The list is comprised of:

1) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
2) Metropolis (1927)
3) Nosferatu (1922)
4) The Lost World (1925)
5) Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
6) Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)
7) A Trip to the Moon (1902)
8) The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

(8) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart sends a link to The Full Lid with this introduction:

This week’s Full Lid features a look at the deeply fantastic zombie coming of age comedy musical Anna and the Apocalypse. Also this week, there’s a review of the first issue of the excellent new fantasy detective comic FairLady and a look at the first month of The SCP Archives, a new podcast bringing stories from the legendary wiki fiction experiment to life. The spotlight is James Davis Nicoll, there’s a photo of my word buckets and a short film from excellent Irish writer director Chris Brosnahan.

(9) NEW YORK SLICE. A heartwarming story about George R.R. Martin. The thread begins here.

(10) COBB OBIT. History-making pilot Jerry Cobb died March 18. Ars Technica paid tribute: “Jerrie Cobb, one of the most gifted female pilots in history, has died”.

Geraldyn “Jerrie” M. Cobb, a noted aviation pioneer and fierce advocate for women flying into space, died March 18 at her home in Florida, her family has revealed. She was 88.

Cobb is perhaps most well-known for her participation in what became known as the “Mercury 13,” a group of 13 women who passed preliminary screening processes in 1960 and 1961 to determine their suitability as astronauts under the guidance of Dr. Randolph Lovelace. Cobb scored in the top 2 percent of all who had taken the battery of tests for candidates previously, including both women and men.

However, the privately funded effort was not officially sanctioned by NASA. A Netflix documentary about the experience, released in 2018, offered a clear verdict for why women were excluded from NASA in the space agency’s early days—”good old-fashioned prejudice,” as one of the participants said.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. His only meaningful genre involvement was being Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M in which he was also the voice on the loudspeaker.  He’d play the evil Hussein in Son of Ali Baba, and he was Richard Camalier in Doin’ Time on Planet Earth as well. He’d have one-offs appearances on shows such the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and he had five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 19, 1933 W.R. Cole. Author of A Checklist of Science Fiction Anthologies, self-published In 1964. Ok, I’m including him today because I’m puzzled. SFE said of this that ‘Though it has now been superseded and updated by William Contento’s indexes of Anthologies, it is remembered as one the essential pioneering efforts in Bibliography undertaken by sf Fandom.’  Was this really the first time someone compiled an index of anthologies? I seem to remember earlier efforts though I can’t remember precisely who. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 83. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, he in that era worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler.
  • Born April 19, 1936 Tom Purdom, 83. There’s very little on him on the web, so I’ll let Michael Swanwick speak to him: ‘How highly do I regard Tom’s fiction?  So highly that I wrote the introduction to the collection — and I hate writing introductions.  They’re a lot of work.  But these stories deserve enormous praise, so I was glad to do it.’  He’s written five novels and has either one or two collections of his stories. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 73. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show of course is not his first genre appearance as he’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. (And yes, I adore RHPS.) And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 52. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine four times without winning. Ok, is that a record? He’s a longtime contributing editor to SF Site and has written that site’s news page since its beginning. Over twenty years ago, he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. And he publishes his own fanzine, Argentus.
  • Born April 19, 1968 Ashley Judd, 51. Best known genre wise for playing Natalie Prior in the Divergent film franchise. She was also Carly Harris-Thompson in the Tooth Fairy film, and was Ensign Robin Lefler in a few episodes of Next Gen. She played Beverly Paige on several episodes of Twin Peaks as well. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) AO3. Somebody’s not whispering quietly enough. Supporters of Jason Sanford’s Patreon can find out who.

This could be a clue — Sanford retweeted Interstellar Teahouse’s thread, which starts here.

(14) AO1. Ryan George imagines what it was like to be “The First Guy Ever To Write Fiction.”

(15) ANCIENT CODE. Ars Technica reports “You can now download the source code for all Infocom text adventure classics”.

The source code of every Infocom text adventure game has been uploaded to code-sharing repository GitHub, allowing savvy programmers to examine and build upon some of the most beloved works of digital storytelling to date.

There are numerous repositories under the name historicalsource, each for a different game. Titles include, but are not limited to, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyPlanetfallShogun, and several Zork games—plus some more unusual inclusions like an incomplete version of Hitchhiker’s sequel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Infocom samplers, and an unreleased adaptation of James Cameron’s The Abyss.

[…] The games were written in the LISP-esque “Zork Implementation Language,” or ZIL, which you could be forgiven for not being intimately familiar with already. Fortunately, Scott also tweeted a link to a helpful manual for the language on archive.org.

(16) YTTERBIUM. A fashion update from John Scalzi:

Sure, if you have the same color eyes as the Easter Bunny….

(17) A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW ABOUT GOT. Eneasz Brodski voices “Mad Respect for Cersei” at Death Is Bad.

There is the possibility that the undead will win and destroy all life on Westeros, yes. But that is preferable to returning to life as chattel. If humanity has such a problem with extinction, maybe it shouldn’t have made life a living hell for so many.

(18) SPOILER PREVENTION. Slate’s Sam Adams rejects the extinction outcome, as logical as it may be in “The One Death Game of Thrones Can’t Face”.

There’s just one problem. The show that became famous for its willingness to kill off seemingly essential figures has grown less and less likely to do so. Even before Jon Snow came back from the dead, viewers had begun to develop a sense of which characters were essential to the series’ endgame, and thus impossible to kill off. You didn’t need Ramsay Bolton or even Littlefinger to tie up the story’s loose ends, but it’s impossible to imagine Dany or Jon getting axed for shock value. There was no chance the High Sparrow would dethrone Cersei for good or that Arya would fail the Faceless Men’s tests. The show’s core characters had acquired what fans call “plot armor,” which meant that any time the odds seemed truly hopeless, when they were backed against a wall and there seemed to be no way out, we knew the question wasn’t if they’d escape but only how.

(19) BEES SURVIVE. FromSnopes, repeating an AP story: “Drunk on Smoke: Notre Dame’s Bees Survive Fire”.

Hunkered down in their hives and drunk on smoke, Notre Dame’s smallest official residents — some 180,000 bees — somehow managed to survive the inferno that consumed the cathedral’s ancient wooden roof.

Confounding officials who thought they had perished, the bees clung to life, protecting their queen.

“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant told The Associated Press on Friday.

“Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep,” he explained.

Geant has overseen the bees since 2013, when three hives were installed on the roof of the stone sacristy that joins the south end of the monument. The move was part of a Paris-wide initiative to boost declining bee numbers. Hives were also introduced above Paris’ gilded Opera.

(20) FELINE EFFECTS. Epic Cats presents a superpowered credential.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/1/19 Scroll Over Beethoven

(1) A WISE SAYING TO SUIT THE DAY.

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

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

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

Getting there is twice the fun of being there:

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

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

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

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

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

Read the summary and/or watch the interview video:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the scariest thing you can imagine?

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are you a Tolkien fan?

What has he meant to you?

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

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

And, he did.

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

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

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

Some fans watch Game of Thrones. Others live it.

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

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

Soon after, fans around the world began their quests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tonopah in 2021 Westercon Bid

Will Kevin Standlee realize his dream to bring Westercon to Tonopah?

