Pixel Scroll 3/21/22 Go Strider In The Sky 

(1) BALTICON GUEST NEWS. Balticon 56 announced that Odera Igbokwe has had to withdraw as Artist Guest of Honor due to personal reasons.

They followed up by naming two special guests: Kevin Roche, a costumer, conrunner, and quantum scientist and his husband Andy Trembley, a filker, costumer, and conrunner.

Balticon, which takes place May 27-30, also confirmed they will be streaming their most popular program tracks, and hosting virtual panels, kaffeeklatsches, author readings and more.

Virtual pricing for the whole weekend is $30 for adults and $20 for young adults. Virtual membership is automatically included with any in-person membership purchase. (Full rate information is here.)

(2) ESFS AWARDS NOMINEES. The European Science Fiction Society has released the nominations for the 2022 Achievement Awards, Hall of Fame Awards, and Chrysalis Awards.

The winners of these awards will be selected at the next general meeting of the ESFS, which will take place at Luxcon 2022, which takes place from 7th to 10th April, 2022 in Dudelange, Luxembourg.

(3) GRRM-CONNECTED GAME SUCCESS. Yahoo! reports “’Elden Ring’ Sells Over 12 Million Copies Worldwide”  — “Almost as many as PacMan,” teases John King Tarpinian.

While publisher Bandai Namco initially predicted that FromSoftware‘s Elden Ring would sell around 4 million units, the game has more than surpassed expectations. In the 18 days following its release, over 12 million copies of Elden Ring have been sold worldwide, the two companies announced on Monday.

According to the press release, the game was released throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 1 million units were sold in Japan alone.

Created in collaboration with novelist George R. R. Martin, who is best known for writing the series behind Game of Thrones, Elden Ring is an open-world action RPG that entered development in 2017. Players begin with a linear opening but are gradually enabled to explore the mythical Lands Between….

And George R.R. Martin recently took a moment to deny a story about the game.

…Oh, and as long as I am setting stuff straight, there’s a weird story all over the internet about how I “hid” my initials in ELDEN RING because… ah.. some of the characters have names beginning with R, or G, or M.   To which I say, “Eh?  What?  Really?”   This was news to me.    I have been writing and publishing stories since 1971, and I suspect that I have been giving characters names beginning with R and G and M since the start.   Along with the other twenty-three letters of the alphabet as well…  

(4) WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE IF THE MANDALORIAN WAS INDIGENOUS? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Pretty cool Star-Wars-Inspired works by Canadian artist Christal Ratt got featured on the CBC News this weekend. Ratt, a member of the Barriere Lake Algonquin Nation in Quebec, used traditional techniques to create birch-bark armour modelled after the Mandalorian’s beskar armour. “What if the Mandalorian’s armour was birch bark instead of beskar? An Algonquin artist brings that to life”.

…And while it may not be able to stop lightsabers, the wearable piece of art also includes a birch bark helmet, with quilled Woodland florals and different shades of orange to honour residential school survivors from her community. 

The piece is called Shemaginish, which means warrior….

Personally, I find it really interesting to note that several artists of Indigenous Canadian descent are reinterpreting Star Wars iconography through traditional Indigenous styles. In addition to Ratt, there are several examples I can think of this, including well-known Canadian artists Andy Everson (a member of the Comox First Nation), and Aaron Paquette (a member of the Métis community in Edmonton) have found inspiration in mixing Star Wars with styles drawn from their respective Indigenous communities.

(5) AUTHOR’S GUILD SUPPORTS SMART COPYRIGHT ACT. The Author’s Guild announced, “AG Supports Introduction and Passage of the SMART Copyright Act of 2022”.

Why the Smart Copyright Act Is Necessary

The safe harbors for internet platforms in the Copyright Act are conditioned on the platforms’ cooperation to remove pirated content. The law has not worked as intended by Congress to encourage that cooperation, however, because the courts resisted enforcing the loss of safe harbors. In doing so, they took the teeth out of the law. As a result, piracy is out of control today, and the only mechanism that creators have to combat piracy is to send continuous takedown notices to the platforms, which is not only costly and time-consuming—for both the creators and platforms—but it is also ineffective because pirates often repost the infringing material. Online piracy harms the entire publishing and other creative ecosystems, leaving creators, who are usually at the bottom of the food chain, with only crumbs. Writers and other creators have no recourse except to watch the income from legitimate sales of their works dwindle while e-book pirates line their coffers.

The best way to curb piracy is for service providers to adopt STMs that automatically limit the amount of piracy on their services. These technologies already exist, and many platforms already use them effectively for certain types of works. The Authors Guild and other organizations representing creators have asked Congress to require all the major user-generated content sites to use such technologies to prevent or curb piracy. While the current law contemplates voluntary multi-industry convenings to create and adopt STMs, there has been no incentive for online providers to do so. As a result, no STMs have been formally recognized in the 23 years since the law was passed.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) says on his site:

…Online service providers struck a deal with Congress twenty years ago—they wouldn’t have to pay for copyright theft facilitated by their systems if they worked with copyright owners to create effective standardized technical measures (STMs) to identify and protect against distribution of stolen content. In enacting this grand bargain, Congress clearly envisioned this safe harbor immunity would act as an incentive for platforms and rights holders to collaborate on developing effective measures to combat copyright theft, lower transaction costs, accelerate information sharing, and create a healthy internet for everyone. 

Yet rather than incentivizing collaboration, the law actually inhibits it because service providers cannot risk losing their valuable safe harbors if an STM is created. In addition, the current statute provides only one path to establish that a technological measure is a consensus-based STM that must be available to all. As a result, no STMs have been identified since the law took effect.  The issue isn’t whether technical measures to combat rampant copyright infringement exist—plenty do—but rather how to encourage service providers to adopt technical measures to combat stealing and facilitate sharing of critical copyright data.   

The Strengthening Measures to Advance Rights Technologies (SMART) Copyright Act of 2022 takes a measured approach to addressing these barriers in two ways. It creates flexibility so that more existing measures could be eligible for consensus created STMs and it addresses the incentive issue by authorizing the Librarian of Congress to designate through an open, public rulemaking process technical measures identified by stakeholders that certain service providers must accommodate and not interfere with. Instead of “bet the company” loss of safe harbors, violations involving designated technical measures (DTMs) risk only actual or statutory damages, from which innocent violators can be exempt.

Read a one-pager of the bill HERE and myth vs. fact HERE.

(6) LISTEN IN. Cora Buhlert is interviewed by Oliver Brackenbury in episode 36 of the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with Cora Buhlert”.

Cora Buhlert is a Hugo-nominated author and genre scholar who Oliver was lucky enough to meet through his research for the novel, and he’d love for you to meet her too!

Oliver and Cora discuss her falling in love with the very American body of work known as pulp fiction while she grew up travelling the world, the survival of dime novels in modern Germany, the irresistible pull of forbidden fiction, Thundarr and He-Man, “the best thing that happened in Germany in 1989”…

(7) SLICE OF LIFE. Did you ever want to know what H.P. Lovecraft thought of Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem and its silent film adaptations? If yes, Bobby Derie has you covered: “The Golem (1928) by Gustav Meyrink” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

Der Golem (“The Golem”) was a silent film directed by and starring Paul Wegener with German intertitles released in 1915. The film is now believed to be lost, aside from some fragments. This film was followed by two more: Der Golem und die Tänzerin (“The Golem and the Dancing Girl”) in 1917, and Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (“The Golem: How He Came Into The World”) in 1920, both of which were also directed by and starring Paul Wegener as the golem. So it isn’t clear which film Lovecraft actually saw. The 1920 film survives and is in the public domain.

Lovecraft claimed in most of his letters to have caught a showing of it in 1921, and like many an English student of the VHS era who needed to write a book report, he assumed somewhat erroneously that it was faithful to the plot of the book….

(8) ONCE UPON A NEWSSTAND. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At Dark Worlds Quarterly, G.W. Thomas takes a look at Weird Tales’ shortlived sister magazine Oriental Stories a.k.a. Magic Carpet Tales: “Magic Carpet Tales: The Other Weird Tales” I’ve read some of Robert E. Howard’s contributions to Oriental Stories/Magic Carpet Tales and they were very good.

… Exotic locales, sexy seductresses and plotting agents aside, much of what appeared was a type of Horror fiction. Not always supernatural, torture tales, conte cruels but not your run-of-the-mill werewolf and vampire stories. For those who love Robert E. Howard and other WT authors, this is a bonanza of secondary tales….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1968 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] On this day in the United Kingdom fifty-four years ago, Planet of The Apes premiered. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. The screenplay was by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, and was based loosely upon Pierre Boulle‘s La Planète des Singes

It starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. Roddy McDowall had a long-running relationship with this series, appearing in four of the original five films (absent only from the second film of the series, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in which he was replaced by David Watson in the role of Cornelius), and also in the television series.

It was met with critical acclaim and is widely regarded as a classic film and one of the best films of that year.  Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said that it was “much better than I expected it to be. It is quickly paced, completely entertaining, and its philosophical pretensions don’t get in the way.” And Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times exclaimed that it was, “A triumph of artistry and imagination, it is at once a timely parable and a grand adventure on an epic scale.” 

It did exceedingly well at the box office costing less than six million to make and making more than thirty million in its first year of screening.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an eighty-seven percent rating with over a hundred thousand reviewers having expressed an opinion!

