Pixel Scroll 4/14/21 The Abacus Stares Back

(1) IN TWEETS, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU EXPLAIN YOURSELF. Charlie Warzel’s article “It’s Not Cancel Culture — It’s A Platform Failure” at Galaxy Brain analyzes a problematic Twitter feature (illustrated by a topic that was mentioned in item #1 of Pixel Scroll 4/6/21.)

We Need To Get Rid Of Twitter Trending Topics

On April 6, Elle Hunt was in a pub in New Zealand, where life has basically returned to pre-pandemic normal. She was, by her account, two wines deep, having a light hearted argument with her friends about film genres. Half serious, but committed to the bit, she tweeted this:

A few minutes later, in response to a harmless reply, she tweeted her rationale and closed her phone:

Even if you don’t know the story, you probably have a sense of what happened next….

The whole affair is a perfect example of context collapse, which generally occurs when a surfeit of different audiences occupy the same space, and a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith (You can read about the origins here from scholar danah boyd).

In this case, the collapse was substantially amplified by Twitter’s Trending widget, which took an anodyne opinion by a verified Twitter user and displayed it to millions of random people as if it was some kind of significant pop cultural event. “My imagined audience when I tweeted this was, ‘oh, we’re all at the bar and having this low stakes debate,” she told me recently. “In retrospect, that was totally naive to think anyone would have taken it that way.”

The point of Twitter’s Trending Topics is ostensibly to surface significant news and Twitter commentary and invite others to ‘join the conversation.’ Left unsaid, of course, is that ‘the conversation’ at scale is complete garbage — an incomprehensible number of voices lecturing past each other. It didn’t matter how Hunt had intended the argument — whether it was cheeky fun or part of a high-minded indictment of the sci-fi horror industrial complex — it was amplified by others as ammunition to make whatever convenient point that interested parties wanted to make….

(2) YOUR OINKAGE MAY VARY. J.K. Rowling’s children’s book The Christmas Pig will be published October 12 the author’s website announced yesterday.

The Christmas Pig is a heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child’s love for his most treasured toy, and how far he will go to find it.  It’s a standalone story, unrelated to any of J.K. Rowling’s previous work, and is suitable for children 8+: a tale for the whole family to fall in love with.

“Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig.  DP has always been there for him, through good and bad.  Until one Christmas Eve something terrible happens – DP is lost.  But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life – even toys…  And Jack’s newest toy – the Christmas Pig (DP’s annoying replacement) – has a daring plan:  Together they’ll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known…”

(3) WIKIPEDIA HAILS VONDA MCINTYRE WORK. [Item by rcade.] The featured article on the Wikipedia homepage today is about the SFF writer Vonda McIntyre’s novel Dreamsnake:

Dreamsnake is a 1978 science fiction novel by American writer Vonda N. McIntyre. It is an expansion of her Nebula Award-winning 1973 novelette “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand”. The main character, Snake, is a healer who uses genetically modified serpents to cure sickness in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust on Earth. The titular “dreamsnake” is an alien serpent whose venom gives dying people pleasant dreams. The novel follows Snake as she seeks to replace her dead dreamsnake. The book is an example of second-wave feminism in science fiction. McIntyre subverted gendered narratives, including by placing a woman at the center of a heroic quest. Dreamsnake also explored social structures and sexuality from a feminist perspective, and examined themes of healing and cross-cultural interaction. The novel won the 1978 Nebula Award, the 1979 Hugo Award, and the 1979 Locus Poll Award. Snake’s strength and self-sufficiency were noted by commentators, while McIntyre’s writing and the book’s themes also received praise.

Hat tip to Kelly Robson for being the first to notice this on Twitter.

The article notes that Dreamsnake wasn’t finished getting award recognition after the Nebula/Hugo/Locus triple win in the late 1970s. It made the shortlist of the Retrospective James Tiptree award in 1995.

In describing the novel’s theme and structure, the article credits one element that’s particularly relevant today:

Gender expectations are also subverted through the character of Merideth, whose gender is never disclosed, as McIntyre entirely avoids using gender pronouns, thereby creating a “feminist construct” that suggests a person’s character and abilities are more important than their gender.

Wikipedians created the article in 2006 and have edited it 521 times since then, including 35 times today. Because contentiousness is part of the site’s DNA, there’s already a new argument on the internal talk page about whether it’s too long.

The article can be cleaned up by removing non-core fragments and listing the main themes. It reads as PHD dissertation by a gushing fan and would benefit from shortening to the main parts.

(4) JOY STILL FELT. Seanan McGuire gives six tips about “How To Be A Hugo Nominee And Come Out Of It Happy About the Honor” in a superb Twitter thread that starts here

(5) CREATING WORLDS. “Building Beyond… an ongoing series of conversations about how much fun worldbuilding can be” continues in Sarah Gailey’s newsletter with Rick Innis and Shana DuBois joining in to play: “Building Beyond: An Ocean of Resistance”. Gailey winds it up by challenging readers –

What comes after the message on the beaches in your story? What demands are being made? Are they possible to fulfill?

Do whatever you want with these questions. You can write something down in the comments or on social media or in a notebook nobody will ever see. You can draw or paint or sit down a friend and talk their ear off about your ideas. You can stare at the horizon and imagine, letting the infinite landscape of your mind unfold just a little farther than it did yesterday. No matter what you do, take pride in the knowledge that you’re creating something that has never existed before. You’re building a little corner of a whole new world.

That’s amazing.

(6) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Bruce McAllister and Nalo Hopkinson via livestream on Wednesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. EDT. Check the KGB site for the link.

(7) REV. BOB. Chattanoogan.com ran an obituary article about Rev. Bob today: “Hood, Robert Lewis”.

Robert Lewis Hood of Hixson, Tennessee passed away peacefully in his home on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at the age of 50.

He was born on October 29, 1970, the only child of Janet Hood. He graduated from Chattanooga’s McCallie School in 1988 and attended Tennessee Tech University.

Robert loved computers long before they became popular. He quickly moved from playing computer games to modifying them. It wasn’t long before he transitioned to coding. His lifelong love of computers led him to a career in website design.

A kind and compassionate spirit, Robert used his wit on and offline. He had a knack of making people smile and a gift of making people feel cared for. Robert, who was known among his friends as “Bob” or “Rev. Bob,” loved science fiction books, including author Robert A. Heinlein, an American author who emphasized scientific accuracy in his writings. In recent years, Robert channeled his love of books into editing ebooks by various authors, including science fiction and nonfiction author David Brin among others.

Among his friends, Robert was known for being an unapologetic liberal and for his ability to express ideas succinctly and with a touch of humor. He was sharp, quick and gentle, and will be remembered by many as a loyal, caring friend with an easy smile and frequently, a glint of mischief in his eyes. 

…Robert’s loved ones will hold a celebration of life memorial in his honor on Saturday, April 17, at 11 a.m. at Vandergriff Park, 1414 Gadd Road, Hixson, Tn. 37343. This is going to be a casual gathering for anyone to be able to share their thoughts.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Epilepsy Foundation or the American Heart Association….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

A mass sighting of celestial phenomena or unidentified flying objects (UFO) occurred in 1561 above Nuremberg (then a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire). The phenomenon has been interpreted by some modern UFO enthusiasts as an aerial battle of extraterrestrial origin. This view is mostly dismissed by skeptics, some referencing Carl Jung‘s mid-twentieth century writings about the subject while others find the phenomenon is likely to be a sun dog.

broadsheet news article printed in April 1561 describes a mass sighting of celestial phenomena….

The broadsheet describes objects of various shapes including crosses, globes, two lunar crescents, a black spear and tubular objects from which several smaller, round objects emerged and darted around the sky at dawn.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 14, 2010 — On this day in the United States in 2010, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted fifty four percent rating though the critical rating there is eighty five percent. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 14, 1879 – James Branch Cabell.  (“Tell the rabble my name is Cabell.”)  Two dozen novels, a hundred shorter stories, poems, nonfiction.  A score of volumes comprise the Biography of the Life of Manuel.  What has helplessly been called C’s droll style can be seen in e.g. the related titles SmirtSmithSmire; a New York judge said of Jurgen, seventh in the Biography, “it is doubtful if the book could be read or understood at all by more than a very limited number of readers”; an admirer has applauded C’s “engagingly haughty use of SF tropes”.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1924 – Leland Sapiro.  Lived all over North America, Canadian provinces, California, Florida, Louisiana, Texas.  Did enough for LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) to earn its Evans-Freehafer service award.  Noted for Riverside Quarterly, which in our great tradition of fans and pros mixing it up drew James Blish, Redd Boggs, A.J. Budrys – Ursula LeGuin – Sandra Miesel – Arthur Thomson – Roger Zelazny.  See it here. (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1925 Rod Steiger. Carl in The Illustrated Man which is specifically based on three stories by Bradbury from that collection: “The Veldt,” “The Long Rain,” and “The Last Night of the World.” Great film. Genre wise, he also was Father Delaney in The Amityville Horror, showed up as Charlie on the short-lived Wolf Lake series, played Dr. Phillip Lloyd in horror film The Kindred, was Pa in the really chilling American Gothic, played General Decker in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks (really, really weird film), Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in Modern Vampires and Peter on “The Evil Within” episode of Tales of Tomorrow series. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and when need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty two episodes was I think the finest of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Fireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson before their divorce. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1933 – Boris Strugatsky.  With and then without his brother Arkady (1925-1991) wrote substantial Russian SF.  Reminiscent of an old jest (“Where were you born?”  ”St. Petersburg.”  “Where were you brought up?”  “Petrograd.” “Where do you live?” “Leningrad.”  “Where do you hope to die?”  “St. Petersburg”) B was born at Leningrad and died at St. Petersburg.  Of more than a dozen novels, plus novellas, novelettes, short stories, plays, by A & B together, three by A alone, two by B after A left, probably the best-known in English is Roadside Picnic; subtler, I think, is Hard to Be a God.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born April 14,1935 Jack McDevitt, 86. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races. He won the Robert A. Heinlein Award six years ago. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 67. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. (It won a Campbell Memorial Award.) Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”. (CE)
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 63. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar. (CE) 
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Frances Dorer, age 63.  Half a dozen novels with her mother Nancy Dorer, some under a joint pen name.  Here is one with a Bruce Pennington cover. [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1967 – Steven desJardins, age 54.  In his own words, “Aspiring Hungarian translator.  World traveller.  Vegetarian.  D.C. native.  Have ankylosing spondylitis.”  He has been active for decades in WSFA (Washington, District of Columbia, SF Ass’n), in fanzines, and more widely in person when occasion served, e.g. co-sponsoring two of the remedial motions passed at the Sasquan (73rd Worldcon) Business Meeting.  For a 1995 sample of his fanwriting see here (note to WSFA Journal on World Fantasy Con).  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1969 – Rebecca Shelley, age 52.  Half a dozen novels, four shorter stories for us; twoscore books all told.  “‘Stop whining and keep typing.  I know what I’m doing,’ my subconscious answers.”  Has read The Phantom Tollbooth, two by Jane Austen, LolitaMoby-DickThe Hunt for “Red October”The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  [JH]
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 39. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” novella (lovely title that)  won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do the same a short while later. Very impressive indeed. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. (CE)

(11) BELATED BIRTHDAY.

  • April 13, 1967 Rogers Cadenhead,54. This Filer is a computer book author and web publisher who served once as chairman of the RSS Advisory Board, a group that publishes the RSS 2.0 specification. He’s still a member of the Board. Very, very impressive. He also gained infamy for claiming drudge.com before a certain muckraker could, and still holds on to it. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon – Daniel Dern asks, does the style remind you of Vaughan Bode? E.g., his Cheech Wizard comics? (There should be a line over the “e” in Bode but WordPress won’t cooperate.)

(13) CALL TO RECAST T’CHALLA. A YouTube video called “The #RecastTChalla Petition To Honor Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther” describes a big petition drive to have the MCU cast someone else as Black Panther eventually rather than killing off the character in the next Black Panther movie.

The petition is hosted at Change.org: “Recast T’Challa To Honor Chadwick Boseman In the Black Panther Franchise”:

In August of 2020, the world mourned the death of Chadwick Boseman. To many, he was known for his on-screen role of Black Panther in the Marvel Universe. While his character of T’Challa was adored by fans, there have been rumors that Marvel will kill off his character in the new movie and for good. 

This is a call for the President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Co-President Louis D’Esposito, and Writer/Director Ryan Coogler to reconsider their decision, and recast the role of “T’Challa” in the Black Panther franchise. If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him. That also includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well. 

By not recasting, it could stifle the opportunity for one of the most popular, leading Black superheroes to add on to their legacy. The #1 way to kill a legend, is to stop telling their story. 

(14) APOLOGY BY SIMPSONS ACTOR. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler says Hank Azaria has apologized for voicing Apu for 30 years on The Simpsons and says he will work with the “anti-racist Soul Focused Group” on issues affecting racism in entertainment. “Hank Azaria apologizes for playing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’ for three decades”.

…Initially, Azaria said he didn’t want to “knee-jerk respond to what could have been … 17 hipsters in a microbrewery in Brooklyn.” But he realized he needed to educate himself: “I talked to a lot of Indian people. I talked to a lot of people who knew a lot about racism in this country,” Azaria said. “I took seminars. I read.”

One conversation that particularly resonated with Azaria took place at his son’s school, where the actor spoke with a group of Indian students. One 17-year-old approached Azaria with tears in his eyes. “He’s never even seen ‘The Simpsons’ … but knows what Apu means,” Azaria explained. “It’s practically a slur at this point. All he knows is this is how his people are thought of and represented to many people in this country.”

The student asked Azaria to pass a message along to his industry colleagues: “Will you please tell the writers in Hollywood that what they do and what they come up with really matters in people’s lives, like it has consequences?”

(15) NOT READY TO SAY GOODBYE. James Davis Nicoll forwarded the YouTube link below with the note:The context is that popular Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience was cancelled very abruptly. Bitter Asian Dude is Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, one of the lead actors. I thought the issue of having something suddenly cancelled and how people react to it might be interesting to your readers. (ObSF: he’s acted in SF shows, and he defended Hench in Canada Reads.)”

The context is very different than the previous item — even the Canadian Prime Minister complimented the program’s diversity:

…Meanwhile, the airing of the final episode was commemorated with social media posts from members of the cast, celeb fans such as “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy — and even a tweet from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“For years, @KimsConvenience has celebrated diversity and championed inclusion,” wrote Trudeau to accompany a video of “Kim’s Convenience” star Simu Liu discussing the importance of diversity in film and television, both in front of and behind the camera.

“Although the show ends tonight, and we have to say ‘okay, see you’ to @SimuLiu and the entire Kim family one last time, let’s continue to #SeekMore representation in the stories on our screens,” he added.

Here is the “Post KC final episode livestream with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee”.

(16) ERR TAXI. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Another hard-to-verify tech prediction. Hopefully, if they’re wrong (by a noticeable amount/%) they’ll issue a follow-up release…

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 12:52:08 +0000 (UTC)

Subject: Private equity/eVTOL research: Private equity and VC professionals predict huge growth in the eVTOL market

Please see attached a press release on new research with senior private equity and venture capital professionals, revealing 71% expect there to be more than 160,000 commercial air taxis operating around the world by 2050.    Some 17% anticipate there will be over 200,000.

The research was commissioned by Horizon Aircraft, the advanced aerospace engineering company that has developed the Cavorite X5, the world’s first eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing) that can fly the majority of its mission exactly like a normal aircraft. …

“However, investors should be warned that there are over 400 eVTOL concepts around the world being developed, and the vast majority of these will never become commercially viable.  They either won’t meet the requirements needed to secure insurance, or because of their design and operational costs and challenges, they may be too expensive to run.”

(17) SF CONCATENATION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has its latest seasonal edition now up of science and SF news, articles and reviews.

Its seasonal news page includes listings of forthcoming SF as well as fantasy books from several British publishers. Such multi-publisher forthcoming book listings are rare, and though from British publishers, most will also be available in N. America. The seasonal edition consists of:

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Summer 2021

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(2) 2021.4.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/21 I Will Scroll No Pixel Before Its Time

(1) LISTEN TO THE PICNIC. Podside Picnic is the place hosts Podside Pete, Karlo Rodriguez and Connor Southard engage with and discuss science fiction, fantasy and horror media. In addition to their Patreon subscriber content, they also feature interviews with SFF authors that are available to non-subscribers at Podside Picnic on Soundcloud – sample links below.

