Pixel Scroll 5/4/20 Sufficiently Advanced Scrolls Are Indistinguishable From Pixels

(1) MURDERBOT READING TOMORROW. The New York Review of Books will host online a “Martha Wells Book Launch Party” on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. EDT

On the eagerly awaited occasion of the publication of “Network Effect,” Martha Wells’ fifth “Murderbot” story and the first full-length novel in the series, Ms. Wells will read from her work and then be interviewed by guest host/curator Amy Goldschlager.

(2) SHUFFLE AND REDEAL. At the Wild Cards blog, Bradley Denton thinks it’s time for Howard Waldrop to tell the current generation all about how “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway” (which I think of as “Jetboy’s Last Adventure”) became the series’ origin story — “Fifty Minutes Over Manchaca (now Menchaca) Road!”

…HW:  Of course!  And another is – You’ll recall in “The Annotated Jetboy,” where I talk about Danny Deck writing the biography of Jetboy?  Danny Deck is the hero of Larry McMurtry’s novel All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.  And of course he writes Godot Is My Co-Pilot: A Life of Jetboy.

…Anyway, I was gonna do the Jetboy story about the A-bomb for Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and either Lew or Bud (sf authors Lewis Shiner and Walton “Bud” Simons, both Austin-based at the time, like Howard), I can’t remember which, said, “You should talk to George.  George and that bunch in New Mexico have been playing a superhero role-playing game, and they’ve spent so much time and money on it that they’re trying to find a way to turn it into a book.  You oughta tell him about this Jetboy thing, because it sounds like something that would fit in there.”  If it was Lew I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Bud, and if it was Bud I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Lew.  One or the other of ‘em knew more about it than the other one did, right?

See, I didn’t even know about this.  George hadn’t mentioned it to me in a letter or anything.  So I wrote to George, and I said, “I’ve got a story that might fit with whatever goddamn thing you’re doing.  You should tell me about it.”

So he sent me the prototype Cut and Shuffle, which was all about what was going on in the Wild Cards world before anyone else even knew what it was.  And I said, “Yeah, that sounds about right, I can work with that.  But your timeline is all wrong.”  See, they were gonna start it in the 1980s, with the world having gone on for thirty years.

BD:  Oh, so they weren’t initially going to do an origin story?  They were going to jump into the world of Wild Cards three decades on?

HW:  Right, exactly.  I said, “That’s all wrong!  You gotta tell how all this came about!”  So I got them to tell me all the stuff about Dr. Tachyon, and the virus, and the whole thing, y’know.  And I stuck it sideways into the Jetboy/A-bomb story, and sent it to George.

And of course George says, “When we send you stuff, you should read it!  You got all this stuff wrong!”  I said, “Ah, that’s your job!  You can fix that!”

(3) ANIMAL CROSSING BANK FRAUD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from a front-page article by Leo Lewis and Robin Wigglesworth in the April 29 Financial Times.

“Savers at Nintendo’s the Bank of Nook are being driven to speculate on turnips and tarantulas, as the most popular video game of the coronavirus era mimics central bankers by making steep cuts in interest rates…

The estimate 12m players of the Japanese gaming group’s cartoon fantasy ANIMAL CROSSING were informed last week about the move, in which the Bank of Nook slashed the interest on savings from 0.5 percent to just 0.05 percent: 1,9m bells, the in-game currency, can be bought online for about $1…

…It did not take long, however, for players to spot that they could defraud the game’s bank by depositing large sums in savings accounts and then ‘time travelling’ by tweaking the console’s internal clock.  The bank duly paid decades of interest, making rapid bell millionaires.  People familiar with the practice said the Bank of Nook rate cut was an effort to curb the practice.  Nintendo has made no official comment on the matter.”

(4) LATER THAN TWILIGHT. It’s official. When the countdown ended, this was the news, says the New York Times — “Stephenie Meyer to Publish a New ‘Twilight’ Book, ‘Midnight Sun’”.

Fans of Edward Cullen, the brooding vampire hero from Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling “Twilight” series, will have something fresh to bite into this summer.

Ms. Meyer announced on Monday that “Midnight Sun,” the new novel in her vampire romance series, will be published on Aug. 4, more than a decade after the original story concluded.

“I thought seriously about delaying this announcement until things were back to normal,” Ms. Meyer said in a statement. “However, that felt wrong, considering how long those who are eager for this book have already waited.”…

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There is a new free online workshop with instructors Orson Scott Card, Tim Powers, and David Farland: “The Writers Of The Future Online Workshop”

This free intermediate level writing course includes essays, practicals, and 13 video presentations featuring Writers of the Future judges: David Farland, Tim Powers, and Orson Scott Card.

By the end of the workshop, you should have a short story completed. If you are qualified (see the rules here), you can enter your story in the Writers of the Future Contest. The twelve annual winners will be flown out to Hollywood for the week-long live workshop with a full roster of Contest judges and publishing professionals teaching as well as giving you their advice on how to make it as professional writers.

Enter your email address to start the course. You will also receive Writers of the Future newsletters with writing tips and special offers. You can unsubscribe at any time.

(6) 2020 PULITZER PRIZES. Columbia University today announced the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes, awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

There was no genre work among the winners, although 2020 Fiction winner Colson Whitehead has won before for the sff novel Underground Railraod (2017). Indeed, Whitehead now is just the fourth author to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice. The others are Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner and John Updike. (The winners in journalism are at the link.)

LETTERS AND DRAMA

Fiction
“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Drama
“A Strange Loop” by Michael R. Jackson

History
“Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America” by W. Caleb McDaniel (Oxford University Press)

Biography
“Sontag: Her Life and Work” by Benjamin Moser (Ecco/HarperCollins)

Poetry
“The Tradition” by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)

General Nonfiction
“The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care” by Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

and

“The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America” by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books)

Music
“The Central Park Five” by Anthony Davis, premiered by Long Beach Opera on June 15, 2019

Special Citation
Ida B. Wells

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

“Star Trek Fan Says ‘Happy Holidays’ Instead of ‘May the Fourth Be With You’”. Grumpy Vulcan tells Hard Drive why.

While many people are observing May 4 as Star Wars Day by saying “may the fourth be with you,” local Star Trek fan Lisa Donnelly has opted to instead just say “happy holidays.”

“Star Wars doesn’t have a monopoly on holidays that take place on May 4, you know,” said Donnelly. “There’s National Bird Day, Latvian Independence Day, and one of the non-canonical dates for Star Trek’s Federation Day is right around the corner on May 8. Those days deserve just as much recognition as some manufactured holiday celebrating a science fantasy movie series for kids.”….

And how did it all begin? According to TimeAndDate.com

The origin of the phrase is thought to date back to May 4, 1979. On this day, Conservatives in the United Kingdom published a newspaper advertisement to congratulate their candidate, Margaret Thatcher, for taking the Prime Minister’s office. The advertisement said “May The Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations”.

(8) NEW STAR WARS MOVIE. Naturally, this is also the logical day for announcing the franchise’s new project. Lisa Richwine, in the Yahoo! News story “Taika Waititi to direct and co-write a new ‘Star Wars’ movie with ‘1917’ screenwriter” says that Disney announced a bunch of Star Wars-related projects on StarWars Day, most notably that Taika Waititi will direct a new Star Wars and co-write it with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, nominated for an Oscar for her work on 1917.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 4, 1962 — The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with their own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull faced Bombers and fInally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. DCUniverse streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1942 CN Manlove, 78. His major work is Modern Fantasy: Five Studies which compares the work of Kingsley, MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien and Peake. Other works include Science Fiction: Ten Explorations, The Impulse of Fantasy Literature and From Alice to Harry Potter: Children’s Fantasy in England.
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 77. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, the Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1956 Murray McArthur, 63. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Born May 4, 1914 James Bacon. He was in all five films in the Planet of the Apes franchise, the only actor to do so. He portrayed an ape in each of the films with the exception of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, in which he played a human, General Faulkner. This was the only film of the ‘Ape’ series in which he was credited. He also showed in Roddenberry’s Planet Earth as Partha. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 43. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a terrific gag for May the Fourth.
  • Heathcliff isn’t really that funny, however, it does use a gagline drawn from the same source as one of our File 770 mottos.
  • Pearls Before Swine considers the possibility that the lockdown results in people reading more, and better, books.

(12) RIVERS COMING TO A CHANNEL NEAR YOU. For the many Filers who are fans of the series — “Stolen Picture Options Television Rights To Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers Of London”.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s UK-based production company, Stolen Picture, has optioned the rights to Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling novel series Rivers of London.

Aaronovitch is currently working on the adaption of the first novel, also named Rivers of London. He will also serve as an Executive Producer on the series alongside Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Stolen Picture CEO, Miles Ketley. 

A Sunday Times best-seller, Rivers of London was first published in 2011, earning Aaronovitch a nomination in the New Writer of The Year category at the National Book Awards in 2011 and has spawned a popular graphic novel series. Each subsequent novel has also charted in the Sunday Times Top Ten Best-Seller list.

The crime/supernatural crossover follows the adventures of Peter Grant, a young mixed race police officer who, following an encounter with a ghost finds himself working for The Folly, a secret Scotland Yard department that deals with supernatural crime. The Times described Rivers of London as “an incredibly fast-moving magical joyride for grown-ups”.The Rivers of London franchise has been published in more than 15 languages and, to date, has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.

“Nick Frost and Simon Pegg asked me if I wanted to make Rivers of London with them – you think I was going to say no? Stolen Picture have a reputation for making creator led TV with the minimum of corporate bollocks and the maximum of fun. It’s an opportunity I would be bonkers to say no to” says Ben Aaronovitch.

(13) BITING THE SCENERY. Entertainment Weekly invites fans to “See first look at Mark Hamill embracing the dark side as vampire in What We Do in the Shadows”. Photo at the link.

[Mark] Hamill will portray an ancient vampire in Jemaine Clement‘s FX series What We Do in the Shadows and EW has your first look at the character — fangs and all. The episode titled “On the Run,” set to air May 13, will introduce a vengeful enemy from Laszlo’s (Matt Berry) past who appears without warning to settle a personal debt. This causes Laszlo to flee his home and go into hiding.

(14) A HEEP OF TROUBLE. Did Paul Weimer have great expectations for this novel? “Microreview [Book]: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry” at Nerds of a Feather.

…I should be clear and up front about something: I may be a somewhat biased reviewer in a regard, but not in the way that you might think. You see, good reader, I am a relation but not a direct descendant of Charles Dickens, so that a novel where his literary creation escapes into the real world was and is always one I would be extremely interested in. I’ve read and been interested in Dickens’ work from a young age. His work has always been part of my life.

I can happily report that this novel is extremely literate and considerate with the work of Dickens, what it means and where it comes from. The novel feels like the author’s own coming to terms with Dickens’ work in a real and palpable way, as well as Victoriana and Edwardiana in a real and palpable way.

(15) GEEKS IN ACADEME. “Top 10 Fictional Schools– Geek Culture Countdown Podcast!” – a list from 2019. These are all drawn from sff works, even though “Pop Culture” covers more territory than that.

Susan and Kitty are schooling you on the Top 10 Fictional Schools in pop culture. From prestigious prep academies to borderline lethal boarding schools, which esteemed educational institutions will make the grade?

For example —

2. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters

Located at 1407 Graymalkin Lane in Westchester County, New York, this school for mutants has gone by many names- Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters, the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, X-Haven, and most currently the Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach.

This school provides a safe place for young mutants to receive education both in traditional schooling and also the control and understanding of their powers. Kitty Pryde is currently the headmistress. The school motto is “Mutatis Mutandis” meaning “once the necessary changes have been made”.

(16) WHY PROTECTING MOSQUITOS IS A GOOD IDEA. BBC has the answer — “Malaria ‘completely stopped’ by microbe”.

Scientists have discovered a microbe that completely protects mosquitoes from being infected with malaria.

The team in Kenya and the UK say the finding has “enormous potential” to control the disease.

Malaria is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes, so protecting them could in turn protect people.

The researchers are now investigating whether they can release infected mosquitoes into the wild, or use spores to suppress the disease.

…”The data we have so far suggest it is 100% blockage, it’s a very severe blockage of malaria,” Dr Jeremy Herren, from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Kenya told the BBC.

He added: “It will come as a quite a surprise. I think people will find that a real big breakthrough.”

(17) USE THE FORK, LUKE. Or the blowtorch. Do something to save us.  “General Mills Is Releasing A ‘Star Wars’ Cereal With Baby Yoda-Shaped Marshmallows” – the Best Products blog has the story.

…General Mills took to Instagram to reveal its newest creation. As described on the packaging, the cereal consists of sweetened corn puffs with marshmallows. All of the green marshmallows are in the shape of The Child’s head, which is reason enough to give this bite a shot, if you ask us.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/20 This Machine Scrolls Pixels

(1) MORE SFF EVENTS AFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS.

  • The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony, planned for April 3 in Hollywood, has been cancelled.
  • The 2020 Williamson Lectureship, scheduled for April 3 at Eastern New Mexico University has been postponed.

(2) WORLDCON 2020 STILL ON. The CoNZealand chairs gave this status as of March 13 (NZ date): “Covid-19: Update from the Chairs”.

We understand your concerns and that you want as much notice as possible if CoNZealand were to be cancelled. We are extremely keen to see CoNZealand go ahead and bring Worldcon to New Zealand for the first time ever. Our Executive have discussed the situation and unanimously agreed that we are not cancelling the convention.  Please be assured that we are closely monitoring the situation and will make a further statement if the situation changes. We do note that the convention could possibly be cancelled by the New Zealand Government or the venues, but we see no sign of that happening.

Kelly Buehler, Norman Cates – CoNZealand Chairs

(3) SFWA ON UNFIT/UNREAL. SFWA has issued a statement on Facebook warning about the practices of Unreal and Unfit magazines posting lists of rejected stories and author names on Thinkerbeat (reported here in February). However, the Thinkerbeat page seems to have been taken down.  

