Pixel Scroll 9/8/19 To Be Placed On Our “Do Not Teleport” List, Please Press 1

(1) WRITTEN AS A WARNING. Margaret Atwood was featured today on CBS Sunday Morning: “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ author Margaret Atwood: ‘I have never believed it can’t happen here’”.

…When asked her inspiration for the handmaids’ outfits, Atwood replied, “The concealment of the body, number one, and the limitation of the body, number 2, so other people can’t see you, but you also can’t see other people.

“So, that, and the Old Dutch Cleanser package from the 1940s,” she added. “A vision from my childhood.”

Outside the church, Atwood is recognized by teenagers attending day camp. At 79, she is Canada’s most famous living writer. She’s published 60 books, but “The Handmaid’s Tale” has overshadowed the others. In English, it’s sold more than eight million copies.

She began the book in West Berlin in 1984: “A symbolic year because of Orwell, and how could I be so corny as to have begun ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in that year?  I couldn’t help it!”

(2) NO AWARD. David Pomerico was incensed that Anne Groell finished behind No Award in the Best Professional Editor, Long Form Hugo category. While some of these tweets are a bit overwrought (“Of course, maybe Anne wronged 97 of you somehow, but knowing her like do, I find that hard to believe”), it’s very fair to say most voters have only a very general idea what an editor does, and to wonder how they decided to fill out their ballots. Thread starts here.

I have observed in the fan categories that No Award votes can function as a protest against the existence of a category. If something similar is at work here, it would only be unfortunate collateral damage that a person received fewer votes than No Award on the first ballot. Note that although she wasn’t the first choice of very many voters, the sixth place runoff shows 446 people ranked Groell ahead of No Award.

(3) PKD’S FINAL RESTING PLACE. “Arts and Entertainment: Community celebrates Philip K. Dick” — The Fort Morgan (CO) Times covers a local PKD festival. Why Fort Morgan? For a couple of good reasons:

…PKD died in Santa Ana, California, on March 2, 1982, at the age of 53. After his death, Hollywood would make some of his work popular with films such as “Blade Runner” (based on his short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”); “Total Recall” (based on “We can Remember it Wholesale”); “Minority Report” and “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Dick is buried at the Fort Morgan cemetery next to his twin sister, Jane, who died at 6 weeks old. That grave is a popular draw for fans of the prolific science fiction author from all over the world, with cemetery workers often seeing little trinkets related to his tales left on the stone.

Another connection to Fort Morgan with the late author is that his father’s family was from Fort Morgan.

Two years ago, an expert on author Philip K. Dick who goes by Lord Running Clam (aka David Hyde) saw his dream of having a PKD Festival held in Fort Morgan come true.

And this year, the second version of that every-two-years festival was held.

… One of the big events at this year’s PKD Festival was a panel discussion about “The Man In The High Castle.”

“The Man in the High Castle” is what many consider to be Dick’s first masterpiece, but not everyone feels that way. The panel consisted of Ted Hand, Dr. Andrew Butler, Tessa Dick and Frank Hollander.

(4) CLINGERMAN APPRECIATION. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week is “Mr. Sakrison’s Halt” by Mildred Clingerman (1918–1997), originally published in 1956 by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and recently anthologized in The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women.

During the last couple of decades the name Mildred Clingerman has popped up in prominent spots around the science fiction universe. Her works have been included in several significant anthologies and even in textbooks; indeed, her story “Wild Wood” is one of the more memorable entries in the late David G. Hartwell’s landmark collection of Christmas fantasy tales. In 2014 she received a posthumous Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, joining such previous honorees as R. A. Lafferty, Leigh Brackett, and the collaborative team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. And two years ago her family assembled The Clingerman Files, a book collecting most of the science fiction stories that appeared during her lifetime, along with two dozen unpublished tales found in her papers.

(5) TRUE CONFESSION. Cat Rambo is taking inventory:

(6) Q&A. Odyssey Writing Workshops taps into the experience of a successful grad — “Interview: Graduate Erin Roberts”.

Your story “Thanks for the Memories,” an interactive story about a woman piecing her life together one memory at a time, came out in Sub-Q in December 2018. What were some of the challenges in writing a story structured that way?

I had so much fun writing “Thanks for the Memories,” and it’s based on a story I wrote for my last week of Odyssey. I could never make it quite work in prose, but making it interactive and letting the player/reader experience the feeling of trying to work out the main character’s past from within her shoes, using her memories, was the perfect fit of story and format. The hardest part of doing it, other than learning a new coding language to write the piece, was figuring out how to make the piece non-linear (so you could experience the memories in any order), but also structured (so there was a set beginning, middle, and end to drive the story). My solution was to create a frame narrative with a ticking clock and key moments that always happened when the player got through a certain number of memories. That way their experience of the memories could always be different, but the story would still have a shape and forward plot momentum. I like to think it worked out in the end.

(7) HINTS OFFERED. At Writer’s Digest, Robert Lee Brewer has curated a list of links to other WD articles that will show you “How to Write a Science Fiction Novel”.

Whether you want to write about peace-loving aliens or a heartbreaking dystopian future, there are a number of practical strategies for starting your novel, building your world, and landing a satisfying finish. In this post, learn how to write a science fiction novel using some of the best advice on WritersDigest.com.

(8) A HISTORIC CONNECTION. Actor Robert Picardo celebrates Star Trek’s premiere 53 years ago today by sharing Trek-related things found in storage boxes at The Planetary Society’s headquarters. One is a signed letter from Gene Roddenberry encouraging the Star Trek community to join the Society.

Star Trek: Voyager’s holographic doctor, Robert Picardo, also serves on The Planetary Society Board of Directors. However, he is not the first connection between Star Trek and The Planetary Society. In 1980, the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, wrote a letter and sent it out to a Star Trek fans mailing list. In the letter, Gene invited his fans to join us on our mission to explore the cosmos. Hear the letter as read by Robert Picardo, listen to his Jean-Luc Picard impression, and see inside Bill Nye’s office for more Star Trek artifacts on hand at The Planetary Society.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 8, 1966 Star Trek’s first aired episode, “The Man Trap,” was written by George Clayton Johnson.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8, 1911 William Morrow. He’s the first original Trek Admiral appearing as an Admiral in two episodes, Admiral Komack, in “Amok Time” and as Admiral Westervliet “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”.  Other genre appearances include Cyborg 2087, Mission ImpossibleColossus: The Forbin ProjectPanic in Year Zero!The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, Rollerball and Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 8, 1925 Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He also took multiple roles (even the Queen) in The Mouse That Roared. Amusingly he was involved in another of folk tale production over various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom Thumb, Mother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.)
  • Born September 8, 1945 Willard Huyck, 74. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And he was the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm which would be a not quite so dismal 24%. 
  • Born September 8, 1948 Michael Hague, 71. I’m very fond of East of the Sun and West of the Moon retold by he and his wife Kathleen. Not to be missed are his Wind in The Willows and The Hobbit which are both lovely takes on those tales. 
  • Born September 8, 1954 Mark Lindsay Chapman, 65. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The New Adventures of SupermanThe Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances.
  • Born September 8, 1965 Matt Ruff, 54. I think that his second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? 
  • Born September 8, 1966 Gordon Van Gelder, 54. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor and later publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, for which he was awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form. He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. 
  • Born September 8, 1971 Martin Freeman, 48. I’m not a fan of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films but I really do think he made a very fine Bilbo Baggins. Now I will say that I never warmed to Sherlock with him and Benedict Cumberbatch. Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu works better for me.  
  • Born September 8, 1975 C. Robert Cargill, 44. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LOOK OUT BELOW. Speakers’ Corner finds an author who did a literal book launch: “Science Fiction Should Be Re-Named Science Prediction: Q&A With Sarah Cruddas”.

What inspired you to pick up a pen and write a book for children?

The Space Race: The Journey to the Moon and Beyond – which was released this May – is my third children’s book. Although I don’t see it as just a children’s book. Nearly all of us have a child like wonder about space, and I want to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters and how it is shaping our lives. What inspired me to write this book is that I wanted to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters. I even launched the book to the edge of space (using a balloon) to help showcase just how close space really is.

Wait, hang on – you actually launched your book into space?

Haha yes!

I launched my book to space using a special type of balloon filled with hydrogen gas. The science behind it is relatively simple, the gas in the balloon weighs less than the air around it, so that causes it to rise. The balloon continues to rise and expand until the air that surrounds is equal in pressure – at the edge of space at an altitude which in this case was 33.1km. It then pops and falls to the Earth by parachute.

However it’s also complicated in the sense, you have to notify the CAA and also track the balloon and predict rough landing sight using weather patterns. But it shows that space is truly not far away.

(13) GOOD AS GOLD. Somewhat unexpectedly, Joker has taken top prize at the Venice Film festival. Slate has the story: Joker Steals Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival!”.

               The Joker, that caliph of clowns, that prince of pranksters, that malevolent mischief-maker whose cunning capers continually confound the courageous crimefighters of Gotham City, has struck again! This time, the caped crusaders’ archest arch-nemesis has left Gotham for bella Italia—ancestral home of local heiress J. Pauline Spaghetti—to pull off his most daring, dastardly deed to date: Stealing the Golden Lion, the top prize at this year’s Venice Film festival, and awarding it to Joker, screenwriter and director Todd Phillips’ critically-acclaimed meditation on poverty, grief, and the myriad ways the social and economic forces of the Reagan era turned decent people into Clown Princes of Crime.

               The Joker’s fiendish feat of film flimflammery is a festival first: According to the Cinematic Milestone Bat-Disclosure Unit, Joker is the first superhero movie to win the Golden Lion. The festival jury, headed by Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel, has not commented on its role in the Joker’s scheme, but Commissioner Gordon believes that an empty box of “Joker Brand Film Festival Jury Hypnotic Gas Pellets (Italian Formulation)” found in the gondola where deliberations were held may hold a clue to the mystery. Authorities acknowledge, however, that their theory that the festival jury was biased in favor of supervillains is not entirely consistent with the fact that they awarded the festival’s next highest award, the Grand Jury Prize, to a small-time sex offender named Roman Polanski for An Officer and a Spy, a movie about the Dreyfus affair. Holy Ham-Handed Historical Analogy, Batman!