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 21, 1931 Al Williamson. Cartoonist who was best known for his work for EC Comics in the ’50s, including titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, and for his work on Flash Gordon in the Sixties. He won eight Harvey Awards, and an Eisner Hall of Fame Award.  (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 Lorene Yarnell Jansson. Yarnell played Dot Matrix (body acting, with Joan Rivers performing the voice) in Spaceballs. She was Sonia in The Wild Wild West Revisted, Formicida / Dr. Irene Janis in Wonder Woman’s “Formicida” episode and on the Muppet Show in season four episode, “Shields And Yarnell”. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Terry Dowling, 76. I was trying to remember exactly what it was by him that I read and it turned out to be Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder, an offering from Subterranean Press a decade ago. Oh, it was tasty! If it’s at all representative of his other short stories, he’s a master at them. And I see he’s got just one novel, Clowns at Midnight which I’ve not read but really should. He’s not at all deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects but they do have this plus several story collections. He’s won ten Ditmars, very impressive indeed, and quite a few other Awards as well.
  • Born March 21, 1946 Timothy Dalton, 76. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now! He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the Time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials.
  • Born March 21, 1956 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 66. She is a consulting editor for Tor Books and is well known for her and husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s superb weblog Making Light, and back in the Eighties, they published the Izzard fanzine. And she has three fascinating framing pieces in The Essential Bordertown, edited by Delia Sherman and Terri Windling. 
  • Born March 21, 1958 Gary Oldman, 64. First genre film role was as Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Next up is the lead role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. And of course he was Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in Fifth Element, followed by being Lost in Space‘s Dr. Zachary Smith, which in turn led to Harry Potter’s Sirius Black, and that begat James Gordon in the Batman filmsAlthough some reviewers give him accolades for us as role as Dr. Dennett Norton in the insipid Robocop remake, I will not. Having not seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I can’t say how he is as Dreyfus in it.
  • Born March 21, 1965 Cynthia Geary, 57. Best remembered as Shelly Tambo on Northern Exposure. It’s genre, isn’t it? If that’s not enough, she’s got a prime genre role in The Outer Limits episode “Mary 25” in which she plays Teryl who is not what she seems. And she shows up on Fantady Island in the “Dying to Dance” as Pamela Lewis.
  • Born March 21, 1970 Chris Chibnall, 52. Current showrunner for Doctor Who and the head writer for the first two (and I think) best series of Torchwood. He first showed up in the Whoverse when he penned the Tenth Doctor story, “42”.  He also wrote several episodes of Life on Mars. He’s been nominated for a Hugo three times for work on Doctor Who, “Rosa” at Dublin 2019, “Resolution” CoNZealand and for “Fugitive of the Judoon” at DisCon III.
  • Born March 21, 1985 Sonequa Martin-Green, 37. She currently plays Michael Burnham on Discovery which is now In its fourth series. She had a brief recurring role as Tamara in Once Upon a Time, and a much longer recurring role on The Walking Dead as Sasha Williams but I’ve never seen her there as zombies hold absolutely no interest to me. Well Solomon Grundy does…  And she was in the Shockwave, Darkside film.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Duplex shows the history you learn from watching movies.
  • Lise Andreasen says these are “Exactly the same things I would do!”

(12) OUTFOXED. Arturo Serrano reviews the new Pixar film for Nerds of a Feather in “’Turning Red’ finds joy in the scary messiness of puberty”.

…Disney/Pixar’s new animated movie Turning Red takes this metaphor of puberty as transformation and situates it in the no less stressful context of the immigrant experience during the rise of digital mass media. If being a teenager is hard, it’s almost unbearably so when inherited traditions and expectations conflict with multicultural openness and pop culture sex symbols. When protagonist Meilin Lee learns that the women of her family have the power to transform into enormous red pandas, it feels like it couldn’t have come at a worse time: she’s busy enough pleasing her parents and excelling at school and daydreaming about boy bands without going all Katie Ka-Boom every time she gets emotional. So she panics, and tries to hide what’s happening to her, and pretends to be in full command of her feelings—but her inner animal won’t be tamed. There’s no denying the call of nature….

(13) EFF ME. That was my reaction to the headline “Hugh Grant ‘in conversation’ to replace Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who” at Metro News.

…Well, rumour has it the Love Actually star could be taking over from Jodie Whittaker as the Time Lord.

According to The Mirror, the BBC series could be heading for a Marvel-style makeover, with Hugh at the helm….

(14) WIN BY LOSING. “Loki Award Show Lost Saves Universe, According to Miss Minutes”Gizmodo has the story.

Awards season hit a high note this weekend as multiple guilds and groups gave awards leading up to the grand finale, the Oscars, which happen this coming Sunday. One of the biggest to do so was the Writers Guild of America—and apparently one specific category literally saved the world, at least according to a certain animated talking clock from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

… In the Drama category, Succession was up against The Handmaid’s Tale, The Morning Show, Yellowjackets, and Marvel’s Loki. And it’s that last one we’re going to concentrate on. Showrunner and head writer Michael Waldron revealed on Twitter that, had Loki won, this is the acceptance speech the writers submitted to air.

(15) REGENCY TEA TIME. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Aja Romano shares her appreciation for the works of Georgette Heyer and wonders why Heyer is not a household name and has never had a film or TV adaptation: “When will Hollywood discover Georgette Heyer?” at Vox. I’d say that Georgette Heyer is at least genre-adjacent, since a lot of SFF fans seem to like her and Regency romance in general. Plus, Regency dancing is a thing at many cons.

…[Jane] Austen’s relative lack of sentiment also helped her gain popularity and respect as a writer in a male-dominated century of literature. While other women writers of her time like Fanny Burney were reviled as trashy, Austen’s lack of interest in high drama and romance made her work acceptable to male readers as well as to women. One 19th-century critic wrote approvingly that “she sets her face zealously against romantic attachments.”

That patriarchal lack of respect for the art of writing about love may also explain why few outside of romance fans have ever heard of Austen’s primary successor: Georgette Heyer. Despite singlehandedly creating the modern romance, Heyer is still a niche author. And though she has nearly 10 times as many books available for cinematic adaptation as Austen, Hollywood has yet to discover her….

(16) PARALLAX VIEWS OF WESTEROS. George R.R. Martin introduces The Rise Of The Dragon” at Not A Blog and explains how it complements Fire & Blood. Sample art at the link.

We’re so excited to announce The Rise of The Dragon, a lavish visual history of House Targaryen – the iconic family at the heart of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon – featuring over 180 all-new illustrations!

For those of you who are wondering: What’s the difference between The Rise of the Dragon and Fire & Blood? Think of The Rise of the Dragon as a deluxe reference book, in which Westeros’ most infamous family – and their dragons – come to life in partnership with some truly incredible artists.

Fire & Blood was scribed as a grandmaesters’ account of events from Aegon Targaryen’s conquest of Westeros through to the infamous Dance of the Dragons, the civil war that nearly undid the Targaryen rule. The Rise of the Dragon will cover the same time period, but is written in a more encyclopedic style similar to The World of Ice and Fire. In fact, The World of Ice and Fire authors Elio M. García, Jr. and Linda Antonsson have returned to help with this tome. …

(17) AIRING ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the “By The Book” weekly interview in the NY Times (Sunday) Book Review section, 3/20/22, with Jeremy Denk, a question that IIRC is part of every interview:

Q: What books are on your night stand.

A: In Manhattan, my night stand has become commandeered by a CPAP machine. I chose breathing over reading.

He then goes on to list books elsewhere in his domicile(s).

(18) IT’S FOR YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The BBC shows it’s possible to walk outside with a mobile phone “as big as a walkie talkie” and make a phone call in this clip from a 1974 episode of Blue Peter.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, 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 Daniel Dern, who calls it his Tolkien cowboy title.]

Authors Guild’s Statement of Solidarity with Ukraine

How can writers’ organizations respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine? The Authors Guild has set this example:

“Authors Guild Expresses Solidarity with Ukraine” (March 1)

The Authors Guild, the U.S.’s leading and oldest nonprofit advocacy organization for published writers and journalists, condemns Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. We express our support for Ukrainian authors and journalists and all the Ukrainian people fighting bravely against their Russian aggressors to retain the right for Ukraine to be a free and democratic nation.

As a steering committee member of the International Authors Forum, we stand by this IAF “Statement of solidarity with Ukraine and its creator community” [dated February 28.]

We, representing the international author community, extend our solidarity and support for those in Ukraine during this illegal invasion by Russia. We are concerned for the safety of the Ukrainian people, their culture and freedoms, and the safety of our creative colleagues.
Ukraine’s rich cultural heritage has produced many great works of literature and art. It is vital this tradition is protected for the people of Ukraine today and for future generations.

We urge political leaders and the international community to work to restore peace and security for the people of Ukraine. The international community must ensure safety, democracy and creative freedoms in the nation of Ukraine to ensure its future as an independent nation, and the preservation of the freedoms the international author community champions.

The international author community will work with colleagues around the world to offer whatever support and solidarity we can for those in Ukraine.

The Science Fiction Writers of America is an IAF member.  Where do they stand with respect to this IAF statement?

National Library of New Zealand Reconsiders Agreement with Internet Archive

The National Library of New Zealand, which had announced plans to ship more than 400,000 books they are de-listing from their Overseas Published Collections catalogs to the Internet Archive for digitization and inclusion in its Open Library, now is reconisdering “in light of concerns raised by the various interested parties, including issues associated with copyright.” The National Library will not export any of the OPC until it “consider[s] its next steps.”

The decision follows warnings issued by SFWA and The Authors Guild to members that they had until December 1 to opt out of digitization if their books were among those being transferred.

The Authors Guild reports that in November authors held a protest in Wellington calling for the library to respect copyright. And the New Zealand Society of Authors and the Publishers Association have filed a petition with New Zealand’s Attorney General to investigate the legality of the partnership between the National Library and the Internet Archive.

National Librarian Te Pouhuaki Rachel Esson said in a press release that the National Library has listened to multiple views and worked hard to support New Zealanders’ ongoing access to books from the Overseas Published Collections.

“We are aiming to balance our duty to all New Zealanders with the concerns of our valued book sector colleagues and will continue to build relationships with them,” says Ms Esson.

Ms Esson also says, “It is part of the National Library’s mission to remove barriers to knowledge, ensure New Zealanders have the skills to create knowledge and preserve knowledge for future generations. We are taking some time to look at all available options that align with our collection plans, while preserving author and publisher interests.”

When the project first began mid-2018 it appeared likely that books remaining at the end of the process would face secure destruction. The National Library continues to work to avoid this outcome.

SFWA says its Legal Affairs committee “will continue to follow further developments closely.”