Podside Picnic is a show mostly about science fiction and fantasy, but more importantly, it’s about two guys exploring stories. Pete is a lifelong science fiction and fantasy fan with 40 years of ravenous reading under his belt. Connor is a writer and recovering literary snob on a mission to learn about science fiction, fantasy, and all the genres in between.

We like the phrase “literature of the fantastic” to encompass what most interests us, but our interests morph as we continue this journey and learn from each other and from our audience and guests. Much of our focus is on what’s long been called “genre fiction,” especially science fiction and fantasy, but curiosity is more important to us than marketing lingo. We believe the future of storytelling lies in crossing traditional boundaries. 

In which Pete and Connor are joined by a living legend of science fiction, Peter Watts. We discuss his contemporary classic novel Blindsight, but we also discuss love, legal misadventures, life itself… and sea cucumbers

Pete and Karlo are joined by author, Karen Osborne to discuss her novel “Architects of Memory” and how even in the far future, people will try their best and sometimes fail.

In which Pete and Connor are joined by writer Isaac Butler, who wrote this fascinating piece about unjustly forgotten fantasy and sci-fi writer John M. Ford: slate.com/culture/2019/11/john…n-fantasy-books.html

(2) GOTHAM BOOK PRIZE. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is a nominee for the inaugural Gotham Book Prize.

As the city comes through COVID-19 and enters a challenging period ahead, recognizing what makes it special and unique is more important than ever. The Gotham Book Prize is awarded once a year to the best book (works of fiction and nonfiction are eligible) published that calendar year that either is about New York City or takes place in New York City. The winner will receive $50,000. Selections will be reviewed by an independent jury with the winner selected by the prize’s co-founders/ funders.

Jemisin’s book and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind are the lone two works of genre interest among the 10 nominees.

(3) THE HELLUO YOU SAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Wikipedia word of the day [24 January GST]  is helluo librorum : (literary, archaic) An insatiable and obsessive bookworm (“avid book reader”). Here’s an example of the term used in a sentence:

[1720, [attributed to Jonathan Swift], The Right of Precedence between Phisicians and Civilians Enquir’d into, Dublin: […] [J. Gowan] for John Hyde […], and Robert Owen […], OCLC 1227582291page 16:

[A] Writers Stomach, Appetite, and Victuals, may be judg’d from his Method, Stile, and Subject, as certainly as if you were his Mess-fellow, and sat at Table with him. Hence we call a Subject dry, a Writer insipid, Notions crude, and indigested, a Pamphlet empty or hungry, a Stile jejune, and many such like Expressions, plainly alluding to the Diet of an Author, and I make no manner of doubt but Tully [i.e.Cicero] grounded that saying of Helluo Librorum upon the same Observation.]

(4) AMAZON ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS. Classaction.org has another rundown on the lawsuit and a link to the complaint: “Amazon.com, ‘Big Five’ Publishers Conspired to Fix Prices for E-Books, Class Action Alleges”.

…Through its most favored nation clauses with the Big Five, Amazon has required, and the companies have agreed to grant, “prices, terms, and conditions equal to or better” than those offered to the defendant’s competitors. Moreover, Amazon mandates that it be notified about such terms, a requirement that serves to restrict discounts to consumers and stifle innovation in the trade e-book market, the suit claims.

“Once notified of the availability of its co-conspirators’ e-books at lower prices, Amazon typically ‘requested’ that they charge the same prices on Amazon. If publishers did not comply, Amazon retaliated or threatened to retaliate by disabling purchases for one or several of the publisher’s e-books on its platform, by excluding the publisher’s e-books from all promotional activity, by removing the pre-order buttons for the publisher’s e-books, or by prominently displaying banners for other publishers’ e-books.”

The contractual requirements laid out by Amazon prevent “actual and potential retail competitors from introducing alternative business models, offering promotional advantages, or offering customers lower prices on their own,” the complaint says, summarizing that the agency price model in which Amazon and the Big Five operate has contractually obligated the publishers to more or less do what Amazon says with regard to setting prices or offering discounts.

Further, whereas one would think readers would benefit from the cost reductions related to the low printing and distribution expenses of e-books when compared to printed texts, the high commissions and other costs Amazon charges to publishers all but wipe out those savings, the complaint summarizes:

“Amazon increases the cost of selling e-books by tying its distribution services (e.g., helping consumers find and purchase e-books on the Amazon platform, processing payments, delivering e-books) to its advertising services, which are designed to optimize the placement of advertisements to consumers on its online platform. Amazon further raises the Big Five’s selling costs by manipulating e-book ‘discovery tools to make a publisher’s books difficult to find without the purchase of advertising or refuses distribution unless the publisher also purchases advertising.’”

(5) RESISTANCE IN RUSSIA. In the Washington Post, Robyn Dixon interviews Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of “a cult dystopian sf trilogy” beginning with Metro 2033, who said he was opposed to the Kremlin’s efforts to murder dissident Alexei Navalny and to suppress all opposition to Putin. “Kremlin warns Russians against pro-Navalny protests, drawing pushback”.

The first novel in Glukhovsky’s dystopian science fiction trilogy, “Metro 2033,” set in the Moscow Metro in a post-apocalyptic world, tells a dark story of fascistic leaders who construct a big lie to fool people to keep them trapped underground after a nuclear holocaust. He said he was not a particular Navalny supporter but that it was impossible to ignore the authoritarian turn after what he called “a chain of murderous poisonings,” not only of Navalny but of other Kremlin critics.

(6) NEXT AT BAT. CNN is getting clicks with this headline — “The man third in the line of presidential succession has been in five ‘Batman’ movies”. He’s Sen. Patrick Leahy.

For as many foes as the superhero fends off, Batman has a formidable team of supporters starting with his sidekick Robin, Gotham City Commissioner James Gordon and his ever-loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

But one of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent supporters lies not in a comic book, but in the US Senate, and he’s known the Bat for more than 80 years.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the longest-serving member of the current Senate, is a Batman aficionado who’s turned his fandom into philanthropy. He’s even used the comics to forward his legislative agenda.

Now President pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy is third in the presidential line of succession. Though it’s unlikely he’ll ever have to serve as President, his high-profile position shines a brighter light on his colorful resume — which includes multiple appearances in the “Batman” films….

Leahy’s first foray into screen acting — something he does strictly when Batman is involved — came in 1995, when he appeared in the critically reviled “Batman Forever.” The same year, he voiced a character billed as “Territorial Governor” in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Since then, Leahy has appeared in nearly as many “Batman” films as the Caped Crusader himself. He usually appears as a scowling politician (though in “Batman & Robin,” which his son Mark also had a cameo in, he was allowed to enjoy a raucous party). He even met an explosive end as the curiously named Senator Purrington in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

(7) SIERRA OBIT. Actor Gregory Sierra (1937-2021) died January 4. Best known for non-genre TV roles in Barney Miller and Sanford and Son, his genre credits included TV’s The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Greatest American Hero, The X-Files, and the film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and Honey I Blew Up The Kid. He also appeared in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit scripted by Ray Bradbury.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 23, 1729 – Clara Reeve.  Reading Latin and Greek “at an age when few … of either sex can read their names” (W. Scott, Lives of the Eminent Novelists and Dramatists p. 545, 1870).  Two dozen books, including Plans of Education about women; The Progress of Romance a history of prose; The Old English Baron for us, an early Gothic novel influencing Mary Shelley.  Managed her own career rather than rely on male relations to do it for her.  (Died 1807) [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both from the usual suspects and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1935 – Tom Reamy.  First-rate fanzines TrumpetNickelodeon.  MidAmericon Program Book (34th Worldcon).  Co-founded first SF club in Texas; with the Benfords, brought first SF con to Texas, Southwestercon VI.  One novel, a score of shorter stories; I have somewhere his collection San Diego Lightfoot Sue (title novelette won a Nebula), just thinking of which still gives me the chills.  Campbell Award (as it then was).  Reviews in Delap’s.  Interviewed by Pat Cadigan and Arnie Fenner in Shayol 1.  Novella sold to Last Dangerous Visions.  Here is his cover for Trumpet 1.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1939 – Greg & Tim Hildebrandt (Greg, age 82; Tim, died 2006).  Did much together, like this and this and this.  Here is their cover for City of a Thousand Suns.  Here is Greg’s Peter Pan.  Here is The Fantasy Art Techniques of TH.  One novel, five dozen covers, six dozen interiors together; forty covers, a hundred thirty interiors by Greg; ninety covers, two hundred sixty interiors by Tim.  Greg, Lifetime-Achievement Chesley; Tim, Best-Artist World Fantasy Award; both, Society of Illustrators’ Gold Medal.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 78. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan-created Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer. Roy Batty In Blade Runner, of course, but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the very evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 57. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in Tales from Earthsea. (CE) 
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 71. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring genre role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well, Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, age 67.  Ray Bradbury suggested he join LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is?  CM soon earned the LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Co-chaired Equicon ’74, Westercon 28, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon; chaired Loscon 12.  Fan Guest of Honor, Westercon 41, Loscon 27 (with wife Genny Dazzo), Baycon 2006, Boskone 55.  With Marv Wolfman co-created and produced Pocket Dragon Adventures.  Memoir of work with Lucasfilms Star Wars Adventures.  Three hundred television writer and producer credits.  Writers Guild of America West’s Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1962 – Hilary Robinson, age 59.  A Manxman (the suffix -man is not masculine).  Sixty books; radio, television.  Gillard Gold Award for Religious Programming.  Half a dozen short stories for us.  Essays, letters, in Crystal ShipFocusMatrix.  Patron of the Children’s University.  Her story.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1979 – Marko Djurdjevic, age 42.  A Serb living in Germany.  Penciller and concept artist.  Here is The Marvel Art of MD.  Here is a sketch of Batman.  Here is a contribution to Mark Hay’s Poker-Themed Sketchbook.  Here is The Examination.  Here is Kang the Conqueror.  Blogspot.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Herman has the lowdown on those unexplained sightings.
  • Alley Oop has a joke about quantum theory?
  • The Argyle Sweater has one of the more bizarre Star Wars parenting jokes.

(10) HOW SUPER ARE THEY? The Late Late Show with James Corden challenges Watchmen star and One Night In Miami director Regina King to a game of Superhero or Super Zero, in which she meets a lineup of six potential superheroes. After learning each character’s origin story, Regina must decide which are indeed real.“Which of These Are Real Superheroes? w/ Regina King”.

(11) THE GHOST OF BREAKFAST FUTURE. Delish is haunted by the possibility that “A New ‘Ghostbusters’ Cereal Is Coming Soon”.

… The cereal, which is brought to you by General Mills, hasn’t gotten a secured release date yet, but it has popped up as a listed product on Walmart’s website. Quite similar to the original 1980’s Ghostbusters cereal box, this new rendition—which may not be the finalized version—displays the infamous Ghostbusters logo alongside a bowl of reddish-orange crunchy cereal pieces. And, just like the original version, it includes ghost and Silmer-shaped marshmallow pieces to add more sweet nostalgia to your morning.

(12) HUSH A BOOM. National Geographic is “Remembering the night two atomic bombs fell—on North Carolina”.

… What the voice in the chopper knew, but Reeves didn’t, was that besides the wreckage of the ill-fated B-52, somewhere out there in the winter darkness lay what the military referred to as “broken arrows”—the remains of two 3.8-megaton thermonuclear atomic bombs. Each contained more firepower than the combined destructive force of every explosion caused by humans from the beginning of time to the end of World War II….

(13) WORMHOLES. This 2019 Astronomy.com article ponders the question “If wormholes exist, could we really travel through them?”

…Wormholes, thus, are the perfect way to bypass Einstein’s speed limit, and get your heroes and villains to travel the galaxy in a reasonable time frame. Plus, they allow for the element of time travel to enter the story, all without breaking any laws of physics.

So, the real question is: Can actual people take advantage of wormholes too? The answer is… maybe?

Wither Wormholes?

The first problem for any explorer determined to survey a wormhole is simply finding one. While Einstein’s work says they can exist, we don’t currently know of any. They may actually be impossible after all, forbidden by some deeper physics that the universe obeys, but we haven’t discovered.

The second issue is that, despite years of research, scientists still aren’t really sure how wormholes would work. Can any technology ever create and manipulate them, or are they simply a part of the universe? Do they stay open forever, or are they only traversable for a limited time? And perhaps most significantly, are they stable enough to allow for human travel?

The answer to all of these: We just don’t know.

(14) WORMS WHO MAKE WORMHOLES. “Mysterious, 20-million-year-old tunnels in the ancient ocean floor came from 6-foot-long carnivorous worms, a study found”Yahoo! has the story.

Scientists in Taiwan noticed odd, L-shaped burrows in a set of rocks eight years ago. Since the rocks once sat on the Pacific Ocean floor, they thought the tunnels had been made by shrimp, or perhaps octopuses. But the shape and structure of the burrows didn’t match those made by such creatures, and the mystery lingered.

Now, it’s been solved: The architects behind the tunnels were 6-foot-long worms that lived about 20 million years ago, according to a study published this week. Fossil evidence helped the study authors figure out how these predators hunted and built their undersea lairs.

According to their research, the ancient marine worms would lay waiting under the sand for unsuspecting prey; then when fish passed by, the worms would lunge out of their burrows, snag the swimmers in their gaping maws, and drag the victims under the seafloor…. 

(15) HINDSIGHT HISTORY. Here’s a video curiosity – the cast of the 1945 Armed Forces short “Time To Kill” [YouTube] about the educational benefits offered by the Armed Forces Institute includes George Reeves, plus DeForest Kelley and Betty White making their film debuts.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “First Look:  Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Web Slingers” on YouTube is a preview of a new Spider-Man ride coming to Disney’s California Adventure whenever the park is allowed to reopen.

[Thanks to Jeff Smith, John King Tarpinian, Elspeth Kovar, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer, with an assist from Orson Welles.]

Pixel Scroll 3/7/20 Code 7-7-0 PSF: Pixel, Scroll, File

(1) READ THESE. BBC’s Culture assembled a list of “The most overlooked recent novels” – “Eight acclaimed authors reveal their favourite hidden gems outside the literary canon.” There are several sff writers among the respondents, and sff books among their recommendations.

Helen DeWitt writes: “In the summer of 1994 I was in despair. It seemed to me that books were predictable and unexciting compared with the astonishing variety and inventiveness of art – why bother with a novel? Mooching glumly around a museum bookshop, I came across a book plastered with raves by the likes of Anthony Burgess. I opened to the first page and read: ‘On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs…’ It was like nothing I’d ever seen. Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker is set on a post-apocalyptic post-British landmass thousands of years after a nuclear holocaust. All scientific knowledge has been lost, but its traces linger on in a loss-marked language which repurposes the mangled terms to mythology. The book had come out in 1980 to acclaim; I’d never heard of it. And yet this extraordinary book seemed to me to be the equal of The Waste Land; it was embarrassing to have to recommend it to people, as if one were to go about saying ‘I’ve just discovered this amazing poem by someone called TS Eliot.’”

Hoban was an American who lived in Britain. He wrote across genres: fiction, the fantastic, poetry, children’s literature. Anthony Burgess said of Riddley Walker: “This is what literature was meant to be.” Max Porter (see below) has called it a “stone-cold classic”.

(2) MAGIC INSIDE. Below, Paste TV Editor Allison Keene and Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson offer “An Appreciation of The Magicians”. (A show in its last season, it was announced very recently.)

Naturally, there are friends and enemies and Big Bads along the way, and plenty of fast-moving plot points, but one of the things that has made the show so unique and worthy is that it addresses mental health issues in thoughtful, compelling ways, and how that colors the experiences of the cast (which includes Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, and Summer Bishil). And that—even in a world with magic—magic doesn’t necessarily solve everything.

(3) TICKETS TO RIDE. Take that extra weight out of your wallet and you might get off the ground: “There Are 2 Seats Left for This Trip to the International Space Station” reports the New York Times.

