Pixel Scroll 11/11/20 Guess Who’s Coming For Elevenses

(1) TARDIS TAKES OFF FOR SHORTENED SEASON. “‘Doctor Who’ Season 13 begins filming under strict COVID-19 safety measures” reports UPI.

The producers of long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who announced filming has commenced on the 13th season of the show’s 2005 revival.

BBC America, which airs Doctor Who in the United States, said Jodie Whittaker is returning as the 13th incarnation of the Doctor for Season 13, which is being filmed “under strict industry and U.K. government guidelines to ensure the safety of all cast and crew.”

“In this strangest of years, the Doctor Who production team have worked wonders to get the show back into production,” showrunner Chris Chibnall said. “We’re thrilled to be back making the show.”

Chibnall said the extra time required to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols led to the decision to do an eight-episode season instead of the usual 11 episodes.

(2) GOLDSMITHS PRIZE. M. John Harrison’s novel The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again has won the Goldsmiths Prize 2020 worth £10,000.

Harrison is an acclaimed genre writer, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Philip K. Dick Award for Nova Swing (2007), and the Tiptree Award for Light (2003), and with many other major awards nominations to his credit. Whether The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again is genre was not evident from the three reviews I consulted, but since one of them was in Locus Online perhaps that should count for something.

The Goldsmiths Prize, established in 2013, rewards “fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form.” Works must be written in English by authors from the UK or the Republic of Ireland, and be published by a publisher based in one of those countries.  

The award judges were Will Eaves, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Chris Power, and Frances Wilson (chair). [Via the estimable Locus Online.]

(3) ELUSIVE TIMES. Cat Rambo discusses “Shooting at a Rolling Hoop: Predicting the Near Future” on the SFWA Blog, about the challenge of writing her contribution to And The Last Trump Shall Sound (which features a cover with a take on Grant Wood’s American Gothic, using Trump and Pence as the iconic couple.)

… Over and over, something was brought home to me in this: when we write science fiction, we are writing about our own times, simply seen through a lens that changes how it is perceived, in a way that adds meaning. Paradoxically, the closer the time in which you’re trying, the harder this is to do. The far future is easy; so much can be hidden in those intervening, ample swathes of time. In the near future, the fabric is stretched out tighter, to the point where every imperfection catches your eye, and yet that gives it a reality, an immediacy, perhaps even an earnestness sometimes lacking in works more removed in chronological terms.

(4) SEARCHING FOR HARDING. Cora Buhlert takes a look at the elusive golden age fantasy and horror writer Allison V. Harding and wonders why some folks insist that Harding must have been a man despite evidence to the contrary: “The Elusive Allison V. Harding and How to Suppress Women’s Writing… Again”.

…Allison V. Harding is also a mystery, because we almost nothing about her. Of course, there are plenty of pulp authors about whom we know next to nothing, but most of them are one or two story wonders, not one of the top ten most prolific contributors to Weird Tales. Furthermore, Allison V. Harding was clearly popular in her day, as the letter columns and reader polls in Weird Tales indicate.

So why do we know so little about her, even though the history of Weird Tales is fairly well documented? Part of the reason is that early Weird Tales scholars like Robert Weinberg didn’t much care for Allison V. Harding’s stories and dismissed them as forgettable fillers and therefore never even bothered to research the author….

(5) MULTI-TASKING. Stacey Abrams, Democratic politician from Georgia and also a fan, has written several romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery: “Stacey Abrams: Georgia’s political heroine … and romance author” in The Guardian.

….Abrams wrote her first novel during her third year at Yale Law School, inspired after reading her ex-boyfriend’s PhD dissertation in chemical physics. She had wanted to write a spy novel: “For me, for other young black girls, I wanted to write books that showed them to be as adventurous and attractive as any white woman,” she wrote in her memoir Minority Leader. But after being told repeatedly by editors that women don’t read spy novels, and that men don’t read spy novels by women, she made her spies fall in love. Rules of Engagement, her debut, was published in 2001, and sees temperatures flare as covert operative Raleigh partners with the handsome Adam Grayson to infiltrate a terrorist group that has stolen deadly environmental technology.

(6) BAD TO THE BONE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At the crime fiction site Criminal Element thriller writer Chris Mooney tells what makes a great villain. All examples are SFF and Mooney’s latest novel is borderline SF as well: “The Ultimate Villain Creates the Ultimate Hero”.

… The best, most memorable villains are, to paraphrase screenwriter John Truby (who has consulted on more than 1,000 films), exceptionally good at attacking the hero’s greatest weakness, or weaknesses.  Truby calls such a villain “the ultimate antagonist.” The crisis points in the story force the hero to make incredibly difficult decisions that not only reveal the hero’s true nature but also force the hero to face his or her true self. And more often than not, the hero and the antagonist are competing for the same goal.

But how do you accomplish such a feat in an established pop culture behemoth franchise like Star Trek, where beloved and iconic heroes have already been through dozens of life-and-death scenarios by dozens of villains? How can you elevate the story, make it more meaningful and dramatic, when a book or comics reader or audience of a film or TV show knows from the very beginning that the hero and main supporting characters won’t die or get physically harmed in any serious way?

You create the ultimate antagonist.

The second Star Trek movie brought back a well-known villain from one of its classic episodes—Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically-engineered superhuman from “Space Seed.” The movie could have followed a simple connect-the-dots story about revenge, but the writers turned Khan into an antagonist who not only has the upper hand but is also much smarter than Kirk, more prepared…. 

(7) LIKE A TROLLING STONE. “The Dissident Act of Taking a Walk at Night” — Matthew Beaumont unpacks Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” for Literary Hub.

…Crossing and re-crossing the city at night on foot, aimlessly reclaiming the freedom of its streets from automobiles, Bradbury’s Pedestrian is identifiable as the scion of a distinct tradition of urban rebellion or resistance, the dissident tradition of the nightwalker.

The distant origins of the so-called “common night-walker” lie in late 13th-century England, when Edward I introduced the Statute of Winchester as a means of enforcing the curfew that prevailed at that time throughout the nation’s towns and cities. This “nightwalker statute,” as it was known, then became central to the colonial law instituted in North America in the late 17th century.

In 1660, colonial law stipulated that the state’s night watchmen should “examine all Night Walkers, after ten of the clock at Night (unless they be known peaceable inhabitants) to enquire whither they are going, and what their business is.” If the individual accosted could not “give Reasonable Satisfaction to the Watchman or constable” making this enquiry, they were liable to be arrested and taken before the magistrate, who would ask them “to give satisfaction, for being abroad at that time of night.” In urban settlements throughout North America there was in the early modern period no right to the night, particularly for plebeians. Almost by definition, the poor could not “give satisfaction for being abroad” after dark. In the streets at night the itinerant were an inherent threat to society. Today, as in the 1950s, residues of this situation persist. Indeed, in some places in the United States, the term “common nightwalker” remains on the statute books, where it indicates a vagrant as well as a streetwalker or sex worker.

“An idle or dissolute person who roams about at late or unusual hours and is unable to account for his presence” is the definition of a nightwalker offered by two legal commentators who summarized a number of relevant statutes in the 1960s. The ordinance against vagrants in Jacksonville, Florida, for instance, includes a reference to nightwalkers. The state, in its infinite leniency, doesn’t construe a single night’s wandering as necessarily criminal. “Only ‘habitual’ wanderers, or ‘common night walkers,’” the authors of a legal textbook explain, “are criminalized.” “We know, however, from experience,” they rather drily add, “that sleepless people often walk at night.” The sleepless, the homeless and the hopeless, then, are all susceptible to this archaic charge.

It is against this legal background—and in view of the persistent suspicion about solitary people who inhabit the streets at night that, historically, it has sponsored—that Bradbury’s portrait of a nocturnal pedestrian trapped in a dystopian cityscape demands to be interpreted. Despite the passage of more than 300 years since the origins of colonial law in North America, nightwalking remains a socially transgressive activity.

For Bradbury, writing in the 1950s, it potentially also has political implications. “The Pedestrian” is an affirmation of the heterodox politics of the night, which “has always been the time for daylight’s dispossessed,” as Bryan Palmer writes, “—the deviant, the dissident, the different.” The Pedestrian’s footsteps, echoing on empty, darkened pavements, interrupt the ominous silence of the totalitarian city, which insists that its inhabitants remain visible but inaudible at all times.

(8) TURKEY TIME. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the new Melissa McCarthy film Superintelligence.

When an all-powerful AI (James Corden) chooses to study the most average person on Earth, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), it’s the perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving movie.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago,  Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Forgiveness Day” as published in the November 1994 Asimov’s Science Fiction wins the 1995 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short SF story published in English in the previous calendar year. There were fourteen other nominated stories so they won’t be listed here. Only John Kessel and Michael Swanwick who have each won once out of seven nominations have been nominated more than Ursula K. Le Guin who is tied at one win out of six with Nancy Kress and Ian McDonald. It would win a Locus Award for Best Novella and be nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Otherwise Awards. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 11, 1916 – Don Franson.  Active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n): three terms as President; club historian; three terms editing The Nat’l Fantasy FanKaymar Award (service; can only be received once); two President’s Awards (later named for him).  Also LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society).  With Howard DeVore, Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (most recently, 3rd ed. 1998).  Also SF Title Changes (with Michael Viggiano); 1945-1964 vol. of N3F’s Author Index to “Astounding” / “Analog”A Key to the Terminology of SF Fandom (1962).  A dozen short stories.  Fanzine Trash Barrel excelled at thumbnail-size fanzine reviews.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which, after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel.  Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Mondayis his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1925 Jonathan Winters. I thought he was in Get Smart! which was why I was going to list him here but he wasn’t… Huh. However he’s in a number of genre series and films including Twilight ZoneWild Wild West as Albert Paradine II, Mork & Mindy where he was Mearth, the animated Smurfs series and The Animaniacs. And that’s a very selective list to say the least. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1927 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con.  He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius.  And I’ve seriously enjoyed his short fiction. He’s been nominated for six Hugos but never won. Wildside Press has seriously big volumes of his fiction up at the usual digital suspects for very cheap prices. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1945 – Delphyne Joan Hanke-Woods.  One Best-Fanartist Hugo, two FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Also worked as a pro.  Guest of Honor at ConClave V, Archon 5 (which I keep saying should be pronounced “Arch on”, but what do I know?), Windycon XI, Xanadu III, Capricon 7, Bubonicon19.  Here is her cover for Mike Resnick’s Weird Chicago (part of successful bid to hold 70th Worldcon).  Here is Journey Planet 17.  Here is a Doctor Who image.  Here is an interior from the Minicon 17 Program Book (at left; for “gafiate” in image at right, see here).  Here is an interior from The Drink Tank 300.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1946 – Ian Miller, 74.  A hundred covers, as many interiors; games; two Ralph Bakshi films; sculpture.  Four years art editor for Interzone.  The Art of Ian Miller; three earlier artbooks.  Here is R is for Rocket.  Here is Kai Lung’s Golden Hours.  Here is The Difference Engine.  Here is Seven Stars.  Elaborate Wikipedia entry.  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1948 – Kathy Sanders, 72.  Among our finest costumers; has also served as judge, and Masquerade Director (the on-stage costume competition at SF cons we call the Masquerade evolved from dress-up parties).  Here is “The King and Queen of Wands”.  Here is “The Court of the Peacock King”.  Here is “Fantasy and Science Fiction”.  Here is “Treasures of the Earth”.  Int’l Costumers Guild Life Achievement Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 60. He was Puck in that film version of A Midsummer Night’s DreamHowever, his first role was asDr. John Wiseman in Monkey Shines. (Shudder.) he shows as in forgettable The Core, and was amazing as Stanley Kubrick in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. And I’m fond of his voicing Boldo in The Tale of Despereaux. (CE)
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 58. Ghost of course gets her the Birthday Honors. And yes I did see it. Sniff. But she got also  her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature that she is Piper Griffin in the forthcoming Songbird based off our Pandemic. (CE)
  • Born November 11, 1973 – Brett Savory, 47.  Four novels, thirty shorter stories.  Three anthologies.  British Fantasy Award; Bram Stoker Award for Editing; World Fantasy Award.  Likes “drumming, writing, editing, and drinking Bumbu rum, which is the world’s best…. Go try some.  Tell me I’m wrong.  I’ll wait.”  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1994 – Ellie Simmonds, 26.  Four novels from Ellie’s Magical Bakery.  Outside our field, five gold medals, starting at age 13, in the Paralympics (she has achondroplasia), setting two world swimming records; ten World Championship titles.  Active in the Scout Association (U.K.) and Girlguiding.  [JH]