Pixel Scroll 11/18/21 Always Pixeling And Never Scrollmas

(1) DOUBLE-BARRELLED VOTING DEADLINE. November 19 is the deadline for DisCon III members to vote for the Hugos, and ASFA members to vote for the Chesley Awards!

(2) HOW THE NYT BESTSELLER LISTS WORK. John Scalzi stepped in to set the record straight.

The Reddit link to his six-point commentary is here.

So, actual New York Times best selling novelist here.

One: The New York Times list very generally tracks sales, but also employs other criteria in order to mitigate “gaming,” — so, for example, they tend to disregard “bulk buys” of a book and will otherwise asterisk books they think have manipulated sales. Gaming the list is a moving target, so the criteria change over time. The point of the list is to give a snapshot of what people are actually purchasing but also, hopefully, reading (or at least giving to others to read).

(3) THE DOCTOR IS OUT. Radio Times knows we thrive on every crumb of info about the series – even the episode titles: “Doctor Who Flux unveils final episode title: The Vanquishers”.

The title of Doctor Who: Flux‘s sixth and final episode has been officially confirmed.

The Vanquishers will premiere on Sunday 5th December and will see the conclusion of the series’ “massive arc”, which has been spread over all six episodes in a Doctor Who first.

There’s a synopsis too, which hints at what’s in store for Thirteen and her companions. It reads: “In the final epic chapter in the story of the Flux, all hope is lost. The forces of darkness are in control. But when the monsters have won, who can you count upon to save the universe?”

(4) WOULD YOU LIKE TO GUESS? In the Washington Post, Adela Suliman says Warner Bros. is planning a big special for HBO Max for the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film, but no one will say why J.K. Rowling won’t be there. “Harry Potter stars ‘Return to Hogwarts’ in 20-year HBO reunion missing J.K. Rowling”.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who played the trio of best friends Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively, came of age on screen where they began as child actors on the fabled Hogwarts school set. The actors grew up in front of a global audience of ardent fans. Now in their 30s, they will join cast members and the films’ makers for a nostalgic TV special.

British author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the books the movies are based on and worked closely with the film’s producers, is absent from the lineup for the Warner Bros. television show. Representatives for Rowling told The Washington Post on Wednesday that they would not be commenting. Warner Bros.also declined to comment.

… Rowling caused a social media storm last year after she shared her opinions on Twitter and months later wrote a lengthy personal essay on transgender issues, and some in the LGBTQ community accused her of transphobia. Grint, Watson and Radcliffe publicly distanced themselves from Rowling’s comments at the time and said they stood with the trans community….

Watson, who played bookish Hermione Granger, shared the news of the television reunion on her Instagram page along with a photo of the young cast, and thanked loyal fans known as “Potterheads.”

“Harry Potter was my home, my family, my world and Hermione (still is) my favorite fictional character of all time,” she said Tuesday. “I am proud not just of what we as group contributed as actors to the franchise but also as the children that became young adults that walked that path.”…

(5) DECEMBER THE FIRST IS (NOT) TOO LATE. Yesterday the Authors Guild sent a warning to members along the same lines SFWA recently did, in respect to the National Library of New Zealand’s plans, and how authors whose books are included can opt-out. (Which they’ll also be able to do after December 1.)  

Despite strong opposition from the New Zealand Society of Authors and international groups including the Authors Guild, the National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ) is moving ahead with its plan to donate 400,000 books from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive for digitization and lending through its Open Library platform. This collection likely contains tens of thousands of books written by American authors—many still protected by copyright—and may include your books.

While it is unfortunate that New Zealand officials are choosing to partner with the Internet Archive—an entity that has consistently flouted copyright law—over our objections, the NLNZ is allowing any author whose book is included in the collection to opt out of the scheme in response to the concerns raised about the legality of “controlled digital lending.”

Authors who do not wish their books to be digitized by the Internet Archive and loaned out through Open Library have until December 1, 2021, to opt out and withdraw their books.
 

Here’s how to opt out:

      1. Check whether your books are included in the collection. NLNZ has provided an Excel spreadsheet of all titles it intends to donate. The spreadsheet is available on this page. Click the link labeled “List of candidate books for donation to the Internet Archive” (it is a large Excel file, so we suggest downloading it and then searching for your name by running a Ctrl+F search). 
      2. If your books are available, send an email to opcmanagement@dia.govt.nz and ask that they be withdrawn. Your email must include the NZNL’s “unique number” (column “I” on the spreadsheet) of each title you would like withdrawn, and proof that you have rights in the titles (emails from persons or organizations whose names correspond with rightsholders’ names will be sufficient proof of rights).

 If you need assistance, please send us an email staff@authorsguild.org.

(6) PETERSON OR HARKONNEN? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Can you tell which statements were said by a Canadian pseudophilosopher, and which ones are said by a fiendish villain from the novel Dune?  Honestly, I couldn’t pass this test even if the Reverend Mother held the Gom Jabbar to my throat.  “Who Said It? Jordan Peterson or Baron Vladimir Harkonnen”.

(7) A NEW HOPE. Orange County (CA) is getting rid of library fines starting next week. The library will still collect for lost or damaged items. 

Orange County Board of Supervisors approved to indefinitely eliminate library late fines. Beginning November 23, OC Public Libraries will take its 100 years of service in a new direction by removing late fines for overdue items. 

“Public libraries play an essential role in providing safe, accessible, and free educational resources for every member in our community,” said Chairman Andrew Do, First District Supervisor. “Eliminating late fines will incentivize residents to take advantage of county library resources once again and not be hesitant to take a book home during their next visit.” 

…OC Public Libraries wishes to reflect its vision of ‘Open Doors, Free Access and Community’ and welcome back patrons that have refrained from coming to the library due to outstanding fines. 

(8) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED FANZINES. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Ian Cooke with the British Library tweeted a link to an article calling for contributions to a doctoral research project about UK football fanzines from the 1970s to the present. The accompanying picture of a spread of typical football fanzines reminded me of some of our own generation of fanzines, with mimeo reproduction, some fairly crude art, and layout & design marked more by enthusiasm than talent. Parallel evolution among almost completely unconnected subjects. The direct link is here.

(9) MINUTE MAN. Marc Scott Zicree offers up the Twilight Zone Minute – “The Man in the Bottle”.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 — Thirty-six years ago today, Calvin and Hobbes first appeared in serialization from the Universal Press Syndicate. (The very first strip is available here to view.) Created by Bill Watterson, it was his first and only such strip after working in advertising and political cartooning. The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December 31, 1995. At the height of its popularity, it was featured in over twenty four hundred newspapers worldwide. Despite the overwhelming popularity of the strip, the strip remains notable for the complete lack of official product merchandising as Watterson is absolutely opposed to it being marketed that way. If you’ve purchased any Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, it’s bootleg. Everything by him is copyrighted, so I’m not including any images here. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 82. Well, there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that’s garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I wholeheartedly recommend, and I’ve heard good things about The Penelopiad. What else do you like of hers? 
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 75. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so that I read oh-so-long ago were superb. The Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his Stars Wars work as I never got into it. Though I’m glad the Evil Mouse is paying him for it finally. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 71. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction is quite excellent, and I see the usual suspects have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 71. I’d say that he’s best known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs, a neat feat indeed. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 68. His best book is Voice of the Fire which admittedly isn’t genre. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very close. Pity about the film which surprisingly has a forty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. His worst work? The Lost Girls which is genre in an odd manner. A shudderingly pornographic manner. Shudder. I’m also fond of The Ballad of Halo Jones and Swamp Thing work that he did as well. And let’s not forget that the The Watchmen won a well-deserved Hugo at Nolacon II. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 60. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards.
  • Born November 18, 1970 Peta Wilson, 51. Wilhelmina “Mina” Harker in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, a bit role as Bobbie-Faye in Superman Returns. Inspector in the “Promises” episode of the Highlander series. Though The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was not well received, she received a Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress for being in it which is rather surprising I’d say. 
  • Born November 18, 1981 Maggie Stiefvater, 40. Writer of YA fiction, she has myriad series, of which I recommend The Dreamer trilogy, The Wolves of Mercy Falls and the astonishing Raven Cycle. With her sister, Kate Hummel, she writes and records a piece of music for each novel she releases. These are released in the form of animated book trailers. She’s had five Mythopoeic Fantasy Award nominations but so far no wins. 

(12) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. The New York Times’ Michael Tisserand reviews American Comics: A History by Jeremy Dauber in “A Sweeping History of American Comics”.

…Dauber is particularly nuanced in dealing with the many controversies buffeting comics past and present, from debates over comics codes and depictions of sex and violence to questions of diversity, representation and authority “played out through the stretch of spandex.” He identifies comics’ “original sin” as the publishers’ failure to give creators proper credit, compensation and rights to their work. From there, he digs deep into comics economics, beginning with the $130 once paid to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for Superman and landing at the current multi-platform, multi-billion-dollar industry. There is no shortage of bitter ironies in this part of the tale: “In something that felt like an overdetermined symbol, the original check for $130 made out to Siegel and Shuster for Superman, the site of the grandest battle between creator and corporation, netted $160,000 at auction in 2012.”

(13) SAFETY CONCERN. Seanan McGuire, a GoH at last weekend’s Windycon in Chicago, tweeted about a problem she observed with people behaving like they’d found a loophole in the con’s mask-wearing requirement. Thread starts here. [Via Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News.] 

(14) ESSENCE OF WONDER. The Essence of Wonder team’s Zoom with 2021 Astounding Award Finalist Lindsay Ellis can be seen now on YouTube.

Lindsay Ellis is so cool! Astounding Award Nominee Lindsay Ellis author of Axioms End and Truth of the Divine joined Alan and Karen this last Saturday to discuss her work, nomination, and a lot of fun was had!

(15) BATTLE ROYALE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This trailer, which dropped today, asks, “What if all the DC superheroes, all the Looney Tunes characters, Tom, Jerry, and the Scooby-Doo gang were in one incredible universe where they could fight each other?”

