Pixel Scroll 4/6/20 Distraction Is Great

(1) SHOUT OUTS FOR SHUT INS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Mask-makers and other Good News shout-outs. (You’ll want to stick with this through to minute 11, trust me — at which point you WILL want to keep watching, I bet.)

(This was even cooler than when Click’n’Clack got a call from the Space Shuttle – io9 “The time an astronaut called into Car Talk from the Space Shuttle” for the story, and YouTube for the actual call )

(2) NO FINNCON THIS YEAR. Finncon 2020 in Tampere, Finland has been pushed back due to COVID-19. The announcement in Finnish and English is here.

We regret to announce that Finncon 2020 will have to be postponed until summer 2021. This is due to the current situation with the Corona virus around the world. Finncon in the capital region, which was originally going to happen in 2021, will also be postponed to summer 2022.

We will be organising a small-scale Virtual Finncon on July 10-12, 2020. The program for this Virtual Finncon will be organized during summer 2020.

(3) ANALYZING STORY. Ziv Wittes takes Knives Out and uses it as a case study for MICE – an approach to story structure that’s pretty popular among genre writers. “Knives Out: A MICE Case Study by Ziv Wities” — on Cat Rambo’s blog. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Here’s our question: What kind of story is Knives Out?
Obviously, every story has many elements. But which feels most central? Is this story exploring a Milieu; investigating an Idea; following a Character’s development; or struggling against a threatening Event?

(4) IF THERE’S TERRAFORMING, THERE MUST BE DISNEYLANDING. Josh Gorin, a creative development executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, invites people to “Enjoy a One-of-a-Kind Learning Experience from Disney Imagineers”. His post on the Disney Parks blog explains —  

Imagineering in a Box is a series of interactive lessons in theme park design and engineering, designed to give a behind-the-scenes peek into Imagineering’s development process. It combines 32 videos of actual Imagineers, real-world case studies, and lots of interactive activities to give you the opportunity to dream and design your very own theme park experience!

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to the first lesson of Imagineering in a Box, hosted on the Khan Academy website.

Welcome to Imagineering in a Box!

Imagineering in a Box is designed to pull back the curtain to show you how artists, designers and engineers work together to create theme parks. Go behind the scenes with Disney Imagineers and complete project-based exercises to design a theme park of your very own.

Lesson 1: Build your own world

This lesson addresses the question: where do you want to go? It introduces the idea of experiential storytelling and the difference between an amusement park and a theme park. We’ll explore how storytelling and theme impact every decision made in the design of a land and how they engage all senses.

(5) IT’S BUMPY UP THERE. Camestros Felapton’s deconstruction of these Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes is both amusing and (comparatively) gentle: “Trek Tuesday: Unification Parts 1 & 2”.

…Patrick Stewart naturally makes a great Romulan. Starfleet’s Romulan disguises are top-notch because, of course, Romulans are actually just humans in theatrical make-up but it is a look that really suits both Stewart and Spiner. He also has an additional advantage. The Romulans are Space Romans obviously but they are Space Hollywood Romans and years of Hollywood epics (and BBC historicals) have created the association of British classical actors with the Roman Empire. It is practically type-casting.

However, it is Picard’s affinity with Vulcans that provides the initial hook for the story. Ambassador Spock has gone missing and intelligence suggests he is on Romulus. Alarmed by the apparent defection, Starfleet despatches Picard to speak to Spock’s father, Sarek who is dying from a degenerative disease. Picard has not only met Sarek before but in an earlier episode had mind-melded with him.

In this initial phase of the story there are repeated shots that follow the dramatic-soap-opera scene convention of having two characters talk to each other with both facing the camera but with one person standing behind the other.

(6) ZOOMJAM. “How USC students turned Zoom into a video game platform for coronavirus life” at the LA Times.

…Shortly after California Gov. Gavin Newsom placed restrictions on social gatherings, the USC Game School sprang into action. Jeff Watson, an assistant professor of Interactive Media & Games at the university, put out a call for students to create games using Zoom, keying in on the idea that many would now to be utilizing the platform to connect and in need of ways to use it for its full potential — that is, to play, of course.

…Watson, who is curating the submissions — he will reject no games for quality, he says, but will maintain a certain level of family-friendly decency — has begun posting the offerings on the site Zoomjam.org. More than half the submissions are from USC students. And while open to all, the Watson-led ZoomJam is gaining steam in academic circles. He’s has been in touch with professors and universities in Texas, Australia and elsewhere….

Some highlights from the submitted games:

“Kitty, You’re a Star.” Any of us who have used Zoom, either for a business or social call, have likely seen it interrupted by a pet. “Kitty, You’re a Star” is designed for those moments, to take advantage of what everyone is instantly now doing: paying attention to the kitty or puppy. Participants are called to immediately begin narrating a story about the pet’s thoughts or life.

