Pixel Scroll 6/2/20 The Pixel-Hinged File

(1) WOULD YOU BUY IT FOR A QUARTER? “Royal Mint launches first-ever augmented reality dinosaur coins”.

Royal Mint have released some very special dino coins.

Not only do they have amazing pictures of dinosaurs on them but they also are the first-ever to use augmented reality (AR).

Royal Mint, which makes most of the the UK’s coins, used the latest colour printing techniques to vividly show the megalosaurus, iguanodon and hylaeosaurus on the coins.

It worked closely with experts at the Natural History Museum to try to bring the prehistoric creatures to life.

The coins feature the dinosaurs and show where and when the first fossil was discovered.

After receiving the coin, collectors can use AR to scan the packaging to unearth facts, clips and images about the prehistoric beasts.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The May 2020 entry in the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Scar Tissue” by Tobias S. Buckell.

The evening before you sign and take delivery of your son, you call Charlie and tell him you think you’ve made a huge mistake.

“Let me come on over and split a few with you,” he says. “I haven’t seen the fire pit yet.”

It was published along with a response essay, “When the Robot You Consider Family Tries to Sell You Something” by John Frank Weaver, an attorney who works on AI law, and author of the book Robots Are People Too

… That’s the part that worries me, as artificial intelligence applications may be able to leverage the data to manipulate Cory and other people—just as technology, PR, and marketing companies try to do in our lives today.

(3) A BRAND NEW ENDING. OH BOY. “Missing The Jackpot: William Gibson’s Slow-Cooked Apocalypse” – Robert Barry interviews the author for The Quietus.

“There’s never been a culture that had a mythos of apocalypse in which the apocalypse was a multi-causal, longterm event.” William Gibson speaks in the whisper-soft drawl of a man who for a long time now has never had to speak up in order to be heard. Though a certain edge had crept into our conversation by this point, watching him stretch out on the leather chaise longue of this hotel library (“my second home,” he calls it, as we make our way up from the lobby), it struck me that few people are able to seem at once so apprehensive and yet so intensely relaxed about the prospect of the end of the world as we know it.

“But if we are in fact facing an apocalypse,” he continues, getting now into the swing of this particular riff, “that’s the sort we’re facing. And I think that that may be what makes it so difficult for us to get our heads around what’s happening to us.”

(4) X MAGNIFICATION. In his column for CrimeReads, “Chris Claremont And The Making of an X-Men Icon”, Alex Segura interviews Claremont on his creation of Jean Grey, the Dark Phoenix, and her role in the X-Men saga.

…Though Claremont accepts the thesis that Dark Phoenix is, in many ways, in tune with the femme fatale trope, he’s not sure it’s totally apt.

“I’m not sure I would consider her a femme fatale. That actually is more Mystique’s side of the ledger,” Claremont said, referring to the blue-skinned, shape-changing mutant villain he’d introduce a bit later in his run. But the writer cannot deny the influence he and initial X-Men series artist Dave Cockrum had in reshaping Jean Grey—moving her from soft-spoken B-list heroine to full-on goddess.

“The fun with Jean for example was that when I first took over X-Men, Jean was a relatively two-and-a-half-dimensional character,” Claremont said. “What you had there was essentially unchanged from what [X-Men co-creator] Stan Lee had introduced years before. And we wanted to, I think, rough things up a tad but in the process, explore her more.”

(5) SAY CHEESE. In the Washington Post, Lela Nargi reports on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Unified Geologic Map Of The Moon, in which the survey combined maps made during the Apollo missions with subsequent satellite photo missions to create “the definitive blueprint of the moon’s surface geology.” “A new map shows the moon as it’s never been seen”.

…The USGS, which released the map in April, makes a lot of maps of Earth. It is also the “only institution in the world that creates standardized maps for surfaces that are not on Earth,” says USGS research geologist James Skinner. That includes Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system.

The new moon map took more than 50 years to make. It started with six original maps collected from the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s and ’70s. The maps did a good job of showing the basic layout of the moon.

New technology has made it possible to create an updated map and “turn it into information scientists can use,” says Skinner.

(6) I WAS BORN UNDER A WANDERING STAR. James Davis Nicoll introduces us to lots of characters who can make that claim in “Planets on the Move: SF Stories Featuring World-Ships” at Tor.com.

Recently, we discussed science fiction stories about naturally occurring rogue worlds; there is, of course, another sort of wandering planet. That would be the deliberately-impelled variety, featured in stories in which ambitious travellers take an entire world along with them. This approach has many obvious advantages, not the least of which is that it greatly simplifies pre-flight packing….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 2, 1950 Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in higher esteem than audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a 16% rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup.  In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrimmeets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha.  In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons.  In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana.  Nobel Prize in Literature.  Translated into Dutch, English, German, Polish, Swedish, Thai.  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger.  Pioneer of silhouette animation.  Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924).  Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film.  Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928.  Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade.  Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey.  Fan, pro, short-order cook.  Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes.  Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1920 Robert A. Madle, 100. File 770 celebrates Bob’s big day in a separate post about his fannish career. And fanhistory website Fanac.org dedicated its splash page to a collection of pointers to the audio and video they have of Bob, such as a recording of his 1977 Worldcon Guest of Honor speech, as well as links to the fanzines he edited in the 1930s. (OGH)
  • Born June 2, 1921 Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster, 91. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, he met Jules Feiffer who illustrates when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth an evening spent reading. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman, 83. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock HourThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds.  Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n).  Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award.  First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America.  First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years).  Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th.  Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter.  [JH] 
  • Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney.  Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994. “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon).  Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon XXXIV.  Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1963 – Katsuya Kondô.  Manga artist, character designer, animator, animation director.  His character designs are considered the epitome of the Studio Ghibli style.  Known for Kiki’s Delivery ServiceOcean Waves (both Ghibli); Jade Cocoon (PlayStation game); D’arc (2-vol. manga about Joan of Arc; with Ken’ichi Sakemi).  Recently, character design for Ronya, the Robber’s Daughter (Ghibli, 2014).  [JH]
  •  Born June 2, 1972 Wentworth Miller, 48. I’m including him here today as he plays Captain Cold on the Legends of Tomorrow which might one of the best SF series currently being aired. His first genre role was on Buffy and other than a stint on the Dinotopia miniseries, this role is his entire genre undertaking along with being on Flash. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta.  Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies.  Prix Benois de la Danse.  Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet.   Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a FaunApolloThe NutcrackerSwan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot.  Memoir, No Way Home.  [JH]

(9) A POEM FOR THE DAY. By John Hertz:

May didn’t do it.
A month whose name’s almost young
Dealt him out to us.
Lively-minded, he connects
Energizing give and take.

 __________

An acrostic (read down the first letters) in 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump has a joke about dragon housekeeping.
  • Cul de Sac tries to imagine what makes up the universe.
  • Frazz tells us how to recognize “literature” when we read it. 

(11) CLASSIC SFF ART. The host of Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations creatd a thread about the careers of artists Leo and Diane Dillon. It starts here.

(12) IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. Lois McMaster Bujold has posted about her experiences at the online SFWA Nebula Conference, including the text of her Grandmaster award acceptance remarks which end —

… And, throughout it all, I have been endlessly supported by my agent, Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency. We first met face-to-face at the Nebula weekend in New York City in 1989. The morning after _Falling Free_ won my first Nebula Award, we shook hands over a hotel breakfast in a deal I trust neither of us has had cause to regret. Though I don’t think either of us realized how long it would last, three decades and counting.

(13) HARE GROWTH. A new collection of shorts on HBO Max, Looney Tunes Cartoons, captures the look and feel of the originals. The New York Times article may be paywalled; here are the key points and cartoon link.

In “Dynamite Dance,” Elmer Fudd comes at Bugs Bunny with a scythe, prompting the hare to jam a stick of lit dynamite in Elmer’s mouth.

Over the course of the short animated video, the explosives get bigger and more plentiful, as Bugs jams dynamite in Elmer’s ears, atop his bald head, and down his pants. The relentless assault moves from rowboat to unicycle to biplane, each blast timed to the spirited melody of Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours.”

The short has the look, feel and unabashed mayhem of a classic “Looney Tunes” cartoon, circa the early 1940s. But “Dynamite Dance” is of much more recent vintage, one of scores of episodes created by a new crop of WarnerBros. animators over the past two years.

…“I always thought, ‘What if Warner Bros. had never stopped making “Looney Tunes” cartoons?’” said Peter Browngardt, the series executive producer and showrunner. “As much as we possibly could, we treated the production in that way.”

…The creators of the new series hope to do justice to the directors, animators and voice artists of the so-called Termite Terrace, a pest-ridden animation facility on Sunset Boulevard where many of the franchise’s most beloved characters were born.

“There was something about the energy of those early cartoons,” Browngardt said. “And those five directors: Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery before he left for MGM, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng. They literally invented a language of cinema.”

(14) EMPLOYEES ABOUT FACE AT FACEBOOK. NPR reports “Facebook Employees Revolt Over Zuckerberg’s Hands-Off Approach To Trump”.

Facebook is facing an unusually public backlash from its employees over the company’s handling of President Trump’s inflammatory posts about protests in the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

At least a dozen employees, some in senior positions, have openly condemned Facebook’s lack of action on the president’s posts and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of that decision. Some employees staged a virtual walkout Monday.

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” tweeted Ryan Freitas, director of product design for Facebook’s news feed.

“I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up,” tweeted Jason Toff, director of product management. “The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

(15) GOING DOWN. NPR presents excerpts of the resetting of Orpheus and Eurydice (and Tony winner for Best Musical of 2019): “Hadestown: Tiny Desk Concert” — long audio/video.

You can probably guess that we recorded the original Broadway cast of Hadestown before the coronavirus pandemic made live theater (live anything) an untenable risk. The reminders are everywhere — in the way 16 performers bunch up behind the desk, singing formidably in close proximity as a large crowd gathers just off camera — that this took place in the Before-Times. To be specific, on March 2.

We’d actually been trying to put this show together since the spring of 2019, when Hadestown was a freshly Tony-nominated hit musical. We hit several delays along the way due to scheduling issues, only to end up rushing in an attempt to record while playwright Anaïs Mitchell — who wrote both the musical and the 2010 folk opera on which it’s based — was eight months pregnant.

Thankfully, we captured something truly glorious — a five-song distillation of a robust and impeccably staged Broadway production. A raucous full-cast tone-setter, “Way Down Hadestown” lets Hermes (André De Shields, in a role that won him a Tony) and Persephone (Kimberly Marable, filling in for Amber Gray) set the scene before a medley of “Come Home With Me” and “Wedding Song” finds Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) meeting and falling in love. “When the Chips Are Down” showcases the three Fates — spirits who often drive the characters’ motivations — as played by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad. And in “Flowers,” Eurydice looks back with regret and resignation on her decision to leave Orpheus for the promise of Hadestown.

(16) NO NOSE IS BAD NOSE. From the Harvard Gazette: “Loss of taste and smell is best indicator of COVID-19, study shows”.

MGH, King’s College London researchers use crowdsourced data from app to monitor symptoms in 2.6 million, study how the disease spreads

Though fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 infection, a recent study in which 2.6 million people used a smartphone app to log their symptoms daily showed that the most oddball pair of indicators — loss of smell and taste — was also the best predictor, and one that scientists said should be included in screening guidelines.

…The scientists adapted a smartphone app that had been created by corporate partner ZOE, a health science company, for research on how to personalize diet to address chronic disease. The new program, a free download from the Apple or Google app stores, collects demographic and health background information and then asks how the participant is feeling. If they’re feeling well, that’s the end of the daily entry. If they’re not it asks further questions about symptoms.

(17) BLIT FOR ANDROID? BBC asks “Why this photo is bricking some phones”.

Dozens of Android phone owners are reporting on social media that a picture featuring a lake, a cloudy sunset and a green shoreline is crashing their handsets when used as wallpaper.

Several brands seem to be affected, including Samsung and Google’s Pixel.

The bug makes the screen turn on and off continuously. In some cases a factory reset is required.

The BBC does not recommend trying it out.

Samsung is due to roll out out a maintenance update on 11 June. The BBC has contacted Google for comment but not yet had a response.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At Axios “Science fiction writers tell us how they see the coronavirus pandemic”.

  • Neil Gaiman, author of “Coraline”: “I think this period of time is going to be a fertile time for storytellers for decades and, I hope, centuries to come.
  • Lois Lowry, author of “The Giver”: “We’re at the part of the book where the reader is feeling a terrible sense of suspense.”
  • Nnedi Okorafor, author of “The Shadow Speaker”: “One thing I’ve felt since all of this has happened, is this idea of … oh my gosh, it’s finally happening.”
  • Max Brooks, author of “World War Z”: “Those big crises that affect us all have to be solved by all of us … it may not be some alpha male with a big gun or some clairvoyant wizard or someone with magical powers.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/24/20 Fillie And The Poor Gods Are Stalkin’, Bring A Pixel, Scroll Your Feet

(1) MURDERBOT SPEAKS. Tor.com readies us for the May 5 release of Martha Wells’ next Murderbot book by hosting a dialog between two important characters: “Feelings REDACTED: What Happens When Murderbot and ART Talk to Instagram”.

The pair talked love, hate, fanfiction, feelings, quarantine tips, lemon cake, human flesh, dogs, robot babies, and, of course, Sanctuary Moon….

What really happened on episode 231 of Sanctuary Moon?
MB: It was clearly a dream.
ART: You’re wrong.
MB: So when the Mech Pilot was attacked by his evil duplicate who tried to hit him with a giant hammer and then disappeared, you think that was supposed to be real?
ART: It was an artistic choice.

(2) TRAVIS MCCREA APOLOGIZES. In the aftermath of John Van Stry’s court victory over book pirate Travis McCrea, McCrea has tweeted an apology. Take it for what it’s worth. Thread starts here.

(3) FANFICTION ETIQUETTE. The Mary Sue built a good story around the author’s recent Twitter thread: “N.K. Jemisin Reminds Us of the First Rule of Fanfiction”.

No, the first rule of fanfiction is not “we don’t talk about fanfiction.” Many writers happily discuss reading and writing fic—as evidenced by N.K. Jemisin, the three-time Hugo Award-winning novelist, describing how she still writes and reads it herself. The first rule of fanfiction is “you do not try and get the original creator to read your fanfiction.” How quickly we forget our Internet history.

… In explaining how these things are, Jemisin is not discouraging fans from making their own fanworks centered around her creations. She just cannot be personally involved, and it’s a serious breach of fandom etiquette to ask.