Fresh off hosting the 2018 Worldcon, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. has filed a bid to host the 2021 West Coast Science Fantasy Conference (Westercon 74) in Tonopah, Nevada. With Kevin Standlee as the bid chair, and Bruce Farr as treasurer, they propose to hold the con from July 2-5 at the Tonopah Convention Center and nearby hotels.

In case there are any doubts that they mean business, they reassure everyone:

Tonopah is a serious bid. While the town itself is somewhat smaller than the typical Westercon site, the town has expressed its enthusiasm for hosting us, and we think it has the right mix of facilities to accommodate a small but entertaining and affordable Westercon.

We have filed our bid with Westercon 72 (SpikeCon) in Layton, Utah. You can read our complete filing here.

With site selection voting to take place less than three months from now at SpikeCon (Westercon 72), Tonopah isn’t selling “pre-supporting” memberships — but donations are welcomed.

The bid’s web site is here. Not only is there a wealth of detail about the facilities and local attractions, you’ll find your time repaid by the amusing fanwriting. For example, the myriad transportation options include horse rental (price quoted!), or for those driving, an attractive alternative route:

The primary access to Tonopah is by highways US-95 and US-6; however, there are interesting alternative routes and side trips along the way

From Las Vegas and points south: US-95 north, or take the alternative route via US-93 and the Extraterrestrial Highway and stop by the Little A’Le’Inn. (Convention not responsible for alien abductions or misadventures at Area 51.)

Two Site Selection Votes to be Held at 2019 NASFiC

Voting for the location of the 2020 NASFiC and 2021 Westercon will be held at in July at Spikecon, which is the combined Westercon 72, 13th NASFiC (2019), and 1632 Minicon.

Spikecon’s Westercon/NASFiC site selection administrator Ben Yalow has shared the latest procedural information:

Since this upcoming Westercon is also the NASFiC (since Dublin is non-NA, there was a NASFiC selected), then the WSFS and Westercon rules mean that since the 2020 Worldcon is also non-NA, there will be two site selections at this year’s Westercon/NASFiC. And, since a few deadlines have passed, we know a bit more about the races (which should be reported soon on the convention web site).

Columbus (OH) Only Filed 2020 NASFiC Bid: For the upcoming NASFiC race, there is only one bid filed, for Columbus, OH. The filing deadline has passed, so there will be no other bids on the printed ballot.

Westercon Bids Can Be Entered from Any Region: For the Westercon race for 2021, since no bids have filed before Jan 1, then the zone restrictions have been lifted, and all three of the Westercon zones are now eligible. So we’ll be taking bids from all of the Westercon region, not just North and South. The filing deadline for getting on the ballot is April 15.

There’s more information on the convention website about how to file, with links to the various Constitutions. As ballots are settled, they’ll also be on the convention web site, and in the various PRs (note that, as always, since the Westercon filing deadline is April 15, that ballot won’t be out until shortly after that date).

If there are questions on the rules, I’ll be glad to explain them, and help people with their filings.

Pixel Scroll 12/22/18 In Her Own Special Way To The Pixels She Calls, Come Buy My Scrolls Full Of Crumbs

(1) CRUMB NUMBER ONE. Four people sent me this link, so even though I don’t like the article, this unscientific survey says you probably will: “The True Story of the Lost Sci-Fi Movie ‘Brainstorm,’ Natalie Wood’s Last Film” at Popular Mechanics.

…We’re guessing you’ve never heard of it, anyway. In writing this article, we asked several dozen people if they had. One guy said he might have maybe seen it, a long time ago.

It was called Brainstorm.

Anyone? No?

Brainstorm was supposed to be huge. The director—himself a three-time Oscar nominee—was Douglas Trumbull, a visual-effects genius who had already worked on some of the most monumental films of all time: as Stanley Kubrick’s special photographic effects supervisor on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and as visual effects supervisor on Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).

Brainstorm starred Christopher Walken, who two years earlier had won the best supporting actor Oscar for The Deer Hunter; Louise Fletcher, an Oscar winner for her unforgettable role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; and Cliff Robertson, who had won a best-actor Oscar for Charly in 1968.

The fourth leading actor was Natalie Wood.

(2) UTAH’S CON CALENDAR JAMMED IN 2019. The five-year-old Salt Lake Gaming Con is moving to the Salt Palace in SLC and expects a 60% increase in attendance over their 25,000 last year. Their dates are just the week before the Westercon/NASFiC in Layton, UT on July 4th So, in one month within 20 miles of each other there will be:

  • June 7-9: Ogden UnCon–pop culture
  • June 21-23: FyreCon–general SF/F con
  • June  27-29: Salt Lake Gaming Con
  • July 4-7: Westercon/NASFiC

(3) 2017 COMPILATION. Eric Wong alerts readers to Rocket Stack Rank’s annual short story selection of “Outstanding SF/F by People of Color” from 2017. (Thanks to the recently-installed WordPress 5.0 I can no longer take layout blocks already formatted with numbered lists and also display them as quotes, so I am going to stick lines before and after the excerpt….)


There are 59 outstanding stories by people of color from 2017 that were either finalists for major SF/F awards included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction (see Q&A).

Observations

  1. 40 are free online, and 21 have podcasts (click links to highlight them).
  2. The default Length/Rating view shows RSR reviewed 45 of the 59 stories (76%), recommended 18 of the 45 (40% 5-star or 4-star), and only recommended against 6 of the 45 (13% 5-star or 4-star).
    1. Compared to other prolific reviewers, RSR’s 18 recs is more than STomaino’s 8 and JMcGregor’s 6.
    2. Among Year’s Best anthologies, JStrahan and PGuran tied with 10, followed by GDozois, NClarke and RHorton with 8, then BASFF with 7.
    3. Among awards, Locus had the most with 13, followed by Hugo (8), Nebula (5), Sturgeon and World Fantasy (4), Shirley Jackson (3), Eugie (2), and British Fantasy and British Science Fiction Association with 1 each.
  3. The Length/Score view shows the top scoring novella is “The Black Tides of Heaven” by JY Yang, novelette is “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, and short story is “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” by Tobias S. Buckell. (The top score for novellas is typically less than the other two lengths because there’s room for few of them in year’s best anthologies and they’re usually not covered by prolific short fiction reviewers.)
  4. The Publication/Length view shows the top three magazines with the most stories here are Lightspeed (6), Clarkesworld (5), and Tor Novellas (5), out of 29 magazines, anthologies, collections, and singles.
  5. The New Writer/Score view shows 9 stories by Campbell Award-eligible writers (15%).
  6. The Author view shows Aliette de Bodard and JY Yang with the most stories here (3 each) out of 47 authors.

(4) 200K TO ADD TO YOUR TBR. Vajra Chandrasekera has compiled a list of links to all Strange Horizons’ “Original Fiction in 2018”.

2018 was an excellent year for original fiction at Strange Horizons! We published over two hundred thousand words in five novelettes and 42 short stories, including three themed special issues featuring original fiction, focusing on work by trans and nonbinary writers in January; by writers from India in April; and an extra-large issue with work by writers who are black, indigenous, and/or people of color from the Southeastern USA in July, the fiction selections for which were curated and edited by guest editors Sheree Renée Thomas, Rasha Abdulhadi, and Erin Roberts.