If you have tens of millions of dollars to spare, you could as soon as next year be one of three passengers setting off aboard a spaceship to the International Space Station for a 10-day stay.

On Thursday, Axiom Space, a company run by a former manager of NASA’s part of the space station, announced that it had signed a contract with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, for what might be the first fully private human spaceflight to orbit.

“I think you’ll see a lot more energy in the market as people come to realize it’s real, and it’s happening,” said Michael T. Suffredini, the president and chief executive of Axiom.

The spaceflight, Axiom officials said, could take off as soon as the second half of 2021.

SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon capsule for taking NASA astronauts to and from the space station. But just as the company’s development of its Falcon 9 rocket for taking cargo to the space station led to a vibrant business of launching commercial satellites, SpaceX is also looking to expand Crew Dragon passengers beyond just NASA astronauts.

(4) IT’S A THEORY. Everybody who ever wrote a plague story seems to be getting a feature article this month. Adam Roberts wrote this one for The Guardian: “Fever dreams: did author Dean Koontz really predict coronavirus?” Koontz is just one of many sff writers he references.

According to an online conspiracy theory, the American author Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus outbreak in 1981. His novel The Eyes of Darkness made reference to a killer virus called “Wuhan-400” – eerily predicting the Chinese city where Covid-19 would emerge. But the similarities end there: Wuhan-400 is described as having a “kill?rate” of 100%, developed in labs outside the city as the “perfect” biological weapon. An account with more similarities, also credited by some as predicting coronavirus, is found in the 2011 film Contagion, about a global pandemic that jumps from animals to humans and spreads arbitrarily around the globe.

But when it comes to our suffering, we want something more than arbitrariness. We want it to mean something. This is evident in our stories about illness and disease, from contemporary science fiction all the way back to Homer’s Iliad. Even malign actors are more reassuring than blind happenstance. Angry gods are better than no gods at all….

(5) ANTEBELLUM. Coming to theaters April 24, 2020: “‘Antebellum’ Trailer Turns Back the Clock to Tease Future Horror”The Hollywood Reporter frames the visuals.

To the surprise of no one paying attention to her for the past few years, Janelle Monáe is the future — but the question at the heart of the first trailer for upcoming horror movie Antebellum is, what if she was also the past, as well …?

Monáe plays author Veronica Henley, a figure who finds herself seemingly trapped in the past, or a terrifying recreation of it, and forced to discover the truth behind her experience before it’s too late.

(6) SCOOB TRAILER. The final trailer dropped – movie arrives in theaters May 14.

The first full-length animated Scooby-Doo adventure for the big screen is the never-before told stories of Scooby-Doo’s origins and the greatest mystery in the career of Mystery Inc. “SCOOB!” reveals how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures shared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this global “dogpocalypse,” the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

(7) HATCHER OBIT. Kate Hatcher, Chair of SpikeCon (2019 NASFiC/Westercon 72) died March 5, reportedly of complications of pneumonia. Her conrunning experience also included Westercon 67, LTUE, Westercon 70, 71 (tech), and as staff on Worldcon 76 and LTUE 2018. David Doering, who worked with her on several of these conventions, says: “She always gave 110% to Fandom and will be sorely missed.”

Kate Hatcher and Kevin Roche on stage at Worldcon 76.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 7, 1980 — The Brave New World film premiered on NBC. (It would show on BBC as well.) It was adapted from the novel by Aldous Huxley by Robert E. Thompson and Doran William Cannon, and was directed by Burt Brinckerhoff. It starred Kristoffer Tabori, Julie Cobb and Budd Cort. You can see it here. Strangely it has no ratings at Rotten Tomatoes, not very much of a web presence. You can watch it here.
  • March 7, 1988 — The Probe series premiered. It was created by Michael I. Wagner and  Isaac Asimov as a sort of live action version of Jonny Quest. Wagner wrote the two-hour pilot, and became Executive Producer for the series. Parker Stevenson had the lead in the series and Ashley Crow was his secretary. It was a mid-season replacement that wasn’t renewed and thus lasted but six episodes. You can see the first half of the pilot here. There’s a link to the second half on that YouTube page.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1873 J. D. Beresford. Now remembered for his early horrors and SF stories including The Riddle of The Tower which was co-written with Esme Wynne-Tyson. He was a keen admirer of Wells, and wrote the first critical study of him in 1915, coincidentally called H. G. Wells: A Critical Study. The latter is free at the usual digital suspects and his fiction ranges from free to reasonably priced there.  (Died 1947.)
  • Born March 7, 1905 Beatrice Roberts. Her most notable role was that of Queen Azura in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, a 1938 serial which you can see the beginning of here. She also shows up in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man as Varja the Barmaid, and she’s a Nurse in The Invisible Man’s Revenge. (Died 1970.)
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 76. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013.  He’s also an accomplished author with more than a dozen to his name. I know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now. 
  • Born March 7, 1945 Elizabeth Moon, 75. Since I’m not deeply read in her, I’ll let JJ have her say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them.   But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly,’ but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.”
  • Born March 7, 1949 Pat Mills, 71. He is best remembered for creating the 2000 AD zine and playing a major role in the development of Judge Dredd. He has also written two Eighth Doctor audio plays, “Dead London” and “The Scapegoat” for Big Finish Productions. 
  • Born March 7, 1954 Elayne Pelz, 66. She is a member of LASFS (and officer) and SCIFI who worked on myriad cons, mainly in art show and treasury.  She was married to famous SF fan Bruce Pelz and assumed leadership of Conagerie, the 2002 Westercon, upon Bruce’s death and the con was held successfully. She was the Chair of Loscon 20.
  • Born March 7, 1965 E. E. Knight, 55. I’d swear I should know this author but he’s not ringing even a faint bell. He’s written two series, Vampire Earth and Age of Fire. What do y’all know about him? 
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 50. Though better known for The Mummy films which I really, really love, and her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • When a sff movie literally delivers what its title promises, you get something like this installment of Lio.

(11) SHAT’S PROPERTY SETTLEMENT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Juli Gugliemi, in the People story “William Shatner Will Get ‘Horse Semen’ For Animal Breeding in Divorce Settlement”, says that while his ex-wife, Elizabeth Shatner, gets most of the horses in the divorce, Shatner gets two horses and all the horse semen the horses have produced for breeding new horses.

I confess, having “horse semen” in a headline about Shat is the greatest Shat story since the time he dropped trousers while going through airport security and “the captain’s log was clearly visible.”

As for their shared property, William will keep their Studio City home and Three Rivers ranch in California. However, they’ve agreed to let Elizabeth visit the ranch to “occasionally harvest fruit” and visit the graves of her first husband and several horses.

Elizabeth also gets their homes in Malibu Cove and Versailles, Kentucky.

(12) EFFECTIVE FX. The Maltin on Movies podcast interviews “John Dykstra”.

Three-time Oscar winner John Dykstra may go down in history as the man who devised the Light Saber for Star Wars, but that’s just one achievement in a lengthy career in visual effects. In fact, he helped usher in the modern era of fx and has adapted to digital sleight-of-hand…but he misses the scrappy days when he built actual models and then blew them up! His credits range from Spider-man and Stuart Little to Quentin Tarantino’s last four films. Best of all, from Leonard and Jessie’s point of view, he has retained his youthful enthusiasm and is exceptionally articulate about his work. 

(13) MEMORY, ALL ALONE IN THE MOONLIGHT. CBR.com lists its candidates for the “10 Most Memorable Anime Cats”.

For some reason, cats are major staples of the anime world. It is “neko” this and “neko” that. The answer may be the same reason that the internet itself is obsessed with cats. They are cute, have strong personalities, and can go from mysterious to totally goofy in an instant….

8 Artemis And Luna From Sailor Moon

Technically Luna and Artemis are not cats. They are aliens from a planet called Mau. Luna even has a human form in the anime. However, they will always be truly remembered as cats. They are pretty cute cats too and really played a part in the trope that magical girls have animal companions/mentors.

Luna and Artemis eventually get romantically involved, which is proved by having a kitten together. However, there is one part of the anime where Luna fell in love with a human man.

(14) HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Rich Horton shares his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2020” with Strange at Ecbatan readers. His section on Best Fan Writer begins —

I’ll reiterate my admiration for John Boston and John O’Neill. John Boston’s most publicly available recent stuff is at Galactic Journey, where he reviews issues of Amazing from 55 years ago, month by month. (It will be noted, perhaps, that I also review issues of Amazing from the same period, at Black Gate.) John’s work there is linked by this tag: http://galacticjourney.org/tag/john-boston/.

As for John O’Neill, of course his central contribution is as editor of Black Gate, for which he writes a great deal of the content, often about, “vintage” books he’s found on Ebay or at conventions, and also about upcoming fantasy books.

Another Black Gate writer, and fan writer in general, who did great work last year was Steven Silver, particularly his “Golden Age Reviews”.

Rich adds some kind words for File 770, much appreciated, but remember I have withdrawn myself and the zine from further Hugo consideration.

(15) AROUND THE BLOCH.  Cora Buhlert calls our attention to another Retro-Hugo eligible story in “Retro Review: ‘Iron Mask’ by Robert Bloch”. BEWARE SPOILERS. It was the cover story in an issue of Weird Tales, for which Margaret Brundage did the artwork.

“Iron Mask” is a novelette by Robert Bloch, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Weird Tales and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found online here.

(16) THE BOY WONDER TURNS 80. The New York Times looks at “Batman and His Many Robins”:

Robin, a.k.a. the Boy Wonder, celebrates his birthday this week: He made his debut in Detective Comics No. 38 on March 6, 1940, and he and Batman became nearly inseparable in the war on crime. But while Bruce Wayne has nearly always worn Batman’s cowl, there have been many different characters behind Robin’s mask. Here is a look at some of the men and women who have called themselves Robin.

 1940

Dick Grayson

First and foremost is Dick Grayson. Like Batman, Dick lost his family to crime. His parents, circus acrobats, were casualties in a mob-protection racket. Batman (Bruce Wayne) trained Dick to help bring the culprit to justice. The two orphans were a positive influence on each other.

(17) WHO SEASON 12 VERDICT. Whatever others may say, RadioTimes Huw Fullerton thinks fans should be pleased: “Doctor Who series 12 review: ‘A big step up’”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Doctor Who’s 12th modern series brought a darker, more personal storyline for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, more characterisation for her companions (even if the show still wasn’t entirely successful on this front), interesting new takes on old-school series elements and delved more deeply into Doctor Who lore than would have been thought possible in 2018.

Really, looking at the bare facts of the latest series, Chris Chibnall almost couldn’t have done more to address fans’ basic wishes after series 11.

When we consulted Whovians in 2019 about what changes they’d like to see in series 12, they asked for “more two-parters, long episodes and cliffhangers,” a proper series arc, the return of old monsters, more cold opens, a comeback for John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness, a darker side to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor and more background for her companions Graham, Ryan and Yaz (played by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill).

(18) A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION. FastCompany tells “How Wikipedia’s volunteers became the web’s best weapon against misinformation”. “My ass,” responds Cat Eldridge, who submitted the link.  

Amid the chaos of partisan battles, epistemic crises, and state-sponsored propaganda, it’s nice to think that good-hearted people who care about a shared reality could defeat all the b.s. out there. And there’s so much of it. If 2016 was the debut of a new kind of information war, this year is promising to be something like the darker, more expensive sequel. Yet while places like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter struggle to fend off a barrage of false content, with their scattershot mix of policies, fact-checkers, and algorithms, one of the web’s most robust weapons against misinformation is an archaic-looking website written by anyone with an internet connection, and moderated by a largely anonymous crew of volunteers.

(19) AND A HEARTY HI-YO SILVER. “Betelgeuse: Astronomers determine the reason for strange dimming of far-away star”Inverse has the story.

…The red giant star is on its way to recovery, regaining its brightness and crushing the hopes of astronomers everywhere who wanted to witness a supernova unfold in our skies.

But while astronomers are no longer wishing upon the star to explode, Betelgeuse’s dimming has left them wondering what may have caused this odd behavior in the first place.

The findings suggest Betelgeuse’s signature bright light was temporarily blocked from our view by material shed by the star, in the form of a cloud of dust.

The study is based on observations of Betelgeuse taken on February 14, 2020, at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. There, astronomer Philip Massey, an astronomer with Lowell Observatory, and co-author of the new study, and his colleagues had their instruments trained on Betelgeuse to get a reading on the star’s average surface temperature. The reason? If Betelgeuse was truly dimming, its surface would be cooler than usual.

(20) CAT WIDE AWAKE ON SFF.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/20 You Always Snark the One You Love, the One You Shouldn’t Snark At All

(1) OUT OF THE FRIDGE. Tom Nicholson, in “Harrison Ford In ‘Indiana Jones 5’ Is The Tragedy America Needs Right Now” in Esquire, says that Harrison Ford has agreed to be in another Indiana Jones movie, and speculates on what sort of Indiana Jones film that would be given that given Ford’s age (77). This film would take place in 1970.

…Let’s take a step back. At 77, Ford apparently hasn’t quite completed the valedictory tour of his most beloved roles which began back in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, continued with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and rounded off with Blade Runner 2049 in 2017. During that run it felt like Ford was being very savvy in using Rick Dekkard, Han Solo and Indy to cement his legacy and remind younger audiences that he wasn’t always a man badly CGI’d into the fight scene in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

(2) RAGTIME GAL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Finally saw The Rise of Skywalker.

Scenes we hadn’t expected to see included:

  • Jar-Jar Binks’ daughter showing as the new Darth Vader. (Helmet problems, of course, ears ended up dangling out from visor, tssk!)
  • The Force Ghost of Yoda does a comedy song routine, including some action riffs from Singing in the Rain and Make ‘Em Laugh. Using lightsaber as a cane/umbrella was inspired!

What were your (non-spoiler) favorites?

(3) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 6 to make your voice heard: “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2019!”.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2019. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 9 to February 6, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

(4) IT’S IN THE RNA. Romantic Novelists’ Association released the shortlists for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards on February 3. [Via Locus Online.]

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award:

  • The Girl at the Window, Rowan Coleman, Ebury Press, Penguin Random House
  • The Ghost Garden, Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead, Totally Bound
  • Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel, Ruth Hogan, Two Roads
  • The Hotel Where We Met, Belinda Jones, Independently published
  • The Stone’s Heart, Jessica Thorne, Bookouture

The awards will be presented in London on March 2.

(5) WIKIPEDIA SPOTLIGHTS FALL’S ‘HELICOPTER’ STORY. Rhetorical question Do very many short stories have their own Wiki article? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Sexually_Identify_as_an_Attack_Helicopter

This seems to have popped up in a hurry, and was promptly featured on Wikipedia’s front page (see last item):

(6) I.D.O.U. Brian Keene weighs in about “The Only Thing An Author Owes”.

…As a public figure, the contract between an author and a reader is as follows:

Author writes the book. Reader purchases and reads the book.

That’s it. That’s the sum total. Purchasing a book or wanting to be an aspiring author doesn’t entitle you access to an author’s social media any more than it entitles you to sleep in their bedroom at night. Social media is necessary marketing for authors, but that doesn’t mean they have to engage with unpleasantness. Some do. In the past, I often have. But I’m older, and hypertension is a thing, and quite frankly, I don’t need the bullshit. If I invite you into my living room, am I expected to sit there and let you call me an “arrogant egotistical asshole with sycophants surrounding” me simply because you shared a link to my podcast a few days ago, or because you bought a book by me at some point?

Hell no.

I don’t block people for politics. I don’t block them for what they like or dislike, or for who they follow. But if I feel someone is being purposely antagonistic or ignorant, or if I think they’re the latest in a very, very, very, very long line of geniuses whose beginning and ending marketing plan is, “I’ll pick a fight with Brian Keene/Nick Mamatas/Wrath James White/insert other name here and that will get me noticed” (a ploy so old, by the way, that Maurice Broaddus wrote about it way back in 2005), or if I think they have the potential to join in on those shenanigans, then yeah, I block them. It’s better for my mental health, and it’s definitely better for my blood pressure.