(16) FLAKEY NAMES. Boston.com invites everyone to “Meet ‘SNOWbegone Kenobi,’ ‘Jennifer Snowpez,’ and the 160 other snowplows named by Vermont kids”. The full list can be found at VTrans’ “Name A Plow Program” webpage.

In October, Vermont elementary students were tasked with naming the VTrans snowplows as part of their Name a Plow Program. From “Jennifer Snowpez” to “Mr. Pushy” and even “Steve,” their responses did not disappoint.

The state’s elementary schools were tasked with submitting names for VTrans’ 250 snowplows from Oct. 4 to Oct. 22, according to VTrans. The named plow would then be assigned to cover the respective school’s district, according to the state.

…Some schools gave their plows intense names as they prepare to battle the stormy months ahead. The Lunenburg School’s “The Lion’s Snow Destroyer,” Rutland Area Christian School’s “RACS Snow Destroyer,” and “Snowcrusher” from Sustainability Academy to name a few….

The force (of snowplows) must be strong in Vermont this year, as there were six Star Wars referenced plows. “Luke Snow Walker” will be joined by both “Snowbegone Kenobi” and “Obi-Wan KenSNOWbi,” “Storm Trooper,” “Darth Blader,” and of course, “Baby Snowda.”

Other names also had creative references: “Perry the Plowerpus” was the “Phineas and Ferb” inspired plow name from The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales and “Edgar Allen Snow” was the poetic name of Pacem School’s plow….

(17) CATS NOT DECEIVED BY TELEPORTATION. We’re not talking about the “two to beam up” kind of thing, however, today’s Nature reports “Experiments involving ‘impossible teleportation’ reveal the cognitive powers of the house cat” — “A cat can track its human by voice — if it can be bothered to”.

Pet cats seem to be able to track their human companion’s every move — through sound1.

Domestic house cats (Felis catus) use visual cues to create a mental map of their environment and the whereabouts of any other creatures nearby. However, our feline familiars also have keen ears, which could assist with their mental cartography when their prey — or person — is out of sight.

To investigate this, Saho Takagi at Kyoto University in Japan and her colleagues attempted to hoodwink dozens of house cats through ‘impossible teleportation’ experiments. The researchers placed each cat in a room with two widely spaced audio speakers. First, one speaker played a recording of the cat’s owner calling its name. Then, the second speaker played the same recording after an interval that would be too short for a human to travel between the two locations. Video cameras recorded the cats’ reactions.

The team found that house cats were noticeably surprised by auditory evidence that their people had been ‘teleported’. The cats’ astonishment suggests that they can keep mental notes of their humans’ presence and map that person’s location by voice.

(18) LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENEY BRANDING IRONS FOR ANTS. If you can just find the little holes they made…. “Black holes slamming into the moon could end the dark-matter debate” according to MSN.com.

…A black hole half the size of a golf ball would have a mass equivalent to Earth’s. Even microscopic black holes, with masses comparable to asteroids, would’ve unceasingly sucked in and destroyed everything along their path. 

Slowly, as the universe progressed, swarms of them would have seen planetary systems rise and fall, and billions of years ago there’s a fair chance they’d have even whizzed through our corner of the cosmos. Eventually, these mini black holes would’ve sailed away from each other. But if they did exist, experts think they’d still be roaming in and around the galaxies right this second. 

They are, scientists believe, our newest lead on dark matter — perhaps the greatest mystery of the universe.

Dark matter quests that hope to unveil the strange, invisible particle or force that somehow binds the cosmos together often reach a wall. Solving the puzzle requires, well, actually… finding dark matter. 

So to ensure this innovative hypothesis isn’t a dead end, we’d need to locate unseen, miniature versions of black holes. But how? We have enough trouble finding supermassive, visible ones with high-tech equipment tailored to the search.

That’s where the moon comes in.

“There’s this funny estimate that you can do,” says Matt Caplan, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois State University and one of the theorists behind the research published in March. Caplan contends that if dark matter can indeed be explained by these tiny black holes, then at some point, they would have punctured the moon. 

Yes, you read that correctly: The moon might’ve been bombarded by atomic-sized black holes. Taking it a step further, the wounds they inflicted should still be up there; if these mini-abysses are proven to exist, dark matter may no longer be an everlasting enigma….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bruce D. Arthurs, Olav Rokne, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowrie, Michael J. Lowrey, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

#DisneyMustPay Task Force Updates

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force has reported its progress towards its goal that all WritersMustBePaid.org.

“Lee Goldberg, IAMTW, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America bring valuable experience to the Disney Task Force,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, President, SFWA. “Their support demonstrates that writers stand with each other.” 

John Palisano, President, Horror Writers Association (HWA), said, “The HWA is proud to be part of the Disney Task Force alongside SFWA, RWA, MWA, and many other organizations focused on writers. We believe writers must be paid and should not have to jump through hoops for that to happen. We’re hoping Disney will come to the table and cooperate with author organizations that are providing support to authors and agents so that there is a clear path going forward. We are all wishing for a resolution that will continue the great creative relationships that have been built over many decades.”

“Since we launched the Task Force, progress has been made; we are pleased that a few writers have been paid,” said Kowal. “However, we do notice the difference in how the lower profile writers are being treated. We should not still be having the discussion about honoring their contracts.”

Fans, fellow writers, and the creative community have taken to social media to support the authors being helped by the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force. Because of their passion, the message is being delivered. 

For writers to be paid, people need to continue to buy their books and watch their movies and programs. The Task Force strongly feels that a boycott will only hurt writers. 

There are ways fans and supporters can help.

  • Do not boycott, as this will disproportionately affect those authors who are being paid. 
  • Use #DisneyMustPay on social media. Help is needed to bring the task force’s five action items to the attention of Disney’s decision-makers.
  • Visit WritersMustBePaid.org, a new website set up by our new task force, and share it.
  • Do purchase the works of affected authors for which they are receiving royalties.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) formed the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force, which now includes the Authors GuildHorror Writers Association, International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW), International Thriller WritersMystery Writers of America National Writers UnionNovelists, Inc., Romance Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime to identify and guide authors who might be owed money. Disney is refusing to cooperate with the task force in identifying affected authors. 

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is making sure writers’ working conditions are fair and safe, but individual negotiations are, rightly, between the authors, their agents, and the rights holder. The Disney Task Force is working to address structural and systemic concerns. 

Additional updates and information will be available at www.writersmustbepaid.org.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 4/16/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Pixel’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) CONTRACT GUIDES NOW OPEN ACCESS. The Authors Guild has released its Model Book Contract to the public for the first time. They have also produced a separate Literary Translation Model Contract for U.S. translators and literary agents.

“We updated the Model Trade Book Contract last year right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We never could have predicted just how deleterious the crisis would be on working writers, with 71.4 percent of authors reporting losing, on average, 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income, based on our latest member survey,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Given this situation, we have been exploring various ways to help ease the lives and careers of professional writers, which is why the Authors Guild Council recently voted to remove the Model Trade Book Contract from behind our member paywall and make it freely accessible for all writers, publishers and anyone interested in book contracts. We hope that publishers will look to its terms in creating their own or adopt it, and we want authors around the globe to have access to it so they can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before signing any book deal.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. “Wakandans Featurette/Marvel Studio’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube is a trailer from Disney+ that announces that Wakandans have shown up in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.

(3) SPFBO. Mark Lawrence has announced that he will be starting the next Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off on June 1st.  They need another blogger/reviewer.

(4) FINALS EXAM. Cora Buhlert has 2,000 well-chosen words to share on the subject: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists”.

… When the Best Series Hugo was proposed, the argument was that a lot of popular and long-running series are overlooked by the Hugos – or the Nebulas for that matter – because the individual novels don’t stand alone very well and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

However in practice, such series, no matter how popular, are rarely nominated. Particularly The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is notable by its absence, even though the Best Series Hugo seems tailor-made for this series.

Instead, the Best Series ballot tends to consist of trilogies by authors Hugo voters like and where individual volumes have often made the ballot before as well as of works set in the same wold that form a series if you squint really hard. I guess most Hugo voters simply aren’t series readers.

That said, the actual Best Series ballot looks pretty good this year. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a hugely popular series where prettty much every installment has either been a finalist or would have been, if Martha Wells hadn’t withdrawn two Murderbot novellas from consideration in 2019. It’s also a great series….

(5) HAVE YOU RED IT TOO? The Heinlein Society has a good reason for suggesting that you watch this trailer and note what books the kids are reading at about 28 seconds.

(6) IT’S JUST TAKING A KIP. Meanwhile, back at the Red Planet, NASA’s InSight lander is “in crisis”: “NASA’s InSight Mars Lander to Hibernate so Batteries Don’t Die” at Business Insider.

… Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers — including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter — powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called “cleaning events,” are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA’s robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, and it’s struggling to absorb sunlight.InSight’s solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to start incrementally turning off different instruments on the lander. Soon the robot will go into “hibernation mode,” shutting down all functions that aren’t necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather,” Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, said in a statement.

InSight is still in good condition — it’s even using its robotic arm — but an out-of-season storm could cause a power failure. If the lander’s batteries die, it might never recover.

“We would be hopeful that we’d be able to bring it back to life, especially if it’s not asleep or dead for a long period of time,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator, told Insider. “But that would be a dicey situation.”

(7) THE HOLE NINE YARDS. Let James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five Books That Use Wormholes to Plug Plot Holes” at Tor.com. First on the list –

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953)

This novel long predates the heyday of wormholes; it doesn’t even use the phrase. But it uses spacetime anomalies, which are just like wormholes. With one exception: they don’t just have an entrance and an exit. They can take you all sorts of interesting places if you enter the anomaly with the wrong approach vector. A small error calculating the vector and a hapless ship could find itself light-millennia off-course, with no clear idea how to get home. No prizes for guessing if this happens to the Asgard, the very ship on which the eponymous Starman Jones is serving. Nor is this worst that will happen to the unfortunate castaways.

(8) MCCRORY OBIT. Actress Helen McCrory, OBE, (1968-2021) died April 16 reports GEEKchocolate.