(14) NAVIGATING OZ. Daniel Tures looks back at the books and 1939 movie in “Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, Oh My!” at the Los Angeles Public Library blog.

…As one of the cultural touchstones of the 20th century, almost any look into the history or production of The Wizard of Oz will spin the reader down endless rabbit holes of film criticism and intellectual wandering. From Judy Garland’s ruby slippers, silver shoes in Baum’s original book, illustrated by W.W. Denslow, to E. “Yip” Harburg and Harold Arlen’s iconic songs, and with heirs from The Wiz to the films of David Lynch, it stands at the crux of Hollywood history.

We tend to think of the books as being written in one place, and the movies based on them being made in another—yet strangely enough L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud Gage actually lived in the town of Hollywood from 1910 to 1919, at the end of his life, just as it was being transformed from a little-known agricultural paradise to a world-famous moviemaking one.

(15) KYLO REN IS DONE WITH IT. “Darth Vader’s Screen-Used Helmet From Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Goes up for Auction”: ComicBook.com says you’ll need a wheelbarrow full of cash.

Are you a Star Wars fan with $250,000 to spend? If so, iCollector has an item for you! The online collectibles auction is boasting a Darth Vader helmet worn onscreen by David Prowse in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

(16) HISTORY OF SF FILMS. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, has been doing a History of Science Fiction, and in the third installment covers 1955 to 1959. He hopes viewers will support his efforts at www.patreon.com/marczicree.

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

Two Neighbors

By John Hertz: (reprinted in part from No Direction Home 18) Where were you on May 2nd? It was the 500th death-anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Did you take a cup, say a prayer, look up his work? Maybe you will yet this year. He was born near the town of Vinci; the farmhouse which is believed to be where this occurred, built in 1427, is now the Casa Natale di Leonardo, a museum, about 30 miles (50 km) west of Florence, in Tuscany, Italy.

There are celebratory exhibits at Florence, Milan, Rome; Paris; Krakow; in the United Kingdom, touring twelve cities, and at the Queen’s Gallery in London and in Edinburgh; two more were at Hamburg (first week of June) and New York (January-April).

He studied all things in nature with curiosity, patience, and care; science and art, so remarkably united in his mind, had there one origin – detailed observation [p. 199]…. indeed he was interested in everything. All postures and actions of the human body, all expressions of the face in young and old, all the organs and movements of animals and plants from the waving of wheat in the field to the flight of birds in the air, all the cyclical erosion and elevation of mountains, all the currents and eddies of water and wind, the moods of the weather, the shades of the atmosphere, and the inexhaustible kaleidoscope of the sky…. he filled thousands of pages with observation concerning them, and drawings of their myriad forms [pp. 200-01].

The subject [of The Last Supper] was superb, but from a painter’s point of view it was pitted with hazards. It had to confine itself to male figures and a modest table in a simple room … no vivid action could be brought in to set the figures into motion and convey the sense of life…. he portrayed the gathering at the tense moment Christ has prophesied that one of the Apostles will betray Him, and each is asking, in fear or horror or amazement, “Is it I?”… more than violent physical action; a searching and revelation of spirit; never again, so profoundly, has an artist revealed in one picture so many souls…. preliminary sketches … for James the Greater, Philip, Judas – are drawings of such finesse and power as only Rembrandt [1606-1669] and Michelangelo [1475-1564] have matched [p. 205].

There are several alleged portraits of him, but none before fifty [p. 214]…. He was not anxious to be read by the many. “The truth of things,” he wrote, “is a supreme food for fine intelligences, but not for wandering wits” [p. 215].

He wrote equally well on science and art, and divided his time almost evenly between them [p. 217]…. [In the Treatise on Painting] he urges: “Make figures with such action as may suffice to show what the figure has in mind.” Did he forget to do this with Mona Lisa, or did he exaggerate our ability to read the soul in the eyes and the lips? [p. 218]… It is hard for us to realize that to Ludovico [Sforza, 1452-1508], as to Caesar Borgia [1475-1507], Leonardo was primarily an engineer…. He developed a machine for cutting threads in screws … frictionless roller-bearing hand brakes…. three-speed transmission gears; an adjustable monkey wrench; a machine for rolling metal; a movable bed for a printing press; a self-locking worm gear for raising a ladder [p. 219].

Side by side with his drawings, sometimes on the same page, sometimes scrawled across a sketch of a man or a woman, a landscape or a machine, are the notes in which this insatiable mind puzzled over the laws and operations of nature…. Often the artist peered out again in the scientist; the scientific drawing might itself be a thing of beauty [p. 221]…. The anatomy of man he described not only in words but in drawings that excelled anything yet done [p. 224]…. more fertile in conception than in execution. He was not the greatest scientist or engineer or painter or sculptor or thinker of his time; he was merely the man who was all of these together and in each field rivaled the best…. not quite “the universal man”, since the qualities of statesman or administrator found no place in his variety. But, with all his limitations and incompletions, he was the fullest man [author’s emphasis] of the Renaissance, perhaps of all time [p. 217].

W. Durant, The Renaissance (1953; The Story of Civilization vol. 5)

We in the science fiction community cannot claim Leonardo. Some of his designs were not practicable in his day, which he did not know, not having carried them far enough, but he unlike e.g. Jules Verne did not purpose fiction. Conceptually he lived next door to us. The scope and quality of his imagination, and of his conjoining art and science, are inspiring.

From a 2nd to a 22nd, from a 500th to a 50th. June 22nd was the 50th death-anniversary of Judy Garland (1922-1969). Her death at age 47 ended a 45-year career; she had performed since age 2.

On the 29th Jerry Sharell on his Sinatra and Sharell program, Radio Station KKJZ, played her singing “Come Rain or Come Shine” (H. Arlen & J. Mercer, 1946) from her 23 Apr 61 Carnegie Hall concert, followed by Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) from Sinatra and Strings (1962); if you drink wine, like Corton-Charlemagne and Margaux.

That Carnegie Hall concert, to a sold-out house, was called “the greatest night in show-business history”; released as the two-record Judy at Carnegie Hall (1963) it was an RIAA-certified gold album (Recording Industry Ass’n of America; $1 million in retail sales).

Let us note, even without exploring, her spectacular work in Meet Me in St. Louis (V. Minelli dir. 1944), Easter Parade (C. Walters dir. 1948), A Star is Born (G. Cukor dir. 1954), Judgment at Nuremberg (S. Kramer dir. 1961); her last film, as it happened entitled I Could Go On Singing (R. Neame dir. 1963); her studio albums; her other record-breaking concerts in the United States and overseas.

Pertinent here is The Wizard of Oz (V. Fleming dir. 1939). Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) is a fantasy; it imagines its creatures and events to be as real as the reader. The cinema Wizard is a dream sequence – although at the end Dorothy insists it was real. Let us pass over this, however recreant, for the achievement of imagination it disavows.

In its merits it is masterly. It turns on Garland. She is the fulcrum, the linchpin. Her cogency supports the fantasy. In fact she was 16; her believability as a child is the creation of an actress. It is she whom the characters meet, who by receiving them sustains them – even the Wizard. We do not even notice that her supreme song, ”Over the Rainbow” (H. Arlen & Y. Harburg) – which won an Academy Award – as she did; which became her signature – throughout hard times, hard knocks, hard moments of irrejectable applause roaring against residues of woe – is falsified: the dreams do not come true. The song is true. She made it true – by singing it, and creating or co-creating Dorothy, with beauty and truth.

She was three-ninths into her life. She was one-ninth of her life short of age 21. She did many more things and earned much more acclaim. This picture was a great moment: it is next door to us: and it has proved, to the surprise of everyone in it, remarkably universal.

Since Our Gracious Host found this picture, you might like a close look at the letters “Wizard of Oz”. They’re by Hirschfeld.

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/4/19 I’ll Go Down To The Computer Bank And Watch Peaceful Pixels Scroll

(1) OKORAFOR IS PERSON OF THE YEAR. Nnedi Okorafor was named Person of the Year at the 2018 African Diaspora Awards presented December 1 reports the Amsterdam News.

The Society for Africans in Diaspora held their eighth annual African Diaspora Awards at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Dec. 2, 2018. The African Diaspora Awards celebrate prominent people in the Africa Diaspora around the world.

Photo at Locus Online.

(2) ABOUT TOLKIEN. Pages Unbound Book Reviews names “10 Must-Read Books about J. R. R. Tolkien”.

J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey

Tom Shippey’s work is perhaps the Tolkien criticism and, if you can only read one book about Tolkien, this should be it.  Shippey explains how Tolkien was inspired by philological difficulties and missing information in old myths and legends to create his own mythology that explains those difficulties and fills in those gaps. Shippey’s own knowledge of philology gives him insight into Tolkien’s understanding that many other critics lack.

(3) THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE. Galactic Journey has revealed its picks for the best sff of 1963! Three books rated a callout for Best Novel – one of them, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. “[December 11, 1963] Count every star (1963’s Galactic Stars)”. Lots of other categories.

In any event, it’s now December, a time for reflection.  Specifically, reflection on which book, stories, artists, creators, films and TV shows stood out from all the rest.  Yes, folks — it’s time for the 1963 edition of The Galactic Stars!

(4) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Ireland’s Independent says the numbers how “Aliens are coming to Belgium as UFO sightings soar in 2018”.

UFO sightings over Belgium surged last year with the public reporting higher numbers of possible alien spaceships than in 2017.

Belgium recorded 255 reports of UFOs in 2018, an increase on the 171 witnessed the previous year.

Sightings were up across the whole country, with increases in Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels.

(5) CLEAR AS MUDD. Io9 quizzes “Rainn Wilson on the Many Layers of Harry Mudd, and the Lighter Side of Star Trek.”

Star Trek: Short Treks has so far been the perfect way to while away the time until Discovery’s return in a few weeks. Tonight, “The Escape Artist,” the fourth and final minisode in the series, shines a spotlight on the infamous Harcourt Fenton Mudd—and to learn more, we spoke to Mudd himself, Rainn Wilson….

io9: Can you tell us a bit about how you were approached for the chance to be a part of this Short Treks venture? 