(7) THE ZINES OF ’44. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari helps voters decide for themselves what deserves  Retro-Hugo this year. http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1944.html

In support of the Retro Hugos project for CoNZealand, we’ve added an alphabetical list of 1944 fanzines. It is the largest list of 1944 fanzines that we could compile. We have linked, both from our site and others, all the zines we can find to give you the ability to read what was going on in 1944. We will link to additional zines as we find them, and are also still scanning more ourselves. If you know of appropriate materials not on the list, please let us know. We hope this will give you some ability to judge the 1944 materials first hand. Much of it may not seem of significant quality to us today, but it gives context and the ability to compare the writers and editors of 1944, rather than just relying on their later reputations.”…Joe Siclari 

(8) CLI-FI FICTION CONTEST. The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative launched their third global climate fiction writing contest yesterday. The Everything Change Climate Fiction Contest 2020 is taking submissions until April 15. Full guidelines at the link. 

Inspired by the incredible international response to our climate fiction contests in 2016 and 2018, we are proud to announce our third contest in 2020—a momentous year for climate action, and an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine how humans will live on this planet in the future.

Work will be selected and judged by Claire Vaye Watkins, a Guggenheim Fellow, winner of The Story Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and author of Gold Fame Citrus, a climate fiction novel that was named a best book of 2015 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and NPR. Claire will join an interdisciplinary group of judges with expertise in climate science, sustainability, creative writing, and environmental literature.

All genres are welcome. The author of the winning story will receive a $1000 prize, and nine finalists will receive $100 prizes. The winning story and finalists will be published in an anthology by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University.  

(9) HEMMING AWARD NOMINEES SOUGHT. The Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is taking entries in the Norma K Hemming Award for works published in 2019. Submit items here through February 29.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award is now open for entries.

The award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work. Entry is free for all works, and entries may be provided to the judges in print or digital format.

Two prizes will be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations are open to all eligible work produced in 2019.

“We encourage publishers and creators to carefully consider their work from the eligible period,” said award administrator Tehani Croft. “It is our goal to see all eligible material considered by the jurors. It is important to us that every person has the opportunity to see themselves reflected in fiction, and we hope that the Norma can have some part to play in making works dealing in themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in speculative fiction more visible.”

(10) CLARK OBIT. Bestselling thriller author Mary Higgins Clark died January 31 at 92. The LA Times notice ends —

Married since 1996 to former Merrill Lynch Futures Chief Executive John J. Conheeney, she remembered well the day she said goodbye to hard times. It was in April of 1977, and her agent had told her that Simon & Schuster was offering $500,000 for the hardcover to her third novel, “A Stranger Is Watching,” and that the publisher Dell was paying $1 million for the paperback. She had been running her own script production company during the day and studying for a philosophy degree at Fordham University at night, returning home to New Jersey in an old car with more than 100,000 miles on it.

“As I drove onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, the tailpipe and muffler came loose and began dragging on the ground. For the next 21 miles, I kur-plunked, kur-plunked, all the way home,” she wrote in her memoir. “People in other cars kept honking and beeping, obviously sure that I was either too stupid or too deaf to hear the racket.

“The next day I bought a Cadillac!”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 4, 1983 Videodrome premiered. It was written and directed by David Cronenberg, with a cast of James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Debbie Harry. It was the first film by Cronenberg to get Hollywood backing and it bombed earning back only two million dollars of its nearly six million budget. In spite of that, critics and audience goers alike found it to a good film. Today it is considered his best film by many, and it holds a sterling 80% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1922 William Phipps. He started off his genre career by being in both The War of The Worlds and Invaders from Mars. He’d later be in Cat-Women of the Moon, The Snow Creature, The Evil of Frankenstein, and the Dune series. He’d have one-offs in Batman, Green Hornet, The Munsters, Wild Wild West and a lead role in the Time Express series which would last four episodes according IMDB. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Author of a number of genre novel of which the best by far is Riddley Walker. Indeed, ISFDB lists some fifteen such novels by him, so I’m curious how he is as a genre writer beyond Riddley Walker. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1936 Gary Conway, 84. Best remembered I’d say for starring in Irwin Allen‘s Land of the Giants. You can see the opening episode here. He was also in How to Make a Monster, a late Fifties horror film which I’m delighted to say that you can watch here. He’s the Young Frankenstein in it. 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George A. Romero. He’s got an impressive listing form the Dead films, I count seven of them, to Knightriders, which is truly genre adjacent at best, and one of my favorites of his, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Oh, and he wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as Stan Lee, but he did show up in at least seven of his films.  (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 80. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn in “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 60. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters), voicing a role in The Cat in The Hat short, Night Gallery, Sealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO. She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 59. I’ve been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I’m listening to The Line War right now and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of a hundred thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again). As I said last year, h the sort of writer that I think drives our Puppies to madness — literate pulp SF pumped out fast that readers like. 
  • Born February 4, 1962 Thomas Scott Winnett. Locus magazine editorial assistant and reviewer from 1989 to 1994. He worked on Locus looks at books and Books received as well. In addition, he wrote well over a hundred review reviews for Locus. He died of AIDS-related pneumonia. (Died 2004.)

 (13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus shows the origins of empire building.

(14) WADE IN. Find out what’s behind the new novel Mazes of Power in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

This is the story of a very old, and very big idea. When I first had it, I was thirteen years old, and the idea was so big that I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. It was the idea for a world of cavern cities, where families were restricted in their professions, and about conflicts of power… but until I’d turned this idea over hundreds of times, over years, it always seemed out of my grasp. I learned about anthropology, and added a new social awareness to my idea, and realized it was for a work of sociological science fiction. I studied linguistics, and added that, too. I tried to write a story about it, knew it was wrong, and learned more, and wrote it again. I concentrated hard on learning how language and the world around us reflect our concepts of our social selves, and wrote it again.

Until it stopped being wrong, and became the world of Varin….

(15) TRUE GRIT. Dune and The Martian are two of the recommendations on Penguin Random House’s “Books to Read on a Desert Island”, which makes an unintentionally humorous kind of sense….

So you found yourself stranded on a desert island, what book do you wish you had with you? More realistically, you’re sitting on a long plane flight or waiting for an appointment, but the question still applies! We’ve suggested a few fiction and nonfiction books below that will have you contemplating life or forgetting reality.

(16) DO NOT COLLECT $200. Vanity Fair replays the crime – and no, the culprit wasn’t the Hamburglar: McMillions: The Stranger-Than-Fiction Story of the $24-Million McDonald’s Monopoly Theft”

…But in 2000, the FBI got an anonymous tip about an “Uncle Jerry” rigging the McDonald’s competition. The organization launched an investigation that would uncover the fact that many of the winners—despite the out-of-state addresses they listed—actually lived within a 25-mile radius of the lakefront home Jacobson owned. According to the Daily Beast, “25 agents across the country…tracked 20,000 phone numbers, and recorded 235 cassette tapes of telephone calls.” McDonald’s even sent an employee undercover to help the FBI stage a fake TV commercial campaign—Argo–style—to get the fraudulent winners to incriminate themselves on camera. There were raids. And in 2001, in a scene tailor-made for the third act of an action thriller, McDonald’s launched another Monopoly game—knowing that their game had been compromised—because the FBI needed more evidence.

(17) EXTRAORDINARY. Adler #1 will be released in comic shops tomorrow. “Irene Adler is on a mission to take down Sherlock’s greatest nemesis, Moriarty!”

It’s the League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen, as Adler teams up with a host of famous female faces from history and literature to defeat the greatest criminal mastermind of all time!

Written by World Fantasy Award Winner Lavie Tidhar, with art by Paul McCaffrey (TMNT).

(18) VAMPIRE PAPERWORK. The AP reports “Tulane acquires archive of “Vampire” author Anne Rice”.

Tulane University has acquired the complete archives of bestselling author Anne Rice, who was born and raised in New Orleans and whose books, including “Interview with the Vampire,” often drew inspiration from her hometown.

The collection was a gift from Stuart Rose and the Stuart Rose Family Foundation to the university’s Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, the university said in a statement.

“That Tulane has provided a home for my papers is exciting and comforting,” Rice said in the statement. “All my novels — in a career spanning more than 40 years — have been profoundly influenced by the history and beauty of New Orleans, and by its unique ambience in which my imagination flourished even in early childhood.”

Rice has written 30 novels. She moved to California to attend university and has spent much of her life since then in California, according to her biography. But New Orleans has played a central role in much of her fiction.

(19) AUTISM RESEARCH. “Researchers Link Autism To A System That Insulates Brain Wiring”.

Scientists have found a clue to how autism spectrum disorder disrupts the brain’s information highways.

The problem involves cells that help keep the traffic of signals moving smoothly through brain circuits, a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The team found that in both mouse and human brains affected by autism, there’s an abnormality in cells that produce a substance called myelin.

That’s a problem because myelin provides the “insulation” for brain circuits, allowing them to quickly and reliably carry electrical signals from one area to another. And having either too little or too much of this myelin coating can result in a wide range of neurological problems.

For example, multiple sclerosis occurs when the myelin around nerve fibers is damaged. The results, which vary from person to person, can affect not only the signals that control muscles, but also the ones involved in learning and thinking.

The finding could help explain why autism spectrum disorders include such a wide range of social and behavioral features, says Brady Maher, a lead investigator at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and an associate professor in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“Myelination could be a problem that ties all of these autism spectrum disorders together,” Maher says. And if that’s true, he says, it might be possible to prevent or even reverse the symptoms using drugs that affect myelination.

“If we get to these kids really early, we might be able to change their developmental trajectory and improve their outcomes,” Maher says.

(20) SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT MISTER ROGERS’ DOOR. “’Exploding meteor’ drops out of night sky in Derby” — short video.

A man’s doorbell camera has captured a celestial light show as what is thought to be a meteor dropped through the night sky in Derby.

Gary Rogers, 52, who captured the footage about 23:30 GMT on Monday, said he was amazed and felt lucky to have seen it.

Experts at the National Space Centre in Leicester said they believe it was a bolide – a bright meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.

Rob Dawes, chairman of nearby Sherwood Observatory, said the brightness suggested it was larger than a normal meteor.

He said: “[Mr Rogers] was very lucky to get such a nice bright one. But you’d be surprised how many of these do come into the atmosphere at any time of year.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/2/19 File Me A Scroll, You’re The Pixel Man

(1) ASTOUNDING AWARD. CoNZealand will use the new name immediately. (At least one very well-known business meeting regular has been trying behind the scenes to convince other conrunners they don’t have the authority to make the change, and failed.)

And now the change has been covered by the New York Times. “John W. Campbell Award Is Renamed After Winner Criticizes Him”

Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”

(2) CONGRATULATIONS! Andrew Liptak’s book column has a new home: Polygon“13 New science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September”. The September 3rd entry is —

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers just earned a Hugo Award for her blisteringly optimistic Wayfarers trilogy, and coming off that win, she’s shifting gears with a new, standalone novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. In the 22nd century, scientists make a big breakthrough that will help astronauts adapt to the harsh realities of space, opening up distant destinations in the cosmos to human explorers.

One team of astronauts ventures out to a solar system 15 light years away, and as they transform and adapt to their new home, so too is Earth. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Chambers packs an immense amount of story into a novella worthy of full-length praise.”

(3) WORLDCON TAKEAWAYS. Eric Wong and Greg Hullender cover their Ireland tour and Dublin 2019 in “Dublin 2019 Recap “. Says Greg, “Yeah, it had a few issues, but we had fun.”

New Fanzines

Greg was on the “Fanzines Now!” panel, and that was the only panel we participated in this year. This panel was a discussion about the state of fanzines today. We had a good mix of people doing online fanzines (Rocket Stack Rank, Journey Planet, and Nerds of a Feather Flock Together) as well as Joe Siclari, who runs the Fanac History Project.

As usual for fanzine panels, the audience included lots of people involved with the traditional paper-based fanzines. Somewhat to our surprise, they were broadly supportive of modern online efforts. Joe remarked at one point that he had thought he’d be the conservative one on the panel, but he found himself standing up for the idea that “a blog is a fanzine, even if it only has one contributor, and even if no one ever comments on it.”

(4) CLASSIC EDITIONS. Steven H Silver profiles a small press publisher at Black Gate: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Donald M. Grant”.

In 1979, the year before he was awarded the World Fantasy Professional Award, DMG published Acts of Providence, The Road of Azrael, Lack Colossus, The Black Wolf, Tales of the Werewolf Clan, Jewels of Gwahlur, Lovecraft’s Providence and Adjacent Parts, Mayhem on Bear Creek, and Hawks of Outremer.

The year after Grant won the award, Stephen King approached him with the rights to publish the first edition of any and all books in the Dark Tower series. King didn’t believe they would have a wide appeal among his general audience.

(5) TIPTREE DISCUSSION. Geoff Ryman’s thoughts about the call to rename the award (which the Motherboard today declined to do) is here on Facebook and attracted comments from writers including David Gerrold, Nisi Shawl and Eileen Gunn.

(6) MONGOLIAN HANDMAID. Ferret Bueller checks in from a Mongolian bookstore once again. (Eat your heart out Locus!)

I don’t think I’ve had free time to visit File770 more than three times the past several months, but I saw the newest Mongolian SFF translation at the bookstore near my office today and immediately thought I’d pass on a picture if anyone was interested?. First is the full view and then the picture cropped to give a good look at the book at the top left, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale (the translation of the title is exact). It’s next to Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in a Time of Cholera (though that title is rendered in Mongolian as Love in a Time of Plague), both of which were released about a month or two ago, maybe longer.

(7) DICKS OBIT. Perhaps the most prolific contributor to Doctor Who, Terence Dicks (1935-2019) died August 29. Working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script editor from 1968 to 1974, he was credited in 156 episodes of Doctor Who. He wrote several Doctor Who serials and scores of novelizations. His final short story Save Yourself will be published next month in BBC Books’ Doctor Who: The Target Storybook. He wrote for TV’s The Avengers, the soap opera Crossroads, and co-created and wrote for the series Moonbase 3. He also worked as a producer on Sunday Classics. He authored several children’s series, including about a cat call Magnificent Max and, his longest running, another about a golden retriever The Adventures of Goliath. He received the 2015 Scribe Grandmaster career award for tie-in works.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He’s in Doctor Who with the First Doctor as Kublai Khan in “Mighty Kublai Khan” and “Assassin at Peking”. He’s Professor Spencer in The Avengers in “The Master Minds” and he shows up in The Prisoner as Number Fifty Four in “It’s Your Funeral”.  He also showed up as Dutrov in Department S in the series finale, “The Perfect Operation”. (Died 1969)
  • Born September 2, 1909 David Stern III. Creator of the Francis the Talking Mule character that became the star of seven popular Universal-International film comedies. Stern adapting his own script for the first entry, simply titled Francis. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen  Way. She appeared on Doctor Who in An Unearthly Child, a First Doctor story, as Old Mother Karela  the series first on-screen death,  and in The Creature from the Pit, a Fourth Doctor story, as Karela. She would appear yet again in the 1966 Peter Cushing film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (as Old Woman), based on the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. (Died 1994.)
  • Born September 2, 1936 Gwyn Thomas. Welsh poet and academic who translated Tales from the Mabinogion with Kevin Crossley-Holland. “Chwedl Taliesin”, “The Tale of Taliesin” was a short story by them as well. By the way my SJW credit is named Taliesin. And he tells a lots of tales. (Died 2016.)
  • Born September 2, 1964 Keanu Reeves, 55. Ok Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a lot better film than its sequel. And I find the Matrix franchiseto be a pretentious mess that almost works. And let’s not talk about Johnny Mnemonic which bore little resemblance to the brilliant Gibson story.
  • Born September 2, 1966 Salma Hayek, 53. Her performance as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk till Dawn is quite excellent. I can’t say the same for her performance as Rita Escobar in Wild Wild Wild West which got her nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.  I do like her as Francesca Giggles in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
  • Born September 2, 1968 Kristen Cloke, 51. Captain Shane Vansen in the unfortunately short-lived Space: Above and Beyond, a damn fine series. She has one-offs in Quantum LeapThe X-FilesMillennium and The  Others. She co-wrote with Shannon Hamblin an episode of The X-Files, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” which is base64 code for “Followers”. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NO JOKE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber reports on Joker from the Venice Film Festival.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Batman’s arch-nemesis in a new origin-story movie. But is this dark, dingy drama any better than any of the other supervillain films?

