Pixel Scroll 11/7/22 Make Me A Poster From An Old Pixel Scroll

(1) SFPA ELECTS NEW PRESIDENT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association has voted Colleen Anderson to be their next SFPA President. Anderson previously served SFPA as Vice-President.

The vote breakdown by percentages was:

Colleen Anderson – 38%
Christina Sng – 31%
Brian U. Garrison – 31%

Outgoing SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra, who held the office for six years, said:

I thank all of our members who took the time to vote this year, and I thank all of the candidates who ran for President. I welcome Colleen with joy and the confidence of having worked closely with her as the Vice-President of SFPA that she is at once familiar with our traditions and key elements of our organization, its bylaws, and our opportunities and challenges. I have no doubt that she will bring her talent and vision to making this an effective and dynamic organization that is inclusive and empowering, expanding the passion for speculative verse around the globe in all of its many forms. To all of the members of SFPA, past and present, please accept my gratitude for all that you have done in service to speculative poetry and the association. The last 6 years have been some of the most important and inspiring years of my life, and I enjoyed seeing how vibrant science fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry has continued to grow. I hope you all will continue to reach out to one another and the very best within us as writers and kindred spirits.

(2) DIAGRAM PRIZE SHORTLIST. “Oddest Book Title of the Year shortlist announced for The Diagram Prize 2022” reports The Bookseller.

A six-book shortlist has been released for the Bookseller Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. The winning title will be chosen by members of the public via an online vote, and a winner announced December 2.

The shortlisted titles are:

  • Frankenstein Was a Vegetarian: Essays on Food Choice, Identity and Symbolismby Michael Owen Jones
  • The Many Lives of Scary Clowns: Essays on Pennywise, Twisty, the Joker, Krusty and More by Ron Riekki
  • Jane Austen and the Buddha: Teachers of Enlightenment by Kathryn Duncan
  • RuPedagogies of Realness: Essays on Teaching and Learning With RuPaul’s Drag Race by Lindsay Bryde & Tommy Mayberry
  • Smuggling Jesus Back into the Church by Andrew Fellows
  • What Nudism Exposes: An Unconventional History of Postwar Canada by Mary-Ann Shantz

The award was conceived in 1978 by Trevor Bounford and Bruce Robertson, co-founders of publishing solutions firm the Diagram Group, as a way to avoid boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair. 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. 

(3) TWITTER DEFECTIONS. How many are leaving? In an unpdate, John Scalzi says his Twitter following now has dropped by 3,000 since Musk took over.

(4) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Eileen Gunn and Stephanie Feldman at the KBG Bar on Wednesday, November9, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

EILEEN GUNN

Eileen Gunn writes short stories. Her fiction has received the Nebula Award in the US and the Sense of Gender Award in Japan, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, World Fantasy and James Tiptree, Jr. awards. She will be reading from new work.

STEPHANIE FELDMAN

Stephanie Feldman is the author of the novels Saturnalia and the award-winning debut The Angel of Losses. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Catapult Magazine, Electric Literature, Flash Fiction OnlineThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and The Rumpus.

Location: The KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

(5) AMAZING KICKSTARTER. New Amazing Stories, LLC publisher Kermit Woodall announced the “Amazing Stories Annual Special: SOL SYSTEM by Steve Davidson — Kickstarter” today.

The Amazing Stories Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign begins.  And once again, Amazing Stories hopes to harness the energy of the science fiction community to raise the funds to release a special issue featuring some of the biggest names in SF today speculating about the future of mankind in our solar system!

Stretch goals will be used to increase author and artist pay and to fund Amazing’s second ONLINE science fiction convention — AmazingCon II. There are also numerous contributor rewards, including copies of the special issue, some of our books and anthologies, AmazingCon convention tickets, and other exciting bonuses!

(6) BEEN THERE! Artist Kieran Wright tells Print Magazine how he fabricates small models of iconic LA buildings as a hobby. “Kieran Wright’s Miniature Models of LA Buildings Reflect His Big Love for the City”. I live only a couple of miles from one of his subjects, the Aztec Hotel. My barber shop is in the building. John and Bjo Trimble were volunteers involved in its restoration a couple of decades ago.

(7) SFF BIBLIOGRAPHY. Kenneth R. Johnson has produced another SF bibliography, “Futuristic Romances”. It’s been posted by Phil Stephenson-Payne on the Homeville website.  It documents a little-known series of Science Fiction paperbacks. 

(8) JOANNA RUSS FICTION. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week” is Joanna Russ’s “When It Changed” (1972), originally published in Again, Dangerous Visions.

…“There are plenty of images of women in science fiction. There are hardly any women.”

So concludes Joanna Russ’s often-reprinted essay, “The Image of Women in Science Fiction,” which first appeared in 1970 in the seventh and last issue of Red Clay Reader, a relatively obscure literary annual. Three years earlier, Russ had published her debut book, the sword-and-sorcery space adventure Picnic on Paradise, which was a finalist for the Nebula Award and a notable break from the conventions and stereotypes common in science fiction and fantasy during the previous decades. “Long before I became a feminist in any explicit way,” Russ told an interviewer in 1975, “I had turned from writing love stories about women in which women were the losers, and adventure stories about men in which men were winners, to writing adventure stories about a woman in which the woman won.”…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] Next Generation’s “A Fistful of Datas” 

Spot meows and jumps onto Data’s console.
“Spot, you are disrupting my ability to work.”
After Data moves her to the floor, Spot meows and jumps back up.
“Vamoose, you little varmint!” in a Texan accent. 
— Next Generation’s “A Fistful of Datas” 

Oh let’s get silly. I mean really, really silly. Now understand before writing this essay on the Next Generation’s “A Fistful of Datas”  which aired thirty years ago on this date according to MemoryAlpha, that I rewatched it on Paramount + earlier today. 

MASSIVE HOLODECK SIZED SPOILERS FOLLOW. REALLY I MEAN IT. 

Patrick Stewart directed this silly affair.  The story by Robert Hewitt Wolfe with the actual  script by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Brannon Braga. Now that we’ve got those details out of the way, let’s get to the story.  

We get such deliciously comical things as Data in drag, really we do. How we came to this is Worf reluctantly joins his son Alexander in a holodeck story in Deadwood along with Deanna Troi. 

Now that wouldn’t be a problem but Data proposes that they use his psitronic brain as a backup to the ship’s computer in case something goes. ( Huh? WTF?) While interfacing the two, an energy surge happens. (Love those surges — haven’t they ever heard of buffers?) 

Now it gets weird. Data suddenly, and really for no reason, is a pastiche of the Old West. A bit of this, a bit of that, a dollop of something else. 

Both the hologram town of Deadwood and all of the performers here in their Western garb are oh so perfect. 

Unfortunately for the Enterprise crew, the interactive characters physically resemble and have the same enhanced abilities as Data. Really Bad Idea.

WE ARE OFF THE HOLODECK NOW.

“A Fistful of Datas” is taken from Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, the Clint Eastwood film, the very first Spaghetti Western. The first title pitched was “The Good, the Bad and the Klingon”. Really it was. 

Brent Spiner in Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages said that “I had the chance to play five or six characters in a show and Patrick directed, which made it additionally fun. It’s certainly the most fun episode I’ve had to do and I would have liked to have done a show called ‘For a Few Datas More.’”

It has been rated one of the best Next Generation episodes with some comparing it to “Shore Leave”. It won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Drama Series.

It of course is available for viewing on Paramount +.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. At age thirty-six, she died of a sudden massive cerebral hemorrhage while visiting her husband in New York. (Died 1947.)
  • Born November 7, 1914 R. A. Lafferty. Writer known for somewhat eccentric usage of language.  His first novel Past Master would set a lifelong pattern of seeing his works nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards as novels but generally not winning either though he won a Best Short Story Hugo for “Eurema’s Dam” at Torcon II. He received a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been honored with the Cordwainer Smith Foundation’s Rediscovery award. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 72. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role Lady Smallwood  on Sherlock in “His Last Vow”, “The Six Thatchers” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black MirrorA Discovery of WitchesFrankensteinThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers. Oh and she voiced the android TC-14 in The Phantom Menace.
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 68. So the story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was then a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? Kay’s own Finovar trilogy is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise somewhat resembles Renaissance Italy . My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called an urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. 
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 62. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her site is here.
  • Born November 7, 1974 Carl Steven. He appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a young Spock, thereby becoming the first actor other than Leonard Nimoy to play the role in a live action setting. Genre one-offs included Weird ScienceTeen Wolf and Superman.  He provided the voice of a young Fred Jones for four seasons worth of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo which can be construed as genre. Let’s just say his life didn’t end well and leave it at that. (Died 2011.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Dinosaur Comics has all kinds of writerly advice about worldbuilding.

(12) TRANSPARENT LAYERS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which begins streaming on December 23.

(13) A DIFFERENT HUGO. [Item by Olav Rokne.] I’ve not been able to track down a copy, but I figure that any adaptation of a Heinlein story is of interest. “Life –Line”.

Based on the 1939 short story by Robert Heinlein, Life-Line tells the story of an eccentric professor named Dr. Hugo Pinero, who sets in motion a future history with his invention that can accurately predict how long a person has to live.

(14) FORTIFIED FOOD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Scientists at Kellogg’s determined that massive amounts of orangium and electricity have turned beloved characters Snap, Crackle, and Pop into one-eyed mutants!  Fortunately this shocking experiment proved abortive and the cereal was banished to the half-price aisle. “Kellogg’s Launches New Rice Krispies Shocking Orange Colored Cereal For The 2022 Halloween Season” at Chew Boom.

(15) WATCHING: THE TOP 10. JustWatch Top 10’s for October just became available after some glitches. These are the viewing rankings for the U.S.

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Everything Everywhere All at OnceThe Peripheral
2The ThingDoctor Who
3Halloween III: Season of the WitchQuantum Leap
4Jurassic World DominionAvenue 5
5VesperThe Handmaid’s Tale
6Crimes of the FutureLa Brea
7Significant OtherThe X-Files
8AlienSeverance
9InterstellarOrphan Black
10Event HorizonResident Alien

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(16) ZOOTOPIA GETS SERIES. Disney Plus dropped this trailer for the sequel to Zootopia today: Zootopia+

“Zootopia+” heads back to the fast-paced mammal metropolis of Zootopia in a short-form series that dives deeper into the lives of some of the Oscar®-winning feature film’s most intriguing residents, including Fru Fru, the fashion-forward arctic shrew; ZPD dispatcher Clawhauser, the sweet-toothed cheetah; and Flash, the smiling sloth who’s full of surprises.