(11) MANDALORIAN GROG. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] You can drink a Baby Yoda cocktail at a bar in Banbridge, Northern Ireland: “Jennifer Aniston makes restaurant’s adorable Baby Yoda cocktail go viral” (Entertainment Weekly.) I did pass through Banbridge last year while travelling from Worldcon in Dublin to Eurocon in Belfast, but I didn’t visit this bar nor did I have a Baby Yoda cocktail.

(12) ANYTHING FUNNY IS SUSPECT. Literary Hub looks back at the “The First Reviews of Slaughterhouse-Five, including one by Michael Crichton:

A little over a half century ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five—a darkly comic, throughly batshit, semi-autobiographical anti-war novel about a fatalistic young American soldier who survives the firebombing of Dresden and becomes “unstuck in time”—exploded onto the literary scene. A bestseller upon its release, the book has gone on to become one of the most beloved and influential (not to mention challenged) works of contemporary American fiction. It has also enjoyed a storied pop culture life, appearing or being namechecked in everything from The Wonder Years to The SimpsonsFootloose to Varsity Blues. There was even a 90s folk-rock duo called Billy Pilgrim who weren’t half bad.

Before it joined the ranks of the immortals, though, Slaughterhouse-Five had to run the book review gauntlet just like any other novel. Today, on what would have been the Vonnegut’s ninety-eight birthday, we look back at five of the earliest critical takes….

(13) EXO MARKS THE SPOT. “Looking for Another Earth? Here Are 300 Million, Maybe” – the New York Times says the real estate is out there.

…“It’s not E.T., but it’s E.T.’s home,” said William Borucki when the mission was launched in March 2009. It was Dr. Borucki, an astronomer now retired from NASA’s Ames Research Center, who dreamed up the project and spent two decades convincing NASA to do it.

Before the spacecraft finally gave out in 2018, it had discovered more than 4,000 candidate worlds among those stars. So far, none have shown any sign of life or habitation. (Granted, they are very far away and hard to study.) Extrapolated, that figure suggests that there are billions of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy. But how many of those are potentially habitable?

After crunching Kepler’s data for two years, a team of 44 astronomers led by Steve Bryson of NASA Ames has landed on what they say is the definitive answer, at least for now. Their paper has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

Kepler’s formal goal was to measure a number called eta-Earth: the fraction of sunlike stars that have an Earth-size object orbiting them in the “goldilocks” or habitable zone, where it is warm enough for the surface to retain liquid water.

The team calculated that at least one-third, and perhaps as many as 90 percent, of stars similar in mass and brightness to our sun have rocks like Earth in their habitable zones, with the range reflecting the researchers’ confidence in their various methods and assumptions. That is no small bonanza, however you look at it….

(14) YIPES! Pretty much the whole story is in CNN’s headline: “That ‘murder hornet’ nest scientists found and destroyed had nearly 200 queens. They say they got there ‘just in the nick of time'”

Researchers approximate nearly 200 queens were produced from that single nest, which is a significant uptick over the two queens they originally found.

Entomologists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) eradicated and cleared out the nest found inside of the cavity of a tree near Blaine, Washington on October 24.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/20 Strange Scrolls Lying In Ponds Distributing Pixels Is No Basis For A System Of Filing

(1) TITLE BOUT. Shelf Awareness publicized the release of the six-book shortlist for the 2020 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. “Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 ‘as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,’ the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982.” The finalists are —

  • A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path by Gregory Forth
  • Introducing the Medieval Ass by Kathryn L Smithies
  • Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music by K.F.B. Fletcher and Osman Umurhan
  • How to Make Love to a Despot by Stephen D. Krasner
  • Lawnmowers: An Illus­trated History by Brian Radam
  • The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways to Enhance Animal Welfare by Temple Grandin and Michael Cockram

More details from the award hosts here: “The Bookseller announces the Diagram Prize 2020 shortlist”

The winning title will now be chosen by members of the public via an online vote. The public vote closes on Friday 20th November, with the winning entry to be announced on Friday 27th November. There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a passable bottle of claret is given to the nominator of the winning entry. If a title wins that was nominated by The Bookseller staff, the claret will be given at random to a member of the public who participated in the online voting. 

(2) FIYAH FOUNDER Q&A. The latest episode of The Imagination Desk, a podcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, is live now, featuring an interview with speculative fiction author Troy L. Wiggins, who is also one of the founders of FIYAH Literary Magazine. Listen in here.

The next episode will be with science fiction author and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang.

Here is the CSI newsletter on Black Speculative Fiction Month activities, which features this podcast, among other things. And here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

(3) ROCKY HORROR LIVE FUNDRAISER. This invitation was sent in Tim Curry’s name for a Rocky Horror Live virtual event to aid the Wisconsin Democratic party.

Right now, we can almost see blue skies through the tears… of the Trump presidency, of course. But we absolutely must keep the pressure on!

That’s why we’re doing the Rocky Horror Show — LIVE — this Halloween night — to help get out the vote in Wisconsin. RSVP and reserve your spot today!

This is a live, once-in-a-lifetime musical livestream event, featuring cast members both old and new. There will be singing, dancing, laughs and plenty of fun.

Chip in any amount to join us for the Rocky Horror Show Livestream on Halloween with Tim Curry, Wilmer Valderrama, Lance Bass, Rosario Dawson, Jason George, Nell Campbell, Seth Green, Jason Alexander, David Arquette, and more!

Featuring musical performances by The Dresden Dolls, Miss Peppermint, Eiza Gonzalez, Josh Gad, Ben Barnes, Jenna Ushkowitz, Rachel Bloom, Karen Olivo, Marissa Jaret Winkour, Madison Uphoff, Kalen Chase, and Rumer Willis.

This event is only going to be livestreamed once at 9pm CT on Saturday, October 31st.

(4) SANS CLUE. LitHub confirms, “We Have Edgar Allan Poe to Thank for the Detective Story”.

…These are the similarities between the Dupin stories and Sherlock Holmes, and there are many. One writer said that “The only difference between Dupin and Holmes is the English Channel.” Similarity number one: in both stories we have at the heart a highly intelligent but somewhat eccentric and enigmatic detective. The word detective did not actually exist when Poe was writing, which gives you a sense of how novel he was. He might have taken the idea from a series of magazine articles about a French policeman. Otherwise, he was on his own. This was all his….

(5) MAD, YOU KNOW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Our Culture’s Ongoing, Ever-Evolving Fascination With ‘The Mad Scientist’” on CrimeReads, sf novelist Jane Gilmartin explains why “mad scientists” remain popular characters in sf.

… Examples of the mad scientist/evil genius in everything from comic books to classics spring to mind without even breaking a sweat: Dr. No of James Bond fame, whose experiments with atomic energy cost him his hands as well as his conscience; Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, whose unquenchable thirst for knowledge drove him to a deal with the devil; Dr. Henry Wu, who fooled around with genetics and opened a questionable theme park in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, and, my personal favorite, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll, whose work brought to the surface his baser self as Mr. Hyde.

It is the last example, I think, that speaks most clearly to our fears. Scientists are people like the rest of us—multi-faceted, unpredictable and (for the most part) human. Like all of us humans, there’s always that slim chance that they’re going to turn to the proverbial dark side, especially when they get a taste of power….

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, the Hugo for Best Novella went to Connie Willis for “The Winds of Marble Arch”, a precursor to her Blackout/All Clear novel which would win the Best Hugo Novel eleven years later at Renovation. Runner-ups were Harry Turtledove‘s “Forty, Counting Down”, Adam-Troy Castro and Jerry Oltion‘s “The Astronaut from Wyoming”, Mike Resnick‘s “Hunting the Snark” and Kage Baker‘s “Son, Observe the Time”. It can be found in The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, the Subterranean Press collection, which is available from the usual digital suspects. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 —  Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might-be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1945 – Jane Chance, Ph.D., D.Litt., 75.  Mellon Distinguished Professor emerita at Rice; first woman appointed to tenure track in English; founder president of the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages; doctorate of letters, Purdue.  For us, six books on Tolkien; a score of others, a hundred articles.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1951 – Melanie Herz, 69.  Hardworking Florida fan.  Many regionals and Worldcons; chaired Traveling Fête 1996, Tropicon 21, OASIS 6. When we’ve been on the same con committee, and particularly when we were on the same DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) ballot, we tried to make sure our mail didn’t get crossed.  Still wasn’t as bad as when I had an office down the hall from a man named Heitz.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 66. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 60. He’s Redgick, a Squid,  a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1960 – David LaRochelle, 60.  A score of children’s books, many with fantasy elements.  Also an amazing astounding stellar thrilling pumpkin carver; see here.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 58. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1969 – Mary Ting, 51.  A score of novels; taught a score of years, toured with the Magic Johnson Foundation.  Makes Twilight-themed jewelry.  Besides husband, children, has two dogs Mochi and Mocha.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 49. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on the most Discovery series . His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, and he showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1972 – Zetta Elliott, Ph.D., 48.  Five novels, seven shorter stories for us; poetry; essays; plays; children’s illustrated books under her Rosetta Press.  “I write as much for parents as I do for their children because sometimes adults need the simple instruction a picture book can provide.” [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 47. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I’ll must admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1975 – David Walton, 45.  Author and engineer.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Baen Memorial Award, Campbell Memorial Award, Philip K. Dick Award.  Plays chess and go.  “Science fiction can show us the viewpoints of people whose lives and experiences are so far away from ours that … our minds are stretched and our vision is expanded.”  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds law enforcement pondering why no pumpkin is safe!
  • Yesterday’s Bizarro recalls that time Sesame Street fought for its independence. (Just when was that, anyway?)
  • Jonathan Muroya’s Greek Quarantology shows how all your favorite mythical figures are dealing with life during COVID-19.
  • After you take a look at this Wulffmorgenthaler cartoon for Denmark’s Politiken you’ll want a translation for the dialog (courtesy of Lise Andreasen):

“The death star is flat.”