(5) YEAR OF NO JACKPOT. Norman Spinrad looks back on “2018 Year of Dread”:

…No regrets, no surrender, I would gladly do it again until I died with my boots on. But my voice, at least in English, has been silenced, though not in translations, particularly in French. My last novel to be published in English, THE PEOPLE’S POLICE, was shamefully shit-canned by internal politics in the publisher, rendering the next one, WELCOME TO YOUR DREAMTIME, a commercial dead duck, and the one after that, NOWHERELAND sitting in first draft until I find the courage to finish it and spec it. That I am far from the only novelist frantically swimming on the event horizon of this terminal black hole does not exactly prop up my spirits with schadenfreud.

(6) CLARKE AT 101. Mark Yon reviews “The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke” at SFFWorld.

For a man known for writing about science, the first surprise is that the book begins in faux-ancient History and spends much of its time telling us a two-thousand-year-old story of the kingdom of Taprobane (clearly a fictional version of Clarke’s new home, Sri Lanka.) Although much of the book is set in the 21st century, the first few chapters are about how a mountain on the island of Sri Kanda became the Buddhist temple of Yakkagala and has frescoes around its perimeter. This is also based on a real place known to Clarke, actually Sigiriya, which Clarke in his Afterword states is a place “so astonishing that I have had no need to change it in any way.” The reason for this is soon revealed – that the mountain site is the best location for the creation of a space elevator that, once built, will allow cheap travel into space. This first part of the book reflects Clarke’s own interest in the real Sigiriya and his curiosity into religion, in this case Buddhism. Whilst not religious himself, Arthur was interested in the importance of such things to the wider world and the influence they have upon human cultures and society.  This part allows him to respectfully examine such matters.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1951Charles de Lint, 67. I’ve personally known him for twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer, so let me offer you instead our Charles de Lint special edition that we just updated this past Sunday: http://thegreenmanreview.com/2017/01/03/charles-de-lint-edition/. My favorite novels by him? That would be Forests of The Heart, Someplace To Be Flying, Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart in our Words menu. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 67. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning, who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics whose played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series. 
  • Born December 22, 1954 Hugh Quarshie, 64. First genre role was as Sunda Kastagirin in Highlander followed by being Detective Joyce in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and Lieutenant Obutu In Wing Commander. He’s Captain Quarsh Panaka In Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. He’s got a log tv history starting with playing Philostrate in A Midsummer Night’s Dream along with being Professor John Galt in the pilot for The Tomorrow People and Solomon in the Doctor Who episodes of “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”. 
  • Born December 22, 1961 Ralph Fiennes, 57. Perhaps best known genre-wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, he’s been M in the Bond films starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films which is quite frankly shit. He shows up in Red Dragon, prequel to The Silence of the Lambs. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it! I’ve prolly overlooked something but I’m sure one of you will add it in. 
  • Born December 22, 1965David S. Goyer, 53. His screenwriting credits include the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark City, Man of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well there’s there’s Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh, he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForward, ConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, Krypton, Blade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1978George Mann, 40. Author of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations, a steampunk series set in a alternative Victorian England that I’ve read and enthusiastically recommend. He’s also got two Holmesian novels on Titan Books that I need to request for reviewing, Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box. And yes I see that  he’s written a lot more  fiction than I’ve read by him so do tell me what else is worth reading  by him. 

(8) IN COMICS TO COME. A recommendation:

(9) AFROSTEAMPUNK. Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay reviews “The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark” at Strange Horizons.

P. Djèlí Clark’s debut fantasy-alternate history Afrosteampunk novella features a young teen lead, which, together with the general pitch of the whole narrative, puts The Black God’s Drums firmly in the teen/YA category. In the brief space of a hundred pages, Clark successfully combines Haitian mythology, magic, and a rich real and fictional history of New Orleans, while keeping the reader entertained with a lively cast of characters even in an otherwise typical plot.

(10) ANAKIN, I AM YOUR FATHER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] DorkSideOfTheForce says that “Star Wars comic finally reveals Anakin’s father.” You may recall that Anakin Skywalker’s mother, Shmi, basically said she just woke up pregnant one day. Well, kinda… The DorkSide post opens with a well-deserved Spoiler Alert, then continues:

The topic of who Anakin’s father has been a subject of discussion for some time. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace touched on this by explaining that there was no father. His mother Shmi told Qui-Gon this by simply explaining that she carried him, gave birth, and raised him. She can’t explain how it happened but there was definitely no father.

This then led Qui-Gon to believe that Anakin was born from the force itself and that Anakin was a creation of Midi-chlorians […]

Fast forward 19 years, seven movies, and a bucket load of comics and other Star Wars-related releases later, and Darth Vader No. 25 has provided us with the answer.

If you want to know badly enough, you’ll click.

(11) THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD. Leap before you look: “Researchers Show Parachutes Don’t Work, But There’s A Catch”.

Research published in a major medical journal concludes that a parachute is no more effective than an empty backpack at protecting you from harm if you have to jump from an aircraft.

But before you leap to any rash conclusions, you had better hear the whole story.

The gold standard for medical research is a study that randomly assigns volunteers to try an intervention or to go without one and be part of a control group.

For some reason, nobody has ever done a randomized controlled trial of parachutes. In fact, medical researchers often use the parachute example when they argue they don’t need to do a study because they’re so sure they already know something works.

(12) WOLVES DISCOVER FISH. NPR reveals “The Secret Fishing Habits Of Northwoods’ Wolves”. Well, once you’ve eaten the fishermen, what else is left?

Wolves, as it turns out, might not be the bloodthirsty, moose-slaughtering, northwoods-roaming carnivores you always thought they were.

New research on wolf packs at Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota is challenging the conventional wisdom on wolves: Their diets are a lot more varied than scientists previously thought.

Researchers with the Voyageurs Wolf Project, a collaboration between the park and the University of Minnesota, have for the first time documented wolves hunting freshwater fish as a seasonal food source — and they have video to prove it.

(13) PROGRESS REPORT. “‘We Are Here’: Questions For Comics Creator Taneka Stotts” on NPR.

When comics creator Taneka Stotts accepted an Eisner Award — the comics industry’s highest honor — this year for her anthology Elements: Fire — A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color, she was fired up.

“I hold this award,” she said, “and I declare war on the antiquated mentality that tells us our voices and stories aren’t ‘profitable’ enough … we’re not waiting for you to catch up anymore. We are here, we have always been here, and we will do as you’ve always told us. We will make it ourselves.”

And she’s doing just that. Not only is Stotts a creator and a writer, she’s a self-publisher and an editor, organizing anthologies like Elements: Fire, which features 23 stories from creators of color based in the United States and around the world. She’s already working on a follow-up anthology Elements: Earth. I sat down with Stotts the afternoon before the Eisner awards ceremony, and we talked about why she calls Elements “the little book that could,” and about whether it gets tiring, being a voice for change in the comics community.

(14) ROCKY ROAD. WIRED tells about “The Mad Scramble to Claim the World’s Most Coveted Meteorite”.