The Board of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is issuing a warning regarding short fiction publisher Thinkerbeat, which publishes the semi-pro magazines “Unfit” and “Unreal.” The publisher publicly posts lists of rejected stories along with the author’s name and a numeric score.

This publisher’s behavior is far outside of industry standards and is contrary to the interests of writers. Humiliating writers, betraying their trust, and violating their privacy is not acceptable.

(4) FROM BACK IN THE DAY. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr connects with some furry history: “Unearthing a cool fossil — A 1980’s letter shows furry fandom before the net.”

…We arranged mailing to Summercat (news writer, furry historian, and curator of the Furry Library), who received four huge binders. There were copies of parts of 1980’s zines someone liked and kept. A binder of misc anime stuff, a binder of (colloquial) furry anime stuff, and a binder each that looked like a collection of work from artists Jerry Collins and Juan Alfonso. Among the photocopies, there was a hand written artifact.

(5) MY BABY, THE CAR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Gizmodo says “Supernatural Is Crossing Over With Legends of Tomorrow…via Car”. So (ignoring backstory as not essential for this), the March 24 episode of Legends of Tomorrow brings (some of) our intrepid Legends to where the Supernatural TV series is being shot, so (we) get Baby (which is, I gather, a car) from Supernatural, along with a few other elements of Supn’l (tho no characters, I gather).

So it’s not quite a crossover, depending on your definition of things.

There’s some multiverse precedent, at least from the (paper) comic book PoV, IIRC, where, pre-Crisis (on Infinite Earths), Earth-Prime was “our” universe. Per https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Earth-Prime: “where the readers lived, DC Comics operated as a publisher and all superheroes are fictional. However, Earth-Prime is shown to be an alternate reality when the Flash (Barry Allen) accidentally travels there from Earth-One.”

(I’m still just a teeny bit sad that the recent CW 5-episode crossover didn’t include a Muppets-style montage that included a few seconds also from Riverdale, the Warner Brothers cartooniverse, Nancy Drew, and Penn & Teller. Ah well.)

(6) BOSKONE ON TV. Boston’s WCVB aired a segment shot at Boskone: “The growth in popularity of science fiction literature”. GoHs Holly Black, Kim Stanley Robinson, and artist Eric Wilkerson get extended facetime, but Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari and Mark Olson are onscreen for a split second, too. Video at the link.

L to R: Mark Olson and Joe Siclari

(7) GATE SHOW. The station’s “Chronicle” also ran a video report about the Boston Fan Expo: “Going behind the scenes of the Boston Convention and Expo Center.”

(8) LIU ADAPTATION. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Last night, I saw a screening of a film entitled La Verite (The Truth), directed by Hirokazu Kore-ede and starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke. While it is not a genre film, Deneuve plays an aging actor who is appearing in a  F film entitled “Memories of My Mother,” which is based on the Ken Liu story of the same name. “Memories of My Mother” was initially published on the Daily Science Fiction web site and appears in Liu’s latest collection “The Hiden Girl and Other Stories” (Saga Press, 2020). Liu is also listed as an Associate Producer of La Verite.

A 26-minute short film based on “Memories of My Mother” and entitled Beautiful Dreamer was released in 2016, but I have not seen it.

(9) HERSTORY. CrimeReads’ Jan Eliasberg solves the case — “Dr. Lise Meitner: The Mystery of the Disappearing Physicist”. Tagline: “She split the atom and fled the Nazis. History tried to erase her.”

Otto Hahn remained in Berlin and was named interim head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute “until a loyal Nazi could be found to take over.” But Hahn was so dependent on Meitner that he continued to collaborate with her, even after she’d fled to Sweden. He met with her in secret and sent her, on postcards via courier, the results of experiments they’d designed together. It was Meitner not Hahn, who analyzed the results and recognized that they had split the atom. The notion that a nucleus can split and be transformed into another element was radical; no one had fathomed it before. Meitner provided the first understanding of how and why this had happened.

Because Meitner was Jewish, the paper Hahn published in Germany did not have her name on it. Hahn might have been motivated by the fact that, if they paper had had borne her name, it would have been discredited as “Jewish Physics,” and he certainly was aware that including a Jewish woman on the paper would cost him his career in Germany.  So, he published without Meitner, falsely claiming that the discovery was based solely on insights gleaned from his own chemical purification work, and that any insight contributed by Meitner played an insignificant role.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 12, 1999Wing Commander premiered. It was based rather loosely based on the Wing Commander series. It was directed by Chris Roberts, who created the video game series. It starred Freddie Prinze, Jr., Saffron Burrows, Jürgen Prochnow, David Suchet, and David Warner. Critical reaction to it  was overwhelmingly negative. It has an audience rating of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. It however spawned at least three sequels. You can see it here.

March 12, 2015 Terry Pratchett dies. Cat Eldridge writes –

We lost Him five years ago today and even though I knew it was coming, it still was a horrible shock. Of all the losses we’ve suffered in the genre, this one and the loss of Iain Banks are the ones I’ve felt the deepest. I’m going to offer up the toast that Hob Gadling gives in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Season of Mists as an expression of my feelings:

  • To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.

To mark the occasion, Steven H Silver sent out links to his 2000 SF SIte interview with Pratchett.

In any event, the Discworld has changed over time as Pratchett honed his skills as a writer. In early books, Pratchett referred to several characters only by their title. The Archchancellor of Unseen University or the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. As time progressed, the characters acquired names and more definable personalities.

“In those days, the Archchancellor would change at least once per book. I’m a little uncertain about [whether the Patrician changed or has always been Lord Vetinari]. Sourcery actually marked the boundary line. The books before that were ‘Old Discworld’; the books after that were ‘New Discworld.” They are the same place, but written by a better writer.

“Because the early ones were written in the fantasy tradition. You populate, apart from your heroes, with rogues, beggars, vagabonds, lords, whores… you don’t think of them as characters. But I find it much more fun to bring them forward as characters.”

Pratchett’s fans are legion and they are very vocal about their favourite novels and characters. This causes slight problems since everyone tells Pratchett which characters to focus on, but the suggestions are usually contradictory. Pratchett has taken to ignoring the advice.

“The problem is that I get requests from people who want more of the witches or don’t like the witches and want more guards. You’ll get what you’re given, but everyone is cheering for the party of choice.

“I get a lot of e-mail on the subject [of combining series]. But the fact is that if you like pickles and you like chocolate, but chocolate pickles may not be a good idea. If you put them all together, its sort of like a super-hero league where Batman can only have adventures because Superman happens to be out of town. What a lot of people want is to see a face-off between Granny and the Patrician. It may happen, but I don’t want to do it just to have the fun of doing it. I almost had Vimes and Lady Sybil meeting Verence and Magrat in The Fifth Elephant, but it got edited out because I was doing it as ‘series glue’ rather than because it was necessary for the book.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough to see that much of work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.)
  • Born March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. He’s best-known for his work with Disney for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not least for Fantasia. He was also the Visual Development Artist on The Little Mermaid. (Died 1957.)
  • Born March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty-year period starting in the Fifties: The Great Beast, The Magic of Aleister Crowley, The King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say, the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats  with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best-known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 87. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series, Get Smart, done twenty years later. She didn’t have that much of an acting career. 
  • Born March 12, 1933 Myrna Fahey. Though best-known for her recurring role as Maria Crespo in Walt Disney’s Zorro, which I’ll admit is at best genre adjacent, she did have some genre roles in her brief life including playing Blaze in the Batman episodes of “True or False-Face” and “Holy Rat Race”. Her other genre appearances were only on The Time Tunnel and Adventures of Superman.
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what a role it it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2, Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNDER THE LID. Alasdair Stuart has refilled from the endless banquet of popular culture: “The Full Lid for 6th March 2020”

This week’s lead story is a look at the startlingly audacious Doctor Who season finale and it’s connections to Moorcock’s The Eternal Champion, the Creative Commons Licensing movement and Wildstorm Comics. Backing that up are my adventures attempting to replicate the breakfast sandwich from Birds of Prey, with a recipe from the always excellent Binging with Babish.

In Signal Boost, we’ve got details of the Null & Void.podcast’s crowdfunding campaign, Find them on Twitter here and have a trailer. We’ve also got the amazing Premee Mohamed‘s longform debut, Julian Jarboe releasing the brilliantly titled Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel  and the magic (literally) of Sarah Gailey. It’s rounded off with a Beth Elderkin piece that’s typically eloquent, perceptive and deeply brave. 

(14) FAMILIAR PLOT. Daniel Fienberg reviews HBO’s production for The Hollywood Reporter: “‘The Plot Against America’: TV Review”.

Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America was a cautionary tale about anti-Semitism in the United States and the dangers of a cult-of-personality presidency in which a politically unseasoned celebrity favored for his “America First!” nationalism forges questionable international alliances and enables the worst instincts of his partners and supporters, setting off a wave of hate crimes further emboldened by “But the economy is booming!” platitudes.

Terrifying fantasy. Right?

So what do you do when speculative fiction no longer feels so speculative? That’s the challenge facing The Wire collaborators David Simon and Ed Burns in their HBO limited-series adaptation of The Plot Against America. Simon and Burns aren’t always able to conquer the challenges of Roth’s text — it’s a great book, if not the most fluidly transferrable story to the small screen — but they’ve certainly crafted a six-hour nightmare with an insidious creep. Some viewers are likely to complain that nothing sufficiently dramatic or awful is happening — and they’ll surely be wrong — before the series twists the narrative knife by the end.

(15) IS LESS BETTER? Sean Kelly finds some internal contradictions in the ways Star Trek’s crews amuse themselves. Thread starts here.

(16) KONG’S INSPIRATION. I didn’t know this. I’m not sure I know it now. “How King Kong came out of a real-life scrapped Komodo dragon vs. gorilla fight” at SYFY Wire.

Ever seen an actual gorilla fighting a Komodo dragon? Well, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about animal cruelty) that fight fell through back in the 1920s, as the Depression sent potential investors running for the jungle. But, hoping to get at least some traction from this defunct battle royale, the hopeful promoter of the epic showdown, Merian C. Cooper, dreamed up King Kong instead — which, thanks to Fathom Events, you’ll be able to catch on the big screen for the first time nationally in more than six decades.

(17) COBBLED TOGETHER. “Ancient rock bears isotopic fingerprints of Earth’s origins”Nature has the story.

Identifying Earth’s building blocks from terrestrial rocks is challenging because these ingredients have become mixed as the planet evolved. Evidence of an unknown building block in ancient rocks provides fresh insight.

The Earth formed from an unknown selection of meteoritic material.  New research finds that the composition of ruthenium isotopes in ancient rocks from southwest Greenland contains evidence of a previously unrecognized building block of Earth. Surprisingly, the inferred isotopic composition of ruthenium in the material does not match known meteorite compositions. The authors’ findings suggest that Earth’s volatile components, such as water and organic compounds, could have arrived during the final stages of the planet’s growth…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Hey, every now and then…]

Convention Cancellations Accelerate as Public Health Restrictions Announced

With the effects of the coronavirus outbreak expanding, and authorities all over the world responding with policies that attempt to limit large gatherings, many more sff events have cancelled or postponed. Some are shielded from contractual penalties because the actions were initiated by the government, but not all.

The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts has relented and cancelled ICFA 41, which was to be held March 18-21.

For the last two weeks, the IAFA Board has been monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation. Until yesterday, we considered it our responsibility to keep the ICFA going for the more than 400 members who were still planning to attend, and to let each individual decide for themselves the risk.

The situation has changed drastically and quickly. The WHO has ruled this an official pandemic and, well, you’ve all seen the news. We believe it would be irresponsible for us to hold the conference because travel poses a public health threat, so ICFA is cancelled. We now must enter into negotiations with the hotel to try to minimize the financial damage. At this time, our policy to credit registration forward (as opposed to refunds) has not changed, but we will give you an update when the situation becomes clearer.

Costume-Con 38 in Montreal, scheduled to start tomorrow, has been cancelled.

It is with great sadness that we are constraint to follow the Prime Minister directives to cancel any event bigger than 250 persons. It is a case of force majeure. We will keep you updated on the situation.

Zenkaikon, slated to begin March 20 in Lancaster, PA now will not take place. The decision was made in response to the state governor’s appeal: “Gov. Tom Wolf advises canceling mass gatherings in Pennsylvania, avoiding recreational activities due to coronavirus concerns” .

We know many of our prospective attendees will be disappointed by this decision. We are disappointed too. Our volunteer staff has spent thousands of hours to make this event happen, and to make it safe for our attendees. But given the current reports coming out about this virus, we agree that it is no longer safe to hold the event. We would hate to put our members, staff, exhibitors, panelists, guests, and the greater Lancaster community at risk.

Fantastika 2020, the Swecon this year, has been postponed until sometimes in the fall. Here is the Google Translate rendering of their Swedish-language announcement:

We have had a very hard time deciding whether to implement Fantastika or set it up for the coronavirus pandemic. Now the issue has been resolved by the Diesel Workshop [the convention facility] seeing us as such an event that they do not allow it. One advantage of this is that we do not have to pay for the premises and in addition, the Diesel workshop tries to find a suitable weekend with us in the committee where we can move Fantastika2020….

Planet Comicon Kansas City is postponed ‘til later this year:

Planet Comicon Kansas City is following the Emergency Order issued by the City and will be postponing PCKC 2020, scheduled for next weekend (March 20-22). The safety, security and health of our attendees, guests, exhibitors, staff and crew members will always be of the utmost importance to us. We will be shifting our efforts to our new event dates which will be in late summer or early fall of 2020 and will be announced in the coming days. For more information, click here.

Already cancelled were the Spectrum Awards Ceremony and Flesk/Spectrum appearance planned in conjunction with the KC convention.

The 2020 Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico University has been postponed.

