Pixel Scroll 8/1/22 The Scrolls Finally Busted Madame Marie For Filing Pixels Better Than They Did

(1) CHICON 8 SITE SELECTION OPENS 8/6. Site Selection Administrator Warren Buff wrote to members today that voting for the location of both the 2024 Worldcon and the 2023 NASFiC will open August 6.

Also that day there will be a Q&A session with the bidders over Zoom (Saturday, August 6, at 12:00 p.m. Central).  The public is welcome to view the Zoom event, however, the committee asks that they request the link by emailing siteselection@chicon.org.

Electronic/online voting will be a new option, alongside paper voting, this year. Chicon 8 has selected ElectionBuddy for this service. An explanation will be given during the Q&A session on the 6th. Members will also be provided documentation online.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Here is the July 2022 entry in the Center for Science and the Imagination’s  Future Tense Fiction series, published this past Saturday: “All That Burns Unseen,” by Premee Mohamed, a story about the future of fighting wildfires.

The plane had no pilot. Vaughn, who had wandered into the cockpit to find someone to talk to, found herself more startled than shocked by this—after all, her boss had said about half the flights going up to the fires were self-flown—but there had certainly been a pilot when she’d boarded. He must have disembarked in Cold Lake, where they had stopped so briefly that Vaughn hadn’t even bothered unfastening her seat belt. Either way, the Hercules was now, undeniably, flying itself…. 

It was published along with a response essay by Meg Duff, an expert in environmental politics and climate law. “Firefighting chemicals are dangerous for the environment. Can that change?”

(3) WELLER OUT. Columbia College Chicago professor Sam Weller has been terminated following an investigation of accusations of sexual assault reports The Columbia Chronicle. He is a four-time Bram Stoker Award nominee for his work as a Bradbury biographer.

Tenured professor Sam Weller, who was accused of sexual assault by a former faculty member in February, has been terminated by the college.

In an email statement, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim announced that Weller, who was an associate professor in the English and Creative Writing Department, was issued a Notice of Dismissal earlier today as a result of the investigation conducted by the law firm Mayer Brown LLP.

“Based on Mayer Brown’s findings that Professor Weller engaged in conduct that violated the college’s sexual harassment and other policies, Provost Marcella David concluded that the conduct warranted termination,” the statement read.

Cara Dehnert, a former associate professor of instruction in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department, accused Weller of sexually assaulting her in her office in 2018 in an article published to Medium Feb. 12.

Dehnert said she spoke with Human Resources in a February 2020 meeting where she told then-Associate Vice President of Human Relations Norma De Jesus “everything,” and provided texts, emails and Facebook messages between her and Weller, but never heard from Human Resources again following the meeting. 

De Jesus resigned from her position at the college two weeks ago on June 24…. 

(4) A REACH THAT EXCEEDS. “’I can’t do superheroes, but I can do gods’: Neil Gaiman on comics, diversity and casting Death” – the Guardian profiles the Sandman creator. Here’s what he thought when he started out:

…“Bear in mind, at this point I’ve written and sold maybe four short stories and [comic miniseries] Black Orchid. And now I’m going to have to do a monthly comic,” he says. “And I have no idea whether or not I can do it. I don’t think I have the engine to write a superhero comic. I’ve watched what Alan Moore does, what Grant Morrison does. These guys have superhero engines, they can do them; I don’t have that.”

Gaiman needed another way in, and it came via a US science-fiction author. “Roger Zelazny did a book called Lord of Light, where he did science-fictional gods who feel like superheroes,” says Gaiman. “It’s set in a world in the future where a bunch of space explorers have given themselves the powers of the Hindu pantheon. I thought: I can’t do superheroes, but I could do god comics. I bet I could get that kind of feeling to happen, and it might feel enough like a superhero comic to fool people.”…

(5) TESTING THE TURING TEST. Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans podcast episode 39 is about “Ted Chiang and the Metrics of Personhood”.

Surprise! It’s a bonus season 1 episode we’ve been keeping on the back burner! Ted Chiang comes onto the show to have a discussion with Ben about what it means to be a person, whether Alan Turing’s test for artificial intelligence still holds up, and the persistent themes of parenting and religion in Chiang’s work.

Content warning for a potentially ableist use of a congenital disease as an example of the theological problem of innocent suffering.

(6) TRIAL BEGINS. “Penguin Random House-S&S Acquisition Case Goes to Court” – an update from Publishing Perspectives.

It was on November 25, 2020, when it was announced that Penguin Random House‘s parent company Bertelsmann had struck a deal to buy Simon & Schuster for US$2.175 billion.  And it was nine years and a month ago—July 1, 2013—when another merger was completed, the one that brought Penguin and Random House together.

Oral arguments are scheduled to begin today (August 1) in the antitrust suit filed by the United States Department of Justice, a case with which the government proposes to block the merger of PRH and S&S.

The case, being heard by Judge Florence Pan at Washington’s US District Court for the District of Columbia (the Prettyman Courthouse), brings home the fact that those who object to consolidation among the book business’ biggest players aren’t wrong that things actually are moving quite quickly. These two major inflection points are occurring in under a decade.

That’s one reason that this American antitrust trial has a lot of interest for our international readership, of course. The case in Washington is focused on Penguin Random House as the States’ biggest publisher and Simon & Schuster as one of PRH’s sisters in the US “Big Five”—which could become the “Big Four,” if Bertelsmann and Penguin Random House are successful the bid to buy S&S. These industry-leading companies, however, have profound presence in many markets of world publishing, and so, in fact, does an issue on which the government’s case turns very heavily: author compensation.

Author Stephen King is expected to testify at Tuesday’s session: “Stephen King is star witness as government tries to block publishing giants’ merger” reports the Portland Press Herald.

… The government’s star witness, bestselling author Stephen King, is expected to testify at Tuesday’s session of the weekslong trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. King’s works are published by Simon & Schuster.

At Monday’s opening session, opposing attorneys for the two sides presented their cases before U.S. District Judge Florence Pan.

Justice Department attorneys called the merger “presumptively wrong” because it would shrink competition and, inevitably, the vital public discourse that books help engender. Penguin Random House countered that the new company would “enhance” competition because the combined company could turn out books more efficiently….

(7) LABORING IN THE VINEYARD. Sharon Lee’s post “In which the authors are working” includes some Trader’s Leap spoilers, should you be in the market for some.

Much like being a Liaden Scout, being a writer is 98% mucking around in the mud, and 2% excitement.

And, after a brief period of excitement, we’re back to Business as Usual, which is exciting enough for those doing the work, but makes for poor telling….

(8) SOMEBODY OWES HIM MONEY. Cory Doctorow explains why he won’t let his books appear on Audible in “Pluralistic: 25 Jul 2022”. The long saga includes this bit of comic relief:

…We’re going to be rolling out a crowdfunding campaign for the Chokepoint Capitalism audiobook in a couple of weeks (the book comes out in mid-September). …And it won’t be available on Audible. Who owe me $3,218.55.

But you know what will be available on Audible?

This. This essay, which I am about to record as an audiobook, to be mastered by my brilliant sound engineer John Taylor Williams, and will thereafter upload to ACX as a self-published, free audiobook.

Perhaps you aren’t reading these words off your screen. Perhaps you are an Audible customer who searched for my books and only found this odd, short audiobook entitled: “Why none of my books are available on Audible: And why Amazon owes me $3,218.55.”

I send you greetings, fellow audiobook listener!

…In the meantime, there is now a Kindle edition of this text:

I had to put this up, it’s a prerequisite for posting the audio to ACX. I hadn’t planned on posting it, but since they made me, I did.

Bizarrely, this is currently the number one new Amazon book on Antitrust Law!

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1977 [By Cat Eldridge.] Now I’m feeling old as I clearly remember watching this episode, the next-to-last one of the series. Holmes & Yoyo’s “The Cat Burglar“ aired forty-five years ago on this date on ABC. Someone is stealing well loved felines for ransom from wealthy ladies, and Holmes and Yoyo set out to catch the cat stealer. 

Look no one is ever going to accuse Holmes & Yoyo, which lasted a mere thirteen episodes, of being deep or meaningful because it wasn’t. Was it good SF? Not really? Was it a decent detective series? Oh no, but despite that, it was fun to watch. 

And this story was proof of that in, errrr, the number of cats under foot. It’s lightweight and no one but one gets hurt, it’s got John Schuck at his very, very comic best and it’s got cats in it. None of which get hurt. 

I don’t think that series could’ve gone any further than it did as there just wasn’t anything there to build off, was there? To say to the premise was thin would be an understatement. 

I hold that John Schuck is best in his comic roles and that includes his role as Draal on Babylon 5 which had a measure of comedy the way he presented himself. Herman Munster on The Munsters Today may have been his best role ever, and the Lt. Charles Enright character on the McMillan & Wife series (which yes, I watched and liked a lot) had more than a bit of comic relief in it. And I adore his take on M.A.S.H. as Capt. ‘Painless’ Waldowski. I’ve watched that film at least a half dozen times now. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 1, 1862 M.R. James. Writer of some of the best ghost stories ever done. A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings, released in 2001 from Ash-Tree Press has forty stories which includes the thirty stories from Collected Ghost Stories plus the 3 tales published after that, and the seven from The Fenstanton Witch and Others. It’s apparently the most complete collection of his stories to date. Or so I though until I checked online. The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James, over seven hundred pages, is available from the usual suspects for a mere buck ninety-nine! (Died 1939.)
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available from the usual suspects. Member, First Fandom Hall of Fame. He was nominated five times for a Retro Hugo for Best Editor, Short Form, and once as Best Professional Editor, Short Form. (Died 1977.)
  • Born August 1, 1914 Edd Cartier. Illustrator who received the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, the first artist to receive that honor. His artwork was first published in Street and Smith publications, including The Shadow, to which he provided many interior illustrations, and Astounding Science Fiction, Doc Savage Magazine and Unknown as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. You’ll likely best remember him for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s rather awful Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was also Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. Weird film that. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 1, 1932 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 1, 1941 Craig Littler, 70. His main genre role was as space adventurer Jason in Jason of Star Command which of course James Doohan was in as well. If you look closely, you’ll spot him briefly in Blazing Saddles as Tex and Rosemary’s Baby as Jimmy as well. And he has one-offs in The Next BeyondAirWolf and Team Knight Rider. Team Knight Rider? Really, they didn’t know when to stop?
  • Born August 1, 1942 Jerry Garcia. Lead vocalist of the Grateful Dead. The Dead did some songs that were SF as SFE notes. The song “The Music Never Stopped” (on Blues for Allah, 1975) borrows its title from a sentence in Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956) and was possibly inspired by that novel.  And SFE notes that the band was hired to compose and perform some appropriately outré music for the first revival of the Twilight Zone television series.  There’s lots more connections to SF but I’ll stop by saying that Garcia played the banjo heard in the first remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (Died 1995.)
  • Born August 1, 1948 David Gemmell. Best remembered for his first novel, Legend, the first book in his long-running Drenai series. He would go on to write some thirty novels. The David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy were presented from 2009 to 2018, with a stated goal to “restore fantasy to its proper place in the literary pantheon”. (Died 2006.)
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 67. Director who was first a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She conceptualized Max. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 (where it was sponsored by Coca-Cola) and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series. I haven’t heard if she has a role in the forthcoming rebooted Max Headroom series.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DEJA VIEW. That NPR is a radio network doesn’t keep them from reaching for this optical analogy: “Seeing double: Near-identical films that came out at the same time”. Surely you’ve noticed yourself that this happens. And many of the movies are genre.

They are showdowns that didn’t need to happen — rival studios staring each other down, refusing to blink.

In 1998, Earth-snuffing asteroids got blown up in the nick of time by nuclear warheads, not once but twice, in Armageddon and Deep Impact. That same year, animated insects skittered onto movie screens in Antz and A Bug’s Life — and just a year earlier, dueling lava flows erupted in Dante’s Peak and Volcano.