We are hugely saddened to hear of the death of the wonderful Helen McCrory, known to us as Rosanna Calvierri’s in Doctor Who’s Vampires of Venice, but with a resume which stretched from Interview with the Vampire, Charlotte Gray, The Count of Monte Cristo, Skyfall, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, a recurring role in Harry Potter as Narcissa Malfoy, and a long stint as Polly Grey on Peaky Blinders, as well as two appearances as Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship.

(9) FELIX SILLIA OBIT. The actor who played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, Felix Sillia, has died at the age of 84 reports SYFY Wire.

In addition to playing Cousin Itt, Silla’s other best-known roles include playing the robot Twiki / Odee-x on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and an evil miniature “Hitler” in 1975’s The Black Bird. He also had smaller parts in much-loved movies, such as playing an Ewok on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Dink in Spaceballs. He also worked as a stuntman on E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Temple of DoomHoward the Duck, and Batman Returns.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 16, 1955 –On this day in 1955, Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 16, 1891 – Dorothy Lathrop.  Illustrator and author.  Historically a lot of good fantasy has been written for children; folks who appreciate fantasy know to look there.  DL illustrated twoscore books, writing nine herself, also nonfiction.  Rachel Field’s Hitty, illustrated by DL, won RF a Newbery Medal; DL’s illustrations for Helen Fish’s Animals of the Bible won DL a Caldecott Medal.  Here is DL’s cover for an ed’n of The Little Mermaid.  Here is a dandelion soldier.  Here is an interior for Mopsa the Fairy.  This is from DL’s Fairy Circus.  Here is Across the Night Sky.  Here is a 2011 appreciation with another score of pictures.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. Genre adjacent (well sort of), he played Hercule Poirot twice. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Anti-Death League and The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction which was published in the late Fifties sounds fascinating as he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube despite there already being some. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both an excellent radio and a superb television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. The film version would be nominated for a Hugo finishing sixth in the balloting at Noreascon I, a year where No Award was given. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1953 – J. Neil Schulman.  Four novels, half a dozen shorter stories; collection Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories (speaking of Hobbes’ Leviathan, I used to joke that the tiger should have been Calvin, and the boy Hobbes because he was nasty, brutish, and short); “Profiles in Silver” for The Twilight Zone; two Prometheus Awards.  I can’t remember ever agreeing with him, but I miss him.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1954 Ellen Barkin, 65. Usually I don’t do a birthday listing for just a few genre appearances but I make an exception for those performers who appeared in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Barking played Penny Priddy in that film and that was her only genre appearance other than playing Kathleen in the Into The West film about Irish Travellers and a very special horse named Tír na nÓg. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 59. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb. She has a most excellent website — Kathryncramer.com. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1970 – Brandon McKinney, age 51.  Here is a fine cover for John Whitman’s novelization Star Wars.  Here is a cover for JW’s Phantom Menace.  Interiors for both.  Here is Batman, here is Robin.  Here is Spider-Man.  Here is Bruce Lee in The Dragon Rises.  Also Elfquest; see here.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 46. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of  animated DAC films, to wit  Son of BatmanBatman vs. Robin,,Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1978 – Amy Ruttan, age 43.  Four novels for us; two dozen others.  “Half the fun of writing historicals and being swept away in a different time period is the research….  let someone else you trust have a look over your work.  You’ll be surprised what you as an author won’t pick out.”  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1983 – Thomas Olde Heuvelt, age 38.  Too little (say I) of his work has been translated from Dutch into English.  “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was and won a Hugo, which may be some encouragement.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories; one novel, five shorter stories in English so far.  Three Paul Harland prizes.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1990 – Kusano Gengen, age 31.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Only three stories yet translated into English; one is “Last and First Idol” – yes, alluding to Olaf Stapledon – which won a Seiun, and is the lead story in a 2018 collection with the other two.  KG drew a thousand words from Jonathan Clements, of which I’ll quote a few about “Idol”: “Described by one of the Hayakawa Sci-Fi Contest [which “Idol” won – JH] panelists as ‘stupid’, and by an employee of his own publisher as ‘abysmal’, Kusano’s work of recursive SF provocatively combines the breathless, vapid prose of a teenage school story with the portentous, epic concerns of Space Opera, turning each into a wry commentary on the pomposity of the other.”  Meanwhile Kusano-san went off to Hokkaidô University for a Ph.D.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) IMAGINARY PAPERS ON YOUR DOORSTEP. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today published the 6th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.  

This issue features writing from media scholar Lisa Yin Han, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and learning sciences researcher Ruth Wylie.

Here is a link for subscribing to future issues.

 (14) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has scheduled three more FanHistory Project Zoom Sessions. To attend, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org in order to receive a link. 

  • April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  

Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and  Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. 

  • April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. 

Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. 

  • May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. 

Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more. 

(15) BEAMING INTO YOUR HOME. Stay tuned as Galactic Journey boldly goes through 1966!

(16) BIG BUCKS. Smaug’s dead, so they can’t borrow it from him.“Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Costs $465 Million for Just Season 1” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings television show is going to cost all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Amazon will spend roughly NZ$650 million — $465 million in U.S. dollars — for just the first season of the show.

That’s far above previous reported estimates that pegged the fantasy drama as costing an already record-breaking $500 million for multiple seasons of the show.

“What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about $650 million in season one alone,” Stuart Nash, New Zealand minister for economic development and tourism, told Morning Report“This is fantastic, it really is … this will be the largest television series ever made.”

The figures were released as part of as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act and initially reported by the New Zealand outlet Stuff. The documents also confirmed the studio’s plan to film potentially five seasons in New Zealand — as well as possible, as-yet-unannounced spinoff series.

By comparison, HBO’s Game of Thrones cost roughly $100 million to produce per season, with its per-episode cost starting at around $6 million for season one and eventually rising to around $15 million per episode in season eight….

(17) THE TRAIN TO NOWHERE. Mashable’s reviewer Belen Edwards says “’Infinity Train’ Season 4 is a strong end to a show that deserved more”.

… However, part of the beauty of Infinity Train has always been its conciseness. The animated series takes on an anthology format. Each season follows a different passenger on the titular train, where each car holds a new world. Passengers are assigned a glowing green number that goes down as they learn more lessons and work to resolve the problems in their life. When their numbers reach zero, they can exit the train. Each season is only 10 episodes long, and at 11 minutes each they pack in an astounding amount of character development and heart. …

(18) KING OF THE MOVIES. There will be an online “Dollar Baby film festival” hosted by Vancouver’s Baker Street Cinema of unreleased Stephen King movies from April 23-25. Full details at the link.  

Hosted by Canadian film production company Barker Street Cinema, the virtual festival, called STEPHEN KING RULES, will screen 25 submissions by filmmakers from all over the world, many of which have never been seen by a global audience before.

Since 1977, the Master of Horror – Stephen King – has allowed emerging filmmakers to adapt his previously unproduced short stories into films that may help launch their careers through what is called the Dollar Baby Deal. Barker Street’s STEPHEN KING RULES Dollar Baby Film Festival will showcase an exciting line-up of these independent movies, including interviews and panel discussions with the filmmakers themselves….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Dann, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MixMat and Cliff with an assist from Jack Lint and Anna Nimmhaus.]

HWA, Authors Guild, and Five More Groups Call on DoJ to Stop PRH Purchase of Simon & Schuster

Last fall Bertelsmann announced plans to acquire Simon & Schuster, which would reduce the number of Big Five publishers to four. In response, the Authors Guild, Open Markets Institute, Horror Writers Association, National Writers Union, Novelists Inc., Romance Writers Association, Sisters in Crime, and Western Writers of America have written to Richard Power, Acting Attorney General of the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, urging the DOJ not to approve the proposed acquisition.

The groups say the merger between Bertelsmann’s Penguin Random House (PRH) and Simon & Schuster would create an unbalanced industry with one grossly outsized company, which, among other things, will inevitably lead to less competition for authors’ manuscripts. The takeover would, for instance, result in Bertelsmann controlling a 70% market share in the literary and general fiction market in the United States. Bertelsmann would also control 70% of the action and adventure, horror, political, legal, medical, erotica, and coming-of-age submarkets and 60% of biography.

The complete letter is available here [PDF file].

The letter notes that Bertelsmann’s case for taking over Simon & Schuster is the various threats to its business posed  by Amazon’s monopoly over book sales, and Amazon’s increasing power over book publishing, printing,  warehousing and many other activities. However, while the writers groups agree that  Amazon’s monopoly poses a variety of threats, they contend that the strategy of attempting to address dangerous monopolies by building countervailing monopolies has already been tried and failed.

The Department [of Justice] adopted precisely such an approach in 2013 when it approved Bertelsmann’s takeover of  Penguin – even though that deal reduced the ranks of top-tier trade publishers from six to five. The fact  that Bertelsmann is now proposing another giant deal clearly proves that the previous concentration of  power was not sufficient to counterbalance Amazon’s monopoly and create a more level playing field. 

What a Bertelsmann acquisition of Simon & Schuster would do, however, is increase the already huge  pressures on the remaining larger publishers to compete with the outsized company on manuscripts,  distribution, printing, and procurement. Many predict that the remaining three of the current “Big 5” will  be forced to merge with each other to stay in the game, leaving the United States – a powerful and diverse  nation of 330 million people – with two dominant publishers.  

As was true last year when the Department blocked Quad/Graphics takeover of LSC, Bertelsmann’s  acquisition of Simon & Schuster is a threat to democracy and must be stopped. 

But the time has also come to recognize that simply blocking takeovers is no longer sufficient. The  Department of Justice must begin today to proactively restructure the entire U.S. market for books in  ways that also deal with the danger posed by Amazon. In this way alone will the Department fulfill its  mission of protecting the interest of the public as a whole, and of every reader and author in the United  States, from dangerous concentrations of power and control over America’s authors, editors, booksellers,  and readers, and over public debate itself. 

According to Publishers Weekly, “PRH execs argue that, once ViacomCBS put S&S up for sale in the spring, the odds were good that the trade publishing industry was in for another round of consolidation, and that PRH is the best positioned to implement a smooth transition.”