(17) ACROSS TIME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Media Death Cult cracks the covers of these “MUST READ Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Books”.

…My personal recommendations for time travel time, Loop, Multiverse, hop in inter-dimensional pop-in stories. I’ve tried to keep the focus of the video on books where the wobbly elements are the essence of the story rather than something like Revelation Space or the later Ender’s Game books where obviously time dilation plays a big part of those stories but I don’t consider them first and foremost time travel books.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on Jurassic World Dominion. 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/24/22 Once the Pixels Go Up, Who Cares Where They Scroll Down?

(1) GUESSING GAME. Camestros Felapton invites you to take his “Hugo Novel Picture Quiz”.

This year, as the Hugo Awards come closer, I thought I’d combine my current hobby (throwing weird prompts as Midjourney AI) and a guessing game.

I used the names of each of the Hugo Award finalist novels as prompts for the AI. It drew a quartet of pictures for each. Based on the picture, you have to guess which pictures match which novels…

(2) L, D + R. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with several people associated with Love, Death, and Robots because one episode from the show is up for an Emmy. 

Executive producer Tim Miller says he came up with the idea of “reviving Heavy Metal” over a decade ago. He and David Fincher started pitching this idea and Netfix greenlit the series, which is renewed for season 4.  Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who directed Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3, says as supervising producer her role is to create the storyboards animators use and “head the quality control department.”  Sound editors Brad North and Craig Henigan explain what sound editors do, and we learn that the great sound editor Ben Burtt got part of the voice for Darth Vader from a noisy projector at the University of Southern California film school that is still being used. 

Finally, Leonard Maltin said that Alfred Hitchcock once opined that the advantage an animator has over a live action director is “If you don’t like your leading man, you can rip him up.” “Emmy Nominees for Love, Death & Robots” at Maltin on Movies.

(3) THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOANNA RUSS. A feature of the Middletown (PA) Public Library’s Science Fiction Book Club is its online archive of Science Fiction Author Interviews. The latest is an “Interview about Joanna Russ” conducted with Lisa Yaszek, a Regents’ Professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech.

Damo Mac Choiligh: Did Russ retain her perception of SF as a worthwhile literature into later life? I have always been struck by how she was optimistic about its potential, despite the extent to which it is dominated by writers and fans for whom her feminism was anathema or who simply did not understand it.

[Lisa Yaszek:] I’ve always liked Russ’s optimism as well! Russ spoke often about how she began reading science fiction as a teenager because it promised her that “life could be different!” than the stifling world of midcentury America. And then many of her early critical essays were all about why SF is an important genre. And of course, she continued to write both professional SF and amateur “slash” fiction until her death. If her production slowed down in the 1980s and 1990s, it was largely due to health issues. Having said that, Russ did become increasingly disenchanted with certain factions of the SF community as the 1970s unfolded. When Russ started out in the 1960s, she was actually quite well-received by the largely male/male-identified SF community because she wrote about the possibilities of science fiction as the premiere story form of modernity and her first really successful stories—the Alyx tales—followed the adventures of a strong, smart, successful woman living mostly amongst men. But then Russ began to write essays about the patriarchal limits of SF as it was currently practiced (in essays such as “The Image of Women in Science Fiction” and “Amore Vincent Foeminam!”) and more literarily-experimental stories about all[1]female futures and the women who would go to war with men to preserve them, such as “When It Changed” (1972), The Female Man (1975), and The Two of Them (1978). This led SF authors and editors including Poul Anderson, Judy Del Rey, and Avram Davidson to publicly turn against Russ, dismissing her as a “second rate academic” masquerading as an author. Even Samuel R. Delany—a queer Black experimental SF author who was friends with Russ and who Russ was careful to include in important gender and SF events, such as the 1974 Khatru symposium on “Women and Science Fiction”—was quite critical of her writing at the time. Little wonder then, that Russ gave up her post as a reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1980 and began to focus more on writing and publishing in feminist and lesbian venues—even if she never quit writing science fiction itself….

(4) HUGO PICKS. Kristenelle – SFF Reader is a science fiction and fantasy focused booktuber who reads a lot of new releases and does commentary on awards such as the Hugos and Nebulas. Here are her “2022 Hugo Award Predictions”. The whole concept of booktubers fascinates me, I wish I had time to keep up with them.

(5) MENSA. Eve Peyser chronicles “My Week With America’s Smartest* People” for New York Magazine.

Despite its history and Loftus’s conclusions, I did not get the sense that Mensa is an unhealthy place to find community. Many of its members think of themselves as outsiders and feel like Mensa is a place where they can be themselves and connect with people who understand and appreciate them. It’s a place where they can find other folks who love to play Set or who have encyclopedic knowledge of minute Disney trivia. This isn’t to say that there aren’t toxic subsections of Mensa, because there are, but that’s true of any group that runs tens of thousands of members deep. And in an era when the internet and the pandemic have scrambled our sense of community and alienation reigns supreme, that’s no small thing.

(6) ARRAY OF TEMPESTS. Ars Technica tells why “We’re loving the lavish epic visuals in the new LOTR: Rings of Power trailer”.

…This latest trailer opens with a voiceover by Galadriel, telling us that her brother gave his life “hunting the enemy.” She takes up the cause in his stead. She asks for others to stand with her, as we see shots of several central characters who, one presumes, will become her comrades in arms. Or perhaps they will decline the offer. That seems to be the case with Halbrand, who insists, “I am not the hero you seek,” suggesting a dark secret in his past. “Whatever you did, be free of it,” Galadriel tells him.

Galadriel seems to be emerging as the most major protagonist, but we also get new footage of several other characters scattered throughout Middle-earth, including dwarves and hobbits. The latter, while humble, do have their strengths. “One thing we can so better than any creature in all Middle-earth—we stay true to each other, with our hearts even bigger than our feet,” Nori’s dad, Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith), says. It looks like different kinds of struggles and battles will be waged on many different fronts, as befitting a sweeping epic series of this magnitude….

(7) NEVER? WELL, HARDLY EVER. Tom Mead chooses the “10 Most Puzzling Impossible Crime Mysteries” at Publishers Weekly.

… “Impossible crime” and “locked-room mystery” are two analogous terms referring to mysteries in which how a crime was committed is equally important as who committed it. Crimes which are seemingly impossible, which appear to have been committed in defiance of both physics and logic. As such, these mysteries are often tinged with a hint of the surreal, the sinister, and the uncanny. However—and this is particularly important—the crime always, always has a rational explanation. By its nature, this is a fiendish subgenre, but when done right it’s also one of the most satisfying for both writers and readers. The puzzle and the atmosphere are perfectly intertwined; all the clues are there, but they are so ingeniously disguised as to make it nigh-on impossible for the reader to suss out what is going on….

At the top of his list:

1. The Three Coffins/The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr

Whenever I am asked what is my favorite locked-room mystery or impossible crime story, this is always my answer. The murder of Professor Charles Grimaud by the mysterious “hollow man” who vanishes without trace is a perfect locked-room problem. Meanwhile, the killing of illusionist Pierre Fley in a street carpeted with unmarked snow is an archetypal example of the popular impossible crime variant, the no-footprints puzzle. 

As well as one of the most famous examples of the subgenre, this novel remains an indisputable masterpiece. Not only is it a tour-de-force of plotting, prose, and atmosphere, it also happens to contain within it one of the definitive critical overviews of the genre itself: the famous “locked-room lecture,” a perfect piece of meta-fiction in which Dr. Gideon Fell examines the very nature of the impossible crime. It’s a treatise which probes just about every category of impossible crime, providing numerous examples of methods by which they could be achieved. But is the solution to these two murders lurking somewhere in those scant few pages? Or is the locked-room lecture itself just a red herring? 

When I first read this book, the brilliance of the solution left me giddy. Reading it again today, it has lost none of its impact. This book is one of the many reasons that John Dickson Carr remains (to borrow a phrase from Agatha Christie) the “supreme conjurer, the King of the Art of Misdirection.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Fifty-six years ago, Fantastic Voyage premiered. It would the next year be nominated for a Hugo at NyCon 3 but Star Trek’s “The Menagerie” won. 

It was directed by Richard Fleischer and produced by Saul David. Fleischer had been responsible for the earlier 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and David had produced Our Man Flint. (It is definitely genre.) The screenplay was by Harry Klein off an adaptation by David Duncan (yes, our David Duncan) of the story by Jerome Bixby and Otto Klement which I assume is “Small War” though nowhere is that stated. 

The film starred Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasence, and Arthur Kennedy. Of course it has Welch in it , there had to be one sexy female on the crew, didn’t there?

Klement and Kleiner claimed to the studio that it would be “the most expensive science-fiction film ever made”, a odd thing I think to say to sell anything to a studio. It cost five million dollars which certainly was expensive but not that expensive. It didn’t do that well at the box office returning just twelve million.

I’ll quote but one review from the time, that of Variety: “Fantastic Voyage is just that. The lavish production, boasting some brilliant special effects and superior creative efforts, is an entertaining, enlightening excursion through inner space – the body of a man.”

Asimov wrote the novelization which readers thought the film was based on as it came out well before the film premiered. He was displeased with that take so he wrote another take, Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain,  and a third novel would follow written not by him but by Kevin J. Anderson, Fantastic Voyage: Microcosm.

It would spawn a short-lived animated series, Fantastic Voyage, thirteen episodes to be precise, and a Fantastic Voyage comic book, based on the series, published by Gold Key which lasted an amazingly short two issues.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 24, 1899 Gaylord Du Bois. He was a writer of comic book stories and comic strips, as well as Big Little Books. He wrote Tarzan for Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics from the Forties to early Seventies.) He was one of the writers for Space Family Robinson which was the basis for the Lost in Space series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born August 24, 1899 Jorge Luis Borges. I’m reasonably sure my first encounter with him was at University with the assignment of The Library of Babel. I’m not deeply read in him but I loved The Book of Imaginary Beings, and though not genre, recommend The Last Interview and Other Conversations for an excellent look at him as a writer. (Died 1986.)
  • Born August 24, 1915 Alice Sheldon. Alice Sheldon who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. was one of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air but they too are worth reading even if critics weren’t pleased by them. (Died 1987.)
  • Born August 24, 1932 William Morgan Shepard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the most believable Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige (nominated for a Hugo at Nippon 2007),the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 24, 1934 Kenny Baker. Certainly his portrayal of R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise is what he’s best known for but he’s also been in Circus of HorrorsWombling Free, Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader series, The Elephant ManSleeping BeautyTime BanditsWillowFlash Gordon and Labyrinth. Personally I think his best role was as Fidgit in Time Bandits. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 24, 1936 A. S. Byatt, 86. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature-winning The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,  but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections. 
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 71. Prolly best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond, the Crusade spin-off of Babylon 5X FilesVoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, AliasShe-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and World of Final Fantasy.
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 65. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (I absolutely adore both films as I noted in my essay on them) though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s also the narrator for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings.
  • Born August 24, 1958 Lisa A. Barnett. Wife of Melissa Scott. Some of her works were co-authored with her: The Armor of LightPoint of Hopes: A Novel of Astreiant and Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant. They wrote one short story, “The Carmen Miranda Gambit”. (Died 2006.)

