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 3/20/20 Four Feet Good — Six Feet Better!

(1) STAR DATING. Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter we have not missed these entries: “William Shatner Gives Captain’s Log Updates as Kirk Amid Coronavirus Standstill”.

It would appear William Shatner is not quite through with Capt. James T. Kirk after all. The actor has been giving Star Trek fans a treat via social media with Captain’s Log updates — a plot device, usually done for story exposition, on the famed sci-fi TV show and subsequent films. Shatner, like many around the world, is self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.

(2) NEBULA CONFERENCE. A plan will be shared at the end of the month said SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal today in “An Update on the SFWA Nebula Conference”.

Last night, California announced that it was extending its shelter-in-place measures across the entire state. With the Nebula Conference scheduled to take place in Los Angeles at the end of May, we have been anticipating that move and working towards a positive solution which we had planned to announce on March 31st. I would like to keep to that timeline as it will enable us to complete some final details for what we believe will be a great conference. I would appreciate your patience until then.

Though the circumstances are distressing, the alterations that we are making to prioritize the health and safety of our attendees have offered us some exciting opportunities to make the Nebula Conference more accessible and inclusive. I know you may have questions about refunds and your hotel reservations. Please do not make any changes until we share with you our plan on March 31st, which will allow us to expand the range of options that you will have.

I look forward to speaking with you on March 31st.

(3) INDUSTRY POSTPONEMENTS. On the other hand, BookExpo has definitely moved reports Shelf Awareness:

BookExpo, Unbound and BookCon are being moved to July 22-26 from May 27-31, at the Javits Center in New York City.

Reedpop, the organizer of the events, explained: “We have been closely monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19 in New York and around the country. Following the guidance of health officials, we are now complying with the State’s request that large gatherings be postponed to ensure the well-being of everyone involved with our event.”

Event director Jenny Martin commented: “If the situation changes again between now and July, we will change along with it. We run events, we pivot proudly. Right now, we remain focused on the goal of serving our community this summer with those who want to do the same.”

(4) A LITTLE LIST. Discover magazine calls these the “10 Best Science Fiction Planets” – a 2008 post, but it’s news to me!

4. Mote Prime (1974): In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye, this is the homeworld of the Moties, a species that, due to cosmic happenstance, has been bottled up in its solar system ever since it evolved. Mote Prime is planet which has become a palimpsest, mutely testifying to the endless cycles of technological development and collapse experienced by the trapped Moties.

I’m quoting this one because a friend recently shared with me his quite definite ideas about the usage of palimpsest.

(5) PRODUCTION HALTED. TV Guide’s article includes news of many genre/related media going on hiatus: “Coronavirus Update: Every TV Show, Movie, Sport, and Major Event Canceled Due to COVID-19”. Here are a couple of excerpts – more at the link.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Deadline reports that production on Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale has been temporarily suspended due to concerns over the recent spread of COVID-19, aka coronavirus. The show, which films in Toronto, has yet to announce whether this suspension will delay its planned fall premiere date….

Disney+ Marvel Shows, including MCU spin-offs

On March 10, Disney+ shut down production on its Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stanbecause the Czech Republic placed restrictions on travel and events, and closed its schools due to COVID-19 concerns. There is no word yet on if the show will revisit Prague to finish shooting.

On March 14, Variety reported Marvel Studios paused production on the rest of its Disney+ series, which includes Loki and WandaVision. For shows currently in production, the work will continue remotely.

(6) INFLUENTIAL CINEMA. The Criterion Channel is running a block of historic movies of the ”German Expressionism” school.

Physical reality warps and bends to fit the twisted psychological states on display in the cinema of the German expressionist movement of the 1920s. With their emphasis on exaggerated shadows, off-kilter camera angles, dreamlike sets, and macabre story lines, these movies paved the way for the aesthetics of both horror cinema and film noir, genres in which mood and atmosphere take precedence over realism. This selection of some of the movement’s key works includes the quintessential example of the style, the delirious nightmare THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI; F. W. Murnau’s shivery vampire classic NOSFERATU; and several masterpieces by Fritz Lang, who, following the success of works like METROPOLIS and M, would go on to become instrumental in importing expressionist aesthetics to the Hollywood of the 1930s and ’40s.

(7) ACCIO JAVA. Delish reports some clever branding: “This Harry Potter Inspired Coffee Comes In Flavors Fit For Your Favorite Wizards”.

…Etsy shop 9andthreequartersco has created coffee blends inspired by the magical world of Harry Potter. These coffees names are not only inspired by the books and movies, but so are the flavors.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 20, On this date, X Minus One’s “Protection” first aired. A man accidentally acquires an alien protector, who knows every disaster in the world before it happens. The script is by Ernest Kinoy.  The cast includes Bill Redfield, William Keane and Elliott Reed.  It written by Robert Sheckley.  It was a half-hour science fiction radio drama series that broadcast from April 24, 1955 to January 9, 1958 in various timeslots on NBC. You can hear it this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 20, 1902 David Lasser. From 1929 to 1933, he was the Managing Editor of Gernsback’s Stellar Publishing Corporation. He edited Science Wonder Stories and Wonder Stories Quarterly, as well working with writers on both zines. Lasser also edited Gernsback’s Wonder Stories from June 1930 to October 1933. As near as I can tell, The Time Projector novel is his only genre work. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 20, 1948 Pamela Sargent, 72. She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships, is the one I like the best. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a women determined to terraform that world at all costs is quite good also, and there is the Watchstar trilogy which I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels, so please do tell me about them. 
  • Born March 20, 1950 William Hurt, 70. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, a history-making film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, a Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows in it’s that not bad really to be Lost in Space as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of Inspector Frank Bumstead follows for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby and performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, Up next was horror film Hellgate and his role as Warren Mills which spiked a lot watchable than The Host and Jebediah character  from Winter’s Tale as adapted from the Mark Helprin novel was interesting as wax the entire film. His final, to date that is, is in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of notes, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitised blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. The other role worth noting is him as  Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands
  • Born March 20, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 65. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In either California or the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Born March 20, 1979 Freema Agyeman, 41. Best-known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised that role briefly in Torchwood. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. She was on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some seventeen years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo wonders what if traditional witches gained access to Lovecraftian monsters?
  • Bizarro finds the … bright? … side of a visit to the pediatrician.
  • Reprinted in The Paris Review – “Krazy Kat Gets the Spanish Flu.”

(11) FREE READS. Apex Book Company is offering “Free eBooks for Your Covid-19 Social Distancing”.

Available until March 31st

Covid-19 is serious business. In an effort to control the spread of the virus, people across the world are being asked to practice social distancing and to stay home.

As part of that call, Apex Books and other publishers are providing free eBooks to help readers cope with the extended periods of inactivity and being housebound.

We hope this selection of Apex titles will help make this stressful time pass a little easier, a little quicker.

Books in the Covid-19 bundle:

  • Machine by Jennifer Pelland (dark SF)
  • Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka (dark SF)
  • Maze by J.M. McDermott (dark fantasy)
  • Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley (horror)
  • Like Death by Tim Waggoner (horror)

(12) FREE MISS FISHER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Even if you’ve already seen all the Miss Fisher Mysteries episodes, here’s your chance to see the new (releasing 3/23/2020) movie! Also starring David Tennant and (from The Good Wife/The Good Fight) Cush Jumbo (she played Luca Quinn)

Per a Miss F movie thread on Facebook from a few weeks back that I’m not sure where it is.

Starting today, we’re offering an extended 30-day free trial for new subscribers with code FREE30. Settle in for the streaming debut of Miss Fisher and The Crypt of Tears (3/23) and Deadwater Fell starring David Tennant and Cush Jumbo (4/6). Share the best TV from Britain and beyond.

Sign up at http://acorn.tv — use special code: FREE30

Daniel Dern notes: “I’m not sure whether they’d already been offering a 30-day free trial anyway. Their ‘Start Free Trial’ page asks for, but doesn’t seem to require, a promo code. Since we’ve already been subscribing to Acorn for a buncha months — watched/watching Murdoch Mysteries, The Good Karma Hospital, the Brokenwood Mysteries, Foyle’s War, etc.

“Mmm, they have Slings & Arrows, which we saw years ago, but if you haven’t, recommended! (‘…this darkly comic Canadian series follows the fortunes of a dysfunctional Shakespearean theatre troupe, exposing the high drama, scorching battles, and electrifying thrills that happen behind the scenes. Paul Gross (Tales of the City, Due South [AND The Republic Of Doyle – DPD]) leads an outstanding ensemble cast in ‘one of TV’s greatest shows’ (The A.V. Club).’”

(13) UNCLE TIMMY TRIBUTE. The Give Me Libertycon anthology E-ARC is available from Baen. The trade paperback will be released in June.

Since its inception, LibertyCon has been a science fiction convention like no other. Held annually in Chattanooga, Tennessee, LibertyCon attracts the best of the best science fiction and fantasy writers, working scientists, fans, and organizers. Now, join Baen Books as we celebrate this unique institution with an anthology of all-new fiction and nonfiction—and some filk songs, too! A new Honorverse story by David Weber, and stories by Timothy Zahn, David Drake, Larry Correia, Jody Lynn Nye, Mike Massa, Charles E. Gannon and Sarah A. Hoyt, David B. Coe, Kacey Ezell and Christopher L. Smith, Bill Fawcett, and more. Plus, nonfiction by Les Johnson, filk (science fiction folk) songs by Gray Rinehart.