I regret to inform you that, due to the COVID-19  virus outbreak in the country and – more recently — in New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico University will be canceling large campus events.  Unfortunately, that means postponing the 2020 Williamson Lectureship (scheduled for April 2-3, 2020) until fall 2020.

We are reaching out to our guests and guest writers to see if we can arrange a date in September.

TOOL TO HELP STAY CURRENT. The US/Canada Convention Status Sheet is an unofficial attempt to track the many dozens of events planned for the next few months.

IN CALIFORNIA. Last night, the Governor of California publicly advised against holding large gatherings (See the LA Times story, “Large gatherings should be canceled due to coronavirus outbreak, California Gov. Gavin Newsom says”.) This announcement affects conferences, concerts, sporting events, and more — but currently does not apply to schools.

… Gov. Gavin Newsom joined state health officials in recommending the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state, escalating the effort by his administration to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus….

The advisory, which does not carry the force of law, stops short of asking Californians to change their work, travel or even some leisure habits. A document provided by the governor’s administration said the limit on large gatherings does “not apply to essential public transportation, airport travel, or shopping at a store or mall.”

Wondercon, not due to take place until April 10-12, has been postponed. Comic Con International, which runs the Anaheim, CA event, proactively decided to postpone the con even though the host city nudged them on Twitter:

It’s also been decided that Disneyland in California will close through the end of the month.

As for San Diego Comic-Con itself, scheduled for July 23-26, the SDCC Unofficial Blog says it’s still moving forward:

…So what does this mean for San Diego Comic-Con 2020? Comic-Con International stated that they “continue to work closely with officials in San Diego and at this time no decision has been made regarding the rescheduling of Comic-Con slated to take place this summer; July 23-26, 2020.” That convention is more than four months out, and with the exception of E3, most events being canceled have been in March-April. Most event organizers are likely waiting to see how containment and other measures in the US work, as well as if warmer weather could potentially help combat the spread of COVID-19, before making decisions on conventions further out. But the situation continues to change at a rapid pace, so keep an eye on this space.

The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony, planned for April 3 in Hollywood, CA has been cancelled.

We have been closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 virus in California and throughout the world and carefully considered our options for the 36th L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future workshops and awards celebration.
In the best interest of the winners, judges, and guests, the workshops and gala event set to take place in Hollywood, CA, on April 3rd will be postponed until later this year.
We know how important this event is for aspiring writers and illustrators and their families who come in from all over the world.

THIS WEEKEND. Yesterday’s File 770 post about conventions affected by the coronavirus outbreak noted that PopCult HQ was tracking eight events happening this weekend. Whereas yesterday six were still planned, by today all but one has been cancelled or postponed.

That one is the River Region Comic Con in Montgomery, Alabama.  

STATEMENT CONCERNING CORONAVIRUS: We have been monitoring the situation and there has been no advisement from Alabama Public Health to not have the event. At this time no cases have been reported in Alabama. If the CDC or Montgomery Public advises and does not allow us to use the building due to concerns we would then cancel. RIVER REGION COMIC CON HAS NOT BEEN CANCELLED. for more information: CLICK HERE!

TADE THOMPSON. One of the GoHs of the UK Eastercon, Tade Thompson, has withdrawn. The convention currently is still planned to start April 10 in Birmingham, UK.

CHARLES STROSS BATTENS DOWN THE HATCHES. In Scotland, Charles Stross is “self-isolating”: “Public appearances in a time of pandemic”.

This probably doesn’t need saying, but I’m cancelling/avoiding public gatherings and/or public appearances for the indefinite, but hopefully short-term, future.

As of an hour ago the Scottish government announced that we’re moving from “contain” to “delay” wrt. Covid-19—community transmission unrelated to travel or contact has been confirmed—and banning all assemblies of >500 people from Monday.

I’m personally in the high-risk category, being over 50 and with both type II diabetes and hypertension, so I’m self-isolating as of today….

TAKE CARE. Diana Glyer’s comment on Facebook seems a good note to end with:

My favorite book about contagions is Connie Willis’s brilliant Doomsday Book, There are a hundred things to love about that book, but for me, today, the big takeaway in it is this: We are limited in the things we can do to address the catastrophe itself, but there are no limits to the ways we can serve, love, help, guide, encourage, and care for one another in the midst of it. And that will make all the difference.

Pixel Scroll 3/11/20 Hold Seven: Pixel Scroll Sanitizers, Second Class

(1) CORONAVIRUS IMPACT. Eric Flint told Facebook readers today he has cancelled his upcoming trip to Los Angeles for the annual Writers of the Future award ceremony due to the coronavirus threat.

I’m one of the judges for the contest and I’ve attended the ceremony every year since I became a judge (which is more than a decade, now.) I hated to do it, for a lot of reasons, one of them being that LA is my home town and I always visit friends and relatives (when possible — my relatives now all live in Ventura, and sometimes I don’t have time to get up there).

(2) CONVENTION UPDATE. Ace Comic Con Northeast (March 20-22), which previously announced they’d go on, has now cancelled.

(3) LETTING READERS KNOW. Sharon Lee shared an important personal medical update on her blog: “Whole New World”. Details at the link.

(4) STARGIRL. A teaser trailer for the new series. Comicbook.com sets the frame.

Stargirl is coming to both The CW and DC Universe in just a two more months and now, fans are getting another brief look at the young DC hero in action in a new teaser for the upcoming series. The brief teaser offers a glimpse of Brec Bassinger’s Courtney Whitmore in action as Stargirl with a voice over talking about how she finally knows who she really is offering a sense of optimism as she wields the Cosmic Staff against her adversary.

(5) IT’S A THEORY. Jalopnik claims “This Chart Will Tell You What Kind Of Space-Based Sci-Fi You’re About To Watch Just By Looking At The Main Ship”. Are they right?

…You could look at one ship and immediately know that, say, the show would take place in the relatively near future, and have a pretty good grounding in science, or look at another and immediately know nobody gave two shits about physics, but it’ll be a fun ride.

I compiled several thousand examples and fed them into the Jalopnik Mainframe (a cluster of over 400 Timex-Sinclair 1000 computers dumped into an abandoned hot tub in a bunker underneath Ed Begley Jr’s combined EV R&D lab/sex-lab) which ran an advanced AI that categorized the ships into eight distinct classes….

If you want to see the big version, or maybe print it out for your ceiling so you can lay in bed and contemplate it, click here!

(6) WORLDCON PREP. SF2Concatenation has released “Wellington – for visiting SF folk, Those going to CoNZealand, the 78th Worldcon”:

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is built around a harbour on the southern tip of New Zealand. Although it’s a small city, with about 400,000 residents, visitors won’t have a shortage of things to do.

New Zealand has a strong creative and fan community.  Its National Science Fiction Convention has been running since 1979.  This year (2020), it will be hosted at the CoNZealand Worldcon, along with the Sir Julius Vogel Awards that recognise excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders.

Those, participating in the CoNZealand Worldcon, choosing to extend their holiday to visit other parts of the country will find fantasy and science fiction-themed adventures in all corners: from the Hobbiton film set in the North Island, to Oamaru, steampunk capital of the world, in the South. Most fantastical of all are New Zealand’s landscapes, including beautiful beaches and snowy ski-fields….

(7) OR ARE THEY DANGEROUS VIBRATIONS? [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has the first of a new three-parter in their Dangerous Visions anthology series. Body Horror will be available to download from 12th march – i.e. shortly — for a month.

Episode 1

Body Horror

Episode 1 of 3

London, 2050. The transplant industry is in full swing. But can a new body ever fulfil the life-changing expectations of lowly mortician Caroline McAleese? A dystopian thriller by Lucy Catherine.

Developed through the Wellcome Trust Experimental stories scheme.  The Wellcome Trust is a charity based on a huge endowment whose investment profits fund biomedical research and biomedical communication.  To give you an idea of their size, they invest as much as the UK government in biomedical science research. They also do a little public engagement in science and arts and supporting this programme is part of that.

(8) OTHER PEOPLE’S TSUNDOKU. Learn about one writer’s favorite books in “Reading with… Cassandra Clare” at Shelf Awareness.

On your nightstand now: 

The Weird Tales of Tanith Lee by Tanith Lee.  She has always been one of my favorite writers. While I was growing up, I collected all her books. She was also a prolific writer of short stories. Since they were published in the days before the Internet, they weren’t always so easy to find. Now, posthumously, they are being reissued. This book is a collection of all the short stores that she ever published in Weird Tales magazine.

My mom lent me a book called Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. It’s the story of three women whose lives intersect at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. It’s a brutal story, but as someone who always searches for meaning in what happened to my family in the Holocaust, it feels necessary.

(9) IMAGINEERS. In “Disney Books Galore”, Leonard Maltin reviews a trove of books about the Magic Kingdom and its creators.

MARC DAVIS IN HIS OWN WORDS: IMAGINEERING THE DISNEY THEME PARKS by Pete Docter and Christopher Merritt (Disney Editions)

Walt Disney was stingy with compliments, but he called longtime animator Marc Davis his “renaissance man” and meant it. As the production of animated films wound down in the 1950s, Disneyland and the upcoming New York World’s Fair consumed much of Walt’s time and nearly all of his energy. His Midas touch intact, Disney reassigned many of his artists to his WED operation, later renamed Imagineering. Davis brought his artistic talent and whimsical imagination to the task of world-building and left his mark on such enduring attractions as the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Country Bear Jamboree, to name just a few.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 11, 1971 THX 1138 premiered. It was the first feature film from George Lucas. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch.  It starred Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. A novelization by Ben Bova was published. The film was not a box office success though critics generally loved it and it developed a cult following after Star Wars released, and it holds a ninety percent rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes.  You can see THX 1138 here. We suspect that it’s a pirate copy, so watch it soon before it disappears.
  • March 11, 1974 Latitude Zero premiered. It was directed by Ishir? Honda. It was written by Ted Sherdeman from  his radio serial of the same name, with the screenplay by Ted Sherdeman. The film starred Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero, Akira Takarada, Masumi Okada, Richard Jaeckel, Patricia Medina, and Akihiko Hirata. American producer Don Sharp sent the American cast to Japan just as his company went bankrupt so Toho, the Japanese company, picked up the entire budget. Most critics at the time like the campy SFX but said it lacked any coherent. It gets a middling audience rating of 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the English language version here.
  • March 11, 1998 Babylon 5‘s “Day of the Dead” first aired. Written by Neil Gaiman, it featured among its cast Penn & Teller as the comedians Rebo and Zooty visiting the station on The Brakiri Day of the Dead. Many think Teller speaks here but his voice is actually provided by Harlan Ellison. Dreamhaven sold an annotated script with an introduction by J. Michael Straczynski. You can find the episode on YouTube though it requires a fee. It’s available also on Amazon or iTunes.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fanzine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo Award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor. He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of  novels after that decision became in effect. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 11, 1925 Christopher Anvil. A Campbellian writer through and through, he was a staple of Astounding starting in 1956.  The Colonization series that he wrote there would run to some thirty stories. Short stories were certainly his favored length as he only wrote two novels, The Day the Machines Stopped andThe Steel, the Mist, and the Blazing Sun. He’s readily available at the usual digital sources. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 11, 1928 Albert Salmi. Though he had virtually no major genre or genre adjacent roles, he showed up in quite a number of series starting of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and going on to be in The Twilight Zone in multiple roles, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Lost in Space (twice as Alonzo P. Tucker), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (as E-1), Empire of the Ants (in a starting role as Sheriff Art Kincade), Dragonslayer and Superstition. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 11, 1935 Nancy Kovack, 85. She appeared as Nona in Trek’s “A Private Little War”. She also showed up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, as Medea in Jason and the Argonauts, Batman (twice as Queenie), Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I Dream of JeannieTarzan and the Valley of Gold,  Marooned, Get Smart! and The Invisible Man
  • Born March 11, 1947 Floyd Kemske, 73. I’m betting someone here can tell me the story of how he came to be the Editor of Galaxy magazine for exactly one issue — the July 1980 issue to be precise. I’ve not read either of his two novels, so I can’t comment on him as a writer, but the Galaxy editorship story sounds fascinating. 
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read and listen to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes, there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston,  57. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. 
  • Born March 11, 1967 John Barrowman, 53. Best genre role without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters in the form  of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul.  He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack, Aladdinas, well, Aladdin and Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) FRESH INTRO TO MALZBERG. D. Harlan Wilson has a new introduction for the upcoming reprint of Barry N. Malzberg’s Revelations (1972): He’s made it available on his website here.

With Galaxies, Beyond Apollo, and The Falling Astronauts, Revelations is part of a thematically linked group of Malzberg’s novels, all of which are now available from Anti-Oedipus Press. This special edition includes an introduction by D. Harlan Wilson, “Barry N. Malzberg and the Gravity of Science Fiction,” and two afterwords by the author, one from the second printing of Revelations in 1976, the other written in 2019 for this latest reprint.

(14) ADD SPACE SUIT PUN HERE. SYFY Wire tells “How Star Trek’s Prime Directive is influencing real-time space law”.

Michelle Hanlon moved around a lot while growing up. Her parents were part of the Foreign Service, the government agency that formulates and enacts U.S. policy abroad, so she found herself in new places all the time. Despite relocating often, one memory of her childhood remains constant. “We always had Star Trek,” Hanlon tells SYFY WIRE. “You know how families have dinner around the table? I remember eating meals in front of Star Trek, watching it no matter where we were.”

That connection to Star Trek, in part, inspired Hanlon to create For All Moonkind, a volunteer non-profit with the goal of preserving the Apollo landing sites on the Moon, alongside promoting the general preservation of history and heritage in outer space.

More Star Trek

Hanlon, who is a career attorney, has always had an interest in outer space. She didn’t study engineering or other sciences while at school, though, so she felt it couldn’t be more than a hobby. But after Johann-Dietrich Wörner, the head of the European Space Agency, made an offhand joke about how China may remove the United State’s flag from the Apollo moon landing site during a press conference, Hanlon started thinking about space preservation and what would eventually become For All Moonkind. She started the group in 2017 with her husband after returning to school to get a master’s degree in space law.