(10) BOOM TIMES. The New York Times takes readers “Inside the Making of New York City’s Bizarre Nuclear War P.S.A.”  This Bonestell art is not part of it…

The video opens gauzily on an empty New York City streetscape, with sirens echoing in the distance, as a woman dressed in black strolls in with some hypothetically catastrophic news.

“So there’s been a nuclear attack,” she says nonchalantly. “Don’t ask me how or why, just know that the big one has hit.”

The 90-second public service announcement, which instructed New Yorkers about what to do during a nuclear attack, was released by the city’s Department of Emergency Management in July.

It attracted attention: While most of the videos on the department’s YouTube page have recorded fewer than 1,000 views, at last count the nuclear preparedness video had been seen more than 857,000 times.

It also drew immediate and widespread derision, much of it centered on an underlying question: What were they thinking?

… Many Americans are concerned about the prospect of a nuclear attack. Nearly 70 percent of residents said they were “worried the invasion of Ukraine is going to lead to nuclear war,” according to a survey in March by the American Psychological Association.

Still, some questioned whether the city should have prioritized the nuclear preparedness video at a time when emergency officials are grappling with more imminent threats, like extreme heat and catastrophic flooding, and the city is dealing with the monkeypox health crisis.

Mr. Harvin, the former city official, said that emergency management professionals traditionally focus on events that are more likely to occur, including flash floods or mass shootings. New York City has recently experienced both….

(11) ARTEMIS ROCKET. MSN.com runs the AP’s “EXPLAINER: NASA tests new moon rocket, 50 years after Apollo”.

Years late and billions over budget, NASA’s new moon rocket makes its debut next week in a high-stakes test flight before astronauts get on top.

The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket will attempt to send an empty crew capsule into a far-flung lunar orbit, 50 years after NASA’s famed Apollo moonshots.

If all goes well, astronauts could strap in as soon as 2024 for a lap around the moon, with NASA aiming to land two people on the lunar surface by the end of 2025.

Liftoff is set for Monday morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The six-week test flight is risky and could be cut short if something fails, NASA officials warn.

“We’re going to stress it and test it. We’re going make it do things that we would never do with a crew on it in order to try to make it as safe as possible,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

(12) YOUR SPITTING IMAGE. Gizmodo discusses a study that tells why “You and Your Doppelganger Might Have More in Common Than Just Looks”.

It turns out that unrelated doppelgangers may have quite a bit in common beyond just twin faces. New research suggests that lookalikes with incredibly similar faces tend to share many genetic variants—variants that don’t just seem to shape their appearance but general aspects of their life. At the same time, other important influences, such as the microbiome, appear to contribute little to their symmetry.

Study author Manel Esteller, a geneticist and director of the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute (IJC) in Barcelona, Spain, is interested in what makes people the way they are. In 2005, he and his colleagues published research showing that identical twins weren’t as identical as they appear at first glance. While they had the same basic genetic patterns, they differed noticeably in their epigenetics: changes in how our genes express themselves, which are caused by environmental or behavioral factors, such as smoking or age.

In their new research, published Tuesday in Cell Reports, Esteller’s team wanted to look at the other side of the coin—people who look so similar that they could be twins but aren’t actually related…

(13) WOODEN IT BE ROMANTIC. Disney+ dropped their trailer for Pinocchio today (which is not Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio–the Disney version is directed by Robert Zemeckis.)

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ryan George, in this sketch that dropped four days ago, wonders what the billionaires would do when the apocalypse happens!

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

Cats Sleep on SFF:
The Zanzibar Cat

Ron Maas points to Joanna Russ’ book The Zanzibar Cat as the most feline of the titles his cat Cunégonde decided to lie down on. 

Ron, a fan since the Seventies, lives in Washington D.C. with his husband Mike. Their other cat is named Imra Ardeen, after Saturn Girl from the comics. Mike’s favorite series is the Legion of Super Heroes. Ron’s main fan activity is contributing to the ISFDB where he goes by Rtrace.


Photos of your felines (or whatever you’ve got!) resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 12/28/20 This Irrepixel-Able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-Produced Crime

(1) FRONT AND CENTER. Octavia Butler is on the cover of Huntington Frontiers, published by the Huntington Library in Pasadena. Read the cover article here: “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky” by Lynell George.

When I last encountered Octavia E. Butler, it was 2004 and she was slated to deliver the keynote at the Black to the Future Festival in Seattle, Washington. Time has flattened or obscured some of the details of days spent reporting on panels, lectures, and post-event gatherings. I don’t remember the precise order of events of that opening evening, but I do recall some of Butler’s heartfelt words about finding and making community in this brief but special moment when we were assembled together. I sat, scribbling notes in my reporter’s notebook, making shapes of letters in the darkness of the auditorium. Her voice didn’t seem to need amplification—it was warm and deep and burnished with authority, as if she was not just leading things off, but leading a country….

(2) NOT OUT OF LEFT FIELD. First Fandom Experience solves three eofannish mysteries in “V is for Vincent, Vernon, Vytautas”. Learn more about a famous photo taken over the weekend of the First Worldcon in —

V is for Vincent

Below is one of early fandom’s most iconic images. On Independence Day, 1939, this carload of irascible youth from states far and wide ventured forth from the World Science Fiction Convention in New York to Coney Island. It’s a who’s-who of prominent First Fans: Madle and Agnew from Philadelphia, Korshak and Reinsberg from Chicago, Rocklynne from Ohio, and one very tanned Ray Bradbury from Los Angeles.

But among the who’s-who, there’s a “who’s that?” V. Kidwell. …

During the first Worldcon, fans took the opportunity to visit Coney Island where this foto-op took place: Front: Mark Reinsberg, Jack Agnew, Ross Rocklynne Top: V. Kidwell, Robert A. Madle, Erle Korshak, Ray Bradbury Coney Island, July 4, 1939)

(3) JAPANESE BOFFO BOX OFFICE. [Item by N.] “’Demon Slayer’ Overtakes ‘Spirited Away’ to Become Japan’s Biggest Box-Office Hit Ever”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. (Also it’s the fifth highest grossing film of the entire year, surpassing Sonic the Hedgehog, which is a coherent sentence I have just typed.)

Demon Slayer is based on a popular 2016 manga by Japanese artist Koyoharu Gotoge. But the property didn’t become a pop cultural phenomenon until it was adapted into an anime series for television. Produced by Tokyo-based studio Ufotable, the 26-episode series aired on Tokyo MX and other channels in 2019, but later became a sleeper smash hit when it re-aired on Netflix and Fuji TV. The popularity of the series reignited interest in the manga, making it a runaway bestseller. As of December, the Demon Slayer manga series has sold nearly 120 million copies.

When Ufotable’s big-screen adaptation of the series hit Japanese cinemas this fall, conditions were ripe for a box-office bonanza. Japanese cinemas nationwide had fully reopened nationwide after a brief period of COVID-19 shutdown in the spring. Since the Hollywood studios had postponed most of their releases until 2021, Demon Slayer had limited foreign competition and Japanese cinemas were highly motivated to wring as much earnings potential as possible for the local blockbuster. 

(4) WILL POWER. “Brain-controlled gaming exists, though ethical questions loom over the tech” reports the Washington Post.

As the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shut its laboratories following the covid-19 outbreak, Nathan Copeland, a 33-year-old volunteer, collected the equipment that would grant him transformative abilities during lockdown. Paralyzed from the chest down with only limited arm movement, Copeland took home an advanced brain-computer interface, a device that allows him to control on-screen actions using only his mind.Copeland is part of cutting-edge research into brain-computer interfaces at the University of Pittsburgh, recently awarded over $8 million by the National Institutes of Health. The team’s experiments are a peek into a potential transhumanist future more commonly associated with cyberpunk movies “The Matrix” and “Ghost in the Shell.” Since 2015, Copeland has lived with a transistor-like chip, known as a multi-electrode array, surgically implanted directly into his brain. Copeland’s chip records the rapid-firing of cellular neurons — an almost inscrutably complex neurological signal — which is ferried over to a computer for what’s referred to as “decoding.” This signal is subsequently “translated” into the desired, seemingly telekinetic actions of its user.

To date, one of the team’s biggest successes has been decoding the complicated neural signals to allow Copeland to control a nimble robotic arm…. 

(5) JEDI CONSERVATION MOVEMENT. Musings on Mouse analyzes “Star Wars ‘nostalgia fatigue,’ and Marvel’s bankruptcy lesson”. BEWARE SPOILERS. I don’t think I included any below, however, definitely some in the linked article.

…Quality, some may argue, isn’t just representative of one episode or one movie, but the franchise as a whole. Case in point: The Mandalorian finale….

That, many critics argued in the days after the episode aired, is precisely the problem. As Matt Zoller Seitz wrote on Vulture, “the series succumbs to the dark side of parent company Disney’s quarterly earnings statements, which keeps dragging Star Wars back toward nostalgia-sploitation and knee-jerk intellectual-property maintenance.” Other fans rolled their eyes at the criticism, pointing out that Star Wars has always returned to the franchise’s most popular characters, most noticeably in the Expanded Universe’s novels, comics, and video games. 

Sound familiar? It should — it’s the exact same debate that popped up in 2017 after Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi hit theaters. What is Star Wars? It’s an argument we’ve come back to with The Mandalorian’s second season finale. I’m not a critic, and this newsletter doesn’t exist to critique art. What I’m more acutely interested in is determining Star Wars’ future business. Let’s be clear: Star Wars is more than fine, but as Star Wars expands under Disney, there’s always room to figure out how to ensure it grows at a healthy rate instead of risking alienating parts of its consumer base every year.