A portion of the sales will fund a scholarship set up in the name of superfan, TVA engineer, and LibertyCon founder Richard T. “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo.

(14) SUPER-ROOMBA. “Coronavirus: Robots use light beams to zap hospital viruses”.

“Please leave the room, close the door and start a disinfection,” says a voice from the robot.

“It says it in Chinese as well now,” Simon Ellison, vice president of UVD Robots, tells me as he demonstrates the machine.

Through a glass window we watch as the self-driving machine navigates a mock-hospital room, where it kills microbes with a zap of ultraviolet light.

“We had been growing the business at quite a high pace – but the coronavirus has kind of rocketed the demand,” says chief executive, Per Juul Nielsen.

He says “truckloads” of robots have been shipped to China, in particular Wuhan. Sales elsewhere in Asia, and Europe are also up.

…Glowing like light sabres, eight bulbs emit concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light. This destroys bacteria, viruses and other harmful microbes by damaging their DNA and RNA, so they can’t multiply.

It’s also hazardous to humans, so we wait outside. The job is done in 10-20 minutes. Afterwards there’s a smell, much like burned hair

“There are a lot of problematic organisms that give rise to infections,” explains Prof Hans Jørn Kolmos, a professor of clinical microbiology, at the University of Southern Denmark, which helped develop the robot.

“If you apply a proper dose of ultraviolet light in a proper period of time, then you can be pretty sure that you get rid of your organism.”

(15) COURTSHIP RITE. “Vampire bats ‘French kiss with blood’ to form lasting bonds”.

Vampire bats establish friendships by sharing regurgitated blood with their neighbours in a “kind of horrifying French kiss”, a new study says.

Researchers observing the mammals said their sharing behaviours appeared to be an important aspect of their bonding.

(16) LOST MOON. “Coronavirus: Nasa’s Moon plans take a hit”.

The fall-out from the coronavirus crisis is even being felt in space.

Rising infection rates near key technical centres in Louisiana and Mississippi mean the US space agency is suspending production and testing of its Moon rocket and capsule systems.

…Nasa said it had no choice but to suspend work on the construction of the rocket, called the Space Launch System, and the capsule, known as Orion.

The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi has had one confirmed infection among its staff, and although the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana hasn’t yet had a COVID-19 case – growing infection rates in the communities around both complexes means a shut-down is the only sensible option.

(17) CORONAVIRUS ADVICE. This is how you get to be a 2000-year-old man. “Don’t Be A Spreader,” a message from Mel Brooks’ son.

(18) CHANGES IN STORE. John Scalzi is among the writers contributing the the Washington Post’s speculative“After the Pandemic”. As he framed it at Whatever –

The folks over at the Washington Post have put together a piece on how the world will change after this pandemic — not in the huge ways, but in the smaller, day-to-day ways — and they asked me to write something for it. I did a piece on personal greetings, because, as it happens, it was a matter of some discussion on the cruise I just came back from.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate Hatcher and Kevin Roche on stage at Worldcon 76.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Artemis And Luna From Sailor Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 1940

Dick Grayson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(20) CAT WIDE AWAKE ON SFF.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/2/20 Overhead, Without Any Fuss, The Pixels Were Scrolling Out

(1) WAKANDA WILL NEED A NEW WRITER. The Hollywood Reporter relayed word that “Ta-Nehisi Coates Leaving Marvel’s ‘Black Panther'”. (But he’ll still be working on Captain America.)

The writer’s final issue of the acclaimed series will be released in June.

Ta-Nehisi Coates will be leaving Marvel’s Black Panther this summer with the 25th issue of the title’s current run. The news, announced Saturday at Chicago’s C2E2 comic book convention, will leave the titular character — and his position inside Marvel in both fictional and real-world incarnations — significantly different.

Black Panther No. 25, to be released in June and illustrated by Daniel Acuna, will wrap up the storylines Coates has been telling since he started writing the character with the first issue of a series that ran from 2016-2018.

(2) WHO RAH. Buried deep in this interview with a retiring Maryland Public Television host is an amusing anecdote about Tom Baker-era Doctor Who: “Exit interview: After more than four decades at MPT, Rhea Feikin signs off for the last time” in the Baltimore Sun.

SUN: Before we go, I have to ask about your adventures in fund raising, the live pledge drives like the four hours you will be doing Sunday on your final night on MPT.

FEIKIN: Let me tell you one story. A long time ago, we used to work late into the night until 1 o’clock sometimes. And on Saturday nights, they had this program that I never watched, “Dr. Who.” I disliked the program, never watched it, so they never asked me to pledge it, and I never worked on Saturday nights.

But one time they had an emergency, and they asked me to please work on a Saturday night, and I did. And, of course. we had to pledge “Dr. Who.” So, I go out for the first break and do whatever I do and say whatever I say with whomever I was working with that night, and the phones are really dead. And there is nothing more miserable than to have no phones ringing.

So, you go back to the green room and wait for the second break. And I go out, it’s the same thing. It’s painful. So then, the third break comes and I’m tired now and annoyed that I have to be there, and again the phones aren’t ringing. And, finally, I just say, “You know what? I have to tell you, I’m going to really level with you, I don’t like this show. In fact, I never watch this show. And I don’t care if they take this show off the air. I really don’t. But if you like it, then you have to do something to keep it on the air. And you know what that is. You have to call in, you have to make a pledge.

Well, the phones went crazy. We got so much money in one break, it was just wonderful. Now, I never did do it again, I will say. Of course, when you get the book on how you’re supposed to do pledge, you’re never ever supposed to that.

(3) TWO COMPANIONS TO CHECK OUT OF TARDIS. Actors Bradley Walsh and Tosin Cole will be moving on: “Bradley Walsh to quit Doctor Who after this year’s Christmas special”.

…Policewoman Yaz, played by Mandip Gill, 32, will remain and Whittaker, 37, is confirmed for a third season.

The festive special has been filmed but the exit storyline for Bradley and Tosin’s characters, Graham and step-grandson Ryan, remains a closely guarded secret.

A show source said: “Two years is a long time in the world of Doctor Who. Yaz will be back but Christmas will be the last outing for Ryan and Graham.”

What will the actors do next?

Walsh fronts an ITV travel show with son Barney called Breaking Dad and will continue to host popular quiz The Chase.

And he is already working on a new entertainment series for the BBC with Holly Willoughby . Co-star Tosin has landed a leading role in courtroom drama 61st Street for US channel AMC.

(4) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series on March 3 will feature writers from Serial Box, which “delivers premium audio and reading entertainment for an on-the-go audience that loves immersive original storytelling.” Readers will be Jay Edidin, Steve Marcarelli, E.C. Myers and K Arsenault Rivera.

Designed to fit today’s fast-paced lifestyle, Serial Box is available on all mobile devices. Users can read or listen to each weekly installment, switching between ebook and audio in just one click, without losing their place in the narrative. There will be SB-related gifts to all who come.

Jay Edidin is a reasonably professional writer, editor, and podcaster; an occasional performer; and a fledgling New Yorker. He co-wrote Thor: Metal Gods for Serial Box. Elsewhere in the Marvel multiverse, he’s the writer of the upcoming X-Men: Marvels Snapshot, a minor villain on Earth-92131, and marginally Internet famous as half of the podcast Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men.

Steve Marcarelli is a screenwriter and television producer living in Brooklyn with his wife, two rescue cats and record collection. He enjoys horror movies and romantic comedies. You can find him on Twitter @stevemarcarelli. He is the co-writer of Serial Box’s upcoming series LOW LIFE, together with Billy Lalor.

E. C. Myers is the author of six YA novels, including the Andre Norton Award-winning Fair Coin. He was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. His work for Serial Box includes episodes of ReMade, Alternis, and Orphan Black: The Next Chapter. He lives with his wife, son, and three doofy pets in Pennsylvania.

K Arsenault Rivera is the author of The Tiger’s Daughter, a novel the Washington Post calls “thoughtfully rendered and palpably felt.” She immigrated to New York City from Puerto Rico as a toddler and has been complaining about the cold ever since. When not working with a non-profit organization, K spends her time at home in Brooklyn with her partners playing tabletop games. She is the lead writer on Serial Box’s supernatural noir series, KNOX.

The event takes place Tuesday, March 3 at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Doors open at 6:30 — event begins at 7.

(5) AHH, ROMANCE. The Romantic Novelists’ Association revealed the winners for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards on March 2. [Via Locus Online.]

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award

  • Ruth Hogan, Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel, Two Roads

(6) YOLEN GRANT. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announced the winners of the 2019 Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Grant:

  • Alethea Kontis
  • Tanuja Desai Hidier

The grant awards $3,000 to mid-list authors and aims to help raise awareness about their current works-in-progress. [Via Locus Online.]