Rainn Wilson: Yeah, well, I really enjoyed playing Harry Mudd for Star Trek: Discovery, and we’d always been having a kind of back-and-forth discussion about, “How do we have more Harry Mudd?” And, you know, “Can you do more episodes?” And trying to figure that out. Then this kind of came from out of the blue. They just said, “Hey, we’re doing these shorts and we have a Harry Mudd short and we’d love for you to direct it as well as act in it.” And I think they wanted to sweeten the deal by having me direct it. Which was great. It was a great opportunity for me. And I had a blast.

(6) THE EMERALD AISLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, how often does File 770 run a beauty article? Ever? Actor Jackie Burns, who has played Elphaba onstage in Wicked over 1,300 times, has probably been green for more hours than your typical college frat dude with a taste for cheap liquor. The Hollywood Reporter has the story of how she gets green—and ungreen—without destroying her skin (“Elphaba from ‘Wicked’ on How to Keep Your Skin Glowing After All That Green”).

I’ve played the role of Elphaba longer than any other actress on Broadway. I’ve performed the role over 1,300 times. With eight performances each week, that means I spend close to 30 hours every week “going green,” as we say in the Wicked biz. If you do the math that adds up to being green over 4,000 hours of my life.

Burns goes on to describe the makeup process (including changes made between acts), the products she uses afterwards to take it all off, and what she uses between shows. The article reads a bit like an advertisement for a whole raft of products, but if you (or someone in your life) perhaps makes the occasional appearance in local theater you might learn something.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 4, 1785Jacob Grimm. Here solely for two reasons, the first being the he and his brother were the first to systematically collect folktales from the peasantry and write them down. Second is that the number of genre novels and short stories that used the Grimms’ Fairy Tales as their source for ideas is, well, if not infinite certainly a really high number. I’d wager that taking just those stories in any of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror would get quite a number based on these tales. (Died 1863.)
  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. A magazine merchant who created a lot of pulp fiction and is important as the founder of the company, National Comics Publications, which would become DC Comics. Wheeler-Nicholson’s premiere comic – New Fun #1  which was published in in February 1935 became the first comic book containing all-original material. He was a 2008 Judges’ Choice inductee into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1968.)
  • Born January 4, 1946Ramsey Campbell, 73. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better-known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb.
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 61. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty five years later as SF well crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist  and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon. His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out SupergirlHoney, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like.
  • Born January 4, 1962 Graham McTavish, 57.He has played Thangbrand in Erik the Viking, voiced  in The Wind in The Willows, Dwalin in The Hobbit trilogy, Dougal Mackenzie in the Outlander series, Submarine Captain in  Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (I like those films a lot) and the Saint of Killers in the Preacher series.
  • Born January 4, 1982 Kerry Condon, 37. She provides the voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y. in the Marvel Universe films. More impressively, she was the youngest actress ever to play Ophelia in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet. She also played Clara on three episodes of The Walking Dead, and I see she was Dr. Zoe Boyle In Believe, one of those many series that disappeared before anyone knew they existed. 
  • Born January 4, 1985 – Lenora Crichlow, 34. She played Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012. She has made an appearence in Doctor Who as Cheen In the “Gridlock” episode, and she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” of Black Mirror.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Who’s Frankenstein? This Tom the Dancing Bug has the answer. Well, two answers. Both wrong. If we’re being pedantic about it.
  • In this Last Kiss, we find out how to achieve real stability. (Pssst, the secret is comics.)

(9) SKIFFY CHANGES THE WORLD. VICE News has published a 7-part video series on, “How sci-fi has changed your life, even if you don’t realize it.” (It sounds promising, but I haven’t watched it yet.)

VICE News recently spoke with noted science-fiction authors and scholars, including “The Martian“ author Andy Weir and “The Expanse” co-authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank, for a series exploring the often inspiring, occasionally terrifying, and always thought-provoking ways science and sci-fi have overlapped and shape the world around us.

(10) YOU CAN’T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT! Comcast’s Xfinity X1 Voice Remote just won’t countenance that kind of language, says The Hollywood Reporter.

Two users have confirmed to THR that the remote gets snippy when asked to play episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. “Sorry, I cannot handle commands with that type of language,” it responds. Commands for “Dick Van Dyke” are now able to be completed after the problem was discovered, according to an Xfinity spokesperson: “We want to provide our customers with a best-in-class voice control experience that is also safe and appropriate for every member of the family. Last month alone, our customers issued 700 million voice commands, and when issues like this arise, we work to address them quickly.”

(11) LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE BRANDING IRONS FOR BRANDING ANTS. BBC presents a photogallery about “The business of eating bugs”. And just so you’re warned, the landing page has a great big photo of someone chomping a grasshopper.

Tiny critters are becoming big business in the food and agriculture sector, and for good reason.

Westerners are increasingly seeing edible insects as a sustainable form of a ‘complete protein’. Insects offer all nine amino acids essential to the human diet, similar to animal proteins.

But it’s not just about nutrition. The environmental sustainability of insect farming poses a compelling reason to embrace entomophagy – the practice of eating insects. Insects can offer as much protein as animals when produced on a large enough scale, but need far fewer natural resources than beef, pork or poultry production and also emit a fraction of the greenhouse gases.

This is big news for the agriculture sector, which is not only the world’s biggest land and water user but also one of the most significant greenhouse gas producers.

(12) CALL THE PARATIME POLICE! It’s right here in the news — “Edinburgh scientists discover mammoth secret in ivory DNA”.

…But in the work on Cambodian ivory samples the researchers have uncovered something even more exotic: DNA from woolly mammoths.

Mammoths are not covered by international agreements on endangered species for the unfortunate but unavoidable reason that they have already been extinct for around 10,000 years.

It is relatively easy to spot the difference between elephant and mammoth tusks.

But once the ivory has been carved into trinkets it is far harder.

“To our surprise, within a tropical country like Cambodia, we found mammoth samples within the ivory trinkets that are being sold,” says Dr Ball.

“So this has basically come from the Arctic tundra, dug out the ground.

“And the shop owners are calling it elephant ivory but we’ve found out it’s actually mammoth.”

(13) GEORGE MACDONALD COMIC. In National Review Online, Kathryn Jean Lopez, in “Light in the Comic World”, interviews Mark Rodgers, head of Cave Pictures Publishing, about why he is about to publish a comic based on George MacDonald’s The Light Princess.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: What’s so special about The Light Princess?Rodgers: George MacDonald was a pioneer in modern fairy tales, and his work ultimately shaped writers such as C. S. Lewis and J. R. Tolkien.  In fact, Lewis said that MacDonald’s book Phantastes “baptized his imagination” and considered him his “master.”  Chris Mitchell, the former director of the Wade Center at Wheaton College, the depository of Lewis and the other Inklings works, considered The Light Princess the most profound of MacDonald’s works, and the one which parallels the gospel most closely.

(14) FOUR-LEGGED THESPIANS. The New York Times asks “Are Animals Getting Better at Acting?”

…By these modern standards, Toto is an amateur. Mister Ed? A hack. A year of buzzy pet performances raises the question: Are animals getting better at acting?

Daniel Dern sent the link with a small grump: “No mention of (the movie) Harry and Tonto (starring Art Carney as Harry).” Apparently, this is a grave oversight.

(15) SHERLOCK SUMMARY. Lyndsay Faye, in “The Year in Sherlockiana” on Crimereads, summarizes events of 2018 of interest to Sherlock Holmes fans, including the HBO Asia series Miss Sherlock Takes Tokyo, the auctioning of a Sherlock Holmes short story for $361,000, and the Sherlock Holmes parody on Family Guy where Stewie says, “I rathboned someone’s cumberbatch.”

Miss Sherlock Takes Tokyo

As much as we enjoy the strong female characters bountifully scattered throughout the canon, there are no limitations when it comes to reimagining our heroes, and I was particularly thrilled by HBO Asia and Hulu Japan’s decision to produce a new series starring Yuko Takeuchi as Sherlock Holmes (Sara Shelly Fubata), and Shihori Kanjiya as Dr. Watson (Dr. Wato Tachibana). The sleek production design is a post-BBC Sherlock thing of beauty, and modern-day Tokyo looks as gorgeous as Victorian London ever did.  All things Sherlockian are popular in Japan (I have very fond memories of Sherlock Hound, for example), and it’s a particular joy to see the passion they put into this sharp, funny, clever series.

(16) FAMILY GUY REFERENCE.  “The Drunken Clam Bar From ‘Family Guy’ Exists, and It’s in Dallas”Food & Wine has pictures to prove it.

The Knox-Henderson area Whippersnapper bar (1806 McMillan Avenue) is undergoing a massive interior renovation. But, before the big overhaul, the space is temporarily transforming into a cartoon-world watering hole. “We have some exciting plans for The Whip moving forward, but we thought we’d have a little fun first by bringing The Drunken Clam to Dallas,” co-owner Brandon Hays said in a statement. “Whether you’re a fan of the show or not, we think you’ll enjoy dropping by and checking out the pop-up bar along with drink specials, photo opportunities and more!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Nicholas Whyte, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/18 Bring Me The Pixel Of Scroll Charming!

(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.

World UFO Day is being observed around the galaxy on Monday.

The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.

It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.

Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….

(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.

July 10th

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.

Read an excerpt here.

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary

(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.

I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage.  Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones.  It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones.  The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place.  And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers).  At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them.  Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….

(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!

I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

Find out how to get a copy here.

(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.

It’s fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).

Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…

(6) ADAMS OBIT.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide SquadGoodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.

(10) SUPERHERO CHOW. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts a ”DC Comics Superhero Café”. Here’s the real menu [PDF file.]

Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.

Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.

At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.

(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.

…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely….

(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the   “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…

Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.

(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!

(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes:  “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.

Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

 

(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.

…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.

Modern technology, am I right?!

The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.

Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!

(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The ClangersNoggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits.  Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”

  • The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.

The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.

  • Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).

  • Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.

“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/6/18 Rishathra And the City And The City

(1) EMMY CAMPAIGN. Comicbook.com spotted these “For Your Consideration” videos touting Star Trek: Discovery for costuming and makeup Emmy nominations.

(2) WISCON PROGRAM NOTES. Yes, there were other panels at WisCon… Lady Business has launched a series of posts to tell you about them, beginning with – “WisCon 42 Panel Writeups: ‘Positive Representations of Masculinity’”.