And in 2013, Jesse Eisenberg starred in The Double, and Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy, each as a man tormented by his doppelganger (and wouldn’t you know that Enemy was based on a novel called…wait for it… The Double.)…

(13) ACT NOTABLE AWARDS. [Item by Dann.] A.C.T. (Australia Capitol Territory) Writers presented their awards for 2020 and 2021 over the weekend.  Covid caused them to not have an awards ceremony for 2020.

T.R. Napper’s collection of science fiction stories called Neon Leviathan won in for fiction in 2020 under the Small Press category. The collection was published by GrimDark Magazine.

(14) MORE MUNROE DOCTRINES. Randall Munroe has a new book coming out in September. “Randall Munroe – Sixth & I. At the link you have the option to buy in-person or virtual tickets to see Munroe in conversation with Derek Thompson on September 14 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Planning to ride a fire pole from the moon back to Earth? The hardest part is sticking the landing. Hoping to cool the atmosphere by opening everyone’s freezer door at the same time? Maybe it’s time for a brief introduction to thermodynamics. For the answers to the rest of the weirdest questions you never thought to ask, “xkcd” creator and former NASA roboticist Randall Munroe is back with What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.

(15) IN THE BEGINNING. Bill jumped in his TARDIS and returned with a clipping of this early advertisement for Nichelle Nichols when she was a nightclub singer. From the Honolulu Advertiser, Aug 4, 1960.

(16) SUPER CLEAN. WLKY captures the scene as “’Superhero’ window washers scale Norton Children’s Hospital again”.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s superheroes outside of patient windows at Norton Children’s Hospital again!

That’s exactly what kids and their families at Norton Children’s Hospital in downtown Louisville got on Monday morning as window washers traded in their cleaning uniforms for capes and masks.

The goal is to give sick children a surprise several stories high as a crew from Pro Clean International dress as superheroes to wash the exterior windows of the hospital.

CEO of Pro-Clean International, and ‘Iron Man’, Joe Haist says, he got the idea from personal experience. “I have a special needs child that was born blind with special needs” said Haist, “I know that sometimes you go to the hospital, you’re there for a long time and there’s not a lot to see or do and there’s not a lot of happiness. So it’s really a great moment to really kind of bring people with some happiness.”

They have done this at least the past few years.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video from Alasdair Beckett-King dropped today. “Every Internet Video From 2003 (not literally)”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Bill, Warren Buff, Dann, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/22 Is That A Real Pixel, Or Is That A Sears Pixel

(1) WISCON NEWS. Today’s “#SaveWisCon Update” has its ups and downs:

We are making AMAZING progress on our work to #SaveWisCon, thanks to your help!

      • We have now raised just over $32,000 in donations of which $30,000 will be matched, for a total of $62,000 raised to support WisCon! This is absolutely incredible, and we are so grateful for everyone who contributed and helped spread the word.
      • 70 people have completed our Volunteer Interest Form to help out with pre-con volunteering. Thank you all!
      • We’ve gained 252 new email newsletter subscribers since November, which is helping us make sure everyone gets the latest con news and updates. Not getting the newsletter? You can sign up here.
      • We have a total of 418 registrations (in-person and online). Our goal is 1,000! Please registerand tell your friends about WisCon, too.

PLUS we are receiving a total of $5,500 in grants from:

We deeply appreciate their support and encourage everyone to learn more about these excellent organizations.

Thanks to your donations and these grants, we’re at roughly $67,000 in total funds raised!

Is this the end of #SaveWisCon fundraising? Are we just done now, forever?

Well…probably not, y’all, for a couple of reasons…

The two main reasons are: (1) It’s “basically impossible” for them to book enough rooms to meet their contract so they will owe a big penalty. That’s an effect of the pandemic and people’s assessment of the risk of in-person events. (2) They have sold only a fraction of the 500 online memberships that are an expected revenue source.

(2) NOT A SWEET SOUND IN THEIR EARS. Appropriate to April 15, the usual income tax filing day in the U.S. (although not in 2022, when it’s April 18), the SFWA Blog posted this: “SFWA Alert: Tax Guidance for Audible/ACX Royalties Reporting”.

…Audible/ACX’s New Tax Reporting Policy: What Authors Should Know

As of January 1, 2021, authors who publish their own audiobooks on ACX and use ACX producers must now declare the producers’ portion of the royalties as income and then deduct those payments as business expenses when they file their taxes.  This is because Audible/ACX now reports all of the net earnings from ACX audiobooks on the authors’ 1099-MISC forms, including the earnings it paid over to producers, as the authors’ royalty earning. It has also stopped issuing 1099-MISCs to producers and instead now issues 1099-Ks to producers that meet the income threshold.

With these new accounting practices, Audible/ACX is treating the payments it makes to voice actors, audiobook producers, and studio pros (collectively referred to as Producers in the agreements) as part of the royalties payable to the authors (referred to as Rights Holders in the agreements)—on the notion that it is the authors, not Audible/ACX, who hire the Producers and owe the Producers a share of their own royalties as compensation for recording the book. The new structure makes clear that Audible/ACX is limiting its role to that of a third-party payment settlement service, even though it makes the Producers’ services available to their authors, sets the terms of that engagement (a 50/50 royalty split), and is the one to send payment to the Producers….

(3) MOURNING STAR. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Last night’s episode of Young Sheldon starts with the momentous news, related by the young version of Sheldon Cooper, that Isaac Asimov has died. (Which happened in 1992.) His parents are monumentally dismissive, but others not as much. I can honestly state that more Asimov works are mentioned there than on any other TV show, ever.

All I can say is, hilarity ensues!

It’s Series 5, Episode 18, “Babies, Lies and a resplendent Cannoli,” with the description on my TV, “Sheldon copes with the death of a hero; Missy wants to babysit; Georgie struggles with a big secret.”

Likely available On Demand.

(4) THE ANSWER IS 47. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews The 47th, a Shakespearean pastiche by Mike Bartlett about the 2024 presidential election which is playing at the Old Vic Theatre (oldvictheatre.com) through May 28. (I reviewed Bartlett’s previous near-future Shakespearean pastiche, King Charles III, here in 2017 “King Charles III”: A Review”.)

(5) RINGO AWARDS 2022 NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards return for their sixth year on Saturday, October 29, 2022 as part of The Baltimore Comic-Con. The Ringo Awards include fan participation in the nomination process along with a jury of comics professionals. Fans are welcome to nominate until June 30 at the website here.

Fan and Pro Nominations: Fan and pro-jury voting are tallied independently, and the combined nomination ballot is compiled by the Ringo Awards Committee. The top two fan choices become nominees, and the jury’s selections fill the remaining three slots for five total nominees per category. Ties may result in more than five nominees in a single category. Nominees will be listed on the ballot alphabetically. Nomination ballot voting is open to the public (fans and pros) between April 15, 2022 and June 30, 2022.

Final Ballot Voting: After processing by the Ringo Awards Committee and Jury, the Final Ballots are targeted to be available to comic creative professionals for voting on August 31, 2022 and will be due by September 28, 2022 for final tallying. Presentation of the winners will occur at the Baltimore Comic-Con on the evening of Saturday, October 29, 2022.

(6) NO VIVIAN IN 2022. The Romance Writers of America have postponed the next Vivian Award to 2023. The announcement was made last October – but it was news to me. The decision came in the aftermath of RWA rebranding its annual award (formerly the Rita), and the organization’s decision to rescind one of the inaugural Vivian Awards.

In an effort to provide the VIVIAN Task Force the time needed to thoroughly examine the 2021 VIVIAN contest, the RWA Board has approved the task force’s recommendation to postpone the 2022 VIVIAN Contest. This postponement will give the task force time to conduct a thorough analysis of the inaugural contest and make recommendations for changes to be implemented for the 2023 contest period. Under normal circumstances, our contest period begins in October with marketing and advertising campaigns followed by the recruitment and training of judges and accepting contest entries. However, the Board recognizes that the VIVIAN Task Force needs more than a couple of weeks to break down all aspects of the contest to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses outside of those revealed this year.

(7) LANGELLA OUT OF USHER. Yahoo! reports“Frank Langella Fired From ‘Fall of the House of Usher’ After Netflix Investigation”.

Veteran actor Frank Langella has been fired from Mike Flanagan’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” following a Netflix investigation that found Langella acted inappropriately on set, a source close to the production confirmed to TheWrap on Wednesday evening.

Netflix had no comment on the situation and a rep for Flanagan did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

TMZ reported on Tuesday that Netflix was looking into allegations that the 84-year-old had been accused of sexual harassment, including making inappropriate comments to a female co-star on the set of the limited series….

(8) OH GIVE ME A HOME, WHERE THE PORTAL HAS COME. A new sf western begins today on Amazon Prime: Outer Range.

Outer Range centers on Royal Abbott (Josh Brolin), a rancher fighting for his land and family, who discovers an unfathomable mystery at the edge of Wyoming’s wilderness. A thrilling fable with hints of wry humor and supernatural mystery, Outer Range examines how we grapple with the unknown. At the onset of the series, the Abbotts are coping with the disappearance of daughter-in-law Rebecca. They are pushed further to the brink when the Tillersons (the gaudy owners of the neighboring profit-driven ranch) make a play for their land. An untimely death in the community sets off a chain of tension-filled events, and seemingly small-town, soil-bound troubles come to a head with the arrival of a mysterious black void in the Abbotts’ west pasture. Wild revelations unfold as Royal fights to protect his family; through his eyes, we begin to see how time contains secrets held in the past and unsettling mysteries foreshadowed.

(9) CHRISTINE ASHBY OBIT. Australian fan Christine Ashby, the 1976 Down Under Fan Fund delegate, died at her home on March 29. She was 70 years of age. In 1976 DUFF she attended that year’s Worldcon, MidAmeriCon. Her trip report, The Flight of the Kangaroo, was published about a decade later.

(10) ESSAY: JO WALTON’S SMALL CHANGE TRILOGY. [By Cat Eldridge,] Doing alternate history right is always hard work, but Jo Walton’s  the Small Change books consisting of  Farthing, Ha’penny and Half a Crown get it perfectly spot on. Set as you know in Britain that settled for an uneasy peace with Hitler’s Germany, they are mysteries, one of my favorite genres. And these are among my all-time favorite mysteries of this sort. 

The audiobooks are fascinating as befitting that there being shifting narrators with Peter Carmichael whose presence in all three novels is voiced by John Keating, and Bianco Amato voicing David Kahn’s wife in Farthing, but Viola Lark being played by Heather O’Neil in Ha’penny and yet a third female narrator, Elvira, is brought to life by Terry Donnelly in Half a Crown

Now I’m fascinated by what awards they won (and didn’t) and what they got nominated for. It would win but one award, the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel for Ha’Penny which is I find a bit odd indeed given there’s nothing libertarian about that novel. 

Now Half a Crown wracked an impressive number of nominations: the Sidewise Award for Best Long Form Alternate History, Locus for Best SF Novel, Sunburst award for a Canadian novel, and this time deservedly so given the themes of the final novel a Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel.

Farthing had picked up nominations for a Sidewise, a Nebula, Campbell Memorial, Quill where Ha’Penny only picked a Sidewise and Lambda.

Not a single Hugo nomination which really, really surprised me. 