“Actually, some of us believe, the death star is flat. That being round business is a conspiracy.”

(9) PIRANESI. Camestros Felapton promises substantial spoilers: “Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (substantial spoilers)”. See, what did I tell you?

This was a charming, thoughtful, often whimsical story full of a deep horror that at times wholly unnerved me. I’ll be discussing many key plot points and revelations….

(10) THE DOOM FROM THE SUN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In a quirky bit of science news, astronomers recorded a large solar flare that happened to look like a prop from an old science fiction TV show… “NASA satellites capture massive ‘Doomsday machine’ solar flare”.

From the article: “The image of the explosion was described by some as the stuff of science fiction, specifically the Doomsday machine from Star Trek. Fortunately, the CME did not hit Earth.”

(11) SILENT GOLD. Leonard Maltin has a roundup of silent film releases — “Rare Silent Films On Blu-Ray And DVD”. One of them is the rediscovered 1916 version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.  The poster for this movie is very cool.

It’s not a typo: Universal produced a feature-length version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1916, and the new DVD/Blu-ray release is a 4K transfer of the surviving material. Luckily for us, silent film historian Anthony Slide delivers a highly informative commentary track that tracks the careers of underwater-photography specialists Ernest and George Williamson. Indeed, it is their work that makes this release so intriguing, not the hackneyed mishmash of Verne’s famous story and The Mysterious Island. Alan Holubar, then a prominent actor about to turn director, and Jane Gail star. The music score is credited to Orlando Perez Rosso.

(12) SOL SEARCHING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A new way has been found to determine which stars are likely to host weird planetary systems and those stars likely to have planetary systems more like our own Solar system.

The following will appear in next season’s SF² Concatenation but they’ve shared it with File 770 now…

How many Solar system type planetary systems are there in our spiral arm? We may soon be finding out from new research.  Some planetary systems around stars are very unlike our Solar system. For example, they will have what are called hot Jupiters with a gas giant close to their star in an orbit similar to that of Mercury about our sun, rather than beyond the asteroid belt where Jupiter is in our system.

It had been thought that the type of planetary system that forms is determined by the star’s protoplanetary disk of gas and dust.  While this may be so, there is also another factor at play – whether the star formed in comparative isolation or along with loads of others in a stellar nursery.

Up to now it has been impossible to address this question as stars disperse (as the Galaxy rotates, spiral arms oscillate, local stellar conditions etc) from when they were born within a billion years of their formation.  However, ESA’s Gaia star mapping has helped British and German astronomers to determine that whether or not a star is born in a stellar nursery or more isolated by itself, is key to the type of planetary system it will host.

You see the Gaia probe not only maps stars positions, it does it so accurately that after a few years and the star is re-mapped, it is possible to discern its movement, velocity and direction.  What the researchers have found is that they can correlate those stars that seem to be moving more or less parallel to, and with a similar velocity, to other stars. These stars can be assumed to have a common birthplace in a stellar nursery. Other stars that have no movement correlation with others, can be assumed to have been born in comparative isolation. With this in mind, the astronomers looked at 600 stars Gaia had mapped.

What the astronomers found was that systems with hot Jupiters tend to be formed in crowded stellar nurseries, while those with gas giants further from their star almost invariably saw the star’s birth in comparative isolation: there were few such systems with hot Jupiters – a hot Jupiter system was roughly ten times more likely in a star born in a stellar nursery.

As the researchers themselves point out, their discovery has “possible implications for planetary habitability and the likelihood of life in the Universe” questions.  (See Winter, A. J., Kruijssen, J. M. D., Longmore S. N & Chevance, M. (2020) Stellar clustering shapes the architecture of planetary systemsNaturevol. 586, p528-532.)

Planetary systems around stars born in stellar nurseries less likely to have Solar System type planetary arrangement, but will be more likely to have hot Jupiters.

(13) MANDO MERCH. “This RC Baby Yoda Waddles Around Your House Like a 50-Year-Old Toddler” io9 writes that like it’s a bad thing!

…Available this fall for $60, the Star Wars: The Mandalorian the Child “Real Moves Plush” stands 11 inches tall, so it’s slightly smaller than the animatronic figure used in the series. Mattel still managed to stuff it full of electronics, including authentic sound effects and motors to bring it to life.

The Child’s head can turn from side to side, and look up and down while it’s giant ears wiggle, and all the mechanisms are hidden under a flexible outer skin, which makes sense when you say it, but out of context feels like a horrifying thing to say about a baby. His tiny, snuggly robes can also be further adorned with an included Mythosaur skull pendant, like the one gifted to him by Din Djarin at the end of the first season.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill Wagner, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 10/2/20 In The Case Of An Emergency Landing, Your Pixel May Be Used As A Scroll

(1) 2020 DONATION. Literary Hub reports “Namwali Serpell will donate Clarke Prize money to those protesting Breonna Taylor’s murder.”

Within an hour of hearing that she had won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, a top honor given to science fiction published in the UK, Namwali Serpell also heard the news that the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor would not be charged for her murder.

“I received these two pieces of news about being a black woman in 2020 and it felt like a kind of whiplash, but it’s a feeling I’ve grown used to,” she told the BBC. “So I’ve been trying to figure out how to acknowledge both the honor that this award grants to my novel and the feeling that the political revolution I’m describing in the novel is yet to come.”

She decided to donate her prize money, £2,020.00, to the Louisville Community Bail Fund, with the goal of helping those who have been detained while protesting Breonna Taylor’s death….

(2) THE WHOLE TRUTH. Ross Showalter says “Writing Fantasy Lets Me Show the Whole Truth of Disability” at Electric Lit.

…I tried to find a replacement for a show I’d outgrown. I wanted to find representation, something that could comfort and validate me as I move through a world that doesn’t accommodate me. I couldn’t find anything that reflected my real experience.

What I found instead was horror and fantasy.

Instead of real-world dramas like Switched at Birth, I started watching darker fare like Hannibal and Teen Wolf. Even though I couldn’t relate specifically to lycanthropy or hyper-empathy that borders on telepathy, I related with the emotional arcs these shows presented; both shows follow their protagonist trying to find their place in a world that either persecuted them or paid them little attention. I found myself rapt at the way they presented identity and community. Both Hannibal’s blood-soaked surrealism and Teen Wolf’s paranormal fantasy hit harder—and felt more relevant to my experience—than any realistic portrayal of deafness I found.

(3) RHIANNA ON RADIO. Today’s BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour has an interview with Rhianna Pratchett, the fantasy games designer and author, about her work, her latest book and includes a bit on her life with dad.. Rhianna’s interview is about 35 minutes in. The program can be downloaded as an .mp3

(4) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings on October 21 with Joe Hill and Laird Barron will be livestreamed on YouTube at 7 p.m. Eastern. Link forthcoming.

Joe Hill

Joe Hill is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Full ThrottleStrange Weather, and The Fireman, among others. Much of his work has been adapted or is in development for film and TV. His third novel NOS4A2 was the basis for the AMC program of the same name, while his comic Locke & Key — co-created with artist Gabriel Rodriguez — is now a hit series for Netflix. The fall sees the release of five graphic novels under his Hill House Comics imprint with DC, including his own Basketful of Heads and Plunge.

Laird Barron

Laird Barron spent his early years in Alaska. He is the author of several books, including The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllSwift to Chase, and Worse Angels. His work has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies. Barron currently resides in the Rondout Valley writing stories about the evil that men do.

(5) SNOWBALL EFFECT. A lesson in keeping the work working for you, “The Big Idea: Jane Yolen” at Whatever.

… And sometimes magic happens. A poem turns into a picture book. A short story turns into a novel. A novel or a picture book turn into films or tv shows. The magic is not the turning, it is in the money! As my late agent said, “It can’t be reprinted unless it’s printed.” Which made me understand why sometimes you can sell an 8-line poem for a hundred dollars and someone pays $10,000 to reprint it. This actually happened to me. Once. But once is enough for a story and a moral lesson.

But if you write a lot of short stuff…it can become BIG. And what was a small idea (a scary story in Asimov’s magazine, another two or three in various Datlow anthologies, or Greenberg anthologies, or…And suddenly you have a Big Idea—a collection. 

(6) NOT THE END. “On Reengaging with Franz Kafka’s Astonishing Worlds” as encouraged by LitHub.

…Unofficial and incomplete texts are nothing new to readers of Franz Kafka; the problems of textual authority haunt nearly all his work. Kafka’s aesthetic practice cultivates a resistance to finality and what Judith Butler calls a “poetics of non-arrival.” The bulk of the literary output he left to posterity, as Michael Hofmann notes, “ends” rather than “finishes.” More crucially, all of Kafka’s novels, and a considerable haul of his short stories, beast fables, and aphorisms, owe their existence to Max Brod’s refusal to honor his best friend’s wish and burn all the manuscripts in his possession (unlike Kafka’s last lover Dora Dymant, who destroyed those in her keeping). The material in The Lost Writings is no more fringe or “lost” than any other unfinished text like The CastleThe TrialAmerikaThe Great Wall of China,” “Investigations of a Dog,” or “The Burrow,” since Kafka’s publication history has been determined by the accidents of editorial preferences and decisions over the last century.

Regardless, Kafka, along with his editorial and translational collaborators, is one of our most prolific contemporary writers… 

(7) C.S. LEWIS READINGS. On the Marion E. Wade Center blog David C. Downing writes about the availability of “The ‘Lost’ C. S. Lewis Tapes on the Ransom Trilogy and Chaucer” to listeners.

The only thing better than reading C.S. Lewis’s novels would be listening to Lewis himself read from his novels. It is now possible to hear Lewis reading from both Perelandra (1943) and That Hideous Strength (1945). Additionally, Lewis fans can listen to him reading the famous opening section of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in resonant Middle English.