(6) PUTTING THEIR STAMP ON THINGS. JSTOR Daily’s Livia Gershon points to the introduction of a new academic work that overviews “James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ: Sci-Fi Pen Pals”.

At first glance, the classic science-fiction authors James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ might not seem to have much in common. Behavioral psychologist Alice Bradley Sheldon began writing under “James Tiptree Jr.” in 1968, when she was in her fifties. She used the fictional male name and real knowledge of science and the military to infiltrate male-dominated science-fiction magazines. Russ, two decades younger, was an outspoken radical feminist, English professor, and critic. And yet, as Nicole Nyhan writes, the two writers exchanged hundreds of letters over fifteen years. Nyhan provides the introduction to a selection of writing from Tiptree’s side of the correspondence.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 in Heidelberg, Germany, “Ship of Shadows” by Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella. (It would also be nominated for a Nebula.) It was published in F&SF in July, 1969 which as you can see was billed as a Special Fritz Leiber Issue. This was a bizarre story of Spar, a blind, half-deaf barman at the Bat Rack. We’ll say no more. The other finalists were “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison, “We All Die Naked” by James Blish, “Dramatic Mission” by Anne McCaffrey and “To Jorslem” by Robert Silverberg.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in such a way that the company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list.  I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1929 – Janet Lunn.  Three novels, two shorter stories, one anthology for us; much else.  Metcalf Award, Matt Cohen Award, Order of Ontario, Governor General’s Award, Order of Canada.  Quill & Quire obituary here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 88. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon. (CE)
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 86. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 78. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 – George Zebrowski, age 75.  A score of novels (Macrolife particularly applauded), a hundred shorter stories, several with co-authors.  Clarion alumnus.  Edited Nebula Awards 20-22; four Synergy anthologies, half a dozen more e.g. Sentinels with Greg Benford in honor of Sir Arthur Clarke.  Three years editing the SFWA Bulletin (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) with Pamela Sargent and Ian Watson.  Nonfiction anthologies Beneath the Red Star (studies on international SF), Skylife (with Benford; space habitats), Talks with the Masters (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Gunn).  Book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Campbell Memorial Award.  “Never Forget the Writers Who Helped Build Yesterday’s Tomorrows” in SF Age.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1946 – Sheryl Birkhead, age 74.  Long-time fanartist and (it serves us right) veterinarian.  Here is a cover for Tightbeam.  Here is one for It Goes on the Shelf.  Here is one for Purrsonal Mewsings.  Here is one for The Reluctant Famulus.  Kaymar Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1952 – Ramona Wheeler, age 68.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Essay “The Sailor of No Specific Ocean” in the Hal Clement memorial anthology Hal’s Worlds.  Here is her cover for her collection Have Starship, Will Travel.  Here is her cover for her collection Starship for Hire.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1963 – Robert Pasternak, age 57.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us.  Interviewed in On Spec.  Aurora Award.  Here is Leslie Fiedler’s biography of Stapledon. Here is the May 93 Amazing.  Here is the Dec 00 Challenging Destiny.  Here is the Summer 13 On Spec.  Here is a review of a Jun – Jul 07 exhibition.  Here is an image from a Winnipeg Free Press interview.  Here is an ink-drawn face; see here.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1979 – D. Renée Bagby, age 41.  Eight novels for us, five dozen others (some under another name).  Air Force brat, now wife; born in the Netherlands, has also lived in Japan, six of the United States.  Has read The Cat in the HatPersuasionThe Iliad and The OdysseyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  “The voices start talking and I type what they say.” [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 39. The Baroness in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.  (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) A DISH BEST SERVED LOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Zachary Pincus-Roth discusses how a bunch of Millennial Disney musical fans came up with “Ratatouille: The Musical,” created songs, cosplayed characters from the imaginary musical (including enlisting their parents to play older characters) and even creating a fake cover of Playbill for the imaginary musical.  Disney Theatrical Productions stated “although we do not have development plans for this title, we love when our fans engage with Disney stories.” — “How TikTok and social media are changing Broadway fandom”.

(11) OBI BUT NO OBI-WAN. This happened last year, but it’s news to me… “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars” in The Guardian.

The Star Wars franchise is about to breach the artistic final frontier with a one-off performance of a kabuki adaptation starring one of Japan’s most revered stage actors.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery….

(12) UNFINISHED TOLKIEN. John M. Bowers asks “Did Tolkien Write The Lord of the Rings Because He Was Avoiding His Academic Work?” at Literary Hub. The trouble with this headline is that it’s not as if Tolkien didn’t procrastinate about working on his fiction, too.

…Already by 1932 he admitted to Chapman the weight of the Chaucerian incubus upon his conscience. His Gawain edition, “Chaucer as a Philologist,” and “The Monsters and the Critics” had all appeared before the Second World War. Set against this relatively slender résumé were undelivered assignments such as his Pearl edition, the book-length “Beowulf” and the Critics, and his EETS edition of Ancrene Wisse. If his own harsh remarks about George Gordon holding up their Chaucer edition did not quite qualify him as a “slanderer,” these complaints did de?ect blame from his role as an “idler” who failed to reduce his annotations to a publishable length. He would confess during a newspaper interview in 1968, “I have always been incapable of doing the job at hand.”

(13) AROUND AND AROUND. “Animation reveals invisible center of solar system that’s not the sun”Business Insider knows where it is. In a minute, you will too.

It’s common knowledge that the sun is the center of the solar system. Around it, the planets orbit — along with a thick belt of asteroids, some meteor fields, and a handful of far-traveling comets.

But that’s not the whole story.

“Instead, everything orbits the solar system center of mass,” James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency, JAXA, recently explained on Twitter. “Even the sun.”

That center of mass, called the barycenter, is the point of an object at which it can be balanced perfectly, with all its mass distributed evenly on all sides. In our solar system, that point rarely lines up with the center of the sun…

(14) THOUGHT OF THE DAY. From Mike Kennedy: “I just realized that the various dings, buzzes, and clicks our phones/watches play to get our attention are clearly intended to train us to understand R2-D2.”

(15) EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC IP LAWYERS. CinemaBlend will explain “Why James Bond’s Studio Once Sent A ‘Very Stern Letter’ To Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Crew”.

Star Trek is a franchise that primarily deals in the world of sci-fi, but it’s not unheard of for the franchise to attempt parody other genres every so often. Such was the case in the Deep Space Nine episode “Our Man Bashir,” in which an accident in the Holosuite traps the crew in Bashir’s spy fantasy program. The episode is a fun nod to the genre of ’60s spy films but apparently was not well-received by James Bond studio MGM.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matters sets the frame for a DUST short in “Sci-Fi Saturday Film: The Robot Tries To Learn About Grief”.

An elderly woman, Sheila, whose daughter has been in a high-conflict zone in a military environment, learns to manage with a robot—ordered apparently off the internet, with a manual—that can learn to do homework and hang Christmas decorations.

It’s an agreeable story and good Christmas fare!

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/6/20 Yondah Lies The Pixel Of My Filer

(1) OVERLOOKED MARKETING WIZARD. The Hollywood Reporter wonders: “He Was ‘Star Wars’ ‘ Secret Weapon, So Why Was He Forgotten?”

Ashley Boone Jr., the first black president of a major Hollywood studio, helped make George Lucas’ quirky space opera a hit in the 1970’s — yet chances are you’ve never heard of him: “He was way ahead of his time.”

When thousands gathered Dec. 16 in Hollywood for the world premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — supposedly the last Skywalker film — they heard Bob Iger, Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams thank everyone from creator George Lucas to the actor who played R2-D2. But one name was not so much as whispered, despite this person’s critical 1970s role in launching what would become the most successful movie franchise of all time: the all-but-forgotten Ashley Boone Jr….

(2) WHERE TO LOOK FOR MIDDLE-EARTH. The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth by John Garth, “an illustrated look at the locales familiar to J. R. R. Tolkien, the creator of Middle-earth,” will be released by Princeton University Press on June 2.

Garth identifies the locales that served as the basis for Hobbiton, the elven valley of Rivendell, the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep, and many other settings in Middle-earth, from mountains and forests to rivers, lakes, and shorelands. He reveals the rich interplay between Tolkien’s personal travels, his wide reading, and his deep scholarship as an Oxford don. Garth draws on his profound knowledge of Tolkien’s life and work to shed light on the extraordinary processes of invention behind Tolkien’s works of fantasy. He also debunks popular misconceptions about the inspirations for Middle-earth and puts forward strong new claims of his own.

(3) BRADBURY ON STAGE. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Ray Bradbury’s birth, Caltech Theater celebrates the prolific science fiction writer by producing a series of his one-acts and adapted stories: Bradbury 100. (Ticket prices at the link.)

The creative team of Bradbury 100 is drawn from Caltech undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, Caltech community and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), to celebrate the legacy of Bradbury and his connection with Caltech that began over fifty years ago.

FIRST WEEKEND
Friday & Saturday, February 21 & 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 23 at 2:30 p.m.

All Summer in a Day. directed by Aditi Seetharaman
Marionettes, Inc., directed by Barbie Insua
The Martian Chronicles, directed by Brian White

SECOND WEEKEND
Friday & Saturday, February 28 & 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 1 at 2:30 p.m.

The Flying Machine (in Mandarin w/English subtitles), directed by Miranda Stewart
A Sound of Thunder, directed by Doug Smith
The Martian Chronicles, directed by Brian White

On Friday night of the second weekend (2/28/20) H/SS Professor Chip Sebens will discuss Bradbury’s science fiction and the paradoxes of time travel and on Saturday night (2/29/20) one of Ray’s daughters Ramona Bradbury and her two daughters Claire and Julia Handleman will make appearances on stage to share personal stories of their father and grandfather.

(4) CALIFORNIA HERE YOU GO. Isaac Butler interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about science fiction, utopia, and the reissue of his Three Californias trilogy in “Three Californias, Infinite Futures” at Slate.

So it’s a few years later, you’re writing The Wild Shore, the first in the trilogydo you remember how you worked out the post–nuclear apocalypse world of it?

I went back into the history of science fiction and read other after-the-fall novels: Earth Abides by George Stewart, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, a couple of Philip K. Dick—especially Dr. Bloodmoney. I also got to study with the California poet Gary Snyder at UC–Davis. In terms of these Three California novels, Snyder is as important as anybody in terms of my teachers, because he was the one that established what a California writer ought to be doing: facing Eastern Asia, getting interested in Buddhism, kind of getting rid of the European influences. I began thinking of myself as a poet in the Snyder tradition before I discovered the science fiction. That was always underlying every sentence.