There is one short story set in this series, “Escape to Other Worlds with Science Fiction” which you can read in her Starlings colllection that Tachyon published. It is is a fantastic collection of her stories, poems and cool stuff! 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1918 Denis McLoughlin. No, he didn’t do any genre work that you’d know of. (And I’m not interested in it anyways. This is not about a genre artist.) His greatest fame came from work doing hard-boiled detective book covers produced for the London publishing house of Boardman Books spanning a career that lasted nearly eight decades with other work as well. And oh what covers they were!  Here’s is his cover for Adam Knight’s Stone Cold Blonde, and this is Henry Kanes’…Until You’re Dead. Finally let’s look at his cover for Fredric Brown’s We All Killed Grandma.  He was in perfect health when he took a revolver from his extensive collection of weapons and committed suicide. No note was left behind. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 15, 1922 Michael Ansara. Commander Kang  in Trek’s “The Day of The Dove” as well as a lot of other genre work including a recurring role as Kane on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, multiple roles on I Dream of Jeannie andmyriad voicings of Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze in the Batman series. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 15, 1926 Jerry Grandenetti. In my opinion, his greatest work was as the illustrator who helped defined the look of The Spirit that Will Eisner created. He also worked at DC, mostly on war comics of which there apparently way more than I knew (All-American Men of WarG.I. CombatOur Army at War, Our Fighting Forces and Star Spangled War Stories) though he did work on the House of Mystery and Strange Adventures series as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 15, 1959 Emma Thompson, 63. Professor Sybill Trelawney, Harry Potter franchise. Men in Black 3 and Men in Black: International as Agent O, I am LegendNanny McPhee and the Big BangThe Voyage of Doctor Dolittle as Polynesia, the extraordinary Tony Kushner derived HBO series Angels in AmericaBeauty and the Beast as Mrs. Potts, the castle’s motherly head housekeeper who has been transformed into a teapot, BraveBeautiful Creatures and Treasure Planet voicing Captain Amelia. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 48. [Item by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He has two novels in his Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer at Chicon 7.
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 25. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, an immortal Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, “The Woman Who Lived”, “Face the Raven” and “Hell Bent” during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She was also Lucy in the Netflix SF iBoy. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants, due for release sometime, well who knows, as it keeps getting delayed. 

(12) HEROS AND STINKERS. Here’s a research project that will amuse (or bemuse) you: “All The Hobbits From Lord Of The Rings Ranked Worst To Best”. Looper ranks 18 of them.

… There are a lot of hobbits in “Lord of the Rings.” So many, in fact, that we’ve decided to round them all up into a good ol’ worst-to-best ranking. After all, what good is this iconic race of hole-dwellers if we can’t subjectively compare them to each other? Here are all of the hobbits who play at least a minor role in the story, ranked by a general conglomeration of heroics, accomplishments, humor, toughness, and overall importance to Tolkien’s world….

16. Ted Sandyman is a pathetic excuse for a Hobbit

…While he plays a similar part in the book, Sandyman’s role is a bit bigger on-page. He’s in a lengthy scene in “The Fellowship of the Ring” where he verbally spars with Sam, rebutting his romantic notions of the world. Then he reappears at the end of “The Return of the King,” where it’s revealed that he’s gone over to the dark side, helping Saruman’s minions overrun the Shire and turn it into an industrialized police state….

Ted Sandyman is eventually put in his place, but during his time in the story he proves to be nothing more than a troublemaking bully who runs at the first site of trouble. To the bottom of the list he goes…

(13) WE’RE DOOMED, DOOMED! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An analysis announced by Nature this week reveals that even if all the agreed actions from last November’s COP26 UN climate change summit were implemented global temperatures could not be kept below the target 1.5°C warming.

The researchers say that to meet this target we are going to have to actively remove carbon dioxide from the air.

Personally, having studied climate change for some decades now, I am all too aware of the difficulties. Indeed, back in 2009 I posted an online essay that concluded it would be difficult to keep warming below 2°C.

Since 2009, there has been a growing body of research pointing in the same direction, of which this Nature paper is but the latest.

Quantifications of the pledges before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) suggested a less than 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius…

Limiting warming not only to ‘just below’ but to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Celsius urgently requires policies and actions to bring about steep emission reductions this decade, aligned with mid-century global net-zero CO2 emissions.

(14) REPEAT AFTER ME. If you have eight minutes to spare you can watch a “Giant ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Supercut” with every appearance of the Vulcan phrase in every Star Trek series. Nerdist gives a rundown —

…This montage (which we first saw at Laughing Squid) includes all the times someone said that phrase, from the franchise’s first days to right now. Characters first told others to “live long and prosper” on the original cast’s show, animated series, and movies. Since then Star Trek characters in The Next Generation, First Contact, Voyager, Enterprise, Lower Decks, and Prodigy have said the phrase, too.

(Uh, can we go back and edit one into Deep Space Nine? Now that we know zero characters ever said the Vulcan salute, it seems weird, right?)

(15) MIXED MEDIA. Daniel Greene’s “Best of the Year 2021” rankings are unusual in that he includes written as well as filmed media, so there’s some nice shout-outs for several notable SF/Fantasy printed works in here.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on the Snyder cut in this video, which dropped Thursday. “How The Snyder Cut Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Irwin Hirsh, Joyce Scrivner, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Audible.com Names
Best Audiobooks of 2020

The editors at Audible.com have selected The Best Audiobooks of 2020. The complete list of winners in all categories is here.

One genre work made the overall Top 10, the top pick in the Fantasy category —

FANTASY

WINNER: The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs
Performed by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen

The four runners-up are:

The City We Became by: N. K. Jemisin

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by: V. E. Schwab

Black Sun by: Rebecca Roanhorse

Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive, Book 4) by: Brandon Sanderson

SCIENCE FICTION

WINNER: The Sea in the Sky by Jackson Musker
Performed by Octavia Chavez-Richmond, James Ludwig, Pun Bandhu, Lizan Mitchell, a full cast

The four runners-up are:

Network Effect by: Martha Wells

Axiom’s End: A Novel by: Lindsay Ellis

The Space Between Worlds by: Micaiah Johnson

Riot Baby by: Tochi Onyebuchi

[Via Locus Online.]

Audiblegate Update: Policy Change Does Not Satisfy Authors Guild

Audible has deflected criticism of their returns policy by curtailing the time when a return would be charged against a writer’s royalties from a year to seven days. However, the authors who initially raised the issue question what difference that will make.

As File 770 reported in November (see “How Audible’s Returns Policy Exploits Writers”), Audible, the audiobook publisher/distributor, stands accused of attracting readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to – becoming in effect a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives the author of what they should have earned on a work that was bought and enjoyed.

Amazon’s company ACX is a self-serve audiobook production platform, and Audible is its audiobook sales outlet. The adjustment to the returns policy was announced in “A Note from ACX” at the Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog (November 24):

…The intent of this program is to allow listeners to discover their favorite voice, author, or story in audio. In instances where we determine the benefit is being overused, Audible can and does limit the number of exchanges and refunds allowed by a member. But as designed, this customer benefit allows active Audible members in good standing to take a chance on new content, and suspicious activity is extremely rare.

We hope this helps convey perspective to our valued writers and ACX partners as to the impact of our current returns policies. However, in recognition of these concerns, moving forward and effective as of January 1, 2021, Audible will pay royalties for any title returned more than 7 days following purchase. 

Susan May, one of the leaders in bringing these issues to public attention, told The Alliance of Independent Authors why she is not satisfied:

“In offering authors the burden of bearing the cost of a return up to seven days of purchase, and Audible then assuming that cost for the balance of the 365 days of the ‘Easy Exchange’ [membership] benefit, we still have no idea of the value of this concession. It’s our belief that most customers would return a book in the first seven days after listening, and then a smaller percentage will return thereafter. This is a reusable credit as we’ve seen, and so we may still be enduring substantial losses.

“Audible has no mechanism in place that we have found through multiple tests which prevents overuse of this ‘Easy Exchange’ program. They’ve also given no indication that they do in fact prevent someone from returning a book once a majority of it has been consumed, or limit the exchanges and refunds allowed by members.

“Therefore, this begs the question: Why won’t Audible/ACX supply authors and publishers with their returns data in a timely and open fashion?”

May also realizes that Audible will not really be out of pocket by paying two authors a royalty on the expenditure of one subscriber credit. The company will be diluting the royalties on returns beyond the seven-day widow as a function of increasing the number of sales among which Audible divides the authors’ share of monthly subscription income. May said on her own blog enty, “Audiblegate 2: The Emperor’s New Clothes Policy, Pot Theory, Unicorns & Pirates”:

…Under the new returns policy, the Emperor’s New Clothes Policy, a subscriber can still “exchange” an audiobook in the exact same way, up to 365 days later. The only difference is that if a user exchanges a book after 7 days, both Author #1 AND Author #2 will receive the royalty for their sale.

Ooh, that seems good, and even if most of them are returned in the first seven days, that’s still something, right?

Well, no, because these returns after seven days are still potentially deducted from the exact same pot of money we all share. It’s still lost to authors and not being worn by the oh, so, magnanimous Audible, the party with the overly large share of the profit split.

Meanwhile, The Authors Guild’s call for writers to “Sign Our Letter and Tell Audible to Stop Charging Authors for Returns” has gathered over 12,000 signatures. The Guild likewise says that Audible’s policy change does not go far enough:

…The Authors Guild appreciates that Audible has acknowledged the concerns raised by authors and has shown a willingness to make changes to its policy so that authors lose their royalties only if an audiobook is returned within seven days of purchase rather than the current 365, but their proposal does not go far enough. For high volume audiobook listeners, a seven-day period is more than enough to listen to a whole audiobook, and it is not fair to deduct the author’s royalty for books that have been or could have been listened to. This practice is unparalleled in digital media retail. We think that royalties should only be deducted in cases of accidental purchase and within a much shorter period of time, such as 48 hours, and only if the audiobook hasn’t been listened to substantially. We have communicated this to Audible. We have also asked Audible for transparency in their reporting so that authors can see the royalty deductions from their accounts; currently authors only see the net amounts  – the number of books sold minus returns.

Many other author organizations have now joined the protest reports Publishing Perspectives.

  • The Dramatists’ Guild
  • Novelists Inc.
  • The UK-based international Alliance of Independent Authors
  • The Writers’ Union of Canada
  • The Irish Writers Union
  • The Australian Society of Authors
  • The Society of Authors in the United Kingdom
  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America;
  • The Romance Writers of America
  • Sisters in Crime
  • The Mystery Writers of America
  • Equity UK

May encourages writers to join the Facebook group she helped start where they can keep informed and work together to get Audible to treat them fairly.

How Audible’s Returns Policy Exploits Writers

Audible, the audiobook publisher/distributor, stands accused of attracting readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to – becoming in effect a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives the author of what they should have earned on a work that was bought and enjoyed.

Even worse for some authors, depending on the circumstances discussed below, their audiobooks will remain subject to Audible’s distribution scheme for years to come.  There’s a colloquial version of the laws of thermodynamics that seems to apply: “You can’t win. You can’t break even. And you can’t get out of the game.”

Susan May, Scott Baron, and Cory Doctorow are three writers who have been focusing the spotlight of publicity on these issues.

Scott Baron defined the key problem on Facebook:

Recently Audible has been actively promoting “exchanging” titles. Treating it as a library rather than a book store. The issue is, they literally take every exchange and treat it as a RETURN for authors.

That means authors are now taking HUGE hits on that platform. Every exchange takes a sale out of an author’s pocket. We don’t see one penny if it is exchanged.

Cory Doctorow synopsizes how Amazon’s companies ACX and Audible do business in this series of tweets.

Susan May educated her readers about how authors create audiobooks and offer them for sale, and what the attraction had been for going exclusively with Audible – or was, before this financial abuse was uncovered — in “Audiblegate! The incredible true story of missing sales”.

First, May describes the business basics.

Audible has their own publishing/distribution company where you can produce your book and then that book is distributed to Audible, Amazon and Apple. If you choose to “go exclusive” and distribute only to these three, you are granted the princely profit split of 40%. This is after spending sometimes upward of $6 to $8k on an audiobook. To give you an idea, my last audiobook Destination Dark Zone cost me $US6,200 to produce.

If you’re not exclusive to Audible and decide to distribute your book to other retail stores such as Kobo, Scrib’d and local libraries, then you only receive twenty-five percent of your sales or your share of the pot from memberships.

Oh, that’s right, I didn’t mention that. There’s three ways an author is paid. When an Audible member uses a monthly credit which they receive as part of their membership, a rights holder receives a share of the pot created by the number of memberships paid, minus Audible’s profit. This pot varies each month. So we never know how much this per download share will be until the day we are paid, but it’s something close to $US5, while members pay $14.95 for a membership with one credit per month to use on a book.

When you pay, say, $7.49 on Amazon for an add-on audiobook when you’ve purchased the eBook, we are paid $2.99 on the forty percent split. Should you buy an audiobook as a member from Audible and not use a credit, according to my reports, members pay $9.15 for most of my books, and I receive $3.61.