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 2, 1984 Repo Man premiered. It was written and directed by Alex Cox. It was produced by Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy with the executive producer being Michael Nesmith. It starred Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez. It is widely considered to be one of the best films of 1984, genre or otherwise. Ebert in his review said that “Repo Man comes out of left field, has no big stars, didn’t cost much, takes chances, dares to be unconventional, is funny, and works. There is a lesson here.” It currently holds a 98% rating among the Rotten Tomatoes audience. You can watch it here .
  • March 2, 1988 Gandahar (aka Light Years) premiered. It is a French animated science fantasy film. It was directed by René Laloux as  based on Jean-Pierre Andrevon’s novel Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar (The Machine-Men versus Gandahar).  Notable English language voice actors include Glenn Close, John Shea, Penn Jillette and Teller. (Both speak.) Asimov made the revision for the translation. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes like it giving it a 73% rating. See it here on YouTube.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 2, 1904 Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. My favorite books by him are Horton Hears a Who!, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat in The Hat. I adored the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas, can’t stand the Jim Carrey one and haven’t seen the most recent version. Oh, and let’s not forget the splendid The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. For which he wrote the story, screenplay and lyrics. (Died 1991.)
  • Born March 2, 1939 Hugh Walters. He showed up three times on Who, first in a First Doctor story, “The Chase” playing Shakespeare, next as Runcible in “ The Deadly Assassin”, a Fourth Doctor story and finally as Vogel in “ Revelation of the Daleks”, a Sixth Doctor story. He’s also Carruthers on Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon, and has one-offs in New AvengersThe Ghosts of Motley Hall and She-Wolf of London. (Died 2015.)
  • Born March 2, 1943 Peter Straub, 77. Horror writer who won the World Fantasy Award for Koko and the August Derleth Award for Floating Dragon. He’s co-authored several novels with Stephen King, The Talisman, which itself won a World Fantasy Award, and Black House. Both The Throat and In the Night Room won Bram Stoker Awards as did 5 Stories, a short collection by him. Ok, you know I’m impressed by awards, but this is reallyimpressed! 
  • Born March 2, 1960 Peter F. Hamilton, 60. I read and quite enjoyed his Night’s Dawn trilogy when it first came out and I’m fairly sure that I’ve read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained as they sound really familiar. (Too much genre fiction read over the years to remember everything…) What else have y’all read by him?
  • Born March 2, 1966 Ann Leckie,  54. Ancillary Justice won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Nebula Award, Kitschies Award Golden Tentacle, Locus Award for Best First Novel, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the BSFA Award. The Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy did not win awards but are no less impressive. 
  • Born March 2, 1968 Daniel Craig, 52. Obviously Bond in the present-day series of films which I like a lot, but also in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as Alex West, Lord Asriel In the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, in SF horror film The Invasion as Ben Driscoll, in the very weird Cowboys & Aliens as Jake Lonergan,voicing Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine / Red Rackham  in The Adventures of Tintin and an uncredited appearance as Stormtrooper FN-1824 In Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • Born March 2, 1992 Maisie Richardson-Sellers, 28. A most believable Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow for the first three seasons in my opinion as I’ve always liked that DC character.  (Season four onward, she’s been Clotho.) Prior to that role, she was recurring role as Rebekah Mikaelson / Eva Sinclair on The Originals, andshe had a cameo as Korr Sella in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NYC BOOK FAIR. On March 6 and 7, the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair will take place in Wallace Hall at St. Ignatius Church, 980 Park Ave at 83rd. There will be 60 dealers from 20 states, Canada, and Italy.

(11) UNDER THE HAMMER. “Marvel Announces Auction for ‘The Punisher,’ ‘The Defenders’ Props”, coming up in May.

Marvel Entertainment’s Netflix television partnership, which produced shows such as “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” might be dead, but fans can acquire a piece of the superhero franchise’s history at an upcoming auction.

On Friday, Marvel and Prop Store announced a June auction that will feature a variety of items from “The Punisher” and “The Defenders.” Bidding opens in May though the event, which does not have a specific date, will take place in Los Angeles, fans will be able to bid via telephone or online.

Props expected to be auctioned off include the Punisher’s (Jon Bernthal) vest and skull-clad armor, and a handful of masks from the series’ second season. Several other superhero costumes, including the red Daredevil mask and Colleen Wing’s (Jessica Henwick) katana will also be auctioned off.

Marvel held its first auction for its Netflix television shows last March, which featured over 750 lots (the iconic Daredevil suit went for $55,000). Additional “Jessica Jones” props were auctioned off last December.

(12) FAN CHARITY. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution we learn “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta will be the charity beneficiary of Dragon Con 2020”.

“Inspired by the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission of creating and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth, Dragon Con challenges its fans to support the charity and get involved,” the release reads.

But the partnership goes well beyond encouraging support. In the past five years, Dragon Con says it has raised more than $566,000 for its charity beneficiaries. Last year’s charity, the American Heart Association, was given more than $142,000, according to Dragon Con.

(13) THEORY OF ROCKETRY. Those science films may have been useful; in “From YouTube to your school” the Harvard Gazette reports that research shows online STEM demonstrations can be as effective as classroom teaching.

YouTube has become the go-to for quick tutorials on almost any topic, from how to replace a zipper to how to install a water heater. But could some of the most memorable parts of a STEM course — live demonstrations — be brought to the screen effectively? In a new paper, Harvard researchers show for the first time that research-based online STEM demonstrations not only can teach students more, but can be just as enjoyable.

Researchers hope these findings will help spur the creation of a catalogue of free online STEM video demonstrations to supplement lectures at institutions that cannot conduct their own. “We have an incredible group of scientists who present live demos for our students, but very few schools have these dedicated resources,” said co-author Logan McCarty, director of science education in the Department of Physics, who oversees Harvard’s Lecture Demonstration team. “With YouTube and other online channels, we can share Harvard’s technical and pedagogical expertise with the world.”

The research was based on previous literature by Kelly Miller, a lecturer in applied physics and co-author with McCarty. The previous article, published in 2013 by Miller and Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, showed that students often misunderstand lecture demonstrations. They turned to science demos after hearing time and again that they are students’ favorite part of the lecture. After all, who could forget a ball levitating on a sound wave or a laser bending into a tank of water?

“Our research suggests that when live demos are unavailable, videos can provide students with an equally effective — or possibly even more effective — learning experience,” said co-author Louis Deslauriers, director of science teaching and learning in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “Even when live demonstrations are available, it may be helpful to supplement them with high-quality videos.”

Their paper in the February issue of Physical Review, Physics Education Research was spun into motion by first author Greg Kestin, a preceptor in physics who produces a series with NOVA called “What the Physics?!”

(14) SETBACK FOR SPACEX. A SpaceX Starship test article failed during a pressure test. CNET reports “SpaceX Starship prototype explodes during test in Texas”.

Getting to space is hard, and SpaceX is working through some kinks early in the process of developing its next-generation Starship that it hopes will eventually take legions of humans to Mars.

Video from sources with a view of the company’s Boca Chica, Texas development facility showed Starship prototype “SN1” apparently exploding during a pressure test Friday.

NASASpaceflight reports that the partial rocket failed during a cryogenic pressure test after one of its tanks filled with liquid nitrogen.

An earlier, more basic prototype dubbed “Mk1” popped its top during a pressurization test at Boca Chica last year.

This latest anomaly — as explosions tend to be called in the space business — appears to be doing little to set back Starship’s development. Elon Musk showed off the company’s stockpile of nose cones at Boca Chica last month, and prototype SN2 continued to come together on one side of the site this weekend, even as the remains of SN1 were being cleaned up nearby.

(15) NOT A SPACE WALRUS. BBC says “Huge ‘space snowman’ is two merging stars”.

Researchers have discovered a huge snowman-shaped star with an atmospheric composition never seen before.

It is more massive than our Sun but only two-thirds the Earth’s diameter.

The object is thought to have resulted from the merger of two so-called white dwarf stars that often explode as powerful supernovas.

Dr Mark Hollands, of Warwick University, said the team’s discovery could help scientists better understand how this process occurs.

“The most exciting aspect of this star is that it must have just about failed to explode as a supernova. There aren’t that many white dwarfs this massive.

“There remains much uncertainty about what kind of stellar systems make it to the supernova stage. Strange as it may sound, measuring the properties of this ‘failed’ supernova, and future look-alikes, is telling us a lot about the pathways to thermonuclear self-annihilation.”

(16) SOUND FAMILIAR? In the Washington Post, Max Brooks says in a Perspectives piece that his 2006 novel World War Z was banned in China because he predicted that the zombie pandemic began in China and how he refused to change the name of China to an imaginary country in order for his novel to have a Chinese edition. “China barred my dystopian novel about how its system enables epidemics”.

I refused. Having an open society, where the government operates transparently and information circulates freely, is the bedrock of public health. Censoring those chapters would play into the very dynamics that endanger citizens. Even with the best of intentions, a government that operates secretively and without accountability is ill-equipped to contain an epidemic. Lacking trust in the authorities, or dependable sources of knowledge about how to protect themselves — whether from infection or from abuses of power — citizens are left more vulnerable to both.

As much as I’d like to take creative credit for coming up with this scenario in my book, the one that inadvertently foreshadowed today’s crisis, I didn’t: I based the spread of my virus on the real-life spread of SARS. Cases emerged in China in late 2002, but for months, the Chinese government did not warn the public about the new and deadly pathogen.

(17) DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP. “Star Trek Vet William Shatner Offers Update For Fans Hoping To See Captain Kirk TV Show “CinemaBlend has the story.