One point Hanlon and For All Moonkind stress is the idea that we can only preserve our history in space if we put the space race behind us and do it together — an ideal partially inspired by Star Trek. “I’ve never felt that I couldn’t do what I wanted because of my gender or race because I grew up with Star Trek,” Hanlon, who has a Chinese father and Polish mother, says. “The diversity of Star Trek was a reflection of my life; I was shocked to not see it when I came back to the U.S.”

(15) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Andrew Dalton, in the AP story “Avengers Campus to let Disneyland visitors sling like Spidey”, went on a press preview of the new Avengers Campus opening at Disney’s California Adventure in July, replacing the Bug’s Life ride.  The ride will include opportunities for patrons to “sling spider webs” like Spider-Man, and includes “warehouses” for the Avengers designed to look like old buildings. Food items include “Pym’s Test Kitchen,” which features a tiny brioche bun and a giant breaded chicken breast, and a “shwarma joint” similar to the one featured at the end of The Avengers.

…“We’ve been trying to figure out how do we bring this land to life not just where you get to see your favorite heroes or meet your favorite heroes, but where you actually get to become a hero,” Brent Strong, the executive creative director behind the new land for Walt Disney Imagineering, said at a media preview that revealed new details and provided a first look at the project that was first announced last year. “It’s about living out your superhero fantasies.”

Central to that aim is “WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure,” which uses a combination of physical and digital imagery to allow riders to play Peter Parker along with onscreen Spidey Tom Holland….

(16) PORTION PRESTIDIGITATION. Eater previews the food options at the new Avengers Campus in “A Ton of Marvel-Themed Foods Are Coming to Disneyland”.

At Pym Tasting Kitchen, the land’s main restaurant, a “Quantum Tunnel machine” and size-adjusting Pym particles experiment with food — and drinks at the adjacent Pym Tasting Lab — in a menu bolstered by Disney’s corporate partnerships with Coca-Cola and Impossible Foods plant-based meat.

The Quantum Pretzel, an oversized Bavarian twist pretzel, is Pym Tasting Kitchen’s most iconic item. It comes towering over a side of California IPA cheddar-mozzarella beer cheese. Similar to the park’s other large-scale pretzels at first glance, it clocks in at around 14 inches. Another ridiculously oversized dish, the Not So Little Chicken Sandwich, pairs a large chicken schnitzel with a small slider-sized potato bun, topped with Sriracha and teriyaki citrus mayos and pickled cabbage slaw. The gag, like the short skirt-long jacket of theme park cuisine, is executed brilliantly. (See also: the Caesar salad, served wedge-style with a head of baby romaine, vegan dressing, and a “colossal crouton.”)

(17) BRIAR PATCH VISIT POSTPONED. BBC reports “Peter Rabbit 2 film release delayed by four months amid coronavirus fears”.

Peter Rabbit 2 has become the latest major film to have its release pushed back amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which features the voices of James Corden and Margot Robbie, was due in UK cinemas on 27 March, and the US a week later.

But with uncertainty over whether fans will avoid cinemas, that has now been put back to 7 August.

(18) HAL CLEMENT SITE. In a manner of speaking. “Wasp-76b: The exotic inferno planet where it ‘rains iron'”.

Astronomers have observed a distant planet where it probably rains iron.

It sounds like a science fiction movie, but this is the nature of some of the extreme worlds we’re now discovering.

Wasp-76b, as it’s known, orbits so close in to its host star, its dayside temperatures exceed 2,400C – hot enough to vaporise metals.

The planet’s nightside, on the other hand, is 1,000 degrees cooler, allowing those metals to condense and rain out.

It’s a bizarre environment, according to Dr David Ehrenreich from the University of Geneva.

“Imagine instead of a drizzle of water droplets, you have iron droplets splashing down,” he told BBC News.

The Swiss researcher and colleagues have just published their findings on this strange place in the journal Nature.

The team describes how it used the new Espresso instrument at the Very Large Telescope in Chile to study the chemistry of Wasp-76b in fine detail.

Nature link: “Nightside condensation of iron in an ultrahot giant exoplanet”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Dvein vs. Flamingos on Vimeo, you learn what you shouldn’t mess with a pink flamingo.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Ben Bird Person, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Shaun Lyon, Mlex, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

2019 Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest Winners

The 2019 Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest Award Event was held April 5 in Los Angeles.

2019 Writers of the Future Golden Pen Award was won by Andrew Dykstal for his story “Thanatos Drive.”

The Illustrators of the Future Golden Brush Award went to Aliya Chen for her illustration of Elise Stephens’ story “Untrained Luck.”

Each winner received a trophy and a $5,000 check.

Also, the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to artist Bob Eggleton.

Pixel Scroll 12/10/18 This Is A Song Called Alice’s Pixel Scroll But Alice’s Pixel Scroll Is Not The Name Of The Pixel Scroll That’s Just The Name Of The Song

(1) SFWA AND THE WRITERS OF THE FUTURE CONTEST. SFWA member and former Greivance Committee member Eric James Stone, whose wife Darci Stone won the Writers of the Future Contest 2018 grand prize Golden Pen Award, has shared his correspondence with the SFWA Board in a blog post where he strongly disagrees with the organization’s actions against the Writers of the Future Contest. Says Stone, “In short, I feel the SFWA Board has acted incompetently and/or unethically.” — “SFWA and the Writers of the Future Contest”.

2. Even if you agree with WOTF being de-listed, I think you should be concerned about the process implemented by the Board. Imagine that one of your favorite publications was being targeted for de-listing, and the SFWA Board acted to de-list before even communicating with the editors about any concerns or complaints. Would you consider that a fair process? If it wouldn’t have been a fair process for Clarkesworld or Asimov’s or Strange Horizons, then it was not a fair process for Writers of the Future.

3. I think that any reasonable person who actually wanted to “…ensur[e] that these concerns [about WOTF] are meaningfully addressed…” would have contacted the WOTF Contest administrators to discuss the concerns before taking the action of de-listing the contest as a qualifying market. The only reasonable excuse for not doing so would be some sort of urgent need to act immediately in order to prevent harm, but since the Board voted in August and failed to make it known until December, that excuse doesn’t seem to apply here. Since it is a stated goal of the Board to see that the concerns are meaningfully addressed, the fact that they do not appear to have exercised reasonable care in attempting to carry out that goal could mean they have violated their fiduciary duty as Board members.

4. None of the members of the Board has answered the charge that the website gave pretexts for the Board’s action in removing contest publications as qualifying markets, while the real goal was to de-list Writers of the Future specifically. The Board’s actions don’t make sense if the objective was to get the contest to address concerns, but they make perfect sense if the objective was to de-list WOTF. Why would they have that specific goal? When I wrote to the Board originally, I was worried that some people might be targeting the contest because of its association with the Church of Scientology. If that was, in fact, the case, and the members of the Board were either in agreement with such an objective or willing to cater to such people, it would explain why the Board would de-list the contest before even going through the motions of resolving concerns about it, and it would also explain why they disguised the motives for their action in the explanation offered on the website.

(2) FIFTH SEASON OR ELEVENTH SEASON? In “Doctor Who: The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos”, Camestros Felapton reviews the last episode of Season 11.

 I don’t know if anybody else got a bit of a Fifth Season vibe from the beginning of this episode. I did, which got my hopes up but overall this was an episode of unexplored ideas. Not terrible but it felt oddly sketched out with hints of something better.

Take for example the idea of this mind altering planet, it gives one character a reason why they can’t initially explain what is going on but otherwise the idea goes nowhere. Which is doubly odd, because it is a concept that could be done really well with a smart script and clever acting.

(3) WHO’S NUMBERS. Yahoo! Finance’s Stewart Clarke, in “Jodie Whittaker to Return as ‘Doctor Who’ in 2020 Amid Strong U.S. Ratings”, says that this year’s series of Doctor Who held up in ratings in both the U.S. and Britain, and Jodie Whittaker drew about as many viewers as Peter Capaldi did in his last season.

British viewers tuned in in droves to the first episode of the current season. With 11 million viewers (consolidated),it was the second-biggest drama audience of the year and the best launch for “Doctor Who” in a decade in the U.K.

Overnight ratings declined steadily over the course of the series,  falling to 5 million for the ninth episode (7 million consolidated). Sunday’s finale delivered 5.3 million viewers. British tabloids have suggested that viewers tuned out because the new season was too “politically correct,” but the fall in overnight ratings is not unusual and follows that of earlier seasons.

It also reflects modern viewing patterns, with many fans and, notably, younger viewers watching the show on catch-up. The BBC said the average consolidated audience through the first eight episodes was 8.4million, significantly above the last season of “Doctor Who,” starring Peter Capaldi, whose average was below 6 million. The current season was the second most-requested series on the BBC’s iPlayer in October, the busiest month ever for the catch-up service.

In the U.S., Whittaker and her team notched a ratings win for BBC America, which said it was the fastest-growing scripted show of the year. Ahead of Sunday’s final episode, BBC America reported that the show was up 47% season-on-season, with young  female viewers driving the growth. The show averaged 1.6 million viewers through its first eight episodes in the U.S.

(4) RECORDS SET. Variety’s “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Smashes 24-Hour Video Views Record” by Todd Spangler says that 289 million people saw the trailer for Avengers: Endgame in the first 24 hours after it was released, which is a record, and 599,000 people tweeted about it, another record.

(5) CLASS HIGHLIGHTS. Cat Rambo shares tweets about Seanan McGuire’s class:

(6) THE DEFORESTATION OF MIDDLE-EARTH. From 2003, but maybe it’s news to you, too! McSweeny’s magazine imagines a DVD commentary for Lord Of The Rings as done by leftist academics Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky: “Unused Audio Commentary By Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, Recorded Summer 2002 For The Fellowship Of The Ring (Platinum Series Extended Edition) DVD, Part One”.

CHOMSKY: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. “The world has changed,” she tells us, “I can feel it in the water.” She’s actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

ZINN: Of course. “The world has changed.” I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn’t changed. Not at all.

CHOMSKY: We should examine carefully what’s being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the “master ring,” the so-called “one ring to rule them all,” is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor.

ZINN: I think that’s correct. Tolkien makes no attempt to hide the fact that rings are wielded by every other ethnic enclave in Middle Earth. The Dwarves have seven rings, the Elves have three. The race of Man has nine rings, for God’s sake. There are at least 19 rings floating around out there in Middle Earth, and yet Sauron’s ring is supposedly so terrible that no one can be allowed to wield it. Why?

(7) LOOKING FOR AVRAM DAVDISON LETTERS. Danny Sichel encouraged me to give this Locus Online item a signal boost: “Davidson Letters Sought”.

Editor Henry Wes­sels invites “any persons holding correspondence from Avram Davidson to send legible photocopies or scans of interesting or notable letters” to his at­tention, for a volume of Davidson’s selected letters to be published next year by The Nutmeg Point District Mail for the Avram Davidson Society. Material may be sent to Henry Wessells, PO Box 43072,Upper Montclair NJ 07043; <wessells@aol.com>

(8) WILLIS AND SNODGRASS INTERVIEW. Lorene Mills’ next Report From Santa Fe features award-winning authors Connie Willis and Melinda Snodgrass.

Connie Willis has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and awarded the title of Grand Master by the Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America. Her work has won eleven Hugos and seven Nebula awards.

Melinda Snodgrass is an award-winning screenwriter (she wrote Star Trek Next Gen’s popular episode “The Measure of a Man” among others) and author of the popular “Edge” Series, the “Imperials Saga,” and creator/editor (with George RR Martin) of the”Wild Cards” anthologies.

The show will air on various local stations in New Mexico between December 15-17, 2018. See the site for exact times.

(9) STRANGER THINGS. This is called a “title tease” – I’m guessing they’re the titles of Season 3 episodes.

In the summer of 1985, the adventure continues.

(10) BAVE OBIT. [Item by Steve Green.] Terry Bave (1931-2018): British comics artist, died December 6. Freelanced for Odhams, IPC and DC Thomson, on such fantasy strips as Sammy Shrink, Jimmy Jeckle and Master Hyde, Me and My Shadow; many of these were written by his wife Shiela*.  He retired in 2007, publishing his autobiography Cartoons and Comic Strips six years later.

*That is the correct spelling, I understand.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 10, 1815Ada Lovelace. English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine and S.M. Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers. (Died 1852.)
  • Born December 10, 1824George MacDonald. Scottish author I think best known for Phantastes:A Faerie Romance for Men and Women and The Princess and The Goblin. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors including C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien,G. K. Chesterton and Madeleine L’Engle to name but a few who mention him. The Waterboys titled their Room to Roam album after a passage in Phantastes. (Died 1905.)
  • Born December 10, 1903Mary Norton. Author of The Borrowers which won the 1952 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognizing the novel as the year’s outstanding children’s book by a British author. She would continue to write these novels for three decades with Hallmark turning it into a film in the early seventies. Her novels The Magic Bed Knob; or, How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks would be adapted into the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks in the same period. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 10, 1907Graves Gladney. An illustrator known for his cover paintings for Street & Smith pulp magazines, especially The Shadow. He produced all the covers from April 1939 to the end of 1941.
  • It’s worth noting that when he replaced The Shadow‘s cover artist George Rozen who did a more fantastical approach to the covers, Gladney depicted an actual scene that Walter Gibson had written in a story inside. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 10, 1957Michael Clarke Duncan. Certainly best known as John Coffey in Stephen King’s The Green Mile film nearly twenty years ago. He also had roles in Planet of the Apes, Sin City, voice work in The Land Before Time XI: Invasion of the TinysaurusesGeorge and the Dragon and The Scorpion King. He played Kingpin in the Ben Affleck-led version of Daredevil. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 10, 1960 Kenneth Branagh, 58. Oh Branagh, I feel obligated to start with your worst film, Wild Wild West, which, well, had you no shame? Fortunately there’s much better genre work from you as an actor including as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a Director, I’m only seeing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thor — Anyone know of anything else genre related?