Some rights holders don’t have an exclusive deal with Audible. Many don’t because they believe in not putting all their eggs in Amazon’s basket. Well, they get less. So, just go right ahead and nearly halve these payments because they only receive twenty-five percent. It’s not much is it compared to what readers and members pay for each book or monthly subscription fee?

… So, this whole system seems a little unfair, right? Authors pay for everything, take all the risk for a smaller cut of the profits, while the richest man in the world’s company keeps the lion’s share and controls everything.

But that’s only the background, so readers can picture the injustice that May explains next:

Even more insidious than the low royalty rates paid us by Audible is something I call #AudibleGate, of which you may not be aware. Audible is promoting returns of any audible book for “any reason, no questions asked,” even if the person has listened to the whole Audible book and enjoyed it. The return is permissible up to 365 days and in some countries it’s been reported that it’s infinity. What??? Hey now, no, Susan May, how would that work? Surely not. That would be objectively unfair to the author. Might even be illegal.

Why, yes, it is unfair and morally wrong and possibly even theft by stealth. You’re so smart to realize that. Do tell Audible because they don’t seem to get it.

Audible are actively promoting this “benefit” to their members as a way of incentivizing them to stay locked in each month because you can only return audiobooks if you’re a member. Hmm, that’s clever marketing. Audible even sends emails encouraging users to return a book, screens pop up after you finish reading suggesting a return, and there is even an obvious “return” button on the app which changes wording depending on whether you’ve finished the book or are part way through. Part-finished it’s “RETURN TITLE”. Finish the book and it changes to “EXCHANGE.”

Who loses when I return a book? readers think.

Audible! Surely, Audible? Surely not authors? And who cares anyway? Audible’s owned by the world’s richest man, so, it’s not big deal to return a book. It’s my right. It’s part of being an Audible member.

Well, you’re favorite authors lose, my wonderful reader. Our accounts are debited for that returned book, sometimes a year later. We, the hard-working content creators and narrators eat this loss, not Amazon. Let me repeat this for impact. Authors pay for this “benefit” and many times we are not earning any money for the sale of an audiobook even if it is thoroughly enjoyed by the reader. Audible though, they don’t miss out, they still get your monthly subscription payment. Authors weren’t asked if we wanted to offer this “benefit” or if we agreed to it or were happy to pay for it. Audible just did it for their own commercial benefit.…

Then, May quantifies how prevalent this abuse is.

How many readers, I hear you ask, are returning books? Surely everybody is honest and wouldn’t do this unless the book is absolutely terrible and you’ve only listened to an hour or so?

Ah, ah, ah, nearing fifty percent returns for many authors. Some less, but not by much. My number is fifty per cent. Think on that now. They’re halving my sales to prop up their business. My books can’t be that bad. If they were that bad, they should kick me off the platform for poor customer experience.

We don’t know how long they’ve been doing this but we feel it could be the past eighteen months or longer, maybe a lot longer, maybe even years but growing slowly as more people spread the word about how to easily return books.

The true state of affairs was not readily apparent to authors because of the timing of the return transactions and the format of Audible’s earnings statements. Then, in October, authors got some shocking news when something caused several weeks’ returns to be reported collectively:

… So, until a recent glitch occurred (which they’re “sorry for the confusion”, or because they finally got found out) where ACX clawed back three weeks of returns in one day on the 20th October, many authors had no idea this was even happening.

Authors simply awakened to see they had lost ten, twenty, thirty, and in some cases hundreds of sales. That was for those who’d been keeping tally of their sales to date for the month (quite a few don’t). Some had suspected something was amiss, like myself, but didn’t know how many were being returned exactly. We only saw the minus figures and zeros on a regular enough basis to know there was an issue.

Susan May is taking what action she can:

…Many authors, myself being one, are not creating any more audiobooks until this is resolved. We don’t get paid much per sale, the lion share is kept by Audible, even though we pay up to anything around $8k to create an audiobook, and then add marketing on top of that. Now they are also stealing up to half of our small percentage return to bump up their own profits.

WHY DON’T WE LEAVE AUDIBLE AND ACX?

Yes, we are all leaving Audible to go wide, if we haven’t already, but they still represent a large chunk of the pie, and even if you place your books through another distributor to deliver to Audible, you’re still losing via the returns on the Audible platform.

There is also the annoying detail of a lock-in contract of seven years which prevents authors from leaving even if they are unhappy and bonded into a feudal farming-style, unfair practice literally cheating them.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

If you’ve been returning audiobooks and misusing the system, whether you were completely unaware of the implications to an author or not, please STOP. JUST STOP. In the physical world, this is akin to eating at a restaurant, enjoying the food and then a month later asking for your money back because you fancy eating at the restaurant again and can’t afford to pay, or don’t want to pay, or want to eat at another place because you’ve already tried their food but you want them to pay by refunding your money. We will never know who you are, we authors, but we will be grateful if you stop doing this.

May asks:

Please spread the word to your friends and family how the system works at Audible…

In compliance with her request about half of what she has to say is quoted here. There’s even more you can learn by reading her complete post — “Audiblegate! The incredible true story of missing sales”.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/20 The Scroll Won’t Roll Because The Mxyzptlks Took The Pxl-Klickms

(1) IMAGINARY PAPERS. The second issue of Imaginary Papers, a quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination from the Center for Science and the Imagination, features writing from SF author Indrapramit Das and ecologist Jessie Rack. Here is a direct link. Also, you can also use this link to subscribe for future issues.

(2) MORE BRAM STOKER PLANS. The Horror Writers Association will stream the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony on HWA’s YouTube channel on April 18. Prior to the Awards, see some of the nominees read from their works.

Here’s the schedule so far (times are PST):
BLOCK 1 (5 p.m.):
Gemma Amor (First Novel) reading from Dear Laura
Eric J. Guignard (First Novel) reading from Doorways to the Deadeye

BLOCK 2 (5:15 p.m.):
Peter Adam Salomon (Young Adult Novel) reading from Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds
Kate Jonez (Fiction Collection) reading from Lady Bits

BLOCK 3 (5:30 p.m.):
Greg Chapman (Short Fiction) reading from “The Book of Last Words”
Gwendolyn Kiste (Short Fiction) reading from “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)”
John Kachuba (Nonfiction) reading from Shapeshifters: A History

BLOCK 4 (5:45 p.m.):
Eric J. Guignard (Anthology) reading from Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror
Colleen Doran (Graphic Novel) reading from Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples

(3) DATLOW ON YOUTUBE. Dacre Stoker interviews Ellen Datlow, Editor of Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, which made it on to the HWA Final Ballot for the 2020 Stoker Awards. Video hosted on the Horror Writers Association YouTube channel.

Other Stoker finalists interviewed on the HWA YouTube channel include Including Kaaron Warren, Greg Chapman, Caitlin Starling, John Langan, Kelly Robinson, and Tim Waggoner.

The website for StokerCon™ 2021 Denver is up and running! Click here to check it out.

(4) BUHLERT IN THE PAPER. Cora Buhlert says, “The local paper [Weser Kurier] did a profile about me, because I’m a Hugo finalist and those are thin on the ground in Germany, let alone in my area (Simone Heller and Marko Kloos are both from other parts of Germany).” It’s in German — “Wie eine Seckenhauserin den wichtigsten Science-Fiction-Preis abräumen könnte”. Here’s an excerpt rendered in English by Google Translate: 

…She is also one of the authors of the international blog Galactic Journey, which has also been nominated for the Hugo Award this year.

The clocks tick a little differently on the platform, strictly speaking 55 years before our time. Galactic Journey picks up on the events of the time – also with reference to the home of the authors. Cora Buhlert mentions, for example, that Werder Bremen just became German soccer champion in 1965. Science fiction does not always have to be geared towards the future: “Time travel has always been part of it,” says Buhlert.

Cora adds, “The other local paper (I live in the overlap area of the coverage of two newspapers) is also going to do an interview.”

(5) IN THE ZON. John Scalzi wrote a post about how his newly released book The Last Emperox ranked in various Amazon marketing categories – which is very well.

This elicited a comment from Rick Hellewell (a name I recognize from Jerry Pournelle’s blog) about a very interesting tool he’s put online, which is free to use. He explained:

If you want to look at the sales ranking, and see the ranking of all the Zon categories (you can have up to 10), try out my BKLNK site. This link https://www.bklnk.com/categories5.php will allow you get the info by using the ASIN or ISBN-10 numbers.

I built the BKLNK site for UBLs that can have Affiliate links for the proper Zon store automatically, then added the CATFIND (category finder) to see all the categories assigned to my books. Although the Zon allows you to have up to 10 categories (by special requires), you can’t see all 10 categories on the book’s product page. The CATFIND tool lets you see all categories (and sales rank) assigned to a book.

I’m in the middle of adding a new feature (called ‘Catalize’) that will grab the categories used by the top 25 books in a genre. I see that as a great marketing tool for indie publishers, as the authors can see the best categories they might use for their books. (You can look at any book with each tool.) The new ‘Catalize’ tool will be available by the end of the week.

Anyway, the entire site is free to use, and might be helpful to other authors. I built it for my own needs, but it has become useful for others.

Just as a test I plugged in the ID number for a Terry Pratchett novel – and that search returned all kinds of interesting information.

(6) BOOK TRADE SHOWS CANCELLED. The inevitable has finally occurred: “BookExpo, BookCon 2020 Events Canceled” reports Publishers Weekly.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22-26, Reedpop has canceled both events. The cancellation is the latest in a string of them affecting the biggest conferences and fairs in the book business worldwide, including the London Book Fair, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (which is planning a virtual fair beginning May 4), and the ALA annual meeting and conference.

(7) AUSTRALIAN SFF AND FANHISTORY. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss have been doing the Two Chairs Talking podcast for almost a year now. In Episode 24, Perry and David, and special guests W. H. Chong and Paul Carr, talk about what it was that drew them into reading science fiction and fantasy in the first place: “Kings of Infinite Space”.

In another recent episode they interviewed Carey Handfield, Bruce Gillespie and Rob Gerrand about their experience running the publishing house Norstrilia Press in the 1970s and 80s, concentrating on science fiction and science fiction criticism. They boosted the careers of Greg Egan and Gerald Murnane among others. That’s here: Episode 22: “The best publishing house in Old North Australia”. (There’s also a history of Norstrilia Press in the fanzine SF Commentary, available here.)

(8) BAD NEWS ON THE DOORSTEP. Newsweek has the“‘Ministry For The Future’ Cover Reveal: New Kim Stanley Robinson Set In ‘Blackest Utopia’ — Our Next 30 Years”. Click through for the cover.

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson builds intricate future societies in many of his books, exploring how we might emerge from the depravities of our current era to create a better future for our species. But in his upcoming novel, The Ministry for the Future, Robinson isn’t visiting a half-sunk New York City a hundred years from now (New York 2140), tracking Martian terraforming over a century (the Mars trilogy) or following artists as they build sculptures on 24th century Mercury (2312). Instead, The Ministry for the Future follows more immediate possible futures, as humanity is confronted with a global warming mass extinction event.

“In The Ministry for the Future I tried to describe the next thirty years going as well as I could believe it might happen, given where we are now,” Robinson told Newsweek. “That made it one of the blackest utopias ever written, I suppose, because it seems inevitable that we are in for an era of comprehensive and chaotic change.”

(9) PIP BAKER OBIT. Doctor Who writer Pip Baker (1928-2020) has died at the age of 91. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Pip Baker, along with his wife and writing partner Jane, was one of the best-known writers from the mid 80’s era of Doctor Who, writing eleven episodes for the series. Together they created the Rani, a female Time Lord scientist who was brought to life so vividly by the late Kate O’Mara, as well a creating the companion Mel.