(5) BCS STAYS ABOVE EVENT HORIZON. Beneath Ceaseless Skies met its goal of attracting enough Patreon support to keep their pay rate for short stories at 8c/word, which is the new higher SFWA “pro” pay rate. BCS was able to institute the new rate when it went into effect last September, but there had since been some contraction in their Patreon support. BCS is now back on target.

(6) EVALUATING THE LOCUS LIST. Rocket Stack Rank’s annual “Annotated 2019 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction” is now online.

The merge lets us analyze the Locus list to see which stories that were broadly recognized as outstanding were left out, which publications stood out, which authors did particularly well (or not), how many were eligible for the Astounding Award, and how RSR‘s own recommendations stack up with Locus reviewers in general.

Eric Wong adds, “As with all RSR lists, you can flag and rate stories on the page, see the recommendations earned by each story (reviewer, award, year’s best anthology), get links to the story, author, and other reviews (if online), and group stories by length (default), publication and author.”

(7) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. Asimov’s and Analog have made the short fiction on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2019 available as free reads – in PDF files linked from the Locus list. That’s seven stories altogether. [Via Rocket Stack Rank.]

(8) ‘DIVERSE EDITIONS’ SUSPENDED. “Books pulled over ‘literary blackface’ accusations” – BBC has the story.

The largest bookseller in the US has pulled a new series of “culturally diverse” classic book covers after facing widespread criticism.

Barnes and Noble launched the new Diverse Editions on Tuesday, featuring new covers illustrating the main characters as people of colour.

But the initiative to mark Black History Month received a swift backlash with authors calling it superficial.

The bookseller said it had acknowledged the criticism and suspended the series.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Moby-Dick and Frankenstein were among the titles included.

On the back of the redesigned covers, the company said: “For the first time ever, all parents will be able to pick up a book and see themselves in a story.”

But the move faced a barrage of criticism.

“This is essentially literary blackface,” tweeted author Frederick Joseph.

(9) RUSS AND LE GUIN.  Joanna Russ and her relationship with feminism and science fiction is chronicled by author B.D. McClay in a New Yorker profile “Joanna Russ, the Science-Fiction Writer Who Said No”.

[The] rift between Russ and Le Guin was a different sort of disagreement. Even before the symposium, the two writers had begun to distinguish themselves from each other, though Russ seems to have been more invested in these differences than Le Guin was. In public, Russ had written a harsh review of Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed,” characterizing some of the book’s central conceits as “a fancy way of disguising what we already know” and its anarchist society as poorly realized. Privately, to mutual friends, Russ accused Le Guin of being accommodating to men, of refusing to write as a woman. In some ways, Le Guin conceded the argument—she claimed to write under the influence of her male “animus”—but in other ways she resisted. After all, wasn’t her freedom not to write “as a woman” precisely the point?

At stake in this disagreement was not simply the sorts of struggles that feminists have always had with one another. There was also a question of what science fiction was for and what it should ultimately do. For Russ and Le Guin both, science fiction represented the possibility of telling a genuinely new story. Science fiction, Russ once wrote, was poised to “provide myths for dealing with kinds of experiences we are actually having now, instead of the literary myths we have inherited, which only tell us about the kinds of experiences we think we ought to be having.” The form aspired not to fantasy but to reality.

The search for that reality led Russ and Le Guin in different directions, and, though the latter has become, in the years since, the face of women in speculative fiction, it would be a mistake to regard Russ as overshadowed.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 6, 1974  — Zardoz premiered. Starring Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling and Sara Kestelman. It was written, produced, and directed by John Boorman. It was made on a shoestring budget of one point six million and made one point eight million at the Box Office. Critics praised its special effects but thought both the acting and story fell rather flat. It holds a 50% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a tole he reprised in the New Avengers. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes, he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.   His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1927 Zsa Zsa Gabor. Her first venture into SF was the Fifties very camp Queen of Outer Space which she followed up by being in Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie. She had a cameo in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. She’s Erika Tiffany Smith on Gilligan’s Island, and Minerva on Batman. One of her last appearances was as herself on The Munsters Today as she retired from acting in late Nineties. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 6, 1931 Mamie Van Doren, 89. She made but two SF films, the first being The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (a.k.a. Monsters of the Night and The Night Crawlers), and the second being Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
  • Born February 6, 1932 Rip Torn. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually, if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 6, 1943 Gayle Hunnicutt, 77. I’m giving her Birthday Honors as she was Irene Adler, opposite Jeremy Brett, in the first episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “A Scandal in Bohemia”. She also shows up in The Martian Chronicles, The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Legend of Hell HouseFantômas (a French series) and Tales of The Unexpected
  • Born February 6, 1943 Fabian, 77. Bill Dexter in Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (which the Italians got boring by naming it Le spie vengono dal semifreddo, literally “The spies who came in from the cool”.) He doesn’t have much of a genre resume appearing only once on Fantasy Island, plus being in Kiss Daddy Goodbye. The latter would be shown on Movie Macabre, Elvira’s early Eighties movie show.
  • Born February 6, 1947 Eric Flint, 73. Definitely a Good Guy for both being on Baen Books and fighting against the Sad Puppies who thought he’d be on their side because he was, well, on Baen Books. They really should’ve looked at his work history. Now fiction-wise, I really like his Assiti Shards series, and the Heirs of Alexandria as well.
  • Born February 6, 1958 Cecily Adams. She played Ishka (aka Moogie), mother of the Ferengi brothers Rom and Quark, in four of her five appearances on Deep Space Nine. (Andrea Martin played her the first time.) Most of her genre experience was in such concerns as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Flash Forward, Lost on Earth, Bone Chillers and 3rd Rock from The Sun. (Died 2004.)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump tells us why we don’t know about Pinocchio’s brother.

(13) YOU SHALL NOT PASS (THE BAR). Food & Wine suggests everyone “Eat Gandalf-Themed Corn Dogs at This ‘Lord of the Rings’ Pop-Up Bar”.

After ending 2019 with a magical Harry Potter Christmas pop-up, Chicago’s Replay Lincoln Park bar is back with another franchise theme targeting a devout fanbase. Last weekend, the space transformed into a Lord of The Rings wonderland, …and it has everything from meals named after Frodo to photo opps with a Ring Wraith and the Balrog…

To fuel your quest, Replay has once again partnered with Zizi’s Cafe, a local restaurant, to create a LOTR-inspired menu. Think Gandalf’s Corn Staff (aka, two corndogs), Pippin’s Popcorn, Beef Lembas, Frodo’s Dolma, Fried Po-Tay-Toes, and Lord of the Wings—plus, the Onion Ring to Rule Them All, if you’re not prone to the ring’s temptations. 

(14) SPACEFLIGHT RECORD. “Christina Koch: Nasa astronaut sets new female space record”.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Koch parachuted down to the grasslands of Kazakhstan at around 09:12 GMT.

She spent 328 days on the International Space Station (ISS), surpassing the previous record held by fellow American Peggy Whitson.

Her stay is just 12 days short of the all-time US record set by Scott Kelly, who was on the ISS from 2015-2016.

“I’m so overwhelmed and happy right now,” she told reporters as she sat outside the capsule, shortly after it touched down in the snow.

Ms Koch surpassed the 289-day record set by fellow American Ms Whitson on 28 December last year. But her return to Earth sets the marker for future space travellers to beat.

Whitson still holds the record for most time spent in space by a woman, accrued over the course of three spaceflights from 2002-2017.

(15) FORTY-FIVE CALIBER STORIES. Cora Buhlert continues her look at Retro-Hugo eligible work in “Retro Review: ‘The Monster Maker’ by Ray Bradbury”.

“The Monster Maker” by Ray Bradbury is a science fiction short story, which appeared in the spring 1944 issue of Planet Stories and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found here….

Warning: There will be spoilers in the following!

(16) RIVERDALE EPISODE RECAP: BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Riverdale last night and thought Filers would like to get up to speed on what’s happening with Archie and the gang.

We learned that Archie’s uncle, Frank, was a mercenary who had other mercenaries chasing him.  One of the mercenaries fights Archie in a high school men’s room and throws Archie into a sink which is smashed.  The rogue mercenary is captured shortly thereafter.

Jughead is in a chess death match with the president of the Quill and Skulls fraternity.  In the middle of the match action is stopped because an alarm goes off at the fraternity.  The fraternity president finds that Betty and a friend have discovered a secret trove of VHS sex tapes which the fraternity compiled for use against the frat’s many enemies. The chess match resumes, but soon ends when Jughead deliberately causes a checkmate and I’m not sure why.

Veronica and her friend Katy Keene decide to go out, and Veronica asks her friend, ‘Do you like drag?’

(17) STORMQUAKES. NPR did a segment on “Discovering ‘Stormquakes'”:

Seismologist Wenyuan Fan explains the accidental discovery — buried deep in seismic and meteorological data — that certain storms over ocean water can cause measurable seismic activity, or ‘stormquakes.’ He says this phenomenon could help scientists better understand the earth below the sea.

The original paper Wenyuan co-authored on stormquakes is here.

Transcription of the NPR interview is here.

…As Wenyuan and his colleagues outlined in their paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, stormquakes all come down to waves.

FAN: Because when you have large storms, it will couple with the ocean and make high waves.

SOFIA: Gotcha.

FAN: And by doing the cross-examination of the ocean waves and the seismicity, we start to see a clear correlation between the occurrence of stormquakes and also the high-wave conditions.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dinosaurs In Love” on Vimeo is a song by Fenn Rosenthal about what happens to dinosaurs when they fall in love.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Castro, Eric Wong, Mike Kennedy, Nina, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 11/11/19 The Wendig from a Burning Pixel

(1) ANOTHER TESTIMONY ABOUT HARASSMENT AT CZP. Kelsi Morris, who rose from intern to managing editor of ChiZine Publications – all unpaid – shared a painful account of the chronic sexual harassment she endured from its owners and authors on Facebook. (Much more at the link.)

…I think we can all agree there is a clear pattern of financial mismanagement and ill treatment of authors. What has only just started to be touched on is the deeply rooted culture of bullying, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and the silencing of victims. And this is why I think it’s important I finally say something.

I started with ChiZine in 2012, when I was 22 years old and less than a week out of publishing school…

…I did move up quickly. I started as an intern (unpaid, of course), then became the head of marketing & publicity (also unpaid), then at 23 years old, became the managing editor for the biggest indie speculative fiction publisher in Canada (still unpaid). And more than that, I had somewhere I *belonged*.