“Kitty, You’re a Star” was created by Lark under the name Social Distance Warriors. “I think people are pretty good at making games on any platform or with any constraints they find themselves in,” he says.

The rules are direct: “During a call, if a player’s pet enters the frame, they must immediately move and give their pet center stage. The pet is now the protagonist of a story that the other players will narrate.” To make sure no one talks over the other, the story of the pet shall unfold one sentence and one person at a time….

(7) MPFREE. Lots of genre here: “1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free” on Open Culture.

Download hundreds of free audio books, mostly classics, to your MP3 player or computer. Below, you’ll find great works of fictionpoetry and non-fiction, by such authors as Twain, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Orwell, Vonnegut, Nietzsche, Austen, Shakespeare, Asimov, HG Wells & more. 

(8) HONOR BLACKMAN OBIT. Actress Honor Blackman (1925-2020) died April 6 at the age of 94. She gained fame playing Cathy Gale in television’s The Avengers opposite Patrick Macnee, and as Pussy Galore in the James Bond movie Goldfinger opposite Sean Connery. Blackman and Macnee also had a novelty hit with 1964’s “Kinky Boots,” which reached the Top 10 in 1990. She was in Doctor Who’s “Trial of a Time Lord” (1986) as Professor Lasky. She also had genre movie roles as Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and Peggy in Cockneys v. Zombies (2013).  

(9) TIM WHITE OBIT. British sff artist Tim White (1952-2020) died April 5. Bob Eggleton announced his death, saying, “He was an icon in the 1970s and early 80s with many bookcovers.” White was nominated six consecutive times for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Artist, receiving the honor in 1983. More information at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

(10) JAMES DRURY OBIT. Actor James Drury, primarily known as the lead in The Virginian tv series, died April 6. He was 85. In what might be his only sff role, he played a crewman in Forbidden Planet.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • Born April 6, 1936 — The Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers serial premiered on theatre screens in the States. It was directed by Frederick Stephani and Ray Taylor from a screenplay by Frederick Stephani  based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond. It of course starred Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon and Jean Rogers as Dale Arden. It ran for thirteen episodes and the studio was quite unhappy at the three hundred and sixty thousand dollar budget. It’s in the public domain now and you can watch the first four episodes here.
  • April 6, 1967 Star Trek’s “City of the Edge of Forever” first aired on NBC. Though Harlan Ellison wrote the original script, the episode had several writers contribute to it including Steven W. Carabatsos, D. C. Fontana and Gene L. Coon with Gene Roddenberry making the final script re-write. Roddenberry and Fontana both consider it one of their favorite episodes, the latter ranking it up with “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Critics in general consider it one of the best Trek episodes done and many consider it one of the best SF series episodes ever.
  • April 6, 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered. It was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was inspired by Clarke’s “The Sentinel” story. It starred Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. It would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at St. Louiscon in 1969 over Yellow SubmarineCharlyRosemary’s Baby and The Prisoner’s “Fallout” episode. Critical reception was decidedly mixed at the time though it’s now considered a classic film, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a superlative 90% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 6, 1924 Sonya Dorman. Her best-known work of SF is “When I Was Miss Dow” which received an Otherwise retrospective award nomination. Her “Corruption of Metals” received won the Rhysling Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. She also appeared in Dangerous Visions with the “Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird” story. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the DC Universe app. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 83. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/ Net and Just/In Time
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 82. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Colins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy.
  • Born April 6, 1938 Anita Pallenberg. It’s not a long genre resume but she was in Barbarella as, I kid you not, Black Queen, Great Tyrant of Sogo, the chief villainess. Over forty years later, she’d have a minor role as Diana in Grade B film 4:44 Last Day on Earth. (Died 2017.)
  • Born April 6, 1948 Sherry Gottlieb, 72. Best remembered and loved as owner of the Change of Hobbit bookstore which her memoir lists as the oldest sf bookstore in the States. She’s written two horror novels Love Bites and Worse Than Death
  • Born April 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 72. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet.
  • Born April 6, 1956 Mark Askwith, 64. Did you know there was an authorized Prisoner sequel? Well there was. The Prisoner: Shattered Visage is a four-issue comic book series written by him and Dean Motter who was also the artist. Askwith also wrote for DC Comics, specifically Batman: Gotham Knights
  • Born April 6, 1959 Mark Strickson, 61. Turlough, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He didn’t do much genre but he was a young Scrooge in an Eighties film version of A Christmas Carol. and like many Who performers, he’d reprise his character on Big Finish audio dramas. 
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 43. Her first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. The short story “Augusta Prima”, originally written by her in Swedish, was translated into English by her which won her a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur tells of a lost discovery.
  • Poorly Drawn Lines has a weird one –

(14) PYTHON INSPIRATION. See the trailer for The Bug Trainer (view on demand on Vimeo ), a 2018 documentary on the life and art of pioneering Polish-Russian stop-motion animator Ladislas Starevich, who Terry Gilliam has described as a major influence on his work.