I didn’t think to say this during the panel itself, but I’ve seen the “helping hand” ethos more and more on reality tv lately. I’ve been watching a lot of Face Off, which is a makeup/special effects artist competition show, and once of the great sellings points of that show for me is how often the competitors help each other. On that show there’s often an element of “this person’s idea for the makeup is so good and it would be a shame if they didn’t manage to realize their vision because of [impediment of the hour].” It’s great to see this approach spreading through more and more competition shows. It’s not just a question of what kinds of contestants are on these shows, but deliberate editing decisions about choosing to play up cooperation rather than conflict. Face Off started out playing up the conflict a lot more in early seasons, but as the show went on they chose more and more to highlight the collaborative aspects and the artistry. I think this is a really important trend in terms of what producers and editors predict or perceive audiences reacting well to, and it’s a trend we can and should reward.

(3) WISH FULFILLMENT. C.E. Murphy’s friends made it happen — “Agent Carter Kisses”.

I have, from time to time, made noises about how much I wanted the Agent Carter kit from Besame Cosmetics, all with a “maybe someday I can buy it” wist.

Well, some of my friends conspired and got it for me as a birthday gift! In fact, I got the package from the Lead Conspirator, my friend Mary Anne, and I thought “???” and turned it to see ‘cosmetics’ written on the customs form, and, as Young Indiana will attest, said, “Oh, she didn’t,” right out loud.

… Later, after everybody said BUT WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER ONES I went to try them, too, and holy carp.

Me, looking at the color of the 2nd lipstick (“Forget Me Not”): oh, this will definitely by my least favorite of three colors.

Me, putting it on: holy shit if this is my LEAST favorite this is gonna be an AMAZING trio!!!

The products are still available from Besame Cosmetics’ Agent Carter Shop.

We are overjoyed to introduce our 1946 Agent Carter collection. This labor of love was sparked by Marvel’s use of our popular shade, 1946 Red Velvet, on the iconic Agent Carter. Peggy’s fierce independence, glamour, and intelligence — as well as our love for the series — inspired us to create a collection dedicated to the show.

(4) GUFF. Congratulations to Donna Maree Hansen for publishing her GUFF Trip Report so quickly!

My GUFF trip report is complete at 62 pages comprised of 26,000 words and photos. The report contains the account of the trip I made to Finland for Worldcon 75 and my adventures meeting fans around northern Europe, Ireland and the UK.

If you would like a copy then please order below. All money raised from the report goes to the GUFF to support other SF fans to travel to SF cons in Europe and Australasia.

I’ve set the minimum donation to $7.00.

Thank you in advance.

(5) IT COMES IN THE MAIL. Seen at ~12:00 in this video, Campbell (best new writer) nominee Jeanette Ng sent a copy of her book with a thank you note to the creators of a wrestling podcast she thanked in the acknowledgements.

DMS, who sent the item, says “And, yes, I do watch a show about opening mail.”

(6) A PEEK AT THE BALLOT. Joe Sherry resumes his Nerds of a Feather series with “Reading the Hugos: Novella”

River of Teeth: From my review: “Um, did you know there was a serious plan to bring hippopotamuses to America to alleviate a meat shortage? I didn’t either, but Sarah Gailey did. I’m so happy that she knew this because it grew into this insanity of a novella that delivers a fantastic story that feels like the wild west as seen from hippoback. River of Teeth is glorious, but it is more than just the wonderful idea of using hippos as beasts of burden and transit (and oh, this idea is so well excuted) – it is also filled with striking characters like Winslow Remington Houndstooth and Regina Archambault, but the whole cast, really. It’s great.” The fact that this is my least favorite of the finalists does not denigrate River of Teeth at all, but rather it shows just how high the bar is in this category.

(7) ON FIRE. Paul Weimer’s latest Nerds of a Feather contribution is “Microreview [book]: Fire Dance, by Ilana C Myer”.

In 2015, attracted by it’s cover and premise, I became interested in the work of then debut novelist Ilana C Myer. Her Last Song Before Night was a triumph of poetry, language and worldbuilding that immersed me from the first page and refused to let me go. I was left wanting to learn much more about Lin and her world of Court Poets, returning magic, and vivid language.

Fire Dance, although not strictly a sequel to Last Song Before Night, returns us to that same world, set not longer thereafter. The consequences of Lin’s unleashing of long suppressed magic in the land of Eivar is only starting to be felt, with none understanding what this will truly mean….

(8) VACATIONING FROM THE NEW AND SHINY. Book Smugglers’ Ana Grilo turns back to “Old School Wednesdays: The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1) by Jonathan Stroud”.

This is another entry in a series of Old School Wednesdays posts, brought to you by the amazing folks who supported us on Kickstarter. As one reward level, backers were given the opportunity to pick an Old School title for one of us to read and review online.

It starts with the summoning of one of the most powerful djinn in history, Bartimaeus. He is tasked with stealing the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, one of England’s greatest and most powerful magicians. Bound and controlled by the magician who summoned him (and WHO could have that kind of power?), Bartimaeus sets out to accomplish the deed.

(9) TIMESCAPE IMPRINT. James Davis Nicoll reminds Tor.com readers “Why Editors Matter: David Hartwell’s Extraordinary Timescape Books”.

Thanks to Asimov’s repeated admonitions that editors matter, I began at an early age to pay attention to the humans responsible for the books I consumed en masse. When I knew which editors were behind the works I liked, I would follow them from company to company. Thus I first became aware of Hartwell as the person behind Pocket Books’ remarkable Timescape imprint1.

(10) MAREN OBIT. Jerry Maren, the last of The Wizard of Oz’ Munchkin actors, died in May. The Hollywood Reporter has the details: “Jerry Maren, Last Surviving Adult Munchkin From ‘Wizard of Oz,’ Dies at 98”.

He also appeared in ‘Superman’ and Marx Brothers movies, as well as on television in ‘The Gong Show’ and ‘Seinfeld.’

Jerry Maren, the last surviving adult Munchkin from The Wizard of Oz, has died. He was 98.

The actor, who stayed active in show business long after Dorothy had returned to her home in Kansas, died last month, a niece and his nephew reported in separate Facebook posts.

Maren had been residing in an assisted-care facility in the San Diego area, Steve Cox, co-author of the 2006 book Short and Sweet: The Life and Times of the Lollipop Munchkin, told The Hollywood Reporter.

At age 19, Maren (at 3-foot-4) appeared as one of the three Lollipop Guild Munchkins (the green one in the middle) in the classic 1939 movie. He had been spotted by an MGM scout while performing in a show at the Bond Hotel in Connecticut and was the youngest of the 124 adult actors to suit up as a Munchkin. (A few children were used as a well.)

(11) PEW PEW. The Pew Research Center has published a new study of how Americans view the roles of NASA and of private companies in space endeavors: “Majority of Americans Believe It Is Essential That the U.S. Remain a Global Leader in Space”

Despite the increasing role of private companies in space exploration, most believe NASA’s role is still vital for future.

Sixty years after the founding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), most Americans believe the United States should be at the forefront of global leadership in space exploration. Majorities say the International Space Station has been a good investment for the country and that, on balance, NASA is still vital to the future of U.S. space exploration even as private space companies emerge as increasingly important players.

…And, as the private sector increasingly ventures into space – through companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic – 65% of Americans believe NASA should still play a vital role in the exploration of space, while a third (33%) say private companies will ensure enough progress in this area even without NASA’s involvement.

Pew summarizes their findings as regards NASA with this graphic:

Three news sources provide their own takes on what the Pew research “really” means (note the variability in headlines, in particular):

A study published today by the Pew Research Center has found that a majority of Americans reckon that staying on top of the space pile should be a US priority, with NASA still attracting a lot of love.

However, party poppers are unlikely to be fired within NASA’s scattered spaceflight centres since the idea of putting boots back on the Moon or on Mars doesn’t attract quite the same levels of affection.
While previous studies, like this one by the National Science Board, found that 25 per cent of Americans felt too much was spent on space exploration (45 per cent said it was OK and 21 per cent wanted more), the new research focussed on where US citizens think space priorities should lie and who – NASA or the private sector – should be doing the work.

Americans rank monitoring Earth’s climate and detecting asteroids and other objects that could hit the planet as top priorities for NASA, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Lowest on the list: returning astronauts to the Moon — a top priority for the White House.

For the future: Half of the 2,541 Americans surveyed think people will be routinely traveling to space as tourists in the next 50 years. But 58% of respondents said they wouldn’t want to orbit Earth.

The Trump administration has vowed to make America great again in spaceflight, and the centerpiece of its space policy to date has been a re-prioritization of human spaceflight as central to NASA’s activities. As part of this initiative, the White House has sought to reduce funding for satellites to observe environmental changes on Earth and eliminate NASA’s office of education.

However, a new survey of 2,541 Americans by Pew Research Center, which aims to represent the views of US adults, finds that these views appear to be out of step with public priorities.

(Special thanks to Mike Kennedy for pulling this item together.)

(12) MEANWHILE, BACK AT REALITY. NPR reports “Space Station For Sale: NASA Administrator Is In Talks With International Companies”.

Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft is scheduled to blast off Wednesday morning with its three-member crew to begin what is billed as Expeditions 56-57 at the International Space Station.

But new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, this week is talking openly about a very different future the International Space Station and space travel in general. The big idea is less government and more private investment.

In an interview with the Washington Post published Tuesday, Bridenstine says he is in talks with international companies about commercial management of the space station.

Bridenstine, who was sworn in this past April, says there are many large corporations that are interested the commercial potential of the ISS.

(13) FROM HERE TO THERE. Camestros Felapton became positively obsessed with working up a list of all the possible ideas about “How To Teleport”. Amazing! Here are three examples –

  • Transport only your consciousness, transmit into clone or robot bodies somewhere else. Obviously has a potential duplication issue. Seems a lot like demonic possession the more you think about it.
  • Quantum tunnelling. Fundamental particles can do this so why can’t you? There’s a chance that you might be somewhere else and so sometimes you are somewhere else. Requires messing with the fundamentals of probability.
  • A wormhole/portal. You physically move but through a piece of space that is a shortcut. The implication is that places in space ae all physically closer than they appear.

Then he followed up with a 19-paragraph set of model “Terms and Conditions” for using such a device — highly entertaining!