…I was considered cool enough to hang, which meant I got to go to the exclusive parties, all the cons and events (at my own expense, of course), was invited to the casual pool nights, and fancy family dinners. I loved being included, and I was still young enough to be starstruck around so many amazing authors I admired.

Being cool, and eventually becoming friends with the “inner circle”, also meant that everyone talked freely around me. I heard the cruel ways they talked about their friends who weren’t around. I heard them plan out ways of breaking up couples. I attended family dinners where folks brought short stories written by their peers to read dramatically aloud and laugh. I heard the boundless misogyny, the mockery of women who spoke out about harassment at cons & the snowflakes who found comfort in content warnings, and the resentment they held towards their authors who had the audacity to expect to be paid. I sat, and listened, and internalized the implicit threat of what could happen to me.

And so I continued to just sit, and listen, with an uncomfortable smile pasted on my face, when I was hit on by male authors more than 15 years my senior. I smiled when hanging out with the inner circle and they made jokes about my body. I grimaced when one of the authors caressed my ass in full view of all my colleagues in the crowded con suite, but didn’t move away. I dressed accordingly at events when Sandra told me the only thing that mattered was “tits and teeth”. I nervously laughed along with everyone else when I was the only woman in a room full of men, and one of them started making rape jokes about me. …

…There are so many people who were complicit in, or at the very least enabled, what has accurately been described as the cult-like culture of bullying, abuse, harassment, and silencing. This will continue to be a problem long after ChiZine is gone, if it’s not something we start talking about now….

(2) FIREBELL IN THE NIGHT. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has quit the professional organization SF Canada over its lack of support for the ChiZine authors who have voiced grievances. The thread here.

(3) AMAZON MAKES ITS INVENTORY PROBLEM EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM. Publisher Weekly reports “Amazon Reducing Orders to Publishers”. Just in time for Christmas.

In order to deal with congestion issues at its warehouses,Amazon has been cutting book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. It isn’t clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October. One publisher reported that an order placed last week was about 75% lower than an order placed last year at this time. “It’s a nightmare,” the head of one independent publisher said.

…The head of yet another company said if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks, “we [could] lose the entire holiday season.” He added that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible that some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations. If Amazon starts running out of stock, he added, “maybe they’ll lose some market share to their competitors.”

(4) SEEN AT WFC 2019. Ellen Datlow has shared photos she took at World Fantasy Con and afterward on Flickr.

(5) WRITING ABOUT A DIFFERENT RACE. In “Who Gave You The Right To Tell That Story?” on Vulture, novelists discuss how they wrote about characters who were a different race than they are.  Among the writers who contribute short essays are N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle, and Ben H. Winters.

Scouring Tumblr

N. K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth Trilogy

I’ve learned to not fear obviousness when I’m describing race or topics related to oppression. With an American audience, you have to be as in your face about it as possible because our society encourages delicate euphemism. I’d rather be accused of being obvious than allow people to get away with thinking all of my characters are white people. The truth is, when you walk into a room and you see a bunch of strangers, the first thing you notice is their appearance, their race and gender. When I first describe a character, I sometimes hang a lampshade on race. My narrator will immediately think: ‘She might be Latino, oh maybe not, she might be Indian.’ I render that mental process.

You’re not going to be perfect. In The Broken Kingdoms, my protagonist was a blind woman, and she had a superpower associated with her blindness. As I now know, disability as a superpower is a trope. I didn’t read enough literature featuring blind people to really understand it’s a thing that gets done over and over again. Ehiru, a character from The Killing Moon, is asexual, and I don’t think I explored that well. If I were writing it now, I would have made him more clearly ace. I figured this out by reading Tumblr. I am on Tumblr quietly — I have a pseudonym, and nobody knows who I am. Because lots of young people hang out there and talk about identity and the way our society works, it’s basically a media-criticism lab. It’s an interesting place to talk about identity, and I did not understand until I saw these conversations that asexuality was an identity. I thought about it as a broken sexuality. My story reflected my lack of understanding of how that worked.

(6) NEUKOM SEEKS SFF AWARD ENTRIES. The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is now “Accepting Submissions for 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards”.

The Neukom Awards, now in its third year, offers prizes in three categories of speculative fiction. Each category will receive an honorarium of $5,000 at a Dartmouth-sponsored event related to speculative fiction.

The speculative fiction awards are offered for playwriting, established author and first-time author.

The deadline for all submissions is December 31, 2019. The awards will be announced in the spring of 2020.

(7) TOP DOLLAR. “Joker: How it became the most profitable comic book film ever” – let BBC tell you.

Joker has become the most profitable comic book movie of all time, having made more than $950 million (£738m) at the worldwide box office.

It tells the story of how Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) becomes the Joker, Batman’s nemesis and one of the most infamous comic book villains ever.

Joker has now made more than 15 times what it cost to make, reports Forbes.

Director Todd Phillips made the movie on a budget of $62.5m (£49m), a fraction of the budget of many comic book adaptations.

Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie of all time, has earned close to $2.8 billion (£2.2bn) but had a budget of $356 million (£276m).

Endgame has made more at the box office overall, but Joker has made more in relation to what was spent to make it.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 11, 1951 Flight to Mars premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch for Monogram Pictures, and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell and Arthur Franz. Most of the interiors are from the Rocketship X-M shooting. It currently has a 21% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1917 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. Wildside Press has seriously big volumes of his fiction up at Apple Books and Kindle for very cheap prices. (Died 1983.)
  • 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 Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1925 ?Jonathan Winters. He’s in a number of genre series and films including Twilight Zone, Wild Wild West, Mork & Mindy where he was Mearth, the animated Smurfs series and The Animaniacs.  And that’s a very selective list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 11, 1926 Donald Franson. Longtime fan who lived most of his life in LA. Was active in the N3F and LASFS including serving as the secretary for years and was a member of Neffer Amateur Press Alliance.  Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom. Also wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964, the first with Howard DeVore. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 59. He was Puck in that film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, 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 Seller. And I’m fond of his voicing Boldo in The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 57. Ghost, of course, getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grimmy shows why it can be disillusioning – but funny – to meet your heroes.
  • Bizarro fractures a fairy tale.

(11) DISNEY DROPS SONG FROM REMAKE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Controversial Scene That’s Not In The Live-Action of The Lady and the Tramp says that in The Lady and the Tramp remake, streaming on Disney+ on November 12, Disney decided to keep the scene where the Lady and the Tramp bond over a plate of spaghetti but decided to cut “The Siamese Cat Song” because it reflects a  “50s-era Orientalism” considered out of place today.

Interestingly, Disney+ subscribers will have the chance to watch both the the 2019 version of Lady and the Tramp and the 1955 version on the studio’s new streaming service, allowing families to compare and contrast the two films, and discuss moments like “The Siamese Cat Song.”

(12) YOUNG PEOPLE WEIGH IN. James Davis Nicoll connects the Young People Read Old SFF panel with Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon A Star”.

Judith Merril was a founding member of the Futurians, an editor, founder of what is now the Merril library and of course a science fiction writer. 

“Wish Upon a Star” is a generation ship story. By their nature, the need for a stable society able to keep a small community functioning for decades in total isolation, generation ships are forced to make some striking adaptations. In most cases, those adaptations included mutiny, cultural amnesia, barbarism and eventual extinction. 

Merril’s characters made very different choices. Let’s see what the Young People made of them.

(13) AN EARLIER STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Jeff Kingston’s “Exhuming Lafcadio Hearn” at the LA Review of Books surveys the Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Andrei Codrescu, the author’s Japanese Ghost Stories, and Monique Truong’s “mesmerizing” novel The Sweetest Fruits.

In 1890, Hearn moved to Japan, where he was to spend the last 14 years of his life, initially teaching English in remote Matsue, in Shimane Prefecture, and subsequently at Waseda University and the University of Tokyo. He also had stints in journalism and became an influential and popular interpreter for a Western audience of what was regarded at the time as an inscrutable culture and society. He is now best remembered for his traditional Japanese stories about supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons. Hearn died from heart failure at age 54, yet he was a prolific writer, despite poor health in his final years. His insights into turn-of-the-century Japan attest to his powers of observation and interpretation. Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan (1894) is a classic, conveying his rapturous appreciation for all things Japanese, especially traditions, customs, and ways of living unsullied by foreign accretions.

(14) ONE TRUE WAY. The Cut discovered this is a controversial question: “What Is the Correct Way to Eat a Cinnamon Roll?” What do you say?

Madeleine Aggeler, writer: No, you unroll and tear it apart with your fingers.

Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor: There’s no wrong way to eat a cinnamon roll.

Rachel: Incorrect, Mrs. Switzerland, only one can survive.

(15) PRESS THE BUTTON, MAX. “The switch that saved a Moon mission from disaster”.

Just a few months after the triumph of Apollo 11, Nasa sent another mission to the lunar surface. But it came chillingly close to disaster.

In November 1969, just four months after men first set foot on the Moon, Nasa was ready to do it again. Basking in the success of Apollo 11, the agency decided that Apollo 12’s mission to the Ocean of Storms would be even more ambitious.

Unlike Neil Armstrong, who had been forced to overshoot his planned landing site because it was strewn with boulders, Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad was aiming for a precision touchdown, within moonwalking distance of an unmanned Surveyor probe. Conrad and landing module pilot, Al Bean, would then spend longer on the surface – with two excursions planned – while beaming back the first colour television from the Moon.

On 14 November, Conrad, Bean and Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon settled into their couches at the top of the 111-metre-high Saturn 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Meanwhile, in mission control Houston, flight director Gerry Griffin took his seat behind his console – his first time leading a mission.

At the launchpad, the ground was wet from storms that recently passed through the area and the sky is overcast. But with the rocket and crew ready to go, and US President Richard Nixon watching (for the first time) from the VIP stands, all systems were green for launch.

At 11.22, the giant white rocket slowly lifted off the pad and accelerated into the clouds.

“This baby’s really going,” shouts Conrad to his crewmates as the launcher cleared the tower and Houston takes over control. “It’s a lovely lift-off.”

Then, 36 seconds into the flight, Conrad sees a flash. All the fuel cells supplying power to the capsule fell offline and the entire alarm panel lit up….

(16) RAISING THE SUB STANDARD. The Brooklyn Paper tells how it happened: “A rough knight: Medieval fighter slashed in subway”.

Some wacko slashed a modern-day knight in the face aboard an L train in Williamsburg on Nov. 8, after the chivalrous straphanger prevented him from assaulting another man.