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close To Home predicts a near-future name change for a planet in our Solar System.

(13) GHOST WITH THE MOST. The New York Times’ rundown of the latest Saturday Night Live includes this segment: “‘Game of Thrones’ Parody of the Week”.

If you’ve been hard up for “Game of Thrones” content since the most recent season ended in 2017, you could do worse than “Khal Drogo’s Ghost Dojo,” a public access TV show where “we talk with some of the hundreds of characters from ‘Game of Thrones’ who have been killed off the show,” as Thompson, a co-host, explained.

The sketch was mostly an excuse to let this week’s guest host,  Jason Momoa, reprise his “Game of Thrones” role as the warrior Khal Drogo and to let cast members impersonate “Thrones” characters. It also included an exchange between Momoa and Heidi Gardner, playing Brienne of Tarth, that referenced the recent troubles of Kevin Hart, who withdrew as host of the Academy Awards after refusing to apologize for anti-gay jokes.

In his Dothraki language (translated by subtitles), Momoa said of Gardner, “If this man wants to fight, I’ll give him what he wants.”

Gardner replied incredulously: “Man? Wow, you have a lot to learn about identity politics.”

“You’re right,” a chastened Momoa said in broken English. “Khal need to learn from Khal’s mistakes or Khal never win Oscar. Never host Oscar.”

Taking in the scene, Thompson said, “Wow, what a teachable moment.”

(14) GOT THAT RIGHT. If only I hadn’t thrown away my mimeograph years ago! Oh, noes!

(15) NO SURPRISE. The film did everything he predicted. Camestros Felapton loved it anyway: “Review: Bohemian Rhapsody”.

…The trick is the cliches don’t matter in most respects. Queen were a band that was always a bit corny but just kept pushing through that and unironically owning the grandiosity of their songs, arrangements and Freddie Mercury’s presence.

So the film makes them the greatest rock band ever who pushed more boundaries and crossed more genres and styles and broke more conventions of pop music. Which is nonsense but with the grain of truth that they were a band that are hard to classify. Flamboyant camp nerdry which required a braggadocio approach….

(16) CREEPY OR FUNNY? You decide! The Hollywood Reporter introduces the video —  “Andy Serkis Revives Gollum to Mock U.K.’s Brexit Negotiations”.

“Oh precious, our agreement, this is it, our deal, yessss, yesss,” hisses the actor while dressed up as British leader Theresa May.

Gollum has a Brexit plan, kind of. 

The U.K.’s ongoing and increasingly fraught attempts to negotiate its departure from the European Union were given some much-needed comic relief over the weekend thanks to some expert trolling by Andy Serkis. 

(17) SPIDER-VERSE. This clip introduces Spider-Gwen.

Hailee Steinfeld is Spider-Gwen. She’s from another, another dimension.

Miles and Peter swing out of danger in this clip:

(18) REALLY OLD SILICA MEMORIES. In “The key to cracking long-dead languages?” it’s explained how digitizing, computerized decryption and summarizing could speed access to the text in ancient tablets.

They chronicle the rise of fall of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia, the world’s first empires. An estimated half a million of them have been excavated, and more are still buried in the ground.

However, since cuneiform was first deciphered by scholars around 150 years ago, the script has only yielded its secrets to a small group of people who can read it. Some 90% of cuneiform texts remain untranslated.

That could change thanks to a very modern helper: machine translation.

(19) WAVE BYE-BYE. BBC takes note as “Nasa’s Voyager 2 probe ‘leaves the Solar System'”.

The Voyager 2 probe, which left Earth in 1977, has become the second human-made object to leave our Solar System.

It was launched 16 days before its twin craft, Voyager 1, but that probe’s faster trajectory meant that it was in “the space between the stars” six years before Voyager 2.

The news was revealed at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Washington.

And chief scientist on the mission, Prof Edward Stone, confirmed it.

He said both probes had now “made it into interstellar space” and that Voyager 2’s date of departure from the Solar System was 5 November 2018.

On that date, the steady stream of particles emitted from the Sun that were being detected by the probe suddenly dipped. This indicated that it had crossed the “heliopause” – the term for the outer edge of the Sun’s protective bubble of particles and magnetic field.

(20) BENEATH THE SURFACE. In a hole in the ground there lived – a hell of a lot of stuff! “Amount of deep life on Earth quantified”.

Scientists have estimated the total amount of life on Earth that exists below ground – and it is vast.

You would need a microscope to see this subterranean biosphere, however.

It is made up mostly of microbes, such as bacteria and their evolutionary cousins, the archaea.

Nonetheless, it represents a lot of carbon – about 15 to 23 billion tonnes of it. That is hundreds of times more carbon than is woven into all the humans on the planet.

“Something like 70% of the total number of microbes on Earth are below our feet,” said Karen Lloyd from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, US.

“So, this changes our perception of where we find life on Earth, from mostly on the surface in things like trees and whales and dolphins, to most of it actually being underground,” she told BBC News.

(21) SHE’S POSSIBLE. The live-action Kim Possible movie premieres in the U.S. on February 15, 2019.

Everyday teen hero Kim Possible (Sadie Stanley) and her best friend Ron Stoppable (Sean Giambrone) embark on their freshman year of high school, all while saving the world from evil villains. While Kim and Ron have always been one step ahead of their opponents, navigating the social hierarchy of high school is more challenging than the action-heroes ever imagined. With Drakken (Todd Stashwick) and Shego (Taylor Ortega) lurking in the wings, Kim must rely on her family and friends on Team Possible—Ron, tech-genius Wade (Issac Ryan Brown), new friend Athena (Ciara Wilson), and Rufus, a Naked mole-rat—to stop these super villains!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, Olav Rokne, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Eric James Stone, Steve Green, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

SFWA Engages Complaints About Writers of the Future Contest, Delists Anthology as Qualifying Market

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which delisted the Writers of the Future anthology as a qualifying market in August, today publicly stated they are also addressing WotF contest finalists’ complaints and concerns — “SFWA Statement on Complaints/Concerns Regarding the Writers of the Future Contest”:

The Board of Directors of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have unanimously decided to formally and publicly acknowledge the multiple complaints and expressions of concern made both publicly and privately in recent months by former Writers of the Future finalists who state that they have had negative experiences during or after the event.

As a result, SFWA has formally contacted the WotF administrators, in hopes of launching a private dialogue between our organizations, and ensuring that these concerns are meaningfully addressed. In this effort, SFWA’s goal is to protect the rights of creators, thus strengthening all of science fiction and fantasy publishing, now and in the future. SFWA advises all writers to research carefully before participating in any literary contest.

For more information on contests, please visit SFWA’s Writer Beware page located here: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/contests/.

The status of the Writers of the Future anthology as a SFWA Qualifying Market changed, with little fanfare, in August when the organization voted to strike contest publications as a whole from the list:

Paid Sales.

3. By unanimous vote of the Board of Directors meeting in San Jose, California, on August 16, 2018, contest publications no longer qualify toward SFWA membership*, effective August 16, 2018. Current members in good standing who qualified via contest publications are unaffected by this change.

The Writers of the Future anthology is now included among the “Delisted or Non-Qualifying Markets” on the SFWA website’s Membership Requirements page. (The update reflecting the change was only made very recently. An Internet Archive screencap from December 2 shows the WotF Anthology was still on the list of qualifying markets.)

A general statement about contests has now been added to SFWA’s Membership Requirements page:

*Contests: Hundreds of literary contests, across a vast range of sponsoring organizations, offer paid publication as a prize for selected entrants. Determining whether each of these prizes, each year, meets SFWA’s standard of professional pay rates imposes a burden on SFWA’s employees and volunteers, beginning with its Membership Committee. Moreover, this burden is in the service of publications that never were envisioned by SFWA’s founders as professional qualifications. Like scholarships, fellowships, grants and guest-of-honor laurels, literary prizes are welcome at all stages of writers’ careers, and always to be encouraged, but they do not constitute publishing success in the professional marketplace, the arena which historically has been, and must remain, SFWA’s focus.

Pixel Scroll 11/8/18 Octokittens

(1) DUMBLEDORE. Another Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald  featurette, “Distinctly Dumbledore,” released this week. The movie arrives in theaters November 16.

At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

 

(2) WHAT’S UP, WHITE WOLF? Joseph D. Carriker identifies a big problem with the next Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition in a public post on Facebook.

So, filing this under “Second Verse Same As The First”: the excerpt below is from the upcoming Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition.

In it, it describes a vampire-dominated Chechnya. Even setting aside the gross implications of that design decision – and there are plenty of them – it also turns the internment of queer people into literal death camps into what amounts to a distraction.

This text literally refers to the “controversy” (which is such a weighted word in this context, quite frankly, carrying with it connotations of mountains being made of mole-hills) over queer internment and murder as “clever media manipulation.” This text literally turns the ending of queer lives into a throw-away feint that hides vampires. Which is a monstrous reframing of that real-world thing STILL GOING ON.

This is egregiously vile. It’s not okay. Our lives are constantly being *ended* for straight peoples’ prejudices in real life, but also in fiction and media for straight peoples’ fucking entertainment, and all of this is just “second verse same as the first.”

…This is not a good fucking look, White Wolf. Not in the least.

(3) PRO TIP. How to avoid crossouts while autographing books:

(4) ABEBOOKS BACKS DOWN. An Amazon subsidiary has yielded to an international protest by booksellers and abandoned its plans to stop allowing rare and used booksellers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and South Korea to sell books on AbeBooks. The New York Times article “After Protest, Booksellers Are Victorious Against Amazon Subsidiary” says the “Banned Booksellers Week” protest involved nearly 600 booksellers around the world who stopped selling nearly 3.8 million titles via AbeBooks.

A worldwide strike by antiquarian booksellers against an Amazon subsidiary proved successful after two days, with the retailer apologizing and saying it would cancel the actions that prompted the protest.

It was a rare concerted uprising against any part of Amazon by any of its millions of suppliers, leading to an even rarer capitulation. Even the book dealers said they were surprised at the sudden reversal by AbeBooks, the company’s secondhand and rare bookselling network.

The uprising, which involved nearly 600 booksellers in 27 countries removing about four million books, was set off by the retailer’s decision to cut off stores in five countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. AbeBooks never explained its actions beyond saying it was related to payment processing.

“AbeBooks was saying entire countries were expendable to its plans,” said Scott Brown, a Eureka, Calif., bookseller who was an organizer of the strike. “Booksellers everywhere felt they might be next.”

… “I don’t think anything like this has ever happened before with any part of Amazon,” said Juozas Kaziukenas, chief executive of Marketplace Pulse, an e-commerce analytics firm. “It would be much harder to have a strike on Amazon itself, just because there are so many sellers there and they are not part of an organized community.”

(5) KATHERINE KURTZ JOINS WOTF PANEL. Broadway World reports “Internationally Acclaimed Author, Katherine Kurtz, Named as Judge for Writers of the Future”.

Historical fantasy author of the Deryni series, Katherine Kurtz, is the newest judge to join the ranks of the internationally-acclaimed L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, now in its 35th year.

Kurtz is now amongst a blue-ribbon panel of 23 judges, including Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Nnedi Okorafor, Tim Powers, Jody Lynn Nye, and Robert Silverberg….

(6) REMEMBER THE CRATONS. Fragments of ancient continents, known as cratons, have been isolated as parts of Antarctica using data from a European satellite (Newsweek: “Lost Continents Hidden Deep Beneath Antarctica Ice Sheet Discovered From Space”). Cratons—both in Antarctica and as parts of other continents—comprise the oldest surviving parts of Earth’s lithosphere. The satellite data was from a mission that ended in 2013.

Scientists have discovered the remnants of ancient lost continents hidden deep beneath Antarctica’s ice. Using the European Space Agency’s gravity mapping satellite, researchers were able to peer beneath the ice to map out the terrain below.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, reveal a long-lost landscape littered with cratons—large, stable blocks of the Earth’s crust that are remnants of ancient continents. They are part of the lithosphere—which consists of the crust and upper mantle—and are generally found in the center of modern continental plates. Studying these features allow researchers to understand the history of the Earth—and its future.
The ESA’s Gravity Field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite was launched in 2009 to measure the pull of Earth’s gravity. However, during its last year of operation, it was flown at an altitude of just 158 miles—meaning it could take extremely accurate measurements of localized gravity gradients. Using this data, the team was able to build up a patchwork 3D image of the lithosphere beneath Antarctica—including the cratons.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 8, 1847 – Abraham “Bram” Stoker. You know that he’s author of Dracula, but did you know he wrote other fiction such as The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm? The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker. (Died 1912.)
  • Born November 8, 1906 – Matt Fox. I’m here to praise an illustrator of one of those magazines that published the stories of such writers as Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman and Ray Bradbury. The covers by Fox were of course intended to lure you to magazine rack, pick up the magazine and purchase it. Such was what he did for Weird Tales from 1943 to 1951. After that, during the fifties and sixties he worked for Atlas Comics, inking and penciling Journey into Mystery, World of Fantasy, Tales of Suspense and Journey into Unknown Worlds. It is thought that his last known published work is an advertisement, printed in 1967, for original mail-order glow-in-the-dark posters. (Died 1988.)
  • Born November 8, 1932 – Ben Bova. He’s written more than 120 books. While at Analog, he won six Hugo awards as Best Professional Editor, and he was once editorial director at Omni. Hell, he even had the thankless job of SFWA President. (Just kidding. I think.) I couldn’t hope to summarize his literary history, so I’ll single out his Grand Tour series that, though uneven, is overall splendid hard sf, as well as his Best of Bova short story collections put out recently in three volumes. Like R.A. Lafferty, I know each of you has favorites by him.
  • Born November 8, 1952 – Alfre Woodard. Her most memorable genre role is as Lily Sloane in Star Trek: First Contact in which she assisted Zefram Cochrane in building the Phoenix. Other genre roles are Captain America: Civil War,  A Series of Unfortunate EventsLuke Cage, The Last Ship, True Blood, The animated Black Panther, and  K-PAX.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TEXAS LEGISLATOR OF GENRE INTEREST. Here’s an election news item you may have missed — Luke Plunkett, in Dragon Ball Z Composer Elected To Texas State Senate” on Kotaku says that Nathan Johnson, a lawyer who has composed a lot of Dragon Ball Z music, was elected to the Texas state senate from the 16th district as a Democrat.