On the popular meteorite-list listserv, scientists and amateur enthusiasts alike debated the nature of the Carancas event. People were skeptical about both the illness and the crater itself. The only way to make a proper determination was to see it in person, collect samples, or retrieve the impact mass. The rock itself would be enormously valuable, both for scientific inquiry and also to collectors in the brisk, high-end market for meteorites, in which a rare, crater-­producing landfall could command especially steep prices. But this crater was in a remote area, difficult and expensive to reach. And there were only so many people in the world willing to head to the highlands of Peru at a moment’s notice to look for things that fell out of the sky….

(15) FULLY LOADED. In the December 15 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Sam Leith, literary editor of the Spectator, discusses a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia by a research team led by Nick Wilson of New Zealand’s Otago University about James Bond’s drinking habits.

As well as the inevitable martinis, and his own invention, the ‘Vesper Martini’ (three measures gin, one measure vodka, and half a measure of Kina Lillet shaken and garnished with a large sliver of lemon peel), Bond will chug-a-lug anything that comes to hand:  neat vodka, Champagne and once, in an instance of utter depravity to which he was driven by product placement, Heineken.

In one on-screen binge he knocks back six Vesper Martinis–more than a week’s worth of units in a session–and in one of the books, apparently, he manages 50 units (of alcohol) in a day, which would kill most of us stone dead.

(16) OUT OF HIS DEPP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] While talking about many other projects, Disney’s Sean Bailey (“chief architect of Disney’s live-action film studio”) dropped the news that Johny Depp will not appear in the rebooted Pirates of the Caribbean films (The Hollywood Reporter: “Disney’s Film Production Chief Talks Mary Poppins and His Big Bet on The Lion King: ‘It’s a New Form of Filmmaking’”):

The Hollywood Reporter: You’ve hired Deadpool scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to work on a possible Pirates of the Caribbean reboot. Can Pirates survive without Johnny Depp?

Bailey: We want to bring in a new energy and vitality. I love the [Pirates] movies, but part of the reason Paul and Rhett are so interesting is that we want to give it a kick in the pants. And that’s what I’ve tasked them with.

SYFY Wire took that short quote and ran with it, disregarding the metaphorical scissors they were figuratively carrying (“Johnny Depp officially out as Jack Sparrow in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise”):

Pirates of the Carribean movie without Jack Sparrow is hard to imagine, especially after he became the most famous and popular character of the five films. It’s ironic when you consider that the top Disney brass initially hated his performance in Curse of the Black Pearl, which Depp based on Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. The actor’s reasoning was that pirates were the rock star renegades of the Seven Seas, and sure enough, his gamble paid off. Richards even appeared as Sparrow’s father in At World’s End.

[…] That said, the quality of the movies began to decline once [director Gore] Verbinski left and Sparrow was placed at the forefront of the subsequent sequels. Pirates really is in need of a good reboot, but we wouldn’t say no to a nice little cameo from Depp.

(17) SILLY COMMERCIAL. Macaulay Culkin finds himself “Home Alone Again with the Google Assistant.”

Even Kevin McCallister needs a little help. Add aftershave to your shopping list, set reminders, and fend off bandits, hands-free:

[Thanks to David Doering, Mike Kennedy, Jennifer Hawthorne, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.] )

NASFiC 2019 to Host Chesley Awards; New Trimble Sponsor Steps Forward

The Utah Fandom Organization has issued an update about events, guests, and other plans for the combined Westercon 72, NASFiC 2019, & 1632 Minicon (Spikecon.org) convention to be held July 4-7, 2019 in Layton, Utah:

  • The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA) Announces NASFiC 2019 as the location to host the Chesley Awards – The Chesleys will be held at the NASFIC in Layton Utah, July 4 -7, 2019. ASFA member Vincent Villafranca is the artist guest and we can’t wait to get involved.  There will be ways for artists to participate at the convention so please check http://www.asfa-art.org/.
  • Westercon 72 Gaming Guest Tim the GM (Mottishaw) – We regret to inform our gaming guest Tim Mottishaw had to cancel his appearance at Spikecon due to conflicts in dates. He offers his regret and apology to everyone, and is assisting us with possible candidates to honor in his stead.
  • NASFiC 2019 Master and Mistress of Ceremony, Bjo & John Trimble (and Sponsorship) -A fan, professional photographer and writer, Ctein (Kuh-TEIN), has volunteered to continue the sponsorship, and support Bjo and John Trimble in their appearance at Spikecon 2019. Utah Fandom Organization wishes to thank everyone for their support in making these combined events fun and exciting.
  • (Ctein is a professional photographer and writer. He is the co-author, with John Sandford, of the New York Times best selling science fiction thriller, “Saturn Run.” He is currently writing an natural disaster thriller, “Ripple Effect,” with David Gerrold. Ctein is also the author of “Digital Restoration From Start To Finish” and “Post Exposure.” He is best known in the SF community for his photographs of eclipses, aurora, natural and unnatural scenics, and space launches and his hand-printed fine-art books.  His photographic work can be seen at http://ctein.com and photo-repair.com.)
  • Updates to Departments – The website, https://www.spikecon.org/ , has updated forms to apply for the Art Show, Dealers Room, Program Participation, Gaming, Panel Suggestions and Membership Updates.
  • Future Announcements – Upcoming plans include a special event 4th of July breakfast with Bjo and John Trimble to discuss Star Trek(™), A filk/music guest announcement and a new progress report due at the end of November.

Pixel Scroll 11/5/18 Pixeltopia By James Scrolley

(1) VISIONS OF WFC 44. Ellen Datlow’s photos from World Fantasy Con 2018 are up on Flickr.

(2) DESIGNING WAKANDA. Black Panther designer Hannah Beachler spoke to the CityLab Detroit conference about what went into designing the capital city of Wakanda for the blockbuster movie. Social responsibility and connection to culture were critical in her designs of everything from street plans to public transit — “The Social Responsibility of Wakanda’s Golden City” at CityLab.

… It took ten months and 500 pages to design Golden City, the thriving Afrofuturist capital of Wakanda. The result is a stunning, complex metropolis that has delighted urbanist nerds and city-dwellers alike. Behind it all is Beachler, a production designer whose job is to act as “cinematic architect” and to create the “landscape of a story.”

…“You know what’s keeping us together: the connectivity of people, not the connectivity of users. We’re not users; we’re people, but we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re users,” she said. “So I took all of that, and I just chucked it out of Wakanda, because the people were the most important thing about it, and we’re forgetting it. And I think that’s why people responded to Wakanda on this massive level: people.”

(3) BOOK BUCKET BRIGADE. “A Store Had to Move Thousands of Books. So a Human Chain Was Formed” – the New York Times has the story:

The plea went out a few weeks ago from the bookstore in a port city in southern England: “Care to lend a hand?”

Volunteers were needed for “heavy manual work” in shifts. It was “essential” that they be able to lift and carry boxes and office supplies. Among the supplies: thousands upon thousands of books.

The appeal from October Books, a nonprofit that began 40 years ago as a “radical” bookshop, came after a rent increase forced it from its old home in Southampton, Jess Haynes, a member of the collective and one of the few paid employees, said on Wednesday.

The shop was looking to move lock, stock and barrel about 150 meters (just under 500 feet) to a three-story building that used to house a bank. Would anybody respond to the call for help?