(4) BRUCE PELZ WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS. Bob Byrne is passing the time with this inventive tribute to Rex Stout’s famous sleuth: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 5, 6, and 7”. Which means seeing everything from Archie Goodwin’s viewpoint. For example —

DAY SIX – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

It was a pleasant spring morning, so I took my delayed walk today. It was good to stretch the legs and breathe the freshest air I’ve inhaled since moving here many years ago. I was out for two hours, enjoying open space – and the absence of Nero Wolfe. I saw other people walking and jogging, mostly keeping the required distance. It’s going to take some time for me to get used to the lack of noise. The buzz of conversation and the traffic ruckus just aren’t there. It’s not bad – just different.

I wasn’t in the office when Wolfe got down from the plant rooms at 11, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was at his desk, reading a thick book about Huey P. Long. He acknowledged my arrival and resumed reading. That was fine with me. I let him know I would be in the basement for a while and departed.

We keep a small file cabinet down there, which contains files related to unsolved cases. I’ve never written one up, but yes, there were occasions when the great Nero Wolfe didn’t get the bad guy. Or at least, couldn’t prove the issue. I’ll admit, his batting average was much better than Ty Cobb’s, but still, it did happen. And it rankled me at least as much as it did him. I’m the one who gathers the clues. I can’t help thinking, on some of them, that if I’d gotten one more piece of something, it might have made all the difference….

(Heading explained: It was from Bruce Pelz I first heard of Nero Wolfe.)

(5) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? The New Yorker chronicles “The Superfans Springing Into Mask-Making Action”.

In the pandemic economy, face masks are like bars of gold. Hoarders are hoarding them. Governors are bartering for them. Hospital workers desperately need them. New Yorkers, ordered by Governor Cuomo last week to cover their faces in public, are repurposing bandannas and boxer shorts. In Rosie the Riveter fashion, Americans with crafting skills—among them quilters, Broadway seamstresses, sportswear manufacturers, origami artists, and grandmothers—have sprung into action. But one group has special mask-making powers: cosplayers, the superfans who specialize in making and wearing costumes. Never has the ability to whip up a Spider-Man mask or a Stormtrooper helmet been so useful.

“Cosplayers have big hearts,” Monica Paprocki, a thirty-five-year-old accountant in Chicago, said. Paprocki, who runs the fandom site Geeks A Gogo, started cosplaying in 2014 and taught herself how to sew by watching YouTube videos. She dressed as Princess Jasmine at Wizard World Chicago in 2019, the year after her Phoenix Monster costume, from the board game Rising Sun, won the Golden Needle Award at a gaming convention in Indianapolis. “It had articulated wings that I controlled with a remote control,” she said. This June, she was going to dress as Buzz Lightyear at the Origins Game Fair, in Ohio, but it had been postponed until October. When she saw a Facebook group requesting homemade medical supplies, she recruited fellow-cosplayers. “Before everything closed down, I had a stash of cotton fabric and materials here in my house,” she said. “I work my regular nine-to-five job in accounting. Right after that, I start sewing.”

(6) BESTSELLERS TALK AMONG THEMSELVES. Via Shelf Awareness comes word that Stephen King and John Grisham will hold a free online conversation discussing their new books on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:00 PM Eastern.

“In lieu of admission, the authors hope attendees will consider donating to the Bookseller Industry Charitable Foundation. You can register at grishamking.eventbrite.com or watch on Stephen King’s YouTube channel. Questions for the authors can go use #AskKingandGrisham

(7) VALUE ADDED. “The Stockbrokers Of Magic: The Gathering Play for Keeps”WIRED tells how.

…A whimsical experiment in bartering kickstarted that evolution in 2010: A few years after the viral “one red paperclip” experiment—a Craigslister traded a single red paperclip for a series of increasingly valuable items until he managed to trade up for a house—a Magic player named Jonathan Medina embarked on a similar quest. Medina would trade from one random $4 pack of booster cards and keep trading up until he acquired one of the game’s legendary Power Nine cards— phenomenally rare cards widely considered very, very good. A pavement-pounding card trader, Medina blogged his experience in a widely read series of articles called “Pack to Power.” He would spend no money and, using just his wits, research, and networking skills, maneuver his $4 pack of cards into Magic wealth.

After opening his pack, Medina, in his words, began “hitting the streets to flip my cardboard.” By the time he’d traded with fellow players at gaming conventions and stores a total of 98 times, he had assembled an impressive binder stacked with valuable cards. It was at Gen Con, on a Saturday four months later, when Medina, groggy from playing Magic until five in the morning the previous night, handed over his binder in exchange for the $359.99 Mox Pearl card—a Power Nine.

“At the time, people were still trading based on nonmonetary metrics,” Medina says. “So when people read the small stories of the trades and looked at the math, they realized that they could be getting more out of their cards. This collective rise in awareness led to an interest in the financial side of the game. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 24, 1955 — The X Minus One radio program aired on NBC for the first time. Written by Ray Bradbury, “And The Moon Be Still As Bright” is the tale of Mars expedition which finds the Martians extinct due to chickenpox brought to them by previous expeditions. The crew save one decide to destroy all Martian artefacts. Ernest Kinoy wrote the script from the story by Bradbury, and the cast included John Larkin and Nelson Olmstead.  The show would run from now until January 8, 1958 with many of coming from well-known SF authors including Anderson, Pohl, Asimov, Blish, Leiber, Heinlein and Simak to name just a few. You can hear this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 90. He’s credited in directing Superman which Is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb. 
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she chalked up in an amazing number of genre show roles. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery,  My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1946 Donald D’Ammassa, 74. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction covered some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered him as a reviewer.
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 73. Author of, with Michael Moorcock naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 
  • Born April 24, 1950 Michael Patrick Hearn, 70. Academic who has some of the best annotated works I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. I wholeheartedly recommend both The Annotated Wizard of Oz and The Annotated Christmas Carol, not to overlook Victorian Fairy Tales which is simply the best collection of those tales.
  • Born April 24, 1953 Gregory Luce, 67. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: really cute canine involved! 
  • Born April 24, 1955 Wendy S. Delmater, 65. She was nominated at Sasquan for a Best Semiprozine Hugo for editing the exemplary Abyss & Apex webzine. It’s particularly strong in the areas of speculative poetry and small press genre reviews. She herself has written a lot of genre centered essays, plus a handful of genre stories and poems. 
  • Born April 24, 1983 Madeline Ashby, 37. California-born Canadian resident writer whose Company Town novel created an entire city in an oil rig. Interestingly In 2013, she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer but recused herself on the grounds that her pro  career started with her ‘09 publication of a short story in Nature, so  her eligibility period had expired in ‘11. And her Machine Dynasties series is simply brilliant, and resonates with the later Murderbot series.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. “Hubble telescope delivers stunning 30th birthday picture”

It’s 30 years ago to the day that the Hubble telescope was launched – and to celebrate its birthday, the veteran observatory has produced another astonishing image of the cosmos.

This one is of a star-forming region close to our Milky Way Galaxy, about 163,000 light-years from Earth.

The larger object is the nebula NGC 2014; its companion is called NGC 2020.

But astronomers have nicknamed the scene the “Cosmic Reef” because it resembles an undersea world.

(11) AND IN MOTION. Hubble’s 30th anniversary image has been turned into a 3D “spaceflight” experience.

Experts created this visualisation showing the Giant Red Nebula and its smaller blue neighbour, which lie in a satellite-galaxy of the Milky Way.

(12) IN ONE SITTING. “The chairs of Blake’s 7” is a vast collage of furniture and show highlights assembled by the author of the Watching Blake’s 7 blog:

…So, here is a compilation all the identifiable seating seen in Blake’s 7.  In addition, I have thrown in a handful of tables, desks, lamps and other things that showcase how bloomin’ stylish Blake’s 7 was, and how the BBC props store contained a wealth of magnificent design artefacts.

First on the list —

Folding chair
Fred Scott, for Hille International
1960’s
Seen in ‘Animals’

Let’s start with one of the most beautiful moments in Blake’s 7, and a reminder of the sheer effort to get the series broadcast on time and on budget.  Sure, Avon slips at the end of this shot, and there’s no time for a retake, but let’s not forget the attitude in which he knocks the chair over.   I’m delighted to report that Fred Scott designed something robust enough to withstand the dirtiest ‘Dirty Harry’ kicking seen on screen up to that point.  Chair vandalism, or quality control?  You decide.

(13) SACRILEGE! The Chewie Millennial System: “Library books rearranged in size order by cleaner”.

A well-meaning cleaner who took the opportunity to give a locked-down library a thorough clean re-shelved all of its books – in size order.

Staff at Newmarket Library, Suffolk, discovered the sloping tomes after the building underwent a deep clean.

James Powell, of Suffolk Libraries, said staff “saw the funny side” but it would take a “bit of time” to correct.

“It looks like libraries will be closed for a while so we’ll have plenty of time to sort the books out”, he said.

“The cleaner is lovely and does a great job in the library. It was an honest mistake and just one of those things so we would never want her to feel bad about it,” he added.

(14) RIGHTFUL PREY. Let Atlas Obscura show you the elusive “Fremont Troll”.

AN 18-FT. tall troll made of cement clutches an old VW car underneath an overpass in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. The car is an actual Volkswagen Beetle encased in concrete, which used to be red and bear a California license plate.

The Troll was constructed in 1990 after winning a Fremont Arts Council competition for designs to improve the freeway underpass, which then was a dumping ground….

(15) A MOBY FILE. “Oregon Park Rangers Decided to Bury a Perfectly Dead Whale Instead of Blowing It Up” grumps the Willamette Week. Tagline: “Do we really want to live in a state that won’t explode giant animal carcasses when given the chance?”

… On Saturday, the carcass of a 40-foot grey whale washed up on the shore of the Sand Lake Recreation Area north of Pacific City. For longtime Oregonians, news of a dead whale appearing on a local beach should ring a few alarm bells…

… In case you don’t know the story, in November 1970, a sperm whale of roughly the same size washed up on the beach in Florence, Ore. Local officials considered several methods of disposing the body, like dragging it out to sea. Ultimately, they went with the most exciting option available—blowin’ it up real good.

It was a bit of a disaster. The dynamite blew chunks of whale flesh 800 feet in the air, raining viscera down on bystanders and destroying a car in the adjacent parking lot. 

Which gives everyone on the internet an excuse to repost one of the most viral videos of all time:

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “No Maps For These Territories:  A William Gibson Docufilm” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary, directed by Mark Neale, of conversations held with Gibson during his book tour for All Tomorrow’s Parties.  It includes interviews with Bruce Sterling and Jack Womack and Gibson remembering that when he read “Burning Chrome,” one of the first cyberpunk stories, at Denvention II in 1981, he had an audience of four.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/23/20 So Tomorrow We Are Heading Up That Scrolly Road, Rocks And All. Got Any Dragons You Need Pixeled?

(1) WORTH YOUR WHILE. Having seen what shoppers are lined up for, James Davis Nicoll tracked down five highly time-absorbent novels — “Five Massive SFF Books to Read While You’re Social-Distancing” at Tor.com.

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

Clocking in at a streamlined 1120 pages, Ash tells the tale of 15th century mercenary Ash, a woman whose Europe is both very much like and very much different from our own. A natural soldier, she is drawn into the effort to defend a disunited Europe from the Visigoth army that threatens the continent. Visigoth-ruled Carthage has numbers and a seemingly magical technology the Europeans cannot match. Key to the invader’s success: the Faris, a woman guided by mysterious Voices…a woman who could be Ash’s twin.

(2) INSTANT TSUNDOKU. Paul Weimer presents “Mind Meld: The 101 and the 201 of SFF” at Nerds of a Feather. The feature involves asking people a genre-related question and sharing their responses. Answering this time are Marissa Lingen, Megan O’Keefe, Alix Harrow, Adri Joy, Marina Berlin, Lisa McCurrach, Melissa Caruso, Andrew Hiller, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Keena Roberts, J Kathleen Cheney, Elizabeth Fitz, Camestros Felapton, Catherine Lundoff, Sophia McDougall, and Julie Czerneda. His question is:

Some readers are looking for entry points into fantasy and pointing them at a book rich in the conversation and assumed tropes can throw them right out of it again. Other readers want more than a basic experience but are frustrated with novels that retread the same basics over and over.

So I’d like for you to recommend me *two* books:

1. A 101 SFF book that someone who may have seen Lord of the Rings but never cracked open an SFF book might fruitfully read. 
2. A 201 SFF book for someone looking for a deeper, richer experience, rewarding their previous reading in genre. 

(3) NEW ZEALAND GOING TO TOP ALERT LEVEL. Of concern for those hoping the 2020 Worldcon might still be held this summer, New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that the nation has gone to Level 3 status, and tomorrow they will be going to Level 4 status for at least 4 weeks.

A New Zealand Herald article explains: “Coronavirus: What Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4 mean for you and your family”.

New Zealand has 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus and is now at alert level 3 – and will move to level four for likely at least four weeks from Wednesday.

Alert level 3 means the risk of the potentially deadly virus not being contained and there will either be community transmission of the virus or multiple clusters breaking out.

Level 4 means people are instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

Essential services will be open at all alert levels, but level level 3 means limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings cancelled, public venues closed (such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks), some non-essential businesses closed, and non face-to-face primary care consultations, with non-elective services and procedures in hospitals deferred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just told the nation “we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential”.

That would give the health system a chance to cope, she said.

(4) LAFFERTY FANS DISAPPOINTED. Laffcon, a one-day event about the works of R.A. Lafferty that had been scheduled for June 8 in Lawenceville, New Jersey has been postponed until June 2021.

(5) HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe to help the late Kate Hatcher’s family has been launched by Rick Kovalcik: “Help Ben (and Ireland) Hatcher”.

As you may know, Kate Hatcher passed away early in March after battling pneumonia (http://file770.com/kate-hatcher-1974-2020/). She left behind her partner, Ben Hatcher, and a daughter with health issues, Ireland. Various people have asked if there is anything we could do for Ben and Ireland. Well, John Hertz called me yesterday and said Ben and Ireland really could use some money, especially in the next month, while Ben tries to straighten out the finances and government payments to Ireland. Since John is not on the Internet, the suggestion was that I create a GoFundMe and send the money to Ben Hatcher. I am doing so. As I did for the Boskone ASL Fund, I will make up the GoFundMe fees (up to the asking amount) in addition to my personal contribution so that Ben and Ireland get the full amount that people are donating.  As suggested by John Hertz, I will send Ben a money order on about March 31st with what is raised to that point and then follow up with additional funds as appropriate (perhaps weekly). If anyone wants to check the veracity of this, please feel free to contact John Hertz; if you don’t have his phone number, I can give it to you.