Pip and Jane Baker began writing together in the 1960s working on the films The Painted Smile, The Break, The Night of the Big Heat and Captain Nemo and the Underwater City. On Television, they worked on the children’s thriller Circus as well as episodes of Z-Cars and Space 1999….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 15, 1944 The Monster Maker (originally titled The Devil’s Apprentice) premiered. It was directed by Sam Newfield and produced from a script written by Sigmund Neufeld, Lawrence Williams, Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney. It starred J. Carrol Naish, Talla Birell, Wanda McKay and Ralph Morgan. It was largely ignored by critics at the time and it currently holds an extremely low three percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. You can see it here.
  • April 15, 1960 Teenage Zombies premiered. It was written and directed by Jerry Warren and starring Katherine Victor, Don Sullivan, Chuck Niles, and Warren’s then-wife and the film production manager Brianne Murphy. Warren wrote the screenplay under his pen name Jacques Lecoutier. It was on a double bill with The Incredible Petrified World. Interestingly enough, although the film’s credits include a 1957 copyright statement for G.B.M. Productions, the film was never registered for copyright, so it’s in the public domain. And that means you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1922 Michael Ansara. Commander Kang in Trek’s “The Day of The Dove” as well as a lot of other genre work including a recurring role as Kane on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, multiple roles on I Dream of Jeannie andmyriad voicings of Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze in the Batman series. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 15, 1937 Thomas F. Sutton. Comic book artist who’s best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and  Warren Publishing’s line of black-and-white horror magazines. He’s particularly known as the first artist of the Vampirella series. He illustrated “Vampirella of Draculona”, the first story of which was written by Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 15, 1941 Mal Dean. UK illustrator who, as Clute at EoSF notes, died tragically young of cancer. As Clute goes on, he is “best known for the work he did for New Worlds in the late 1960s and early 1970s; it was especially associated with the Jerry Cornelius stories by Michael Moorcock and others.” (Died 1974.)
  • Born April 15, 1949 Sharan Newman, 71. Author of the most excellent Guinevere trilogy (GuinevereChessboard Queen and Guinevere Evermore), a superb reinterpretation of the Arthurian saga. They’re available at the usual digital suspects as is her superb Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series. Alas her SF short stories are not. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 46. [Entry by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He’s currently writing his first foray into science fiction novels, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 30. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise which lasted an entire decade. She was Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 23. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills,  the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants, due for release sometime this year provided the Plague doesn’t further delay it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) FREE FROM AUDIBLE. Free stories for kids of all ages. Audible Stories  is a free website where kids of all ages can listen to hundreds of Audible audio titles across six different languages—English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Japanese. From classics to Harry Potter and other YA.

For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Right now, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids.

All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

Explore the collection, select a title and start listening.

It’s that easy.

(14) NEEDS A BETTER LAWYER. Heinlein proved “Jerry Is A Man” but “Bronx Zoo’s Happy the Elephant is not legally ‘a person,’ judge rules”.

Elephants are NOT people, too.

That was the determination of a judge who ruled that Happy the Elephant can’t be sprung from the Bronx Zoo because she’s not legally “a person,” it was revealed Wednesday.

Bronx Supreme Court Judge Alison Tuitt dismissed the NonHuman Rights Project’s petition to grant the 48-year-old pachyderm “legal personhood” in order to move her to a 2,300-acre sanctuary….

(15) POWERFUL MUTANT. “Scientists create mutant enzyme that recycles plastic bottles in hours”The Guardian has the story.

A mutant bacterial enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles for recycling in hours has been created by scientists.

The enzyme, originally discovered in a compost heap of leaves, reduced the bottles to chemical building blocks that were then used to make high-quality new bottles. Existing recycling technologies usually produce plastic only good enough for clothing and carpets.

The company behind the breakthrough, Carbios, said it was aiming for industrial-scale recycling within five years. It has partnered with major companies including Pepsi and L’Oréal to accelerate development. Independent experts called the new enzyme a major advance.

Billions of tonnes of plastic waste have polluted the planet, from the Arctic to the deepest ocean trench, and pose a particular risk to sea life. Campaigners say reducing the use of plastic is key, but the company said the strong, lightweight material was very useful and that true recycling was part of the solution.

The new enzyme was revealed in research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. The work began with the screening of 100,000 micro-organisms for promising candidates, including the leaf compost bug, which was first discovered in 2012.

(16) BUS ROUTE 9¾. “Harry Potter buses used as free NHS transport”

Harry Potter-branded buses normally used to take fans to film studio tours are being offered as free transport for staff working in the NHS.

The buses will take them between three sites in Hertfordshire, and will have on-board social distancing rules.

Warner Bros and coach company Golden Tours have had to cancel all trips to the Leavesden studios where much of the Harry Potter filming took place.

The NHS said the move was a “wizard idea”.

“Our workforce has been depleted due to sickness or self-isolation and so it’s really important that those staff who are well, but have transport issues, can come back,” Paul da Gama, from the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, said.

(17) CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG. BBC reports “JK Rowling secretly buys childhood home”.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has secretly bought her childhood home in Gloucestershire.

Renovation work is now taking place on Church Cottage in Tutshill, close to the banks of the River Severn.

The author lived there between the ages of nine and 18 and in 2011 bought the cottage through a property company in her married name.

She paid about £400,000 for the house, which is said to have inspired key elements of the young wizard’s story.

Land Registry records show in September 2011, Edinburgh-based Caernarfon Lettings Ltd, which lists the author’s husband Neil Murray as a director, bought Church Cottage.

The property was sold by BBC producer Julian Mercer, who himself had bought it off the Rowling family in 1995.

(18) ASTRAL METEOROLOGY. The BBC’s weather department reports that “The planets line up”. (“When the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter collides with Mars, then pieces of the planets will fly off into the stars…”)

You might get the chance to see something special in the sky in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Around pre-dawn or dawn, if you look towards the Moon from your garden or window, you may notice three other bright dots. These dots are actually Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.

Jupiter will be the brightest of the planets, as it shines 14 times brighter than Saturn or Mars. However the three planets will line up together just above the Moon and you should be able to see them all, even with the naked eye. While Jupiter will be the brightest, you may notice Mars with an orange glow and Saturn with a golden tinge. If you’ve got a telescope or even binoculars, you’ll be able to see the difference in the planets more clearly.

(19) LASHING OUT. On yesterday’s Daily Show (or as they’re calling it right now the Daily Social Distancing Show), host Trevor Noah listed a bunch of things Trump has promised to deliver, then said, “At this point Trump owes more pages than George R.R. Martin.” He continued on the Martin theme for the next several sentences. Hey, it’s not fair to build up a head of steam talking about Trump and then vent it on GRRM! (Begins around 9:25.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Variety’s story about it is here.

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

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

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

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

…Garbage patches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/20 I Wanna Pixel Scroll All Nite And Work On My Spelling Every Day

(1) SEE CC37. A three-minute video of “The Art of Costume at Costume-Con 37” has been posted on the International Costumers Guild YouTube channel.

A music video featuring costumes worn both on stage and in the halls at Costume-Con 37, in Danvers, MA, 2019, where it’s all about costumes, all the time!

(2) NEW FAAN AWARDS VOTING DEADLINE. John Purcell has extended the deadline for receiving FAAn Awards ballots to Sunday, February 23. See the Corflu website for rules and forms.

(3) LITIGATION ENDS AS AUDIBLE RESTRICTS CAPTIONS PROGRAM. Publishers Weekly reports “In Captions Settlement, Audible Will Not Use AAP Member Content Without Permission”.  

In a filing this week in federal court, Audible has agreed not to include the copyrighted works of seven plaintiff publishers in its “Captions” program without express permission. The draft order comes nearly three weeks after Judge Valerie Caproni, on January 14, dismissed the contentious, months-long copyright infringement lawsuit between publishers and the Amazon-owned audiobook provider, after being informed by the parties that they’d reached a settlement.

… Audible sources confirmed to PW that the company currently has no plan to move forward with the Captions program beyond its limited pilot with public domain works for students. Further, Audible officials said the company has in fact decided not to include any copyrighted works in the Captions program without securing permission, regardless of whether or not the parties are AAP members—though the company was careful to stress that they’ve not formalized that decision with any party outside of this litigation.

First filed in August of 2019 by seven publishers (including all of the Big Five, Scholastic, and Chronicle Books), the suit claims that Audible’s proposed Captions program, which scrolls a few words of an AI-generated transcription alongside an audiobook’s narration in the Audible app, amounts to blatant copyright infringement.

(4) SFWA READINGS. There will be two chances to hear Jasmine Gower, Corry L. Lee, and Carolyn O’Doherty read from their work when the Pacific Northwest’s SFWA Reading series visits Seattle and Portland in April. Full details at the links.

The Pacific Northwest is home to a Tardis-Full of Science Fiction and Fantasy writers, a fact celebrated every quarter with the Pacific Northwest Reading Series. These free quarterly events provide the Northwest Science Fiction and Fantasy community a chance to gather, network and enjoy readings from local and visiting authors in Portland and Seattle.

(5) PRESSED DOWN AND OVERFLOWING. In The Full Lid – 7th February 2020, Alasdair Stuart dives into Starfleet’s long dark night of the soul on Picard in “Admiral Clancy Regrets.” He takes a look at the first part of Big Finish’s relaunch of Adam Adamant and he talks PodUK and The Tundra Project. He also signal boosts colleague Jason Pitre’s new RPG Palanquin, season 3 of the new radio adventures of Dan Dare and Sandra Odell’s Oddfellow Creations

Adam Adamant Lives! Again!

Regular readers of The Lid will know my fondness for audio drama in all it’s forms and TV drama in all its oddest forms. It’s a surprise then to admit this is my first exposure to legendarily odd short-run series Adam Adamant. However, this is by far the best possible introduction to the show.

Written by Guy Adams, it’s a whip-smart, fiercely clever and deeply kind modification of the original idea. Adam is an Edwardian adventurer, who finds himself in ’60s London. Confused and traumatized, he falls under the care of Georgina Jones, a doctor and private detective. Played with clenched teeth aplomb and Paul Darrow’ian elegance by Blake Ritson, Adam is a surprisingly convivial, and on occasion cheerfully violent man. He lived to protect the country in the past and does so again now. Just… on more of a level playing field than he ever thought…

(6) THE WILD WILD CHILD. Stoney Emshwiller told Facebook readers about a childhood experience inspired by trying to imitate Robert Conrad.

I was a big fan of The Wild Wild West as a kid and thought it was super cool James West had a fancy rig which would launch a derringer from his sleeve into his hand. So at about 11-ish years old, I went up into my dad’s well-stocked attic workshop and crafted one for myself.

Not having a derringer, I used the only “weapon” around, which was an X-Acto knife. The final result was impressive, involving an elastic band, a trigger device, a holder for the X-Acto knife, and a rail-like track for it to slide along which I’d carefully fashioned of sheet metal. It worked like a charm: when I straightened my arm, the blade would shoot from my sleeve into my hand.

Worked great until the second try, when I forgot to bend back my wrist. The blade rocketed out and imbedded itself into the palm of my hand.

I still have the scar today. Oops.

(7) BEAN OBIT. Actor Orson Bean died February 7 when struck and killed by a car and fell, only to be hit by a second car. He was 91.  SYFY Wire  says fans will remember him as the voice of two Hobbits —  he voiced both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in the Rankin/Bass animated TV films The Hobbit and The Return of the King in the late 1970s. The complete soundtrack of the former is available on YouTube.

Bean appeared in a number of films, including Being John Malkovich and Miracle on 34th Street (1959 TV movie). He made hundreds of appearances on TV game shows and talk shows. The New York Times once described him —

“Mr. Bean’s face comes wrapped with a sly grin, somewhat like the expression of a child when sneaking his hand into the cookie jar,” The New York Times noted in a review of his 1954 variety show, “The Blue Angel.” It said he showed “a quality of being likable even when his jokes fall flat.”

In 1964 he co-founded the Sons of the Desert, an organization dedicated to comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, with chapters around the world.