The victim — who dons plate armor to engage in armed duals as part of the Society for Creative Anachronisms and New York City Armored Combat League — sustained a seven-inch gash amid the attack, and said Medieval warfare has nothing on the city’s transit system. 

“My sport involves swords and axes, but the only thing I’ve gotten from that is a torn ACL and a couple broken bones, and here I finally get a scar,” said Zorikh Lequidre…. 

(17) BACK OFF. “Bird of the Year: Rare anti-social penguin wins New Zealand poll” – BBC has the story.

An endangered yellow-eyed penguin has won New Zealand’s coveted Bird of the Year competition after two weeks of intense campaigning.

The hoiho saw off more than five rivals to become the first penguin to win the annual honour in its 14-year history.

(18) RUH ROH! SCOOB! is a Scooby-Doo remake which Warner Bros. will release in the summer of 2020.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/19 Only The True Pixel Denies His Scrollability!

(1) KAY Q&A. “A Collision of History and Memory: Guy Gavriel Kay Discusses His New Novel A Brightness Long Ago at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought?
There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.

(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time is running out – but for what?

Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.

(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).

Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.

Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.

(4) ORIGINAL QUESTIONS. The Powell’s City of Books site scored an interview with Ted Chiang about his new collection — “Powell’s Q&A: Ted Chiang, Author of ‘Exhalation'”

What do you care about more than most people around you?
In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such? Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment? 

(5) ALL ALPHABETS ARE OFF. R.S. Benedict, who’s made several quality appearances in F&SF, has a new podcast, Rite Gud, talking about writing issues. The first episode is: “This Garbage Brought to You By the Letters S-E-O: How Google Is Ruining Writing”.

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)

We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?

(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”

(6) RUSCH KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —

…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born. 

So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.

…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat

The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.

Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.

If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)

(7) ROMANCE AWARDS. An array of Romance Writers of America awards have been announced. The award recipients will be recognized at the 2019 RWA Conference in New York.

2019 RWA Award Recipients

  • RWA Lifetime Achievement Award: Cherry Adair
  • RWA Emma Merritt Service Award: Dee Davis
  • RWA Service Awards: Courtney Milan, Gina Fluharty, Barbara Wallace
  • RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award: Mark Coker, Founder & CEO, Smashwords
  • RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year: Stephen Ammidown, Manuscript & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
  • RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year: Michelle Mioff-Haring, Owner, Cupboard Maker Books
  • RWA Veritas Award:Meet The Women Who Are Building A Better Romance Industry” by Bim Adewunmi

Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at BGSU when I went there eons ago!

(8) ANCIENT CLONE. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.

Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.

About the Film William

Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.

(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times….

Stuart has also joined the Ditch Diggers team with a new monthly column. The first one takes a look at the massive ructions in podcasting at the moment and the lessons writers can take from that. “Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare at a Test Tube”

…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:

‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.

Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.

How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.

(10) COHEN OBIT. The SFWA Blog announced that scientist Jack Cohen (1933-2019) died May 6.

Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….  

As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison.  He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death.  Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.

(13) SPOILERS ASSEMBLE! The putative Endgame spoiler ban has been lifted by the Russo brothers, and Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of special tweets from the cast: “‘Avengers: Endgame’ cast reveals treasure trove of behind the scenes footage as spoiler ban lifts”.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame have had to sit on a ton of spoilers for years, with much of the filming on the Marvel mega-blockbuster dating all the way back to 2017.

Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo have now lifted the ban on discussing spoilers from the film, so many of the cast members have been unveiling some of their illicit behind-the-scenes pictures and videos.

There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…

(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed, her take on The Tempest, at the 10 minute mark.  She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s last name.

(15) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POKÉMON. Ars Technica reports players have unexpected anatomical development: “Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds”.

…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.

(16) BDP PLAYOFFS. Time is out of joint in Camestros Felapton’s review post, “Hugo 2019 Best Dramatic Long etc Round-up”.

…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.

That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….

(17) HUGO REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.

Steve J. Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:

Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Best Novel Hugo Reviews at Red Headed Femme.

Peter Enyeart has posted a set of “2019 Hugo picks: Short stories” at Stormsewer.

(18) RISK. “Think Women Aren’t Big Risk Takers? These Chinese Girls Buck The Stereotype”NPR has the story.

Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.

The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?

…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.

(19) THE HOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT. BBC reports a “Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on”.

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones consisting of two that would have stood upright, with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

(20) BEST FOOT FORWARD. I’m telling you, this reminds me of a John Sladek story: “Botswana gives leaders stools made from elephant feet”.

Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.

Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.

(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.

Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/19 My Daddy Was A Pixel – I’m A Son Of A Dot!

(1) ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDALS. No genre works were on the shortlist, so needless to say today’s Andrew Carnegie Medal winners were all non-genre books. The omnivorous readers among you might like to know what they are anyway:

(2) ST:D PREMIERE FREE FOR A SHORT TIME. Thanks to The Verge I learned: “You can now watch Star Trek: Discovery’s season 2 premiere on YouTube”.

According to ComicBook.com, the episode will be available for the next two weeks, long enough to serve as a reminder that the series is back,

(3) OUTSPOKEN AI. Tansy Rayner Roberts and Rivqa Rafael listed “5 Books that Give Voice to Artificial Intelligence” for Tor.com readers. Among their picks is —

The Tea Master & the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

The trouble with reading SFF is that you end up with amazing life goals that probably will not be attained during your own lifetime. It’s bad enough when a favourite book leaves you wanting a dragon librarian to be your best friend, or a magic school to invite you in when you turn eleven… and now I need a spaceship who brews tea in my life.

A really good cozy mystery balances rich characters with charmingly creepy murders, and de Bodard hits all the right notes in this wonderful, warm homage to Sherlock Holmes in which our detective is Long Chau, an angry and traumatised scholar, and her Watson is a calm, tea-brewing shipmind.

As with the original Watson, Long Chau’s story is told from the point of view of the detective’s friend, which allows a contrast between the detective’s technical brilliance, and our narrator’s emotional intelligence. Yes, the emotional work in the story is largely done by the spaceship. That’s how great it is. –Tansy

(4) HEMMING DEADLINE. If you’re going to nominate for the Norma K. Hemming Award, you need to get it done by January 31. Details at the website.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work.

Entry is free for all works, and entries may be provided to the judges in print or digital format.

Nominations are open to all relevant and eligible Australian work produced in 2018

(5) FOOD REVELATIONS. Fran Wilde did a class about “Fantastic Worldbuilding.” Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights.

Fran Wilde’s online writing class talks about how to build a vivid, compelling world in the context of writing about an event set in that world. For other Rambo Academy live classes, see http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/upcoming-online-classes/

(6) BASED ON CIXIN LIU STORY. A trailer for The Wandering Earth has shown up on The Verge (“A new trailer for The Wandering Earth shows off a desperate plan to save the planet”). The film is slated for a limited release starting on February 8.

A new trailer for The Wandering Earth — described as China’s biggest science fiction movie ever — landed earlier this week, showing off an ambitious adventure that follows the efforts to save Earth after scientists discover that the sun is about to go out. 

The movie is based on a story by Chinese author Cixin Liu — who’s best known for his Three-Body Problem trilogy and last year’s Ball Lightning. While those books are huge, epic stories, The Wandering Earth is no less ambitious: when scientists realize that the sun will go out in a couple of decades, they hatch a desperate plan: to move the planet to Proxima Centauri. The construct thousands of giant engines to move the planet out of orbit, where it can then slingshot post Jupiter and out of the Solar System. 

And there was a previous trailer in December.

(7) THEY’D RATHER PLAY SOMEONE ELSE. Travis M. Andrews in the Washington Post tells about actors who really didn’t like their roles. People know Harrison Ford doesn’t like Han Solo, and Robert Pattinson apparently won’t like you if you tell him you really loved Twilight: “Penn Badgley thinks his ‘You’ character is a creep. Here are 5 other actors who hated the people they played.”

Robert Pattinson despises his iconic “Twilight” character, Edward Cullen, with a fury unlike any other. Pattinson has complained throughout so many interviews about Edward, the century-old telepathic vampire who falls for Kristen Stewart’s Bella (a witch or something), that there’s an entire Tumblr feed dedicated to his most (self-) scathing comments.

Among his harshest words: He has said “Twilight” “seemed like a book that shouldn’t be published.” That “if Edward was not a fictional character, and you just met him in reality — you know, he’s one of those guys who would be an ax murderer.” He called his performance “a mixture of looking slightly constipated and stoned.”

(8) OBSCURE AWARD. The Society of Camera Operators’ awards were presented January 26, and if you scan The Hollywood Reporter article closely enough you’ll be able to discover the single winner of genre note: “‘A Star Is Born’ Camera Operator Tops SOC Awards”.

Movie category had no genre nominees

Movie category winner

* P. Scott Sakamoto for A Star Is Born

TV category winner

* Chris Haarhoff and Steven Matzinger for Westworld

Other awards presented

* Jane Fonda — Governor’s Award

* Harrison Ford— President’s Award

* “Lifetime Achievement award recipients were Dave Emmerichs, camera operator; Hector Ramirez, camera operator (live and non-scripted); Jimmy Jensen, camera technician; John Man, mobile camera platform operator, and Peter Iovino, still photographer.”

* Technical achievement award — makers of the Cinemoves Matrix 4 axis stabilized gimbal

(9) HARPAZ OBIT. Former Israel Air Force Pilot Colonel (Res.) Rami Harpaz passed away January 24 at the age of 80: “Father of iconic ‘Hebrew Pilots’ translation of Tolkien dies” in the Jerusalem Post (behind a paywall).

Rami Harpaz lead a group of IAF pilots in Egyptian captivity to translate the iconic fantasy work into Hebrew while in prison, the book introduced Tolkien to Israeli readers and remains iconic.

…He was captured by the Egyptians during the War of Attrition, while in captivity he was given a copy of the Hobbit, the famous fantasy book by J.R.R. Tolkien, by his brother who was able to deliver the book to him via the Red Cross. 

Prison conditions were harsh and the Egyptians tortured the Israeli prisoners, yet despite of this, Harpaz and his fellow  prisoners began to translate the book into Hebrew. The initial motivation was to allow Israelis who could not read English well to enjoy the book in Hebrew. 

The translation was done in pairs with one person reading in English and speaking it out in Hebrew and the translation partner writing it down in Hebrew and editing it. Harpaz and three other captured pilots were the translators of what became known as ‘the pilots translation’ of the Hobbit. The final product was seven notebooks written by hand, the book was published in 1977 with funding provided by the IAF.   