Johnson, a Democrat, won 54% of the vote to beat out the incumbent, Republican Don Huffines. It’s not like he just suddenly jumped into office from composing—he’s a lawyer by trade…

(10) WELCOME HOME. Been a long time since I was overseas, however, I remember the importance of gifts that are easy to pack…

(11) A SPLIT-LEVEL HEAD. James Davis Nicoll, who barely has room enough for his own thoughts, tells why he’s horrified by the idea – “Get Out of My Head: SFF Stories About Sharing Brain-Space With Somebody Else” at Tor.com.

I have a modest dream. I hope one day to live in an isolated skull-shaped mountain guarded by carnivorous birds. My lair would be surrounded by a fearsome fence, adorned with the heads of uninvited guests. I like my privacy. It should not surprise anyone, then, that I would emphatically NOT like to have a second person sharing my head.

Mental timeshares are a rich source of plot for science fiction and fantasy authors. I was reminded of this trope when I was reading, or re-reading, a few novellas in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric series.

(12) STAND ASIDE, CHAUVET. “Indonesian Cave Hold Oldest Figurative Painting Ever Found, Scientists Say” — new uranium-thorium dating tech shows paintings are 40,000 years old, vs Chauvet’s 32,000 and Lascaux’s mere 17,000.

It depicts … a cow. Despite the humble subject matter, the painting is extraordinary because it’s at least 40,000 years old. That makes it thousands of years older than the oldest such paintings in Europe.

The Indonesia painting is one of thousands of drawings and stencils in a warren of limestone caves tucked into remote mountains at the far eastern edge of the island of Borneo, a part of Indonesia called Kalimantan. Archaeologists went there in the 1990s looking for cave art.

The BBC reports uncertainty from some reviewers:

The prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux and Chauvet in France, and Altamira in Spain, are similarly magnificent. They contain images of a veritable prehistoric menagerie, including cave lions, hyenas, horses, deer, rhinos and bison.

But a paper published earlier this year in the journal Science pushed the dates for cave art in Europe back to as much as 65,000 years. These paintings pre-date the known arrival of modern humans in Europe, leading to the study’s suggestion that they might have been made by Neanderthals.

One of the authors of that paper in Science was Prof Alistair Pike, an archaeologist from the University of Southampton. Prof Pike – who was not involved with the new research – welcomed the findings, but expressed reservations about the date for the oldest figurative painting.

(13) NEW FOSSIL SITE. NPR is there to see the bones — “Scientists Unveil Ancient Sea Monsters Found In Angola”.

When the South Atlantic Ocean was young, sea monsters ruled it.

Some of their bones have turned up along the coast of West Africa and are going on exhibit Friday at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. They tell a story of the bloody birth of an ocean.

The fossils of giant swimming reptiles called mosasaurs have been found in the rocky cliffs of Angola, overlooking the Atlantic. It’s not a country known for fossils. Few scientists have looked there — half a century of civil war made it too dangerous. But geologically, Angola is special.

(14) DOWNSIZING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Verge talks  bout how “SpaceX’s helipad-equipped boat will bring astronauts safely home”. I mean, Apollo used a frikin’ aircraft carrier plus many other ships for recovery. Now SpaceX will use the GO Searcher, which looks more like the captain’s gig for an aircraft carrier—though it does have a brand new helipad grafted above the main deck.

Go Searcher is part of a fleet of ocean vessels that SpaceX has acquired over the years to aid in its spaceflight efforts. The most famous of these are SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships, which are used as landing pads when the company’s Falcon 9 rockets are recovered in the ocean after launches. Go Searcher used to accompany these drone ships when they were tugged back to shore as a support vessel. But at the end of summer, SpaceX gave Go Searcher a suite of upgrades — including the addition of a helipad and a radar dome — to make sure the boat can swiftly recover Dragon capsules that carry astronauts back to Earth.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX has been developing the Crew Dragon capsule to take astronauts to the ISS. And the company is also responsible for getting these crews safely back to Earth. When astronauts need to return home, the plan is for the Crew Dragon to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. During an ideal mission, Go Searcher will lift the Crew Dragon out of the water with a crane, attached to the end of the boat, according to NASA. The capsule will then be hauled onto the deck of Go Searcher, and the astronauts will be evaluated by doctors from SpaceX and NASA.

(15) BOOK TRAILER. Does A Town Divided by Christmas mark the beginning of a “War on Christmas” series by Orson Scott Card?

It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town’s Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be some things that people just don’t need to know.

 

(16) REACH OUT AND TOUCH E.T. One grad student – completely disregarding warnings by everyone from Stephen Hawking to Cixin Liu — would like to use a laser beam to send a “Here We Are” signal to aliens (Popular Mechanics: “Firing a Giant Laser Into Space Could Help Find Aliens, MIT Scientist Says”). There’s no word if the laser would be attached to a shark.

If scientists wanted aliens to find Earth, how would they arrange such an encounter? A new paper from MIT suggests that a giant laser, magnified by a giant telescope and aimed out into space, could do the trick.

In what author James Clark calls a “feasibility study,” he proposes that a high-powered 1-to 2-megawatt laser be focused directly into space. While the Earth has been sending signals like radio waves into space for over a century, like those famously seen in the opening of Contact, it’s possible that solar entities like the sun and exoplanets beyond the solar system have been interfering with signals, making it harder for potential aliens to touch base.

The goal of the laser-telescope rig is the creation of an energy beam, meant to stand out amid all of the excess noise in the solar system. Its target would be areas like Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, and TRAPPIST-1, a star around 40 light-years away with seven exoplanets in orbit. Scientists say 3 of those exoplanets are potentially habitable.

“If we were to successfully close a handshake and start to communicate, we could flash a message, at a data rate of about a few hundred bits per second, which would get there in just a few years,” says Clark, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in a press statement.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The 3-Second Dumpling” on YouTube explains how you can cook dumplings in three seconds if you happen to have a cannon and a flamethrower! (I may have linked to this one before – but let’s do it again!)

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

Pixel Scroll 9/1/18 Knives, Pixels, Files, Scrolls Of Energy Raved Against The Screens Of The Dentless

(1) SPIDER STORY. Worldcon 76 GoH Spider Robinson’s hometown paper profiled him before the convention: see “Spider Robinson’s star shines in Worldcon’s sci-fi universe” in the Bowne Island Undercurrent.

In the waning charge cycles of a 12-year-old MacBook Pro, Spider Robinson is typing out his autobiography.

“I’m writing the serious, logical case that I’m the luckiest [person] who’s ever lived,” he said.

“My luck ran out, but all luck does.”

It’s extraordinary that a man who lost both his wife and daughter prematurely can still count himself as lucky.

But Robinson concentrates on the joy that his family and career brought to his life.

The well-known science fiction writer, winner of three Hugo awards and a Nebula award, has lived on Bowen Island since 2001.

This week, Robinson is one of the guests of honour at Worldcon, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention, this year held in San Jose.

(2) CANON FIRE. Foz Meadows’ “Trash and Treasure” column for The Book Smugglers does a recap on Worldcon 76, including thoughts inspired by the Author vs Fan Ownership panel there wasn’t enough time to unpack:

 …Afterwards, multiple audience members asked for my thoughts about the recent trend in claims by some fandom extremists that fans literally own the stories they love, whatever those stories might be, just by straight-up virtue of passion.

To give an example of two of the more toxic examples of this sense of fannish entitlement, taken from both ends of the fan-political spectrum, consider both the MRA Star Wars fans who tried to crowdsource funding for a new, lady-free version of The Last Jedi, and the lone Voltron: Legendary Defender fan who tried to blackmail Studio Mir into making their gay ship canon. In both cases, there’s a belief that wanting a personal, idealised, specific version of the narrative to exist in canon should not only trump the plans of the creators, but effectively constitute a shouted BECAUSE REASONS! override of their actual, legal ownership….

(3) MAINTAINING TWEET SILENCE. Is Wil Wheaton coming back to Twitter? Eh, no. He turned it off one day in August, for reasons he explains in “The world is a terrible place right now, and that’s largely because it is what we make it.” Then he thought he found another social media home, but the administrators wearied of the flood of complaints (see post for explanation) and he left there too.

As most of you know, I deactivated my Twitter account earlier this month. It had been a long time coming, for a whole host of reasons, but Twitter’s decision to be the only social network that gives Alex Jones a platform to spew hate, hurt innocent people, and incite violence was the final straw for me. But I haven’t regretted leaving for even one second. Having that endless stream of hate and anger and negativity in my pocket wasn’t good for me (and I don’t think it’s good for anyone, to be honest).

I was on Twitter from just about the very beginning. I think I’m in the first couple thousand accounts. I remember when it was a smallish group of people who wanted to have fun, make jokes, share information and tips on stuff that was interesting, and oh so many pictures of our pets. It was awesome.

It started to get toxic slowly at first, then all at once, starting with the misogynist dipshits who were behing the gate-which-shall-not-be-named. That was clearly a turning point for Twitter, and it never really recovered from it. I watched, in real time, as the site I loved turned into a right wing talk radio shouting match that made YouTube comments and CSPAN call-ins seem scholarly. We tried for a couple of years to fight back, to encourage Twitter to take a stand against bad actors (HA HA LIKE ME BECAUSE I AM A BAD ACTOR RIGHT YOU GOT ME HA HA HA). Twitter doesn’t care about how its users are affected by themselves, though. Twitter cares about growth and staying on the good side of President Shitler’s tantrums….

(4) LIGHT IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT. An event called KekCon set out to publicize itself at Dragon Con and drew criticism on social media. Lura Groen’s thread starts here.

Groen, who received at least one threat after tweeting her thread, reports the KekCon reps left Dragon Con.

(5) PRESCRIPTION FOR ENTERTAINMENT. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie thinks Filers may enjoy The Third Pill, which BBC Radio 4 has just put on iPlayer.

The Third Pill by James O’Neill

Greg works in children’s publishing but feels middle aged and out of touch. Then something pops up on his computer that will transform his life. A comedy about finding that elusive elixir of youth.

Surely it is a scam, or is it?  And if it works, what are the consequences….

(6) A STROLL DOWN MEMORY ROAD. “A graphic tale: the visual effects of Mad Max: Fury Road” is a nuts-and-bolts of how many of the shots were built over bits of reality. From 2015 – but may be news to you!

But the intense Namibian shoot, and further filming in Sydney, was only half the story in the creation of Fury Road’s insane stunt action and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Hundreds of visual effects artists, led by overall visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson, would spend considerable time crafting more than 2000 visual effects shots and helping to transform the exquisite photography into the final film that at times feels almost like a single car chase. Even more plate manipulation would also be carried out by colorist Eric Whipp, weaving in a distinctive graphic style for the film with detailed sky replacements and unique day for nights.

(7) A STACK OF REVIEWS, AND A STACK OF WAX. Links to the reviews below at Patti Abbott’s blog: “Friday’s Forgotten Books, August 31, 2018”.

  • Mark Baker. LOST LEGACY, Annette Dashofy
  • Yvette Banek, MURDER MAKES MISTAKES, George Bellairs
  • Les Blatt, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW, Elizabeth Daily
  • Bill Crider, EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP, David Markson
  • Kate Jackson at CrossExaminingCrime, TILL DEATH DO US PART, John Dickson Carr
  • Martin Edwards, THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, Minette Marrin
  • Curtis Evans, THE MAN WITH TWO WIVES, “Patrick Quentin”
  • Rich Horton, THE FOUR FEATHERS, A. E. W. Mason
  • Jerry House, ELECTION DAY 2084, ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • George Kelley, THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES AND NOVELS, 9th SERIES, T.E. Dikty and Earl Kemp
  • Margot Kinberg, FACES OF THE GONE, Brad Parks
  • Rob Kitchin, THE SHINING GIRLS, Lauren Beukes
  • Kate Laity, SWITZERLAND, Joanna Murray-Smith
  • Evan Lewis, WATERFRONT FISTS, Robert E. Howard
  • Steve Lewis, SEEING IS BELIEVING, Carter Dickson
  • Todd Mason, 1960s audio recordings: THE ZOO STORY, Edward Albee; NO EXIT, Jean-Paul Sartre (translated by Paul Bowles); LUV, Murray Schisgal; JUST SO STORIES, Rudyard Kipling
  • Matt Paust, LAST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, Colin Dexter
  • James Reasoner, THE WATER BEND FEUD, William MacLeod Raine
  • Richard Robinson, A FALL OF MOONDUST, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Kevin Tipple, BAD LITTLE FALLS, Paul Doiron
  • Tomcat, FLASHPOINT, John Russell Fearn
  • TracyK, DARK PASSAGE, David Goodis

Links to online archives of some of the recordings under discussion at Todd Mason’s post: “THE ZOO STORY, Edward Albee; NO EXIT, Jean-Paul Sartre (translated by Paul Bowles); LUV, Murray Schisgal; JUST SO STORIES, Rudyard Kipling”

(8) EC COMICS REMEMBERED. The Society of Illustrators in New York City will exhibit “Tales from the Crypt: The Revolutionary Art of MAD and EC Comics” from September 5 to October 27, 2018.

For the first time in NYC, an exhibition of the EC comic book art that struck fear in the hearts of arbiters of good taste will see the light of day. Featured are more than 70 large original comic book art pages by comic art masters. On display September 5 through October 27 in the Hall of Fame Gallery….