This past Sunday, the bookstore got more than a helping hand — it got hundreds. A human chain began forming from the old October Books stockroom, snaking past 54 doors to the new building. The shop stopped counting after about 250 people showed up…

(4) GLASS UNIVERSE. Dava Sobel, the author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, will be talking about her latest book The Glass Universe in the Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory (in Laurel, Maryland) on Friday, November 9 at 2 p.m. This talk is open to the public held at the Parsons auditorium (directions here). A summary of the talk is below (taken from this link):

Edward Pickering, who took over as director of the Harvard College Observatory in 1877, was a physicist, not an astronomer. Pickering quickly moved to expand activities beyond determining the positions of stars and the orbits of asteroids, moons, and comets. He invented new instruments for studying stellar brightness to help quantify the changes in variable stars. He introduced photography as a boon to celestial mapping and a key to characterizing the spectra of stars. The images that Pickering began amassing on glass plates in the late 19th century came to number in the hundreds of thousands and are currently being digitized to preserve their enduring value. Their abundance of pictures necessitated a special building to house them and a large team of assistants – nearly all women – to analyze them.

Pickering’s glass universe gave these women the means to make discoveries that still resonate today. Williamina Fleming, Antonia Maury, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Annie Jump Cannon, and Cecilia Payne Gaposchkin, the most famous members of the group, all played a part in the early development of astrophysics.

(5) BABY. Heath Miller and Cat Valente share their parental discoveries:

(6) OPIE’S SPACE PROGRAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At the Beeb (no, not this one), Science Editor Paul Rincon talked to Ron Howard, who was wearing his Executive Producer hat for the National Geographic series, Mars (Ron Howard: Creating vision of a future Mars colony). Season 2 begins 11 November.

“When I first began the series a couple of years ago, I thought it was a great idea to do an adventure about going to Mars and we should make it as real as we possibly could,” Mr Howard says.

“But I wasn’t sure I believed in the idea of going to Mars. I knew I believed in the idea of space exploration… and any show that advocated that was making a statement that was healthy and positive for human beings – to inspire their imaginations to look outward.

“But as I have gone through the process of working on the show and interviewing some of the big thinkers, I now really do believe in it strategically – I don’t mean that from a military standpoint, I mean it from the point of the ongoing evolution of the human species… I not only believe it’s viable, I’m a big supporter.”

Season one of Mars followed the crew of the spacecraft Daedalus, as the astronauts attempted to create a pioneer settlement on the Red Planet in 2033. Season two is set nine years later and follows the fortunes of the first fully-fledged colony. The script tackles the everyday challenges of the settlers, including the first births on the Red Planet, outbreaks of disease and mechanical breakdowns.

(7) ARMSTRONG AUCTION RESULTS. NBC News totes up the results: “Neil Armstrong memorabilia fetches $7.5 million at auction”.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions says the item that sold for the highest price, $468,500, at Saturday’s auction was Armstrong’s spacecraft ID plate from Apollo 11’s lunar module Eagle. Also sold were a fragment from the propeller and a section of the wing from the Wright brothers’ Flyer, the first heavier-than-air self-powered aircraft, which each sold for $275,000.

The flight suit Armstrong wore aboard Gemini 8, the 1966 mission that performed the first docking of two spacecraft in flight, brought the astronaut’s family $109,375.

(a) In a separate auction, a gold-colored Navy aviator’s helmet once owned by John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, sold for $46,250.

(b) It appears there were some flown artifacts in the Armstrong auction (but not the Glenn auction)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 5, 1903 – H. Warner Munn, Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 20s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 70s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939, and they published those novels as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry.
  • Born November 5, 1938 – James Steranko, 80, Artist, Illustrator, Writer, Publisher, and Magician who is noted for his work in the comic book and graphic novel industry. His breakthough was the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales, and the subsequent series, in the 60s. His design sensibility would become widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which he created conceptual art and character designs. He also produced several dozen covers and illustrations for genre novels and anthologies in the 60s and 70s. His two-volume history of the birth and early years of comic books established him as a historian of the field. He received and Inkpot Award and Dragon Con’s Julie Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1940 – Butch Honeck, 78, Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award for Best Three-Dimensional Art.
  • Born November 5, 1942 – Frank Gasperik, Writer, Filker, and Fan who was a close friend to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was Tuckerized as a character in several novels, including in Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, in Footfall as Harry Reddington (aka Hairy Red), and in Fallen Angels. His own genre writing in collaboration with filker Leslie Fish resulted in a novella in Pournelle’s Co-Dominium universe, and an unfinished work which Fish completed for him after his death, at John F. Carr’s request. He was a well-known filker in that community; here he is doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. He died in 2007.
  • Born November 5, 1944 – Carole Nelson Douglas, 74, Writer and Editor who has produced a fantasy series and several genre series which are mysteries with a supernatural twist, including one which showcases Arthur Conan Doyle’s minor Sherlockian character Irene Adler as a brilliant investigator. But I’m here to pitch to you her SJW credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series, which was inspired by a classified ad seeking an adoptive home for a big black cat. Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie; the cat himself speaks in a style which some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great dearies, lovely premise.
  • Born November 5, 1958 – Robert Patrick, 60, Actor and Producer best known in genre as FBI Special Agent John Doggett in The X-Files series, as the T-1000, the main adversary of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and a main role in the alien abduction movie Fire in the Sky  –  all of which netted him Saturn nominations. He has had a main role in the TV series Scorpion, and recurring roles in True Blood and From Dusk till Dawn. He has also appeared in a lengthy list of genre movies, including The Last Action Hero, Asylum, Future Hunters, Warlords from Hell, Alien Trespass, and Double Dragon, and episodes of Stargate: Atlantis, Lost, Tales from the Crypt, and The (new) Outer Limits.
  • Born November 5, 1960 – Tilda Swinton, 58, Oscar-winning Actor who is well-known to genre fans as the evil White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia films, for which she received a Saturn nomination; roles in the films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Doctor Strange won her Saturn trophies. She played the long-lived main character in Orlando, computing pioneer Ada Lovelace in the film Conceiving Ada, and had parts in Constantine, Snowpiercer, The Zero Theorem, and the upcoming zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die.
  • Born November 5, 1964 – Famke Janssen, 54, Actor who started out as a fashion model, and then had an acting career breakthrough as an unknown in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was followed quickly by appearances in genre films Lord of Illusions, Deep Rising, and House on Haunted Hill, then her 15-year genre role as Jean Grey / Phoenix in the numerous X-Men films, for which she won a Saturn Award. Since then, she has had main roles in the horror series Hemlock Grove and the supernatural social media film Status Update.
  • Born November 5, 1968 – Sam Rockwell, 50, Oscar-winning Actor who is probably best known as !Spoiler alert! (just kidding) Guy Fleegman, a redshirt in the Star Trek homage Galaxy Quest, whose character initially simply exists for comic relief but transcends that casting by the end of the Hugo-winning film. He also played Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, had parts in The Green Mile, Iron Man 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Cowboys & Aliens, and voice a lead role as a guinea pig in the animated Disney film G-Force.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark cleverly juxtaposes James Bond and Poe to trigger this punchline.

(10) MALIBU TREK. Deadline found a home on the market with some celebrity history in its own right: “‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Home For Sale In Malibu, Part Of ‘The Survivors’ Episode”.