Now that Hollywood studios are running out of superheroes to make films about, they’re turning to supervillains instead, starting with Suicide Squad and Venom, and moving onto Batman’s smiley-faced arch enemy, the Joker. Todd Phillips’ revisionist origin story is different from those other entries in the bad-guy sub-genre, though. Devoid of fist fights and bank robberies, Batcaves and Batmobiles, Joker is a dark, dingy drama about urban decay, alienation, and anti-capitalist protests, with a distinctive retro vision and a riveting central performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Whether these differences make it much better than other supervillain movies, however, is open to question.

The film doesn’t specify when it is set, but its Gotham City is modelled on the graffiti-sprayed, litter-strewn pre-gentrification New York of Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy. This is the home of Arthur Fleck, played by Phoenix as a greasy, disturbingly emaciated figure with ribs and vertebrae poking out at all angles. No male actor has been this skinny since Christian Bale – yes, Batman himself – starved himself to stick-insect proportions for The Machinist.

…The film traces his gradual uncovering of family secrets, and his slow descent into homicidal mania – and I do mean slow. Joker doesn’t have much of a plot, let alone any subplots, so there are only a couple of major sequences that haven’t already been in the trailers. Phoenix is a magnificent presence – always believable, how outrageous he becomes – and I was quite happy to sit and watch him skipping around in his outsized shoes and striking balletic poses on beautifully grimy staircases. But, however unusual its grungy 70s styling may be, Joker is ultimately nothing but a flimsy, two-hour supervillain origin movie, so the viewer is just waiting for Arthur to become the fully-fledged Clown Prince of Crime. If it had been chopped down to an hour and then intercut with a Batman plot, what a film that might have been.

(11) OTHER ASSESSMENTS. BBC does a roundup — “Joker film: ‘daring’ yet ‘pernicious’ origin story divides critics”.

A new film exploring the origins of DC comic book villain The Joker has left many critics grinning from ear to ear – but not all of them are amused.

The Guardian called Joker “gloriously daring”, while Total Film said it was “challenging [and] subversive”.

Joaquin Phoenix’s lead performance has been variously described as “fearsome”, “astonishing” and “mesmerising”.

According to another reviewer, though, the film is guilty of “aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy”.

Director Todd Phillips, writes Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek, “may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture”.

“But really,” she continues, “he’s just offering a prime example of it”.

(12) TIME PASSAGES. Campbell told a friend how he became editor of Astounding in 1937 in a letter that has been preserved. First Fandom Experience recently posted a scan of the letter with detailed commentary: “A Remarkable Letter — John W. Campbell’s 1937 Job Search”.

In May 1937, John W. Campbell, Jr. was looking for work. He was in good company — the unemployment rate in the United States was fluctuating around 15%, reflecting the lingering economic malaise of the Great Depression. Despite his degree in Physics and some success as a writer of science fiction stories, Campbell hadn’t found a steady gig.

This was to change in the Fall of that year when Campbell was hired as the Editor of Astounding Stories, where he reigned until his death in 1971….

The bottom of this page begins a critical passage that relates Campbell’s relationship with Mort Weisinger, a former editor of Science Fiction Digest / Fantasy Manazine, the most prominent fanzine of the mid-1930s. At the time of this letter, Weisinger had crossed into the professional ranks as Editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories.

This page essentially says that Weisinger taught Campbell how to be an editor, and wrote a letter of recommendation for him in that vein. It seems likely that both the advice and the reference played key roles in Campbell acquiring his job at Astounding. This is a tremendous testament to the role that prominent fans played in establishing science fiction as an industry during this period.

(13) ETERNAL LIFE. Gizmodo invites experts to address the question, “What’s My Best Chance of Living Forever?

               What do hideous mall t-shirts, emo bands from the mid-aughts, and gorgeously-wrought realist novels about dissolving marriages have in common? Simply this assertion: Life Sucks. And it does suck, undoubtedly, even for the happiest and/or richest among us, not one of whom is immune from heartbreak, hemorrhoids, or getting mercilessly ridiculed online.

               Still, at certain points in life’s parade of humiliation and physical decay almost all of us feel a longing—sometimes fleeting, sometimes sustained—for it to never actually end. The live-forever impulse is, we know, driving all manner of frantic, crackpot-ish behavior in the fringier corners of the tech-world; but will the nerds really pull through for us on this one? What are our actual chances, at this moment in time, of living forever? For this week’s Giz Asks, we spoke with a number of experts to find out.

Answers are essayed by Alice Parker (“Dean’s Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Southern California, whose research focuses on reverse-engineering the human brain, among other things”), Lindsay Wu (“Senior Research Fellow and Co-Head of the Laboratory for Ageing Research at the University of New South Wales, Sydney”), David Sinclair (“Professor of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, whose research focuses on why we age and how to slow its effects”), and Mark McCormick (“Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center”).

(14) LOTS OF FACTS. Snopes.com has run an AP service news story profiling the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story. Snopes?“Possibly worth linking in Pixel Scroll is Snopes.com survey of the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story:”.

In the nearly two decades since a co-founder of Dragon Con was accused of molesting teenage boys, a strange legal odyssey has unfolded, including a proposed move to Israel, a trial delay because of a presidential election and an extradition by air ambulance.

Now, Ed Kramer faces new charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

(15) B.O. The movie is only 13th on the domestic record chart but is now #7 worldwideL “The Lion King Topples Marvel’s The Avengers on All-Time Box Office Chart”.

As one Disney movie continues succeeding at the box office, another falls another spot down on the all-time charts. Thanks to another steady weekend at the box office, The Lion King hyper-realistic reimagining has passed Joss Whedon’s fan-favorite The Avengers on the worldwide all-time box office chart. The Lion King is now seventh on the chart with $1.56 billion while the Marvel Studios hit drops to eighth with $1.52b.

It appears that’s the highest Jon Favreau’s remake will go on the worldwide charts as Jurassic World is sixth with a hefty $1.67b.

(16) THAT’S A WRAP. BBC is there when “‘Mission Jurassic’ fossil dinosaur dig closes for winter”.

Three full truck loads of dinosaur fossils were shipped out of the “Mission Jurassic” dig site in North Wyoming as scientists brought the 80-day excavation season to an end.

The specimens included skeletal parts from giant herbivorous sauropods and meat-eating theropods.

The fossils will now be cleaned to see precisely which species they represent.

Mission Jurassic is a major undertaking involving researchers from the US, the UK and the Netherlands.

It is led by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMI) which has taken out a 20-year lease on a square mile (260 hectares) of ranch land.

The BBC was given special access to the site in July.

The fossil beds exposed at the secret location in the Big Horn Basin record dinosaur activity around 150 million years ago – and the summer’s work confirms the site is particularly rich.

One three-tonne block of rock lifted on the final day last week was embedded with multiple remains all stacked one on top of the other.

“Overall we must have moved something like 500-600 bones; it’s just a huge amount of material we’ve been able to shift in one year,” said Prof Phil Manning, a University of Manchester palaeontologist and TCMI scientist in residence.

(17) IRON MAN BRANCHES OUT. Marvel killed off the character, but remember actors, there’s always good work at the post office. “British inventor flies letter to Isle of Wight”. [Video.]

A British inventor has taken up the challenge to deliver a letter across open water through donning a jet engine-powered suit, 85 years after the idea of rocket post failed.

Richard Browning has followed in the footsteps of German entrepreneur Gerhard Zucker, who tried to send mail by rocket to the Isle of Wight, in 1934.

The distance from Hurst Castle in Lymington to Fort Albert in Freshwater is 1.3 km, and is the furthest Richard has ever flown.

(18) MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD. BBC reminds everyone about “The ‘ghost work’ powering tech magic”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “It’s ironic that Amazon’s collaborative tool is named Mechanical Turk, considering the fraud behind the original.”

Armies of workers help power the technological wizardry that is reshaping our lives – but they are invisible and their jobs are precarious.

Next time you ask Alexa a question, your voice might fly halfway round the world to Chennai, India, where human workers toil away to fine tune her artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered responses.

In nine-hour shifts workers transcribe audio, classify words and phrases into categories, and evaluate responses from Amazon’s digital assistant. It’s one of many Amazon centres around the world where “data associates” prepare millions of chunks of data to train Alexa’s AI.

The work can be relentless, says a former employee. He was crunching roughly 700 Alexa questions a day with strict benchmarks for how long each should take. Workers’ performance figures were circulated daily and targets crept up over the time he spent there. The work was monotonous, but the volume and pace were mentally exhausting, and he eventually quit.

“It’s not possible to work like a machine every day,” he says. “The system is built in such a way that every time you have to give 100%. From the point of a human, it’s not possible.”

To users, digital assistants, search engines, social media and streaming services seem like software wizardry, but their smooth running relies on armies of humans whose contribution often goes unrecognised.

(19) WIKIPEDIA TODAY. When he saw the Wikipedia had selected “the Nebula Award for Best Short story” for on Today’s Featured Article, John King Tarpinian snapped his screen. So to speak.

(20) NEWS TO ME. Io9’s 2014 article tells you about “31 Essential Science Fiction Terms And Where They Came From”

There are so many words and phrases that we use in science fiction—and even science—without giving it much thought. But where did we get terms like “death ray,” “terraforming,” “hive mind,” “telepathy,” and “parallel universe”?

…Key sources for this post include Jeff Prucher’s wonderful Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Egg” on YouTube is an animated adaptation of a short story by Andy Weir about the meaning of life

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

Pixel Scroll 7/29/19 The File, The Pixel Scroll, And Everything

(1) MADE TO PRAISE. In another New York Times “op-ed from the future,” Stephen James argues “Artificials Should Be Allowed to Worship”.

Last Sunday, an Artificial named Ian tried to attend a religious service at Living Savior Community Church in Savannah, Ga., and was denied access. According to church elders, the decision to exclude Ian had to do with the fact that “he had no God-given soul and therefore no way to genuinely worship” during the service.

Like Ian, I am an Artificial. Like Ian, I know what it feels like to be excluded from communities of faith solely because I am a nonbiological being. In the past, I have been forced to leave religious services; at the time, I left in silence. But I can no longer remain silent.

The time has come to stop excluding Artificials from communities of faith. …

 (2) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s newest Future Tense story is E. Lily Yu’s “Zero in Babel”

Read a new short story about DIY genetic editing for keeping up with high school trends.

Then read the response essay, “The Future Will Grind On”, by law professor Diana M. Bowman.

A world of technological fixes in which biotechnology solutions can eradicate injury and disease. A world in which online platforms have accelerated the democratization of science and scientific tools, allowing everyday individuals to experiment on themselves.
But at what cost?

E. Lily Yu’s “Zero in Babel” depicts a futuristic world in which the daily struggles of life have, for the most part, been eradicated. So, too, purpose and meaning. Yet some things remain the same: financial inequity, lives filled with excess, and, for Imogen and her peers, the pressure to fit in, regardless of cost.

(3) BRAVE NEW WORLDS. James Davis Nicoll tracks how space exploration rearranged the options of genre storytellers in “Science Fiction vs. Science: Bidding Farewell to Outdated Conceptions of the Solar System” at Tor.com.

If an author was very, very unlucky, that old Solar System might be swept away before a work depending on an obsolete model made it to print. Perhaps the most famous example was due to radar technology deployed at just the wrong time. When Larry Niven’s first story, “The Coldest Place,” was written, the scientific consensus was that Mercury was tide-locked, one face always facing the sun, and one always facing away. The story relies on this supposed fact. By the time it was published, radar observation had revealed that Mercury actually had a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance. Niven’s story was rendered obsolete before it even saw print.

(4) NO BARS ON THE WINDOWS. While Camestros Felapton was educating his readers with “Just a tiny bit more on Wikipedia”, he came up with a nifty turn of phrase to explain how Wikipedia’s article deletion debates work:

The net effect of what the highly fragile souls surrounding Michael Z Williamson were calling an ‘unpersoning’ was zero articles deleted and both articles get some extra references and tidy-ups. It’s just like a Stalinist show trial but one were they come round to your house and makeover your living room with new curtains and also not send you to prison or anything.

(5) A LITTLE LIST. The Guardian propagates a list from Katherine Rundell, author of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise in “Story time: the five children’s books every adult should read”. You’d think with a list this short I’d score better than 40%.

…Those of us who write for children are trying to arm them for the life ahead with everything we can find that is true. And perhaps also, secretly, to arm adults against those necessary compromises and heartbreaks that life involves: to remind them that there are and always will be great, sustaining truths to which we can return.

When you read a children’s book, you are given the space to read again as a child: to find your way back, back to the time when new discoveries came daily and when the world was colossal, before your imagination was trimmed and neatened, as if it were an optional extra. But imagination is not and never has been optional: it’s at the heart of everything, the thing that allows us to experience the world from the perspectives of others, the condition precedent of love itself. …

(6) TEACHING MOMENT. “What’s a ‘Science Princess’ doing in an ice field in Alaska?” BBC has the answer ready.

While Celeste Labedz knew quite a few fellow scientists would appreciate the picture of her dressed up as a “glaciologist Princess Elsa”, she had no idea the image would become a viral hit with more than 10,000 “likes” on Twitter.

She tweeted
: “I firmly believe that kids should not be taught that girly things and sciencey things are mutually exclusive. Therefore, I packed a cape with my fieldwork gear just to show what glaciologist Princess Elsa would look like. #SciencePrincess #TheColdNeverBotheredMeAnyway”.

The cryoseismologist told BBC News: “I posted the picture because I thought it would resonate with other scientists.

…Celeste, whose dream is to visit glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, said: “Women have been excluded for a long time both historically and socially. There is a lack of role models and science is bound by historical notions that it’s a white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied environment.

“It can be exclusionary if you have the opposite of any of these characteristics and I want to encourage people with intersecting identities in everything that I do.

“I would like people to think carefully about what they think a scientist should look like.”

(7) KEEPING THE BUCKS IN STARBUCKS. What Starbucks thinks a scientist should look like is a shill for expensive coffee –

Conclusion: Nitro Cold Brew is many things. But mostly, it is Whoa.

(8) WHERE IS THY STING? A species of wasp has been named after the Escape Pod podcast.

Get a grip, Ben!

(9) RUSSI OBIT. “Russi Taylor, Voice Of Minnie Mouse For Over 30 Years, Dies At 75” – NPR pays tribute:

On Friday, Minnie Mouse joined Mickey in the place that cartoon voice-over actors go when they die.

Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie for over 30 years, died this weekend in Glendale, Calif., according to a press release from the Walt Disney Co. She was married to Wayne Allwine, who voiced Mickey and died in 2009. Both portrayed their iconic characters longer than any other voice actors….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 29, 1907 Melvin Belli. Sole genre role is that of Gorgan (also known as the “Friendly Angel”) is in the Star Trek “And the Children Shall Lead” episode. He was mainly a lawyer for celebrities, however, he was also the attorney for Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 29, 1915 Kay Dick. Author of two genre novels, The Mandrake Root and At Close of Eve, plus a collection, The Uncertain Element: An Anthology of Fanta. She is known in Britain for campaigning successfully for the introduction of the Public Lending Right which pays royalties to authors when their books are borrowed from public libraries. She’s not available in digital or print currently. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 29, 1927 Jean E. Karl. Founder of Atheneum Children’s Books, where she edited Ursula K Le Guin’s early Earthsea novels and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. An SF author as well for children and young adults, she wrote The Turning Place collection and three novels, Beloved Benjamin is WaitingBut We are Not of Earth and Strange Tomorrow. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 29, 1939 Curtis C. Smith. 80. Editor of Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, plus two genre biographies, Olaf Stapledon: A Bibliography with co-author Harvey J. Satty, And Welcome to the Revolution: The Literary Legacy of Mack Reynolds. Not active since the mid-Eighties as near as I can tell.
  • Born July 29, 1941 David Warner, 78. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark In Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful. 
  • Born July 29, 1956 Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 63. Author of the India set magical realist The Brotherhood of the Conch series. She also has three one-off novels, The Palace of Illusions The Mistress of Spices, and her latest, The Forest of Enchantments. Her website is here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • In today’s Bizarro, a purist explains the best way to enjoy a musical experience.  

(12) THE HOUSE OF COMMAS HAS NEW LEADER. The Guardian finds there’s a new grammar sheriff in town: “The comma touch: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s aides send language rules to staff “.