(15) DON’T BE DISCONTENTED. James Davis Nicoll says not everyone needs be doomed to disappointment: “Imaginary Space Programs Are Always Better Than Reality (But Reality Is Pretty Amazing)” at Tor.com.

Yuri’s Night approaches. With it comes the inevitable cloud-shouting from persons my age about all the space habitats and Moon colonies we were promised and currently don’t have. Hold on, guys…some of this discontent might go away if we adopted a different perspective….

(16) OLD ENOUGH TO DRINK. “Whale sharks: Atomic tests solve age puzzle of world’s largest fish”. Just in case you’d like to know.

Data from atomic bomb tests conducted during the Cold War have helped scientists accurately age the world’s biggest fish.

Whale sharks are large, slow moving and docile creatures that mainly inhabit tropical waters.

They are long-lived but scientists have struggled to work out the exact ages of these endangered creatures.

But using the world’s radioactive legacy they now have a workable method that can help the species survival.

Whale sharks are both the biggest fish and the biggest sharks in existence.

Growing up to 18m in length, and weighing on average of about 20 tonnes, their distinctive white spotted colouration makes them easily recognisable.

(17) NOT A VERY TALL TAIL. Russom’s Universal Headless Credential! “Video Friday: Qoobo the Headless Robot Cat Is Back” – a collection of entertaining robot-themed videos at the IEEE Spectrum website. Here’s the commercial from which the post takes its name —

(18) SLEEPLESS IN COLUMBUS. A surprising Le Guin reference in the introduction to this week’s (very funny) James Thurber story, “The Night the Bed Fell” (from Library of America’s “Story of the Week” series).

…James, the middle Thurber son, had just published My Life and Hard Times, a fictionalized memoir of growing up in a family home where “there was a three-ring circus in progress all the time,” as one visitor described it. The episodes first appeared in The New Yorker in eight installments during the summer of 1933 and then as a book in November. Without notifying James in advance, his father and brother drove to Manhattan, showed up at the offices of the magazine, wandered uninvited through the halls of the editorial department, and ended up outside the door of fiction editor Katharine White. James had not yet arrived for work, and White was perplexed as to what to do with two men she knew only from Thurber’s stories. “We felt as if we’d been caught robbing the place,” Robert later told biographer Harrison Kinney. “It occurred to me later maybe she thought we’d sneaked in to blow up the place for revenge.”

(19) LET THERE BE LIGHT. Via Slashdot:“Black Hole Photo May Also Have Captured Light From Around the Universe”

“When you point a telescope at a black hole, it turns out you don’t just see the swirling sizzling doughnut of doom formed by matter falling in,” reports the New York Times. “You can also see the whole universe.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Sandford Police using a Dalek to order people to stay inside. (Gently thieved from comments on Camestros Felapton’s blog.)

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Jeff Smith, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Edmund Schluessel, Lise Andreasen, Standback, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob_Matic with an assist from Anna Nimmaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/13/20 Doctor Pixelstein’s Scrollster – or The Filing Prometheus

(1) PSYCHICHISTORY. I can’t read minds, but I can read blogs. Camestros Felapton took up the literary question of “How to be psychic”.

Are psychic powers a trojan horse from the world of magic that have snuck into science fiction? Psychic powers are almost indistinguishable from wish fulfilment in aggregate and only take on a resemblance of speculation about reality when codified into subtypes with Graeco-Latin names with sciency connotations.

But psychic powers aren’t going to vanish from science fiction any time soon. Doctor Who has psychic paper and telepathic circuits in their TARDIS, Star Trek has empaths and telepathic Vulcans, and Star Wars has a conflict between psychic factions as its core mythology. Firefly and Babylon 5 had psychics. Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Le Guin’s Ekumen universe, Asimov’s Foundation series, multiple Philip K Dick works, each contain various beings with mental powers. Science Fiction has a permission note for amazing mental abilities had has used that licence freely….

(2) MAG*C HAPPENS. At Disneyland, “’Magic Happens’ Parade – Debuts February 28”.

Starting February 28, Disneyland Park will welcome Magic Happens, the park’s first new daytime parade in nearly a decade—and one that reminds us wings aren’t needed to fly, shooting stars were created for wishes and magic doesn’t end at midnight!

With a wave of his wand, Mickey Mouse leads a cavalcade of fabulous floats, whimsically costumed performers and popular Disney pals like Anna, Elsa and Olaf around the park and into your hearts—all while moving to a high-energy musical score that puts a contemporary spin on classic Disney hits. In addition, a brand-new song co-composed by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall helps bring some of your favorite Disney tales to life like never before.