(a) House is listed for $5.695 million

(b) This appears to be the listing — https://www.coldwellbankerhomes.com/ca/malibu/27553-pacific-coast-hwy/pid_27011186/

(c) A photo from that listing is:

(11) LOOKING FOR THE GOLDEN AGE. David M. Barnett (@davidmbarnett) of the UK-based Independent newspaper uses Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding as a jumping-off point to explore the ongoing diversification of science fiction authorship and audiences. In “Out of this world: The rise and fall of Planet Sci-fi’s ‘competent man’” he offers a perspective on John W. Campbell’s legacy, both negative and positive, and puts recent events in science fiction fandom in context for a popular audience. Registration required.

Campbell was what he was, and he did what he did. He didn’t create science fiction, nor did he own it. It was an important period in history, but one that has passed. Science fiction today is new and wondrous and inclusive, and perhaps, in years to come, historians will be referring to this, not the Campbell era, as the true Golden Age.

(12) APOCALYPSE TUESDAY. The Rumpus says this is “What to Read When the World Is Ending”. A few sff works made the list.

…The above cataloguing of recent atrocities isn’t exhaustive. If the world isn’t truly ending, it’s certainly in the midst of several significant crisis. And in moments of crises, we at The Rumpus find solace in, and draw strength from, literature. Below is a list of books our editors think are especially appropriate to read right now, in this fraught political moment….

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okrafor
In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her Onyesonwu, which means “Who fears death?” in an ancient language. Even as a child, Onye manifests the beginnings of a remarkable and unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities, and during an inadvertent visit to the spirit realm, she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

(13) ARE YOU TRACKING WITH ME? There will be a Traincon to the 2019 NASFiC / Westercon / 1632 Minicon happening in Layton, UT next July. Well, two Traincons might be more accurate, since organizers want to have one running to the con from Chicago and another from the San Francisco Bay Area (and return). More information at the link.

Join your fellow fans on Amtrak for the trip to Spikecon and then back home. We’ll have fun on the train, getting together periodically to discuss SF, the con, or anything that comes to mind. Games and filk, too, if anyone is so inclined – all with old friends and new. While you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The train from the Bay Area (Traincon West) crosses the Sierra Nevada, the one from Chicago (Traincon East) crosses the spectacular Rockies, both in full daylight.

There will be no group reservation for this Traincon; members will need to make their own individual Amtrak reservations; early reservations are recommended for the best prices…..

The organizers are Bill Thomasson and Nancy Alegria.

(14) HOTEL WATCHING IN NZ. The Comfort Hotel in Wellington (venue for some recent NZ NatCon’s and about a km from WorldCon venues) will be renamed and refurbished.

Renovations for the 115-room Comfort Hotel will begin after March 2019 with expected completion at the end of that year, for rebranding as Naumi Heritage Wellington.

The Quality Hotel renovations will also be completed about the same time, and be rebranded as Naumi Suites Wellington with 62 rooms.

…The theme of the hotel refurbishments in Wellington will be “romantic Edwardian age meets literary bohemian”, according to a Naumi media statement – “a space that embraces diversity and steadfastly refuses to be boring”.

(15) LOVE OFF THE CLOCK. SYFY Wire’s “FanGrrls” columnist Alyssa Fiske extols “The appeal of the time-travel romance”:

While some may accuse the genre of being formulaic (fools), romance does indeed have some of the greatest tropes of any kind of story. Enemies to lovers, fake dating becoming real, the good old “oh no there’s only one bed in this hotel room I guess we have to share,” all of these tropes are at once familiar and thrilling. The building blocks may be the same, but each swoony outcome has its own sense of magic.

In particular, time travel and other time-related complications pop up again and again. Whether they’re communicating via time bending mailbox (The Lake House), kept apart by centuries as a plastic centurion (Doctor Who), or powered by genetic anomalies both charming (About Time) and devastating (The Time Traveler’s Wife), this obstacle has long been a popular stalwart in the romantic canon.

(16) GHOST MOONS. NBC News goes for the clicks with its headline “‘Ghost moons’ discovered in orbit around Earth”. These are patches of “dust” at the Earth-Moon L4 & L5 (Lagrange) points

Astronomers in Hungary say they’ve detected a pair of what some call “ghost moons” orbiting our planet not far from the moon we all know.

The hazy clouds of dust — tens of thousands of miles across but too faint to be seen with the naked eye — were first detected almost 60 years ago by a Polish astronomer, Kazimierz Kordylewski. But the patches of light he found were too indistinct to convince some scientists that the clouds were really there, and the existence of the “Kordylewski clouds” has long been a matter of controversy.

Now the astronomers, Gabor Horvath and Judit Sliz-Balogh of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, have obtained clear evidence of the clouds using a specially equipped telescope in a private observatory in western Hungary.

(17) MORE IMPORTANT — IRON OUTSIDE OR IRON INSIDE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At the A.V. Club, Tom Breihan is considering “the most important superhero movie of every year” in a series entitled “Age of Heroes.” Breihan is up to 2008 and asks, “Does the most important year for superhero movies belong to The Dark Knight or Iron Man?

Midway through Christopher Nolan’s 2008 movie The Dark Knight, the Joker gets himself arrested so that he can then break out of his holding cell and continue his grand experiment in human darkness. While he’s locked up, he’s placed in the custody of the Major Crimes Unit, the police force that’s supposedly been devoted to locking up Batman. In the movie, people keep referring to the Major Crimes Unit as the MCU. As in: “There’s a problem at the MCU!” Watching it today, you might hurt your neck doing double-takes at those initials every time. The Dark Knight, as it happens, came out at the last moment that “MCU” could possibly refer to anything related to Batman.

Today, of course, we know the MCU as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the steamrolling blockbuster-generating engine that has become the dominant commercial force in all of moviemaking. It was never a given that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would work. By the time the people at Marvel got around to establishing their own movie studio, they’d already sold off the rights to many of their most-famous characters: Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four. Only the relative dregs were left over, and nobody knew whether a relatively minor character like Iron Man could anchor a whole movie, let alone a franchise. It was a gamble.

It was a gamble, too, to cast Robert Downey Jr., a faded star who’d spent years battling his personal demons. […]

Breihan lavishes much praise on Iron Man and notes how well it set up much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that followed, but in the end he picks The Dark Knight as the more important movie. His reasoning may surprise you and you may or may not agree with it. In part, he say:

[…] The Dark Knight made money, too; it was the highest-grossing movie of 2008. But it didn’t just make money. It was, in its moment, widely hailed as something resembling a masterpiece. When, for instance, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences failed to nominate The Dark Knight for a Best Picture Oscar, there was such a wide public outcry that the Academy changed its roles to allow for more nominees. That is an impact.

It should probably be noted that Breihan doesn’t believe The Dark Knight actually was a masterpiece, but that doesn’t diminish the impact such a perception may have had in the moment. Some of Breihan’s highest praise goes to Heath Ledger’s performance (sadly, his last) as the Joker.