(6) FAN FAVORITES. The nerd folk duo doubleclicks will livestream interviews with two sff authors this week. (Times shown are PDT.)

TUESDAY:
11am: Interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarers Series, which we’ve read about 2 dozen times. The second book has an AI in it whose story makes me feel one million things. Becky’s latest book is To Be Taught, If Fortunate and is also completely lovely!!

THURSDAY:
11am: interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot Diaries, which we’ve also read about 2 dozen times. This series is about a “robot” who just wants to binge tv shows and protect people and the books are so funny and real and emotional.

(7) A CHAPTER IN GENRE HISTORY. Joel Cunningham, the person who started the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, tells the story of the site, which closed last December after five years. Thread starts here. He’s got a new job at Lifehacker. 

(8) NOSTALGIA AVAILABLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An Ontario guy set up a site with all sorts of old broadcasts and bits and pieces many locals grew up with. Did you know that in 1972, Dan Ackroyd voiced the call sign for a TV station? They also have Judith Merril’s post-show discussions of Doctor Who episodes from 1980, old commercials, stuff from the Buffalo TV stations … a lovely rabbit hole to slither down: Retrontario.com.

(9) PLAGUE INVADES THE LOCKED TOMB. Bad news for those awaiting the sequel to one of last year’s most talked about sff books. Tamsyn Muir told readers today —

(10) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. “Not like the pictures”: “William Gibson Says Today’s Internet Is Nothing Like What He Envisioned”

William Gibson writes visionary stories — in his early work, he imagined an information superhighway long before the Web existed. But in a dozen novels over the last 35 years, Gibson has stalked closer and closer to the present.

His latest, Agency, has a complicated plot that jumps between the far future and the immediate present; Gibson says his favorite type of science fiction requires time and effort to understand. “My greatest pleasure in reading books by other people is to be dropped into a completely baffling scenario,” he says, “and to experience something very genuinely akin to culture shock when first visiting a new culture.”

Gibson imagined that sort of culture shock back in 1982 when he coined the word “cyberspace” in a short story. Two years later he popularized the term in his first novel, Neuromancer, about a washed up hacker hired for one last job.

…”He said once that he was wrong about cyberspace,” says author Lev Grossman, “and the internet when he first conceived it, he thought it was a place that we would all leave the world and go to. Whereas in fact, it came here.”

Grossman is a former book critic for Time magazine and author of the fantasy bestseller, The Magicians. “You have an artificial intelligence that is everywhere. It’s in all your devices. You’re looking through it as a lens to see the rest of the world. It’s an extraordinary vision of how computers will become aware, and become the thing that mediates between us and reality.”

But Gibson himself thinks the future of artificial intelligence will require human sensibility to take it to the next level. “Over the past few years, I’ve more and more frequently encountered people saying that the real change-bringer might not be something, an intelligence that we build from the ground up, but something like an uploaded healing consciousness that we then augment with the sort of artificial intelligence we already have.”

(11) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Marie Claire ran an article about nineandthreequartersco whose products we mentioned here the other day: “Harry Potter-inspired tea and coffee just launched in a whole range of magical flavours”. See more Harry Potter-themed beverages on the company’s Instagram page.

All the names take inspiration from J.K. Rowling’s fictional world; from ‘espresso patronum’, to ‘butter brew’, to ‘brew that must not be named’, there are flavours for every Potterhead.

The ‘espresso patronum’ coffee blend is, as you may have guessed, an espresso blend, promising to provide a smooth and chocolatey cup of coffee with a slightly fruity finish. The ‘butter brew’ coffee on the other hand, is a sweeter butterscotch flavour brew, taking inspiration from the beer the wizards drink at Hogsmede pub. More information about the other coffee flavours on their website.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 23, 1962 — The third season episode of Twilight Zone entitled “Person or Persons Unknown” first aired. Written by Charles Beaumont Who wrote a number of other classic episodes in this series such as “The Howling Man” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, he also was the scriptwriter for such films as  7 Faces of Dr. Lao and Queen of Outer Space. The premise of his script is simple: upon awaking from a bender, his protagonist find no one recognises him. Richard Long is David Andrew Gurney and the supporting cast are quite fine in their roles as well.  

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several year later in the Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.)
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 23, 1937 Carl Yoke, 83. One of those academics that I stumbled upon when I was looking for information on Zelazny. His 1979 study of him, Roger Zelazny, is quite excellent, as is his essay, “Roger Zelazny’s Bold New Mythologies” which is to be in Tom Staicar’s Critical Encounters II: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. He also wrote “What a Piece of Work is a Man: Mechanical Gods in the Fiction of Roger Zelazny” which you’ll find in Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of those serious academic volumes no one really reads for the most part. Yoke does have two genre stories to his credit, they’re called The Michael Holland Stories.
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 68. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad Awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work! 
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 62. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 23, 1959 Maureen Kincaid Speller, 61. British reviewer and essayist who has been nominated for Hugos for Best Semiprozine and Best Fan Writer. She’s had an extensive career with her writing showing up in MatrixSteam Engine TimeThe Gate and Vector (all of which she either edited or co-edited), Barbed Wire KissesFire & HemlockLocal FanomenaRed Shift, Interzone and The BSFA Review. Other than a brief collection by BSFA, And Another Thing … A Collection of Reviews and Criticism by Maureen Kincaid Speller, her work has not yet been collected. 
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 43. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First, she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think there’s there a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro answers the question, “What’s Heaven to a chicken?”
  • Bug-eyed aliens from Neptune invade Calvin & Hobbes.
  • Cul de Sac chronicles The Attack of the Monster Worm!  

(15) COMICS PIPELINE SHUT OFF. Bleeding Cool reports “Diamond Comic Distributors No Longer Taking In New Comics”.

Bleeding Cool has been informed by multiple senior industry figures that Diamond Comic Distributors is requesting that no more product be shipped to any of its warehouse until further notice. Product already in its warehouses will be distributed, such that it can, but after that they will be distributing no more comics, magazine, books, toys, games, or any other product until further notice….

The company’s reasons for the decision are chronicled at Adventures in Poor Taste: “Diamond Comics Distributor explains choice to halt shipping and marks March 25 as last slated shipment”.

… Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease….

(16) CORONA CARTOONIST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Chen Wang, who uses the name “Messycow” for her cartoons, who uses her background as someone born in Wuhan but who now lives in Seattle, whose comics deal with how she copes with the coronavirus. “Chinese American cartoonist finds satire in coronavirus crisis — with a perspective from both cultures”.

“People in the rest of the world might not have known much at the time, but it was all people cared about in China,” says the artist, who has family in Wuhan. “I followed the news closely and experienced a lot of emotions.”

To channel those emotions creatively, she took a humorous tone with the comic “Quarantine Makes Life Better,” which depicted a faux-news report of characters coping with stay-at-home life.

(17) PIXAR’S ONWARD ONLINE. Adweek reports “Disney’s Onward Available for Digital Purchase Tonight as Coronavirus Shutters Theaters”.

Disney’s latest Pixar film, Onward, opened in theaters just two weeks ago, but the company is already making it available for digital purchase tonight, making it the latest current release to quickly migrate to video-on-demand platforms as the novel coronavirus’ spread wipes out traditional movie theater attendance.

The film, which follows the adventures of two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, will be available to purchase on digital platforms for $19.99 beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Disney said this morning.

It will then be released on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ just two weeks from now, on April 3.

(18) BRITISH FAN HISTORY. The British Science Fiction Association has made its archive of its official journal Vector available on the Fanac.org website: “Early Vector now open access”.

The BSFA have partnered with FANAC.org to make sixty years’ worth of back issues available free online. This collection includes for the first time scans of all of the first seven issues (editors inclue E.C. Tubb, Terry Jeeves, Roberta Gray, and Michael Moorcock).

Most of what has been digitized is now available on Fanac: issues from the 1980s and 1990s should follow shortly.

(19) COMFORT READS. The New York Times features includes a couple of genre books (one of them by Harlan Ellison): “Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, Min Jin Lee and Others on the Books That Bring Them Comfort”.

Celeste Ng – ‘The Princess Bride,’ by William Goldman

In 1987, my sister was halfway through reading me “The Princess Bride” when she went off to college. The day she left, I cried myself to sleep — and then, after I got my bearings again, I read the rest of the book on my own. So this has always been a comfort read for me: a fairy tale that acknowledges that life isn’t fair (“It’s just fairer than death, that’s all”) yet still manages to make you feel that the good guys might win, that justice will be served, that there’s a point to it all. If you only know the (fantastic) film, pick the book up, too — it’s just as much of a delight. —Celeste Ng’s most recent book is “Little Fires Everywhere.”

(20) DEPTH SHALL NOT RELEASE YOU. BBC has the bad news — “Climate change: Earth’s deepest ice canyon vulnerable to melting”.

East Antarctic’s Denman Canyon is the deepest land gorge on Earth, reaching 3,500m below sea-level.

It’s also filled top to bottom with ice, which US space agency (Nasa) scientists reveal in a new report has a significant vulnerability to melting.

Retreating and thinning sections of the glacier suggest it is being eroded by encroaching warm ocean water.

Denman is one to watch for the future. If its ice were hollowed out, it would raise the global sea surface by 1.5m.

…Most people recognise the shores around the Dead Sea in the Middle East to have the lowest visible land surface elevation on Earth, at some 430m below sea level. But the base of the gorge occupied by Denman Glacier on the edge of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) actually reaches eight times as deep.

This was only recently established, and it has made Denman a location of renewed scientific interest.

(21) NOT BLASTS FROM THE PAST.  Got to love this title: “Not Rocket Science: SF Stories Involving Alternatives to Space Rocketry”, a Tor.com post by James Davis Nicoll:

…A cousin to the sling is the accelerator, a (presumably firmly bolted down) device which uses some force other than centripetal to accelerate payloads. Such devices have some obvious limits (namely, power supply, heat management, and the trade-off between accelerations low enough not to crush the payload and final velocities high enough to be useful). They also have advantages, not least of which is not having to haul a gigawatt-plus power supply off-planet and across space. Accelerators of various kinds go way back in science fiction, at least as far as Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, whose Baltimore Gun Club delivers a living payload past the Moon using a very, very large gun. No, larger than that.

Various flavours of accelerators show up all through SF. One of the more striking examples is Michael Swanwick’s Vacuum Flowers, whose “transit rings” manipulate space-time to accelerate payloads to high speeds without the payloads feeling the forces involved. I wonder if this was inspired by Robert Forward’s Guidelines to Antigravity

(22) LET THE SUNSHINE IN. Oh, sure, if you’re going to count everything“Electric car emissions myth ‘busted'”

Fears that electric cars could actually increase carbon emissions are a damaging myth, new research shows.

Media reports have questioned if electric cars are really “greener” once emissions from manufacture and electricity generation are counted.

The research concludes that in most places electric cars produce fewer emissions overall – even if generation still involves fossil fuels.

Other studies warn that driving overall must be reduced to hit climate targets.

The new research from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen – in The Netherlands – and Cambridge shows that in 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than a petrol car.

The only exceptions are places like Poland, where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal.

(23) SEA FOR YOURSELF. SYFY Wire applauds a scientific development: “Creepy Extinct Fish With Fingers Unearths The Bizarre Truth Of How Hands Evolved”.

Humans may not be directly related to fish (except maybe Abe Sapien or that creature from The Shape of Water), but the fossil of an extinct fish known as Elpisostege watsoni was a breakthrough for a research team from Flinders University in Australia and Universite de Quebec a Rimouski in Canada. This literal fish out of water had fingers, as in actual finger bones, in its pectoral fins. Its 380-million-year-old skeleton revealed how vertebrate fingers evolved from fins — and how prehistoric fish morphed into tetrapods.

(24) ANCIENT PILOT. William Shatner was Archie Goodwin in this adaptation of Nero Wolfe.

An unsold, 1959 pilot for a proposed NERO WOLFE TV series starring Kurt Kasznar as Nero Wolfe and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin. The theme was composed by Alex North. Rumor has it there are two additional unsold pilots with this cast out there somewhere.

(25) VULCAN LIVES. John Prine’s “Lonesome Friends of Science” is news to me!

“This song here is an epic.  This tells you about the humiliation of the planet Pluto, when it was told it was no longer a planet, the romantic escapades of the Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama, and the end of the world as we know it.  All in a little over four minutes.” 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nancy Lebovitz, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, rcade, Joe Siclari, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Darrah Chavey, Iphinome, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirebiting editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/20 We Are The Pixels, My Friend, And We’ll Keep On Scrollin’, To The End

(1) BULLISH ON JOCK. PropStore is holding an auction of alternate movie posters by Jock. In “Poster Boy”, “Mondo artist Jock talks us through five of his most impressive posters, all of which are part of the Prop Store Movie Poster Auction on March 26.”

Guardians of the Galaxy

This was an idea-led design choice. That technique of cutting out the bodies was more common in old ’50s and ’60s American magazine illustration. The goal with doing that was to elevate what would just be a drawing of the characters standing there into something that’s more design-led and more interesting.

There’s also a “Jock Q&A – In conversation with celebrated Mondo poster artist Jock”

How does your poster-design process start?
I think posters often work best if there’s an idea behind them, rather than just being an illustration of the characters in a cool position. For my most recent Star Wars posters, for example, I chose a scene from the films that we all know and love, but tried to present it from an angle that we haven’t seen before. The only thing about trying to come up with an idea is you can’t force it. You’ve just gotta kind of noodle and doodle until you maybe have an idea for something.

(2) A LITTLE NUDGE. The discussion here is an example of one of the social dynamics at work on the Hugo Awards. It begins with this tweet —  

(3) LIU ADAPTATION TO SMALL SCREEN. AMC has given a two-season pickup to Pantheon,  a sff drama from Craig Silverstein. The series is based on short stories by Ken Liu.

Written by Silverstein (Turn: Washington’s Spies, Nikita), Pantheon is set in a world where uploaded consciousness is a reality. The first season centers on Maddie, a bullied teen who receives mysterious help from someone online. The stranger is soon revealed to be her recently deceased father, David, whose consciousness has been uploaded to the Cloud following an experimental destructive brain scan. David is the first of a new kind of being: an “Uploaded Intelligence” or UI, but he will not be the last, as a global conspiracy unfolds that threatens to trigger a new kind of world war.

(4) SFF SHOW AXED. YouTube is moving away from scripted originals, and Impulse is a casualty.