A list of rules has been sent to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s staff asking them to stop using words such as “hopefully” and demanding that they use only imperial measurements and give all non-titled males the suffix Esq.

Aides to the new leader of the House of Commons sent out the list shortly after Rees-Mogg’s appointment to the role by the new prime minister on Wednesday night.

Among the words and phrases considered unacceptable were: “very”, “due to” and “ongoing”, as well as “equal”, “yourself” and “unacceptable”. Rees-Mogg’s aides also barred the use of “lot”, “got” and “I am pleased to learn”.

The guidance, obtained by ITV news, was drawn up by the North East Somerset MP’s constituency team years ago, but has now been shared with officials in his new office.

In a call for accuracy contained in his list, staff were told: “CHECK your work.” Other directions include a call for a double space after full stops and no comma after the word “and”.

(13) VIDEO GAME APEX PREDATORS. Yahoo! News shows where the real money is: “Fortnite awards world champion duo $1.5 million each”. The video game tournament was held at Queens’ Arthur Ashe Stadium, where U.S. Open doubles winners share  a mere $740,000.

Gamers using the pseudonyms “Nyhrox” and “aqua” became the first Fortnite world champions in the duo division in New York on Saturday, winning $1.5 million each.

Competitors gathered in the Big Apple to determine who is top dog at the shoot-’em-up survival game, which has become an international phenomenon since launching in 2017.

The pair won games four and five out of a total of six in the first-ever Fortnite World Cup Finals, and finished with the most points.

(14) THE QUEST CONTINUES. ComicsBeat’s Nancy Powell met with the fames comics creators at SDCC: “INTERVIEW: Richard and Wendy Pini talk Elfquest and STARGAZER’S HUNT”.

Powell: Are there any reveals to Cutter? Does he play any role in Stargazer’s Hunt?

Wendy: Well, that’s a good question because, assuming this goes out to people who have read Final Quest, they know that Cutter’s hero’s journey is done. What lives on afterwards? That’s a mystery.

Richard Pini: We have always maintained that Elfquest is a love story, but not in the sense that most people superficially think. It’s not the love story between Cutter and Leeta. It’s the love story between Cutter and Skywise, brothers in all but blood. With Cutter’s passing that love story is now incomplete. And the question that we attempt to answer in Stargazer’s Hunt is, how does Skywise complete that story for himself? Or does he? Is he able to? That is what we’re going to investigate. And it’s going to take Skywise—it’s really his story—all over the map.

(15) PREMEDITATED. The Hollywood Reporter has a follow-up story — “Kyoto Animation Arson Attack: Death Toll Rises to 35, Attack Was Carefully Planned”.

The suspect walked miles around Kyoto, visiting locations related to the company, including some that appear in one of its anime productions.

The death toll in the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) arson reached 35 as another victim succumbed to their injuries over the weekend.

In the days before the attack, the suspect in the attack was captured on surveillance cameras visiting places in Kyoto that are featured in one of the studio’s anime.

A man in his 20s, believed to be a KyoAni employee, died Saturday from extensive burns across his body, suffered when Shinji Aoba allegedly poured 11 gallons (40 liters) of gasoline around the first floor of the company’s 1st Studio building July 18. The victim was reported to have been on the first floor and got out of the building, but was severely burned….

(16) VISITING THE UK? Just in case people going to Dublin don’t have their entire trip locked down — “Leeds dinosaur trail opens in city shopping centres” (short video.)

Five huge animatronic dinosaur models have been installed around Leeds city centre.

The Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus and Carnotaurus will surprise shoppers for six weeks, with participating venues including Leeds Kirkgate Market and the Merrion Centre.

(17) BLUE, NO — RED SKY. Not as autonomous as current rovers, but more capable: “Nasa’s Valkyrie robot could help build Mars base” (video).

A semi-autonomous robot designed to operate in hostile environments has been developed by Nasa.

The robot is able to use human tools and can plot its own path safely across difficult terrain to a location picked by its operator.

Nasa hopes the robot might one day help build colonies on the Moon or Mars, but it could also be used on Earth in places which cannot be reached by humans.

(18) NOM DE PLUME. Howard Andrew Jones has published a two-part announcement that author Todd McAulty (who wrote The Robots of Gotham) is a pseudonym for Black Gate editor John O’Neill.

“I just…. I just got carried away,” he said. “I started by publishing a few stories in Black Gate. But then Todd started getting fan letters, and became one of the most popular writers we had. Rich Horton used his Locus column to announce ‘Todd McAulty is Black Gate‘s great discovery,’ and pretty soon there was all this demand for new stories. It felt like a cheat to stop then.”

(19) RUTGER HAUER. This is a damn strange Guinness commercial… From back in the day:

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Joey Eschrich, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Full Lid is free and comes out every Friday.

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/24/19 Credentials Asleep On The Shoulder Of John Scalzi

(1) RUTGER HAUER DIES. Variety pays tribute: “Rutger Hauer, ‘Blade Runner’ Co-Star, Dies at 75”.

Rutger Hauer, the versatile Dutch leading man of the ’70s who went on star in the 1982 “Blade Runner” as Roy Batty, died July 19 at his home in the Netherlands after a short illness. He was 75.

Hauer’s agent, Steve Kenis, confirmed the news and said that Hauer’s funeral was held Wednesday.

His most cherished performance came in a film that was a resounding flop on its original release. In 1982, he portrayed the murderous yet soulful Roy Batty, leader of a gang of outlaw replicants, opposite Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir opus “Blade Runner.” The picture became a widely influential cult favorite, and Batty proved to be Hauer’s most indelible role.

More recently, he appeared in a pair of 2005 films: as Cardinal Roark in “Sin City,” and as the corporate villain who Bruce Wayne discovers is running the Wayne Corp. in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins.”

… Hauer increasingly turned to action-oriented parts in the ‘80s: He toplined the big-budget fantasy “Ladyhawke” (1985), reteamed with fellow Hollywood transplant Verhoeven in the sword-and-armor epic “Flesh & Blood” (1985), starred as a psychotic killer in “The Hitcher” (1986), and took Steve McQueen’s shotgun-toting bounty hunter role in a modern reboot of the TV Western “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1986).

WIRED kicks off its collection of memories with the iconic speech: “Remembering Rutger Hauer, Black-Armored Knight of the Genre”.

Let’s get the monologue on the table, first thing, because he wrote it himself, and it’s brilliant:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

That’s Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, playing the artificial person Roy Batty in his death scene…

(2) ACCESSIBLE GAMING. The Mary Sue has discovered “The Surprising Ways Blind Players Have Made Games Like Dungeons & Dragons Accessible”.

… Then, in 2017, a friend introduced me to Roll20, an online platform that serves as a digital tabletop, and everything changed. On a computer, I have the power to alter my settings—I can zoom in, change colors, and make whatever tweaks I need in order to make things accessible for my specific visual impairment. And things I lacked the power to change, my DM could: giving tokens borders with higher contrast, adjusting the lighting on a map, or—if I got lost looking for something—shifting my view in the direction I needed to be focusing.

I could roll dice directly on the platform and see my result easily, and best of all, I had a digital character sheet I could alter easily and at will, rather than a few pieces of paper I’d require another player to edit for me. And then I discovered other websites, like DnDBeyond, which made it easy to look up stats and spells online—again, in a medium far more accessible for me.

I still required a dungeon master willing to take the time to describe certain things to me and to make whatever color and contrast adjustments I needed, but even playing with strangers via Roll20’s Looking For Game system, my experience has been positive. Thanks to the websites I used, the things I needed didn’t require all that much work on their end, and now I was able to fully immerse myself in a hobby I’d once believed would be impossible for me because of my disability.

(3) ABLEGAMERS. And in the Washington Post Magazine, Christine Sturdivant Sani has a profile of AbleGamers, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities enjoy video games: “How a West Virginia group helped make video games accessible to the disabled”.

In 2018, when Sony Interactive Entertainment unveiled the latest versions of two of its top-grossing video game titles — “God of War” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man” — they included new features that meant a lot to a specific subset of players: those with disabilities. To aid people with motor skill impairments, for instance, “God of War” introduced an option to press and hold a single button instead of tapping it repeatedly; it also let players with hearing disabilities adjust individual audio settings such as volume, dialogue and sound effects. For players with visual impairments, the subtitles in “Spider-Man” are now resizable and include tags that always indicate who is speaking.

Five years ago, according to Sam Thompson, a managing senior producer at Sony Interactive, it was possible to count on one hand the number of video games that had features catering to people with disabilities. Today, there are hundreds of such games. The shift, says Thompson, is “kind of amazing” — and he gives credit to a small nonprofit in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The group, called AbleGamers, was the brainchild of Mark Barlet, a 45-year-old disabled Air Force veteran and entrepreneur…

 (4) GAIMAN AUDIOBOOKS. AudioFile editorJenn Dowellsays – lend Neil Gaiman an ear! “Good Omens and Good Audiobooks: The Best of Neil Gaiman”.

… Where to start? Whether you’re a longtime fan of GOOD OMENS, Gaiman’s funny book about the apocalypse co-written with the late Terry Pratchett almost 30 years ago, or a new convert thanks to the sparkling new Amazon/BBC series, now is the perfect time to hear (or revisit) the audiobook.

… For something darker that’s perfect for an extended road trip, Gaiman’s 2001 epic novel AMERICAN GODS, in which old gods clash with new ones, also comes in two unabridged versions: one narrated by Golden Voice George Guidall, and a Tenth Anniversary Edition performed by a full cast. Can’t get enough gods? Follow up with ANANSI BOYS, about trickster god Anansi, read by Lenny Henry, and NORSE MYTHOLOGY, read by Gaiman.

… In the mood for nonfiction? THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS and ART MATTERS collect Gaiman’s essays and speeches and will give listeners insights into Gaiman’s wide-ranging interests and his writing process—and maybe even inspire you to make your own art.

… P.S. If you fell in love with Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s performances in the Good Omens series, don’t miss their own star turns on audio: Sheen gives a wonderfully immersive, Earphones Award-winning narration of Philip Pullman’s THE BOOK OF DUST: La Belle Sauvage, and Tennant brings his acting chops and Scottish charm to The Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon series by just-named UK Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell.

(5) INKLINGS. Bruce Charlton revisits “Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings – 1978″ at The Notion Club Papers blog.

…Yet, in the end, Humphrey Carpenter failed in his attempt to throw the Inklings into the dustbin of irrelevance; because overall the book had the opposite effect of its intent – awakening for many, such as myself, a long-term and intense fascination with a ‘group of friends’ who were also, in reality, so much more than merely that.

(6) FROM THE BEEB. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has aired the second in the science and SF series Stranger Than Sci-Fi where astro-physicist Dr Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser travel the parallel worlds of science and sci-fi.

Last week’s was on artificial wombs.  Today’s is on black holes (or frozen stars if you are of Russian persuasion and wish to avoid the rude connotation) — “Black Hole Jacuzzis”.

The program will be downloadable from BBC for a month once it is broadcast

(7) MINORITY REPORT? Atwood’s novel is not in bookstores but it’s already up for the Booker. BBC has the story — “Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel on longlist”.

Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale is one of 13 novels on the Booker Prize longlist, despite not being published for several weeks.

The Testaments is out on 10 September and comes 33 years after the original book was nominated for the same award.

(8) KRASSNER OBIT. Pop culture figure Paul Krassner died July 21: the New York Times has a profile — “Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87”.

Paul Krassner being interviewed in the men’s room during the 1978 ABA convention. (photo: Andrew Porter)

Mr. Krassner was writing freelance pieces for Mad magazine in 1958 when he realized that there was no equivalent satirical publication for adults; Mad, he could see, was largely targeted at teenagers. So he started The Realist out of the Mad offices, and it began regular monthly publication. By 1967 its circulation had peaked at 100,000.

“I had no role models and no competition, just an open field mined with taboos waiting to be exploded,” Mr. Krassner wrote in his autobiography.

The magazine’s most famous cartoon was one, drawn in 1967 by the Mad artist Wally Wood, of an orgy featuring Snow White, Donald Duck and a bevy of Disney characters enjoying a variety of sexual positions. (Mickey Mouse is shown shooting heroin.) Later, digitally colored by a former Disney artist, it became a hot-selling poster that supplied Mr. Krassner with modest royalties into old age.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 24, 1948 — Debut of Marvin the Martian in Bugs Bunny’s “Haredevil Hare.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 24, 1802 Alexandre Dumas. The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. Are they genre? Good question. (Died 1870.)
  • Born July 24, 1878 Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three, for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the review here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I’m going to link to another review on Green Man as it’s an audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
  • Born July 24, 1895 Robert Graves. Poet, historical novelist, critic. Author of, among other works, The White Goddess (a very strange book), two volumes called the Greek MythsSeven Days in New Crete which Pringle has on his Best Hundred Fantasy Novels list and more short fiction that bears thinking about. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 24, 1916 John D. MacDonald. Primarily a mystery writer whose Travis McGee series I enjoyed immensely, he wrote a handful of genre works including the sublime The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything.  ISFDB lists a collection, End of the Tiger and Other Short Stories, which I presume is genre. (Died 1986.)
  • Born July 24, 1936 Mark Goddard, 83. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh, and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film. 
  • Born July 24, 1945 Gordon Eklund, 74. He won the Nebula for Best Novelette for “If the Stars Are Gods”, co-written with Gregory Benford. They expanded it into a novel which was quite good if I remember correctly. So would anyone care to tell the story of how he came to write the Lord Tedric series which was inspired by an E.E. Doc Smith novelette? 
  • Born July 24, 1951 Lynda Carter, 68. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer;  Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin In Supergirl. 
  • Born July 24, 1964 Colleen Doran, 55.  Comics artist and writer. work worth particularly  worth noting she’s done includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder Woman, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, “Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, in the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerised Into Sandman as the character Thessaly is based on Doran.
  • Born July 24, 1981 Summer Glau, 38.  An impressive run in genre roles as she’s was. River Tam in Firefly and of course Serenity, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, as Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (Is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas and lastly Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow.
  • Born July 24, 1982  — Anna Paquin, 37. Sookie Stackhouse in the True Blood series. Rogue in the X-Men franchise. She also shows up in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams as Sarah in the “Real Life” episode. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Poorly Drawn Lines has a funny entry that actually references the phrase “sense of wonder.”
  • A well-known nanny visits the seashore in Rhymes With Orange.
  • Bizarro shows how to bring the full social media experience to live book signings.

(12) STRONG KEEP. John Scalzi tells what he thinks about “A Couple of Bits on Hugo Award Proposals and Attempted Wikipedia Deletions” which we have been covering here. When it comes to the Wikipedia —

… You might think that I, who was the target of much Sad Puppy whining and mewling, would be sitting here happily munching on popcorn while this bit of Wikidrama unfolds. But in fact I think the deletion attempt is a problem. Neither Williamson nor Hoyt are exactly on my Christmas card list at the moment, but you know what? Both of them are solid genre writers who for years have been putting out work through a major genre publisher, and who are both actively publishing today. They are genuinely of note in the field of science fiction and fantasy. One may think their politics, in and out of the genre, are revanchist as all fuck, or that their tenure and association with the Puppy bullshit didn’t do them any favors, or that one just doesn’t care for them on a day-to-day basis for whatever reason. But none of that is here or there regarding whether, on the basis of their genre output, they are notable enough to be the subject of a damn Wikipedia article. They are! Wikipedia notability is kind of a middlin’-height bar, and they get themselves over it pretty well.

Or to flip it around, if neither Williamson nor Hoyt is notable enough for inclusion in Wikipedia, there’s gonna be some bloodletting in the site’s category of science fiction and fantasy writers, because there are a fair number of Wikipedia-article-bearing genre authors who are no more notable than Hoyt or Williamson. If they go, there are legitimately many others on the chopping block as well.

According to Camestros Felapton, “John Scalzi is wading into the Wiki-fuss”, Scalzi also made entries to the Wikipedia deletion discussion itself. He probably did, and although the links aren’t working for me Camestros has the full quotes anyway.