Following the announcement that Captain Picard’s adventures would continue in CBS All Access’ Picard, fans wondered whether Patrick Stewart’s return to the franchise meant that other Star Trek alum could also get their own series. Last year, William Shatner said he “would not be interested” in doing a Kirk TV series, citing how “debilitating” it was to shoot a series due, in large part, to the long working hours. Fast forward a year later and Shatner provides an update when a fan posed the question on Twitter. The answer is, unsurprisingly, still a big nope. In his words:

No. I think Kirk’s story is pretty well played out at this point.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/29/20 That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Scroll, And With Strange Pixels Even Death May File

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The January 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Truth Is All There Is,” by Emily Parker, a short story about a world in which everyone is happily chained to the blockchain.

Mila sits at her desk, watching a dancer twirl around on her screen. Then she records an audio prediction.

“Retro, contrarian, but still ballet. How much can you watch?” she tells her audience. “I give her 2.68 more days of hype.”

That’s the entire story. By late afternoon Mila’s words have reached more than 3 million people, which she predicted as well. End-of-hype predictions track well and bring automatic bonuses if they turn out be true. 

It was published along with a response essay, “Trust No One. Not Even a Blockchain.”, by blockchain expert Jill Carlson.

 …Blockchain devotees say the technology can solve our trust issues—that it is trustless, that it requires no trust. This is the phrase that has launched a thousand corporate projects and startup companies. These startups purport that their blockchain technology will enable us to ensure that our vegetables are organically sourced, our diamonds conflict-free, and our data securely our own. The authorities making these promises present the technology in opaque terms and emphasize its complexity. Ironically, this technology that promises transparency and verifiability is presented as completely inscrutable.

(2) SHATNER DIVORCE SETTLED. The Daily Mail reports William Shatner is free again.

William Shatner, 88, has finalized his divorce from his fourth wife, Elizabeth Martin, after nearly 19 years of marriage.

Going into the legal proceedings, the legendary actor, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, had a net worth of over $100 million. 

In the end, the actor was able to keep the bulk of his fortune because he had an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement in place before they were married in 2001.

That puts Bill back in play, just like Jeff Goldblum’s Jurassic Park character who says, “I’m always on the lookout for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm.”

(3) WFC 2020 RATES GOING UP. World Fantasy Con 2020’s registration rate goes up to $250 on February 17. Take advantage of it today by visiting the WFC 2020 website.

(4) READ FAFNIR. The 2/2019 issue of “Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research” is online, a Special Edition on Speculative Climate Fiction. In addition to the topical articles you’ll find Jani Ylönen’s report on the “Worldcon 77 Academic Track” and Janice M. Bogstad’s review of Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid.

(5) HAPPY BIRTHDAY DR. STRANGELOVE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] On January 29, 1964, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. With a stellar cast of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, it was directed by directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. 

It was not the original title, as Kubrick considered Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus as well as Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, and the much shorter Wonderful Bomb.

The film is somewhat based on Peter George’s political thriller Red Alert. (Originally called Two Hours To Doom.)Curiously Dr. Strangelove did not appear in the book. This novel’s available on Kindle. And George’s novelization of the film is on all digital sources. If you purchase it, it has an expanded section on Strangelove’s early career. 

It would not surprisingly win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Loncon II in London in 1965 with The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao being the only other film on the final ballot.

The film was a box office success. Critics were universal in their belief that it was one of the best films ever done with Ebert saying it was “arguably the best political satire of the century”. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 94% rating with over 200,000 reviewers casting a vote. 

A sequel was planned by Kubrick with Gilliam directing though he was never told this by Kubrick and only discovered this after Kubrick died and he later said “I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to.”

The original theatrical trailer is here.

(6) MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION. In “Fail Safe: Very Little Left of the World”, Bilge Ebiri contrasts and compares Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe for readers at The Criterion Collection.

Both movies show men operating within remorseless systems (in fact, both show men operating within the same remorseless system, namely the United States nuclear apparatus), but in Strangelove’s case, there’s a liberating nihilism to Kubrick’s vision, as the system unleashes the characters’ monstrosity—their zeal for war, their twisted notions of civilization, their fantasies of survival. With Fail Safe, while the system defeats the characters, the film allows them to assert their humanity in small yet profound ways, as Lumet puts us in the middle of this drama with an immediacy that evokes the title of one of the CBS television shows on which he cut his teeth in the fifties: You Are There. Kubrick may still make us weep for the world (albeit by first making us laugh at it), but Lumet makes us weep for ourselves and our loved ones.

(7) HEY BOOMER. The Ohio Light Opera will be doing a production of an operetta based on the Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon. How will they fit that cannon on stage?

VOYAGE TO THE MOON

(1875)
Music by Jacques Offenbach
Original French Libretto by Albert Vanloo, Eugène Leterrier, and Arnold Mortier
English Libretto by Steven A. Daigle, Henry S. Leigh, and Eric Beheim

Over 41 seasons, OLO shows have been set in such exotic locales as Peru, Russia, Madrid, Indonesia, China, Greece, and even Hades. So, what’s left, you may ask? How about the moon! Inspired by Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, Jacques Offenbach and his librettists created, in Voyage to the Moon, a wonderfully wacky work, but with some of the composer’s most exalted operettic music. Prince Caprice, bored with life on Earth, has no interest in inheriting the crown from his father, King V’lan—he wants to go to the moon for some excitement. He engages the King’s scholar, Microscope, to find a way of getting him there. The sage returns days later with a 20-mile-long cannon, which propels him, Caprice, and V’lan to the lunar surface. There they meet their equivalents: King Cosmos, his advisor Cactus, and the Princess Fantasia. Among other “adjustments,” the earthlings must deal with the reality that, on the moon, love is considered a disease. Caprice has fallen hard for Fantasia, but, for obvious reasons, she shuns him. But Caprice has brought with him some apples … get it?

(8) CAPLAN OBIT. Freida Caplan, who introduced kiwis to the U.S. market, also had a science fiction connection — she supplied the “alien” fruits for Star Trek episodes, which helped boost sales: “‘Kiwi Queen’ Frieda Caplan, produce-industry pioneer, dies at 96”.

She was Frieda Rapoport Caplan, a tenacious maven credited for introducing kiwis, mangoes, habanero and shishito peppers, passion fruit, bean and alfalfa sprouts, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, starfruit, blood oranges, shiitake mushrooms, turmeric, and hundreds more fruits and vegetables into the supermarket mainstream. Into the bellies of American consumers.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 29, 1989 — Lobster Man from Mars premiered. This comedy was a spoof of Fifties SF films. It was directed by Stanley Sheff, and it starred Tony Curtis and Patrick Macnee. It was shot on a shoestring budget of less than a million dollars. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 1989. When it went into general release is uncertain. No reviews from critics were but it does have a 43% rating by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1913 Victor Mature. He’s best remembered for his first leading role, as a fur-clad caveman in One Million B.C., and until he showed up on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Sparks in the “Deadly Creatures Below!” episode, his only genre role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 29, 1918 Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 29, 1932 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 80. Her first genre work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives, scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife”, and she did an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well. 
  • Born January 29, 1945 Tom Selleck, 75. Setting aside the matter of whether Magnum P.I. is genre which some of you hold to be true, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF. He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up s himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago.
  • Born January 29, 1958 Jeph Loeb, 62. His first comic writing work was on the Challengers of the Unknown vol. 2 #1 in 1991 with Tim Sale. I’m pleased to say that it was in the DC Universe app so I just read it and it’s superb. He’d go on to win three Eisners for his work for Batman/The Spirit #1, Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. And he’s also a producer/writer on such genre series such as Smallville, Lost, Heroes and Teen Wolf.
  • Born January 29, 1970 Heather Graham, 50. Best known SF role was no doubt Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks.
  • Born January 29, 1988 Catrin Stewart, 32. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was friends with Madame Vastra and Strax (informally known as the Paternoster Gang) who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) OSCAR TIME. “Avengers: Endgame – How we made the visual effects” – the BBC video shows how little of what we saw was actually shot as we saw it.

Avengers: Endgame is one of five movies competing at the 2020 Oscars for best visual effects.

Al Moloney spoke to Framestore’s Stuart Penn about the challenges of creating the effects for the film.

(13) RARA AVIS. The BBC’s Melissa Hogenboom asks “How did the last Neanderthals live?”

In many ways, the last surviving Neanderthals are a mystery. But four caves in Gibraltar have given an unprecedented insight into what their lives might have been like.

Forty thousand years ago in Europe, we were not the only human species alive – there were at least three others. Many of us are familiar with one of these, the Neanderthals. Distinguished by their stocky frames and heavy brows, they were remarkably like us and lived in many pockets of Europe for more than 300,000 years.

For the most part, Neanderthals were a resilient group. They existed for about 200,000 years longer than we modern humans (Homo sapiens) have been alive. Evidence of their existence vanishes around 28,000 years ago – giving us an estimate for when they may, finally, have died off.

Fossil evidence shows that, towards the end, the final few were clinging onto survival in places like Gibraltar. Findings from this British overseas territory, located at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, are helping us to understand more about what these last living Neanderthals were really like. And new insights reveal that they were much more like us than we once believed.

In recognition of this, Gibraltar received Unesco world heritage status in 2016. Of particular interest are four large caves. Three of these caves have barely been explored. But one of them, Gorham’s cave, is a site of yearly excavations. “They weren’t just surviving,” the Gibraltar museum’s director of archaeology Clive Finlayson tells me of its inhabitants.

…The remains of more than 150 different species of bird have also been uncovered in Gorham’s cave, many with tooth and cut marks, which suggests Neanderthals ate them.

There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task. What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.

“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewelry.