A big business in the fifties, as many as 100 million comic books were sold monthly. Although the superhero and funny animal titles were popular in the forties the appetite had turned to subjects that reflected current trends and interests.

Perhaps the most prominent comic book publisher at the time was Entertaining Comics (EC), led by William M. Gaines. An aspiring high school teacher, Gaines found himself the 25 year old head of a struggling publishing company when his father died in a boating accident. Gaines knew little about the industry but hired young, creative editor/artists Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman to test new formats and launched a broad slate of revolutionary titles covering science fiction, horror, crime, war, suspense and humor.

The EC team would later be called among the most talented assembly of comic book artists and writers the industry had ever seen. While quickly copied because of their unprecedented success, EC stories were markedly different from the competition. They were expertly illustrated, written for an intelligent audience and offered an unexpected twist ending. Critics would point to the violence depicted in the crime and horror titles or the mature nature of the story subjects. Gaines had assumed an intelligent audience comprised of young adults and older readers and not children who would otherwise find little meaning in the work.

Titles presented in the exhibit include Aces HighCrime Suspenstories, Crypt of Terror, Extra!, Haunt of Fear, Frontline Combat, Impact, Piracy, MAD, Two-Fisted Tales, Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, Weird Fantasy, Weird Science, Weird Science Fantasy, MAD 3-D art and more. Artists featured include Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, Will Elder, George Evans, Al Feldstein, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels, B. Krigstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Orlando, John Severin, Marie Severin, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson and Wally Wood.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 1, 1902A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) is directed by Georges Méliès is released.
  • September 1, 1954Tobor the Great premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1885 – Edgar Rice Burroughs. Pulp writer (and no I’m not being disparaging with my use of that term) of many series of which I’ll single out the BarsoomPellucidar, Tarzan and Venus series.  Both Rudyard Kipling and Ray Bradbury considered him to be an influential and entertaining writer. Edgar Hamilton in an interview said once that “We sort of grew up on Edgar Rice Burroughs.”
  • Born September 1 — Diana Pleasance Case Gillon, 103. Only one novel, The Unsleep, but noted here for one hundred and three years old! Or at least that’s what three sources think.
  • Born September 1 – C.J. Cherryh, 76. Author of several major series set in different settings including the Alliance-Union universe, the Foreigner universe, the Russian stories, Heroes in Hell, the Fortress universe and Ealdwood. I think my favorites are the Russian stories, particularly Rusalka which was a Locus Fantasy Award nominee. Downbelow Station and Cyteen both won Hugo Awards as did her short story titled “Cassandra.”
  • Born September 1 – Timothy Zahn, 66. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything by him on and only know of him by his work in the Star Wars Universe. His other work appears largely to be milsf and largely on Baen Books.
  • Born September 1 – Brad Linaweaver. His Moon of Ice novella was a Nebula Award finalist and the novel length version won a Prometheus Award

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest decide it’s better to go with their second favorite name for a new invention.

(12) A COOKIE WITH MORE BITE TO IT. Oreo has introduced two new cookie flavors — wasabi and hot chicken wing. For now, they are only available in China.

(13) A LITTLE LIST. Kendall has read the comments here before and introduced this as “Another list for people to slam!”

Unbound Worlds, who posted a ‘100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time’ list a while back, now has a 100 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time list. As before, they’re clear they just asked staffers for top sci-fi recs…

Hey, there are a bunch of books on this list I like, and if I’ve read 41 of them, your count probably will be even higher.

(14) IT’S NOT EPIC BUT IT IS FANTASY. Camestros Felapton reviews Matt Groening’s new series for Netflix, Disenchantment.

A new series from Matt Groening of Simpsons and Futurama fame was bound to generate some excitement. Using an epic fantasy/fairytale faux-medieval setting sounds like a fun premise for the kind of genre subverting humour that worked for Futurama. I’m up to the last two episodes and well, it isn’t great. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t great.

There are two issues:

  • Quite a lot of Futurama wasn’t that great either but your brain edits in the best bits.
  • Disenchantment leans too much on standard jokes and tropes used in its predecessors, making the show feel less fresh and novel.

It gets better, mainly because the characters start working on you and sometimes because of basic plot development.

(15) DOCTORDONNA IS IN. Sometimes the unexpected happens at Dragon Con. Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia Stacey Abrams encountered actress Catherine Tate.

(16) SIDEBAR. Cat Rambo found comic relief at the SFWA business meeting during Dragon Con.

(17) RUGRATS. Airboy notes, “There was a ‘weird news’ story on the front page of August 31’s Wall Street Journal on the odd carpet design of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Atlanta that is one of the DragonCon Hotels.  It had an odd carpet that was eventually removed due to age.  Some fans obsessed over it creating dresses, camo outfits, and eventually a group of them marched together in the annual DragonCon parade in downtown Atlanta.”

The article is online behind a paywall at the Wall Street Journal, “‘We’re Spending Our Hard-Earned Money to Dress Up Like Carpet.’ The Tight-Knit World of Rug Fans”.

These are the people who are obsessed with carpet and rug patterns in hotels, airports and office buildings; Dragon Con at the Marriott

Here’s a lot more material (free!) at the Dragon Con Eternal Members site: “Marriott Carpet Pattern”, including the famous photo of two prone cosplayers whose camo military uniforms blend almost perfectly with the rug.

(18) IN CASE YOU’RE CURIOUS. I’d never seen a photo of Dragon Con CEO Pat Henry before (not that they aren’t available). Writers of the Future’s John Goodwin posted a photo of them together.

He also posted a photo of the Writers of the Future panel with Contest judges Kevin J. Anderson, Robert J. Sawyer, Mike Resnick and Jody Lynn Nye.

(19) MORE CON HEALTH ADVICE. In advance of this weekend’s PAX West convention, the Seattle’s Public Health Insider warned con crud is a thing: “Gaming, Cosplay, and Con Crud, Oh My!”

PAX West opens on Friday and will bring tens of thousands of people to downtown Seattle. Be prepared for legions of cosplayers and badge wearers in downtown, even if you aren’t attending.

So… what is “con crud”?

“Con crud” is an artificial term that refers to the common cold, mild flu, or other non-threatening illness that may strike towards the end of a convention, or soon after leaving. You might have also heard it called PAX pox, festival plague, or even nerd flu.

The balance of the post advises ways to avoid getting it. [Via Ron Oakes.]

(20) AIR APPARENT. Fixing a flat: “Astronauts tackle air leak on International Space Station”.

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are having to deal with an air leak from a possible collision.

It has been traced to a small hole in a capsule that was used to deliver a new crew to the laboratory 400km (250 miles) above the Earth in June.

It is thought the damage was caused by the impact of a high-speed rocky fragment flying through space.

(21) BACK ON THE RAILS. BBC tells “How the Hogwarts Express was saved from a Welsh scrapyard”.

Emerging from the clouds of steam engulfing platform nine and three-quarters, the gleaming Hogwarts Express commands a special place in the hearts of Harry Potter fans.

Yet there was a time when the only place this engine could call home, was a south Wales scrapyard where it lay rotting among the hulks of a bygone era.

That is because the locomotive that entranced millions of Potter viewers and now sits proudly in Warner Brothers Studios, was once earmarked to be dismantled for the furnace.

Written off, abandoned and forgotten for 17 years, this lowly engine’s final destiny was originally far from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

(22) MORE THAN JUST ONLINE. “Telepresence: ‘My robot makes me feel like I haven’t been forgotten'”. – about helping shut-ins keep up with school.

Internet-connected robots that can stream audio and video are increasingly helping housebound sick children and elderly people keep in touch with teachers, family and friends, combating the scourge of isolation and loneliness.

Zoe Johnson, 16, hasn’t been to school since she was 12.

She went to the doctor in 2014 “with a bit of a sore throat”, and “somehow that became A&E [accident and emergency],” says her mother, Rachel Johnson.

(23) CASTING CONTROVERSIES. ScreenRant analyzes “10 Superhero Castings That Caused Fan Backlash.”

(24) ALMOST TIME. The House with a Clock in Its Walls – in theaters September 21.

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment. The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead. Based on the beloved children’s classic written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke (creator of TV’s Supernatural). Co-starring Kyle MacLachlan, Colleen Camp, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Vanessa Anne Williams and Sunny Suljic, it is produced by Mythology Entertainment’s Brad Fischer (Shutter Island) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), as well as Kripke.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. And belated thanks to Joanna Rivers for an item the other day. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/11/18 Pixel of Steel, Scroll of Kleenex

(1) BOURDAIN IN NARNIA. The New Yorker Recommends’ Helen Rosner links to “‘No Reservations: Narnia,’ a Triumph of Anthony Bourdain Fan Fiction”.

Of all the billions of pages that make up the Internet, one of my very favorites contains “No Reservations: Narnia,” a work of fan fiction, from 2010, by Edonohana, a pseudonym of the young-adult and fantasy author Rachel Manija Brown. The story is exactly what it sounds like: a pastiche of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Channelling the casual charisma of Bourdain’s first-person writing, Brown finds him visiting the stick-wattled burrow of sentient moles, where he dines on pavender (a saltwater fish of Lewis’s invention) and is drunk under the table by a talking mouse. He slurps down eel stew and contemplates the void with mud-dwelling depressives. Later, he bails on an appointment at Cair Paravel, the royal seat of Narnia, to bloody his teeth at a secretive werewolf feast.

“No Reservations: Narnia” (2010) begins —

I’m crammed into a burrow so small that my knees are up around my ears and the boom mike keeps slamming into my head, inhaling the potent scent of toffee-apple brandy and trying to drink a talking mouse under the table. But is it really the boom mike that’s making my head pound? I know for sure that my camera man doesn’t usually have two heads. I have to face facts. The mouse is winning.

Yesterday, I thought I knew what to expect from Narnia: good solid English cooking spiced up with the odd unusual ingredient, and good solid English people spiced up with the odd faun. And centaur. And talking animal. I’d longed to visit Narnia when I was a kid, but every time the notoriously capricious entry requirements, such as the bizarre and arbitrary lifetime limit on visits, relaxed the slightest bit, it would get invaded, get conquered, get re-conquered by the original rulers, or get hit by some natural disaster….

Cat Eldridge sent the links with a note: “Weirdly enough Rachel Manija Brown was once a reviewer for Green Man Review.

(2) TUNE IN THE HUGOS. Kevin Standlee outlined the “2018 Hugo Ceremony Coverage Plans” on the award’s official website.

The 2018 Hugo Awards Ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, August 19, 2018 at 8:00 PM North American Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7) in the McEnery Convention Center Grand Ballroom in San Jose, California. The ceremony is open to all attending members of Worldcon 76, with additional seating available in “Callahan’s Place” in the convention center Exhibit Hall.

The Hugo Awards web site will once again offer text-based coverage of the Hugo Awards ceremony via CoverItLive, suitable for people with bandwidth restrictions. For those with the bandwidth for it, Worldcon 76 San Jose plans to offer live video streaming of the Hugo Awards ceremony. Details of the live-streaming coverage will be available at the 2018 Worldcon web site.

The Hugo Awards web site coverage team of Kevin Standlee, Susan de Guardiola, and Cheryl Morgan plan to be “on the air” approximately fifteen minutes before the ceremony. You can sign up at the CoverItLive event site for an e-mail notification before the event starts. Remember that the CoverItLive text coverage is text-only, and is likely to not be in synch with the video streaming. Also, the CoverItLive team here at TheHugoAwards.org is not responsible for the video streaming coverage and cannot answer any questions about it.

(3) VISA PROBLEMS. Another example of security screening that interferes with cultural exchanges. The Guardian reports some authors are having exceptional difficulty getting visas to attend a book festival in Scotland: “Home Office refuses visas for authors invited to Edinburgh book festival”.

According to Barley, the dozen authors were asked to provide three years’ worth of bank statements to demonstrate financial independence, despite being paid to participate in the Edinburgh book festival, and having publishers and the festival guaranteeing to cover their costs while in the UK. Barley said any deposits that could not be easily explained were used as grounds to deny the authors’ visas; one had to reapply three times due to her bank statements.

“It is Kafkaesque. One was told he had too much money and it looked suspicious for a short trip. Another was told she didn’t have enough, so she transferred £500 into the account – and then was told that £500 looked suspicious. It shouldn’t be the case that thousands of pounds should be spent to fulfil a legitimate visa request. I believe this is happening to many arts organisations around the country, and we need to find a way around it.”

Barley called the situation humiliating, adding: “One author had to give his birth certificate, marriage certificate, his daughter’s birth certificate and then go for biometric testing. He wanted to back out at that point because he couldn’t bear it, but we asked him to continue. Our relationship with authors is being damaged because the system is completely unfit for purpose. They’ve jumped through hoops – to have their applications refused.”

The Scottish first minister called on the government to fix the problem: “Authors’ visa struggles undermine book festival, says Sturgeon”

Nicola Sturgeon has accused the UK government of undermining the Edinburgh international book festival by failing to resolve authors’ difficulties in obtaining visas.

The festival’s director, Nick Barley, has said some of the invited writers have been “humiliated” by the process they had to endure to get into the UK.

Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, who will take part in the event, tweeted on Thursday that the difficulties were “not acceptable” and the government “needs to get it sorted”.

Barley said about a dozen people had gone through an extremely difficult process to obtain a visa this year and several applications remained outstanding. The festival starts on Saturday and will feature appearances by 900 authors and illustrators from 55 countries.

Festival organisers provide assistance with visa applications and they have reported an increase in refusals over the past few years. Barley said one author had to supply his birth certificate, marriage certificate and his daughter’s birth certificate and go for biometric testing in order to get his visa.

He said the UK’s reputation as a global arts venue could be seriously hindered if problems in obtaining visas worsened after Brexit.

(4) DISCRIMINATION. David Farland (pseudonym of Dave Wolverton, currently the Coordinating Judge, Editor and First Reader for the Writers of the Future Contest), blogged about his view of “Discrimination in the Writing World”.