(8) CONWAY OBIT. Kevin Conway died of a heart attack February 5 at the age of 77. His first major film role was as Roland Weary in Slaughterhouse-Five (1972). On TV he guest starred as a clone of Kahless the Unforgettable in Star Trek: The Next Generation

His best-known film role probably was Sgt. Buster Kilrain in the 1994 movie Gettysburg.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 9, 1994 Cyborg Cop was released on VHS. (Cyborg Cop II was released in selected theaters on this date.) It was directed by Sam Firstenberg and written by Greg Latter. It starred David Bradley, John Rhys-Davies, Todd Jensena and Alonna Shaw. Rufus Swart was  the Cyborg. As you might expect, it was not well received. Halliwell’s Film Guide said it had  “a violent, cliché-ridden plot.” Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 20% rating. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1935 R. L. Fanthorpe, 85. I’ve never heard of him before stumbling upon him on ISFDB but I’m including him as he was a pulp writer for UK publisher Badger Books during the 1950s and 1960s during which he wrote under some sixty pen names. I think he wrote several hundred genre novels during that time but no two sources agree on just how many he wrote. Interestingly nothing is available by him digitally currently though his hard copy offerings would fill a wing of small rural library. He’d be perfect for Kindle Unlimited I’d say.
  • Born February 9, 1936 Clive Walter Swift. His first genre appearance was as Snug in that version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Several years thereafter he was Dr. Black in “A Warning to the Curious” (based on a ghost story by British writer M. R. James). Then he’s Ecto in Excalibur. He shows up next in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Revelation of a The Daleks” as Professor Jobel. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 9, 1940 David Webb Peoples, 80. Screenwriter of Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, Leviathan, and Twelve Monkeys which is not a full listing. He’s also been writing for the Twelve Monkeys series .
  • Born February 9, 1942 Marianna Hill, 78. Doctor Helen Noel in the excellent “Dagger of The Mind” episode of the original Trek. (This episode introduces the Vulcan mind meld.) she also had roles on Outer Limits (in the Eando Binder’s “I Robot“ story which predates Asimov’s story of that name), Batman (twice as Cleo Patrick), I-SpyThe Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible and Kung Fu (ok the last one has to be least genre adjacent). 
  • Born February 9, 1951 Justin Gustainis, 69. Author of two series so far, one being the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series which he’s written three superb novels in so far, and the other being the Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations series which has seven novels and which I’ve not read yet. Who’s read the latter series? 
  • Born February 9, 1956 Timothy Truman, 64. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1960 Laura Frankos, 60. Wife of Harry Turtledove. She’s written a baker’s dozen of genre short stories. She’s more known for her Broadway history column “The Great White Wayback Machine” and has also published one mystery novel, Saint Oswald’s Niche. Her Broadway Quiz Book is available on all digital platforms.

(11) GET READY TO TIE UP YOUR BOAT IN IDAHO. In this blue-vs.-red map, the blue part will be under water by 2100: “Where America’s Climate Migrants Will Go As Sea Level Rises” at CityLab.

When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita swept through Louisiana in 2005, cities like Houston, Dallas, and Baton Rouge took in hundreds of thousands of displaced residents—many of whom eventually stayed in those cities a year later. Where evacuees have moved since hasn’t been closely tracked, but data from those initial relocations are helping researchers predict how sea level rise might drive migration patterns in the future.

Climate experts expect some 13 million coastal residents in the U.S. to be displaced by the end of this century. A new PLOS One study gives some indication of where climate migrants might go.

“A lot of cities not at risk of sea of level rise will experience the effect of it,”says Bistra Dilkina, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California, who led the study. “This will require an adjustment in terms of the [increased] demand on the cities’ infrastructure.”

Dilkina and her team used migration data from the Internal Revenue Service to analyze how people moved across the U.S. between 2004 and 2014. Movement from seven Katrina and Rita-affected counties to unaffected counties between 2005 and 2006 was categorized as climate-driven migration. Researchers then combined that analysis with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projections on the effects of sea level rise on coastal counties, and trained a machine-learning model to predict where coastal populations will move when forced to leave their homes—and how that, in turn, affects the migration of non-coastal residents.

(12) ON TO 4D. Something else that increasingly features in SF novels was covered in a recent Nature  — “The New 3D Printing”, Research advances are changing the image of a once-niche technology, including…

The field’s future could also lie in ‘4D printing’ — 3D-printed objects that also have the ability to perform some mechanical action, akin to artificial muscles. Often, these incorporate shape-memory polymers, materials that can react to changes in their environment such as heat or moisture

(13) DATING GAME. Will these palms mate and bring back the dates beloved in antiquity? The Guardian has the story — “Scientists in Israel grow date plants from 2,000-year-old seeds”.

…Writers from Pliny the Elder to Herodotus raved about the qualities of Judean dates, including their long shelf-life, which allowed them to be transported far and wide. “Herod even used to present them to the emperor in Rome every year,” said Sallon.

But the plants suffered under centuries of unrest; by the 19th century the plantations had disappeared.

Writing in the journal Science Advances, Sallon and colleagues report how they planted 32 Judean date palm seeds retrieved from a variety of archaeological sites across the Judean desert. These include Masada and caves at Qumran – shelters best known for concealing the Dead Sea scrolls but which were also used by refugees in ancient times.

“I spent hours and hours in the archaeology department picking through the best seeds,” said Sallon. “A lot of them had holes in where insects had bored through or [they had] fallen apart, but some were really pristine and I picked the very best ones.”

Six of the seeds sprouted. The team radiocarbon-dated fragments of the shells left after germination to reveal that Hannah and Adam date to somewhere between the first and fourth centuries BC. Judith and Boaz were dated to a 200-year period from the mid-second century BC, and Uriel and Jonah were dated to somewhere between the first and second centuries AD….

(14) I BOT THE LAW AND THE LAW LOST. A Harvard undergraduate tells “How I hacked the government (it was easier than you may think)”.

Though no expert coder, a government concentrator uses bots to show an agency its website vulnerability.

Max Weiss ’20 never intended to hack the government. His discovery of how easy it is to do — outlined in a new paper he authored — came of the best of intentions.

Weiss, a government concentrator from Cincinnati, was doing advocacy work for state expansion and defense of Medicaid last summer, a project that combined his interests in public policy and health care. While studying the ways in which various advocacy groups can influence pending legislation, he learned how valuable such groups find the federal government’s comment period, when members of the public are invited to weigh in on new or pending legislation via online forms. He realized how easy it would be to manipulate the results using bots — computer programs that generate automated responses — to flood the sites with fake responses for or against any proposal.

The 21-year-old detailed his findings in a recent Technology Science piece, “Deepfake Bot Submissions to Federal Public Comment Websites Cannot Be Distinguished from Human Submissions.”

“We were spending a lot of time and energy getting high-quality comments from constituents,” said Weiss. “I wanted to make sure these federal agencies understood the potential consequences of their policies, and I had the idea that I could use a bot and submit a lot of fake comments.”

He paused, recognizing that corrupting the process was fraught: “This would be bad for democracy.”

But the Leverett House resident couldn’t shake the idea, and he began to research the feasibility of such a scheme. Turns out submission is easy to automate. Federal agencies have some leeway to discount comments that are obviously duplicated or irrelevant. But the typical technological defenses against attack, including CAPTCHAS, anomaly detection, and outside verification — all of which are integrated into online activity from banking to email log-in — were pretty much absent.

(15) THE BIG PICTURE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan, who is “the first woman of Asian descent to steer a major Hollywood superhero movie” and who got the job because Margot Robbie, who is both a producer and a star of the film, admired Yan’s indie film Dead Pigs, a hit at Sundance. “Cathy Yan’s rapid rise from journalist to ‘Birds of Prey’ director: ‘I didn’t think you could do this professionally’”.

…Moving from a smaller film to a superhero franchise can feel like a mammoth leap, Yan says, but she was inspired by such auteurs as Taika Waititi, who migrated from small comedies to the Marvel tentpole “Thor: Ragnarok,” then back to the humbly budgeted 2019 Oscar nominee “Jojo Rabbit.” And whether Yan is working on a small or large scale, there are consistent traits that attract her to a project.

(16) THE ROVE BOAT. “Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Coming to Walt Disney World” on YouTube is Disney’s official announcement of the Star Wars-themed hotel designed to look like a starship which is opening at Walt Disney World next year.

Reservations will open later this year for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which debuts in 2021 at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. This new two-day and two-night vacation is an all-immersive experience that will take you to a galaxy far, far away in a way that only Disney could create.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Former NASA engineer Mark Rober now makes a living as a YouTube inventor. Here he unveils the ultimate deterrent to Amazon package thieves — “Porch Pirate vs. Glitter Bomb Trap 2.0.” 15 minutes long… but priceless.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/19 Rikki, Don’t Scroll That Pixel, It’s The Only One You Own

(1) SOUND AND FURY. Locus Online has a fine summary of recent developments in “Audible’s Caption Controversy”.

Audible, Amazon’s audiobook publishing arm, announced plans for “Audible Captions,” a fea­ture that displays the text of a book along with the narration on listener devices. Audible said the feature would be “available on hundreds of thousands of audiobooks at launch” – a decla­ration that was met with surprise and alarm by publishers who haven’t licensed the rights to publish such text to Audible. Publishing the text without permission would likely be a violation of copyright.

The Association of American Publishers filed a lawsuit on August 23, 2019 in the southern district court of New York to block the program….

(2) RECEIVED WISDOM. New “Worldcon Runner’s Guide Updates” are posted on the WSFS web site.

The Worldcon Runner’s Guide Committee has issued updates to several guide sections. These are now available on the main Guide page. The sections that have been updated are:

(3) JOE ON JOE. In a teaser for the Joe Lansdale documentary — All Hail the Popcorn King: Joe Hill talks Lansdale inspiration”

Joe Hill is currently one of the hottest scribes around. His popular book, NOS4A2 has been adapted for an AMC series. Netflix will be partnering with producer Carlton Cuse on a 10 episode version of Hill’s comic book series, Locke and Key.

Recently, the busy writer sat down with Hansi Oppenheimer, the director of the upcoming documentary on Joe Lansdale, All Hail the Popcorn King. He discussed his deep admiration and fondness for his fellow author.

As an impressionable 13-year-old, Hill read Lansdale’s The Drive In and was transformed. He made such a deep connection with the novel that he felt that it was written especially for him. Which is one of the best compliments to receive when you are a wordsmith. It is what you strive for, to make an impact on your readers.

(4) AUTUMN LEAVES. Entertainment Weekly’s Kristen Baldwin includes a couple of genre works on her list of “The 8 must-watch new TV shows this fall”.

First, a disclaimer: With approximately 183 TV series premiering every hour in America, it would be all but impossible for any one critic to view all the new fall shows. That said, I was able to screen 31 of the programs making their debut in the coming months — and now that my eyes have readjusted to sunlight, I humbly submit this report.

One of them is Evil. The other is —

Watchmen

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued.

(5) FOUNDATIONS OF HORROR FILMMAKING. SYFY Wire thinks fans should go ape over “Fay Wray’s underappreciated career as a genre queen”.

Fay Wray is remembered best for her role in the original King Kong as Ann Darrow, the woman who is kidnapped and carried about like a rag doll while Kong goes on his city-wide rampage. Yet she had a much longer career than just that one film, spanning several different genres and working for more than half a century. In her early years in Hollywood, she would have been better known for a series of westerns she had done in the silent era than anything else, but even at that, she’d also been in several comedies and romances. Wray was a working actor for most of her life, so her filmography is mostly all over the place.

Of course, we’re mostly here for Wray’s career as a Scream Queen. In the time leading up to what would become her definitive role, she starred in a series of low-budget horror movies that are now considered as much a part of classic horror canon as Frankenstein or The Mummy….

(6) GROWING UP GRYFFINDOR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall at Financial Times, Alice Ross discusses how YA authors in Britain are increasingly interested in politics.

The second legacy often credited to Harry Potter is that the series helped to form a generation of liberal thinkers.  In Harry Potter and the Millennials (2013), political scientist Anthony Gierzynski published th results of his survey of more than 1,000 college students.  He concluded that readers of Harry Potter were more often to diversity and more politically tolerant than non-fans…

…Modern authors of children’s books both in the UK and the US–many of whom hail from the Harry Potter generation–tend to feel strongly about social or moral issues, and they bring this into their writing.