The Marion E. Wade Center, in partnership with the Rabbit Room, is releasing all three segments of “The Lost Lewis Tapes” to the public. Excerpts of the tapes, along with in-depth analysis of the Ransom trilogy, are available for free on the Wade Center Podcast. All three segments (45-minutes in total) are now available in the Rabbit Room store.

These tracks were first recorded at Lewis’s home, the Kilns, in August 1960. After Joy Davidman Lewis passed away in July 1960, her former husband, Bill Gresham, traveled to Oxford to see his two sons, David, 16, and Douglas, 14, as well as to meet Lewis face to face. Gresham brought a portable tape recorder with him and apparently asked Lewis if he would do some readings….

(8) SAFETY FIRST. The mask makes a good point.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

October 1920 — The Belgian detective Hercule Poirot  first appeared in Agatha Christie’s first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was published by John Lane in hardback though the first true publication was as a weekly serial in The Times which included the maps of the house and other illustrations included in the book. This novel would be one of the first ten books published by Penguin Books when it began publishing in 1935. If you need a genre connection, David Suchet who played the most popular Poirot showed up in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Landlord”, and Agatha Christie herself is portrayed in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 2, 1885 – Ruth Bryan Owen.  Pioneer filmmaker, first woman U.S. ambassador (to Denmark; appointed by F.D. Roosevelt).  Collected Scandinavian fairy tales, The Castle in the Silver Wood.  Many adventures at home and abroad.  Wikipedia entry here.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1906 – Willy Ley.  Early student of rocket science.  Gifted author of science-fact articles, two Hugos for them.  Fled Nazi Germany 1935.  Rockets (1944); The Conquest of Space (1949, with Chesley Bonestell).  Science column in Galaxy 1951-1969.  Rockets, Missiles, and Space Travel (1957).  Regular participant at SF cons; sole Guest of Honor at Philcon II the 11th Worldcon.  One novel; four shorter stories under another name.  Much more in and out of our field.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1909 – Alex Raymond.  Outstanding pro artist for us with Flash Gordon.  After combat service in the U.S. Marines, drew the also excellent Rip Kirby (detective fiction; won a Reuben).  Eisner Hall of Fame, Soc. Illustrators Hall of Fame.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1911 Jack Finney. Author of many novels but only a limited number of genre, to wit The Body SnatchersTime and Again and From Time to Time. He would publish About Time, a short story collection which hah the time stories, “The Third Level” and “I Love Galesburg in the Springtime”. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1944 Vernor Vinge, 76. Winner of five Hugo Awards, none for what I consider his best series which is the Realtime/Bobble series. I’m also very fond of his short fiction, much of which is collected in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, though the last eighteen years’ worth of his work remain uncollected as far as I can tell. (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1947 – Ann Broomhead, F.N., 73.  Chaired two Boskones (22 & 51), co-chaired two (12 & 33).  Edited Reynolds, Deep Navigation Co-edited (with Tim Szczesuil) Bellairs, Magic Mirrors; Dozois and others, Strange Days; Stross, Scratch Monkey.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1948 Avery Brooks, 71. Obviously he’s got his Birthday write-up for being Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine, but I’m going to note his superb work also as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk which are aren’t even genre adjacent. He retired from video after DS9 but is an active tenured theater professor at Rutgers. (CE)
  • Born October 2, 1968 – Range Murata, 52.  Animémanga, video games.  Seiun for Best Artist of the Year, 2006.  Character designer on Last Exile, see here.  A 2015 interview (in English) here.  [JH]
  • Born October 2, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 67. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend. I also like his Metropolitan novels, be that SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m am surprised how few Awards that he’s won, just three with two Nebulas,  both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1972 Graham Sleight, 48. He’s The Managing Editor of the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which won the Hugo for Best Related Work at Chicon 7. He’s also a critic whose work can be found in LocusStrange HorizonsThe New York Review Of Science Fiction, and Vector. And he’s a Whovian who edited The Unsilent Library, a book of writings about the Russell Davies era of the show, and The Doctor’s Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who. (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1974 Michelle Krusiec, 46. She was the eighteen-year-old Molly O’Brien in DS9’s “Time’s Orphan’s”. She had a recurring role as Nadine Park on the fourth season of Fringe, and appeared as Wu Mei on Community which we’ve agreed is almost genre, if not genre. She showed up on Supergirl as Natalie Hawkings in “Parasite Lost”. (CE) 
  • Born October 2, 1981 – Leah Wilson, 39.  Currently Editor-in-Chief for BenBella Books’ Smart Pop.  Here is an interview about Through the Wardrobe (i.e. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia) from Ben Bella’s Teen Libris.  Here is Boarding the “Enterprise”.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark has a genre take on mask wearing.
  • And xkcd has a brilliant chart comparing the effectiveness of various masks.

(12) QUINO MOURNED. Harrison Smith in the Washington Post has an obituary for Argentinian cartoonist Quino, who died on September 30 at age 88.  Quino’s strip “Mafalda,” which ran between 1964-1973, was a strip in the Peanuts style with sharp criticism of poverty, injustice, and political repression.

…When Mafalda spots workmen trying to locate a gas leaks, she asks: “Are you searching for our national roots?” In another sequence, Mafalda’s pet turtle is revealed to have an unusual name, Bureaucracy. When a friend asks why she gave it that name, Mafalda replies that she needs to come back the next day for more information. She can’t say exactly when.

“In Argentina I had to censor myself, because when I started to draw in Buenos Aires they clearly told me ‘no military, no religion, no sex,’ ” Quino once said, according to the Agence France-Presse. “And then I talked about all that, but in another way.”

(13) KEEPING TRACK. The Digital Antiquarian revisits the triumph of Chris Sawyer’s Transport Tycoon. (I sure spent plenty of hours playing it.)

…So, while he was waiting for his better-known colleagues to send him the next chunks of their own games for conversion to MS-DOS, Sawyer began to tinker. By the time Elite II was wrapping up, he had an ugly but working demo of an enhanced version of Railroad Tycoon which did indeed shift the viewpoint from vertically overhead to isometric. “I decided to devote all my time to the game for a few months and see what developed,” he says. He convinced a talented free-lance artist named Simon Foster, who was already an established name in commercial graphics but was looking to break into games, to provide illustrations, even as he made the bold decision to step up to cutting-edge SVGA graphics, at more than twice the resolution of standard VGA. At the end of that few months, he was more convinced than ever that he had a winner on his hands: “Even people who didn’t normally play computer games would sit for hours on end, totally engrossed in building railway lines, routing trains, and making as much profit as possible.” He soon made his train simulator into an all-encompassing transportation simulator, adding trucks and buses, ships and ferries, airplanes and even helicopters.

(14) CHILD SIGHTING. Michael Clair, in “Baby Yoda is a Braves fan” on mlb.com, says that Baby Yoda made an appearance in Atlanta during the Red-Braves playoff series, accompanied by Braves mascot Blooper cosplaying as “The Mandabloopian.”

(15) SPARTACUS’ CITYSCAPE. Hollywood’s Academy Museum will showcase one of cinema’s most impressive examples of matte painting: a detailed portrayal of ancient Rome, used in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960): “Preserving a Vanishing Art: Peter Ellenshaw’s Spartacus Matte Painting”.

…Matte paintings are everywhere in movies. Picture the vast, secret government warehouse that closes Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), or the image of the Statue of Liberty, half-buried in sand at the end of Planet of the Apes (1968). Or the view of London and the River Thames that unfolds behind Mary Poppins as she rises, umbrella in hand.

This detailed portrayal of ancient Rome, used in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960), was painted with oils on glass by Peter Ellenshaw. Using Ellenshaw’s painting, the director framed groups of actors moving about the faux Roman city, which includes details of the Parthenon, Temple of Athena, and other well-known buildings. Black blobs on the painting indicate where the director inserted these actions into his film.

…Ellenshaw’s son, Harrison, who enjoyed his own career as a matte painter, estimates the Spartacus piece took his father eight to ten hours, spread over several weeks. “He would work on more than one at a time,” he remembers. “The schedule was based on making the deadline for the final negative cut in time to make enough prints for the film’s release.”

Now more than 60 years old, Ellenshaw’s Spartacus painting needed some conservation before going on display. Before replacing a yellowing varnish layer with a new, UV-protecting one, Kathryn Harada, an L.A.-based paintings conservator, worked to repair cracks in the glass and paint. When conservators discovered that Ellenshaw himself had retouched the painting, years ago, they chose to preserve his efforts….

(16) OUT OF THE PARK. Yahoo! News sets the frame as “Jeff Goldblum Recreates Sensual ‘Jurassic Park’ Scene With Sam Neill”.

…Just a couple days ago, Jeff Goldblum promised that he’d recreate one of his scenes from “Jurassic Park” if 1,000 people would “register to vote, or check your registration status, or request a mail-in ballot.” On Friday, his character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, was back.

“That was fast!” Goldblum wrote on Instagram, posting a video recreating his famous “chaos theory” scene from the 1993 movie. In the original moment, he dropped water gently on Laura Dern’s hand. In the recreation, he’s got a different scene partner.

(17) MORE NEEDLES FOR YOUR TREE. Grandma’s Gift Shop pulls together some of the year’s dominant themes in their 2020 Commemorative Christmas Tree Ornament.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “William Shatner feat. Pat Travers ‘I Put A Spell On You'” on YouTube is an animated film by Balazs Grof of a track from Shat’s new blues album featuring Shatner’s take on the classic Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Jeffrey Smith, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/20 Scrollhenge, Where The Pixels Dwell, Where The Filers Live, And We Do Live Well

(1) CLARION ZOOMS THROUGH THE SUMMER. Join the Clarion Conversations, a series of Zoom-based conversations about writing speculative fiction “with a just tiny fraction of the amazingly talented Clarion alumni, instructor, and broader community.” RSVP each conversation via the links below:

Editing Speculative Fiction and Poetry – July 22, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

This week, our guests are John Joseph Adams, Ruoxi Chen, and Brandon O’Brien, moderated by Theodore McCombs. We’ll be discussing the state of publishing speculative fiction and poetry and how these three editors approach their work.

Holly Black and Kelly Link in Conversation – July 29, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

For our final week, we’re thrilled to have the incredible Holly Black and Kelly Link in conversation about craft, community, surviving as a writer, and what Clarion has meant to them.

(2) GIBSON Q&A. CNET has questions: “Future shocks past and present: William Gibson on fiction’s fear of tech”.

…”In my early teens, I assumed science fiction was about the future,” Gibson says of his days reading writers like Robert Heinlein. “But it was about how the future looked to Robert Heinlein in 1942, which was very different to how the future looked to him in 1960. By the time I began to write science fiction, I took it for granted that what I was doing was writing about the present.”

(3) FROG FLAVORED CANDY? “A ‘Mandalorian’ PEZ Dispenser Gift Set Is Coming And It Will Be An Instant Collectable”Delish heralds the news.