(13) FUTURE SHOCK. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing in The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum takes a look at the BBC/HBO co-produced near-future science fiction series Years And Years.  The series, which is built around the conceit of moving through years at a rapid pace — often three years in a one-hour episode, provides a mostly-realistic future that won’t fill many viewers with hope. ““Years and Years” Forces Us Into the Future”.  

“Years and Years” keeps leaping forward, forcing us into the future, as the economy crumbles, the ice caps melt, authoritarianism rises, and teen-agers implant phones into their hands. It’s an alarmist series, in a literal sense: it’s meant to serve as an alarm, an alert to what’s going on in front of our eyes, and where that might lead, if we don’t wake up.”

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s elevation to the post of Prime Minister, I’d say that the series might seem overly optimistic about the future of the United Kingdom. But I’d heartily recommend seeking out the series. 

(14) MORE URGENT. “Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months”

Do you remember the good old days when we had “12 years to save the planet”?

Now it seems, there’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis, among other environmental challenges.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C this century, emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be cut by 45% by 2030.

But today, observers recognise that the decisive, political steps to enable the cuts in carbon to take place will have to happen before the end of next year.

The idea that 2020 is a firm deadline was eloquently addressed by one of the world’s top climate scientists, speaking back in 2017.

“The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and now director emeritus of the Potsdam Climate Institute.

The sense that the end of next year is the last chance saloon for climate change is becoming clearer all the time.

(15) CLOSING THEIR EARS. Meanwhile, the \outpatients\troglodytes were out in force: “Greta Thunberg speech: French MPs boycott teen ‘apocalypse guru’”.

Teen activist Greta Thunberg has lashed out at French lawmakers for mocking her in a speech to parliament that was boycotted by far-right politicians.

The 16-year-old addressed legislators on Tuesday, telling them to “unite behind the science” of climate change.

She and other children were invited to France’s parliament by a cross-party group of politicians.

“You don’t have to listen to us, but you do have to listen to the science,” she said.

Ms Thunberg, whose solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament inspired the school climate strike movement, has been lauded for her emotive speeches to politicians.

But lawmakers from French parties, including the conservative Republicans and far-right National Rally, said they would shun her speech in the National Assembly.

Urging his colleagues to boycott Ms Thunberg’s speech, leadership candidate for The Republicans, Guillaume Larrive, wrote on Twitter: “We do not need gurus of the apocalypse.”

Other French legislators hurled insults at Ms Thunberg ahead of her speech, calling her a “prophetess in shorts” and the “Justin Bieber of ecology”.

Republicans MP Julien Aubert, who is also contending for his party’s leadership, suggested Ms Thunberg should win a “Nobel Prize for Fear”.

Speaking to France 2 television, Jordan Bardella, an MEP for the National Rally, equated Ms Thunberg’s campaigning efforts to a “dictatorship of perpetual emotion”.

(16) TO SIR WITH LOVE. BBC reports “Sir Michael Palin to have heart surgery”.

Comedian and broadcaster Sir Michael Palin is to have surgery to fix a “leaky valve” in his heart.

The Monty Python member discovered a problem with his mitral valve – a small flap that stops blood flowing the wrong way around the heart – five years ago.

It had not affected his general fitness until earlier this year, he said.

“Recently, though, I have felt my heart having to work harder and have been advised it’s time to have the valve repaired,” he wrote on his website.

“I shall be undergoing surgery in September and should be back to normal, or rather better than normal, within three months.”

(17) PICARD & COMPANY. TV Line did a mass interview — “’Star Trek: Picard’ Cast on the Return of Patrick Stewart’s Iconic Captain.”

The cast of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ previews the CBS All Access series with TVLine’s Kim Roots at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

[Thanks to John A Arkansawyer, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/23/19 The Ballad Of Lost C’Redential

(1) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. Craig Miller distributed flyers for his forthcoming Star Wars memoir at San Diego Comic-Con. The four-page fold-over can be seen at his Facebook page. Here’s the placeholder cover:

(2) HOYT ON THE BUBBLE? A call to delete Wikipedia’s entry for Sarah A. Hoyt is also under consideration: “Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Sarah Hoyt”. Some of the supporting arguments are:

  • Of eleven sources on the page, all but one source back to either Archive.org remnants of her old personal website or to her husband’s website.
  • The final source on the page is a podcast.
  • Some of the content appears plagiarized from other websites or promotional materials from the publisher such as book jacket author bio text. The text of the Writing section appears copied verbatim from fan site https://www.risingshadow.net/library/author/567-sarah-a-hoyt.

(3) LAUGHTER ON THE RIGHT. Meanwhile, today’s post at According To Hoyt comes from guest blogger Frank J. Fleming who offers “Frank Tips for Writing Satire”.

…Just make sure you’re making fun of someone your audience doesn’t like, because if you make fun of someone they do like, that’s what you call “bad satire.” And then you’re going to get mobbed and probably doxxed. A good strategy for that is to own multiple houses.

Ha, you idiots; I wasn’t even at that house you doxxed! That was a burner home!

(4) THE ROCKET RETURNS. The Mysterious Bookshop is offering a new edition of Anthony Boucher’s legendary 1942 novel Rocket to the Morgue, which features characters based on his science fiction writing contemporaries. New introduction by F. Paul Wilson.

Legendary science fiction author Fowler Faulkes may be dead, but his creation, the iconic Dr. Derringer, lives on in popular culture. Or, at least, the character would live on if not for Faulkes’s predatory and greedy heir Hilary, who, during his time as the inflexible guardian of the estate, has created countless enemies in the relatively small community of writers of the genre. So when he is stabbed nearly to death in a room with only one door, which nobody was seen entering or exiting, Foulkes suspects a writer. Fearing that the assailant will return, he asks for police protection, and when more potentially-fatal encounters follow, it becomes clear to Detective Terry Marshall and his assistant, the inquisitive nun, Sister Ursula, that death awaits Mr. Foulkes around every corner. Now, they’ll have to work overtime to thwart the would-be murderer?a task that requires a deep dive into the strange, idiosyncratic world of science fiction in its early days.

With characters based heavily on Anthony Boucher’s friends at the Manana Literary Society, including Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and Jack Parsons, Rocket to the Morgue is both a classic locked room mystery and an enduring portrait of a real-life writing community. Reprinted for the first time in over thirty years, the book is a must-read for fans of mysteries and science fiction alike.

(5) ALIEN ARRIVAL. “Nnedi Okorafor Tells an Immigrant Story in ‘LaGuardia,’ the Most Subversive Graphic Novel at Comic-Con”The Daily Beast has a Q&A with the author.

“Issues of immigration, issues of identity, all these things, they’re not new, and they’ve been there for a long time,” she says. 

Okorafor talks and writes from experience. The graphic novel introduces Future through an extended scene at LaGuardia, where she queues up for screening along with aliens of all shapes and sizes, as well as a little white girl who yanks on her locks. At the checkpoint, she is pulled aside for a second screening by a security guard who asks invasive questions about whether the baby in her belly is human. The confrontation is ripped straight from an incident in 2009, when a TSA officer at LaGuardia took Okorafor to a private room to squeeze each of her four-and-a-half-foot locks for hidden contraband. Preoccupied with her hair, the officer missed the bottle of pepper spray that Okorafor had forgotten to remove from her bag. In LaGuardia, that misdirection allows the character to carry the alien through, undetected.

As an author, Okorafor travels a lot, and it’s become clear to her that airport and border crossings are more about control than safety. 

“It’s the space between, a place of contention, a place of displacement, a place of fear, a place of identity,” she says. “It’s where you become very aware of all the things that you are and what they mean, in the context of where you are. And depending on who you are, that place can feel very hot or it can feel very chill.”

(6) SPEAKING UP. Terry Brooks breaks his silence on Trump.

As you know, I do not use my connection to you on the web page or Facebook/Twitter to move outside the subjects of books, reading and writing.  I am going to break that rule now.

For three years, I have kept quiet about Donald Trump and his effort to be President of the U.S.  I am not a political activist.  I am a  writer of fantasy adventure books, and while I have opinions about politics and people involved in politics, I pretty much keep them to myself.  My writing speaks for me.  My writing is my voice to the larger world.  But a few weeks back I listened to a young journalist speak about the importance of standing up for what you believe if you love your country.  He said that if you had a platform, you had an obligation to use it.  He said if you have a voice, you needed to use it.  He said, finally, that writers need to write about what matters – in some form, in some way, at some time…

Brooks speaks out at length.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 23, 1888 Raymond Chandler. He of the hard boiled detective genre is listed by ISFDB as doing some stories of a genre nature, to be exact ”The Bronze Door”, “The King In Yellow”, “Professor Bingo’s Snuff” and “English Summer: A Gothic Romance”. I’ve neither heard it nor read these. So who here has? “The King In Yellow” is in the Raymond Chandler megapack I just downloaded from iBooks so I will read it soon. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 23, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of stories in the Forties about the Green Lama and the Milo March detective and spy novels. Though the latter is not genre, the former is as the Green Lama had supernatural powers.  In the Fifties he began writing SF for Thrilling Wonder Stories, including the Manning Draco stories about an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are collected in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. None of his SF is on iBooks or Kindle alas. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 23, 1914 Virgil Finlay. Castle of Frankenstein calls him “part of the pulp magazine history … one of the foremost contributors of original and imaginative art work for the most memorable science fiction and fantasy publications of our time.”  His best-known covers are for Amazing Stories  and Weird Tales. “Roads,” a novella by Seabury Quinn, published in the January 1938 Weird Tales, and featuring a cover and interior illustrations by him, was originally published in a extremely limited numbers by Arkham House in 1948. It’s now available on iBooks though not Kindle. (Died 1971.)
  • Born July 23, 1923 Cyril M. Kornbluth. I certainly read and liked The Space Merchants and The Syndic which are the two I remember reading these years on. Given his very early death, he wrote an impressive amount of fiction, particularly short fiction. Wildside Press has all of his fiction available on iBooks and Kindle in a single publication. (Died 1958.)
  • Born July 23, 1947 Gardner Dozois. He was the founding editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthologies (and was editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction for twenty years, getting multiple Hugo and Locus Awards for those works. His writing won the Nebula Award for best short story twice, once for “The Peacemaker”, and again for “Morning Child”. Being Gardner Dozois: An Interview by Michael Swanwick covers everything he wrote to that date. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 23, 1956 Kate Thompson, 63. Author of the New Policeman trilogy which I highly recommend. Though written for children, you’ll find it quite readable. And her Down Among the Gods is a unique take on a Greek myths made intimate. 
  • Born July 23, 1970 Charisma Carpenter, 49. She’s best remembered as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. She was also Kyra on Charmed and Kendall Casablancas on Veronica Mars.  She was Sydney Hart in Mail Order Monster and Beth Sullivan in the direct to video Josh Kirby… Time Warrior! Franchise. 
  • Born July 23, 1982 Tom Mison, 37. Ichabod Crane, the lead on Sleepy Hollow. Ok did anyone here actually watch it?  I had the best of intentions but never caught it. The only time I saw him was he showed up on Bones in a cross-over episode. He’s The Mime in the forthcoming Watchmen series
  • Born July 23, 1989 Daniel Radcliffe, 30. Harry Potter of course. (Loved the films, didn’t read the novels.) Also, Victor Frankenstein’s assistant Igor in Victor Frankenstein, Ignatius Perrish in Horns, a horror film, and Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Old Vic in London.  

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a novel idea – at least, Rich Horton says, “I’d read the novel in which the Salem witches did this!”

(9) COVER ARTIST. SYFY Wire says the Cats movie trailer is Taylor-made for this: “The Cats trailer gets a jellicle upgrade when set to RuPaul’s Kitty Girl”.

(10) GOBLIN UP PUBLICITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Futurism: “Inventor Set to Fly Across the English Channel on His Hoverboard”.

Exactly 110 years ago this Thursday, French inventor Louis Blériot became the first person to fly an airplane across the English Channel, the body of water separating the United Kingdom and France.

To honor the achievement, another French inventor plans to make his own cross-Channel trip this week — but he’ll attempt to do so while riding a flying hoverboard that looks strangely similar to the one used by Spider-Man villain the Green Goblin.

The trip will require a mid-Channel refueling, though inventor Franky Zapata is said to be considering doing this while hovering above a ship rather than landing on one so he can claim a non-stop flight. In an interview with The Guardian, Zapata (who recently overflew this year’s Bastille Day parade) laid out his plans to make the attempt to cross from Calais to Dover. Contrasting the Bastille Day flight to the Channel crossing, he is quoted as saying, “I used 3% of the machine’s capabilities [on Bastille Day] and I’ll need 99% for the Channel. It won’t be easy at all and I reckon I’ve a 30% chance of succeeding.”

(11) AT LONG LAST. Charon Dunn has a great blog post about “Meeting My Brother For The First Time”. They discovered each other last year after submitting DNA to the 23andMe testing service.

Things I have in common with my biological half-brother Rick that I don’t share with my adopted family:

Candy. We stopped by the store and I grabbed an Almond Joy, because I like to keep an emergency snack around my hotel room in case of sudden hunger. Apparently this is also Rick’s preferred candy bar.

Tattoos. My adopted family did not approve of them. Everyone in my biological family has them; I personally have six. At one point Rick and I were cruising around Hollywood looking for a tattoo parlor to give us matching brother-sister ink, but we couldn’t find anybody good so abandoned that idea for now.

Fearlessness. I flew down on one of those small commuter jets, and Katrina asked if it was scary, and I didn’t know what to say. I have a twisted scariness threshold and so does Rick. We both enjoy terrifying experiences like horror films and we both confessed we’d love to see a ghost or monster or alien or sasquatch or chupacabra or other similar frightening thing. He’s more outdoorsy and used to do crazy things involving motorcycles and championship fights. I’m the inside type and get my kicks from litigation deadlines and murdering my fellow video game players (and writing action-adventure stories, that too). We are a clan of warriors and although we occasionally ripple with anxiety, we also tend to have rock steady nerves….

(12) BUT FRESH IS BEST. Science says “Canned laughter ‘makes jokes funnier'”.

Adding canned laughter to the punchline of jokes – even “dad jokes” – makes them funnier, according to a study.

The effect was even bigger if real, spontaneous giggles accompanied a gag, the University College London scientists said.

They tried out 40 different jokes, ranging from the groan-worthy to the hilarious, on 72 volunteers.

The findings, in Current Biology, suggest laughter might be contagious or give others permission to also laugh.

Jokes from the study included:

…Why can’t you give Elsa a balloon? Because she will “Let It Go”.

(13) DEVELOPING ARTEMIS. “Nasa Moon lander vision takes shape” – BBC has the story.

Nasa has outlined more details of its plans for a landing craft that will take humans to the lunar surface.

The plans call for an initial version of the lander to be built for landing on the Moon by 2024; it would then be followed by an enhanced version.

The news comes as work was completed on the Orion spacecraft that will fly around the Moon in 2021.

This mission, called Artemis-1, will pave the way for the first attempt to land since 1972.

The presolicitation notice to industry calls for proposals on an initial lander design capable of carrying two people down to the Moon’s South Pole in 2024.

Companies will then be given the option to develop an enhanced lander capable of carrying four astronauts to the lunar surface. It would also be able to stay for longer, including through the two-week lunar night.

This lander would support Nasa’s plans for a “sustainable” return to the Moon that would eventually involve the construction of an outpost on the surface.

(14) WITHDRAWING THE DEPOSITS. BBC reports “‘Important’ Iron Age settlement found at Warboys dig”.

Iron Age roundhouses, Roman burials and Saxon pottery have been discovered in a “hugely important and hitherto unknown settlement”.

The seven month-long dig in Warboys in Cambridgeshire also uncovered “a rare example” of “early Saxon occupation mingled with the latest Roman remains”.

Archaeologist Stephen Macaulay said: “We almost never find actual physical evidence of this.”

The settlement reverted to agricultural use after the 7th Century.

(15) SUPERMAN’S BREAKFAST. Here’s a 3-minute video with “uncut footage of George Reeves directing test of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes commercial at his home”

(16) MORE SPIES. It’s not our Tor — “Russian intelligence ‘targets Tor anonymous browser'”.

Hackers who breached a Russian intelligence contractor found that it had been trying to crack the Tor browser and been working on other secret projects, the BBC has learned.

Tor is an anonymous web browser, used by those wishing to access the dark web and avoid government surveillance.