If regulators approve, the deal is expected to be completed this year.

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.

John Van Stry Wins Suit Against Book Pirate

A screencap of the Ebook.Bike site on the Internet Archive

Indie author John Van Stry has won his copyright infringement lawsuit against former Pirate Party of Canada leader Travis McCrea, whose Ebook.Bike platform offered free downloads of many writers’ work including a dozen novels by Van Stry.

“The lawsuit is over, and we won” Van Stry announced April 20 on his Patreon page. Judge Bryson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled that Ebook.Bike’s McCrea willfully infringed 12 of Van Stry’s copyrighted works, and awarded Van Stry $9,000 in statutory damages. McCrea was permanently enjoined from “copying, reproducing, or distributing, either directly or vicariously, plaintiff’s copyrighted works” without authorization. McCrea also was ordered to pay Van Stry $3,605 as a sanction for failing to comply with his discovery obligations, and to pay Van Stry’s costs and attorney’s fees.

John Van Stry took up the basically thankless and highly expensive fight against this scofflaw when no law enforcement or author organization would put an end to McCrea’s activities — which had been going on for years.

MCCREA’S TRACK RECORD. Ebook.Bike’s copyright violations had made national news in Canada. Owner Travis McCrea’s taunting self-justifications featured in a Toronto Star story on March 9, 2019: “Authors irritated by ‘smug’ defence of Vancouver website they say is stealing their work”.

A Vancouver man who led the now-defunct Pirate Party of Canada is being accused by authors around the world of giving their ebooks away for free on a website that boasts everything from Michelle Obama’s bestseller to hundreds of indie books from small publishers.

…McCrea was the leader of the Pirate Party of Canada, which supported net neutrality, open government and intellectual-property reform and participated in multiple federal elections between 2010 and 2015. McCrea himself ran for MP in the riding of Vancouver Centre in 2011.

He said he currently operates the Canadian website of the Idaho-based Kopimist Church and that according to his Kopimist beliefs, “all information should be shared.” The website calls copying information a holy act.

McCrea was on the Authors Guild’s radar, too, but their comparatively passive recommendation was for writers to try and weaponize the Google search engine against Ebook.Bike by making the site harder to find: “Call to Action: Get Google to Remove Ebook.bike Links from Search Results” (March 6, 2019):

As many of you are aware, the pirate website “Ebook.bike” is back online, hosting thousands of books for illegal download. A number of authors have sent takedown notices to the website using its DMCA form. But as far as we know, its DMCA compliance is deliberate subterfuge as its DMCA form often doesn’t work; and even when it does and the books are taken down, other users almost immediately re-upload infringing copies.

…Until Congress closes this loophole in the law that allows websites like Ebook.bike to thrive, we have to band together and take action. For a start, authors have to collectively send a message to Google to delist links to the site’s illegal downloads from search results. There’s no reason why a site that traffics in stolen books should be so easily accessible. If enough authors send Google a takedown notice, it will be compelled to take action against Ebook.bike.

The Authors Guild’s choice of tactics showed it was powerless to directly counter Travis McCrea’s activities despite his flagrant history of digital piracy.

McCrea gained notoriety as a leader of the Pirate Party of Canada which had, as a key tenet of its platform, to “decriminalize non-commercial file sharing.” TorrentFreak reported in 2011 “As part of the ‘war for digital sovereignty,’ as McCrea describes it, he has launched Tormovies, a site dedicated to providing movie torrents. A look at the site’s front page reveals that all the latest Hollywood blockbusters are showcased.” McCrea claimed that his media piracy “isn’t theft,” and stated that he would continue his piracy downloading until the media is offered to him at what he considers a fair and accessible price.

Another of McCrea’s piracy sites traded college textbooks. According to the complaint filed in Van Stry’s lawsuit:

In a May 3, 2013 interview, Mr. McCrea admitted that he ran http://librarypirate.me (“LibraryPirate”), a website that brazenly traded pirated textbooks. Mr. McCrea’s LibraryPirate instructed students on how to make digital scans of their textbooks and post the pirated scans to the site he ran for “free downloading,” boasting he made 1,700 pirated textbooks available by August 2011, and made money by advertising on his LibraryPirate website to the people drawn to his illegally available works.

Then,

January 2013, Mr. McCrea setup his tuebl.ca website. T.U.E.B.L. stands for “The Ultimate Electronic Book Library.” Mr. McCrea solicited individuals who had digital copies of books in the popular ePub format, typically used on e-readers, such as Kindles, to upload their books on tuble.ca and to tuebl.com, the latter of which would redirected to tuble.ca (collectively “tuebl”), after which he would then make copies of the books available to any and all.

Numbers posted on that site said it contained 32,000 books by 13,000 authors, and their books had been downloaded over 9.5 million times.

About December 2015, McCrea began redirecting users from his tuebl.ca website to the Ebook.Bike website.

And in 2017 he was alleged to be the developer of Audiobook.cafe which let users stream and download pirated audiobooks.

McCrea also registered “The Kopimist Church of Idaho Inc.” as a Religious Non-Profit Corporation with the state of Idaho August 20, 2012, later adopting the title of “Chief Missionary and Outreach Officer and Director.” He referred to himself as “reverend” and was on record as having said that “giving away other people’s intellectual property” is his “religious vocation.”

LITIGATION BEGINS. McCrea dared anyone to sue him in a TorrentFreak interview in March 2019:

“While we stay committed to following all US copyright laws and ensuring we maintain our DMCA compliance, I would like to reiterate that I am a Canadian and my focus is on upholding the laws of my country. It just has always been that the DMCA provides the best framework for how to handle copyright complaints,” he said.

“I use the DMCA because it offers the best framework, not because I feel I’m obligated to. If they feel I’m liable, come sue me.”

A week later, Van Stry did.

John Van Stry had strong motives for taking up the fight: “[McCrea] was making money off of the stolen work of me and other authors, and bragging about it… He never complied with any take-down requests. Oh, I know he claimed he did, and I was told by one author that any books taken down (in the few instances he appeared to do that) were back up again in days. He was destroying the retirement of many authors, who rely on the royalties they get from their backlogs to pay their bills. This is a real thing! People were being financially hurt! This wasn’t some small pirate site that maybe a couple of dozen people go to. The site was getting over a million hits per month, by his own account. Millions of books were being downloaded. Books are not like songs where you listen to them again and again. You read a book once, that’s it. People who steal books don’t come back and buy them later. Claiming that they do is a myth.”

Van Stry also feared repercussions against his legitimate sales: “I was worried that Amazon might pull my books and punish me, for them being on his website. After all, [McCrea] was claiming he had permission for them to be there. Other authors were highly concerned with this as well.” And not only were Van Stry’s sales being hurt, “He was impacting my sales ranking and my marketing. The secondary impact of this theft is a lot harder to estimate, but it was there, and I felt it. Again, other authors felt it too.”

In anticipation of a lawsuit, McCrea started a GoFundMe appeal to finance his defense. The Digital Reader’s Nate Hoffelder fact-checked some of McCrea’s claims there in a March 28, 2019 article:

McCrea has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise a defense fund. He lies multiple times in the brief description.

“Let me be clear: At no point have I uploaded content I didn’t own to Ebook Bike,” he writes “and I have always ensured that copyrighted material wouldn’t be uploaded (using the same methods and techniques used by YouTube, Facebook, and others).”

That is an utter falsehood; I just (in the past couple minutes) downloaded A Memory Called Empire and Mike Resnick’s Soothsayer. Both books were complete (and both are in copyright, obviously).

JURISIDICTION. Van Stry hired professional lawyers to litigate his case. McCrea defended himself, pro se. McCrea blew off discovery, making the minimum responses needed to keep the case going while Van Stry’s legal bills bled him financially.

Although the defendant was in Canada, the Federal District Court in Van Stry’s home state of Texas accepted the lawyers’ arguments that it had jurisdiction:

Court has subject matter jurisdiction at least under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1338(a), the first providing for federal questions and the latter providing that “[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action arising under any Act of Congress relating to . . . copyrights . . .”

Van Stry’s attorneys also argued the court had jurisdiction over McCrea and another co-defendant (the ISP) because through the internet they were offering the copyrighted works in Texas:

Mr. McCrea advertises, distributes, and imports via Mr. McCrea’s eBook.Bike website (see below for description) and allows for and does reproduce the copyrighted Works (also described below) in copies without permission or license into Texas and this district.

In addition, they pointed out an established principle about suits against non-U.S. residents:

For all venue purposes, a defendant who is not a resident of the United States may be sued in any district…

THE DECISION. Initially, Van Stry asked for statutory damages of $15,000 per book, and a permanent injunction to prevent further infringement of his copyrighted books. He also asked for an award of costs and attorney’s fees.

While McCrea sandbagged the discovery process, the judge prodded the parties to settle. But as Van Stry wrote when the decision came out this week —

…[For] all of those saying I should have settled out of court? We tried. Three times. The first time? Mr. McCrea sent US the settlement offer. One that was a hell of a lot better than what he was hit with today. He asked us to write it up for him (because of course he didn’t have a lawyer – right). So I paid my attorney’s to write it up exactly like he sent it to us.

And he never signed it.

Twice more we sent it to him, at the judge’s (subtle) urging. He didn’t respond to the first of those and was a bit rude on the last time.

As the prospect of a trial grew nearer, the judge also told the parties – who by then were willing to have him to render summary judgment on the record already before him – that the certain way to avoid the possibility of a jury trial was for Van Stry to ratchet down his request for damages.

“[I] note that the right to a jury trial on the issue of statutory damages does not apply when the plaintiff seeks an award limited to the statutorily guaranteed minimum amount…

“In light of Mr. Van Stry’s acknowledgement that damages in this case are likely to be illusory, he may wish to limit his request for statutory damages to the statutory minimum award of $750 per work —an amount that Mr. McCrea has already agreed would be appropriate. In that event, a jury trial on damages would not be necessary.

“Mr. Van Stry may, if he chooses, make the request to limit the award of statutory damages in the alternative. The request, that is, would only control in the event that Mr. McCrea does not waive his right to a jury trial.”