‘I really do believe that all writing is political and you have to try to do that; you are not just bringing yourself to your work,’ says Kiran Millwood Harris, whose debut novel The Girl of Ink and Stars won the 2017 Waterstone Children’s Book Prize. ‘I see some people saying, ‘I don’t want to be political’ but actually now it’s kind of immoral not to speak up or take a stand as some people don’t have that luxury.  Her latest book The Way Past Winter deals with the environmental crisis, increasigly a topic coming up in children’s books.

(7) DYSTROPIA. Michelle Goldberg’s opinion piece “Margaret Atwood’s Dystopia, and Ours” in the New York Times coincidentally shows how hard it is for fictional commentary to keep pace with cultural changes.

…And it’s not just in America that truth has lost its political salience. Naked censorship continues to exist, but it’s augmented by the manipulation of search algorithms, and by trolls and bots harassing dissidents and spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories. Truth is less suppressed than drowned out. Contemporary propaganda, write P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking in “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,” “is colorful and exciting, reflecting the tastes of the digital age. It is a cocktail of moralizing, angry diatribes, and a celebration of traditional values, constantly mixed with images of scantily clad women.” There’s a solemn churchlike hush in Gilead. Modern authoritarianism is often as lurid and cacophonous as a casino.

Dystopian fictions that extrapolate from this shift are starting to appear. (Though young adult novels had a head start: “The Hunger Games” foresaw the nightmare of fascism run as a reality show.) There’s a scene in “Years and Years,” a recent series co-produced by HBO and the BBC, where Vivienne Rook, the sly British demagogue played by Emma Thompson, is asked about the spread of fraudulent, digitally created videos of her political rivals making inflammatory statements. “Oh, of course they’re fake videos. Everyone can see they’re not real,” she says to an interviewer. Then she adds, with faux concern, “All the same, they really did say those things, didn’t they?” Soon after, she is elected prime minister…

… “Writing dystopias and utopias is a way of asking the reader the question, ‘Where do you want to live?’” Atwood said when I talked to her last year….

(8) SCHELLY OBIT. Comics fan, writer, and historian Bill Schelly (1951-2019) died September 12 of cancer. His books included The Golden Age of Comic Fandom (1995; rev. ed. 1999) published by his own company, Hamster Press, Harvey Kurtzman, The Man Who Created “Mad” (Fantagraphics, 2015), and his autobiography Sense of Wonder, My Life in Comic Fandom – The Whole Story (North Atlantic Books, 2018). Carl Slaughter recommended Schelly’s biography Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionaryto Filers in 2016.

Many friends have left comments on his Facebook page. Neil Caputo penned “Bill Schelly: In Tribute”, Mark Evanier ends his appreciation “Bill Schelly, R.I.P.” at News From Me by saying:

Bill was quite good…just a lovely, talented man. I’m sure going to miss talking to him on the phone and at conventions, and I’m sorry we aren’t going to get all the other books that he would have written. Such a loss.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 15, 1965 — CBS debuted Irwin Allen’s  Lost In Space as “The Reluctant Stowaway” episode seeing the Jupiter 2 being sabotaged by  Dr. Smith who became part of the inhabitants. The theme music was composed by a little known composer then credited as, Johnny Williams.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1890 Agatha Christie, or to giver her full name of Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller). ISDB lists her Harley Quin tales as being genre as they think the lead character is supernatural though no reviewers I can find think that he is. Anyone here who has read them? They also list one Hercule Poirot story, “The Big Four”, as genre – it apparently involved the use of atomic explosives in a 1927 story. Weirdly iBooks has almost nothing by her but Kindle has works beyond counting. (Died 1976.)
  • Born September 15, 1925 Carlo Rambaldi. He won Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects in 1980 and 1983 for, respectively, Alien and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which was for the mechanical head-effects for the Alien creature and the design of the E.T. himself. The 1976 version of King Kong earned him an Oscar for Best Visual Effects as well. He also worked on Dune, Conan the Destroyer, King Kong Livesand films you’ve likely never heard of such as Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 79. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? 
  • Born September 15, 1943 John M. Faucette. He published five novels and one short story. He left seven unpublished novels in various states of completion at his death. Two of his novels; Crown of Infinity and Age of Ruin, were published in the Ace Doubles series. None of his works are in print  in digital or paper format currently including his Black Science Fiction anthologywhich he as an African-American SF writer was very proud of. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 15, 1946 Howard Waldrop, 73. I think that the The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him. His short fiction such as  “The Ugly Chickens” which won The World Fantasy and Nebula Awards is most excellent. A generous selection of his short fiction and novellas are available at iBooks and Kindle. 
  • Born September 15, 1956 Tommy Lee Jones, 73. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s has done other genre with the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. 
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 57. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much is Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. 
  • Born September 15, 1987 Christian Cooke, 31. He’s Ross Jenkins, a UNIT Private in two Tenth Doctor stories, “The Sontaran Stratagem” and “The Poison Sky”. Genre wise, He’s also been Luke Rutherford-Van Helsing in Demons, a six-part series from the Beeb, and he’s Frederick Beauchamp in the second season of The Witches of Eastwick.
  • Born September 15, 1960 Kevin Roche, 59. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also is the editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows what happens when aliens reach the border.

(12) CLASSIC REVIVED? The Far Side web page made this announcement:

Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen.

A new online era of The Far Side is coming!

(13) SCOOBY TAXONOMY. Eleni Theodoropoulus, in “How Scooby Doo Revived Gothic Storytelling for Generations of Kids” on CrimeReads, says that Scooby-Doo is really a Gothic series rather than mystery, as she discusses how the show’s supernatural elements made it so popular.

.. From its first episode, “What a Night for a Knight,” Scooby Doo establishes the very atmosphere that is integral to the gothic genre. The episode opens onto an empty country road under a full moon when a pickup truck rolls into view. The crate in the back opens. An armored knight rears his head and fixes his glowing eyes on the driver. Danger is imminent. “What a nervous night to be walking home from the movies, Scooby Doo,” says Shaggy, echoing the viewer’s sentiment. Moments later they come across the abandoned pickup truck where the suit of armor sits behind the wheel. Pristine, it shines in the moonlight. Suddenly, the head of the armor rattles and tips over, landing at their feet. Boy and dog chuckle nervously before they run away in what will become their signature manner of dealing with problems. The next two seasons of Scooby Doo, Where Are You! follow in this same vein, resting on a balance between suspense and fear, mystery and horror.

Instrumental to evoking these feelings in the viewer was less the plot itself than the atmosphere framing it….

(14) PLAYING FOR TIME. Cecilia D’Anastasio relates the “Confessions Of A Teenaged Strip-Mall GameStop Delinquent” at Kotaku.

… Once a week, I’d enter that GameStop to ask whichever bored employee was manning the place when they’d get Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii, and whether they’d give it to me early. I wanted to play a video game before anybody else, and I wanted it to be Super Smash Bros. Brawl so I could get really good and nobody would ever be able to catch up. Certainly, I felt, GameStop had that power and would be generous with it. Theo, who worked at that GameStop, told me many times: Cecilia, it comes out in December. Each time, I’d fuss, forget what he said, and distract myself with some other game they had pre-installed on the Wii kiosk in the store. Then I’d go in again the next week….

… Back then, I was usually grounded. Each sentence lasted for a week, two weeks, a month, and eventually, it all blurred into an endless, sprawling, dusty-grey dream. My mom theorizes that I’d purposefully do bad teen stuff so she’d ground me. That way I could avoid my increasingly complicated friendships at the strip. Time would spin on there without me: break-ups, fights, pranks, insults. In the world of Final Fantasy XI, I had comrades who needed me. As my dedication to leveling up heightened, so too did my in-game friends’ expectations of me as a community member. A couple times a week, one would reach out to me on a forum, or on Myspace, or eventually even through text message, asking me to log on and help them with some level grinding, some quest.

Then came the emotional labor. As a teenager, I did not have the tools to counsel the cat girl FlameKitty, the avatar of an older man, through his joblessness, his unpaid bills, his loneliness. I could not offer authoritative advice after a married mother of five fell in love with another Final Fantasy XI companion, whose shadowy forum profile picture featured a katana. …

(15) A FAMILIAR FACE. The Waterloo (ONT) Public Library is doing a sff author panel October 5 – details on the programs calendar. You should recognize at least one of the participants.

James Bow moderates a panel of five other authors talking about Canada as a setting for science fiction and fantasy novels. Why should New York, Los Angeles, or London have all the fun? Canada boasts some of the world’s best science fiction and fantasy writers, and some of the most innovative tech sectors. We have a part to play in the wider science fiction community, and we intend to represent.

Science Fiction and fantasy writers Erin Bow, James Nicoll, Leah Bobet, James Alan Gardner and (maybe – still to be confirmed ) Sarah Raughley join moderator James Bow in a free-flowing discussion of what Canada can contribute and has contributed to science fiction and fantasy. The event at the Main library will be followed by the launch of James Bow’s new urban fantasy novel, “The Night Girl”. Books will be sold and authors are available to sign copies. Everyone welcome

(16) BOARD OF EQUALIZATION. FastCompany thinks “‘Ms. Monopoly’ is not as patronizing as Hasbro’s version for millennials, but it’s not empowering either”.

…However, last year, Hasbro shook the table with Monopoly for Millennials, which critics universally bemoaned as an “insulting experience.” The game’s tagline of “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway” seemed to signify that Hasbro was perhaps more interested in wooing back older players (who also like dunking on young adults) rather than genuinely appeal to a new generation discovering the joys of game night. (The reasons why millennials can’t afford homes are varied and complex and have nothing to do with pouring our income into artisanal coffee and avocado toast—xoxo, a millennial.)

Then just last month there was Monopoly for Socialists, another widely panned bit of pandering to older people who might still be afraid of the s-word that the game-centric site Polygon dubbed “horrible, even as a parody.” The release also led to the surely unintended wider dissemination of Monopoly’s roots as a game created by a woman named Elizabeth Magie to spread the message that landlords and real-estate hoarding are societal ills, yet it was appropriated by men and turned into a pro-capitalist pastime.

Now, there’s Hasbro’s latest addition to the Monopoly family: Ms. Monopoly. Its tagline is “The first game where women make more than men.”…

(17) TRACKING DOWN BARGAINS. Contact Mr. Muffin’s Trains for all your Hell-bound “O” Gauge model train needs….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Walk The Dog Before I Sleep on Vimeo is an animated music video by Drew Christie of a song by Brian Cullman.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Steve Johnson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/20/19 Several Species Of Small Furry Pixels Gathered Together In A File And Scrolling With A Churl

(1) THE ORVILLE DOCKS AT HULU. You didn’t know it was moving? I guess Fox was surprised, too — “‘The Orville’ Is Moving To Hulu For Season 3”.

During today’s The Orville panel at San Diego Comic-Con, show creator and star Seth MacFarlane made big news, announcing the show is hopping from the Fox Broadcasting Network to the Hulu streaming service.

The move is a surprise, as Fox had already announced a third season renewal for The Orville in May. According to MacFarlane, moving to Hulu is something he felt would be best for the show, allowing it more flexibility.

(2) IN THE FRAME. Editor Ellen Datlow has posted the table of contents for her anthology Final Cuts, with all new stories of movie horror. She has turned in the book and it will come out in summer 2020.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Das Gesicht by Dale Bailey
  • Drunk Physics by Kelley Armstrong
  • Exhalation #10 by A. C. Wise
  • Scream Queen by Nathan Ballingrud
  • Family by Lisa Morton
  • Night of the Living by Paul Cornell
  • The One We Tell Bad Children by Laird Barron
  • Snuff in Six Scenes by Richard Kadrey
  • Insanity Among Penguins by Brian Hodge
  • From the Balcony of the Idawolf Arms By Jeffrey Ford
  • Lords of the Matinee by Stephen Graham Jones
  • A Ben Evans Film by Josh Malerman
  • The Face is a Mask by Christopher Golden
  • Folie à deux, or The Ticking Hourglass by Usman T. Malik
  • Hungry Girls by Cassandra Khaw
  • Cut Frame by Gemma Files
  • Many Mouths to Make a Meal by Garth Nix
  • Altered Beast, Altered Me by John Langan

(3) BUJOLD SERIES CONTINUES. Penric 7, “The Orphans of Raspay,” a novella by Lois McMaster Bujold, was released July 17. Bujold has set up “The Orphans of Raspay spoiler discussion space” at Goodreads. Bujold told fans there —

Note: These novellas don’t get much push from me beyond a few blog and chat-space posts, so getting the word out is pretty much up to their readers. Amazon always gets plenty of reviews, so appropriate mentions and reviews out-and-about elsewhere on the Net extend the reach more. Do please pass the word, if you are so moved.