…The Baby Yoda dispenser comes in a set along with a Mandalorian dispenser and grape, lemon, and strawberry PEZ candy. The new Harry Potter dispensers are already available on the PEZ site, but the Mandalorian candy set is not, so it’s unclear when exactly these will be available online or if they’ll be available in stores as well.

(4) MUSLIM SFF WRITERS PROFILED. Aysha Kahn of the Religion News Service has a piece about the rising number of Muslims writing sf and fantasy, citing the works of G. Willow Wilson, Saladin Ahmed, and S.A. Chakraborty. “Through sci-fi and fantasy, Muslim women authors are building new worlds”.

In the past few years, Muslim women have quietly taken the speculative fiction publishing industry by storm, earning rave reviews with fantasy and science fiction narratives that upend both the genre’s historic lack of diversity and popular depictions of women and Islam.

Last year alone, mainstream publishing houses released at least 13 fantasy and sci-fi books written by Muslim women in English, from Farah Naz Rishi’s debut “I Hope You Get This Message” to Karuna Riazi’s middle-grade novel “The Gauntlet.”

At least another dozen, including sequels to Hafsah Faizal’s instant New York Times bestseller “We Hunt the Flame” and Somaiya Daud’s award-winning “Mirage,” are in the works….

(5) LEADING WITH A TRAILER. Yahoo! Entertainment says a new series scored a two-fer: “The New Mutants gets a new trailer and a virtual Comic-Con panel”.

(6) LEWIS OBIT. Civil Rights legend Rep. John Lewis died died July 17 of cancer.

…His passion for equal rights was backed by a long record of action that included dozens of arrests during protests against racial and social injustice.

A follower and colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., he participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses and — at the age of 23 — was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.

When Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin wrote a graphic novel trilogy March about the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis went to Comic-Con to promote it.

All three March books were Eisner Award nominees — the second and third volumes won the award (2016, 2017). Lewis received San Diego Comic-Con’s Inkpot Award in 2017.

(7) SUSAN SHAW OBIT. The Guardian profiled technology preservationist Susan Shaw, who died June 13 at age 88.

Founder of the Type Archive dedicated to rescuing the remains of the letterpress printing industry

In 1970 the price of lead went through the roof, and the art, craft and industry of letterpress printing, essentially unchanged for five centuries, became suddenly vulnerable. Property speculators, rival technologies and alternative media all threatened a world dependent on precision engineering and subtle manual skill. To Susan Shaw, who has died aged 87, this was a challenge to which she devoted the rest of her life, and in 1992 she founded the Type Museum (now the Type Archive) in Stockwell, south London, to rescue the remains of the dying industry.

In that year, the Monotype Corporation, pioneers of the leading type-composition system, went into liquidation. Susan went to Salfords, near Redhill, Surrey, where the Monotype factory was, saw the size of the plant, and planned to take it over. She chatted up the owners of a 1900 industrial complex near her home in Stockwell, and persuaded them to sell it to a trust set up for the purpose, borrowing the money.

The main building had been a veterinary hospital, with floors solid enough to support circus elephants, and now heavier stuff. She next organised the transport of plant, keyboards, casting machines and associated equipment, together with all the records of the corporation worldwide, altogether several hundred tons. She called its transport and reinstallation Operation Hannibal, and an elephant became her trademark.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 18, 2006 Eureka premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel. In syndication, it was renamed A Town Called Eureka. It was created by Andrew Cosby who was responsible for the rebooted Hellboy film and Jaime Paglia who’s executive producer of the current Flash series. No, it doesn’t tie into the CW continuity but it did tie-in to the Warehouse 13 reality. It would last six seasons and seventy episodes with an additional eight web episodes forming the “Hide and Seek” story as well. The large ensemble cast included Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton, Debrah Farentino, Jordan Hinson, Ed Quinn, Erica Cerra, Neil Grayston, Niall Matter, Matt Frewer, Tembi Locke and James Callis. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 18, 1896 – Otto Gail (rhymes with “pile”).  Science journalist and author; among the most popular German 1920s SF authors.  Member of the German Interplanetary Society, knew Oberth and Valier.  Five technologically realistic novels for us including juveniles, five nonfiction including a 20-booklet series.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1913 Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes.  He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which was also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider genre adjacent. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1913 Marvin Miller. He is remembered for being the voice of Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet. He would reprise that role myriad times in the next few decades in such films and series as The Invisible Boy, the Lost in Space series and Gremlins. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born July 18, 1921 – John Glenn.  In fact he never liked science fiction, or what he knew of it, perhaps thinking, in a reverse of James Bond, “It lives better than it reads”.  First-rate US Marines pilot (6 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 Air Medals); first supersonic flight across the US; only person to fly in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programs; six terms as US Senator (Democrat – Ohio); flew on the Discovery at age 77 to help study Space and human age.  NASA Distinguished Service Medal, US Astronaut Hall of Fame, Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Memoir, John Glenn.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 82. Responsible for Starship TroopersTotal Recall, Hollow Man and Robocop. He’s made the short list for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation three times (Starship TroopersTotal Recall and Robocop) but was not won it. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1943 Charles G. Waugh, 77. Anthologist who is amazingly prolific. I count over two hundred anthologies, most done with co-anthologists, and many done with Martin Greenberg. Oft times a third anthologist would be listed, i.e. Poul Anderson for Terrorists of Tomorrow, or Isaac Asimov for Isaac Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction series. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1950 – Jay Kinney, 70.  Bijou Funnies with R. Crumb, Jay Lynch, Skip Williamson.  Hasn’t published his fanzine in a while, but here is a cover for Chunga (L to R, Hooper, Byers, juarez); here is a wise comment; here is his Clinic of Cultural Collison (noting Vaughan Bodé, who died on this day, 1975; name shared by Tex Jarman’s Uncle Bodie); here is “Welcome to the Late Show” for the Eagles.  Letters in Banana WingsRaucous Caucus (Relapse has, alas, relapsed).  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1963 – Sue Mason, 57.  Standing for TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) she called herself “gamer, filker, costumer, dealer, apahack” modestly omitting she’s among our best fanartists.  She won; we must’ve forgiven her.  Ten covers, two hundred interiors, for AttitudeBanana WingsBentoChallengerIdeaQuasiQuoteTwink.  Eight Nova Awards as Best Fanartist, two Hugos. Part of the PLOKTA Cabal (PLOKTA = Press Lots Of Keys To Abort, the Journal of Superfluous Technology).  Guest of Honor at Eastercon 55 (British nat’l convention), Minicon 38.  MC’d the Masquerade costume competition at Intersection the 53rd Worldcon.  Artwork for Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Doc Weir service award.  Rotsler Award, later judge.  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1966 Paul Cornell, 54. Author of both the Shadow Police series and the Witches of Lychford novella series which are quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who, Primeval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for Best Fancast. And he scripted quite a bit of the Captain Britain and MI: 13 comic series as well — very good stuff indeed. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1972 – Eve Marie Mont, 48.  Time-travel tales send highschooler Emma Townsend into worlds she met in fiction, A Breath of EyreA Touch of ScarletA Phantom Enchantment.  “I shouldn’t love Rochester [in Jane Eyre]… dark, arrogant, moody, mistakes in his life that are seriously hard to overlook….  I teach high school, and the teens I know are a far cry from the ones portrayed in the media….  It’s that sense of wonder and possibility in YA literature that really excites me.”  Sponsors her school’s literary magazine.  [JH]
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra, 38. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a major role in the forthcoming Matrix 4 film. (CE)
  • Born July 18, 1990 – Kyle Muntz, 30.  Five novels, poetry (is poetry fiction?), two shorter stories, dark-fantasy game The Pale City (also the name of his Website).  Sparks Prize.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Has read two translations of Tu Fu (or, if you prefer, Du Fu), ranks them well above Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  By turns impish and sinister.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SUMMERTIME. Six critics lavish affection on “My Favorite Summer Blockbuster” in the New York Times. Lots of genre – you’re not surprised, are you? And it’s not all Marvel – though I was less impressed to see someone reach back in time for this film once I saw the call-out for its availability on the new Disney+ service.

Monica Castillo: ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’

Little was conventional about Robert Zemeckis’s 1988 film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” which helped make it the highest-grossing film that summer and the year’s second top box office draw (behind “Rain Man”). This seedy drawing of Tinseltown took inspiration from film noir, and its story was set in the golden age of Hollywood studios, many of which were then in decline….

(12) COMPLAINT DEPT. But meanwhile, back in the U.K. — “‘Joker’ Tops U.K. List of Most Complained About Films in 2019, but Can’t Beat ‘The Dark Knight’”.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has confirmed Todd Phillips’ R-rated comic book drama “Joker” was the most complained about movie in the United Kingdom last year. The BBFC’s annual report has “Joker” topping the list of most complained about films with 20 complaints filed in regards to the movie’s age 15 classification.

The majority of complaints against “Joker” argued the film should’ve received an age 18 rating due to “violence and tone,” while a select few said the BBFC should’ve banned the movie altogether. The BBFC defended the age 15 rating for “Joker” because the film “doesn’t dwell on the infliction of pain or injury in a manner that requires an 18.”…

(13) SPEAK, MEMORY. In “Sleeping Next To An Elephant”, The Hugo Book Club Blog weighs in on a Best Novel finalist.

It’s often said in Canada that living next to the United States is like sleeping with an elephant:  affected by every twitch and grunt. It’s a phrase that came to mind when reading Arkady Martine’s debut A Memory Called Empire, a sprawling and richly imagined novel about hegemony and loss of culture.

Set in the capital city of the vast Teixcalaanli interstellar empire, A Memory Called Empire follows Mahit Dzmare the new ambassador from the much smaller Lsel Stationer Republic as she investigates the murder of her predecessor and navigates a political crisis that could spell disaster for both nations.

Martine has delivered one of the most Asimovian science fiction novels we’ve read in recent memory, while making the narrative uniquely her own. 

(14) VIRTUAL STAGE PLAY. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier science fiction and fantasy theatre will present Of Dice And Men – A Play about Dungeons and Dragons on their YouTube page on July 31 and will remain available for free until August 14, at which point it will move to Otherworld’s Patreon page. Tickets are FREE and can be obtained from Eventbrite or by subscribing to Otherworld’s YouTube page here.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Let’s Work Together” on YouTube is a new collaboration between William Shatner and Canned Heat, which will be one track on a new blues album Shatner will release this fall.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/6/20 Look Dave, I Can See You’re Really Upset About This. Take A Pixel Scroll, And Think Things Over

(1) CAREER PATH. At Lit Reactor, Nick Mamatas hits close to home — “Ask Nick: Publishing 201 — Do I Need to Attend Conventions or Conferences?”