Van Stry took the hint and adjusted his damage claim downward. A dozen books at $750 apiece – thus in the final verdict, the court’s damage award of $9,000.

The court also sanctioned McCrea for his non-cooperation in the discovery phase, and granted Van Stry costs and attorney’s fees:

Mr. McCrea’s positions in this case have been distinctly lacking in both legal and factual support, and Mr. Van Stry has prevailed on all his claims. Moreover, Mr. McCrea’s lack of diligence in this case and his conduct during discovery have unnecessarily extended the proceedings and have driven up the costs of the litigation for Mr. Van Stry. And Mr. McCrea’s actions resulting in this lawsuit were willful, not innocent. Indeed, Mr. McCrea has said that he did “not care if the website was illegal and would do it either way.”

…Considerations of compensation and deterrence also favor an award of attorney’s fees. Mr. Van Stry has experienced significant and sometimes unnecessary litigation expenses in maintaining this lawsuit… Awarding fees in a clear-cut case such as this one does not give rise to any countervailing interests, such as the risk of discouraging others to build on an author’s work.

THE JUDGE’S REVIEW OF THE DEFENSE. The court opinion deconstructs McCrea’s defense, which rested on (1) denying anyone had downloaded copyrighted work from his site, (2) that he was entitled to the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and (3) he was exercising his religious freedom.

McCrea hamstrung his first two arguments by failing to answer allegations in discovery – as a result, things alleged by the plaintiff ended up being treated as admissions by the defendant — treated as fact for purposes of the case.

Mr. McCrea denied any wrongdoing because there was no evidence, according to Mr. McCrea, that there had been any downloads of copyrighted material. Id. at 3. At the same time, Mr. McCrea said that he was “practising [his] religion by helping authors connect with their readers.” Id. at 2. Mr. McCrea also claimed that his actions were protected by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And, in the event of liability, Mr. McCrea disputed Mr. Van Stry’s contention as to the appropriate amount to be awarded in damages. Id. at 1–2.

… Beyond the fact Mr. Van Stry’s prima facie case of willful copyright infringement is established as a result of the Court’s sanctions order, Mr. McCrea’s challenge to liability on the merits is not supported. He contends that summary judgment should not be granted because the plaintiff “has no evidence that any of their work was actually available on the website” and no evidence that the books were “downloaded from the site.” Dkt. No. 54, at 3. Mr. Van Stry replies that Mr. McCrea admitted (by failing to respond to requests for admission) that all twelve copyrighted books at issue in this litigation available for distribution on Mr. McCrea’s website and that they were distributed into the United States. Dkt. No. 59, at 3. Mr. Van Stry’s counsel also submitted an affidavit stating that as part of his pre-suit investigation, he downloaded all twelve books from Mr. McCrea’s website. Id.

DMCA. The DMCA grants internet service providers a safe harbor against liability for copyright infringement by works available on their websites if they adhere to several requirements. One of them is to have a designated agent to receive takedown notices, and the contact information must be on the ISP’s website, and provided to the Copyright Office.

Mr. McCrea does not dispute that he did not designate an agent with the Copyright Office. See generally Dkt. No. 54. To the contrary, Mr. McCrea previously admitted that he had no designated agent by failing to respond to a request for admission directed to that very issue.

Therefore, the court rejected McCrea’s safe harbor affirmative defense.

RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION. McCrea had told the court that his “religion should be protected by the 1993 Protecting Religious Freedom Act,” and that he is “practising my religion by helping authors connect with their readers.” Also, “[i]t is the position of the Kopimist Church that copying is a holy act, to share files is a holy act, to share knowledge is a supremely holy act.”

The court ruled that McCrea’s reliance on the RFRA was misplaced, because it does not apply when the “government,” as defined by RFRA, is not a party to the action.

Besides, said the court, copyright law was not really an obstacle to this claimed religious practice:

… Mr. McCrea certainly could have approached Mr. Van Stry to obtain a license to copy, make available, and distribute Mr. Van Stry’s copyrighted works, if that was how Mr. McCrea chose to help connect Mr. Van Stry with his readers. Mr. McCrea’s conclusory assertion that licensing would be “impractical” does not alter the analysis.

FURTHER THOUGHTS. Why did McCrea do it? What were McCrea’s motives for running Ebook.bike [Internet Archive link] and his other sites?

Van Stry told his Patreon readers, “He was stealing my work, and the work of other authors to make money, lots of money, with which he bought two airplanes and lived a pretty good life.”

Van Stry’s lawyers pointed to McCrea’s claims on his Kopimist Church site that he received enough donations to buy a private plane, and photos in which he “projects a life of luxury, including yacht trips in the English Bay of Vancouver and horse riding.” It suited their purpose to take these statements at face value.

On the other hand, there was no charge to download the books. Was there advertising on the Ebook.Bike site? — the Internet Archive snapshots I reviewed didn’t show any, although I just looked at the front page, which presumably would get the most hits. Did he get something in exchange for recommending the ebook-reading programs linked from his site? Was there user information collected at some step in this process which could be turned to commercial gain? Are there other ways to profit from a pirate site?

The inference that someone would only go to such effort for money is understandable, but users of social media have also witnessed people expend a great deal of energy in return for a sense of power, or to enjoy widespread public attention. Maybe McCrea made a lot of money. He definitely seemed to enjoy taunting the victims and critics of his filesharing sites.

LEGAL BILLS. Meanwhile, John Van Stry has shouldered heavy legal bills. Will he recover any of it through the court’s awards? That’s a good question.

At least he’s received some support from his “Bring ebook.bike to Justice” GoFundMe, where with the help of 397 donors he’s raised $31,547 of his $70,000 goal.

More than half the donations are anonymous, but the named donors include many indie writers — $500 from Craig Martelle (20BooksTo50K) — and even publishers — $250 from Suzan Tisdale (Glenfinnan Publishing, who was thanked by the Authors Guild for her own efforts against McCrea’s site, but whose name has since become more recognizable as one of the duo whose ethics complaints triggered RWA’s penalties against Courtney Milan.) 

WORTH THE PAIN. With the decision in, Van Stry is able to freely share his feelings about the case:

Mr. McCrea survived only because lawsuits are expensive. He knew this, hence his challenge ‘just sue me!’ He knew most authors can’t afford it. Well unfortunately for him, I could. I saw authors whom I’m a long time fan of complaining about the damage, I saw reflected in my own sales damage. I’ve been very successful as an author, I’m very thankful to all my fans, and all of the authors who have gone before me.

So I saw this as an opportunity to pay them back, to give something back to the writing community. To take down someone who was stealing, who was profiting from that theft. Someone who was so self-entitled that he was laughing at the rest of us and just challenging us to sue him while bragging about the money he was making.

Understand that I did NOT want to do this. But if not me, then who? If not now, then when? Sometimes, you just have to stand up for what is right. This lawsuit hurt me, considerably, and not just because of the money that came out of my pocket. Rarely did a day go by that I wasn’t thinking about it, and rarely did a week go by when I wasn’t having to deal with my attorneys. But it wasn’t just about me, it never was.

He has also made available for download three documents in which Judge Bryson explained his rulings:

These documents are all a matter of public record.

Pixel Scroll 3/30/20 The Master And Margaritas

(1) THE DC COMICS SALE TO END ALL. Comicbook.com says “Sotheby’s Selling Most Complete DC Comics Collection Ever Featuring Rare Batman and Superman Comics”.

Today Sotheby announced that is will auction DC Complete: The Ian Levine Collection, a comic book collection that includes every comic book published by DC Comics from 1935 through 2016, including complete runs of SupermanBatmanAction Comics, and Detective Comics. The collection includes more than 40,000 comics that also feature Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Justice League. The collection is available to view now on the Sotheby’s website. Sotheby’s chose today to start the private sale as it marks the 81st anniversary of the release of Detective Comics #27, which included the first appearance of Batman.

It’s a private sale, which means there is no public auction, just negotiations between Sotheby’s specialists and one or more private buyers.* Bids are being taken starting today – here’s the Sotheby’s link. Download the catalog here [PDF file]. A quote about how the collection was assembled, from the auction house’s article —

For a decade, Levine purchased a new copy of every DC issue he could find, while trying to fill in earlier issues. However, in pre-internet 1987, Levine despaired of finding many Golden Age comics he lacked, and decided to sell many of his best issues in order to fund his collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who film prints. However, reviewing his stacks of comic books with the purchaser reawakened his passion for this pop art form, and Levine bought his comics back from the dealer he had sold them to—at a 50% premium. Amassing about half of the comics DC had ever published, Levine determined to form a complete collection. Sacrificing his incomparable collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who prints, along with the assistance of the nascent internet and dealer, advisor, and author of The Comic Book Paul Sassienie, he achieved this ambition, which would essentially be impossible to replicate. In 2010, Levine’s paramount, unique collection was utilized to supply the illustrations for Taschen’s monumental publication 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz, the former president and publisher of DC.

(2) ASK THE EXPERTS. The Boston Globe asks futurists and SF writers to look ahead: “It actually may be the end of the world as we know it”. Beware paywall.

…ANNALEE NEWITZ, science-fiction and nonfiction author, podcaster

I have a couple of scenarios I’ve been batting around in my head, which both feel equally plausible at this point.

Scenario One: As more people hunker down at home, more of our most vital and personal activities will have to go online. Lots of people are learning how to have serious meetings remotely, and how to work as teams in group chat.

Then there’s the arguably more psychologically vital stuff: I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons with my gamer group using videoconferencing, and watching TV with a housebound, high-risk loved one by hitting play at the same time on a TV episode and videochatting with him at the same time.

I’m not alone. A lot of us are cut off from our loved ones right now, and online connection is all we have. Suddenly “online” doesn’t feel like a fantasy realm. It’s our social fabric. The online world is going to become a fully robust public space, and we won’t want to see garbage and detritus everywhere. We will finally start to see social media companies taking responsibility for what’s on their platforms — information will need to be accurate, or people will die.