(14) SPACE CONNECTION. “How worried should we be about ‘Big Brother’ technology?”

Peenemünde is a port in northern Germany, where the River Peene meets the Baltic Sea.

There, in October 1942, German engineers sat in a control room watching a television screen. It showed live, close-up images of a prototype weapon on its launch pad some 2.5km (1.5 miles) away. On another screen, with a wide-angle view, they saw the weapon surge skywards.

The test had succeeded. They were looking at something that would shape the future – but perhaps not in the way they imagined.

…Wernher von Braun, the brilliant young engineer behind the V2, surrendered to the Americans as the Third Reich fell, then helped them win the space race.

If you had told him that his rocket test would be the first step towards putting a man on the Moon, he would not have been surprised. That is exactly what motivated him.

At one point, he was briefly arrested after someone on a train overheard him say that he wished he could build spaceships instead of weapons, and reported this suspiciously non-conforming thought to the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police.

But von Braun might not have anticipated that he was also witnessing the birth of another hugely influential technology – one the Gestapo would have loved in its modern form – closed-circuit television, better known as CCTV.

(15) WHERE IS IT NOW. The BBC tells of “An atomic marker hidden in plain sight”.

In the courtyard of a gift shop decorated with colourful ceramic frogs and dragonflies, it’s easy to overlook the historic marker.

Perhaps that’s fitting for a secret site.

In the early 1940s, the world’s top scientists and their families trudged through this patio, bedraggled from a cross-country train trip. Most didn’t know where they were headed. All they had were classified orders to report to the address “109 East Palace, Santa Fe, New Mexico”. When they opened the wrought iron gate, they entered what the National Historical Landmark plaque calls a “portal to their secret mission”, which was to build the atomic bomb.

“They came in through the courtyard,” said Marianne Kapoun, who with her husband owns The Rainbow Man gift shop, which occupies the formerly classified facility. Visitors now enter the shop through a front door; the historical entrance where scientists like Enrico Fermi and Richard Feynman once passed, is blocked, and the walkway cluttered with dangling ceramic chillies and hand-painted jack-o-lantern gourds.

The newcomers, which included a contingent of British scientists, were issued security passes and loaded from the facility onto a bus or a Jeep for the last leg of their journey. Their destination lay 35 miles away, up tortuous, unpaved mountain roads, in the hidden settlement of Los Alamos. And what they eventually accomplished, the plaque says, was “one of the greatest scientific achievements in human history”.

But few modern visitors to Santa Fe, a Spanish colonial city known for its adobe buildings and art galleries, realise they’re crossing paths with Nobel laureates – and a nest of spies.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/11/19 Electronic Sheep May Safely Graze, Thanks To Grounding Footware

(1) A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR’S CAST MEMBER. Ed Green, fandom’s working actor, has made another commercial! This time Ed advertises Rebate Key. He’s the fellow in the blue shirt.

(2) BABY YODA GRAFFITI. Reddit says this street art is in the south of France. (Near Remulac?)

(3) MIKE RESNICK GOFUNDME. Mike Resnick, beset by new medical problems, has more bills to pay and his GoFundMe target has been raised to $50,000: “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience”.

UPDATE on 12/11/2019: Mike is now battling cancer on top of his previous major surgery, for which this fundraiser was created. The doctors are very optimistic and say he is responding to treatment incredibly well, but because of new surgery, radiation and chemo bills, he is in need of this fundraiser more than ever. As you can imagine, he is literally bleeding money at he moment. Every dollar helps. Thank you, again, for all the support you have given Mike! <3

(4) BLUEPRINTS. “How To Structure a Cozy Mystery” by Sarah A. Hoyt at Mad Genius Club – I found her exploration of a popular formula completely fascinating.

3- For some reason your character has special knowledge.

This could be as inside-baseball as knowing it was the wrong tropical fish (I know NOTHING about tropical fish, btw) or how fanatic tropical fish collectors get.  Or it could be as “generic” as she saw something she can’t tell the police, either because it’s not clear or because she wouldn’t want to rope in a person she’s sure is innocent.

So, she’s going to investigate.

BTW by now we should have already seen or heard of the murderer. No, you shouldn’t make it obvious. But it’s important, to avoid the elephant from the ceiling feeling.  If not, we should see her or meet her early in the investigation phase. (Yes, it can be a him too, do I need to tell you that?)

At this point it might become obvious to everyone but your protag that love interest is interested.

(5) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne,] Prominent cultural critic Dave Itzkoff writing in The Gray Lady delves into the creative turmoil surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and J.J. Abrams’ attempts to live up to the mantle of the franchise. “A New Hype” is filled with interesting tidbits and observations about the creative process. It’s an example of why I think so highly of Itzkoff as a journalist. 

As [Abrams] slyly acknowledged, “Any great ending is a new beginning on some level.” But what the future of “Star Wars” might look like without its foundational narrative is something Abrams — who struck a lucrative overall deal with WarnerMedia in September — was in no hurry to envision. “I didn’t design that, so I don’t know,” he said.

(6) PICARD ALREADY IN REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Michael Chabon’s ‘Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’ Series Coming to Showtime”. The Hollywood Reporter says Chabon will exit Picard in 2020 to work with his wife on the series:

…The author, who serves as showrunner on the studio’s forthcoming Star Trek: Picard for CBS All Access, has, alongside his writer wife, Ayelet Waldman, signed an overall deal with the studio. Under the pact, Chabon and Waldman will adapt the former’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay as a limited series for CBS TV Studios’ corporate sibling Showtime.

The series, which earned Chabon the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, will be written and exec produced by the husband and wife duo and has received a series commitment from the premium cable network. Chabon and Waldman will serve as showrunners on Kavalier and Clay. Chabon will transition to the new series, an epic tale of love, war and the birth of America’s comic book superhero obsession in big band-era New York, in 2020 and exit Picard. The series is a co-production with Paramount Television, which controlled the rights to the book.

(7) LONG STRING OF SHOWS. Amazingly, after 56 years LA’s Bob Baker Marionette Theater still exists. The New York Times tells how that happened, with lots of pictures, in “Marionettes at Play”.

…But starting back in 2013, a series of calamities almost derailed these time-honored traditions. That was when Baker — a man who bubbled over with creativity, but when it came to business, was a car wreck — was forced to sell the building, and the troupe became tenants in their longtime home. When Baker died the following year at the age of 90, the company members dedicated themselves to preserving his legacy.

“At the end of the day, we’d still be doing shows, and there’d be a hundred happy kids,” said Alex Evans, a scruffy-bearded 34-year-old who arrived at the theater in 2006 from New York after Googling “Los Angeles” and “puppets.” He is now the theater’s executive director and head puppeteer. “So it was easy to look around and highlight this as a beautiful moment.”

After Baker’s death, the group learned the landlord intended to raze the theater and replace it with a mixed-use development, which would include a spot for them to perform. “Then we looked at the plan and it was like, ‘We are essentially going to be squeezed into a space otherwise allocated to a Starbucks,” Evans said. “We were, like, ‘This won’t work. We can’t do that.’ ”

They visited dozens of places before finding the two-story former Pyong Kang First Congregational Church on a bustling, tree-lined street, across from a children’s park. Not only was it bigger than their original home — at 10,000 square feet compared to about 5600 — it was also zoned for assembly. “We could just open the doors and just go,” Evans said.

(8) SHORT TREKS. SYFY Wire points the way as CBS All Access previews two new animated installments in the Short Treks series which will debut this week: “Star Trek shares whimsical peek at two new Short Treks animated tales”.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | Ephraim & Dot Trailer

Ephraim, a humble tardigrade, is flying through the mycelial network when an unexpected encounter takes her on a bewildering adventure through space.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | The Girl Who Made the Stars Trailer

When a lightning storm in space scares a young Michael Burnham, her father aims to ease her fears with a mythical story about a brave little girl who faced her own fears head on.

(9) CONSPIRATORS’ TOOLKIT. “‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’: Hivemind & Brian Taylor Conspire On TV Adaptation” says Deadline. If only Sam Konkin III had lived to see this day!

The Illuminatus! Trilogy is coming to television and Hivemind is in on the conspiracy. Hivemind, the production company behind The Expanse and Witcher, is partnering with writer-director Brian Taylor (Crank, Happy!) and the European production company Kallisti to adapt The Illuminatus! Trilogy, the off-kilter bookshelf series by authors Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea.