…YouTube has canceled the sci-fi series Impulse after two seasons, making it the latest casualty in the video platform’s changing strategy for original programming. …

Impulse, developed by Jeffrey Lieber (Lost, NCIS: New Orleans) and with a pilot episode directed by executive producer Doug Liman, premiered in June 2018. It centers on 16-year-old Henrietta “Henry” Coles (Maddie Hasson), who has the ability to teleport but can’t control where she ends up. It’s based on a novel of the same title by Steven Gould.

(5) AND THESE TWO NEVER GOT ON THE AIR. Meanwhile, Disney has changed its mind about a planned Muppets revival, and scrapped a Tron adaptation before anyone even knew they were doing one. The Hollywood Reporter has the story in “Bob Iger’s Next Priority? Streamline Disney+ Development”.

In a sign of the challenges, Disney+ has developed then scrapped three original series in the past year: scripted comedy Muppets Live Another Day from Adam Horowitz, Eddy Kitsis and Josh Gad; Disney villains drama Book of Enchantment from Michael Seitzman; and, per sources, a never-announced Tron adaptation from John Ridley. Two other projects — TV series based on High Fidelity and Love, Simon — were moved to Hulu over their adult thematic content that executives weren’t comfortable showing on the family-friendly Disney+.

(6) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. One doesn’t have to travel too far back in time to run into certain problems: “Old episodes of Doctor Who streaming on BritBox stir up controversy” at Fansided.

Doctor Who is unique among current popular genre series in that it’s technically been around for nearly 60 years, officially kicking off on November 23, 1963….

And that can cause issues, because 1963 was a very different time, for television and the world in general. So was 1977, when Tom Baker was starring as the Fourth Doctor. That’s when the show aired the serial “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” starring John Bennett acting in yellowface as villain Li H’sen Chang, a stage magician aided by Mr. Sin, a cyborg from the 51st century known as the Peking Homunculus.

Yeah, it’s bad. And did we mention that, in the serial, Chinese people are referred to as “inscrutable ch**ks”? It’s very bad.

“It is really hard to watch because yellowface is so unacceptable now,” said Emma Ko, a screenwriter and spokeswoman for British East Asians in Theatre and on Screen. “When you are somebody who was called a “ch**k” in your childhood, as I have been, it is so hard to hear that word and not feel immediately a trigger reaction of how wrong it is.”…

(7) DOING WHAT COMES SUPERNATURALLY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Michael Koryta and Alma Katsu on Horror, Craft, and Reinvention” at CrimeReads, horror novelists Koryta and Katsu interview each other on their new novels, Katsu’s The Deep and Koryta’s The Chill (written as by Scott Carson), as they ask each other about their backgrounds and how they ended up writing horror. Alma Katsu has lived in the Washington D.C. area and has been a guest at Capclave.

Alma Katsu: After establishing yourself in mystery and crime, I have to ask, what drew you to horror for The Chill? What was the appeal? Does everyone secretly—or openly—love horror? 

Michael Koryta: Love of the storytelling world where the past is encroaching on the present. A ghost story invites the past right in and treats it as if it never left. In my experience, that’s really how we live our lives—every move made in the present is shaped by memory, right? On individual and societal levels. The idea of kicking open a door that allows the past to wander in and be active is always appealing to me. For some reason, I’m particularly drawn to this when the natural world is involved in the story. The idea of turning on a faucet in Queens and receiving water that comes from a reservoir in the Catskills where once a town existed is both intriguing to me and fundamentally eerie. Drink up!

I don’t think everyone loves horror, which is a shame, because they should. A little paranoia is good for the soul. It seems so unimaginative to not be afraid of the dark.

What about you? Why are you writing for the warped minds like mine?

Katsu: I lived in a strangely Gothic world as a child. I grew up in a very spooky house in a spooky town in Massachusetts. The house was an old Victorian, long neglected, which meant it had all these period details that, being a Service brat, I’d never seen before. Pocket doors that disappeared into the walls, twisty stairs leading up to an attic filled with old trunks left by previous occupants. Overrun by mice, so the walls talked to you every night. Growing up in a house like that definitely cements the notion that the past is a frightening place.

(8) BLACK WIDOW FINAL TRAILER. Black Widow arrives in theaters May 1.

“At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be and who you are.”

(9) POMERANTZ OBIT. Earl Pomerantz, a two-time Emmy winner who wrote and produced for such comedies as The Mary Tyler Moore ShowThe Cosby ShowTaxi and The Larry Sanders Show, has died. “Earl Pomerantz, Producer and Emmy-Winning Screenwriter, Dies at 75”. He wrote two episodes of Amazing Stories — “Fine Tuning” and “Mummy Daddy”.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 10, 1978 Return from Witch Mountain premiered. The sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain, it was written by Malcolm Marmorstein and is based on were characters that created by Alexander Key who also wrote the novelization of the film. Ike Eisenmann, Kim Richards, and Denver Pyle reprise their roles from the first with Bette Davis and. Christopher Lee being the baddies here.  Neither critics (40% rating) or audience (50% rating) at Rotten Tomatoes were particularly fond of it. You can see it here.
  • March 10, 1995VR.5 premiered on Fox. It featured a cast of David McCallum, Anthony Head, Lori Singer and Louise Fletcher. It was created by Jeannine Renshaw. Executive producer Thania St. John stated that in press releases, “VR.5 will try to capture that same, creepy feeling of the X-Files” which was the lead-in to this series. It lasted a total of thirteen episodes with only ten shown in its first run. There is no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the aggregate critic rating is very high 75%. You can see the pilot here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon  as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still  playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script oddly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydon. He’s here as he was in The Lost World, the 1960 film version, as Prof. Summerlee. He showed up in the same year in The Twilight Zone in “A Thing About Machines” as Bartlet Finchley. And he’d be Solicitor Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed their and each other’s works.  A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M. Miller”. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye, 82. Currently the editor of Weird Tales, he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.  The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award.
  • Born March 10, 1958 Sharon Stone,  62. Damn, she’s the same age I am. She’s been in three genre films, her first being Total Recall where she played the ill-fated Lori Quaid. Her next was Sphere where she was cast as Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Halperin, and last was in, errr, Catwoman where she was Laurel Hedare, an assassin. 
  • Born March 10, 1969 Paget Brewster, 51. She was Jenny Spy on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and most of her genre roles have been voice roles: Lana Lang on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Lois Lane on Justice League: Gods and Monsters and Poison Ivy on Batman and Harley Quinn.
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 43. She’s best known for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly.
  • Born March 10, 1979 Fonda Lee, 41. Her Jade City novel was a finalist for a Nebula Award for Best Novel and won a World Fantasy Award. Its sequel. Jade War, was published last year. And her Cross Fire novel was named Best YA Novel at the 2019 Aurora Awards for best Canadian speculative fiction. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo is making perfect sense interpreting a Philip Dick title!
  • Today’s Bizarro has everyone’s dream of heaven.

(13) LIVE LONGER, AND PROSPER. An AP newswire article about Congress trying to cope with the coronavirus situation included this interesting sidelight: “Lawmakers race to respond to outbreak; Trump comes to Hill”.

[…] Meanwhile, lawmakers were given new instructions on how to protect themselves at the Capitol, with the House’s attending physician asking them to stop shaking hands or touching people during greetings — he recommended the split-fingers Star Trek greeting instead.

(14) AMAZON’S LOTR ADAPTATION. Don’t let Yahoo! fool you – they don’t know when it’s going to air. They know some other facts, however — “The Lord of the Rings TV show release date, cast, trailer and everything we know so far about the Amazon Prime series”.

Slowly but surely, we’re starting to find out more about the Lord of the Rings TV show. Amazon’s series – the rights for which are rumoured to have cost the streaming service $250 million – may not yet have a release date, but there’s plenty of information out there: cast members, filming location, and news of a second season renewal have all been revealed.

Whether you’re a Tolkien diehard or someone who’s just eager to head back to Middle-Earth after watching the movies, we’ll break down what to expect from the Lord of the Rings TV show below. To Mordor!

(15) GET AN EARFUL. The GraphicAudio trailer makes Wasted Space, Vol. 1 sound pretty appealing.

Billy Bane is a prophet who got it all wrong, and the galaxy has been burning ever since. All he wants is to waste away in the darkest corner of space with his best pal Dust, a supercharged Fuq bot. But when a new prophet comes calling, Billy is summoned to save the galaxy he’s at least partially responsible for destroying.

Too bad he couldn’t care less.

Michael Moreci (Roche Limit, Wonder Woman, Black Star Renegades) and Hayden Sherman (The Few, Cold War, John Carter: The End) have thrown Philip K. Dick in a blender with Preacher. Take a sip and get wasted.

(16) AHMED’S LATEST. Coming from Marvel in June:

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1

Written by SALADIN AHMED; Art by RYAN KELLY; Cover by ALEX ROSS

In the heart of the Civil War event, a human story unfolds. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, doing his best to do the job with honor—but is that even possible? A young, low-level Super Hero, trying to help his neighbors—but that’s not even legal any more. The two come together in a story that’ll test their commitment, ideals, hopes, and dreams.

Featuring Captain America, Giant-Man, Maria Hill, and more, Kurt Busiek recruits Hugo-Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed and all-star Ryan Kelly to uniquely retell this iconic Marvel story.

(17) DON’T LOSE THAT NUMBER. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Evidently, speculative fiction is gaining traction within many music communities. William Gibson was asked by Wire Magazine, which is one of the leading underground music magazines (behind a paywall), to take part in the Invisible Jukebox and identify a series of recordings by ear alone.

Invisible Jukebox: William Gibson: Can the visionary science fiction author hack The Wire’s mystery record selection? Tested by Emily Bick…

Steely Dan

Kid Charlemagne

[(from The Royal Scam [ABC 1976]).  

“Kid Charlemagne. I have it on my iPhone.

You’re a real Steely Dan fan, right?

Yeah, I was a Steely Dan fan from the day the 45 “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” came out and continue to be this day. Lyrically, it was unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and it continues to be. Back in the later  80s I would be in the supermarket shopping. Sometimes I’d be the only male shopper, and “Hey Nineteen” would come on the Muzak. And so I’m listening to this, and looking around me are all these lovely young mothers, and I’m thinking holy shit, does nobody scan the stuff for what the lyrics mean, because this is the most deliberately sexually perverse and shocking material. Sometimes I hear younger people say, “Oh, Steely Dan. Everything’s been sanded off. It’s all smooth, it doesn’t sound like human beings are making it.” And then when you listen to the lyrics….

They got their name from a double-headed dildo, so you really can’t expect much else.

Yeah, that’s true. 

(19) DINO SAVINGS TIME. Gizmodo held a shell up to their ear, and guess what they heard?“Days on Earth Used to Be 30 Minutes Shorter, Ancient Shell Suggests”.

….That days were shorter tens of millions of years ago is hardly a revelation. The new study is important in that it improves the accuracy of pre-existing estimates, while providing a new way of studying the past.

“Previous estimates were based on counting daily laminae [growth layers] similar to the ones we did chemical analyses on,” de Winter told Gizmodo. “This [previous] counting yielded roughly the same number of days per year, but with different countings yielding differences up to 10 days due to human error and the difficulty in recognizing daily layers by eye.”

Key to the research was a single fossil shell belonging to Torreites sanchezi, a rudist clam. Now extinct, rudists were shaped like boxes, tubes, and rings, and they filled an ecological niche currently occupied by coral reefs. T. sanchezi grew very quickly as far as hinged, or bivalve, mollusks are concerned, exhibiting thin layers of daily growth rings.

(20) EVOLUTION IN ACTION. The satellite Pixel’d yesterday for its movie camera also does hot stills: “Anak Krakatau: Finnish radar satellite eyes tsunami volcano”.

Here’s a new view of Anak Krakatau, the collapsed Indonesian volcano that generated the 22 December tsunami that devastated local coastlines.

The picture was assembled from radar images acquired on Wednesday by the ICEYE-X2 satellite.

This is a small innovative spacecraft from Finland that will soon be part of a large orbiting network of sensors.

The volcano continues to evolve, following the cone’s catastrophic failure.

Its original height of 340m was reduced to just 110m in the disaster, but further eruptions have since begun to re-model the remnant structure.

“This image indicates the edifice is in a building phase, with the crater no longer connected to the sea as it was in images from a week or so ago,” observed Prof Andy Hooper from Leeds University, UK.

(21) ANOTHER STEP. “Second patient cured of HIV, say doctors”.

A man from London has become the second person in the world to be cured of HIV, doctors say.

Adam Castillejo is still free of the virus more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy.

He was not cured by the HIV drugs, however, but by a stem-cell treatment he received for a cancer he also had, the Lancet HIV journal reports.

The donors of those stem cells have an uncommon gene that gives them, and now Mr Castillejo, protection against HIV.

(22) GENRE L.A. At CrimeReads, Katie Orphan goes to one of the last roadhouses in the L.A. area and visits the house where Mildred Pierce was filmed in“Searching for James M. Cain’s Los Angeles”, an excerpt from her book Read Me, L.A.: Exploring L.A.’s Book Culture.

… In The Postman Always Rings Twice, for example, the fictional Twin Oaks Tavern is at the center of much of the action. The story in Cain’s debut novel revolves around the tavern’s owner, Nick Papadakis (“the Greek”), his younger wife, Cora, and Frank Chambers, a drifter they hire to help out at the place; Cora and Frank get involved and conspire to kill the Greek. The Twin Oaks is a roadhouse in the mountains above L.A., with a gas station and motel joining a restaurant to make Papadakis’s little empire. Places like that were common in the 1930s and ’40s but aren’t today, so the few that are left are treasures. Newcomb’s Ranch is one of them.

Newcomb’s opened in what is now the Angeles National Forest in 1939, only a few years after Cain wrote Postman. It’s a cheery, ranch-style wooden building set among pines, on winding Angeles Crest Highway about an hour north of Glendale, where the Papadakises would travel to do their shopping.

Newcomb’s Ranch is a popular weekend destination for motorcyclists who stop for lunch after roaring up Angeles Crest Highway, and I enjoyed the drive up as much as they do. It’s a gorgeous journey into the San Gabriel Mountains; if you go in winter, you might be fortunate enough to encounter trees flocked with snow and low-hanging clouds settling around the peaks.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/9/20 And There’s Hamburger All Over the Information Superhighway

(1) HOPE IS ON THE WAY. There’s a brand new podcast, If This Goes On (Don’t Panic), themed around hopepunk. The first episode is hosted by Cat Rambo and Alan Bailey, interviewing Alexandra Rowland, who coined the term “hopepunk.”