(3) ENOUGH ALREADY. Cat Rambo is bidding Facebook farewell:

I’m tired of logging onto here and seeing nothing but propaganda and talking points freshly harvested from the meme farms. I feel that the company has helped shred the American political system, that it divides us more than it connects, that it profits off our private data while selling us out to foreign powers, and that it is a major component of a system that continues to facilitate active class warfare being waged by the current kleptocracy on the poor and middle-class in our country.

If you are being asked to hate certain people or groups, whether liberal or conservative — ask yourself for a moment, who benefits from you hating them? What’s getting slipped past you while the rhetorical smoke and mirrors are dazzling you? I can tell you: it’s your country and all the things that we own in common that’s getting dismantled so rich people can shove more money in their already bulging pockets….

(4) APPEAL CONTINUES. The ”Help Mike Resnick’s widow pay off medical bills” GoFundMe asked people to share the link again, which File 770 is glad to do.

Update on 2/13/2020: Carol and Laura Resnick would dearly love to thank everyone who has donated to Mike’s fundraiser. As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly hard month for them both and all the kind words and support they have received has been so valued and treasured. Unfortunately, with Mike’s passing, the bills did not stop coming in. Carol has literally been swamped with bills, and there is no longer any regular income coming into the house to cover the mortgage, utilities or daily necessities (she has some very tough decisions ahead). We understand many of you have donated before, so even if you could just re-share the fundraiser link again, we would be so very thankful. Carol has been so incredibly touched by all the kindness shown to her and she knows Mike would be so proud of the SF&F field he loved so much for helping to support his family in their time of need. As every book dedication said “To Carol, as always.” She was his world.

(5) ALL FLOCKED UP. In Leonard Maltin’s opinion, “‘Birds’ Preys On Civilized Moviemaking”.

What price girl-power? Does the positive energy of a female-centric comic book movie—made by women—compensate for the nihilistic, super-violent nature of its content? Is this really a step forward for women, behind the camera and in the audience? That’s the conundrum presented by Birds of Prey (full title Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)….now re-titled Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

(6) THEY COME OUT AT NIGHT. In “Worldbuilding: Crime and Fantasy Books Have More in Common Than You Might Think at CrimeReads, Kelly Braffet makes a case.

… Take, for example, this passage from the second chapter of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade is on his way to a crime scene, and he stops at an overpass nearby to check out a few looky-loos interested in the murderous goings-on…

There’s nothing in this paragraph that relates to the murder he’s about to investigate or the case he’s working; the fleeing car doesn’t have any important characters in it, and the looky-loo never shows up again. This is pure worldbuilding. Spade’s world is one of cars and ads and fumes and concrete and people so bored and aimless that they’re willing to contort themselves to catch a glimpse of a dead body….

(7) GREEN TEASER. David Lowery’s upcoming movie The Green Knight stars Dev Patel alongside Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton. The fantasy is based on Arthurian legend and will hit screens in Summer 2020. The story is based on the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Native English speakers unconsciously organize adjectives in a particular order that is rarely deviated from, even in informal speech. The order is: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose. For example, it’s more common to hear “silly old fool,” rather than “old silly fool.” One notable exception, however, is the Big Bad Wolf. Source: The Guardian

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 13, 1954 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet first aired “The Space Projectile”. Frankie Thomas played the lead role in the series which was one of the rare series which aired on all four networks of the time. Joseph Greene of Grosset & Dunlap publishing house developed the series off of Heinlein’s late Forties Space Cadet novel but also based of his own prior work. Both a newspaper strip and radio show were intended but never went forward. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 13, 2000 — The last original Peanuts comic strip ran in newspapers

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1908 Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story, “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode, and appeared once in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 13, 1932 Susan Oliver. She shows up in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage” as Vina, the Orion slave girl. She had a number of one-offs in genre television including Wild Wild West, Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, The Invaders, Night Gallery and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 1990.)
  • Born February 13, 1933 Patrick Godfrey, 87. His very first acting was as Tor in a First Doctor story, “The Savages. He’d be in a Third Doctor story, “Mind of Evil”, as Major Cotsworth. His last two acting roles have both been genre — one being the voice of a Wolf Elder in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle; the other Butler in His Dark Materials.
  • Born February 13, 1938 Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1943 Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 13, 1954 Mary GrandPré, 66. She’s best known for her cover and chapter illustrations of the Potter books in the Scholastic editions. She’s the author and illustrator of A Dragon’s Guide series which is definitely genre of aimed at children. 
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 61. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. Both her novel and short story collections are readily available at the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 13, 1960 Matt Salinger, 60. Captain America in the 1990 Yugoslavian film of that name which was directed by Albert Pyun as written by Stephen Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block. It’s got a 16% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes which matches what critics thought of it. As near as I can tell this is only genre role. You can watch the film here.

(11) A FILER’S PICKS. Ziv Witie’s (aka Standback) annual F&SF appreciation/recommendation thread is up. Thread starts here.

(12) NEW WAVICLE. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington’s “New Wave SF: Graham Charnock’s ‘First And Last Words'” is a profile of the massive pro career of someone I think of as a legendary UK fan. Which he is, of course.