Originally published in the 1970s, The Illuminatus! Trilogy defies simple descriptions but the surreal and satirical milestone introduced “the Illuminati” lore to a global audience and sparked much of the contemporary American fascination with conspiracy theories and their modern rhythms.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 11, 1929 — The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “Fandom begins in New York with the first meeting of the Scienceers, 1929.” Timebinders has a history of that Club here as it appeared in Joe Christoff’s Sphere fanzine.
  • December 11, 1982 Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. Junk films are a great deal of fun (sometimes). Timerider is certainly junky. It’s directed by William Dear and starring Fred Ward as Lyle Swann, a cross country dirt bike racer. The film was scored, produced and co-written (with Dear) by Michael Nesmith of Monkees fame. There’s rating at Rotten Tomatoes but Amazon reviews really liked it as did some critics.
  • December 11, 1998 Star Trek: Insurrection premiered. Directed by Frakes who was widely praised for doing so, it starred the Next Gen cast. It did very well at the box office and critics mostly liked it. The story was by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It currently has a rating of 44% by viewers over at Rotten Tomatoes where an amazing 62,772 have registered their opinion. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1922 —  Maila Syrjäniemi. She was Vampira, the first tv horror host as she hosted her own series, The Vampira Show, from 1954–55 in the LA market.  After it was canceled, she showed up on Plan 9 from Outer Space in one of the starring roles. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 11, 1926 Dick Tufeld. His best known role, or at least best recognized, Is as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprised for the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Woman, Thundarr the Barbarian, Fantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 11, 1937 Marshal Tymn, 82. Academic whose books I’ve actually read. (I find most of these sorts of works really boring, errr, too dry.) He’s written two works that I’ve enjoyed, one with Neil Barron, Fantasy and Horror, is a guide to those genres up to mid Nineties, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines with Mike Ashley as his co-writer is a fascinating read indeed. A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies: An Annotated Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources for Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only work by him available in a digital form.
  • Born December 11, 1954 Katherine Lawrence. Short story writer and script writer for a number of animated SF series including Reboot, Stargate Infinity and Conan the Adventurer to which she contributed quite a number of stories. (Died 2004.)
  • Born December 11, 1957 William Joyce, 62. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. Michael Toman in an email says that “I’ve been watching for his books since reading Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo back in 1988.”
  • Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 60. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got three collections to date, Map of Dreams, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here. I’ve not read her novel, The Memory Garden, and would like your opinions on it. The latter and You Have Never Been Here are her only works available digitally. 
  • Born December 11, 1962 Ben Browder, 57. Actor best known, of course, for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode.  He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A town Called Mercy”,  a Weird Western of sorts. 
  • Born December 11, 1979 Rider Strong, 40. Making Birthday Honors for his voice work Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles as Pvt. Carl Jenkins. If you’ve not seen this series, go watch it. He’s done a lot of voice work including for Star vs. the Forces of Evil and his live work is mostly horror. 

(12) END OF MISSION. TMZ, in “William Shatner Files for Divorce, Prenup In The Stars”, reports that Shatner, 88, is divorcing from his fourth wife, Elizabeth, 61.

William Shatner wants Scotty the judge to beam him up and out of his marriage, ’cause he’s calling it quits after 18 years … TMZ has learned.

The ‘Star Trek’ actor just filed for divorce against his wife, Elizabeth, whom he got hitched with back in 2001. Sources familiar with the matter tell us Bill and Liz’s split should move along relatively smoothly, as we’re told the couple has a prenup.

…Elizabeth is Will’s fourth wife — he was previously married to Nerine Kidd, Marcy Lafferty and Gloria Rand … and only had children with Rand. It’s Elizabeth’s second go-around … she was married to Michael Glenn Martin before William. He’s 88 … she’s 61.

… According to William’s divorce docs — obtained by TMZ — he lists their date of separation as Feb. 1, 2019.

(13) LOOSED LIPS. “Vault of the Wordmonger” on The Dark Mountain Project is a short story by Nick Hunt about a future where words have become imprisoned and are only gradually being freed.

Our father bought words once a week. He was a big man in our town and fresh words gave him status. He paid for them in animal parts from the farm our family owned and sometimes in mineral parts from the mine beyond the hill. He did not own the mine but he had interests there. The animal parts and mineral parts he carried there in his hands and the words he carried back in his mouth. That is the way to carry words….

(14) NO FLIES ON THEM. One of the reasons for “The truth behind why zebras have stripes”.

Rudyard Kipling playfully wrote that zebras stripes were due to “the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees” falling on its body but are scientists getting closer to the truth?

In February 2019, at a horse livery yard in the UK, a fascinating experiment took place. A team of evolutionary biologists from the University of California, Davis, and their UK collaborators, investigated why zebras have stripes. In the name of science, they dressed several domestic horses at Hill Livery in zebra-striped coats, and studied them alongside actual zebras.

Owner Terri Hill keeps a herd of zebras which she has acquired from zoos across the UK – a collection which stems from Hill’s passion for the conservation of wild equids. Maintaining the herd, which live on a two acre paddock complete with sand pit and herb garden, is a way of maintaining breeding stock for zoos, and so helping to protect the animals against future extinction.

For Tim Caro, an ecologist from the University of St Andrews who has been studying zebra stripes for almost two decades, the livery yard’s relatively tame zebras provided a rare opportunity to stand within metres of them and observe them. “People have been talking about zebra stripes for over a hundred years, but it’s just a matter of really doing experiments and thinking clearly about the issue to understand it better,” he says.

How and why zebras evolved to sport black and white stripes are questions that have tested scientists for over a century. Scientists have put forward at least 18 reasons why, from camouflage or warning colours, to more creative explanations like unique markers that help to identify individuals like a human fingerprint. But, for a long time new theories were introduced without rigorous tests.

(15) LET US TELL YOU WHERE TO GO. BBC reports “Google: The most searched for questions and phrases of 2019 revealed”.

Game of Thrones, Caitlyn Jenner, the Rugby World Cup, what is Area 51, how to eat a pineapple and what is a dead ting?

These are some of the top phrases and questions you searched for on Google in 2019.

The Rugby World Cup – which South Africa won after beating England in the final – topped the list of overall trending searches in the UK, according to the search engine.

“What is Area 51?” and “How to pronounce psalm” were among the top questions you had this year.

(16) SCARECROW. “Bangalore: Dummies in police uniforms ‘control’ city traffic”.

One of India’s most gridlocked cities has come up with an unconventional solution to rein in errant drivers.

Mannequins dressed up as traffic police have been placed on roads in the southern city of Bangalore.

Dressed in police caps, white shirts and brown trousers, and wearing sunglasses, the mannequins are now on duty at congested junctions.

It’s hoped drivers will mistake them for real police and think twice about breaking the rules of the road.

Home to India’s IT industry, Bangalore has eight million registered vehicles on its streets. This number is expected to grow to more than 10 million by 2022.

At 18.7 km/h (11.61 mph) traffic speeds in the city are the second slowest in the country after Mumbai (18.5 km/h), according to a study by an office commute platform, MovinSync Technology Solutions. Cameras at traffic junctions have recorded more than 20,000 traffic violations every day.

But commuters have mixed feelings on whether mannequins can actually step in to help their real police counterparts.

(17) WORD OF THE YEAR. “Merriam-Webster Singles Out Nonbinary ‘They’ For Word Of The Year Honors”NPR has the story.

There are plenty of flashpoints for controversy littered among the grand pantheon of four-letter words. Plenty of examples probably come to mind immediately — from the relatively tame (“heck,” anyone?) to the kind of graphic profanity that may warrant an uncomfortable call from our ombudsman.

Still, one four-letter word has elicited more heated debate than most among grammarians lately. And it happens to be one that we’re free to print right here: they.

Merriam-Webster announced Tuesday that the personal pronoun was its 2019 Word of the Year, noting that the tiny, unassuming word had undergone a rather radical transformation in usage in recent years — and found itself at the heart of some wide-ranging cultural conversations in the process.

“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years,” the dictionary publisher explained in a statement.

“More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.”

(18) THINKING OUTSIDE THE CAN. Delish thinks these will be irresistible — “Pringles Is Making A Pickle Rick Flavor For ‘Rick And Morty’ Fans” – but I’ll give you share!

Do you ever just shove your hand all the way into the bottom of the Pringles can to get the just-out-of-reach last chip? Because same. And now I’ll be doing that even more willingly because Pringles is bringing back its Pickle Rick flavor.

The flavor is obviously an ode to Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim cartoon series with a super cult following. In a now-famous episode of the show, a scientist turns into a pickle to avoid going to family therapy…as one does? Thus, “Pickle Rick” was born.

(19) A BOUNTY FOR YOUR TABLE. N sent the link to Binging with Babish: Bone Broth from The Mandalorian with the recommendation, “Unconventional, but I’m watching this right now and everything he’s making with the broth is just too tasty looking.”

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

Shatner, Sutherland Receive Order of Canada

William Shatner, Donald Sutherland.

Actors William Shatner and Donald Sutherland were back in the spotlight as recipients of the Order of Canada, among a group of 39 honored at a ceremony in Ottawa on November 21. Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, conducted the investitures.

Sutherland was promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada, while Shatner was made an Officer.

Other sff and genre-adjacent celebrities added as Members were Christina Jennings, creator of Murdoch Mysteries, and Kathleen Reichs, for work in forensic anthropology and as a crime novelist (the Bones series)

Their official citations read —

Donald Sutherland

The engraving on Donald Sutherland’s honorary Academy Award reads: “For a lifetime of indelible characters, rendered with unwavering truthfulness.” From Norman Bethune and Fellini’s Casanova, to the CBC’s Pirate’s Passage, he has been a Canadian presence worldwide for six decades, whose talent and magnetic charisma have made him a shining ambassador and promoter of Canada. When U.S. border patrol agents look at his Canadian passport and ask him why he’s never become an American citizen, his smiling reply has always been: “You don’t have the same sense of humour.”

William Shatner

William Shatner is a cultural icon who has boldly gone where few have gone before. His renowned career in theatre, television and film extends over 60 years and his memorable performances as Captain James T. Kirk in the classic television series “Star Trek” has entertained and inspired generations of viewers. A proud Canadian, he supports various charities related to health care, the environment and the well-being of children. Through his larger-than-life persona and his artistic achievements, he has left an indelible mark on popular culture.