In this episode, Cat and Alan discuss the concept of Hopepunk with Alexandra Rowland, coiner of the term. Other topics include the hopeful nature of Lord of the Rings, why there has to be a protagonist in fiction, and why sometimes you have to sell out.

Alan also reviews the second season of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold published by Serialbox

(2) FREE DOWNLOAD. Elizabeth Bonesteel just released a free ebook of her short fiction Survival Tactics:

(3) ARROWVERSE EXPANDS. CBR.com thinks “Stargirl: The CW’s Newest Series Could Be Its Best Yet”.

The next TV series based on a DC Comics property is Stargirl, which is receiving a dual release on both The CW and the DC Universe streaming app. While this might be a drawback for DC Universe, which could benefit from the show’s exclusivity, it could be a boon for The CW.

The network’s lineup of Arrowverse shows continues to grow, something that will only continue now that the groundbreaking “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover has come and gone. Despite their seeming popularity, the shows have their fair share of detractors and common criticisms. Since it’s technically a DC Universe show, however, Stargirl may just be able to avoid those pitfalls, and thus become the best superhero series on The CW yet.

(4) CAPTIONS CASE CLOSED. Publishers Lunch tells readers “The Audible Settlement Is Finally Public”.

The case brought by seven publishers against Audible over their planned Captions feature is now formally concluded, with Judge Valerie Caproni’s signature in place on the permanent injunction barring the audiobook company from displaying text from e-books without the permission of copyright holders. Audible will pay each litigating publisher an undisclosed sum, after which both parties will file final documentation to the court.

(5) DOES THIS MEAN GETTING FOUND IN SPACE? ComicBook.com brings the shocking news that “Lost in Space Cancelled After Season 3 on Netflix”.

[Showrunner Zack] Estrin revealed that the plan for Lost in Space was always meant to be told in three parts, so this ending really is a conclusion of the story rather than a cancellation by Netflix.

“From the beginning, we’ve always viewed this particular story of The Robinsons as a trilogy,” Estrin said. “A three part epic family adventure with a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s also worth noting that, with what these characters go through just trying to survive each episode — if anyone deserves to catch their breath before their next mission — it’s Will, Penny, Judy, Maureen, John, Don West, Dr. Smith… and The Robot. And, of course, Debbie the Chicken. So while this chapter of Lost In Space is coming to a rousing conclusion, I’m excited about continuing to explore new stories with my friends at Netflix, and for all of the incredible possibilities that lie ahead.”

(6) SHERYL LERNER. Condolences to Lofgeornost’s faned Fred Lerner, who sent out this message today:

I am sorry to report that my wife Sheryl died last night. Many of you will have met her at various conventions, or read about her in my Lofgeornost trip reports. Although she did not read much science fiction, she enjoyed convention programming and the conversations we had with Lofgeornost readers.

(7) VON SYDOW OBIT. Actor Max Von Sydow died March 9. He was the only male Swedish actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. The New York Times tribute is here: “Max von Sydow, Star of ‘Seventh Seal’ and ‘Exorcist,’ Dies at 90”.

Mr. von Sydow, widely hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, became an elder pop culture star in his later years, appearing in a “Star Wars” movie in 2015 as well as in the sixth season of the HBO fantasy-adventure series “Game of Thrones.” He even lent his deep, rich voice to “The Simpsons.”

By then he had become a familiarly austere presence in popular movies like William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist,” Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” and, more recently, Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

But to film lovers the world over he was most enduringly associated with Bergman.

If ever an actor was born to inhabit the World According to Bergman, it was Mr. von Sydow. Angular and lanky at 6-foot-3, possessing a gaunt face and hooded, icy blue eyes, he not only radiated power but also registered a deep sense of Nordic angst, helping to give flesh to Bergman’s often bleak but hopeful and sometimes comic vision of the human condition in classics like “The Seventh Seal” and “The Virgin Spring.”

The National Review reminded readers about a few of his other popular roles:

Sydow was 44 when portraying the wizened old priest [in The Exorcist] whose stalwart faith combats the film’s antagonistic demonic presence; he reportedly required more makeup to appear old than Linda Blair required to appear possessed in the role of Regan MacNeil.

King Osric in the underappreciated Conan the Barbarian. Sydow, along with James Earl Jones (as the villain Thulsa Doom) was brought onto the production of the 1982 John Millius film in the hope that their stately presence would inspire the mostly novice crew of actors (including Arnold Schwarzenagger, in one of his first major productions) to greater heights.

He also played emperor Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon (1980), and Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983).

(8) TUCCI OBIT. Actor Nicholas Tucci died March 3 — The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Nicholas Tucci, ‘You’re Next’ and ‘Channel Zero’ Actor, Dies at 38”.

Nicholas Tucci, an actor who appeared in the horror film You’re Next and SyFy’s Channel Zero, died Tuesday after battling an unspecified illness, according to his father, who shared the news on Facebook. Tucci was 38.

(9) NEELY OBIT. Mystery author Barbara Neely, named Mystery Writers of America’s 2020 Grand Master just last December, has passed away. USA Today profiles her career: “Barbara Neely, author of first black female series sleuth Blanche White, dies at 78”.

Award-winning mystery writer Barbara Neely, who created the first black female series sleuth in mainstream American publishing, died last week after a brief illness, according to her publisher, Brash Books. She was 78.

Neely is perhaps best known for her four-book Blanche White series, which had at its center a nomadic amateur detective and domestic worker who uses the invisibility inherent to her job as an advantage in pursuit of the truth.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 1933 –This month was when the first Doc Savage novel was published. The Man of Bronze was by Lester Dent writing under the house name Kenneth Robeson. It would publisher in the March issue of the Doc Savage magazine. It was the basis of the Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze film that starred Ron Ely. You can see the film hereThe Man of Bronze is available at the usual digital publishers. 

March 9, 2011 — Dynamite Entertainment published the  first issue of Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris. It was set on the world of Barsoom 400 years before John Carter went there, with her being of the focus of the story.Arthur Adams and Joe Jusko were the writers, with Paul Renaud, and Alé Garza being the artists. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 9, 1918 Mickey Spillane. His first job was writing stories for Funnies Inc. including Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and Captain America. Do note these were text stories, not scripts for comics. Other than those, ISFDB lists him as writing three genre short stories: “The Veiled Woman“ (co-written with Howard Browne),  “The Girl Behind the Hedge” and “Grave Matter” (co-written with Max Allan Collins).  Has anyone read these? (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 9, 1930 Howard L. Myers. Clute over at EofS positively gushes over him as does here of Cloud Chamber:“ attractively combines Cosmology, Antimatter invaders of our Universe, Sex and effortless rebirth of all sentient beings in a wide-ranging Space Opera“.  I see he had but two novels and a handful of short stories. They’re available, the novels at least, from the usual digital sources. (Died 1971.)
  • Born March 9, 1939 Pat Ellington. She was married to Dick Ellington, who edited and published the FIJAGH fanzine. They met in New York as fans in the Fifties. After they moved to California, she was a contributor to Femizine, a fanzine put out by the hoax fan Joan W. Carr. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it. Ok, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 9, 1945 Robert Calvert. Lyricist for Hawkwind, a band that’s at least genre adjacent. And Simon R. Green frequently mentioned them in his Nightside series. Calvert was a close friend of Michael Moorcock.  He wrote SF poetry which you read about here. (Died 1988.)
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy, 65. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating.
  • Born March 9, 1959 Mark Carwardine, 61. In 2009, he penned Last Chance to See: In the Footsteps of Douglas Adams. This is the sequel to Last Chance to See, the 1989 BBC radio documentary series and book which he did with Douglas Adams. In 2009, he also worked with Stephen Fry on a follow-up to the original Last Chance to See. This also was called Last Chance to See
  • Born March 9, 1965 Brom, 55. Artist and writer whose best work I think is Krampus: The Yule Lord and The Child Thief. The Art of Brom is a very good look at his art. He’s listed as having provided some of the art design used on Galaxy Quest
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 42. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo creates a clever image for what sff fans think of as the multiverse.
  • Free Range points out a challenge of producing the 1960s Batman TV show that’s obvious if you think about it…
  • Off The Mark has a very amusing library gag.  
  • Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics:

(13) MONSTER ART COLLECTION. Lonely Planet shows where “Metallica fans can visit Kirk Hammett’s traveling sci-fi and horror art collection”.

… Organized by the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, its final stop is at the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA) in Columbia, South Carolina, where it runs from 15 February to 17 May, 2020 and includes an interactive guitar experience and programming schedule with appearances by Hammett himself.

…On display are 135 works from twentieth century cinema including posters, rare art by master artists and related memorabilia such as electric guitars, lobby cards, film props and costumes. As described by his biographer Stefan Chirazi, Hammett was a self-described shy kid obsessed with monsters, ghouls, toys, movies and guitars; he first connected with Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein followed by Godzilla, the Mummy and other terrifying creatures that tap into our psychological response to fear. He admits it’s his collection that has primarily sparked his creativity over the years. “The stuff of horror has a mojo that always works on me,” he says. “I start producing ideas…they just flow like liquid.”

(14) PRESCRIPTION ROBOT. “Former MythBuster’s adorable Baby Yoda robot will cheer up sick kids”CNET has a Q&A with the designer.

Baby Yoda captured hearts everywhere when it debuted on Disney Plus Star Wars live action series The Mandalorian. Count former MythBusters cast member Grant Imahara among the fans. He thinks the character’s so cute he built his own life-like animatronic Baby Yoda to cheer up sick kids. 

Imahara currently works as a consultant for Disney Research and a mechanical designer at Spectral Motion. He helped build Disney’s animatronic Spider-Man that will be flying over the upcoming Marvel Campus in Disney’s California Adventure.

“Pleased to present my newest creation: a fully animatronic Baby Yoda,” Imahara posted on his Facebook on Friday. “It’s been three months of hard work and countless revisions. I did all the mechanical design, programming, and 3D printed the molds. He’s currently running a continuous sequence, but soon I’ll be able to trigger specific moods and reactions, as well as incorporate sound.”

To find out more about how this adorable moving animatronic Baby Yoda was created, I chatted with Imahara about what went into building it. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation. 

Q: How did the idea come about to build an animatronic Baby Yoda?
After the third episode of The Mandalorian, I knew I had to make my own Baby Yoda. I was an animatronics engineer in the ILM model shop before MythBusters, and worked on the Star Wars prequels as well as the Energizer Bunny, so I had the required skill set. And it could be a character I could bring to children’s hospitals for charity work, which is something I’ve been committed to doing.

(15) GIBSON BOOK REVIEWED. Thomas J. Millay explains “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Superintelligent AI: On Wiliam Gibson’s ‘Agency’” at LA Review of Books.

NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO, Mona Lisa Overdrive; Virtual Light, Idoru, All Tomorrow’s Parties; Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, Zero History: William Gibson works in threes. Agency is the second novel of what is almost certainly going to be a trilogy. The first novel, titled The Peripheral, was a New York Times best seller notable for its heady mixture of drone manipulation, time travel, apocalypse, and alternate history, all these devices being combined in a narrative prose precise in its physical and technological descriptions. Given the novel’s formal innovations and literary qualities, it is the pace of The Peripheral that is most remarkable, with Gibson moving readers rapidly toward the novel’s utopian conclusion, in thriller-like fashion….

(16) ZONING OUT. When you live near a radio telescope, it turns out you have to give up certain things. The New York Times takes you there: “No Cell Signal, No Wi-Fi, No Problem. Growing Up Inside America’s ‘Quiet Zone’”.

…Welcome to Green Bank, population 143, where Wi-Fi is both unavailable and banned and where cellphone signals are nonexistent.

The near radio silence is a requirement for those living close to the town’s most prominent and demanding resident, the Green Bank Observatory, home to the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. To protect the sensitive equipment from interference, the federal government in 1958 established the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square-mile area near the state’s border with Virginia.

The observatory’s telescope “could detect your phone on Saturn in airplane mode,” states a sign outside its science center building, but is rendered much weaker if anyone uses electronics that emit radio waves. For those who live within 10 miles of the observatory, the limitations also include a ban on Bluetooth devices and microwaves, unless they are contained in a metal box, known as a Faraday cage, which blocks electromagnetic fields.

Nearly 15 million Americans live in sparsely populated communities where there is no broadband internet service at all, a stark digital divide across America between those with access to uber-fast connections and those with none.

(17) COUNTRIES REJECT ‘ONWARD’ OVER GAY CHARACTER. BBC reports “Pixar’s Onward ‘banned by four Middle East countries’ over gay reference”.

Pixar’s latest animation Onward has been banned by several Middle Eastern countries because of a reference to lesbian parents, according to reports.

The family film will not be shown in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hollywood media have reported.

Police officer Specter, voiced by Lena Waithe, has been heralded as Disney-Pixar’s first openly gay character.

Her lines include: “It’s not easy being a parent… my girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, OK?”

Other Middle East countries like Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt are showing the film.

And according to Deadline, Russia censored the scene in question by changing the word “girlfriend” to “partner” and avoiding mentioning the gender of Specter, who is a supporting character.

Speaking to Variety, Waithe explained that the line about “my girlfriend” was her idea.

And Variety’s story about it is here.

(18) MMM-MMM-BAD? BBC inquires “Why plastic is a deadly attraction for sea turtles”.

Scientists have new evidence to explain why plastic is dangerous to sea turtles: the animals mistake the scent of plastic for food.

Thus, a plastic bag floating in the sea not only looks like a jellyfish snack, but it gives off a similar odour.

This “olfactory trap” might help explain why sea turtles are prone to eating and getting entangled in plastic, say US researchers.

…Garbage patches

Once plastic has been released into the ocean, microbes, algae, plants and tiny animals start to colonise it and make it their home. This creates food-like odours, which have been shown to be a magnet for fish and possibly sea birds. The new research suggests sea turtles are attracted to plastic for the same reason.

(19) LOOK UP AND SAY CHEESE. “Space radar movies track motion on Earth’s surface” – the BBC coverage features several short sample clips.

Satellite operator Iceye is now making videos that can show the Earth’s surface through cloud and at night.

The short, 20-second movies are an extension of the standard still radar images it already produces.

In the examples released by the Finnish company on Monday, planes are seen taxiing across Britain’s Heathrow airport and heavy plant vehicles are observed working in a Utah mine.

The videos are said to be a first for a commercial space operator.

Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology is already appreciated for its ability to “see” the ground irrespective of the weather or lighting conditions. Retrieving motion in a scene literally now gives Iceye’s products another dimension, says CEO Rafal Modrzewski.

(20) WHO NEEDS GOOGLE? Patrick Stewart answers the web’s most searched questions for WIRED.