…Beyond stories in ‘New Writings In SF’, Damon Knight’s ‘Orbit’ and the ‘Other Edens’ anthologies, the ‘New Worlds’ connection continues, into its later reincarnation as a thick paperback series edited by David Garnett. The teasing conundrum “On The Shores Of A Fractal Sea” (in ‘New Worlds no.3’) draws on Graham’s close encounters with Rock music, via his contributions to Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix. The fictional deceased Rock-star narrator persists in a virtual Lagoona where ‘the beach goes on forever’, and where he works on his concept-cycle triple-album. Maybe being dead means he’s unaware that Hawkwind’s seventh studio album is also called ‘Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ (Charisma, June 1977)! He talks to shape-changing French, to whom his reality exists as ‘a fragment of cloned tissue… awash with oxy-infused saline.’…

(13) READ WITHOUT CEASING. In “5 things I learned from binge-reading a 50-book crime series in 5 months”, Sophia Rosenbaum says she read 50 novels by “J.D. Robb” (a pseudonym of Nora Roberts) in five months and talks about what she learned from reading so many books in a series in so short a time. This is a series that the Internet Science Fiction Database classifies as “futuristic mystery.”

J.D. Robb is the pen name for the prolific romance writer Nora Roberts, who started writing the series in 1995 and releases at least two new titles a year.

In the very first book, “Naked in Death,” we are introduced to a slew of what become recurring characters: Eve’s former partner and trainer, who becomes a father figure; the esteemed police commander; the maternal staff psychiatrist; Eve’s criminal-turned-singer bestie; and most importantly, Roarke.

(14) MADAM I’M. In an article in The Believer that begins “Palindrome, Palindrome” and then has an obscenity, Colin Dickey reprints Dan Hoey’s 543-word expansion of the palindrome “a man, a plan, a canal—Panama.”  Hoey was a Washington DC-area fan who died in 2011. 

Sometime in the mid-1940s, Leigh Mercer rescued from the trash several thousand index cards that his employer, Rawlplug, had thrown out. Mercer may not have yet had a plan, but he had an idea. He’d grown up in a family that cherished word games and had lived through the birth of the modern crossword puzzle craze, but he’d noticed that no one had seriously set their minds to the problem of palindromes. Though Mercer wasn’t interested in crosswords, he’d acquired a used copy of a book for crossworders that contained lists of words—no definitions—grouped alphabetically and according to length. Using this book and his new stash of recovered index cards, he began copying out possible palindrome centers—any word or snippet of a phrase that might be reversible. In 1946, he came up with one construction: “Plan a canal p.” It was, he himself later admitted, “not very hopeful looking,” but all great plans have to start somewhere.

It took him two years to find Panama.

…This kind of nonsense quickly spins out of control. Using a computer that trawled the dictionary, Dan Hoey created this monstrosity in 1984….

It technically works, but it relies on gibberish (“a bater,” “an em,” and “a say”), and it is long enough that all sense is lost and the palindrome topples into meaninglessness. The program used here was rudimentary enough that even Hoey knew his effort could be easily bested, and sure enough, Peter Norvig assembled a 21,012-word variation to commemorate the palindromic date of 6-10-2016, and it is absolutely as unbearable and unreadable as it sounds. And yet, even as everything falls apart, you reach the end—“a canal, Panama!”—and it’s like all is forgiven, like everything is somehow right once more.

(15) DINO CASH. “British dinosaurs to feature on UK money for the first time” – the Natural History Museum has the story.

The Royal Mint is releasing three new dinosaur-themed coins – the first ever in the UK.

The series of 50p coins is a collaboration with palaeoartist Bob Nicholls and experts at the Museum.

The coins will honour the first three dinosaurs ever named – Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus – although at the time they were named, ‘dinosaurs’ as a group didn’t exist. In fact, it was these three animals that made Sir Richard Owen realise that there was something different enough about them that they warranted being placed in a new group, which he named Dinosauria.

The three species will be featured on five series of collectors’ coins. Although they will be legal tender, they won’t go into circulation. Instead members of the public will be able to buy the coins, either individually or in sets.

(16) RESTORED TO THE THRONE. “Rise of Skywalker: How we brought Carrie Fisher back” — and other details of the effects are discussed by filmmakers in this BBC video.

Actress Carrie Fisher, who was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, died in 2016.

She recently appeared in the 2019 film Rise of Skywalker, but how was this possible?

BBC Click speaks to the visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett and animation supervisor, Paul Kavanagh of ILM to find out more.

(17) I’M MELTING! “Antarctica logs highest temperature on record of 18.3C”

A record high temperature of 18.3C (64.9F) has been logged on the continent of Antarctica.

The reading, taken on Thursday by Argentine research base Esperanza, is 0.8C hotter than the previous peak temperature of 17.5C, in March 2015.