Christina Jennings

Christina Jennings has been at the forefront of the television and film industries for years. Founder and CEO of Canada’s only woman-led entertainment company, Shaftesbury, she has spearheaded thousands of hours of broadcasting, including primetime television, children’s programs, feature films and web series. She is best known for bringing history to life to a loyal audience with her acclaimed period drama “Murdoch Mysteries.” A mentor to many, she nurtures emerging talent, both in front of and behind the camera, and through her governance, notably as chair of the Canadian Film Centre.

Kathy Reichs

A forensic anthropologist and author, Kathy Reichs uses a vast compendium of knowledge to create stories that are suspenseful, engaging and technically detailed. She is internationally acclaimed for her mystery series, Bones, and its TV adaptation. Like the series’ protagonist, she is often called upon by police departments and government agencies for her insight into criminal investigations in Canada. Her creative work has been widely embraced by Canadians who appreciate not only her storylines, but also her portrayal of the city of Montréal and the province of Quebec.

Other figures of genre interest who have previously received the honor include fantasist Guy Gavriel Kay and astronaut Chris Hadfield (2014) and Robert J. Sawyer (2016).

Former astronaut and now Governor General Julie Payette alluded to her space exploring experiences in her introductory remarks, and told the story of the time she went to the movies with her friend Scott Kelly, the astronaut who recently spent a year in space.

Now, as she watched Clint Eastwood blasting off in the movie Space Cowboys, she realized that they were using the footage from her own launch.

“What would you do if I stood up in the movie theatre and said, ‘I’m on that shuttle!’” she whispered to Kelly.

The implication to the actors in attendance was clear: they could have their fun on the soundstage, but they needed people like Payette to actually do the job, even in the movies themselves.

When Shatner’s bio was read to the assembled crowd it noted that he had “boldly gone where few have gone before,” Payette raised her hand in mock confusion. Shatner turned to her and gestured good-naturedly, in an apparent admission of her superior space credentials.

The order was established in 1967, Canada’s centennial year.

[Thanks to StephenfromOttawa for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/19 Scroll What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Pixel

(1) ANCIENT VIDEO GAMES PLAYABLE AGAIN. Cnet makes a nostalgic discovery as “Internet Archive releases 2,500 MS-DOS games so you can relive the ’90s”.

If you loved playing retro MS-DOS games from the ’90s like 3D Bomber, Zool and Alien Rampage, you can now replay those, and many more, with the latest update from Internet Archive

On Sunday, Internet Archive released 2,500 MS-DOS games that includes action, strategy and adventure titles. Some of the games are Vor Terra, Spooky Kooky Monster Maker, Princess Maker 2 and I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.

Internet Archive software curator Jason Scott wrote on the site’s blog:

The update of these MS-DOS games comes from a project called eXoDOS, which has expanded over the years in the realm of collecting DOS games for easy playability on modern systems to tracking down and capturing, as best as can be done, the full context of DOS games – from the earliest simple games in the first couple years of the IBM PC to recently created independent productions that still work in the MS-DOS environment.

What makes the collection more than just a pile of old, now-playable games, is how it has to take head-on the problems of software preservation and history. Having an old executable and a scanned copy of the manual represents only the first few steps. DOS has remained consistent in some ways over the last (nearly) 40 years, but a lot has changed under the hood and programs were sometimes only written to work on very specific hardware and a very specific setup. They were released, sold some amount of copies, and then disappeared off the shelves, if not everyone’s memories.

It is all these extra steps, under the hood, of acquisition and configuration, that represents the hardest work by the eXoDOS project, and I recognize that long-time and Herculean effort. As a result, the eXoDOS project has over 7,000 titles they’ve made work dependably and consistently.

(2) THE WORD. Courtesy of ScienceFiction.com we learn that the Oxford English Dictionary’s “New Words List for October 2019” has loaded up on Star Wars terms. There are also a lot of additions you’d think would have gone into the OED years ago. Here are some of the October selections:

  • Jedi, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a member of an order of heroic, skilled warrior monks who are able to harness the mystical power of…
  • kapow, int.: Representing the sound of an explosion, a gunshot, a hard punch or blow, etc. Also in extended use, conveying the suddenness or powerful effect of an…
  • lightsabre, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a weapon resembling a sword, but having a destructive beam of light in place of a blade. Also: a…
  • Padawan, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: an apprentice Jedi (see Jedi n.). Also (often humorously) in extended and allusive use: a youthful…
  • force, n.1 sense Additions: With the and chiefly with capital initial. In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a mystical universal energy field which certain…
  • They, pron. sense 2c: Used with reference to a person whose sense of personal identity does not correspond to conventional sex and gender distinctions, and who has typically asked to be referred to as they (rather than as he or she).

(3) ANTHOLOGY CROWDFUNDING. A Kickstarter appeal to raise $8,300 to fund publication of Vital: The Future of Healthcare launched October 15. The anthology, a collection of short stories featuring the future of health and medicine, will include works from notable authors such as David Brin, James Patrick Kelly, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Caroline Yoachim, Alex Shvartsman, Eric Schwitzgebel, Congyun Gu, and others. Backers will receive exclusive rewards such as advanced copies and other perks for early support of the project. The campaign will last until November 14, 2019.

The idea for “Vital: The Future of Healthcare” was first conceived by RM Ambrose who will serve as editor of the book. He saw a need and opportunity to use fictional stories to address real life challenges. “Medical science continues to advance, but for many, healthcare has never been more broken,” says Ambrose.  “This book will use the power of storytelling to explore and inspire solutions to the problems that government and even the tech industry have struggled to fix.” 

Other writers are in discussion to be part of the project, with the goal of securing support from about 10 additional authors.

Once published, all proceeds from the sale of Vital will be donated to Loma Linda University Health, a global leader in education, research and clinical care.

Book editor RM Ambrose is Assistant Fiction Editor at the Hugo Award winning “StarShipSofa” podcast. He attended Taos Toolbox in 2017 and is an Affiliate Member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

(4) THUMB OUT. Behind a paywall, Financial Times book columnist Nilanjana Roy’s piece in the October 5 Financial Times is about the 40th anniversary of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

He (Adams) was as much a futurologist, a wizard of predictions, as he was a writer.  In the late 1970s, he dreamed up an ‘Electronic Thumb”–a device that looked like a large electronic calculator on which you could summon up a million ‘pages’–and perhaps my favourite robot of all time, Marvin the depressive Paranoid Android.

The first online translation service, Altavista’a 1995 Babelfish, was named after the fictional fish that translates languages in Hitchhiker when Arthur Dent sticks it in his ear.  Deep Thought, the computer developed in the 1990s to play chess, was named in homage to Adams’s computer, which takes seven and a half million years to answer the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’  (Forty-two, as every Hitchhiker fan knows.)

(5) INSIDE STORY. Tim Goodman says people who have never read the graphic novel before may get lost: “‘Watchmen’: TV Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.

It’s difficult to fully describe the visual and storytelling audacity behind HBO’s Watchmen, a series that warps perception in keenly original ways. It’s based on the late-1980s cult comic books of the same name (co-created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), then given a wholly different spin by Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers), a superfan of the source material but a wildly creative force of his own. This latest version (there was also a Zack Snyder movie in 2009) is simultaneously unique — it will certainly bring in fans of Lindelof’s work and HBO’s pedigree — and true to the spirit of the comics.

The challenge that Lindelof and HBO face is a pretty simple one: Watchmen will be utterly confusing without at least some passing knowledge of the origin story. This is a tale that begs for context, no matter how compelling and wonderfully baroque Lindelof’s telling is. So, yes, if you know nothing about Watchmen other than HBO’s tantalizing trailers (and a standout cast that includes Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons and others), you’d be well-served, at the very least, by reading the Wikipedia backstory. (Lindelof himself has said that if the series has new fans scrambling to discover the original work, that will be reward enough.)

(6) A THRONE OF METAL, AT LEAST. Actress Maisie Williams graces the latest cover of Metal

(7) PEOPLE ARE THE WORST. The Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Gardner was on hand for the soiree: “Jordan Peele Explains His Attraction to Horror: ‘There Is an Evil Embedded Into Our DNA’”.

The director shared the Hammer Museum stage with honoree Judy Chicago, presenters Gloria Steinem and Roxane Gay and performers Beck and Chris Martin at the record-setting Gala in the Garden fundraiser….

[Jordan Peele] He also dished out some of his early inspirations from the silver screen — with a nod to Martin Scorsese’s recent controversial statements about what qualifies as “cinema.”

“I can buy the premise for a second that this is a deserved thing, after all I spent so many hours growing up watching great cinema and absorbing art house classics of the 20th century like Ghostbusters 2, Gremlins 2, and Chud 2, all the twos,” he joked. “That’s my pathway of this great thing that Martin Scorsese calls cinema.”

He then got serious by expanding on his creative motivations.

“My passion is to entertain. I dream less about making a commentary about society than I do about getting a laugh or getting a scream or scaring anybody. Any audible noise that an audience can make, that’s my passion,” he explained. “Apparently to either get at something important or to just simply make people laugh, it involves a search of the same thing and that’s truth.”

Peele said that as he grew up, his perspective on life became “a little cynical,” and he found new truth in the exploration of what he refers to as “the human demon.”