“Star Trek: Picard” star Patrick Stewart takes the WIRED Autocomplete Interview and answers the internet’s most searched questions about himself. How did Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen meet? Was Patrick in Harry Potter? How many awards has he won? Does he own a vineyard? Sir Patrick answers all these questions and much, much more.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/20 You Make Me Vote Like A Natural Person…

(1) WORLDCON AMBITIONS. Tammy Coxen wants to remedy the problem of groups bidding for Worldcons without having any knowledge of the norms and customs of the convention they want to run. With input from many others, she has created an introduction — “So You Want to Bid for a Worldcon”.

Have you ever thought about running a Worldcon? Because Worldcon has been going on for so long (over 80 years!) there are a lot of expectations, traditions, norms and customes about how to do that, and if you don’t know about them, it’s really hard to win your bid! We haven’t necessarily done a great job of communicating that to people, so (with a lot of help from friends) I put together this intro guide. This is not a how-to document with details – this is more big picture. I think it’s useful to all bidders, but it should be especially useful to people who are new(er) to Worldcons. Please feel free to share.

(2) AURORA AWARDS NEWS. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association reminded people today that the Aurora Awards Eligibility lists close February 29, 2020. And the announcement comes with a warning —

This means that if there are any works you wish to nominate for an award which are not found on the public eligibility lists you will need to submit them before 11:59PM EST February 29, 2020.

Nominations will open March 1, 2020.  

Unlike in previous years, works that are not on the Eligibility lists prior to the opening of Nominations will NOT be able to be added.  

(3) BENFORD Q&A. At Buzzy Mag, Jean Marie Ward conducts the “Gregory Benford Interview – The future is all we have left”.

Jean: We’re so glad to have you. Your most recent published books are both alternate history. “The Berlin Project” looks at the world that might have been if the U.S. had the A bomb before D-day. “Rewrite” offers a sequel to your classic timescape with a Groundhog Day twist. What occasioned this desire to remake recent history?

Gregory: Because it’s so tempting. There are so many pivot points, particularly in World War II and I as a physicist was very close to the issue of, how do you get the Uranium-235 to make bombs? You have to separate it out from the heavier 238 isotope. And the decision of how to do that, I had two choices and General Groves was forced to make the choice because the scientists were divided and he chose the wrong one and it cost us a year in the Second World War. It’s generally agreed by historians that had we suggested or made happen centrifically a separation, spinning cylinders, we would have chopped a year off the gaseous diffusion that Oak Ridge used and spent $1 billion doing. So, how would that change the war? You would have the bomb at D-day, well, how would you use it? And I use this title, “The Berlin Project” because that’s what the scientists in the project called it the first few years because the target was Berlin. Groves said that was too obvious.

So he called it the Manhattan Project and opened an office in Manhattan to give the excuse of, well, of course it was near Columbia University where all his work was done, but still they were always focused on Berlin. So, that was just too tempting because I was a postdoc for Edward Teller at Livermore for two years and then a staff member. He offered me a staff position which I took before I went to UC Irvine. And Teller told me all these delicious stories about the Manhattan Project. And I knew so many of them. The woman who helped me to do physics at UC San Diego, Maria Kepert Mayor, when I was working on problems with her and did a bunch of nuclear physics, again for my thesis, she won the Nobel Prize. And she told me all kinds of delicious stories about the Manhattan Project….

(4) GIBSON BAFFLED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the February 15 Financial Times, John Thornhill interviews William Gibson.

Gibson knew the late (John Perry) Barlow well, but he says he is ‘absolutely baffled by the naive utopianism of the early Internet pioneers, who enthused about disruption.  Barlow professed to love Neuromancer — according to Gibson — but appeared to have missed the central idea that cyberspace also had its downsides.  Even today Gibson says he is puzzled by older readers who approach him at book signings to thank him for inspiring them to pursue a career in tech.

“They’d read a book in which there didn’t appear to be any middle class left and in which no characters had employment.  They were all criminal freelancers of one sort or another. So, it was always quite mysterious to me.”

(5) BRINGING DIVERSITY TO SPACE. “Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier” is airing this week on the Smithsonian Channel. It also can be viewed on YouTube.

America’s experiences during the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race are well documented. However, few know about the moment these two worlds collided, when the White House and NASA scrambled to put the first black astronaut into orbit. This is the untold story of the decades-long battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to be the first superpower to bring diversity to the skies, told by the black astronauts and their families, who were part of this little known chapter of the Cold War.

…On Aug. 30, 1983, the astronaut Guion Bluford embarked as a crew member of the Space Shuttle Challenger, making him the first African-American in space. This documentary features him alongside Edward Dwight, an Air Force pilot edged out of a position with NASA, and Frederick Gregory, the first African-American to command a NASA mission, to examine the complications of sending a black man into space during the Cold War. 

Also included are Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, the first Cuban astronaut sent into space by the Soviet Union, and Ronald McNair, an African-American pilot who died in the Challenger disaster in 1986.

(6) JOHNSON OBIT. Fame came late in Katherine Johnson’s life for her contributions to the early space program. “Smithsonian Curators Remember Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Highlighted in ‘Hidden Figures,’ Who Died at 101”.

…Striking out during “a time when computers wore skirts,” she once said, Johnson quickly proved her incomparable worth. So trusted were her calculations that astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, considered them an integral part of his preflight checklist—even after the equations had been transferred over to modern electronic machines. “When he got ready to go,” Johnson said of Glenn, “he said, ‘Call her. And if she says the computer is right, I’ll take it.”

Her work fueled innumerable feats of aeronautics, several of which were outlined in the 26 research papers Johnson published over her decades-long career. The earliest of these publications made Johnson one of the first women at NASA to become a named author or co-author on an agency report, according to Margalit Fox at the New York Times.

…Though Johnson’s landmark contributions went mostly unheralded by mainstream media throughout her tenure at Langley, the 2010s finally brought her name into the public eye. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, who described Johnson as “a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars,” reports Russell Lewis for NPR. The next year, Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures, as well as a movie adaptation by the same name, highlighted the accomplishments of Johnson and her colleagues.

The film was nominated for three Oscars. When Johnson took the stage at the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony, the mathematician—then 98 years old and the only one of the movie’s central characters still alive at the time of its release—received a thunderous standing ovation. That fall, NASA dedicated a new Langley building in her honor, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility….

The Washington Post obituary also includes many details of her personal life and early career at NACA and its successor, NASA.

…Mrs. Johnson had a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and spent her early career studying data from plane crashes, helping devise air safety standards at a time when the agency’s central concern was aviation….

Chris Garcia wrote her bio when the Bay Area’s Computer History Museum made her a Fellow last year:

… NACA was renamed National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) in 1958, and Johnson became an aerospace technologist within NASA’s Spacecraft Controls branch. In 1960 she coauthored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position, an important report that laid out the equations for determining landing position for orbital spaceflight. In 1961 she calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Earth orbital mission….

(7) MORE ABOUT BARBARA REMINGTON, In “Blast from ye past”, DB follows this intro with some intriguing comments and insights about the late artist:

Barbara Remington has died, at 90. Really old-time Tolkienists will remember her name as that of the artist who created the covers for the first issue of the Ballantine paperbacks of The Lord of the Rings, which may be seen pictured in her obituary here. (Note they’re all actually one painting split into three parts, which was also issued as a single poster without overprinting.)

Ballantine’s goal was to get the books in the shops quickly, to compete with the unauthorized Ace paperbacks, so they gave Remington very little time to work….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 24, 1952Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here.
  • February 24, 1960 The Amazing Transparent Man premiered. It was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, and starred Marguerite Chapman and Douglas Kennedy. It and Beyond the Time Barrier were film in Dallas in two weeks. Critics in general liked it, but the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is a lousy 16%. You can see the film here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let not to overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 87. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 75. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 73. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. (I did try watching it, I gave up after maybe fifteen minutes. Shudder.) He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted  Battlestar Galactica. He made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 69. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 54. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Ben Miller, 54. He first shows up in our corner of things on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in the “Daredevils of the Desert” episode as an unnamed French Officer. His main genre role was on Primeval, a series I highly recommend as a lot of fun, as James Lester.  He later shows up as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Twelfth Doctor episode entitled “Robot of Sherwood”. 
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 52. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seven Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Bizarro is a look-twice.
  • The Argyle Sweater has a silly twist on a common parents-with-a-teenager line.
  • And the brilliant Tom Gauld again –

(11) MARTIAN HOPS. “Hunting for ‘marsquakes,’ NASA lander finds a surprisingly active red planet” reports the LA Times.

…The lander, which touched down on the red planet 15 months ago, has detected plenty of seismic activity, an unexpectedly strong local magnetic field and around 10,000 whirlwinds passing over the Martian surface.

The findings, published Monday in a suite of six papers in the journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications, will help scientists unlock the secrets of Mars’ interior and understand why it looks so different from Earth.

“What these results really are showing us is that Mars is an active planet today,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge, and a co-author of the new studies.

InSight is situated in a roughly 27-yard-wide impact crater in western Elysium Planitia, a volcanic plain whose surface material ranges in age from 3.7 billion to just 2.5 million years old. About 1,000 miles away lies Cerberus Fossae, a volcanic region full of faults, evidence of old lava flows and signs that liquid water once ran on the surface.

(12) HITCH YOUR WAGON TO A STAR. In the Washington Post, Homer Hickam argues that it’s time for a “moon rush” and “once electricians, plumbers, miners, and construction workers start going to the moon, and the middle class starts using products made with materials from Luna, the United States will turn into a true spacefaring nation.” “Let the moon rush begin”.

As these efforts get going, however, it’s important to avoid the thinking of a half-century ago and look at the moon in a different way. This is, after all, not your grandfather’s moon. After the Apollo moon-landing program of the 1960s and ’70s, a series of robotic missions discovered that Luna was a lot more interesting than many had previously thought. It has abundant water and oxygen, as well as helium, platinum, thorium, rare earth metals and other minerals that may well be worth digging up and transporting back for use in thousands of products. Last year, a gigantic blob of metal, as yet unidentified but significantly larger than the Big Island of Hawaii, was discovered beneath the lunar south pole. Whatever it is, it has value. The quiet far side of the moon could also provide a location for interstellar observatories, and tourists who would pay a lot to have a lunar vacation are inevitable. In other words, a real business case can be made for the moon, a case that could not only put dollars back into the pockets of taxpayers but also open up jobs for skilled workers on the lunar surface.

(13) FEEL THE HEAT. Own the “Darth Vader Helmet BBQ Grill” for a mere $724.97! Yahoo! Lifestyle adds:

In addition to the Darth Vader version, Burned by Design LTD makes a R2D2 fire pit, a Storm Trooper fire pit, a Death Star fire pit, and a Boba Fett fire pit. So find your favorite character and enjoy one of those long, outdoor summer nights.

(14) FEEL THE BEAT. “Earth Harp: The man behind the unique instruments ‘epic’ sound” – BBC video.

William Close is the inventor behind the Earth Harp – the world’s longest string instrument which uses architecture and landscapes to create a unique sound.

Mr Close, who has performed the giant harp all over the world, says the audiences are often left feeling like they are “inside the instrument” during his performances.

(15) SET AN EXAMPLE. “Marvel’s Black Panther film costumes to star in new Ipswich exhibition”.

Costumes from Marvel’s Black Panther film will feature in an exhibition designed to help “young black people shape their sense of identity”.

Three costumes from the big-screen hit will be on show at Unmasked: The Power of Stories in Ipswich.

Organisers were inspired by the film’s message about the capacity of storytelling to unite or divide people.

Contributor Phanuel Mutumburi said the exhibition would provide opportunities for people to join in.

Ipswich’s communities were “at the heart” of the exhibition, which would highlight important issues for different communities within the Suffolk town, said organisers.

(16) MAKING DEW. BBC traces “The ethereal art of fog-catching”.

In chronically dry regions around the world, communities are finding ways to live from the water suspended in the air – creating valuable drinking water from mist.

When Abel Cruz was just a boy, near the Peruvian region of Cusco, he had to walk for more than an hour every day to collect water from the nearest source and take it back home. Then he realised that, during the rainy season, drops accumulated in the banana leaves.

“When we saw that, my father and I built natural canals with the leaves to collect the water,” he says. “The first drops were a bit dirty and dusty, yet it was useful to wash dishes.”

The leaves, however, only lasted for around two weeks. “So we cut bamboo in half and we replaced the canal pipes with them, which lasted a lot longer,” explains Cruz. “That is how I got involved with collecting water.”

Today Cruz is collecting water in a very different way – he catches fog.

With large sheets of mesh strung up on hillsides, it is possible to harvest the thick mists that drift across the arid Peruvian landscape. Tiny droplets condense on the netting and dribble down into pipes that carry the water into containers where it can be used to irrigate crops or even as drinking water.

Each net can capture between 200-400 litres of fresh water every day, providing a new source of water for communities that have had no easy access to regular supplies. Cruz has helped to install more than 2,000 of these fog catching nets in eight rural communities across Peru as well as in Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. The impact has been dramatic.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mitigation of Shock from Superflux on Vimeo is about an installation by Superflux displaying the gloomy world of 2050 after climate change and economic collapse.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/20 Keep Scrolling And Pixel On

(1) THE APPETIZER COMES LAST. “Hunger Games prequel will reveal villain’s origins” – BBC has the story,

A new Hunger Games novel is to be published in May, focusing on the back story of the villainous President Snow.

…The new book is set 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games and details the “Dark Days” that led to the failed rebellion in Panem.

A first excerpt, available on the Entertainment Weekly website, depicts Coriolanus Snow as a charming university student who was born into privilege.

Here is the Entertainment Weekly link: “Excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins”.

The world still thought Coriolanus rich, but his only real currency was charm, which he spread liberally as he made his way through the crowd. Faces lit up as he gave friendly hellos to students and teachers alike, asking about family members, dropping compliments here and there. “Your lecture on district retaliation haunts me.” “Love the bangs!” “How did your mother’s back surgery go? Well, tell her she’s my hero.”

(2) HELP NAME THE ROVER. NASA’s Name the Rover contest—for their next Mars rover—has published its list of nine finalists. Students around the country sent in over 28,000 essays supporting their suggested names.

Now the public is invited to chime in — “You Can Help Name the Mars 2020 Rover!” The polls are open for another five days. Each finalist comes with a link to the essay describing why the nominators think it should win.

(3) NEW EDITOR. Galaxy’s Edge publisher, Shahid Mahmud, has announced Lezli Robyn will take over as editor.

As many of you know, Mike Resnick passed away recently.