…Scenario Two: The pandemic rips through the population, aided in part by contradictory messages from state and federal governments, as well as misinformation online. As social groups and families are torn apart by disease and unemployment, people look increasingly to social media for radical solutions: violent uprisings, internment camps for immigrants and other “suspicious” groups, and off-the-grid cults that promise sanctuary from death.

(3) HAS THE JURY REACHED A VERDICT? James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel considers “Rediscovery: Of All Possible Worlds, Rosel George Brown”.

This is the second Brown featured in Rediscovery. As mentioned last month, Brown was a promising author whose career was cut short by her death in 1967. I don’t have much to add to that, except to wonder if my Young People will enjoy this story more than they did the previous one.

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? John King Tarpinian has already ordered “Classic Monster Aloha Safety Mask”. Get yours for a mere $9.95. More styles here. And they sell matching shirts for some of them — Daniel Dern says “I’ve got the first two in that were shown in this post.”

Introducing Aloha Safety Face masks!! Hawaiian Printed Masks that are fashionable , fun, and made in the USA!!

And just like that, my shirt factory has shifted production, retooled, and is making much needed face masks for hospitals and clinics. We are all proud to be part of the effort to in the corona-virus fight and provide protective gear to Doctors, Nurses, and hospital staff, who in my eyes are the front line soldiers in this global pandemic.Due to the unprecedented demand for masks, healthcare system completely lacks the needed supplies and we are on a mission to outfit them. 

While they are our priority so is  the safety of my friends, neighbors, and countrymen. Many people with elderly parents, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, are at high risk, or want to protect their families have reached out. I know it’s hard to find masks of any kind anywhere.

(5) NEW ZEALAND. This year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand, has already announced they’re going virtual. The need for the decision can only be reinforced by the Prime Minister’s statement today: “Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern warns border restrictions will exist for some time”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned New Zealanders should get used to border restrictions in New Zealand and overseas, saying they’re likely to be in place “for some time”.

She said border restrictions overseas would likely persist until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, believed to be one year to eighteen months away at the earliest – some vaccines take a decade to develop. 

“We will be having to manage covid-19 for months, until of course there is a vaccine and that will be many months,” she said.

Ardern told RNZ: “I’m anticipating border restrictions for some time.”

(6) WRITING THEIR WAY OUT. Melinda Snodgrass, Robert Vardeman, and Walter Jon Williams answered the Albuquerque Journal’s questions in “Science fact & fiction: Three New Mexico authors see parallels between the genre they write and the current world situation”.

Life as it is now – with most of us confined to home, getting out only for a walk in the sunshine or a quick trip to pick up mail, prescriptions, another bottle of water, an extra loaf of bread – is something we might have read about in a science fiction novel, seen on TV or at the movies but never before experienced personally to the extent we are dealing with now.

“I feel like I’m in what (science fiction author) Brian Aldiss called a cozy catastrophe,” said Walter Jon Williams, a writer of science fiction and fantasy who lives in Belen. “We have clothing, shelter, enough food in the fridge to last a month, and everything works. But everyone is gone. We just don’t see people. I went for a walk to the park today and saw one person.”

(7) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Publishers Weekly boosts the signal as “Authors Guild, AAP Outraged by IA’s ‘National Emergency Library'”.  

The outcry from publisher and author groups has been swift and furious after the Internet Archive announced last week the launch of it’s National Emergency Library, which has removed access restrictions for some 1.4 million scans of mostly 20th century books in the IA’s Open Library initiative, making the scans available for unlimited borrowing during the Covid-19 Outbreak.

“We are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” reads a March 27 statement from Association of American Publishers president and CEO Maria Pallante, adding that publishers are already “working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages.”

The Authors Guild said it too was “appalled” by the program. “[The Internet Archive] is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors,” reads a March 27 statement. “It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world.”

In a statement on March 24, Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the National Writers’ Union ‘s book division also accused the IA of “using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse” to redistribute copyrighted works without permission or payment.

“So much for authors’ incomes in a time of crisis. Do librarians and archivists really want to kick authors while our incomes are down?” Hasbrouck writes. “The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home. But that’s an argument for spending public funds to purchase or license those resources for public use — not putting the burden of providing educational materials for free on writers, illustrators, and photographers. Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.”

The Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library project on March 24, in response to the closures of libraries during the Covid-19 crisis, building upon the Internet Archive’s “Controlled Digital Lending” program. …

(8) MANDEL OBIT. Playwright and screenwriter Loring Mandel died March 24. His 1959 script ”Project Immortality” for Playhouse 90 got him his first Emmy nomination: “Key defense scientist Doner has cancer. Schramm is assigned to code Doner’s thinking into a computer. He gets to know him as a friend, a husband and father. The project is successful, but he now knows identity is not programmable.”

He was the screenwriter for Countdown, released in 1967, the year before the first Moon landing: “Desperate to reach the moon first, N.A.S.A. sends a man and shelter separately, one-way. He must find it to survive. He can’t return until Apollo is ready.” The movie starred James Caan and Robert Duvall.

However, as The Hollywood Reporter tribute notes, he was more famous for non-genre work: “Loring Mandel, Screenwriter and ‘Advise and Consent’ Playwright, Dies at 91”. “Mandel earned five Emmy nominations during his career, winning twice: in 1968 for his work on an installment of CBS Playhouse and in 2001 for penning the BBC-HBO telefilm Conspiracy.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 30, 2013 Orphan Black premiered on BBC America in the USA and Space in Canada. Starring Tatiana Maslany as the clones, it run for five seasons and fifty episodes. It would win a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Sasquan for “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series that ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1927 Greta Thyssen. Labeled Queen of the B-Movies she appeared in a number of genre films such as The Beast of Budapest,  Creature from Blood Island andJourney to the Seventh Planet. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty-year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot a similar Heinlein would. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey, it is genre of a sorts. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1943 Dennis Etchison. As editor, he received two World Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, MetaHorror and The Museum of Horrors. As a writer, he’s best remembered as a short story writer of quite tasty horror. Talking in the Dark Is his personally selected collection of his stories. (Died 2019.)
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 62. Voice actor primarily for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 30. Nova Clarke in the Sharknado film series alongside Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (2013–2018). And one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM COMIC BOOKS TO HISTORY BOOKS. “Overlooked No More: Kate Worley, a Pioneer Writer of Erotic Comics”. The New York Times says “Worley, who wrote Omaha the Cat Dancer, about a feline stripper, ‘injected a woman’s point of view’ that helped the comic stand out from others in the 1980s.”

…At the heart of the series was the writer Kate Worley, who gave the comic its distinctive voice and helped cultivate its wide-ranging fan base.

The character Omaha, created by the writer and artist Reed Waller, made her debut in 1978 as part of a fanzine. She eventually found her way into her own comic book, beginning in 1984. But then Waller got writer’s block.

“He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue,” Worley wrote in an introduction to a 1989 collected edition of Omaha. So she offered some suggestions. “I chattered for some time about possible plot directions, new characters,” she said.

When she was finished, Waller asked, “Would you like a job?” Worley took over as the writer, while Waller continued to draw the comic.

(13) A CLASSIC AGES GRACEFULLY. Tor.com’s prolific James Davis Nicoll goes monster hunting: “Another One of Them New Worlds: Revisiting Forbidden Planet”.

…United Planets cruiser C-57D, under the command of Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), was dispatched to Altair IV to find out what had happened to an expedition that had been sent out twenty years earlier. As soon as the starship arrives in orbit, C-57D receives a transmission from the surface. There is at least one survivor of the earlier mission. To Adams’ surprise, the survivor, scientist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) doesn’t want to be rescued. Indeed, he warns the craft to go away if it wants to save its crew.

(14) HAULING THE FREIGHT. SpaceX has been selected as a contractor to deliver supplies to NASA’s Lunar Gateway station. “NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Gateway Logistics Services”.

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.

SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface. 

(15) HE AM IRON MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever decide to reboot, we may have found our new Iron Man…

(16) BEWARE THOSE DARNED SPOILERS. The Guardian’s Stephen Kelly doesn’t sound like a fan of the show: “Star Trek: Picard is the dark reboot that boldly goes where nobody wanted it to”. And did I mention, this article HAS SPOILERS?

It is the year 2364, and Jean-Luc Picard – the revered captain of the USS Enterprise – has just come face to face with three humans who have been frozen in time since the late 20th century. By this point in the story – the 1988 finale of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation – he has met Klingons, Romulans, a pool of black goo, but nothing is as alien as these greedy, selfish relics.

This is Star Trek, after all: the pop-culture behemoth built on the idealistic future envisioned in the 60s by its creator Gene Roddenberry. “A lot has changed in the past 300 years,” Picard tells them. “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”

Or have we? Revisiting the character 30 years later in Star Trek: Picard, Patrick Stewart’s grand return to the role at the age of 79, it seems the world has not progressed as much as we were led to believe. Set during a time in which the Federation – a union of planets with shared democratic values and interests – has turned isolationist in response to a terror attack, it has proved to be a divisively dark, gritty and morally bleak take on the Star Trek universe….

(17) TAKE IT IN STAGES. Harvard’s School of Public Health concludes that “On-again, off-again looks to be best social-distancing option”.

With global coronavirus cases heading toward half a million, Harvard infectious disease experts said recent modeling shows that — absent the development of a vaccine or other intervention — a staggered pattern of social distancing would save more lives than a one-and-done strategy and avoid overwhelming hospitals while allowing immunity to build in the population.

The work, conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led by Yonatan Grad, the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology, also shows that if strict social distancing such as that imposed in China — which cuts transmission by 60 percent — is relaxed, it results in epidemic peaks in the fall and winter similar in size and with similar impacts on the health care system as those in an uncontrolled epidemic.

“We looked at how it would affect the thing that matters most — overwhelming the critical-care unit,” Grad said.

The problem, the researchers said, is that while strict social distancing may appear to be the most effective strategy, little population-level immunity is developed to a virus that is very likely to come around again.

(18) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS. A lot of genre figures are getting in on the act – we learned about these three from Comicbook.com:

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Stay safe out there.

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