It is very popular in Russia.

The hackers stole some 7.5 terabytes of data from SyTech, a contractor for Russia’s Federal Security Service FSB, and included details of its projects.

It is not clear how successful the attempt to crack the anonymous browser was, as the method relied heavily on luck to match Tor users to their activity.

Hackers from a group known as 0v1ru$ gained access to the company on 13 July, and replaced its internet homepage with a smug smiley face often used by internet trolls.

(17) HISTORIC AIRCRAFT. The Space Review remembers “The big white bird: the flights of Helo 66”.

…On the Midway’s deck sits a white Sea King helicopter painted with the famous 66 squadron number and painted on the nose of the helicopter are the silhouettes of five Apollo capsules. But walk around to the other side of the helicopter and you’ll see the number “68” painted on the other side.

If you head about 800 kilometers to the northwest, to Pier Three at the former Alameda Naval Air Station and go aboard the USS Hornet Museum, on her aft flight deck you will see another Sea King, also painted with a large “66” on the side of her fuselage. The Sea King on display on the Hornet was used in the movie Apollo 13, which is why it retains its markings from the helicopter carrier Iwo Jima, which was the recovery ship for that mission. The helicopter was obtained from the Navy and restored off-site before being hoisted aboard the Hornet. The museum has several other helicopters that are painted like the recovery aircraft for the American space program, including a Piesecki HUP-25 Retriever of the type used to ferry John Glenn from the USS Noa to the carrier USS Randolph following his Friendship 7 orbital flight in 1962, and a UH-34 Seahorse of the type used for the Gemini and Apollo recoveries.

The real Helo 66, the one in the Apollo 11 documentary and all of those famous Apollo era photographs, crashed into the ocean off the coast of San Diego in 1975. That helicopter, BuNo 152711, was lost in a tragic accident during training to hunt Soviet submarines.

(18) A LITTLE MISTAKE. I have Irish ancestors – can you tell? “Irish moon landing stamp spells ‘moon’ wrong” reports the BBC.

The Republic of Ireland’s postal service has apologised for spelling “the moon” wrong in Irish on its new commemorative stamps celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing.

The postal service, known as An Post, launched the stamps last week.

Four astronauts are featured on the stamps with Irish ancestry.

The Irish word for moon is “gealach”. But the stamp accidently spelled it “gaelach”, which means being Gaelic, Irish or relating to the Scottish Highlands.

Instead of reading “The 50th Anniversary of the First Moon Landing”, it now reads “50th Anniversary of the First Landing on the Irish”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/22/19 Scroll On, You Crazy Pixel

(1) FOR PARENTS OF TEENS AT WORLDON. A Facebook group has been created for parents who will have minors at Dublin 2019, to set up reciprocal chaperoning arrangements: Dublin2019parents.

This COMPLETELY UNOFFICIAL group is for parents of young people who will be attending Dublin2019, an Irish Worldcon, to discuss the logistics of Kids In The Space. We all want to have a great time, make sure our offspring are safe, and work within the rules set forth by the convention regarding unaccompanied children and responsible adults. Let’s collaborate!

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series presents Paul Witcover & Lara Elena Donnelly on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar. Chandler Klang Smith & Mercurio D. Rivera will be subbing for hosts Ellen Datlow and Matt Kressel, who will be traveling.

Paul Witcover

Paul Witcover is the author of five novels, most recently The Watchman of Eternity. He has been a finalist for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Shirley Jackson awards. He hopes one day to win something!

Lara Elena Donnelly

Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of the Nebula- Lambda, and Locus-nominated trilogy The Amberlough Dossier, as well as short fiction and poetry appearing in venues including Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Uncanny. Lara teaches at the Catapult Classes in New York City and is a thesis adviser in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(3) WATCHMEN COMIC-CON TRAILER. Watchmen debuts on HBO this October.

There is a vast and insidious conspiracy at play…. From Damon Lindelof and set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, this drama series embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name while attempting to break new ground of its own. The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hong Chau, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, and James Wolk.

(4) BID MAD FAREWELL. The New York Times letters section is filled with expressions of sentiment offered “In Fond Remembrance of Mad Magazine”.

I wholly endorse Tim Kreider’s views and mourn Mad’s effective demise to the extent it ceases the publication of new material.

As the beneficiary of slightly distracted conservative parents, I subscribed to and have collected Mad since I was a preteenager. Bill Gaines’s “usual gang of idiots” offered intellectual freedom from the confining dictates of the 1950s, and that freedom continues to inform my thinking.

The art was as meticulous as the writing. Each artist’s style was perfectly attuned to the text of the particular piece. What can compare to George Woodbridge’s illustrations of hippies and beatniks?

In contrast to so many publications, those many issues of Mad reflect no typographical errors, misspellings, grammatical mistakes or instances of poor usage, unless intentional. At least I have never spotted any.

Literate, entertaining, enlightening and inspirational.

R.I.P., Mad!

Barbara Jaffe
New York
The writer is a New York State Supreme Court justice.

Tim Kreider’s opinion piece “The World According to Mad Magazine” appeared July 12.

(5) ALL YOUR COMIC-CON BELONG TO US. Writers and editors at The Hollywood Reporter have picked “Comic-Con Winners and Losers From Film, TV and Comics Panels.” Each entry includes a paragraph on why it was selected, but the roundup is:

  • Winner: Marvel Studios 
  • Loser: Veronica Mars (Hulu) 
  • Winner: Paramount
  • Winner: The Witcher (Netflix)
  • Winner: The Walking Dead (AMC)
  • Loser: The Eisner Awards 
  • Winner: It Chapter Two (New Line/Warner Bros.)
  • Loser: Game of Thrones (HBO) 
  • Winner: Westworld (HBO)
  • Winner: Watchmen (HBO) 
  • Loser: Ruby Rose 
  • Winner: Tom Hooper
  • Winner: Tom King 
  • Winner: The X-Men (Marvel)
  • Winner: Undiscovered Country (Image Comics)
  • Winner: Riverdale (The CW)
  • Loser: Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
  • Winner: Star Trek (CBS All Access)

Here’s one example:

Loser: Veronica Mars (Hulu) 
Surprise! All episodes of the highly anticipated revival are available to stream a week early! In what was designed as a reward for diehard fans of the Kristen Bell-led series from creator Rob Thomas, those packed into Ballroom 20 were delighted at the early arrival before likely realizing they’d be unable to stream it given that they already had weekend plans — at Comic-Con — and would likely be spoiled by that heartbreaking finale. The early drop was a regular topic on Friday but by Saturday, it had already been drowned out amid a glut of hundreds of other film, TV, video game and comic book panels and trailers.   

(6) MORE COMIC-CON COVERAGE. San Diego’s Fox 5 has a 45-photo gallery of “Best costumes of Comic-Con weekend”.

The Comic-Con Blood Drive was the most successful ever:

(7) FULL LID REFILLED. Blade Runners, alien invasions of several kinds and the retirement of an all-time great are all part of this week’s “The Full Lid 19th July 2019”. Alasadair Stuart outlines what’s inside —  

We open with a look at the first issue of Titan Comics’ Blade Runner 2019 featuring a new member of the division with some very new problems. Then we’re off to curdled suburban horror with Jeremy C. Shipp’s superbly unsettling Bedfellow. A house guest turns a family’s lives on their heads, but he’s always been there, hasn’t he? An uncle, a brother, a god, a monstrous cuckoo nesting in their lives. Marv is here to stay and a superbly unsettling villain.

Then we salute the comics career of Alan Moore, godfather of the UK scene, film-maker, actor, magic user and architect of an age. But for all his legendary skill and gravitas, Moore is a hell of a comedian and my favorite work of his falls in that field. Finally, with the recent and much deserved Clarke Award win, we re-run the review of Tade Thompson’s excellent Rosewater from last year. Rounded out with the latest work from Anne Fortune, Claire Rousseau and You Suck At Cooking, that’s the Full Lid for the week.

(8) LEGO’S APOLLO PROGRAM. The Verge: “A Lego designer talks about designing spaceships and collaborating with NASA”. Tagline: “More than 40 years of LEGO Space”

The Verge spoke with Lego designer Simon Kent recently, who explained that he and his colleagues recently visited with NASA engineers and personnel to compare their toys against the real spaceships, rovers, and space stations currently in operation today. “Across the company, space is such a big theme, that we can tap into it in many different ways, whether its a plaything like Lego City, or a display model that goes into the fine details of the spacecraft’s design,” like the recently-released Apollo 11 Lunar Lander [list price $99.99].

(9) THAT’S NOTABLE, NOT NOTORIOUS. Camestros Felapton fills everyone in about “Today’s right wing author meltdown…” which commenced when Michael Z. Williamson learned his Wikipedia entry was slated for deletion on grounds that he is not sufficiently notable. In fact, the page has been deleted and restored pending debate while this has been going on.

Last night Michael Z. Williamson’s blog was brought to my attention, who if you are unfamiliar with him, was (is) one of the pioneering fiction writers in the wild west of the early-mid 2010s who bucked the system of social justice-focused “woke” writing in order to focus on craft and excellent storytelling.

Now, years later, big tech is taking its revenge on Michael as they’ve deleted his wikipedia page.

(10) KRAFT OBIT. NASA pioneer Chris Kraft died July 22. The Houston Chronicle headline: “Legendary NASA flight director Chris Kraft has died at 95”.

Christopher C. Kraft Jr. — NASA’s first flight director and a legendary scientist who helped build the nation’s space program — died Monday, just two days after the world celebrated the historic Apollo 11 walk on the moon. He was 95.

“#RIP Dr. Christopher Kraft,” former astronaut Clayton Anderson posted on Twitter soon after. “You were a true leader for this nation and our world. So glad you were able to witness #Apollo50th…we felt your presence everywhere.

“Godspeed and thank you.”

Kraft’s name is emblazoned in bold letters on the side of the mission control building at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to the base of operations where Kraft guided astronauts from launch to landing as the organization grew to a full-blown agency that required multiple flight directors to oversee a mission.

…During an era with no calculators and only rudimentary computers, Kraft essentially built NASA’s mission control to manage human operations in space. As the agency’s sole flight director, with a simple black-and-white monitor and listening to eight different communications loops, he had the final say for NASA’s first five manned missions, including the Mercury flights of Alan Shepard and John Glenn.

(11) HEDISON OBIT. Actor David Hedison, best known for his role in Sixties sci-fi series Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea, hdied July 18 at the age of 92 reports Deadline.com. He also was in the original version of horror sci-fi classic The Fly.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1881 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1912 Stephen Gilbert. His final novel, Ratman’s Notebooks was adapted as the Willard film. Thirty’s years later, it was made into a film yet again. Kindle has most of his books available, iBooks just Ratman’s Notebooks. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 87. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them? Now Jitterbug Perfume, that’s genre!
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 75. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really be it genre or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel  Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original core group of Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 47. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. I miss that series. Did it win any Hugos? He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the Dark, The Hunger, The X-Files, The Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries
  • Born July 22, 1976 Karen Cliche, 43. She’s known for her roles on Flash Gordon, Mutant XVampire High and Young Blades. She’s does two horror films, Pact with the Devil and Saw VI

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cul de Sac shows how hard it can be to be a space flight dreamer.

(14) GRRM AND FORBIDDEN PLANET. The Irish Film Institute will start selling tickets to this event on Thursday:

(15) KEEPING THE R IN HARLEY. You’ve been warned. “Kaley Cuoco’s Harley Quinn Show Is A ‘Tad R-Rated,’ She Warns With New Trailer”CinemaBlend explains the rating:

There’s gratuitous swearing, Joker shooting someone at point-blank range, and he’s taking a shot to the groin courtesy of Harley? Yeah, I can see why Kaley Cuoco wanted to get the warning out on her Instagram, especially when the animation for Harley Quinn looks like something DC would run on Cartoon Network in primetime.

(16) THE UK’S OWN STORM. They made a big splash on social media – will they really try to do the same in the Loch? “RNLI warning over ‘Storm Loch Ness’ monster hunt”.

A suggestion for a mass search for the Loch Ness Monster later this year has gone viral on social media, and caused concern for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

On Facebook, about 18,000 people say they are going to a Storm Loch Ness event with 38,000 “interested”.

It has been inspired by Storm Area 51, an idea tens of thousands of people could storm a US Air Force base to uncover the truth to a UFO conspiracy.

But Loch Ness RNLI is warning of the dangers of the loch’s deep water.

Concerned that hundreds, or even thousands, of people head out on to the loch for Storm Loch Ness on 21 September, the volunteer crew said it could not match the resources being used by the US military to deal with Storm Area 51.

(17) BOILED IN LEAD. Lest you think James Davis Nicoll is being too negative about this idea, he explains how it could have been even worse: “Bad SF Ideas in Real Life: NASA’s Never-Realized Plans for Venus”.

Many readers may find the plots of some SF novels deeply implausible. “Who,” they ask, “would send astronauts off on an interstellar mission before verifying the Go Very Fast Now drive was faster than light and not merely as fast as light? Who would be silly enough to send colonists on a one-way mission to distant worlds on the basis of very limited data gathered by poorly programmed robots? Who would think threatening an alien race about whom little is known, save that they’ve been around for a million years, is a good idea?”

Some real people have bad ideas; we’re lucky that comparatively few of them become reality. Take, for example, a proposal to send humans to Venus. Not to land, but as a flyby.

(18) YA AWARD. Garik16’s Lodestar Award finalist reviews: “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book”.

So yeah, there’s a lot of great works to be nominated for this award, and this year’s shortlist contains some pretty good works, including one book again that was one of my favorites from all of last year, one book that I really really liked, one I enjoyed a good bit which will probably win it all, and two other books that are at least solid – really only one nominee of the bunch do I think is unworthy, although I can understand why it’s nominated.  All in all, this award will give recognition to a work that definitely deserves it, which is the point of the matter.

(19) DOUBLE YOUR FUN. “Chandrayaan-2: India launches second Moon mission” – BBC has the story.

India has successfully launched its second lunar mission a week after it halted the scheduled blast-off due to a technical snag.

Chandrayaan-2 was launched at 14:43 local time (09:13 GMT) from the Sriharikota space station.

India’s space chief said his agency had “bounced back with flying colours” after the aborted first attempt.

India hopes the $145m (£116m) mission will be the first to land on the Moon’s south pole.

The spacecraft has entered the Earth’s orbit, where it will stay for 23 days before it begins a series of manoeuvres that will take it into lunar orbit.

If successful, India will become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface. Only the former Soviet Union, the US and China have been able to do so.

(20) FASTER THAN TUNNELING? Most SF posits living under the surface of the moon, but there’s an alternative: “Why 3D printing could be key to a Moon base”.

The European Space Agency (Esa) is researching technologies based on 3D printing to see how materials found on the lunar surface could be made into products to help with habitation on the Moon.

Dusty powdered rock found on the Moon’s surface could be made into construction materials, explains the Esa’s James Carpenter.

(21) I SPY, WITH MY LITTLE APP. Pixels, please! “Kazakhstan’s new online safety tool raises eyebrows”.

Kazakhstan’s drive to obtain government access to everyone’s internet activity has raised concerns among privacy advocates.

Last week, telecoms operators in the former Soviet republic started informing users of the “need” to install a new security certificate.

Doing so opens up the risk that supposedly secure web traffic could be decrypted and analysed.

Some users say the move has significant privacy and security problems.

Much of the concern focuses on Kazakhstan’s human rights record, which is considered poor by international standards.

…A statement from the Ministry of Digital Development said telecoms operators in the capital, Nur-Sultan, were carrying out technical work to “enhance protection” from hackers, online fraud and other cyber-attacks.

It advised anyone who had trouble connecting to some websites to install the new security certificate, from an organisation called Quaznet Trust Network.

…One user filed a bug report with Mozilla, maker of the internet browser Firefox, characterising the move as a “man in the middle” cyber-attack and calling for the browser to completely ban the government certificate.

(22) REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE. Frequent contributor Martin Morse Wooster says:

“I have a question I want to ask Filers but it’s guaranteed not to provoke a flame war. My question:

“I would like to eat more tomatoes.  What are the best recipes Filers have for using tomatoes from the farmers’ market?

“I am very serious about this.”

Your culinary advice is welcome in comments.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]