[…] Ledger is legitimately disgusting: dirty and scarred-up, with yellow teeth and a tongue that’s constantly darting in and out of his mouth, like a lizard’s. But he’s magnetic, too. He tells different stories about his scars, just so we’ll know that he’s always lying. He confounds criminals as badly as he does police. He dances his way through a hospital explosion and intimidates a roomful of mob bosses. His voice—the best description I can manage is a tweaked-out Richard Nixon impression—is chilling and alien. And he seems to be in love with Batman in ways that make even Batman uncomfortable: “Don’t talk like you’re one of them. You’re not.”

Besides Iron Man and The Dark Knight, Breihan devotes a fat paragraph to a handful of other superhero movies from 2008, plus a sentence or two to several others. Finally, he promises a look at 2009’s Watchmen in the next Age of Heroes installment.

(18) GAIMAN’S SANDMAN. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky on a new printing of Neil Gaiman’s Preludes and Nocturnes: “Enter ‘Sandman’: Anniversary Edition Celebrates 30 Years Of Dream-Spinning”.

When Neil Gaiman first envisioned the Sandman, the supernatural dream lord he created 30 years ago, he thought about prison. “Before I even knew who he was,” Gaiman writes in the afterword to The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, he had the image of “a man, young, pale and naked, imprisoned in a tiny cell, waiting until his captors passed away, willing to wait until the room he was in crumbled to dust.”

Dreams and imprisonment? It’s not a connection most would make. True, dreams are just about the only thing a prisoner has of his own, but it seems odd to imagine the bringer of dreams himself trapped in a cell. As so often happens with Gaiman, though, meditating upon one of his intuitions leads you to a whole new way of thinking

(19) TUNING UP DEADPOOL. Daniel Dern recommends “Deadpool The Musical 2 – Ultimate Disney Parody!”. “The songs aren’t the best… but, among other things, it’s arguably one of the best representations of the X-Men (about halfway in), and many of the Avengers. And the last minute or two is great.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Errolwi, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

2018 Westercon Finishes Its Business

Kevin Standlee sent the link to a playlist of videos of today’s Westercon Business Meeting in Denver, along with an abbreviated report of the results:

  • SeaTac, Washington won their uncontested Westercon 73 bid (2020).
  • Proposal to expand Westercon’s coverage to all of North America was postponed indefinitely (killed without a direct vote).
  • Proposal to require that bids provide at least one person at the site selection voting table passed and will be up for ratification in Utah.
  • The other two proposals on the agenda failed: One would have more precisely defined the use of members’ membership numbers, and the other attempted to precisely define what was meant by the words “first full day” of Westercon as used in the Bylaws.

“The meeting managed to get all of this done in just under 50 minutes,” writes Kevin, “which meant that they did not have to go to an ‘overflow’ session in the afternoon, much to everyone’s relief.”

Pixel Scroll 7/5/18 Trigger Scrollfile – Pixelman

(1) AVENGERS REASSEMBLE. The Society of Illustrators in New York will display “The Art of The Avengers and Other Heroes” from July 5 through October 20.

The Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators is pleased to present an exhibition of original artwork showcasing characters from the Marvel Universe featuring the Avengers and other heroes. Artists include John Buscema, John Cassaday, Don Heck, Joe Jusko, Jack Kirby, George Perez, John Romita, Marie Severin, Walt Simonson, Barry Windsor Smith, Jim Steranko, Herbe Trimpe, and others, on display from July 5th through October 20, 2018.

The exhibition includes vintage, original comic artwork from all years of Marvel Comics history. The selections illustrate how Marvel’s innovative creative teams initially led by legendary creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, kept the Marvel Universe evolving with the times.

(2) B&N EXEC GONE, BUT WHY? On July 3, Barnes and Noble announced it had fired CEO Demos Parneros for unspecified policy violations, adding that he would not receive any severance package. Publisher’s Weekly has the story.

In a brief statement released late Tuesday afternoon, the retailer said CEO Demos Parneros was terminated for “violations of the Company’s policies.” While not saying what policies Parneros violated, B&N said his termination “is not due to any disagreement with the Company regarding its financial reporting, policies, or practices or any potential fraud relating thereto.” In addition to being fired immediately, Parneros will not receive any severance, B&N said. B&N said Parneros’s removal was undertaken by its board of directors, who were advised by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

(3) CAUTION, I BRAKE FOR SINGULARITIES. When Daniel P. Dern read that “SpaceX delivers AI robot, ice cream, mice to space station” he immediately thought, “Boy, that sounds like a ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ tv episode waiting to happen…”

The International Space Station got its first robot with artificial intelligence Monday, along with some berries, ice cream and identical brown mice.

SpaceX’s capsule reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Station astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to grab the Dragon capsule as the spacecraft soared above Quebec, Canada.

The nearly 6,000-pound (2,700-kilogram) delivery includes the round robot Cimon, pronounced Simon. Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from the German Space Agency is meant to assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments. Cimon’s brain will constantly be updated by IBM so its intelligence — and role — keep growing.

(4) SMOFS ON THE AIR.  Bids for future Westercons, Worldcons, and NASFiCs gave presentations and answered questions at Westercon 71 in Denver on July 5.

Kevin Standlee sent a link to the YouTube playlist of videos where you can watch the appearances of representatives from the SeaTac in 2020 Westercon, Utah in 2019 NASFiC, New Zealand in 2020 Worldcon, and DC in 2021 Worldcon bids.

(5) RHYSLING AWARD FOLLOW-UP. In the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association press release about the winners of the 2018 Rhysling Awards, SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra said:

My deep and personal congratulations to all of the winners and all of the nominees. The SFPA thanks everyone who nominated these poets and those who took the time to vote this year. Every year the awards are filled with great excitement, even as it is often deeply challenging to choose the best poem among so many styles and talented voices from around the world.

We’re looking forward to many more decades ahead of our members celebrating profound possibility, inquiry and imagination through verse.

First established in 1978, the Rhysling Award is now in its 40th year. Science Fiction fans may recognize the name. The Rhyslings were named for the blind poet Rhysling in Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “The Green Hills of Earth.” Rhysling’s skills were said to rival Rudyard Kipling’s. In real life, Apollo 15 astronauts named a crater near their landing site “Rhysling,” which has since become its official name.

The Rhysling Awards will be formally presented at DiversiCon 26 on Saturday, July 28th at 3:00pm in St. Paul (Bandana Square Best Western) by SFPA President, Bryan Thao Worra and other members of the SFPA executive committee. All members of the SF community are welcome to attend the ceremony. For scheduling at updates, visit www.diversicon.org.

(6) CALLING DESMOND MORRIS. How did Bambi’s distant ancestors bite the dust? Ars Technica turns to the professionals for an answer: “Archaeologists armed with spears demonstrate how Neanderthals hunted”.

Pleistocene CSI

At the Neumark-Nord site in Germany, Neanderthals 120,000 years ago hunted along the shores of a lake surrounded by dense forest. It’s a tough environment to make a living in, even for modern hunter-gatherers.  Here, archaeologists found two textbook examples of hunting-spear trauma. A fallow deer vertebra bore a circular wound from what Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues described as “a well-placed lethal injury” to the deer’s neck, not far from the trachea—probably from a spear thrust.

A pelvic bone from another fallow deer had a circular hole punched through the thinnest part of the bone, toward the front and close to the spine. The bone hadn’t begun to heal, so the injury, although likely not fatal in its own right, probably happened in the moments before death.