The temperature was recorded in the Antarctic Peninsula, on the continent’s north-west tip – one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

It is being verified by the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

“[This] is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica, even in the summertime,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.

(18) EIGHT MILES HIGH. That was quick: “British Airways Sets Record, Crossing The Atlantic In Under 5 Hours In Strong Winds”.

Kubilay Kahveci’s flight was supposed to be in the air for more than six hours — an overnight voyage from New York City to London. But British Airways Flight 112 made the trek in under five hours, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic commercial flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

(19) LEAST HYPOTHESIS. Nothing acute about this: “Wreck’s Identification 95 Years After Ship’s Disappearance Puts Theories To Rest”.

Lore had it that the SS Cotopaxi was swallowed by the infamous Bermuda Triangle after the steamship, and all 32 crew members on board, inexplicably vanished in 1925.

In the sci-fi film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, aliens are responsible for the ship’s disappearance.

But a team of divers has identified the ship and debunked the fictions, theories and conspiracies that emerged over the years. And unlike in Close Encounters, the ship wasn’t found in the Gobi desert, but rather 35 miles off St. Augustine in Florida.

The Cotopaxi had set off on its normal route between Charleston, S.C., and Havana, carrying a cargo of coal, when it was caught in a powerful storm, Michael Barnette discovered.

The wreck isn’t located within the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle — a region in the Atlantic Ocean with its corners at South Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico that has been blamed for unexplained disappearances.

(20) BACK TO THE BASICS. How it all got started — “Tom and Jerry: 80 years of cat v mouse”.

A cartoon cat, sick of the annoying mouse living in his home, devises a plot to take him out with a trap loaded with cheese. The mouse, wise to his plan, safely removes the snack and saunters away with a full belly.

You can probably guess what happens next. The story ends as it almost always does: with the cat yelling out in pain as yet another plan backfires.

The plot may be familiar, but the story behind it may not be. From Academy Award wins to secret production behind the Cold War’s Iron Curtain – this is how Tom and Jerry, who turn 80 this week, became one of the world’s best known double-acts.

The duo was dreamt up from a place of desperation. MGM’s animation department, where creators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera worked, had struggled to emulate the success of other studios who had hit characters like Porky Pig and Mickey Mouse.

Out of boredom, the animators, both aged under 30, began thinking up their own ideas. Barbera said he loved the simple concept of a cat and mouse cartoon, with conflict and chase, even though it had been done countless times before….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/29/19 Come A Little Bit Closer, You’re My Kind of Pixel And The Scroll Title Is So Long

(1) FAREWELL. Martin Hoare’s funeral was held today. Pete Young shared a photo of the casket (posted here with permission.)

Yes, it was used for Martin. He was inside, then Martin + Tardis were cremated. I could not get any closer but I believe the Tardis was painted on it; I think it was Hazel Langford who told me it was Martin’s girlfriend’s idea. Needless to say the coffin was bigger on the inside…

(2) SURVIVABILITY OF SHORT SFF. Neil Clarke speaks again about the problems with the current economic model of short fiction in the sff field. Thread starts here.

(3) STRETCHING…THE IMAGINATION. The Irish Times’ Karlin Lillington kicks off a multi-installment report about Dublin 2019 in “Net Results: Sci-fi, spandex and the wonders of WorldCon”. Yes, there is a paragraph about Spandex, but there is much more…

…I hadn’t realised how apparently old-school I was until I discovered that one panel at WorldCon was entitled Continuing Relevance of older SF, which questioned whether 20th-century writing was still relevant in the 21st (answer: yes). Among the writers it listed as older and of a past era were Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood – yikes, really?

 The discussion was lively and intense and intelligent – and this was the real joy, for me, of this entire colossal event, alongside the surprising (and vast) range of the hundreds upon hundreds of sessions over five days.

My assumptions were immediately and happily demolished. I’d looked forward to learning about some new writers and had thought there might also be some intriguing overlap with technology. But the science element was just as high-profile as the fiction….

(4) LOTS MORE WORLDCON REPORTS.

(5) RESNICK. The GoFundMe to “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience” surpassed its $15,000 goal overnight — and a new goal of $30,000 has been set. Contribute at the link.

Mike and Carol Rensick are at a loss for words about how successful this GoFundMe campaign has become. (Which says a lot, since as a storyteller Mike is well known for his words.) They cannot thank everyone enough–there are not the words to say how much all of you have changed a very bad year for the better.

Many people have asked them why, with so many weeks in ICU and bills much surpassing any modest number, we had only set the fundraiser goal to $15;000. But in Mike’s mind, $100 is a lot to ask for, let alone $15,000. He had not realised how beloved in the field he is, and how much we all love the opportunity to “pay it back” for all he has given to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Mike is composing and thank you message as we speak–once he can pick up his jaw up from the ground and find the words–but in the meantime we have been encouraged to increase the GoFundMe goal, and so we have! We have doubled the number to $30,000.