A few days ago, I saw a Facebook post from a woman who complained that she didn’t want to see panels by “boring, old, white, cisgender men” at the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention. Now, I’ve always fought against discrimination based on age, race, sexual orientation, and gender, so I was kind of surprised that this person managed to offend me at every single level. I can’t help it if I was born sixty years ago, male, white, and cisgender.

There is a concerted effort by some special interest groups to push certain agendas. More than twenty years ago, just before the Nebula awards, I remember hearing a woman talking to others, pointing out that if they all voted for a certain story by a woman, then she’d certainly win. Apparently the ethics of judging stories based upon the gender of the author eluded her, but it worked. The story written by the woman won.

With the Hugos, white men in particular are not even getting on the ballots, much less winning.

The question is, if you’re a writer, what do you do? What if you write a book, and you don’t fit in the neat little category that publishers want?

For example, what if you’re male and you want to write a romance novel? What are your chances of getting published? How well will you be welcomed into the writing community? Isn’t a good story a good story no matter who wrote it?

Apparently not. I had a friend recently who created a bundle of romance novels and put them up for sale. She had ten novels, nine by women and one by a man, and it sold terribly. Why? Because the nine female romance writers refused to even tell their fans about the bundle because there was a male author in the bundle. So instead of selling tens of thousands of bundles, as she expected, she sold only a few hundred.

Of course, discrimination is pretty well institutionalized in the publishing industry. By saying that it is institutionalized, what I mean is that in certain genres, your chances of getting published are based upon your gender.

(5) NICHOLS HAS DEMENTIA. Hope Schreiber, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Nichelle Nichols, actress who portrayed the iconic Lieutenant Uhura in ‘Star Trek,’ diagnosed with dementia”,  cites a TMZ report that Nichols is under the care of a conservator.

Nichelle Nichols, the actress who brought Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek to life, has been diagnosed with dementia, according to conservatorship documents obtained by TMZ. She is 85 years old.

TMZ says that Dr. Meena Makhijani, a specialist in osteopathic medicine, has been treating Nichols for the last two to three years. According to Makhijani, the disease has progressed. Nichols has significant impairment of her short-term memory and “moderate impairment of understanding abstract concepts, sense of time, place, and immediate recall,” according to TMZ.

However, the actress’s long-term memory does not seem to be affected at this time, nor are her body orientation, concentration, verbal communication, comprehension, recognition of familiar people, or ability to plan and to reason logically.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 11 – Ian McDiarmid, 74. Star Wars film franchise including an uncredited appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, other genre appearances in DragonslayerThe Awakening (a mummies horror film with Charlton Heston), The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series and reprising his SW role in the animated Star Wars Rebels series.
  • Born August 11 – Brian Azzarello, 56. Comic book writer. First known crime series 100 Bullets, published by Vertigo. Writer of DC’s relaunched Wonder Woman series several years back. One of the writers in the Before Watchmen limited series. Co-writer with Frank Miller of the sequel to The Dark Knight Returns,  The Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
  • Born August 11 – Viola Davis, 53. Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller in the first Suicide Squad film; also appeared in The Andromeda Strain, Threshold and Century City series, and the Solaris film.
  • Born August 11 – Jim Lee, 44. Korean American comic-book artist, writer, editor, and publisher.  Co-founder of Images Comics, now senior management at DC though he started at Marvel. Known for work on Uncanny X-Men, Punisher, Batman, Superman and WildC.A.T.s.
  • Born August 11 – Will Friedle, 44. Largely known as w actor with extensive genre work: Terry McGinnis aka the new Batman in Batman Beyond which Warner Animation now calls Batman of the Future, Peter Quill in The Guardians Of The Galaxy, Kid Flash in Teen Titans Go!, and Thundercats! to name but a few of his roles.
  • Born August 11 – Chris Hemsworth, 35. Thor in the MCU film franchise, George Kirk in the current Trek film franchise, and King Arthur in the Guinevere Jones series;  also roles in Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Snow White and the Huntsman and its sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War,

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) SAWYER’S SCHEDULE. Robert J. Sawyer clarified on Facebook his plans for Worldcon 76 in San Jose next week:

I’ll be there. However, many months ago I made a decision not to apply to be on programming. I don’t have a new book this year, and I figured there are lots of younger/newer/diverse writers who could use the panel slots I would have taken up.

This was meant to be a quiet, private choice, but since then, there’s been a big blowup about this year’s Worldcon programming (see http://file770.com/worldcon-76-program-troubles/), with people withdrawing from the program or complaining about not being put on it in the first place. My situation is neither of those (and the Worldcon programming has been redone to most people’s satisfaction now).

However, I will be making two public and one private appearances at the Worldcon, for those who want to see me or get books signed:

* On Friday, August 17, at noon, in room 210E at the Convention Center, I will be attending the unveiling of the new batch of Walter Day’s Science Fiction Historical Trading Cards, introducing the new authors being added to the set (I’m already on a card, as you can see); Walter Day will be giving away some of these collectible cards (including my own) to those who attend.

* Also on Friday, August 17, at 4:00 p.m., in the Dealers’ Room in the Convention Center, I will be autographing at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) table.

* And on Saturday, August 18, at 2:00 p.m., I’ll be hosting a meet-and-greet for my Patreon patrons; you can become a patron here, and get other cool perks, too: https://www.patreon.com/robertjsawyer

(9) AUSTRALIAN FANZINE ARCHIVE. Kim Huett reports, “The National Library of Australia not only has a significant fanzine collection, some of the librarians take an active interest in the fanzines in their care. Take for example this recent post which talks from an outsiders perspective about all sorts of Australian fanzines, some of which are actually about science fiction: “Fanzines For fans, by Fans”.

Fans of the TV shows, Star Trek and Doctor Who, have perhaps the best known examples of fandom in the mainstream but this isn’t where fanzines start. The fanzine Futurian observer was talking about a well-established Australian science fiction fan community back in 1940.

In a year in which the inescapable realities of war were everywhere, this little publication denounced ‘the threatening ban on magazines’, reported on Government ‘restrictions on pulp imports’ and referenced meetings in which quizzes and scientific discussions were star attractions.

One of the first lines in Issue #1 is a dire warning that Australian fans needed to be more engaged. In contrast, issue #35 talks about a parody newsletter from a convention that never happened and the author ‘hibernating’ from the ‘Sydney scene’ to avoid the ‘fighting, scratching and squabbling’.

You can read digitised copies of Futurian observer here.

Fanzines are a fascinating insight into the volatility of fan communities and how they operated at the time of publication.

(10) DOCTOR STRANGEMIND. Huett also sent a link to his own site with this introduction: “Anybody who is a fan of David Langford’s ‘As Others See Us’ segment in Ansible is going to really enjoy the latest installment of Doctor Strangemind. Have you ever wondered what the official Soviet line was in regards to science fiction? Well now you can read ‘The World Of Nightmare Fantasies’ and wonder no more: ’To Pervert & Stultify’. Really, I spoil you people,”

…I’ve reproduced the entire condensed version of The World Of Nightmare Fantasies here so you might enjoy the authors attempt to crush various butterflies of fiction with their rhetorical sledgehammer….

…The American Raymond F. Jones, experienced writer of “scientific” fantasies, attempts to lift the curtain of the future for the reader. He uses all his flaming imagination in describing a machine which analyses the inclinations , talents, character and other potentialities of a new-born infant. If it finds the child normal, it returns it to the arms of the waiting mother. If it finds a future “superman,” the mother will never see him again; he will be sent to a world “parallel” to ours where he will be raised without the help of parents. But woe to the baby the machine finds defective – it will be immediately destroyed. According to the “scientific” forecast of author Jones, a network of such machines will cover the world of the future.

This tale, monstrous in its openly fascistic tendency, appears in the American magazine Astounding, under the optimistic title of Renaissance. Jones’ fascist revelations are not an isolated instance in American science fiction literature. There are numerous such examples under the brightly colourful covers which enterprising publishers throw on the market in millions of copies. From their pages glares a fearful world, apparently conceived in the sick mind of an insane, a world of nightmare fantasies. Miasma, mental decay, fear of to-day and horror of the future: all these innumerable ills of capitalism are clearly reflected.

(11) WOTF. Past winner J.W. Alden says in his experience the Writers of the Future Contest was a tool of the Church of Scientology, no matter the public relations effort to portray them as separate: “Going Clearwater: The Illusory ‘Firewall’ of the Writers of the Future Contest”.

In 2016, I won Writers of the Future. At the time, I counted it as one of my proudest moments. A story I’d written, The Sun Falls Apart, took first place in a contest judged by some of the biggest names in the genre. I’m still proud of that part. Unfortunately, that sense of accomplishment was undermined by a negative experience which forced me to confront the actual nature of the contest: Writers of the Future is a Church of Scientology endeavor. I now believe its primary purpose is not to help emerging writers, but to further the aims of the church, primarily by promoting the name of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. I make no judgments on any individual’s religious beliefs, but since I won the contest, I have come to believe it exploits writers in pursuit of this goal….

The Firewall, many claim, exists to prevent the contest from becoming a platform for the church and to ensure there’s no proselytizing of winners–though one of the first things you learn when you go asking about the Firewall, is that it seems to mean different things to different people. It’s the Firewall that keeps the contest’s panel of judges onboard. The judges of this contest include big names in the genre–names like Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Robert J. Sawyer, Larry Niven, and many more. Hence, it’s the Firewall that ultimately lends the contest legitimacy. In my opinion, the Firewall does not exist. Or at the very least, it doesn’t exist for everyone.

It didn’t exist for me.

After winning the contest he was asked to come to Clearwater, Florida and do a signing. Clearwater is home to the church’s Flag Service Organization.

And so, I’m not that surprised one afternoon when I receive a text message from Kate*, one of the employees of Author Services Inc., the (Church of Scientology-owned) organization that runs the contest. They ask if I’d be willing to take part in an event they describe as a “massive Barnes & Noble book signing” in Clearwater, FL in a few days. The last minute nature of this invitation seems odd, but not out of step with the general disorganization that winners grow used to when dealing with ASI. At first, I turn down this request. At the time, I live in the West Palm Beach area, and I’m not willing to drive across the state on such short notice. They respond by offering to fly me out and put me up in a hotel. At that point, I say, “Sure. Why not?” I mean, it’s just Barnes & Noble, right? Book signings are fun.

However, Alden says this is what really happened:

…After that, it’s finally time for the book signing . . . which is not taking place at a Barnes & Noble. It turns out the “Barnes & Noble signing event” is actually taking place here at the Fort Harrison Hotel, during a Scientology ceremony called “Flag Graduation.” Scientologists who underwent training at the Flag Building are having some kind of graduation ceremony. Part of the ceremonies will involve announcing my presence, then directing the congregation to my signing table for an autograph. After the day I’ve had, I am not shocked by this revelation. My belief in the Firewall has long since abandoned me. I am not happy about the bait and switch. But I’m not surprised, either.

I’m led into a huge conference room with a stage and hundreds of chairs. By the time we get there, it’s already packed full of Scientologists finding their seats. Tori leads me straight to the front row. At this point, I become genuinely worried about the possible public repercussions of this little trip. Just like in L.A., there are photographers and videographers everywhere. The thought of photos and video of me at an actual Church of Scientology event floating around somewhere is (at the time) concerning. What happens next tempers this concern somewhat, if only because it grants me the conviction that this is not the first Scientology event I’ve been photographed at. Before their graduation ceremony, they play a video of the Writers of the Future gala. A Church of Scientology official talks it up beforehand, citing it as part of L. Ron Hubbard’s legacy, with the underlying message that it’s one of the many Good Things the CoS is doing in the world. In other words, Writers of the Future (and not just the name–the video of the gala, the anthology, the words and likenesses of the winners) is used as internal propaganda at an official Church of Scientology event. That’s certainly how I interpreted it, anyway….

I first started telling the story above in private circles within the SFF writing community. Over the past two years, I’ve told it to fellow WotF winners, to friends at conventions, and in private online discussion groups. Most recently, I posted about it on Codex after Nick Mamatas and Keffy R.M. Kehrli spurred the aforementioned conversation on social media about the questionable aspects of the contest back in April. I also posted a couple of twitter threads around that time, in which I voiced frustrations about the contest and rage-faced over the revelation that unattributed quotations from Dianetics were included in Writers of the Future workshop materials. Since the tweetstorm, I’ve also been in discussion with former winners and even a few contest judges who reached out to me about it.

Since all of that started happening, I’ve also had run-ins with supporters of the contest who have accused me (and others) of trying to destroy it. Let me make one thing clear: I’m not trying to destroy Writers of the Future. For one, I don’t believe that is within my (or anyone’s) power, so even if that were my goal, I wouldn’t waste the effort. My goal is merely to inform emerging writers about the troublesome aspects of this contest, because I don’t think they’re talked about enough. That includes relating my own experience that bizarre weekend in Clearwater. If anyone sees that as an effort to delegitimize or destroy the contest, all I can say is this: if spreading the truth about something delegitimizes it, was it really legitimate in the first place? …

(12) MAIN AND OTHER STREAMS. Penguin Random House would be happy to sell you these “21 Books You’ve Been Meaning To Read”, a list with a surprising amount of sff. Not this first title, though. This one has been picked for its clever misspelling —

War and Peace

A legendary masterpiece, this book is synonymous with difficult reading, so why not challenge yourshelf.

(13) WRECK-IT RALPH RETURNS. Ralph Breaks the Internet – sneak peek.The movie comes to theaters November 21.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” leaves Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and thrilling world of the internet—which may or may not survive Ralph’s wrecking. Video game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the world wide web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet—the Netizens—to help navigate their way, including Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of the trend-making site “BuzzzTube,” and Shank (voice of Gal Gadot), a tough-as-nails driver from a gritty online auto-racing game called Slaughter Race.

 

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