He pretty much single handedly created this magazine with the aim to give writers, particularly newer writers, a new venue for their stories. He was known in the industry as someone who loved helping younger aspiring authors and there is a large group of writers out there who proudly call themselves Mike’s Writer Children.

One of his writer children was Lezli Robyn, who also works for me as my assistant publisher. During the last year she also helped Mike with the magazine, particularly as his illness started taking a greater toll on his health.

Lezli is an award-winning writer in her own right and has also collaborated with Mike on a number of stories. She will now be taking over as editor of the magazine. I know Mike was very pleased with that decision…to have someone who was very close to him take over something he put so much of his heart into.

Since the two of them were working together on the magazine for the last few months, the transition should be smooth and we expect issue 43 to be available on time, on March 1, 2020.

(4) GALLERY OF HUGO ELIGIBLE ARTISTS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual gallery of pro artists who are eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2020 Professional Artists”.

It has 300+ images from 100+ pro artists whose art was used for short fiction, magazine covers, and novel covers.

However, there is this note –

Thumbnail images with a highlighted link are professional works done in 2019. Thumbnails without a highlighted link were done earlier (shown in last year’s list), later (show in next year’s list) or fan art (published in a semi-prozine) and included to give more examples of the artist’s style.

(5) STET, I REPEAT, STET. Ursula Vernon fights back against the Copyedits of Doom. Thread starts here.

(6) FREE AGENCY. Rudy Rucker shared his experience “Discussing ‘Agency’ with William Gibson”.

RR===

It’s fine with me if the thriller pace slows down. I like your meditative stuff. so nice to have you doing real SF again! “Slash is electric once more.”

I love how Netherton is expecting to be in a superhero iron man peripheral, and then it’s squat and small, like part of an oil filled radiator. He’s a good anti hero, and you have fun tormenting him. He still works as a character being sober, still has the same outside attitude. When I had my character Sta-Hi be sober in Realware, some of my older fans were mad about it, grumbled that “Rucker has gone religious, he’s no fun anymore, etc.” But if they’d notice, Sta-Hi stays exactly as crazy as before, as does Netherton.

WG===

For me, what took over for Netherton in this book was his co-parenting! My first POV character with a baby to take care of! When I discovered how different that felt to write, I guess I decided to roll with it, getting some perverse satisfaction out of imagining poor fuckers who bought the book in an airport, just before jumping on an 8-hour flight, expecting to get the generic thriller hand-job, and bang, they’re parenting!

(7) VOTING AGAINST THE MUTANT REGISTRATION ACT. The National Post’s “Rookies of Parliament Hill” spotlights a new Canadian legislator with a link to X-Men.

Lenore Zann, best known to the SFF community as the voice of Rogue in the classic X-Men cartoon series of the 1990s has a new role: as a legislator in the Canadian parliament. The 61-year-old actress was elected last autumn as part of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. 

“X-Men is a deep show about deep themes that are universal. They’re almost like our Greek gods and goddesses — they’re like mythology for young people,” said Zann. “I sit on a plane watching what people are looking at on their TV screens in front of them. Most of them are watching stuff like that.”

(8) JONES OBIT. Terry Jones of Monty Python’s Flying Circus died January 22. He had been suffering from dementia for years, says The Hollywood Reporter: “Terry Jones, ‘Monty Python’ Co-Founder and British Comedy Icon, Dies at 77”.

Born in North Wales, Jones read English at Oxford University, where he met his long-term collaborator and friend, Michael Palin. The two would star together in the college’s comedy troupe The Oxford Revue, and after graduation, they appeared in the 1967 TV sketch comedy Twice a Fortnight.

Two years later, they created The Complete and Utter History of Britain, which featured comedy sketches from history as if TV had been around at the time. It was on the show Do Not Adjust Your Set where they would be introduced to fellow comic Eric Idle, who had starred alongside John Cleese and Graham Chapman in productions mounted by the Cambridge University theatrical club the Footlights.  

The five — together with Terry Gilliam, whom Cleese had met in New York — would quickly pool their talents for a new show. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born and ran on the BBC for four seasons between 1969 and 1974, with Jones driving much of the show’s early innovation.

Vanity Fair’s 1999 profile of the troupe, “The Dead Parrot Society”, includes this intro of Terry:

Jones is a noted history buff who has written on Chaucer and hosted a number of documentaries, including one on the Crusades. He directed Life of Brian and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life; apart from Monty Python he has directed the films Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows and written several children’s books. The son of a bank clerk, he was born in North Wales and attended Oxford University. He and his wife, a biochemist, live in London and have a son and a daughter. Jones regularly appeared nude (playing the organ) in the opening credits of the Monty Python television series; he also played the obscenely fat, vomit-spewing Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 
  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf would premiere on CBS where it would run for three seasons before ending its run on USA with a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who was also behind Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other SFF series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1858 Charles H. M. Kerr. He’s best remembered for illustrating  the pulp novels of H. Rider Haggard. Some of his other genre-specific work includes the Andrew Lang-edited The True Story Book, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrong Box and Arthur Conan Doyle‘s  “The Sign of the Four”. You can see the one of the H. Rider Haggard novels he did here. (Died 1907.)
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the ebook publishers are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella originally published in Analog, March of 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, as I’ve not read them. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really stung. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down as General Woundwort and in The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Tyrone Power Jr., 61. Yes, son of that actor. He is the fourth actor to bear the name Tyrone Power. If you remember him at all, it’s as Pillsbury, one of the aliens, in the Cocoon films. Other than Soulmates, a horrid sounding sort of personal zombie film, in which he had a role, that’s it for his SFF creds. 
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 61. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. (I saw the first, I had no desire to see the second film.)  Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film), GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream to name a few of these films. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1969 Olivia d’Abo, 51. She makes the Birthday Honors list for being Amanda Rogers, a female Q, in the “True Q” episode on Next Generation. Setting that gig aside, she’s got a long and extensive SFF series history. Conan the Destroyer, Beyond the Stars, Asterix Conquers America, Tarzan & Jane and Justice League Doom are some of her film work, while her series work includes Fantasy Island, Batman Beyond, Twilight Zone, Eureka and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • Born January 22, 1996 Blanca Blanco, 24. She’s here today because she’s on one of those Trek video fanfics that seem to have proliferated a few years back. This one had her planning on playing someone on Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time but the funding never materialized. I’m fascinated by this one as a certain actor was reprising his Gary Mitchell role here.  If it was decided that  an audio series would be made instead but I can’t find any sign of that being done either. Any of you spotted it? 

(11) WHEN THE GALAXY IS OUT OF ORDER YOU CALL… Guardians of the Galaxy!

Someone has to guard the galaxy – but who will accept the mission? And will they survive it? See who answers the call in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 trailer featuring writer Al Ewing, Editor in Chief CB Cebulski, and Editor Darren Shan! 

Cosmic peace is hanging by a thread as the major galactic empires bristle against each other. Amidst the chaos, the Gods of Olympus have returned — harbingers of a new age of war, reborn to burn their mark on the stars themselves! The legendary Star-Lord leads Rocket Raccoon, Nova, Marvel Boy, Phyla-Vell, and Moondragon on a mission to restore order to the stars!

“The galaxy is just one bad day away from complete and total collapse, and that day is here,” teases Shan.

“Guardians of the Galaxy is where the Marvel cosmic universe, as we know it, comes alive. Marvel space is about to come crashing into the Marvel Universe in a big way,” says Ewing. 

(12) SO MUCH FOR THOSE GOLDEN MEMORIES. The Guardian’s Luke Holland is a little grumpy: “Rise of the ‘bleakquel’: your favourite heroes are back – and more miserable than ever”

… Take the recent Star Wars trilogy, whose entire existence is predicated on the revelation that Han, Leia and Luke all had a miserable old time of it after the events of Return of the Jedi. Before, any fan with R2-D2 on their jim-jams could envisage the three of them growing old together, with a grey-muzzled Chewbacca snoozing contentedly by a crackling hearth. The new films suddenly forced them to confront a new reality in which Han and Leia are estranged because their son became a mass-murderer, and a PTSD-ravaged Luke lives a life of solitude on a remote skerry somewhere uncannily reminiscent of Ireland. And what happens next? Oh, they all die. Miserably. Great. Thanks.

(13) FISTS OF FURRIES. On TV news — “Furries to the rescue: Costumed conventioneers save woman from assault in San Jose”. This is KABC’s caption:

A trio of costumed furries – people who like to dress as animals – came to the rescue of a woman who was being assaulted in a car in San Jose.

(14) CLOSING THE UNDERWATER BARN DOOR. A bit late for this, isn’t it? “Titanic Wreckage Now Protected Under U.S.-U.K. Deal That Was Nearly Sunk”.

More than a century after the RMS Titanic sank to bottom of the sea — and nearly a quarter-century after its memory was dredged up for a Hollywood blockbuster — the U.S. and U.K. have implemented a formal agreement on how to safeguard and manage the ill-fated steamship’s remains.

British Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani confirmed the news Tuesday during a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship was built before setting off from the English port city of Southampton in 1912.

…”This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” Ghani said in remarks released Tuesday by the Maritime Ministry.

Ghani’s comments cap a long and winding journey for the deal, which representatives from the U.K., the U.S., Canada and France officially agreed to as part of a 2003 treaty. The Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic sought to sort out and regulate public access, artifact conservation and salvage rights within 1 kilometer of the wreck site, situated hundreds of miles off the coast of Canada in the North Atlantic.

But since the countries negotiated the treaty, the document has largely languished. It requires the ratification of at least two of the four countries to enter into force, and while the U.K. quickly ratified the agreement, both Canada and France have yet to do so. The formal approval of the U.S. government looked long in doubt, as well.

(15) DEAD LETTERS. BBC warns about “The alphabets at risk of extinction”.

It isn’t just languages that are endangered: dozens of alphabets around the world are at risk. And they could have even more to tell us.

On his first two days of school, in a village above the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong, Maung Nyeu was hit with a cane. This was not because he was naughty. It was simply that Nyeu could not understand what the teacher was saying, or what was written in his textbooks. Although 98% of Bangladeshis speak Bengali as a first language, Nyeu grew up with Marma, one of several minority tongues in the region. Written, it is all curls, like messy locks of hair.

Eventually Nyeu managed to escape this cycle of bewilderment and beatings. After learning Bengali at home, he returned to school and went to university. Now he is pursuing a doctorate at Harvard. Yet Nyeu never forgot his early schooldays. He spends much of his time in the hills where he grew up, where he founded Our Golden Hour – a nonprofit fighting to keep Marma and a flurry of other scripts alive.

There are between 6,000 to 7,000 languages in the world. Yet 96% are spoken by just 3% of the global population. And 85% are endangered, like Marma.

Along with the spoken words, something else is also at risk: each language’s individual script. When we talk about “endangered languages”, most of us think of the spoken versions first. But our alphabets can tell us huge amounts about the cultures they came from. Just as impressive is the length people will go to save their scripts – or invent whole new alphabets and spread them to the world.

(16) LET THERE BE LIGHT MEASUREMENT. And it was good. “Space mission to reveal ‘Truths’ about climate change”.

The UK is going to lead a space mission to get an absolute measurement of the light reflected off Earth’s surface.

The information will be used to calibrate the observations of other satellites, allowing their data to be compared more easily.

Called Truths, the new spacecraft was approved for development by European Space Agency member states in November.

Proponents of the mission expect its data to help reduce the uncertainty in projections of future climate change.

Scientists and engineers met on Tuesday to begin planning the project. Industry representatives from Britain, Switzerland, Greece, the Czech Republic and Romania gathered at Esa’s technical centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

(17) POCKET WATCH. “Australia fires: ‘Incredible’ signs of life return to burned bush” – BBC video, including incredibly cute joey.

Australia’s bushfires have burnt through 10 million hectares of land, and it is feared some habitats may never recover.

But in some worst-affected areas, the sight of plants growing back and animals returning to habitats is raising spirits.

(18) CALLING CHARLES FORT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Things are not so cute in Florida. NPR aired this story today: “Florida Weather Forecasters Warn Of Falling Iguanas”.

Last night, the National Weather Service called for lows in the 30s and 40s with a chance of falling iguanas. Apparently, the lizards can fall into a deeper slumber in the cold, and it is not uncommon for them to tumble from trees. The advice for you is watch your heads, and don’t bug the iguanas after they land. I mean, do you like being bothered when you’re just getting up?

Related older stories: “What To Do If You Come Across A Frozen Iguana” (2018) – “Bottom line: don’t touch them. They are not dead. They may thaw out and attack.”

For perspective: “Florida Has An Iguana Problem” (2019).

Biologists say invasive green iguanas have been spreading in Florida, and they’re a major nuisance. The state encourages homeowners to kill iguanas on their property.

And for “historical context.” Bob & Ray “The Komodo Dragon” (Live at Carnegie Hall, 1984)

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/20 We Have Always Filed In The Pixel

(1) COOL RUNNING. Pat Cadigan shares the good news: “Yeah, You Just Keep Running, Cancer”.

The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.

Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….

(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who was a civilian investigator for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be lost…” at The Space Review.

…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.

Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.

Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.

It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …

(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing Stories recorded its ”Ten Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)

 My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”.  I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.

(4) CHIANG COMING TO NOTRE DAME. The University of Notre Dame has announced that Ted Chiang will join the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) as an Artist in Residence during the 2020-2021 academic year: “Science fiction writer Ted Chiang to join Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study”, [Via Locus Online.]

…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests. 

…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Life will read “Hell is the Absence of God” and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session. 

(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy? “Brian Henson presents Puppet Up. Shows in Hollywood next week.  

Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.

Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.

The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.

(6) GRANTS. Setsu Uzumé acquaints writers with the basics in “Grant Applications 101: Finding, Troubleshooting, and Completing the Quest for Funding” at the SFWA Blog.

From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.

(7) BUSINESS IS NOT BOOMING. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews the new William Gibson novel — “In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)”.

William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.

Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.

Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.

You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.

Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 21, 1991 Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston  and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film.  It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
  • January 21, 2016DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924 Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 21, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World  where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.  
  • Born January 21, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 21, 1950 Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes. 
  • Born January 21, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship. 
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files

(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:

(11) NOT JUST KID STUFF. When Doctor Who arrived in Australia – in 1965 – he ran afoul of the censors. Galactic Journey’s Kaye Dee tells how: “[January 20, 1965] The T.A.R.D.I.S. Lands Down Under and Japan Invades Australia (Doctor Who and The Samurai)”.

…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!

(12) SPIRIT OF DEATH. Accompanying The Criterion Collection’s  January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed Park analyzes the dual themes of  “The Labyrinth and the Plague”.