(6) LIBRARIES AND DIGITAL BOOKS. Tom Mercer, Senior Vice President of cloudLibrary, has written an email about the many changes impacting libraries and their ability to offer high-quality digital lending services to library users. He discusses why these shifts are happening, how libraries can respond, and what bibliotheca is doing to support libraries — “bibliotheca leadership responds to publisher model changes”.

…Now, fast-forward to the digital library lending market today, where we’re seeing a shift from several of the major publishing companies. Blackstone Audio is embargoing audiobook titles for 90 days, Hachette has changed from perpetual access to two-year expirations (also implemented by Penguin Random House last October), and Macmillan will limit the quantity of frontlist titles effective November 1. It’s unlikely that all of these publishers would be changing their terms without external pressures. So, where is the pressure coming from? ?There is evidence to suggest that in recent years, authors and agents have come to feel that the library market is eroding their revenue. I think it’s telling that Macmillan CEO John Sargent addressed his letter about the library model change to “Macmillan Authors, Macmillan Illustrators and Agents.” 

This begs the next question: if authors and agents are voicing concerns about library lending, where are they getting their data from? I doubt it’s publishers, since a report on library lending is not part of an author’s royalty statement. There is only one company that has access to readers’ digital retail purchases as well as users’ digital library borrowing habits, and that is Amazon.

In 2009, Amazon created a publishing division, Amazon Publishing, which doesn’t sell any of its eBooks or audiobooks to libraries. They have teams of people talking with authors and agents trying to secure rights and make them as exclusive as possible to the Amazon ecosystem. It’s highly probable that they use the data provided by library users to argue that library lending is undercutting retail sales. This is a major concern that we need to understand and to face together as an industry.

(7) MARVEL 1000 ISSUE HAS AN ISSUE. “Marvel Revises Comic in Which Captain America Called U.S. ‘Deeply Flawed’” – the New York Times has the story.

…Captain America reflects on the symbolism of his costume in a newly published essay by Mark Waid, which was changed from an earlier version in which he called his country “deeply flawed.”Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Comics No. 1000, a special issue in honor of 80 years of storytelling, was supposed to be a cause for celebration. But revisions to one page of the comic, which came out Wednesday, are casting a pall over the festivities.

The page, written by Mark Waid and drawn by John Cassady, is narrated by Captain America. In earlier versions of the page that comic-book retailers received in July, the star-spangled hero opened with: “I’m asked how it is possible to love a country that’s deeply flawed. It’s hard sometimes. The system isn’t just. We’ve treated some of our own abominably.”

He went on to say that fixing America’s system is “hard and bloody work” but that it could be done when enough people take to the streets, call for revolution and say, “Injustice will not stand.”

Captain America concludes: “That’s what you can love about America.”

The version that arrived in stores and online, however, has new text, also written by Waid, in which Captain America ruminates on his own image, not the United States: “Captain America isn’t a man. It’s an idea. It’s a commitment to fight every day for justice, for acceptance and equality, for the rights of everyone in this nation.” The hero says that those qualities — “not hatred, not bigotry, not exclusion” — are the values of true patriotism.

Marvel and Waid declined to say why the page was changed. But in an email message, Waid expressed frustration at how his original text was being presented. “I’m disappointed that the cherry-picked quotes circulated by the media severely mischaracterize what was actually written,” he wrote. While the essay was critical, he added, “As written, Cap is supportive of America as a whole.”

(8) A WORD FROM OUR WILDLIFE. The Red Panda Fraction asks that I remind everyone there is only a little more than 24 hours remaining to vote in the Dragon Awards. Request a ballot at the link.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 29, 1854 Joseph Jacobs. Australian folklorist, translator, literary critic and historian who became a notable collector and publisher of English folklore. Many of our genre writers have use of his material. “Jack the Giant Killer” becomes Charles de Lint’s Jack Of Kinrowan series!  Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon to give an example. (Lecture mode off.) Excellent books by the way. (Died 1916.)
  • Born August 29, 1904 Leslyn M. Heinlein. She was born Leslyn MacDonald. She was married to Robert A. Heinlein between 1932 and 1947. Her only genre writing on ISFDB is “Rocket’s Red Glare“ which was published in The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I.  There’s an interesting article on her and Heinlein here. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 29, 1939 Joel Schumacher, 80. Director of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, not mention Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Ok, so those might not be the highlights of his career… However his Blood Creek vampirefilm starring Michael Fassbender is said to be very good. Oh, and his The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a very funny riff the original The Incredible Shrinking Man
  • Born August 29, 1942 Dian Crayne. A member of LASFS, when she and Bruce Pelz divorced the party they threw inspired Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?” She published mystery novels under the name J.D. Crayne. A full rememberence post is here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written as collected by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 29, 1945 Robert Weinberg. Author, editor, publisher, and collector of science fiction. At Chicon 7, he received a Special Committee Award for his service to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. During the Seventies, he was the genius behind Pulp which featured interviews with pulp writers such as Walter B. Gibson and Frederick C. Davis. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 68. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction, winner of a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her isa wonderful novel that I do also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle. 
  • Born August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder,  66. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you, but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s pop culture figure, tomorrow’s museum exhibit — Bizarro.
  • Grimmy makes a monstrous theological pun.