In micro-CT images, Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues could see that the wound had a tapered shape, wider on the outer face of the bone where the spear had entered. This pushed bone fragments inward, but things were narrower on the inner surface where the spear tip had come out the other side and pushed bone fragments outward. Such a clear injury is a rare find, and it offered Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues a chance to analyze Neanderthal hunting methods in detail.

(7) AND HAVING WRIT, MOVES ON. Someone corrected this blue plaque in Cambridge.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy learned from Basic Instructions (a rerun from 2011) how to bring science fiction characters back to life.

(9) FLIPSIDE. At Galactic Journey The Traveler fills in some missing info about his friend the Australian computer: “[July 4, 1963] Down Under to the Worlds of Men (Woomera, Part 2)”.

A few months ago I wrote about my friend Mary Whitehead, who works as an Experimental Officer in Australia. She recently wrote me back with some corrections, that I will pass on to you, in order not to mar the historical record.

For example, I said that Mary lived at Woomera, which was not the case. I was conflating the rocket testing range with the place where most of the computing work got done. She actually lives near the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE), which is located in Salisbury, a small town about 15 miles north of the big city of Adelaide. Woomera Rocket Range is in the isolated outback another 300 miles north of that.

In 1949, Mary, who studied mathematics in college, got a job in the Bomb Ballistics Section of the WRE. At that time, Mary was the only professional woman at Salisbury. Her first work was to lead a team of female Computers. At first, they used mechanical calculators like the noisy Friden’s and then Marchant’s like we used at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.

(10) HE’S MAD. In “A new editor. A new home. But Mad magazine still takes sharp aim at Trump and Roseanne”, the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews MAD editor Bill Morrison, formerly with Bongo Comics, about how he is keeping his magazine fresh and topical after it moved to Los Angeles last year.

“We wanted to come up with a ‘summer fun’ cover and looked to things like beach parties, county fairs and amusement arcades for inspiration,” Morrison says of the cover illustrated by Mark Fredrickson. “Art director Suzy Hutchinson thought an image of [Mad mascot] Alfred playing Whac-A-Mole would be fun, and mocked up a surreal cover of Alfred whacking mini-versions of himself.

“Then,” the editor says, “we turned on the news and decided that taking a whack at some notorious celebrities would be not only fun, but therapeutic.”

(11) LITIGATION. Don Quixote is feeling better. “Terry Gilliam: Legal Battle Over ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Won’t Stop Film’s Release”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Terry Gilliam says the legal battle over the rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will not prevent the film’s long-awaited release.

Nearly a quarter of a century in the making, the film that premiered at Cannes and screened out of competition Wednesday at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, has been dogged with challenges worthy of Cervante’s noble hero.

After false starts and many rewrites, ex-Monty Python member Gilliam finally completed the film only for a legal dispute with a now former Portuguese producer Paolo Branco to threaten to derail it.

Branco’s threats were sufficient for Amazon to pull out of a deal that would have ensured a 90-day cinematic release in the U.S. before it was available for streaming. Even Cannes chief Jerome Paillard was rumored to have had the jitters before its festival screening in May.

But that decision, Karlovy Vary’s screening and an upcoming competition screening at the Munich film festival appear to have strengthened the French distributors Kinology’s hand, despite a Paris court ruling last month granting the film’s rights to Branco.

“It is about to be released broadly in Holland and Belgium,” Gilliam told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “I think Cannes changed things. Paolo just went too far – ‘I will tell the festival not to show it’… It seems things are floating along nicely, although he did scare a lot of people away at one point.”

(12) NOT CANALS, BUT… From Nature: “Mars’s river valleys whisper of a rainy past”.

Fast-flowing waterways on ancient Mars carved river valleys much like those on modern Earth.

Although Mars is cold and dry today, channels on its surface look as if running water shaped them, leading researchers to think the planet was warm and wet in the past. But scientists have struggled to determine whether that water fell from the sky as rain or seeped upward from the ground.

To discern the water’s source, Hansjoerg Seybold at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and his colleagues analysed the geometry of Martian valley channels. The channels branch off at relatively narrow angles, as do waterways in arid landscapes on Earth, such as the US Southwest. More-humid landscapes with a lot of groundwater — the Amazon rainforest, for example — host river channels that branch at wider angles.

(13) BELATED BIRTHDAY. Born on the Fourth of July – no, not George M. Cohan. ScreenRant celebrated with its post: “Today is MCU Captain America’s 100th Birthday”.

We know Cap’s exact date of birth thanks to a scene early on in Captain America: The First Avenger, when pre-serum Steve Rogers attempts (not for the first time) to sign up for the army. The doctor dismisses him due to his long list of ailments, and in the process gives the audience a look at his medical records, which include his date of birth. Naturally, he was born on Independence Day.

The comic book version of Captain America, meanwhile, is actually 101 years old, having been born on July 4, 1917. His birth date is often incorrectly cited as being July 4, 1920, since that’s the date given on his Wikipedia page. However, The Adventures of Captain America #1 (the source for Wikipedia’s claim) states that he was born in 1917.

(14) JULY 4TH LEFTOVERS. NPR’s astronomical salute to the holiday: “LOOK: Hot, Young Stars Form ‘Celestial Fireworks'”.

If you squint, the image above bears a pretty strong resemblance to what you might see at a July 4 fireworks display.

But it’s actually, dare we say, far cooler. Or hotter: The image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is a cluster of “huge, hot” stars called NGC 3603, about 20,000 light years away in the constellation Carina.

The glittery image was captured in 2009, and NASA posted it on its website on the eve of today’s Independence Day celebrations. The swirling purple clouds of gas and dust, it says, are the “raw material for new star formation.”

(15) DISSERTATION DEFENDER. Congratulations to Shaun Duke, of Skiffy and Fanty, who earned his Doctorate today.

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

2019 Westercon Names Gaming GoH


Westercon 72, to be held in Utah in 2019, has announced its Gaming Guest of Honor will be The GM Tim Mottishaw.

Professional Game Master (GM), author and podcaster Tim M., aka The GM Tim, hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. As a contributor to the podcast network “The Commentist”, Tim participates in two of their podcasts, “Loose Endz” (Live play Dungeons & Dragons) and “Skyfire Comics” (Live play ICONs), and starting with Season 4 of the network’s flagship podcast “Roll to Hit” as the GM. You can find him on his website, http://thegmtim.ca or @thegmtim on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook Page.

As a professional GM, The GM Tim has become a go-to panelist and RPG Judge at GenCon, Winter Fantasy, and Goblins II Golems. He is an advocate for breaking down the aged beliefs and stereotypes associated with RPGs. as the Tabletop/RPG Coordinator for GaymerX West, and organizer of Quests & Queers (an LGBTQA2+ Game Night) Tim champions the belief that gaming should bring everyone together regardless of race, gender identification, and political views.

This year The GM Tim will be spending time in France for D&D in a Castle D&D in a Castle among other great Game Masters such as Jeremy Crawford, Elisa Teague, and Ruty Rutenberg.

Anyone with questions can find con representatives this week at Westercon 71 in Denver. They are running a fan table and hosting a party Friday Night at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center to promote Westercon 72, 1632 Mincon, and their upcoming NASFiC Bid.