…A relative handful of science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions are considered “professional” and it is expected that people who work in publishing will travel cross-country or even internationally to make an appearance. In the mystery and romance genres, a greater percentage of conventions are “professional” and relatively fewer are run by and for fans. Regardless of whether the convention is fannish or professional, published writers are essentially zoo animals to be gawked at for the weekend. You can tell the writers from the other attendees because they are always clutching a drink in their hands like it was only accidentally given to them for free.

The conference, by way of contrast, has different roots. Literary conferences are often organized like other academic conferences—the focus is on writers who work in academe and the concerns of pedagogy and craft, though the keynote speakers are almost inevitably prominent writers who don’t need to grade term papers for a living. Panels at conferences are only occasionally roundtable discussions; more often the panelists read from essays, bits of memoir about the struggles of trying to either publish or teach their dumb-ass students, or their critical work. There are also lots of poets who constantly declare their identity as poets: “Oh, I don’t know how to organize my receipts to get reimbursed by my department! I’m a poet.” “I can’t be expected to know which button to press in this hotel elevator, I’m a poet!” In the sales room, university presses and university-backed literary journals that demand writers pay to submit and that have an organic audience somewhere in the low teens predominate, while at conventions you can buy ratty old magazines, leather corsets, and insipid badges with phrases such as “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup” on them. So clearly, attending either kind of gathering is a fate worse than death.

(2) SUPER STRINGS ATTACHED. Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter ae having “A Super Lockdown Supermarionation Superconversation in 5…4…3” – read the transcript at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

AR: It was Gerry Anderson’s birthday a couple of days ago (he’d have been 91) so given that we’ve both watched Thunderbird Six recently -and have a shared enthusiasm for his shows – I thought it would be fun to talk about the film, as well as the puppet series more generally. Perhaps we could start by covering our introductions to the worlds of GA? I know you go back at least as far as Stingray, the series which preceded Thunderbirds – was that the first exposure to Supermarionation for you, or are we looking at the even earlier shows like Fireball XL-5, Supercar and so on? Any really early memories of the shows or even the merchandise surrounding them?

SB: As it happens I was born on the day Anderson’s first show was first broadcast,  The Adventures of Twizzle. An omen! But the first show I remember properly was Fireball, which was launched when I was nearly 5. Supercar was around but as repeats, I  guess.  Fireball was the one. It wasn’t the stories that struck me I think as much as the background world. The fantastic huge ship, and it looked huge thanks to good effects work, luxurious inside – Professor Matic  lived on it,  and how I envied him! And this was no fantasy, we were given one-century-ahead dates, 2062 and so on. Authentic SF, and I was lost forever.

(3) HYBRID PRODUCTION. The Hollywood Reporter reveals “‘The Blacklist’ Turns to Animation to Complete Season Finale”.

…NBC’s The Blacklist will close out its seventh season with a twist: After production on the drama was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show turned to animation to help complete the season finale.

The hybrid episode is set to air May 15 and will serve as the season finale for The Blacklist (it has already been renewed for 2020-21). 

The episode, titled “The Kazanjian Brothers,” was midway through filming in New York when production stopped in mid-March due to the pandemic. The show’s producers looked for outside-the-box ways to complete the installment and settled on graphic novel-style animation (as shown above) to be incorporated with scenes that had already been filmed. 

Actors recorded dialogue from their homes for the animated scenes, and all animation and editing was done remotely. As The Hollywood Reporter has reported, production on a number of animated series has continued largely uninterrupted during the pandemic as studios and producers have adapted to working remotely.

(4) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Lorie Shaull explains — “I assure you we’re not open,” a reference to the movie Clerks, and “You’re Still here? It’s over. Go home. Go,” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, seen on the Uptown Theatre marquee in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

(5) AIR APPARENT. Pirated Thoughts reports “DC Comics Wants to Flatten “Swampthing” Tires”.

DC Comics is battling a tire company that is using the SWAMPTHING mark in association with its monster tires.

Transamerica Tire, Co widely distributes its “Swampthing” tires which figure some “monster” treads that allow  added traction thru sand, gravel, dirt, mud or…swamps. 

…In July 2019, Transamerica filed a trademark registration to protect the name SWAMPTHING for its tires. But there is a big green guy who has something to say about that.

(6) SECOND FIFTH. Craig Miller prefers the “Revenge of the Sixth” as a reference, and in honor of the date he’s shared a couple more things he’s remembered since his book Star Wars Memories was released.

…But I’d completely forgotten that I’d also gotten a character’s name changed. A document in my files reminded me….

(7) PROCESSING GRIEF. A writer tells the BBC “How the Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped me grieve”

Since writer Hanna Flint’s grandmother died from Covid-19 complications, she has found solace in superheroes. Here she explains why the films are great for processing tough emotions.

…After my parents called me that Friday night to tell me the news, I cried myself to sleep. But the next morning, I woke up with the strongest urge to escape into the fantastical world of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers, Thor and the rest of these Marvel heroes – so I camped out on my sofa and binge-watched MCU movies for the remainder of the Easter Weekend.

I’ve spent more than a decade being invested in this film franchise, so it’s no wonder that it’s become the cinematic equivalent of an emotional support dog for me in my time of need. There’s a familiarity that I have with these heroic characters and their fist-pumping adventures that must cause a release of serotonin in my brain, because with each film I watched anew, I felt the thrum of grief lessen, allowing in moments of joy that lifted my spirit.

…Alongside the gags, the series has also deepened as time has gone on, with the MCU opening itself up to a broader range of stories and sensibilities. No longer is the focus only on white male heroes and villains – instead there is a diverse range of characters for a wider audience to connect with. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man films, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, are all brilliant examples of Marvel Studios allowing the filmmakers’ voices to shine, while still staying true to the unifying structure and webbed narrative of the franchise. Ragnarok is probably the most distinctive individual Marvel offering so far – Waititi’s deadpan, self-referential humour keeps things especially grounded and accessible, despite the out-of-this-world setting. The Kiwi filmmaker flips your expectations of certain characters – as when Korg, a member of the rock alien Kronan race, turns out to be far more mild-mannered and intellectual than his previously-seen peers – but also uses comedy to make space for a deeper cultural commentary on issues like refugees, slavery and the white-washing of history.

(9) MAY THE FOURTH PROMOTION GOES AWRY. “Alberta police take down woman, 19, dressed as Star Wars stormtrooper to promote reopened restaurant” – Canada’s National Post has the story.

Police in southern Alberta are being investigated after a restaurant worker in a Star Wars stormtrooper costume who was carrying a plastic gun was forced to the ground and ended up with a bloody nose.

…The Lethbridge Police Service said officers were called to the restaurant Monday morning for reports of a person in a stormtrooper costume carrying a firearm. A news release Tuesday said when officers arrived, the person dropped the weapon but didn’t initially comply with directions to get down on the ground.

Whalen disputes the account that his employee didn’t obey police commands. When officers arrived, she immediately dropped the weapon and put her hands up, he said.

But Whalen said that the stormtrooper helmet makes it hard to hear and to be heard. It also makes it difficult to move, let alone to kneel or get down on your stomach. Whalen said this may have caused a delay in the employee getting on the ground.

“It’s not the easiest thing to kneel down in. You can’t even sit down in it. It takes 20 minutes to put on.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 6, 1956 Dimension X’s “Knock” aired. It was based on Fredric Brown’s story of the same name, first published in the December 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. It was the first of three adaptations of his story, with the latter ones being X Minus One and Sci Fi Channel’s Seeing Ear Theatre. This version was adapted was by Ernest Kinroy. Fred Wiehe and Edward King were the directors. Norman Rose was heard as both announcer and narrator. The entire script can be summed up as “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…” Frederic Brown is the running for two Retro Hugos this year, one for Best Novelette for “Arena” and another for Best Short Story for “And the Gods Laughed“. You can hear “Knock” here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 6, 1914 Randall Jarrell. Author of the ever so charming The Animal Family which is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Go read it – you’ll be smiling afterwards. The Anchor Book of Stories has more of his genre friendly stories. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 6, 1915 Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success. But for the Federal Theatre Project he did a 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That it was known as the Voodoo Macbeth might give you an idea of what he did with it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. And, of course, he made a most excellent radio Shadow as well! (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 6, 1946 Nancy Kilpatrick, 74. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice.” I know that I’ve read something of her fiction but I’ll be damned if I remember what it was. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection. 
  • Born May 6, 1952 Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5.  Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 6, Carlos Lauchu, 59. Anubis, the captain of Ra’s personal guard, in the original Stargate film. His only other genre acting was two appearances in the Monsters anthology series. 
  • Born May 6, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 51. They are the winner of 2019 Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel while winning a Lambda Literary Award. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction, ”When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows Spider-craft.
  • Peanuts from 50 years ago today:

(13) BRUSHWORK. Cora Buhlert has an eye on some of the latest – in 1965 – high culture trends: “[MAY 4, 1965] THE OP AND THE POP: NEW MOVEMENTS IN MODERN ART”

…So what do you see, when you look at a work of Minimalist art? You’ll see simple patterns, geometric shapes, hard edges, primary colours and monochromatic palettes. The so-called “Black Paintings” by the above mentioned Frank Stella consist of concentric stripes painted on raw canvas in the black wall paint that Stella uses in his day job as a house painter. Canadian artist Agnes Martin paints grids and stripes in pastel watercolours. Meanwhile, Dan Flavin eschews paint altogether and instead creates artworks from tubes of neon lights arranged in various geometric patterns.

(14) SOCIAL MEDIA GAVEL BANGERS. BBC is there when “Facebook’s ‘supreme court’ members announced”.

Facebook has announced who will sit on an independent board, set up to have ultimate say over what controversial content should be taken down.

Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt will co-chair the panel with three others.

The panel said they will judge some of the “hardest cases out there.”

One expert said it was a bold experiment, but others were more cynical about how much difference they would make.

In a blog announcing the oversight board, Facebook said it “represented a new model of content moderation”

Initially consisting of 16 members, there are plans to expand numbers to 40. It will begin hearing cases later this year.

At first this will just be deliberating on content that individuals feel has been wrongfully removed but, in following months, it will also look at appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content.

(15) BOOKS BY THE POUND. The New York Times analyzes why “The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory” – provided yours isn’t filled with duds.

…In April, an anonymous Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, emerged to keep an eye on the trend and quickly accumulated more than 30,000 followers. Its tagline is “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you,” and it offers arch commentary on the rapidly solidifying tropes of the genre as well as genuine respect for a well-executed specimen. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears before “a standard credibility wallpaper presentation in the unthreatening homely style.” The migrants’ rights activist Minnie Rahman’s Encyclopaedia Britannica collection “is a lazy hand wafted at convention.” And the British politician Liam Fox’s “bold grab at credibility is somewhat undermined by the hardback copy of The Da Vinci Code.”