Teleport-buffer Terms & Conditions

1 You must access and use the HereThere!(tm) teleport-buffer (“teleport-buffer”) only in accordance with these terms and conditions (“Teleport-buffer Terms and Conditions”) the Energiser/De-energiser Terms and Conditions and any instructions for use provided or made available by Tel-E-Port-U Centauri Pty Ltd or its affiliates (“Tel-E-Port-U”) or Engineering Officers from time to time.

2 The teleport-buffer is designed for HereThere!(tm) VIP Club members (“Members”) to contain their own thoughts, DNA-profiles, matter states and continuity of persistent existence profiles. The materials holding thoughts and opinions contained on this teleport-buffer (including the responses in the ‘HereThere!(tm) Help Panel and the ’DNA-check sum’ area) are the thoughts and opinions of the teleported parties and not those of Tel-E-Port-U. Tel-E-Port-U does not endorse or support any buffered thoughts or opinions or guarantee the accuracy of any of the information, beliefs or perceived facts stored on the teleport-buffer no matter how brief or protracted storage in the buffer might be.

(14) CONCAROLINAS. Author Jason Gilbert, who ran ConCarolinas’ film festival, told Facebook readers why he won’t be involved anymore.

On a professional level, it was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.

ConCarolinas was the first con that ever accepted me as a guest, and I have considered it my “Home Con” for years. But the past few years have shown the con to be moving in a direction that I cannot go. The event itself and the past few days have made my decision easier. Where I was originally going to resign from running the film festival since I only agreed to do it for one year, I cannot make myself return in any capacity. I have seen ConComm members treating guests and vendors with disrespect. I have seen scheduling that made any form of professional development almost impossible, and turned what could have been good panels into a conversation led by people who have no knowledge in that particular subject, and are questioning why they were placed on the panel in the first place when they never signed up for it. Filmmakers who worked hard on their projects and were rewarded with recognition and awards were treated as an afterthought.

But, beyond that, I have seen horrific behavior from the ConComm on social media. A disabled guest was openly mocked in two separate Facebook threads, which disgusted me to my core. I have screenshots. Complaints about John Ringo’s fans using the ConCarolinas page to hunt down Guests and Attendees in efforts to troll and harass them on their own walls to the point of abuse and hate speech were ignored. I have screenshots. The conchair went to David Weber’s page and offered discount passes to next year’s event if those on the “Right” could tell stories of actions taken against them by those on the “Left.” I have screenshots. Two con security volunteers, both with no more than the basic, required 8-hour training in order to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon in North Carolina, were carrying over the weekend. One of them the head of the team. I have screenshots. I have contacted the hotel and gotten their policy. Based on my conversation with them, they had no idea that, not only were there loaded guns at the event, but that there have been loaded guns at the event for years. One guest will be having a conference call today over this, as management is apparently floored.

(15) TREK ACTORS REUNITED. GeekTyrant has this story covered: “First Trailer For The Sci-Fi Thriller 5TH PASSENGER Brings Together Several Fan-Favorite STAR TREK Actors”

The first trailer has been released for a new sci-fi thriller 5th Passenger and the cool think about this film is that it brings together several fan-favorite Star Trek cast members.

…The cast of the film includes Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery), Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Generations), and Armin Shimerman (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).

5th Passenger was funded through Kickstarter and they ended up raising a little over $80,000. The goal was to create the film centered around a strong female lead. The director of the film, Scott Blake, had this to say about his film:

“I directed 5th Passenger because it’s a film I wanted to see. It is inspired by my love of the science fiction genre, The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. All twisted storylines with principled characters thrown into extreme situations where society breaks down and their morals and values are tested.”

 

(16) KISSY-FACE. Iphinome hit it out of the park with these two scales for measuring literary displays of affection:

Having given it some thought, here’s a kissy-face scale.

0 – No kissy face
1 – rare and chaste kissy face
2 – What you would expect from two people who date
3 – Delectable, some people do like to make kissy face and it is wonderful but that’s not the main plot
4 – There’s a lot of kissy face here. Might be uncomfortable.
5 – They’re kissing again. Is this a kissing book?

And a second scale for grownup sexy times

0 – Eww no keep your cooties out of my reading time
1 – This book contains grown ups and you should assume they like sexy times from time to time but it isn’t really talked about.
2 – Implied grownup sexy times. I hate a great time last night. Come to my room later. Cut away to another scene after the kissy face.
3 – On page low detail grownup sexy times.
4 – Grown up sexy times with detail, low frequency. One or two such events in a novel length work.
4.5 – Outlander
5 – You’re reading this story because you really like reading detailed depictions of grown up sexy times.

Swordspoint gets three kissy face emoji.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/7/18 I Lurk Therefore I Scroll

(1) PITCH IN. John Picacio calls for donations to help Mexicanx Initiative attendees afford travel to Worldcon 76.

While the initial Membership Fund is essentially “mission accomplished” because we fully funded 50 Attending Memberships, the Assistance Fund has been accepting separate monies since January, for helping Recipients with their travel, hotel and food needs because so many face an expensive, sometimes complex, journey. I’ve been doing that without going public, but as of today — anyone can give to The Fund, encouraging diversity and inclusion toward a stronger, more balanced sf/f field.

And here’s where you make it happen:

Donate To MEXICANX INITIATIVE ASSISTANCE FUND.

Your money will go directly to Worldcon’s Treasury. They will allocate it toward The Assistance Fund (different from the already-completed Sponsored Membership Fund). How will the Assistance Fund money be distributed to the Recipients? Every dollar will be given to the Recipients via Worldcon 76’s Registration Team at the convention in August, and will be distributed in equal portions. I suspect our south-of-the-border Mexicanx will receive the bulk of the funds, divided evenly amongst them. The north-of-the-border Mexicanx will receive the remainder, again divided evenly amongst them. No Assistance grants will be distributed until funding is completed, but 100% will go to our Membership Recipients at Worldcon 76.

This way, all will receive a share of assistance, but the south-of-the-border attendees will receive more than the north, which is what I want. In the coming weeks, I hope we can generate at least $15,000 to help these folks make their Worldcon dream come true, and from what I’m hearing, we already have $6000 toward that figure.

Make donations through Worldcon 76’s “Mexicanx Initiative Assistance Fund”.

This fund is to assist members sponsored via Guest of Honor John Picacio’s Mexicanx Initiative to cover their travel and lodging expenses. Worldcon 76 and SFSFC are managing this fund independently of the main Worldcon 76 budget as directed by Mr. Picacio.

(2) MARKET INFO. Parvus Press’ focused submission call for writers of color and indigenous persons — “Open Call: Writers of Color” continues until April 30, 2018 at midnight US Eastern Time. Managing editor John Adamus says:

Everyone should have a chance to see themselves in art, and not as caricature or as some demonized trope solely in the story to make some other character look better. Authorial voice and truth are what make stories passionate and dynamic expressions of the personal and the creative, and no one should ever feel like their voice and truth somehow aren’t worth making known.

I think one of the great creative crimes that we’re now really starting to prominently see reversed is the silencing and minimizing of authors and creators who aren’t the majority or who don’t identify along majority lines. All stories have the potential to affect and move other people, but only if they’re given equal space on shelves and in minds and hearts.

It is so important to me that Parvus Press be a place where the minority author find opportunity and that their voice and story not be relegated to the side or the back because of biases or differences. I’m proud to be able to work with all authors and see them succeed, no matter who they are or how they identify. Representation matters.

(3) HOPPER’S GENRE WORK. You recognize Nighthawks, but what came before that? Not sff, but what the heck. LitHub tells about “The Unlikely Pulp Fiction Illustrations of Edward Hopper”.

In the winter of 1956, Alexander Eliot, art critic for Time magazine, interviewed Edward Hopper for a cover feature on the painter’s roundabout path to fame. Intended to familiarize general audiences with the man behind classic paintings like Nighthawks and Early Sunday Morning, the resultant profile reads today like a paean to an American master. Eliot was taken with Hopper’s “unalterable reserve.” Presenting the artist as a frugal and unsentimental old man who often conflated self-effacement and self-flagellation, he painted his own portrait of a folksy messiah—a humble savant capable of rescuing American realism from a clique of “clattering egos.”

Given this messianic tilt, it’s not surprising that as Eliot broached Hopper’s early days as a commercial artist, he referred to the period as his “time in the desert.”

… Between March 1916 and March 1919, Hopper illustrated five issues for the publication. In these magazines, the famed realist—a man whose plaintive portraits and landscapes now sell for tens of millions of dollars—drew heading art for stories like “The Sourdough Twins’ Last Clean-Up,” “Snuffy and the Monster,” and “A Fish Story About Love.” Hopper enlivened these stories with images that ranged from amusing to maudlin. One illustration, perched above Holda Sears’ “The Finish,” shows an explorer in a life-and-death struggle with a man-sized python. Another, atop Hapsburg Liebe’s “Alias John Doe,” depicts two cowboys “tabletopping” a patsy—one of his subjects kneeling behind their victim while the other topples him over. Additional pictures portray rampaging apes, spear-wielding natives, and pioneers wearing coonskin caps.

(4) BURTON READS BRADBURY. Phil Nicols’ Bradburymedia naturally was first to spot “LeVar Burton Reads… Bradbury”.

LeVar Burton – Emmy and Grammy Award-Winning actor-director, and star of Star Trek – has a weekly podcast where he reads selected short stories. Think of it as PBS’ Reading Rainbow for adults! The most recent episode is a full reading of Ray Bradbury’s “The Great Wide World Over There”.

The production values are high in this series. Not just a straight reading of the story, the episode includes subtle sound effects and almost subliminal music cues. Burton performs each character distinctly – and the sound design separates the characters out from the narration, so that it almost sounds like a full cast dramatisation, but the cast is just LeVar alone.

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • JJ hopes this future fan isn’t cured — Bizarro.

(6) GAME OF BREW. Ommegang Brewing has announced the final one of their Game of Thrones beers, Bend the Knee, which is coming out on Memorial Day with three different labels, so you can choose whether you want the Stark, Targaryen, or Lannister versions.

This is a beer that’s nine percent alcohol by volume, which is a lot!  So it leads to a new definition of binge-watching:  while you’re at home watching the show, you can binge AND watch at the same time!