(4) ANOTHER REVOLUTION. Journey Planet 45 – The Matrix dropped yesterday, assembled by guest editor John Coxon with Chris Garcia and James Bacon. The stunning cover is by Meg Frank. Download the issue here.

Twenty years ago, The Wachowski sisters brought a groundbreaking film to fruition that not only bent the rules in regard to production but became the most memorable film of 1999 far eclipsing easily forgotten movies or disastrous disappointments.  

The contributors to this issue ask many questions, discuss a variety of angles and consider the work now with ample time for reflection and digestion.  

Contributors include, Emma Harris, Warren Frey, España Sheriff, Jenn Scott, Dave Lane, Ulrika O’Brien, Peppard Saltine, Helena MacCallum, Pete ‘Cardinal’ Cox, Bill Howard and CiteUnScene AI. 

Art contributors include España, Chris, OzynO, Dark Ronin, Helianmagnou, Dark Tox1c, Frederikz, L0lock and ShaqueNova.

The Matrix spawned sequels, comics, animation and a considerable amount of books, thinking about concepts it set out.  

Join us as you realize that 20 years have slipped by, and remind yourself of how you felt and what you thought about this fantastic film.  

(5) AUDIO YES, VISUAL MAYBE. Andrew Liptak provides more details about the controversy: “Publishers are pissed about Amazon’s upcoming Audible Captions feature” in The Verge.

Audible tells The Verge that the captions are “small amounts of machine-generated text are displayed progressively a few lines at a time while audio is playing, and listeners cannot read at their own pace or flip through pages as in a print book or eBook.” Audible wouldn’t say which books would get the feature, only that “titles that can be transcribed at a sufficiently high confidence rate” will be included. It’s planning to release the feature in early September “to roll out with the 2019 school year.”

Penguin Random House, one of the world’s five biggest publishers, told The Verge that “we have reached out to Audible to express our strong copyright concerns with their recently announced Captions program, which is not authorized by our business terms,” and that it expects the company to exclude its titles from the captions feature.

(6) FRED PATTEN NEWS. Together with Stan Lee and other notables, Fred Patten was commemorated by San Diego Comic-Con’s in memoriam list, shown last night during the Eisner Awards ceremony. Fanbase Press tweeted photos:

Sherrill Patten, his sister, says Fred’s final two books are available to order.

FurPlanet has just published Fred’s last furry fiction anthology, the Coyotl Awards Anthology.

McFarland Books now shows the cover of Furry Tales – A Review of Essential Anthropomorphic Fiction in their online FALL catalog. Copies can be pre-ordered.

Tales featuring anthropomorphic animals have been around as long as there have been storytellers to spin them, from Aesop’s Fables to Reynard the Fox to Alice in Wonderland. The genre really took off following the explosion of furry fandom in the 21st century, with talking animals featuring in everything from science fiction to fantasy to LGBTQ coming-out stories.

In his lifetime, Fred Patten (1940–2018)—one of the founders of furry fandom and a scholar of anthropomorphic animal literature—authored hundreds of book reviews that comprise a comprehensive critical survey of the genre. This selected compilation provides an overview from 1784 through the 2010s, covering such popular novels as Watership Down and Redwall, along with forgotten gems like The Stray Lamb and Where the Blue Begins, and science fiction works like Sundiver and Decision at Doona.

(7) REMEMBRANCE. Now online is Dublin 2019’s In Memoriam list, which shows the names of sff people who have died since the last Worldcon.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 20, 1924 Lola Albright. Though she’s best remembered best known for playing the sultry singer Edie Hart, the girlfriend of private eye Peter Gunn, she did do some genre performances. She’s Cathy Barrett, one of the leads in the Fifties film The Monolith Monsters, and television was her home in the Fifties and Sixties. She was on Tales of Tomorrow as Carol Williams in the “The Miraculous Serum” episode, Nancy Metcalfe on Rocket Squad in “The System” episode, repeated appearances on the various Alfred Hitchcock series, and even on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes released as the feature length film The Helicopter Spies. She was Azalea. (Died 2017)
  • Born July 20, 1930 Sally Ann Howes, 89. She is best known for the role of Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She was in Brigadoon as Fiona McLaren at New York City Center Light Opera Company, and in Camelot as Guenevere at St. Louis Municipal Opera. She was even in The Hound of the Baskervilles as Laura Frankland which has a certain Starship Captain as George Stapleton. 
  • Born July 20, 1931 Donald Moffitt. Author of the Baroness thriller series, somewhat akin to Bond and Blaise, but not quite. Great popcorn literature. Some SF, two in his Mechanical Skyseries, Crescent in the Sky and A Gathering of Stars, another two in his Genesis Quest series, Genesis Quest and Second Genesis, plus several one-offs. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 20, 1938 Diana Rigg, née Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, 81. Emma Peel of course in The Avengers aside Patrick Macnee as a John Steed. Best pairing ever. Played Sonya Winter in The Assassination Bureau followed by being Contessa Teresa “Tracy” Draco di Vicenzo Bond on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. By the Eighties, she’s doing lighter fare such as being Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper and Miss Hardbroom in The Worst Witch, not to mention The Evil Queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother in Snow White. Now she would get a meaty role in Game of Thrones when she was Olenna Tyrell. Oh and she showed up recently in Dr. Who during the Era of the  Eleventh Doctoras Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower in the “The Crimson Horror” episode. 
  • Born July 20, 1949 Guy H. Lillian III, 70. Letterhack and fanzine publisher notable for having been twice nominated for a Hugo Award as best fan writer and rather amazingly having been nominated twelve straight times without winning for the Hugo for best fanzine for his Challenger zine.  As a well-fan of Green Lantern, Lillian’s name was tuckerized for the title’s 1968 debut character Guy Gardner.
  • Born July 20, 1959 Martha Soukup, 60. The 1994 short film Override, directed by Danny Glover, was based on her short story “Over the Long Haul”. It was his directorial debut. She has two collections, Collections Rosemary’s Brain: And Other Tales of Wonder and The Arbitrary Placement of Walls, both published in the Nineties.  She won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “A Defense of the Social Contracts”. “The Story So Far” by her is available as the download sample on iBooks in Schimel’s Things Invisible to See anthology if you’d liked to see how she is as a writer. 
  • Born July 20, 1977 Penny Vital, better known as Penny Drake, 42. Uncredited role as Old Town Girl in Sin City, Sox in Zombie Strippers (which also stars Robert Englund and Jenna Jameson), Astrid in Star Chicks, Sabula in Monarch of the Moon and Annette DeFour in Dreamkiller which I think is genre.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio is surprised by a carnivore at the library.

(10) CAKE RE-ENACTMENT. Yessir, don’t we all love gray frosting? Other than that, impressive!

(11) HARD SCIENCE. The latest issue of IEEE SpectrumProject Moon Base – contains fifteen excellent articles about getting to the moon, building a base there, long-term stays on the moon, and a bit of history. Greg Hullender says, “Highly recommended to anyone interested in lunar exploration, particularly anyone thinking of writing a story set in a future moonbase.”

One of the items is an interview — “Kim Stanley Robinson Built a Moon Base in His Mind”.

IEEE Spectrum: You invented a completely new technology for landing on the moon. It seems to combine a maglev train, a railgun, and a hyperloop. Can you briefly describe how that works and how you came up with it?

Kim Stanley Robinson: I got the idea from a lunatic friend of mine. It’s basically the reverse of the magnetic launch rails that have been postulated for getting off the moon ever since the 1930s: These take advantage of the moon’s light gravity and its lack of atmosphere, which allow a spaceship to be accelerated to a very high speed while still on the surface, after which the ship could just zoom off the moon going sideways, because there is no atmosphere to burn up in on the way out. If you just reverse that process, apparently you can land a spaceship on the moon according to the same principle.

It blew my mind. I asked about the tolerance for error; how precise would you have to be for the system to work? My friend shrugged and said it would be a few centimeters. This while going about 8,000 miles an hour (12,900 kilometers per hour)! But without an atmosphere, a landing can be very precise; there won’t be any winds or turbulence, no friction. It was so fantastic a notion that I knew I had to use it. 

(12) COLLECTIBLE. Montegrappa prices this beautiful fountain pen at 6,750 Euros.

Moon Landing L.E.

A giant leap for mankind

In 1969 Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins captivated the world. Supported by a cast of thousands, their supreme achievement continues to set the bar for how big boyhood dreams can be. Developed in close coordination with NASA, a marvel of engineering in miniature transforms the act of writing. Allow your ideas to go where no-one has gone before. The Eagle has landed!

(13) ROCKET MAN. The historic anniversary prompts the Boston Globe to remember: “Buzz Aldrin took a tiny book on his historic voyage to the moon. Here’s the backstory”.

When Buzz Aldrin embarked 50 years ago on his historic voyage to the moon aboard Apollo 11, he packed a tiny, credit-card-sized book, “The Autobiography of Robert Hutchings Goddard, Father of the Space Age.”

Goddard, who was a physics professor at Worcester’s Clark University, launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in Auburn in 1926 and is generally considered the father of modern rocketry.

For Aldrin, who was the second man to set foot on the moon, there was also a personal connection.

Goddard had taught Edwin Aldrin Sr., Buzz’s father. Buzz never met Goddard but cherished his father’s connection with the professor, said Fordyce Williams, a coordinator of archives and special collections at Clark, where the book is on display.

(14) GAME OF THRONES PANEL AT SDCC. SYFY Wire: “Stolen keepsakes, secret futures, and the truth about Grey Worm: Game of Thrones cast looks back at SDCC panel”.

The cast of HBO’s recently concluded Game of Thrones took the stage at San Diego Comic-Con Friday night to reflect on their time on the long-running fantasy series, and revealed a few secrets about their characters.  

A spoiler warning followed that opening paragraph. Tons of spoilers followed the warning.

So, you have now been warned twice. (Or is it thrice?)

(15) UNDER COVER. ScreenRant profiles “The Most Popular Actor You’ve Never Actually Seen.”

Doug Jones is a highly respected and acclaimed actor who has appeared in over 150 acting jobs to his name to this day. However, chances are you never realized who Doug Jones was unless you’re a hardcore cinephile. That’s because many of Jones’ roles require him to be covered in extensive makeup and costumes that hide his natural visage. Jones is the man behind such iconic characters as the Lead Gentleman in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s best episode, “Hush”, the monster in The Shape of Water, Saru in Star Trek Discovery and Abe in Hellboy, the latter of which took seven hours in makeup everyday just to bring the character to life. Jones got his start not by acting, but as a mime for his University’s mascot.

(16) FAN MAIL FROM A FLOUNDER. The surprising thing about Richard Paolinelli is not that he wants to be insulting, but that he only repeats insults someone else thought up first. Which probably informs potential readers what to expect from his fiction.

(17) BERKELEY OUTLAWS PART OF THE QUEEN’S ENGLISH. Snopes warns: “Forget ‘Manmade’: Berkeley Bans Gender-Specific Words”.

There will be no manholes in Berkeley, California. City workers will drop into “maintenance holes” instead.

Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but “human-made.” And students at the University of California, Berkeley, will join “collegiate Greek system residences” rather than fraternities and sororities.

Berkeley leaders voted unanimously this week to replace about 40 gender-specific words in the city code with gender-neutral terms — an effort to be more inclusive that’s drawing both praise and scorn….

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in to Jeopardy! on Friday and witnessed this:

Category: African-American Authors.

Answer: In the “African Immortals” series by Tananarive Due, vampire-like beings from this Horn of Africa country prey on the living.

Incorrect questions: “What is Somalia?” and “What is Cape Horn?”

Correct question: “What is Ethiopia?”

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