“This is the idea that no matter what there is, whatever you do, there is an evil embedded into our DNA. It crystallizes when we get together. It’s in our tribalism, our nationalism, and our capitalism, our mob mentality, our obsession with categorization. We’re so good at masking our own evil from ourselves and so my obsession evolved to pulling down this mask,” he continued. “I figured why not try to reveal the truth in my language. Do it as entertaining as I could. I found early on that this would require a certain amount of vulnerability. if I was going to tap into fears that would resonate with others, I would need to explore and understand my own fears and my own faults.”

(8) DON’T TOY WITH FANS. Vanity Fair demands to know “Where’s Rose? Star Wars Fans Want Kelly Marie Tran’s Hero on More Merch”. Tagline: The first major female Asian character in the galactic saga was missing from many products for The Rise of Skywalker. Here’s what happened.

Laura Sirikul was on a mission. To the rest of the world, it was just October 4, but to movie fans like her, it was a galactic holiday—Triple Force Friday, when toys and merchandise from three upcoming Star Wars projects finally went on sale.

Sirikul ventured to big-box retailers around Pasadena, California, in search of items featuring her favorite character: Rose Tico, the quick-witted engineer played by Kelly Marie Tran. After hitting Target, Walmart, Hot Topic, and the Disney Store, Sirikul found herself asking a question that has since become a hashtag on social media: #WheresRose?

At the end of September, preview videos hyping the new merchandise showed a white T-shirt using the word “Rebel” as a backdrop for the character as she struck a heroic pose. “That ‘Rebel’ shirt was at the Disney Store, but she wasn’t on it,” Sirikul told Vanity Fair. “There was no Rose Tico at the mall.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 15, 1951 I Love Lucy made its television debut on CBS. Not genre in any sense at all but still worth noting. Desi appeared in a short called “The Fountain of Youth” which is genre. Although Lucy didn’t do any genre, their series was the foundation for Desilu Productions which eventually brought Star Trek to TV.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction of a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections are available on iBooks or Kindle. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas, he’s best known for the Dumarest Saga. His other long running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock, in Trek franchise. Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission Impossible, Wild Wild West,  Otherworld and Planet of The Apes. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately 24 genre stories and 6 SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 15, 1932 Virginia Leith, 87. The head in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Really. Truly. 

  • Born October 15, 1947 Lynn Lowry, 72. She is perhaps best known for her work in such horror films as George A. Romero’s The Crazies,  David Cronenberg’s Shivers, Paul Schrader’s Cat People and David E. Durston I Drink Your Blood. Some of these are truly in bad taste. 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts, 64. Stacey Sutton in A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s forget in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West,  50. Jigsaw in the dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on John Carter. His latest SFF role was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows that this Halloween, if you won’t go to Mount TBR, your Mount TBR might come to you.

(12) NOT TANK MARMOT. In “Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners showcase stunning scenes from nature”, CNN describes the winning photo:

It could almost be a scene from a slapstick comedy: a marmot stands frozen in fear, slack-jawed and balanced on one foot, as it suddenly notices a charging fox.

The dramatic image, captured with perfect timing by Chinese photographer Yongqing Bao, has won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award, given out annually by London’s Natural History Museum.

(13) CHOCOLATE WITH YOUR PEANUT BUTTER. John Connolly speaks up “In Defense of the Supernatural in Detective Fiction” at CrimeReads.

Some months ago, I had dinner in New York with an old friend, one of the most senior figures in the American mystery community. We tend to differ on almost every subject under the sun, food and wine apart, but it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, and I like to think that we have both mastered that art, for the most part.

Toward the end of the evening, my friend suggested that I had made two errors in my career. One was the decision not to write exclusively in the mystery genre, but to explore other areas of writing. This, he felt, had damaged me commercially—although, as I pointed out to him, it had benefited me creatively. My second error, he believed, was to have mixed the mystery genre with the supernatural. Whatever its benefits or disadvantages to me, either commercially or creatively, he believed that this simply should not have been done. For him, the supernatural had no place in the mystery novel, and there are many in mystery community who share his opinion.

(14) LAST LAUGH. BBC shares “The graveside joke that had everyone laughing at a funeral”. (Also video.)

A dad’s message from beyond the grave has touched the hearts of thousands online.

Shay Bradley, 62, had a dying wish that had his family and friends laughing at his funeral in Dublin.

In a video that has received more than 136,000 upvotes on Reddit, the former Irish defence forces veteran pretends to be trapped inside his coffin and is heard knocking frantically, trying to get out

Coming from a speaker on the ground his voice boomed from his grave: “Hello, hello, hello… let me out!” There is then some swearing which sends the mourners into fits of laughter.

He goes on to sing: “Hello again, hello. I called to say goodbye.”

(15) STAY FROSTY. “His Dark Materials: Behind the scenes of the TV adaptation”.

Ahead of the eight-part dramatisation of the first of Philip Pullman’s best-selling His Dark Materials novels, the BBC’s Sian Lloyd describes her sneak-preview behind-the-scenes set visit earlier this year.

Huddled around braziers filled with warm coals or sitting with blankets wrapped over shoulders, close to a hundred shivering extras are trying to keep the cold at bay.

They are the Gyptians, the nomadic closely-knit boat-dwelling tribe at the centre of Pullman’s trilogy, who are about to get some disturbing news.

In the real world, we’re on the site of a former ironworks in Blaenavon in the south Wales valleys. There’s snow on the ground, and temperatures are still plummeting.

Cast members and crew have gathered for the opening scenes from the series, which covers the events of the novel Northern Lights, and which receives its premiere in London on Tuesday.

(16) GIVE YOU JOY. From BBC: “His Dark Materials: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Welsh ‘joy'”

Relocating to south Wales to film His Dark Materials was a “joy”, Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda has said.

The TV adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman’s trilogy is being screened in London before being broadcast on BBC One in November.

The actor plays Lee Scoresby in the series, which was made by production company Bad Wolf in Cardiff.

Miranda shared his love of Wales on social media during filming.

(17) COVER ARTIST. Would you like to hear Andy Partridge’s “Music inspired by the art of Richard Powers”, the famed sff artist and 1991 Worldcon guest of honor?

A Long time ago, in a library far away, (well, Swindon, actually), a shy schoolboy who loved books but was a slow reader, borrowed three science fiction books per week. He didn’t read them. Instead, mesmerised by the covers, he imagined his own stories to match the cover paintings which he stared at intently for hours. 

Invited to tell his classmates about the books he’d read, neither they nor the teachers spotted the invention. Few, if any, teachers read sci-fi and even though the early 1960s may have been a peak point for the excitement surrounding mankind’s initial steps beyond the Earth, teachers would sooner bore any potential interest in books out of children with Charles Dickens rather than risk capturing their imagination with Philip K Dick.

Decades passed. The moon was reached and then, it seemed, forgotten. The faraway galaxies became the stuff of mainstream cinema and TV. Books celebrating the work and art of an earlier generation of sci-fi writers and illustrators appeared. The boy in the library of the early 1960s, now a man in a comic book/graphic novel shop at the end of the first decade of a new millennium, discovered a book about Richard M. Powers and became a time traveller, transported back to the smell of the paper, the plastic protective library book coverings and the universe laid out, jigsaw like, on his bed. Richard M. Powers had been the principal artist, illustrator among illustrators and guide to unleashing Andy Partridge’s imagination among the stars and galaxies.

Andy’s response was to record a sort of soundtrack to the paintings which had been so inspirational to him. The resulting album conjures, via 12 enigmatic pieces – akin to a virtual Musique concrete (with the computer/editing process replacing the more cumbersome scissors/tape method) – a musical accompaniment to the variety of alien landscapes which Powers illustrated so profusely…. 

(18) LITTLE KNOWN STUFF. “William Shatner beams in with hit TV show at 88” on AFP says that Shatner’s paranormal mysteries show The UnXplained has been picked up for a second season on the History Channel and that Shatner’s secret for being productive at 88 is to “keep taking on projects.”

Shatner beamed into Cannes in southern France on Tuesday to beat the drum for the series — which tries to explain some of the mysteries of the world around us — at MIPCOM, the world’s biggest entertainment market.

“A friend of mine once received a call from someone who had passed away,” he said. Finding answers to such strange phenomena “was what this show is all about”, he told reporters.

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

The Original William Shatner ‘Star Trek’ Fanzine Interview Origin

By Steve Vertlieb: It was fifty years ago this month that I interviewed William Shatner for the British magazine L’Incroyable Cinema in July1969 (later re-printed in The Monster Times in early 1972) at The Playhouse In The Park. Star Trek was still in the final days of its original network run on NBC.

My old friend Allan Asherman, who joined my little brother Erwin and I for this once in a lifetime meeting with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, astutely commented that I had now met all three of our legendary boyhood “Captains,” which included Jim Kirk (Bill Shatner), Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), and Buzz Corry (Ed Kemmer). It’s funny how an often charmed life can include real life friendships with childhood heroes.

Steve Vertlieb, William Shatner, and Erwin Vertlieb (1969).

L’Incroyable Cinema Issue 3 Centre Spread for what may have been the first fanzine interview ever conducted with William Shatner while “Star Trek” was still airing over the NBC Television Network.

L’Incroyable Cinema No. 3 Wrap round cover for their special Star Trek interview issue.

Here is the cover for The Monster Times 1972 “Star Trek issue featuring my published 1969 interview with William Shatner from L’Incroyable Cinema Magazine.