(7) AND A SHIRT TO STEER ME BY. There can’t be many things left on his bucket list. This is one: “William Shatner Wants to Play a Red Shirt on ‘Star Trek'”.

Star Trek icon William Shatner has a surprising role on the top of his list of Star Trek characters he’d like to play who are not James T. Kirk.

Shatner is out promoting his new film Aliens Ate My Homework and in speaking to Cinema Blend he revealed that if he were to play someone else in Star Trek, it would be a simple red shirt.

I guess it technically doesn’t count that he died in a Trek movie wearing a red vest.

(8) CSI: FOREST. Unlike redshirts, red squirrels are the survivors in this forest: “Red squirrel numbers boosted by predator”.

This is according to scientists at the University of Aberdeen, who carried out an in-depth forensic study of the relationship between the three species.

The pine marten is a predator of the reds, but in areas where it thrives, the number of grey squirrels reduces.

The journal study suggests that the pine martens reverse the “typical relationship” between red and grey squirrels, where the red always loses out, according to lead researcher Dr Emma Sheehy.

“Where pine marten activity is high, grey squirrel populations are actually heavily suppressed. And that gives the competitive advantage to red squirrels,” she said.

“So you see lots of red squirrels and you see them coming back into areas where they hadn’t been for quite some time.”

…Pine martens – cat-sized members of the weasel family – are gradually becoming re-established in parts of Scotland, after their near extinction in the UK.

They used to be trapped in large numbers by game-keepers, and also hunted for their fur, which was a valuable export from Scotland.

It is has been illegal to hunt the animals since the 1980s, and their numbers are now increasing.

(9) A BETTER SCARECROW. This should have been an entry on Shark Tank: “‘Super Monster Wolf’ a success in Japan farming trials”.

A robot wolf designed to protect farms has proved to be such a success in trials that it is going into mass production next month.

The “Super Monster Wolf” is a 65cm-long, 50cm-tall robot animal covered with realistic-looking fur, featuring huge white fangs and flashing red eyes, Asahi Television reports.

It’s been designed to keep wild boar away from rice and chestnut crops, and was deployed on a trial basis near Kisarazu City in Japan’s eastern Chiba prefecture last July.

When it detects an approaching animal, its eyes light up and it starts to howl, Asahi TV says.

(10) ROBERT MOORE WILLIAMS. Galactic Journey reviews an Ace Double issued 55 years ago — “[March 6, 1963] Generation Gap (Ace Double F-177)”. The Traveler wasn’t impressed with Robert Moore Williams’ side of the volume:

Robert Moore Williams was first published in the pre-Campbell days of Analog.  He has since written more than a hundred stories for a variety of magazines, but his DNA was baked in the Golden Age of science fiction.  The future world of The Star Wasps is an archaic, mechanistic one.  Society simplistically hinges on the activities of a half-dozen people.  There is a Resilient Woman Character whose primary role is to be the Love Interest.  After the intriguing set-up, Wasps degenerates into a figurative car chase, with people running around and pulling levers until the enemy is defeated.

Robert Moore Williams was one of the first sf writers I personally met, and he was impressive for unapologetically calling himself a “hack” whose career depended on avoiding a too-literary style. As he would say: “I have to stink ‘em up just right.”

(11) RETRO OSCARS. Io9’s Germain Lussier makes his pitch for “12 Scifi Movies That Totally Deserved to Win Best Picture Before The Shape of Water”. Hells yeah, give cousin Judy an Oscar!

The Wizard of Oz

Even in 1939, the Academy acknowledged that The Wizard of Oz was a masterpiece. The movie got six nominations, including Best Picture, but only won statuettes for song and score. It probably would’ve had a better chance if it wasn’t up against Gone With the Wind. Still, The Wizard of Oz remains one of the most beloved films of all time regardless of genre, and would have been a worthy recipient of the biggest honor in movies.

(12) PORGS MEET TERPSICHORE. And while I’m talking about io9, I say bless them for pointing out this video:

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

Pixel Scroll 1/7/17 And Someday, If I Can, I’m Gonna Be A Pixel Scroller Just Like My Old Man

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy group is voting on the winners of The 2016 Best of r/Fantasy Stabby Awards through January 11. You’re invited.

For 2016, we need you to vote!

The eligible candidates below were set by the 2016 r/Fantasy Nomination Thread and populated by r/Fantasy members. The list was locked in place this past Wednesday at 10PM Pacific.

To vote, please click the upvote arrow next to your choice or choices for ‘best of’ in each category. Yes, you can upvote more than one.

(2) STICKS THE LANDING. The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger reviews Emerald City in “Toto, You’re Not a Basket-Size Terrier Anymore”

Dorothy, the Wizard and the rest of the Oz gang get the “Grimm” treatment as well as the grim treatment in “Emerald City,” a series beginning Friday on NBC, one that’s addictive if you allow it to be. That may, however, require some effort on your part.

emerald-city-nbc

You may not be conscious of just how deeply imprinted the film version of “The Wizard of Oz” is on your psyche until you watch a bit of this show, which initially seems so very wrong in every possible way. Where is the singing? Where are the psychedelic colors? So here’s what you do: At the first commercial break, pause and marvel all over again at what a spectacular achievement in artistry and cross-generational endurance the 1939 Judy Garland film is, and then let it go.

“Emerald City” has its Dorothy, engagingly played by Adria Arjona, but it draws on the full canon of L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books (a series that continued after his death in 1919). It is partial to the dark and unsettling aspects of those tales, which it teases out and enhances with flourishes of its own. When this Dorothy lands in Oz, she’s armed, and that dog alongside her is no basket-size terrier.

The result is decidedly not a fairy tale for young children. This version of Oz has bloodshed, charred bodies, a very disturbing multiple suicide and much more. Friday’s premiere consists of two episodes, which is good, because two hours is about how long it takes you to acclimate to the tone and intent. In the third episode, a doozy, the show’s grip on you really tightens.

(3) NOT SINBAD AND NOT SHAZAAM. Kenneth R. Johnson emailed his theory about the misremembered genie movie debated in comments on yesterday’s Scroll:

I think I may have the answer to what the mysterious genie movie is that various people are mis-remembering as “Shazaam.”  I distinctly remember watching a movie on TV back in the 1990s in which the genie was played by a tall black guy with dreadlocks;  he also had some kind of British accent.  After extensive googling I’ve identified it as “Bernard and the Genie,” a TV movie from 1991.  The genie was played by British actor/comedian Lenny Henry.  He may have been doing a Jamaican accent to make the genie appear pseudo-Rastafarian.  The movie also has Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson in it.  It’s very strange.

(4) BUG JACQUES BARRON. French citizens are now automatic organ donors under the law.

All French citizens are now automatic organ donors, unless they officially opt out of the program.

A new law that went into effect on Jan. 1 makes everyone an organ and tissue donor. People can opt out of the program, but they must enroll in something called the National Rejection Register in order to do so.

A low number of organ donations prompted the new rule, according to news reports.

France’s biomedicine agency said in a statement on its website that “in the name of national solidarity, the principle of presumed consent was chosen,” The World Post reported.

(5) REMEMBER THE ALICORN. Rick Riordan putting his foot down —

(6) FATE OF THE FRANCHISE. What would you do? HuffPo says “’Star Wars’ Team Grappling With How Leia Will Live On After Carrie Fisher’s Death”.

In the wake of Carrie Fisher’s death, the team responsible for future “Star Wars” projects is reportedly reconsidering the place of her character, Leia Organa, in the franchise’s ever-expanding universe, according to The Hollywood Reporter. …

Fisher, who first played the iconic princess in 1977, brought Leia back to the big screen as a general in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015. The actress has apparently already filmed her scenes for the second installment in the latest trilogy, but was rumored to have an even larger role in the following film….

The team is reportedly concerned with two key scenes featuring Fisher that would bring her character and the film’s plot full circle: a much belated reunion between Leia and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a faceoff with her son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who killed his father and her lover, Han Solo, in “The Force Awakens.”

Shooting for “Star Wars: Episode IX” isn’t scheduled to begin until early 2018, so until then, those at the helm are pursuing a variety of options on how to proceed. Resurrecting Fisher with CGI effects is apparently one alternative in play, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Technological advances have allowed for actors like the late Peter Cushing to return to the screen in the latest “Star Wars” offering, “Rogue One,” so Fisher could continue to have a similar presence, however limited, in future films.

The braintrust is also reportedly discussing writing the character out all together and reshooting certain scenes to lay the groundwork for her eventual exit from the franchise.

(7) BRINGING ATWOOD TO TV. The Daily Mail brings the showbiz news: “Not quite Stars Hollow! Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel set to star in dystopian Handmaid’s Tale as subversive lesbian”. She’s best known for her role as Rory Gilmore in the idyllic Gilmore Girls.

But it seems Alexis Bledel’s next role will be significantly darker, as it was announced she’ll be joining Hulu’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale, according to TV Line.

The 35-year-old actress will play the role of Ofglen in the 10 episode series, which is based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling novel.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 7, 1977:  Michael Winner’s The Sentinel premieres in New York City.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 7, 1903 — Alan Napier (Alfred Pennyworth) is born in Birmingham, England.
  • Born January 7, 1928 – William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist).

(10) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On January 18 the hosts of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, present Holly Black and Fran Wilde. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY — just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Holly Black is a writer of bestselling contemporary dark fantasy. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest. She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor.

Fran Wilde writes science fiction and fantasy. Her debut novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton Award and the Compton Crook award, and was a Nebula nominee. Cloudbound, the second book in the Bone Universe series, came out in September 2016, and Horizon will appear in fall 2017. Her novella, “The Jewel and Her Lapidary,” was published by Tor.com publishing in May 2016. Fran’s short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

(11) BE YOUR OWN TIME LORD. Cat Rambo tells Risingshadow readers the importance to writers of “Daily rituals”.

The thing I have learned more than anything else is that a writer must defend their time. That everyone assumes that you’re ready to take a break, come down to the coffee shop and kill a couple of hours. A friend complained to my husband that he felt as though I was timing our encounters, and I was. At the hour mark, I needed to get back to work, because otherwise I’d sit there nattering for far too long. Because you must defend that time not just from others, but from yourself and your own human tendencies toward procrastination and farting around on the Internet, while still being mindful that you do deserve a break every once in a while. You become your own manager, and that is a more difficult task than it might seem.