(11) NG IN NYT. The New York Times found the name change newsworthy: “John W. Campbell Award Is Renamed After Winner Criticizes Him”.

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

(12) ABOUT THOSE EDITORIALS. A tweet highlights one problematic view – the Wikipedia article covers this one and many more.

(13) FRESHER TOMATOES. Or is that a contradiction? “Rotten Tomatoes Adds 600 Critics After Initiative to Increase Inclusion”: Variety has the story.

A year after Rotten Tomatoes announced plans to boost diversity among its approved critics, the review aggregation site revealed it has added 600 new film commentators.

In an effort to increase representation and inclusion across the industry, the company also renewed $100,000 in grants for 2020 to assist critics from underrepresented groups to attend film festivals and industry events. In 2018 and 2019, Rotten Tomatoes has helped over 160 journalists attend film festivals by donating grant money to festivals like Toronto, Sundance and SXSW.

Last August, Rotten Tomatoes refurbished its criteria to look at an individual’s qualifications, rather than just their employer when it comes to verifying critics. The initiative also expanded its pool to newer media platforms like digital videos or podcasts. Of the new critics added this year, 55% are women, 60% are freelancers and 10% publish reviews on more modern platforms like YouTube.

(14) JEDI DRINK TRICK. TSA will treat this as a “no fly” souvenir: “Disney Coke Bottles From Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Banned by TSA”.

The containers look too much like hand grenades, it seems.

Visitors to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort will not be able to take one unique item sold in the land on an airplane.

It was recently discovered that the TSA told one fan that the “thermal detonator” Coke and Sprite bottles would not be allowed in any luggage.

(15) OH NOES! A File 770 field reporter has discovered White Pumpkin M&Ms are back!

(16) RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE. BBC is there when the “James Webb Space Telescope comes together”

The successor to the Hubble observatory has reached a key milestone in its construction.

All the elements that make up the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have been brought together for the first time.

It sets the stage for some critical tests that will hopefully lead to a launch to orbit sometime in 2021.

JWST will use a colossal mirror and state-of-the-art instruments to try to see the glow from the very first stars to shine in the Universe.

It will also have the power to resolve the atmospheres of many of the new planets now being discovered beyond our Solar System, and to analyse their atmospheres for the potential for life.

(17) AIRBORNE ON MARS. CNN reports “NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars. It’ll be the first aircraft to fly on another planet”.

Before humans make it to Mars, NASA will send a helicopter to scope out the terrain.

Engineers attached a helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover ahead of its launch next summer. And if it flies successfully, it’ll be the first aircraft to fly on another planet, NASA said.

The solar-powered Mars Helicopter will be safely stowed underneath the rover until it lands at the Jezero Crater, where scientists believe water once flowed. The craft will detach from the rover and explore Mars from the air while the rover collects samples on the ground, NASA said.

If the helicopter flies, it can provide a unique vantage point for scientists to observe Mars.

If all goes well, the autonomous aircraft will snapshot aerial views of Martian cliffs, caves and craters that the land-bound rover can’t explore. And even if it doesn’t take flight, the rover can still gather important data from the surface.

(18) TECH SOLUTION. Viable strategy? BBC tells how it works: “Anti-groping stamp lets victims mark assailants”.

An anti-groping device aimed at tackling sexual harassment on public transport has been launched in Japan.

It allows victims to mark their assailants with an invisible ink stamp in the shape of a hand.

People can then use the device’s black light to identify those who have been marked.

The firm involved says it wants to help tackle the crime. But one sex abuse charity is concerned that the tech could place an added burden on victims.

Japanese firm Shachihata says it developed the stamp to help deter groping on trains in the country.

The company first announced it was developing the stamp in May after a video showing a pair of Japanese schoolgirls chasing down a suspected groper on a station platform went viral.

(19) A VISIT TO HMS TERROR. A short video on BBC about the ill-fated Franklin expedition (1845) to chart the NW Passage.  The ship, HMS Terror was found in Terror Bay, near King William Island. Video: “Franklin Expedition: New footage of wreck of HMS Terror”. (Wikipedia entry: HMS Terror (1813).)

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “I Wrote A Song Using Only Hate Comments” on YouTube, Madilyn Bailey provides a song where all the lyrics come from comments made by trolls.

[Thanks to Standback, John King Tarpinain, JJ, Lis Carey, James Bacon, mlex, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, StephenfromOttawa, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Trey.]