Similarly, Atlas Obscura reports “The Zoom Era Inspires a ‘Bookshelf Championship’ in Portugal”.

…As expected from a nation with one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, the Portuguese rallied behind the Bookshelf Championship. All of a sudden, book-related opinions were all over social media. “He’s stacking books horizontally to fit more,” a Twitter user said of his preferred contestant, journalist Nuno Rogeiro, whose all-embracing bookshelf featured books wedged into every available cranny. Some contemplated the definition of a bookshelf: Should a shelf full of binders be disqualified, or was it a “spectacular variation” on the theme? Others called for the “immediate resignation” of the Minister of Education, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, on the grounds that his video conference set-up featured zero books. It didn’t take long for the debate to make it, in an apt twist, onto the evening news. Ricardo Araújo Pereira, one of Portugal’s top comedians, submitted his formal entry by taking a conference call from a deserted university library, where he sat flanked by tidy bookshelves in perfect social isolation. Twitter deemed his entry “extremely strong.”

(16) A CRUISE IN SPACE. The original report from Deadline: “Out Of This World! Tom Cruise Plots Movie To Shoot In Space With Elon Musk’s SpaceX”.

I’m hearing that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk’s Space X are working on a project with NASA that would be the first narrative feature film – an action adventure – to be shot in outer space. It’s not a Mission: Impossible film and no studio is in the mix at this stage but look for more news as I get it. But this is real, albeit in the early stages of liftoff.

Mission: Impossible Fallout took a break, literally when he broke his ankle in a leap from one rooftop to the other and he also hung from a helicopter; he hung from the side of a jet plane during takeoff in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, and in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol he scaled the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyscraper, and executed stunts 123 floors up. He is meticulous in preparing these stunts he does, which are frightening just to watch.

There has never been a leading man (Jackie Chan might dispute this) who puts himself at risk as often as does Cruise, in the name of the most realistic action sequences possible. If he is successful shooting a project in Musk’s space ship, he will be alone in the Hollywood record books. Stay tuned.

NPR picks up the story: “Tom Cruise And NASA Could Be A Match Made In The Heavens”.

… NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed by tweet that “NASA is excited to work with @TomCruise on a film aboard the @Space_Station! We need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to make @NASA’s ambitious plans a reality.”

At 57, the actor is a good deal older than the run-of-the-mill astronaut (if there is such a thing) though a number “spaceflight participants” (the official NASA and Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — designation for non-astronauts) have flown before.

Cruise is demonstrably in excellent shape, and evidently fearless when it comes to doing his own stunts. That’s fortunate, as up to this point, Space X has launched only unmanned missions of its Dragon 2 craft, which is designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Its first launch with a human crew is scheduled for later this month.

(17) AND BABY MAKES E=MC2. Is everything Musk does newsworthy? (Or is this just freaky enough to be interesting?) “X Æ A-12: Elon Musk and Grimes confirm baby name”.

Elon Musk and singer Grimes have confirmed they have named their baby X Æ A-12.

The Space X CEO announced the birth of their son on Monday. “Mom & baby all good,” he said on Twitter.

He posted that the child would be called X Æ A-12 Musk and his girlfriend later offered an explanation to her followers on social media.

(18) COME OUT OF YOUR SHELL. “‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Movie 30th Anniversary Pizza Party Announced by Original April O’Neil”. Actress Judith Hoag, who played April O’Neil, is hosting the official 30-year cast reunion Pizza Panel Party on May 23rd, “World Turtle Day,” with the original cast and crew – Food & Wine has the story.

“It’s our 30th anniversary. We had some really great stuff planned to celebrate with you guys, and then the pandemic hit,” Hoag said. “It would be great to have a virtual pizza party with you guys, our fans […] We want to get together, hang out with you, and eat some pizza. I personally will probably be having a martini while I’m doing it.”

As of this writing, there aren’t any additional details about the Zoom event, but the TMNT Movie 1990 Facebook page says that it will post more information for online attendees in the days ahead….

(19) FROG GOT YOUR TONGUE? Delish is sure “‘Star Wars’ Fans Will Love These Fruit Roll-Ups With ‘Mandalorian’ Tongue Tattoos”.

…Giving yourself a temporary tongue tattoo from a sticky fruit roll-up is an inexplicable joy. Why is it so fun to have a blue outline of a character on your tongue? Who knows, but it’s about to get a whole lot more exciting. Star Wars-themed Fruit Roll-Ups with The Mandalorian tongue tattoos are expected to come out this fall, which means you can take your Baby Yoda obsession even further that you thought.

The Fruit Roll-Ups by General Mills are expected to be released this September, according to Nerdist. The package features two Mandalorian-themed tattoos: one of Baby Yoda with a frog in his mouth and the other of the Mandalorian’s helmet.

(20) OF HUMANS YET TO COME. John Folk-Williams applauds this developing series — “The Quantum Evolution by Derek Künsken: A Review” at SciFi Mind.

Derek Künsken’s series, The Quantum Evolution, so far consisting of two novels (The Quantum Magician and The Quantum Garden) is a brilliant space opera that probes the depths of a future human nature engineered to produce new subspecies. And they are wild, at times repulsive, at times capable of incredible breakthroughs in knowledge or massive deception and theft, at times mired in twisted love of false gods.I’ve rarely been so intellectually engaged by the idea of a quantum evolution of humankind and so drawn to a set of fascinating characters as they fight and con their way across various star systems.

(21) MURDER HORNET. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From today’s NY Times — even more timely as Wednesdays are also when the Gray Lady does its weekly Food/Dining section (although this wasn’t in that section, hardcopywise): “In Japan, the ‘Murder Hornet’ Is Both a Lethal Threat and a Tasty Treat”.

… But in the central Chubu region, these insects — sometimes called “murder hornets” — are known for more than their aggression and excruciating sting. They are seen as a pleasant snack and an invigorating ingredient in drinks….

(22) STEPHEN KING ON THE LATE SHOW. The legendary master of horror covers a lot of ground in this talk with Stephen Colbert, including how he would fare in quarantine with his most feared characters, some things he learned about pandemics when doing research for “The Stand,” and the many reasons he recommends reading The Lord of the Rings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LETTERS AND DRAMA

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

Drama
“A Strange Loop” by Michael R. Jackson

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

Special Citation
Ida B. Wells

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example —

2. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Variety’s story about it is here.

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

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

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

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

…Garbage patches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/4/20 Bring Me My Book Of Divine Stalk: Bring Me My Feline On A Pile: Bring Me My Fifth: O Readers Talk! Bring Me My Pixel Scrolls Of File!

(1) SF IN TRANSLATION. An overview of the year’s output at Locus Online: “SF in Translation in 2019 by Rachel S. Cordasco”.

In general, speculative fiction in translation (SFT) accounts for a very small fraction of the fiction published in English each year. This past year was no exception: 50 books (novels, collections, and anthologies) and 80 short (standalone) works of SFT made their way to Anglophone readers. While this may not sound like much, it does signify a slow but steady increase in non-Anglophone speculative fiction since the turn of the century. Not since the 1960s and ’70s have we seen such an increase, and while I can’t point to any one factor as an explanation, I imagine that the unprecedented worldwide connectivity brought about by the internet at the end of the last century, coupled with the increase in small and micro-presses and magazines that regularly publish speculative fiction, may offer a partial answer. Perhaps another factor is the growing interest of speculative fiction fans in stories that are written from a non-Anglophone perspective…

(2) LONDON’S OFF THE HOOK. Yesterday, the London Book Fair planned to carry on, even in the face of businesses dropping out because of coronavirus fears. Today, The Guardian reports it’s been cancelled.

One of the world’s biggest international literary events, the London book fair, has been cancelled over coronavirus fears, amid growing anger that the delay in calling it off was putting people’s health at risk and an unfair financial strain on publishers.

Organiser Reed Exhibitions announced on Wednesday that the escalation of the illness meant the fair, scheduled to run from 10 to 12 March, would be called off. Around 25,000 publishers, authors and agents from around the world had been due to attend the event, where deals for the hottest new books are struck.

But the event was already set to be a ghost town when it opened its doors, after publishers and rights agencies began withdrawing en masse over the last week. Some of the world’s biggest, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette had already pulled out, as had Amazon and a host of literary agencies including Curtis Brown.

(3) NO TIME TO DEBUT. Another British institution, Agent 007, has also been affected by fears of the spread of the COVID-19 flu: No Time to Die’s Release Is Delayed Seven Months Because of Coronavirus”. The 25th James Bond movie was supposed to premiere in April, but GQ reports it now will open in November. The date has been pushed back so the film can make money in Asian countries whose movie theatres are currently in trouble because of the coronavirus.

(4) ANOTHER DELAY. Even Baby Yoda is feeling the effects — “Coronavirus Has Now Affected Baby Yoda’s Impending Arrival in the U.S.”.

Now there are reports that the spread of the illness—and subsequent quarantines and travel restrictions in China—will likely impact the arrival of Baby Yoda toys.

Hasbro, which has the license for several Star Wars toys, including some dolls and figures of The Mandalorian’s breakout star, is very concerned about the potential for the coronavirus to disrupt its toy-making supply chains. CNN Business spoke to toy-industry expert Jim Silver, who said that the first batch of Baby Yoda toys, which are supposed to arrive later this month, are mostly in the clear so far. However, if things don’t return to normal by the start of the summer, Silver predicts “shortages on a litany of toys.”

In a filing released on Thursday, Hasbro admitted that it was experiencing coronavirus-related production difficulties in China, where more than 80,000 people have been infected. The company added that the flu “could have a significant negative impact on our revenues, profitability, and business.”

(5) NEXT YEAR IN HORROR. The StokerCon 2021 website has gone live. Next year’s Horror Writers Association gathering will take place in Denver, CO from May 20-23. Memberships go on sale April 20 for $150 (Early Bird Special). The next rate hike is June 30, 2020.

(6) TURNOVER ON THE MASTHEAD. Sean Wallace, Publisher of The Dark Magazine, told followers about some recent and upcoming personnel changes.

Just before the start of the new year, our reprint editor Michael Kelly stepped back from his duties to put more time and energy in his small press company, Undertow Publications, and we wish him all the best in his endeavours. And then in other somewhat-related sad news, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is also soon leaving The Dark Magazine to focus on her writing career, which is really taking off, and rightfully so. As such, her last month will be with the July 2020 issue, which we are putting together the original lineup as we type this out.

Beyond that, we have no immediate plans to hire a new co-editor, at least for the remainder of 2020, but I will be sending out a further update on this closer to the end of the year.