(12) SURVIVAL TACTICS. John Scalzi’s “10-point plan for getting creative work done in the age of Trump” is easier to understand than Christopher Priest’s.

Scalzi’s plan, published in the Los Angeles Times, was introduced to Whatever readers in these terms:

First, and in case you missed me talking about it on Twitter yesterday, I have a piece up at the LA Times site (a version of it is also in the Sunday newspaper) about getting creative work done in the Trump years — some advice about how to keep focus when it’s likely to be a challenging time for the creative class. Note that this advice generally probably also works for people working in professions generally considered “non-creative” as well, but I’m working with what I know here. Also, of course, if you’re neutral or positive on the idea of the incoming Trump administration, then this particular piece is probably unnecessary for you. Carry on, then.

One of Scalzi’s ten points is —

  1. Reconnect (judiciously). When you go back to the news of the world, and to social media, it’s perfectly all right to ask yourself: Is this making me happy? Is it giving me useful information? Is it inspiring me to engage in the world or does it make me want to run from it?

If it’s not helping you, let it go. Unfollow that Facebook friend passing along fake news, and block those fake news sites outright. Mute that person on Twitter who is apparently always angry. Evaluate the news sources you read and keep the ones that offer news accurately and truthfully (spin is spin, even if it’s spin you like). Design your media intake to be useful, truthful and less stressful.

As for Christopher Priest, he posted on New Year’s Eve that he’ll be moving 500 miles from Devon, England (he didn’t identify where). He spends nearly the entire post pouring out his fear and loathing of Donald Trump, yet never managing to establish any connection between the move and Trump’s election. Did he just want to insure an audience for his farewell address?

(13) LIVING IN STAR TREK TIMES. The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama, in “The Big Takeaway From This Year’s CES”, concludes:

There has been no killer gadget at this year’s International CES technology show. Instead, something more subtle has emerged as the keystone of the tech world.

I’m talking about the smart, central voice assistant. Yes, even that may sound a bit old hat for those who’ve been paying attention….

Virtual assistants can now understand what you say and even interpret the many ways you may say it. Shawn DuBravac, an economist for the Consumer Technology Association, said that machines now have the same word error rate — that is, the batting average of understanding what we’ve actually said — as humans. That’s up from a 23 percent error rate in 2013, meaning that the tech is getting better, and quickly.

That fact has made the dreams of a STAR TREK-like computer come even closer to reality.  The hope is that these assistants will move even beyond our sci-fi dreams and learn our habits and needs well enough to anticipate them.

David K.M. Klaus comments, “I think it’s clear that nobody connected with the program at the time thought it likely that voice-controlled devices would come into mass use in just a half-century — yet the program itself has accelerated technology design in its own direction. I started writing letters to local newspapers pointing out the inspiration when they published articles about new technology thirty years ago.  (Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, et al. predated that, of course, but Star Trek in particular has been responsible for how it looks.)  Glad to see that mundane reporters have finally caught up with me.”

(14) WATCH YOUR INTAKE. Cat Rambo shares a second bit of writerly advice at GeekMom in “Artificial inspiration”.

This phenomenon underscores the fact that authors need to pay attention to what they’re putting into their mental buckets, particularly whenever they’re working on a project. The old computer adage, “Garbage in, garbage out,” comes into play. Or turn it around and aim it in another direction: put marvelous things in, get marvelous things out.

In some ways, I think of it like learning a language. We all speak storytelling, we’ve heard it spoken around and to us in fairytales, myths, fables, and a kerjilliion other texts, down to the format of many ads. And just as, when you’re around a number of people all speaking with the same accent, that accent begins to creep into your own speech. So if you’re only hearing one kind of storytelling, all that you speak in that language of storytelling will have that accent–or flavor, or texture, or however you choose to conceptualize it.

Want to create something wonderful? Then you must read wonderful things and not just read them but study them. Take the sentences apart as carefully as a pathologist dissecting an organ and figure out how they work–and then apply that knowledge so you know you’ve got the tool down and have added it to your writerly toolkit.

(15) I’LL BE BACK. At the BBC, Frank Swain tells “Why we may be living in the future of The Running Man”.

The vision of 2017 depicted in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 30-year-old dystopian action movie captures how our world is changing today.

In a world beset by a collapsing economy, the US media conspires with the government to keep the population in check with a combination of heavy-handed policing and a steady stream of vapid reality TV shows. Meanwhile, one of the most powerful men in the world is the host of a reality TV show.

Sound familiar? That was 2017 conjured by campy action thriller The Running Man when it was released 30 years ago.

Sci-fi commonly reveals hidden truths about society. So, it makes you wonder: what else could this dystopian vision say about the world we live in today? If we look at where we are in 2017, what can The Running Man tell us about our changing politics, media and technology?

Chip Hitchcock urges, “Note the photo of Erland van Lidth de Jeude partway through; when he was in the MIT Musical Theatre Guild we used to say that he might be the first Olympic victor to sing his own national anthem. The movies typecast him as a hulk, losing the singing voice that he used in roles ranging from Roderick Murgatroyd to Richard Henry Lee.”

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M.Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/10/16 The Nine Billion Rules of God’s Robotics

(1) RAY BRADBURY WOULD BE SO PROUD. That’s what John King Tarpinian thinks. Look who won at the Golden Globes tonight.

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
    Rachel Bloom, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

Here’s video of her acceptance speech.

(2) OTHER GOLDEN GLOBES OF GENRE INTEREST.

FILM

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture ?? Musical or Comedy
    Matt Damon, “The Martian”
  • Best Motion Picture — Animated
    “Inside Out”
  • Best Motion Picture -? Musical or Comedy
    “The Martian”

TELEVISION

  • Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
    “Wolf Hall”
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television
    Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot”
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
    Lady Gaga, “American Horror Story: Hotel”
  • Best Television Series ?? Drama
    “Mr. Robot”

(3) SCIENCE-ING THE SHIT OUT OF ENDOR. ScienceFiction.com has the scoop of the century – Star Wars’ science is defective! The proof? “Physicist Theorizes There Should Have Been An Ewok Extinction Upon Death Star Destruction”.

What if all the Ewoks were killed at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’? You don’t have to think about it. Really, you don’t. But someone thought about it—Dave Minton, a physicist at Purdue University.

Now before you start thinking Minton hates all things cute, he performed some interesting research into what the reality would be like if the second Death Star really did explode near Endor.

(4) DIDN’T KNOW THERE WAS A STAT FOR THIS. Harrison Ford has passed Samuel L. Jackson to become the top-grossing actor in domestic box office history, powered to the top by the growing bank for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Ford’s 41 films have grossed $4.699 billion at the domestic box office, led by The Force Awakens, which accounts for $764.4 million of that figure as of Box Office Mojo’s last update.

Jackson’s films, in comparison, have grossed a mere $4.626 billion, led by Marvel’s The Avengers and its $623.4 million domestic haul.

(5) PAPER TARDIS. This animation is something I’m going to share with my daughter. One of her Christmas gifts was a hand-made facsimile of River Song’s journal. (Via io9)

(6) ROWLING YANKED HIS CHAIN. Hello Giggles says that Stephen Fry met J.K. Rowling long before becoming the narrator of the UK Harry Potter audiobooks, and claims his bland disinterest during that first encounter motivated her to refuse a favor he asked later while trying to record a challenging phrase. True story? Who knows. But it has an edge to it.

(7) SCOOBY CHOO-CHOO, WHERE ARE YOU? The BBC explores “Why Britain has secret ghost trains”. Hobbyists spend a lot of time tracking these down so they can ride them. And as usual where ghosts are concerned, the explanation is less than supernatural.

“Ghost trains are there just for a legal placeholder to prevent the line from being closed,” says Bruce Williamson, national spokesperson for the advocacy group RailFuture. Or as Colin Divall, professor of railway studies at the University of York, puts it: “It’s a useless, limited service that’s borderline, and the reason that it’s been kept is there would be a stink if anyone tried to close it.”

Why ghosts exist

That is the crux of why the ghost trains still exist. A more official term is “parliamentary trains”, a name that stems from past years when an Act of Parliament was needed to shut down a line. Many train operators kept running empty trains to avoid the costs and political fallout – and while this law has since changed, the same pressures remain.

(8) SCRIMM OBIT. Actor Angus Scrimm, best known for playing the “Tall Man” in the Phantasm horror franchise, died January 9 at the age of 89. He also was in I Sell the Dead (2008), the TV show Alias, and the audio play series Tales From Beyond the Pale. Scrimm also appeared in a production of Ray Bradbury’s play Let’s All Kill Constance.

For several decades Scrimm writer album liner notes for Capitol Records, winning a Grammy in 1974 (credited as Rory Guy, as were his early film roles) for his notes on Korngold: The Classic Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

(9) FITZSIMMONS OBIT. SF Site News reports kT FitzSimmons (1956-2016) who ran program for the 1991 Worldcon, Chicon V, died January 10 after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was a veteran conrunner who worked on Windycon and Capricon in Chicago, and served as a board member of Capricon’s parent organization Phandemonium.

(10) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 10, 1927 Metropolis makes its world premiere in Germany.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHARACTER

  • Born January 10, 1732 — Saara Mar. According to Taral Wayne, she was born in 1732 on a planet 400 light years from Earth, in the direction of the Pleiades cluster. She “discovered” Earth in 1970, on the 5th of April, 6 days before the lift-off of Apollo 13, and 8 days before the miraculous rescue of the crew that changed history.

Saara Mar

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 10, 1904 — Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

(14) SHORT AND SWEET. Fynbospress teaches sound techniques for blurb writing at Mad Genius Club.

At the heart of every story, there is this: A person, who wants something, but a force opposes him. This is important, because of these stakes. Either they get it, or they don’t.

Take the first and second sentence of that paragraph. (Not the third; you don’t give away how it comes out in the blurb.) Who is your person? What do they want? What opposes them? What are the stakes?

Simplify. If you have two or three main characters, pick the one whose wants or needs drive the story the most. Unless you’re writing epic fantasy, where the browser will be disappointed if you don’t introduce at least three sides, stick to one protagonist, and one opposing force. Generally, that’s the first opposition they meet in the story, not the one they meet in chapter 3, and definitely not the one revealed in the twist in chapter 20.