…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.

Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.

(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. Superversive Press has closed. It stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement said:

It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.

Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)

Camestros Felapton concisely explains Superversive’s publishing niche:

…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.

(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse if you’re dead.  The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.

It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.

(15) BRICKS IN SPACE. TechCrunch tells us “Lego made an International Space Station kit, including Space Shuttle and robotic arm”. Photos at the link.

Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants are not insatiable sff TV viewers.

Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.

Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.

No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.

There was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.

Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.

Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.

Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”

Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

(17) SMALL MERCY. Sort of like Barney Fife — “Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot”.

In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.

The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.

Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.

…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?

Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.

…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.

Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.

(18) WHO CAN YOU TRUST? “DDoS: Man who sold website defences pleads guilty to attacks” – BBC has the story,.

A man in the US who co-founded a service to protect sites from cyber-attackers has pleaded guilty to launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Tucker Preston is co-founder of BackConnect, a cyber-security firm that claimed to be “the new industry standard in DDoS mitigation”.

However, he was accused of arranging DDoS attacks targeting an unnamed firm.

A court document stated the attacks took place between 2015 and 2016.

News of the guilty plea was published online by Brian Krebs, a cyber-security expert and blogger.

(19) MARS LIVERS. “Learning how to live like a Mars colonist”: video — dippy intro gradually leads to substance.

Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.

It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.

(20) FROM THE FRINGE? “Future Forward: Thai opposition party cleared over Illuminati claims” reports the BBC.

A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.

A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wind measurements have traditionally been very patchy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He chuckled. “Sounds grim,” he said.

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

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

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

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

His answer surprised me. I asked him his name.

“Roald Dahl,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/20 The Yellow Brick Road Must Roll

(1) PROZINE REJOINS THE LIVING Compelling Science Fiction has been saved from the scrapheap of history. Editor Joe Stech explains how it happened:

We’re back in business and will be open to submissions once again on Monday, January 13th!

After I announced in September that Compelling Science Fiction would be shutting down for good, Nick Wells of Flame Tree reached out to me and suggested we work together to keep the magazine publishing our unique brand of science fiction stories. Over the last month we came to an agreement that will allow Compelling Science Fiction to continue publishing — you may recall that my issue was one of time, and Flame Tree will take over many of the most time-consuming aspects of the magazine. My role will transition to that of editor-in-chief, and Nick will take over the publishing role. I’m very excited to work with Nick and Flame Tree, and continue to support this genre of fiction that I love.

We’ll be transitioning to a quarterly schedule, and will also be accepting submissions much more often. Authors, we need your wonderful stories, so please send them our way! And readers, thanks for entrusting us with your time. I will always treat it with respect, and do my best to provide the types of stories you come here for.

(2) MORE SFF ON JEOPARDY! David Goldfarb says “The third episode of the ‘Greatest of All Time’ Jeopardy! tourney had a number of SFF-related questions.”

Here was the $800 answer in “Prequels and Sequels”:

Edited by the author’s son Christopher & published in 1977, it’s a history of Middle-Earth before “Lord of the Rings”.

Ken Jennings readily questioned, “What is Silmarillion?”

And the $400 answer:

Set for release in 2020 is Suzanne Collins’ “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, a prequel to this series.

James Holzhauer asked, “What is The Hunger Games?”

In the “TV Green Thumb” category:

$1200: On “The Handmaid’s Tale”, this wife of Commander Waterford has some pivotal scenes in her greenhouse.

Two wrong guesses, but nobody got, “Who is Serena?”

$1600: Played by Carolyn Jones in the ’60s, she loved to cut the heads off her roses, & rejoiced when her thorns came in sharp.

Crickets. “Who is Morticia Addams?”

And the $2000 featured a picture of Jean-Luc Picard and Boothby the groundskeeper: Jean-Luc Picard once helped Boothby, played by this one-time TV Martian, to replant some flowers at Star Fleet Academy.

Ken Jennings got it: “Who is Ray Walston?”

Goldfarb concludes, “The game in the second half (each day’s game is two regular games put together) had questions about Cocteau’s ‘La Belle et Le Bête’ and Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, but I’m going to call those only genre-adjacent and not quote them.”

Then, Andrew Porter saw this go down —

Category: Book Marks

Answer: In this novel, Mark Watney says, “I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did.”

Wrong question: What is “The Sun Also Rises?”

Right question: What is “The Martian.”

(3) DIAGNOSING SUCCESS. The Hollywood Reporter’s Patrick Shanley probes “The Key Difference Between Video Game and Film Remakes”.

…Video game remakes work because, in many ways, they are the antithesis of film remakes. They honor the original vision by elevating it to what it was hoping to be but unable to achieve due to the limits of technology. The best remakes (in any medium) maintain the heart and soul of their source material while simultaneously modernizing them. In that regard, games have outshone film, delivering on the promise of the original while also updating them in a way that appeals to the nostalgia of longtime fans and the discerning eye of newcomers.

(4) STREAMING SEVENTIES SFF. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Criterion Channel, a streaming service that focuses on art films and is based on the home video distributor The Criterion Collection, will be featuring a wide range of science fiction films from the 1970s for most of January 2020. The service’s sci-fi offerings for the month are:

  • No Blade of Grass (Cornel Wilde, 1970)
  • A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) [based on the Anthony Burgess novel of the same name]
  • The Omega Man (Boris Sagal, 1971) [based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend]
  • THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971)
  • Z.P.G. (Michael Campus, 1972)**
  • Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)
    Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973) [based on Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room!]
  • Dark Star (John Carpenter, 1974)
  • The Terminal Man (Mike Hodges, 1974)
  • Rollerball (Norman Jewison, 1975),
  • A Boy and His Dog (L. Q. Jones, 1975) [based on the Harlan Ellison story of the same name]
  • Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975)
  • Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975)
  • The Ultimate Warrior (Robert Clouse, 1975)
  • Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)
  • God Told Me To (Larry Cohen, 1976)
  • Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977)
  • Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)

Other genre-related SF films from the decade may already be available on the service (Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Solaris are definitely there) .

(5) JAMES DAVIS NICOLL. The proprietor tells us that today’s review — of An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass — is review 1500 on James Nicoll Reviews. His career total is “something like 6600 reviews.”

(6) CROWDFUNDING WISDOM. Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights from “Crowdfunding and Kickstartering with M.C.A. Hogarth.” Thread starts here.

(7) GETTING THE ROCKETS READY. CoNZealand has posted a “Hugo Awards Video” hosted by Tammy Coxen, this year’s awards administrator.

If you’d like to know more about the Hugo Awards, check out this new video from the CoNZealand team, talking about the history of the awards and why they’re so important.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 11, 1997 — in Japan, Barb Wire got released. Starring Pamela Anderson and a very brief outfit, it was based on a Dark Horse comic (written by John Arcudi and illustrated by a rotating group of artists), the film was made on a shoehorn budget (about the size of her outfit) of nine million but was still a box office bomb bringing in only four million. Excepting Ebert, most critics didn’t like it and the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are especially harsh, giving it just a 14% rating. And there’s a lot of them that don’t like it — 47, 276 so far! 
  • January 11, 2013 Survival Code (Borealis was its original name and it was called that in Canada), and it starred Ty Olsson, Patrick Gallagher and Michelle Harrison. It was directed by David Frazee. It won three Canadian Screen Awards at the Second Canadian Screen Awards for Best Dramatic Miniseries or Television Movie, Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries, and Best Original Score for a Television Program. The film was created to be a series pilot for Space, but the series never happened for reasons we can’t find but Space, its distributor, aired it instead as a television film. Yes it scored well at the Canadian Screen Awards, but the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less forgiving as it get just 33% there. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to Silverlock. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name, and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which Fantastic Voyage series is based, and the Isaac Asimov novel was based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film.  (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Wright King. He’s had roles in the SFF realm starting with Captain Video and His Video Rangers and including Johnny Jupiter, Twilight Zone, Out ThereThe Invaders, Planet Of The Apes , Invasion of the Bee Girls, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Logan’s Run. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla, 83. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 59. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted wordplay as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought last year when I wrote Birthday note up that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 57. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly including the music which was done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the “Vengeance on Varos”story on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (my least favorite Doctor). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins
  • Born January 11, 1971 Tom Ward, 49. He’s Captain Latimer in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”. And he’s Edward Goodwin in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter. His latest genre role was as Sir Robert Peel in The Frankenstein Chronicles.
  • Born January 11, 1972 Amanda Peet, 48. Not a long SFF précis but an interesting one none-the-less.  She first shows up voicing Maria Montez in Battle for Terra. She was then Harlee in Martian Child which is at genre adjacent. She was ASAC Dakota Whitney in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Say did you know that Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey was paid for in part by NASA? Way cool. She voiced Ranger in it. 

(10) BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY REMEMBERED. The London Review of Books has linked to “Operation Backfire” by Francis Spufford first published in 1999.  This history of the British space program mentions Arthur C. Clarke twice:  first in describing the British Interplanetary Society in 1944 and second a theological debate Clarke had with Lewis and Tolkien in 1958.

In November 1944 a group of men met in a London pub. In this fifth year of the war, the capital was dingy, dog-eared, clapped-out, frankly grimy. Though Britain had not shaken off its usual inefficiencies at mass production, it had converted its economy to the needs of the war more completely than any other combatant nation. For five years there had been no new prams, trams, lawnmowers, streetlamps, paint or wallpaper, and it showed. All over the city things leaked, flapped, wobbled and smelt of cabbage. It was the metropole that Orwell would project forward in time as the London of 1984.

These drinkers were not the kind of people to let an unpromising present determine the shape of things to come. They were the inner circle of the British Interplanetary Society, and in 1938 they had published a plan for reaching the Moon using two modules, one to orbit, one to descend to the lunar surface. The cost of the rocket – as much as a million pounds – was far more than they could raise, but they did have enough money to make a couple of instruments for it. ‘We were in the position of someone who could not afford a car, but had enough for the speedometer and the rear-view mirror,’ Arthur C. Clarke would remember. They constructed a ‘coelostat’, a device to stabilise the image of a spinning star-field. It was made from four mirrors and the motor of Clarke’s gramophone; it worked, and was proudly displayed in the Science Museum.

(11) “FUN” IS OVER. For awhile Jon Del Arroz branded his videos Diversity in Comics – but no more! “Why I’m Changing the Channel Name Back to Jon Del Arroz”.  Here’s the transcript of his explanation. (And remember, YouTube talking head videos really do tend to be one endless run-on sentence):

…But for here I’ve used the name Diversity in Comics over the last I guess two three months helped grow the channel quite a bit so thank you everybody came by because you saw the name and thought it was funny and all that but there comes a time where jokes have to end and we had a funny joke for a bit there and it was great and at this point I’m seeing that there’s a couple things that are an issue with this which is one that yeah it is needlessly antagonizing some people who get really worked up about this and and while I I do enjoy triggering people who get triggered for no reason and all that there there comes a time where joke a stand and it’s it’s just not funny and it’s not funny even watching somebody lose their minds over something like this anymore so definitely don’t want that happening anymore don’t want to insult anybody who might be a comic book reader who might check out the books and things like that I definitely want that to be something uh you know to where we can have are buying comic books and and we’re coming back and changing it back to just my name and the reason we’ll go with my name instead of something fancy….

(12) GIBSON INTERVIEW. William Gibson tells a Guardian writer, “‘I was losing a sense of how weird the real world was'”.

… As a Canadian writer who initially marked his territory in a future Japan, what attracted him to setting his post-Jackpot world in London? He doesn’t see it as so much of a jump. “On my first three or four visits to Japan I immediately thought that Tokyo had more in common with London than with any other city,” he says. “These disproportionately large sites of former empires, huge concentrated populations, recent wartime trauma, lots of fatalities. They’re capitals of island nations. But also cultural things: the fanatical attention paid to specific individual classes of objects. In London you could probably find a speciality shop for almost anything. And you certainly could in Tokyo. All these parallels. I’m curious that I’ve almost never seen it mentioned anywhere.”

(13) STRANGE DIRECTION. BBC reports “Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson exits over ‘creative differences'”.

Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has left the sequel over “creative differences” with Marvel.

Derrickson made the original 2016 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and had been due to deliver Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in 2021.

There’s speculation that Derrickson and Marvel boss Kevin Feige disagreed about how scary the follow-up should be.

The director, whose credits include The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, had pledged “the first scary MCU film”.

He made the comments at San Diego Comic Con in July, where Feige swiftly clarified that it would still be suitable for teenage viewers. “It’s gonna be PG-13 and you’re going to like it!” he added.

Feige has since said it would not be a horror film, and that any scary sequences would be like those made by Steven Spielberg in films like Indiana Jones and Gremlins.

(14) MOMENT OF BOOM. “Popocatépetl: Mexican volcano’s spectacular eruption caught on camera” — someone caught the start of the eruption on a short video.

Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano erupted on Thursday with a dramatic show of lava and a cloud of ash and rocks that reached 3,000m (9,800ft) into the sky.

No-one was hurt. Popocatépetl is an active stratovolcano, 70km (43 miles) south-east of the capital, Mexico City.

Its name means “smokey mountain” in the indigenous Náhuatl language.

(15) OPPOSITE OF SWATTING. Or so you might call it: “Teenager having seizure saved by online gamer – 5,000 miles away in Texas”.

The parents of a teenager who suffered a seizure while chatting online have thanked his friend who called emergency services from 5,000 miles away.

Aidan Jackson, 17, was talking to an American gamer from his bedroom in Widnes on 2 January when he had a fit.

His friend, 20-year-old Dia Lathora, from Texas, alerted police in the UK.

The first Aidan’s parents knew of the emergency was when police and an ambulance appeared at their front door, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Caroline and Steve Jackson then rushed upstairs to find their son “extremely disorientated”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. They intend to live happily ever after:

Lee Loechler recently proposed to his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, by taking her to a packed theater to see her favorite movie, Sleeping Beauty. Little did she know that Loechler had spent six months altering the animation of the film’s most iconic scene, changing the characters to look like the couple themselves and altering the storyline to set up his Big Question. And that’s only the beginning.

Watching David’s face during the scene change is sheer delight, as her confused look proves that she has no clue what is about to happen. The set-up is great, but the magical moment when Loechler’s illustrated self tosses the engagement ring to his real-life self? That’s when we all toss up our hands and say, “OKAY, man. You win at proposing. Everyone else must bow before you now.”

The whole proposal—the re-illustrations, the heart jokes (David is a cardiologist), and the bride-to-be’s surprise when she finds surrounded by her friends and family—it’s all perfection. Just watch:

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