(7) PARSONS OBIT. Aly Parsons (1952-2020) died February 9, reports Locus Online. With her husband Paul Parsons (d. 2008), she hosted the Potomac River Science Fiction Society for 12 years, and worked on Unicons and the 2003 World Fantasy Convention. She cofounded a Washington DC writers’ group that met for decades. Her pro sales included a short story published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover anthology Sword of Chaos (1982).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 4, 1956 The Atomic Man premiered. If you saw it in the U.K., it was Tinmeslip. It was directed by Ken Hughes, and produced by Alec C. Snowden from The Isotope Man by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote the screenplay. It starred Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue. You’ll need to watch it for yourself here to see how it is as there’s no Rotten Tomatoes ratings for it. 
  • March 4, 1958 Cosmic Monsters  (The Strange World of Planet X in the U.K.) premiered. It was produced by George Maynard and John Bash, directed by Gilbert Gunn. It starred  Forrest Tucker and Gaby André. It was a double bill with The Crawling Eye. It bombed at the Box Office, critics at the time hated it and it currently has a 6% rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
  • March 4, 1977 Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four films. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you  a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 4, 1905 Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing of thing.” Despite that, he’s here because, he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour.“ And he was in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 4, 1933 Bernie Zuber. A fan artist who was the original vice president of the Mythopoeic Society. He was also a long-time member of LASFS who joined in the Fifties. He served as one of the first editors of Mythlore, but leftafter a falling out with the Mythopoeic Society, and became the founder and president of the Tolkien Fellowships. He published Butterbur’s Woodshed, Germinal and The Westmarch Chronicle. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 4, 1938 Paula Prentiss, 82. One of the wives of the original Stepford Wives, she also appears as Sonia Dracula in the second Mr. and Mrs. Dracula pilot in 1981 after the first pilot was deemed not workable by the network. That pilot was also not brought to series either. 
  • Born March 4, 1958 James Ellroy, 72. Ok Filers. ISFDB lists two novels by him as being genre, Blood Moon and American Tabloid. I’ve read neither but nothing that I can find on the web suggests that either is even remotely genre adjacent. Who’s read them? 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event Horizon, Alien V. Predator, Pandorum and even the forthcoming Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Daniela Amavia, 54. She appeared as Alia Atreides in the Children of Dune series.usually I wouldn’t include a performer fir just one genre credit, but she made a most perfect Alia that I will make an exception and do so in her case. 

(10) MAGICIANS SERIES WINDING UP. “‘The Magicians’ to End With Season 5 on Syfy”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The show’s April 1 season finale will now serve as a series ender.

Syfy will say goodbye to one of its signature shows in the spring, bringing The Magicians to a close after five seasons.

The series from Universal Content Productions, based on Lev Grossman’s novel of the same name, will air its final episode on April 1. The decision comes with five episodes remaining in the season.

(11) NAILING THAT GALLIFREYAN JELLO TO THE WALL. The finale of Doctor Who’s twelfth season prompts Paste Magazine to consider “Doctor Who and the Difficulty of Rewriting Your Own History”. BEWARE SPOILERS.  

…But sometimes, Doctor Who’s willingness to play fast and loose with things we previously knew to be true just makes its stories unnecessarily complicated without adding anything of value to them. (See also: Clara’s status as the Impossible Girl, Melody Pond growing up to be River Song or the Hybrid mystery.) It certainly feels like that’s the case in the Season 12 finale, an episode which gives the Doctor an entirely new origin story, destroys her race (again!) and creates what feels like an almost limitless number of incarnations of the character that we, as viewers, will likely never meet.

Because the question at the end of all this is: So what?

After promising a game-changing finale that would upend everything we, as viewers, understood about the show, “The Timeless Children” didn’t really live up to that promise. It actually changes very little. By the time the closing credits roll, the entire series’ universe is supposed to be different. The problem is, it’s not. Not really. There are new pieces to the story, sure. But largely those pieces exist in the same places the old ones did. So, it’s hard to tell precisely why this story matters….

Because you can’t have it both ways: Either existing Doctor Who lore is important enough that shaking it up and turning it inside out and fighting strangers on the internet about it matters, or it doesn’t. If we change the rules, those changes need to mean something, and the story that comes out of those has to be worth rewriting the things that have come before. (And you have to respect that there were rules that existed in the first place.) It’s not clear that this episode does that, regardless of whether we’re talking about the Master’s characterization, the Doctor’s past, or the apparent erasure of Rassilon from existence. If nothing is truly different in the aftermath of stories that supposedly change everything, then what’s the point of telling them? Sure, “The Timeless Children” dropped the bombshell that the Doctor is functionally immortal, but we all sort of knew that already, since she was given a new set of regenerations back when she was Eleven.

(12) FRAUD, HE SAYS. While Paste Magazine is dubious, John C. Wright is absolutely outraged (as one might expect) and calls the season-ending episode “The Death of Doctor Who”. Again, BEWARE SPOILERS.

…So the Doctor turns out to be, not an eccentric Time Lord who stole a broken TARDIS to flee into time and space for madcap adventures helping the helpless, nay.

He is in fact a foundling, a poor little black girl, who is the sole source of the regenerative ability of the Time Lords, hence the true founder of their society, not Rassilon.

…The point of message fiction is twofold.

The first, like Aesop, attempts to convey a moral maxim or lesson in a palatable fashion to influence young minds.

This can be done well or poorly, depending on whether the story rules the message, or the message rules the story.

The message itself, like any sermon, can also be well written or poorly written.

But if the message derails the story, that is fraud. The author who promises an entertainment, but delivers a lecture instead, is just as much a cheat as a bartender who charges for a mug of beer but puts a glass of buttermilk before you. Buttermilk may be better for your health, but, honestly, the bartender is not your mother, and he is not doing the job you paid him for.

Wright proceeds to condemn all of this in the strongest terms. I can only imagine how upset he might have been if he had actually watched the show, but he assures his readers —

I have not seen the episode, nor, indeed, the season, nor ever will I.

Okayyy….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants strike out on this one:

Category: America’s Richest Self-Made Women

Answer: Part of this author’s nearly $400 million fortune came from books she wrote under the J.D. Robb pseudonym.

Wrong question: Who is J.K. Rowling?

Right question: Who is Nora Roberts?

(14) FANTASTIC VOYAGE. NPR reports, “In A 1st, Scientists Use Revolutionary Gene-Editing Tool To Edit Inside A Patient”.

For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to edit a gene while the DNA is still inside a person’s body.

The groundbreaking procedure involved injecting the microscopic gene-editing tool into the eye of a patient blinded by a rare genetic disorder, in hopes of enabling the volunteer to see. They hope to know within weeks whether the approach is working and, if so, to know within two or three months how much vision will be restored.

“We’re really excited about this,” Dr. Eric Pierce, a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, who is leading a study that the procedure launched, tells NPR.

“We’re helping open, potentially, an era of gene-editing for therapeutic use that could have impact in many aspects of medicine,” Pierce says.

The CRISPR gene-editing technique has been revolutionizing scientific research by making it much easier to rewrite the genetic code. It’s also raising high hopes of curing many diseases.

Before this step, doctors had only used CRISPR to try to treat a small number of patients who have cancer, or the rare blood disorders sickle cell anemia or beta-thalassemia. While some of the initial results have been promising, it’s still too soon to know whether the strategy is working.

In those other cases, doctors removed cells from patients’ bodies, edited genes in the cells with CRISPR in the lab and then infused the modified cells back into the volunteers’ bodies to either attack their cancer or produce a protein their bodies are missing.

(15) THE DOOR INTO BUMMER. Did you know? “Amazon’s Ring logs every doorbell press and app action”.

Amazon keeps records of every motion detected by its Ring doorbells, as well as the exact time they are logged down to the millisecond.

The details were revealed via a data request submitted by the BBC.

It also disclosed that every interaction with Ring’s app is also stored, including the model of phone or tablet and mobile network used.

One expert said it gave Amazon the potential for even broader insight into its customers’ lives.

“What’s most interesting is not just the data itself, but all the patterns and insights that can be learned from it,” commented independent privacy expert Frederike Kaltheuner.

“Knowing when someone rings your door, how often, and for how long, can indicate when someone is at home.

“If nobody ever rang your door, that would probably say something about your social life as well.”

She added that it remained unclear how much further “anonymised” data was also being collected.

“This isn’t just about privacy, but about the power and monetary value that is attached to this data.”

Amazon says it uses the information to evaluate, manage and improve its products and services.

(16) CLUMSY FILTER. BBC looks at it from his point of view: “Luton filmmaker warns over over TikTok and Facebook extremism rules”.

A filmmaker says social media rules to prevent extremist material going online are thwarting his attempts to tackle hatred and extremism.

Rizwan Wadan said algorithms used by Facebook and TikTok were making it hard to promote his films.

Mr Wadan, 38, of Luton, said automatic filtering of words such as “jihad” and “terror,” forced users underground to learn about and discuss the issues.

Facebook said his trailer broke its ban on “sensational content” in adverts.

Mr Wadan, based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, developed camera stabilisation systems and has worked on films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

He set up a £1.2m project called The Error in Terror to “give Muslims a voice,” and made films intended to deter acts of terrorism and challenge people to rethink their views.

But he said trailers for his work have been “restricted” on Facebook and said TikTok removed the content because it was deemed to break its guidelines.

“If we have algorithms that pick up words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘jihad,’ if we’re not allowed to discuss these things on social media platforms, then people who need to learn about this get pushed underground,” he said.

“They might start to learn about these things from people abroad where jihad is applied very differently and it could encourage individuals to get into revenge and retaliation, and this is very dangerous for us.

“It’s the responsibility of social media platforms to allow this kind of discussion to take place.”

(17) COOL STORY. “Star Wars fan gets bionic R2-D2 arm, meets Luke Skywalker [via Skype]”CNN has video.   

11-year-old Star Wars fan Isabella Tadlock was born with a nub on the end of her left arm and no fingers on her right hand. Actor Mark Hamill saw her story on Twitter and helped her get a R2-D2 bionic arm.

(18) BOOKSHOPPING LEADS TO BOOKHOPPING. Powell’s Books Blog presents “Portrait of a Bookseller: Dana P.”, who recommends V.E. Schwab and Neil Gaiman, and confesses a habit that will probably sound familiar to some of you.

Do you have any odd reading habits?
I definitely have a bad habit of hoarding books and then starting too many of them at once. I love the feeling of just starting a book, when it holds so much potential, so I’ll often have about six books I’m in the middle of — but I’ll bounce back and forth between them so none of them feel neglected.

(19) THE INTERNET OF REBELLIOUS THINGS. Connected is about —

…an everyday family’s struggle to relate while technology rises up around the world! When nature-loving dad Rick… determines the whole family should drive Katie to school together and bond as a family one last time…. the Mitchells’ plans are interrupted by a tech uprising: all around the world, the electronic devices people love – from phones, to appliances, to an innovative new line of personal robots – decide it’s time to take over. With the help of two friendly malfunctioning robots, the Mitchells will have to get past their problems and work together to save each other and the world!

It arrives in theaters September 18.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

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