Your description should not, as a rule of thumb, reveal any information past chapter 3.

(15) ONE IN A MILLION. Mark Lawrence in “Luck, Deus Ex Machina, Plot Armour” tells why it’s okay to build a story around the statistically unlikely survivor.

We don’t see the article about the lottery winner in the newspaper and cry, “Jesus fuck! What are the odds that the reporter chose the winner to write about.”

…Swap now from reality to fiction. The author still has a choice about who they write about. They can still pick the person who survives, at least long enough to do some interesting things. But they also get to choose how that person survives

(16) SPEAK TO THE GEEK. Declan Finn devoted today’s installment of his internet radio show The Catholic Geek to Sad Puppies 4 (he’s in favor), with time left over to diagnose why George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished his book, and to argue Shakespeare really wrote for the rabble not the nobility.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/23 Mister Scrollman, Bring Me A Screed

(1) Syfy offers a free viewing of the first episode of The Expanse  — Episode 1: Dulcinea. (Also available on the Syfy Now App, Hulu, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, Playstation, Xbox, and Facebook.)

(2) Variety says additional episodes have been ordered for Rachel Bloom’s series and CW’s iZombie.

Freshman comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” has landed five more episodes, bringing its first season total to 18, while “iZombie” has received an additional six-episode order, giving the second season a total of 19.

Audience for the Bloom series is growing slowly.

While the positively-reviewed “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” hasn’t gained much ratings traction, it has posted its best numbers to date in recent weeks. Paired with sophomore critical breakout “Jane the Virgin,” the six episodes averaged a 0.34 rating in 18-49 and about 1 million total viewers in Nielsen’s “live plus-3” estimates.

(3) Misty Massey tells about a live slushpile reading in “Getting What You Ask For” at Magical Words.

Many, many times I hear writers complain how much they hate getting form rejections from editors, because such things do nothing to help them understand why the editor didn’t want to buy their story. Editors don’t understand, they cry, that writers can’t fix stories if they aren’t told what went wrong in the first place. Some writers say editors are lazy, others think they’re cruel. For whatever reason, it’s always the editor’s fault.

A couple of years ago, David Coe approached Faith Hunter and me to present a panel called Live Action Slush. (For those who don’t know, the writers submit the first pages of their novels anonymously. A designated reader reads each page aloud, and the three of us listen as if we were slush editors, raising our hands when we reach a place that would cause us to stop reading and move on to the next submission.  Once all three hands are up, the reading stops and we discuss what made us stop reading.) David had done such a panel at another con, to great acclaim, and wanted to bring it to ConCarolinas. We had two sessions, both standing room only. As far as we could tell, anyway. We were asked to present it at Congregate later that same summer, and since then we’ve offered it in various incarnations at any cons we attended.

Most of the time, the writers seemed happy to hear our suggestions, although once in a while we would run into a writer who just couldn’t handle the idea that their story wasn’t already perfect.  You see, the point of Live Action Slush is to give the writers exactly what they’ve been complaining they never receive – a specific, clear reason for the turndown. Sometimes the problem is that nothing is happening by the time we reach the end of the first page. Sometimes the writer spends the entire first page describing the characters without giving the reader the slightest idea what the book’s about. Characters might be hideous stereotypes, or flat and wooden.  There are tons of reasons, most of which are easily repaired once the writer knows what has happened. But there are some writers who really aren’t ready to hear what needs fixing. They’ve come to the workshop fully expecting that the panelists will declare their first page to be utter brilliance. Those are the writers who storm out of the room, instead of staying to listen to the critique of other writers under the same scrutiny. They go into the hallway and tell their friends how mean we were, how we don’t really know anything. Most important, they don’t make any changes.

(4) In an Absolute Write forum, Alessandra Kelley gives the context for a wisecrack James Frenkel made on a Windycon panel and asks “Is what I witnessed abusive behavior?”

There are a number of important questions that urgently need discussing if we are to have any sort of careful, agreeable, professional and accepting environment for our conventions.

Many people make thoughtless remarks or cruel witticisms or little jokes. Should people be more mindful of them?

Is it right to treat a category of people as inherently funny or insulting?

How much tolerance should there be for little jokes? At what point does laughing them away become aiding and abetting the marginalization of a segment of the community?

Should a person with a known history of abusive behavior be held to a higher standard than others? What about a person in a position of authority?

Should we not speak up when we see such behavior?

(5) Lucy Huntzinger reports that the Down Under Fan Fund will be receiving a $2,000 donation from Sasquan, the 2015 Worldcon. The DUFF co-administrator said, “Thank you for supporting face to face encounters between international fandoms!”

(6) Today In History

The first of a four-part pilot episode of the series aired on the BBC on this day in 1963. Titled “An Unearthly Child”, the story introduced the Doctor, the Tardis, and many other things that would become hallmarks of the program.

(7) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • Born November 23, 1887 — Boris Karloff, birthname William Henry Pratt, in Camberwell, London, England.
  • Born November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker

(8) Early suggestions coming in for the 2016 Worldcon program…

(9) The Kickstarter for The Dark North – Volume 1, a premium coffee table art book with new stories from Scandinavia’s best illustrators and concept artists, is just fully financed, but it’s still possible to contribute.

Artist: Lukas Thelin

Artist: Lukas Thelin

(10) “Being a Better Writer: Names”  by Max Florschutz at Unusual Things has four good ideas for dealing with a fundamental sf writing challenge.

So, naming things. This is, as you might guess, a requested topic. And to be honest, I think it’s one worth talking about.

See, naming things can actually be pretty tricky. When creating a world from scratch, or even just a redesigned/repurposed version of our own world, often one of the first things a lot of young writers do is assign their characters, places, and things very interesting names. It’s kind of a trope by this point, but if I had to guess my prediction would be that to the new writer, the goal is to excitedly show you how fantastical their world is. So they don’t have people with names like Joe or Samantha. They have people with names like Krul’Qa’pin or something like that.  And they live in the city of Byulnqualalaltipo! Aren’t those fantastic?

Well, in sense, sure. They’re also completely unpronounceable, for a start. And that is just the start.

See, there are a host of problems with names like this. The first being that they’re difficult for the reader to read, pronounce, and parse. They’re these very out there, fantastical names that are hard to make sense of, and the more of them a writer puts into his story, the harder it will be not only for the reader to keep interest, but to keep everything straight. Especially if the writer has gone and made a number of the names similar through conventions such as “I’ll stick apostrophe’s here and here and that’ll make a name.” And while it certainly might create names that look impressive, the truth is that a lot of “name creation techniques” that novice writers go for tend to create a whole host of problems like what we just discussed.

Okay, so this is writing that, if not bad, is certainly not good, clearly. But in order to avoid this trap, it’s worth understanding why it’s a trap in the first place. Why are writers doing this? What makes creating a multi-syllable name that defies typical English attractive?

(11) A dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, (which did not win the brackets, darn it) sold at auction for $1.56 million today.

The blue and white gingham dress, one of 10 thought to have been made for Garland in her role as Dorothy in the movie, was among the top items in the Bonham’s and Turner Classic Movies Hollywood memorabilia auction….

A year ago, the Cowardly Lion costume worn by actor Bert Lahr in the movie sold for almost $3.1 million at a Bonham’s auction.

(12) National Geographic reveals “An 80-Year-Old Prank Revealed, Hiding in the Periodic Table!”

You wouldn’t know it, because it’s hiding down there at the bottom of the periodic table of elements, but it’s a prank—something a five-year-old might do—and the guy who did it was one of the greatest chemists in America. It’s pure silliness, staring right at you, right where I’ve drawn my circle, at element 94.

(13) At Motherboard, “For the First Time Ever, Astronomers Have Observed the Birth of a Planet”:

The new research, published this week in Nature, provides hard evidence of a developing gas giant orbiting a young Sunlike star called LkCa 15, located 450 light years away in the constellation Taurus. What’s more, it appears as if at least two other giant bébés are also forming around the star, though only one was directly detected.

“No one has successfully and unambiguously detected a forming planet before,” said astronomer Kate Follette, a co-author on the study, in a statement. “There have always been alternate explanations, but in this case we’ve taken a direct picture, and it’s hard to dispute that.”

(14) Click at your own risk! From ScienceFiction.com “Thanks To A Leaked Children’s Book We Have Some HUGE ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Spoilers!”

(15) “Steven Moffat Reveals the Nightmare Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special We Could Have Had” on io9.

But while those meetings went on, more and more actors publicly denied that they would be a part of the special, prompting growing discontent from Doctor Who fans—who didn’t realize that behind-the-scenes problems with the script, and a ticking clock, meant that Moffat very nearly had to scrape together a story with whatever actors he could find. Case in point? In one form or another, there was a story outline for “The Day of the Doctor” that featured no Doctors at all… only Jenna Coleman as Clara.

(16) A project known as “Justice League Dark” is inching closer to a greenlight. Joblo lists the front-running candidates to direct:

Things are heating up for DARK UNIVERSE, as casting rumors have been swirling around the past week and now we have word on who the studio is eyeing to direct the supernatural superhero tale. We’re told that BIG BAD WOLVES directing duo Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, as well as EVIL DEAD remake director Fede Alvarez are the top contenders to take the gig right now. Both sets of filmmakers have a strong grasp of the dark and macabre genre and would easily fill the shoes of Guillermo Del Toro, who left the film after turning in his screenplay and toiling with the studio over casting and scheduling. However, Del Toro’s script is said to be excellent and one of the main reasons that the studio is pushing to get JLD underway with a shooting start in early 2016.

Yahoo! says Dark Universe is expected to put the spotlight on some of the lesser-known heroes and villains of the DC Comics universe whose adventures typically involve magic or supernatural elements of some sort.

Among the characters rumored to have a role in the film are occult detective John Constantine, who was featured in a short-lived television series of his own recently, and Swamp Thing, a multimedia sensation who was the subject of two live-action movies, a live-action television series, and an animated series to go along with his long-running comic book series and other projects. The film will also reportedly feature the villain Anton Arcane, the antihero demon Etrigan, and the sorceress Zatanna, as well as Madame Xanadu and the body-swapping spirit Deadman.

(17) Ice Age 5 short: Scrat In Space!

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Will R., JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]