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1832 Lewis Carroll. Writer of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. In 1876, he also  produced  his work, “The Hunting of the Snark”, a fantastical nonsense poem exploring the adventures of a very, very bizarre crew of nine tradesmen and a beaver who set off to find the snark. (Died 1898.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 79. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane In Star Trek: First Contact  which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, RobotSpider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 62. If you’re not a comic reader, you first encountered him in the form of Robocop 2 which I think is a quite decent film. His other films include Robocop 3, Sin City, 300, Spirit (fun) and various Batman animated films that you’ll either like or loathe depending on your ability to tolerate extreme violence. Oh, but his comics. Setting aside his Batman work all of which is a must read, I’d recommend his Daredevil, especially the Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus which gives you everything by him you need, Elektra by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz, all of his Sin City work and RoboCop vs. The Terminator #1–4 with Walt Simonson. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 56. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop In the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler In X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld (anyone know this got made?). 
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 49. Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books. Editor of Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction. Interestingly she won all but one of the Chesley Award for Best Art Director that were given out between 2004 and 2012. 

(11) KIPLING, SFF AUTHOR? Fred Lerner’s well-regarded essay “A Master of our Art: Rudyard Kipling considered as a Science Fiction writer” addresses a topic that surfaced in comments the other day.

…Like Verne and Wells, Kipling wrote stories whose subject-matter is explicitly science-fictional. “With the Night Mail: A Story of 2000 A.D.” portrays futuristic aviation in a journalistic present-tense that recalls Kipling’s years as a teenaged subeditor on Anglo-Indian newspapers. “The Eye of Allah” deals with the introduction of advanced technology into a mediaeval society that may not be ready for it.

But it is not this explicit use of science and technology in some of his stories that makes Kipling so important to modern science fiction. Many of Kipling’s contemporaries and predecessors wrote scientific fiction. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, Mark Twain and Conan Doyle are among them. Yet echoes of their work are seldom seen in today’s science fiction. Kipling’s appeal to modern readers lies instead in his approach and his technique.

The real subject-matter of Rudyard Kipling’s writing is the world’s work and the men and women and machines who do it. Whether that work be manual or intellectual, creative or administrative, the performance of his work is the most important thing in a person’s life. As Disko Troop says in Captains Courageous, “the most interesting thing in the world is to find out how the next man gets his vittles”….

(12) PACIFIC INKLINGS FESTIVAL. Sørina Higgins, Editor of The Inklings and King Arthur, will be the featured speaker when The Southern California C.S. Lewis Society presents The Pacific Inklings Festival and General Meeting on March 9.

(13) NOT A STAN FAN. HuffPost reports “Bill Maher Doubles Down On Trashing Stan Lee Fans, Adults Who Like Comics”.

His latest was supposed to address a controversial blog post from shortly after Stan Lee’s death. Address it, yeah. Back down from it? Not at all.

Bill Maher is not backing down when it comes to criticizing fans of Marvel giant Stan Lee, and fans of comic books in general.

On Friday’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” the host insisted that he had nothing against the late Lee, but that adult fans of comics simply need to “grow up.”

“I’m not glad Stan Lee is dead, I’m sad you’re alive,” Maher said.

But the head of Marvel did not respond as you might have predicted SYFY Wire learned: “Bill Maher receives high-profile invite to Stan Lee tribute event after controversial comic book remarks”.

Bill Maher received an invite to the Stan Lee tribute event in Los Angeles this coming Wednesday from none other than Marvel‘s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada.

This came after Maher found himself in hot water once again after doubling down on his controversial comments about how comic books cannot be considered “literature” and how superhero movies are not “great cinema.” Moreover, he said that people who think otherwise “are stuck in an everlasting childhood.”

Maher played himself in a deleted scene in Iron Man 3, where he blames America for creating The Mandarin

(14) NEEDS SOME LUCK. Paul Weimer says this epic fantasy novel is well worth your time and attention in a review for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons”

Kihrin is a thief, an apprentice musician, and a resident of the Capital. He’s also possesses a rather powerful artifact whose provenance he does not quite understand, one that is difficult to take from him except by his free will. Even more than this, Kihrin and his artifact are pawns in a long simmering plot that would see him as key to the destruction of an empire. Instead of being a prophesied hero come to save the world, Kihrin’s role is seemingly destined for a much darker fate, unless his patron goddess, the goddess of luck, Taja, really IS on his side.

(15) MORE GOOD REVIEWS. Lady Business links to selected reviews around a theme — “Eight Book Minimum: Bring me queer ladies or bring me death!”

1. Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband by Joanna Russ [Top]
Someone’s Trying to Kill Me and I Think It’s My Husband is Joanna Russ talking about the narrative tropes of gothic fiction from the late sixties and early seventies. The essay itself was originally published in 1973; I first read it in the collection To Write Like A Woman, which is great if you have a chance to read it. I found Somebody’s Trying to Kill Me at work though, and ah, it’s good to have it back.

The premise of this essay is that Joanna Russ, faced with the new wave of gothic fiction, had a publisher friend send her some of the most representative examples of the genre and broke down all of the common elements and analysed them as expressions of the “traditional feminine situation.” I would argue that regardless of how representative those books were, that’s a very small sample size (she mentions about half a dozen titles, and I’m just trying to picture the reaction today if someone tried this with, say, romantic suspense books). But her analysis is interesting? She’s analysing it, justifiably, as an incredibly popular genre with female readers, and picking out the elements that might be contributing to that (“‘Occupation: housewife’ is simultaneously avoided, glamorised, and vindicated” is one of the stand-out points for me, especially when coupled with the observation that the everyday skills of reading people’s feelings and faces are often the only thing keeping the heroine alive), but it’s a little strange to read. It’s interesting, and I can definitely relate some of her points to female-led genres today (I’m mainly thinking of things like cozy mysteries), but it is definitely an outsider to a genre picking apart its building blocks. So, interesting as a dissection of those specific titles and tropes, but maybe not representative of the wider genre.

(16) HOURS OF WITCHING. Phoebe Wagner checks in about the first season of a TV reboot: “Microreview [TV Series]: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In addition to balancing the magical aspects of the show, multiple episodes explore issues of feminism, smashing the patriarchy, race, sexual orientation, disability, and bullying. Through Sabrina, these becomes issues of her world rather than political statements. While TV shows at times have issue-driven episodes that seem to be responding to the political climate of the previous six months, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina focuses on the lives of the characters, and since this is part of their lives, of course Sabrina is going to help them. That being said, especially early in the season, it at times felt a little white-savior as Sabrina works behind the scenes with magic to help her friends….

(17) THAT LEAKY WARDROBE. In this Saturday Night Live sketch, Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy, reprising a character he played in a movie) meets several women who have recently arrived in Narnia.

(18) REVIEW OF “I AM MOTHER”. Variety: “Sundance Film Review: ‘I Am Mother’”. “After a mass extinction, a robot raises a little girl in a handsome, if derivative sci-fi thriller that salutes its own parentage.” The review gives much of this female-cast-led gerne film generally good marks, though significant issues are also pointed out. Bottom line:

What really presses [Director Grant] Sputore’s buttons is proving that he can make an expensive-looking flick for relative peanuts. If this were his job application for a blockbuster gig, he’d get the job. Though hopefully he and [Screenwriter Michael Lloyd] Green realize that the best sci-fi thrillers don’t just focus on solving the mystery of what happened — they explore what it all means. Sputore is clearly an intelligent life form. But as even his robot creator knows, “Mothers need to learn.”

  • Cast: Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne (voice), Hilary Swank, Luke Hawker (motion capture), Tahlia Sturzaker.

(19) SPONSOR WILL DROP MAN BOOKER. BBC reveals that the sponsoring hedge fund feels “underappreciated” — “Man Booker loses £1.6m hedge fund sponsor amid talk of tension”.

Britain’s most famous literary award is looking for a new sponsor after hedge fund Man Group said it would end its support after 18 years.

The UK-based financial giant said its annual £1.6m backing of this year’s Man Booker Prize would be its last.

The link between the hedge fund and the literary world has not always been a smooth, with novelist Sebastian Faulks last year calling the firm “the enemy”.

Man Group said in a statement it had been a privilege to sponsor the prize.

But the BBC’s arts editor, Will Gompertz, said relations between Man Group and Booker organisers had been strained for some time, with a company source suggesting they felt underappreciated.

(20) DID IT MAKE A SOUND? A celebrity tree is no more: “Game of Thrones: Dark Hedges tree falls in high winds”.

A tree made famous by the TV fantasy drama Game of Thrones has fallen in strong winds.

Gale force winds of up to 60 mph hit Northern Ireland overnight on Saturday.

The Dark Hedges are a tunnel of beech trees on the Bregagh Road near Armoy that have become an an international tourist attraction since featuring in the hit series.

(21) OVER THE TOP. Let Quinn Curio tell you “The Dumbest Things About Gotham.”

What are the dumbest things that have ever happened on Fox’s Gotham show? Welcome to the party. The pain party.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/21/18 If I Have Filed Further It Is Only By Scrolling On The Pixels Of Giants

(1) FIRST. Continuing the conversation about sff reviewing on his blog, Camestros Felapton offers this draft of “The Three Laws of Reviewbotics?”

…So here’s maybe a start for the hyper-critic oath (‘hyper’ because I’m overthinking this and ‘critic’ because ‘reviewer’ doesn’t work for the pun).

First, do no obvious harm. Don’t ever slander a writer. Avoid attacking them personally, even indirectly [that’s not always possible because writing is to varying degrees an extension of the self. In addition, some texts themselves are INTENDED to be harmful to others (I’ve reviewed many here over the years) BUT while we can all think of exceptions the norm should be to review texts, not people.] This does not mean treating all people the same – if you knew that somebody was currently in a vulnerable emotional state, then maybe reviewing their book isn’t a great idea. The flip side of that is you can’t reasonably tailor reviews around what a writer you don’t know might be feeling. And obviously don’t use slurs, stereotypes or language which we know to be harmful – such as overt racism, sexism etc. In an equitable society, some people are more vulnerable to others and if we KNOW that we have to be mindful of that while bearing in mind the points below as well.

(2) TO THE TUNE OF CORALINE. The opera based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days: “Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline”.

Kate Molleson presents the world premiere production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline – an operatic version of the dark fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, directed by Aletta Collins with libretto by Rory Mullarkey. Soprano Mary Bevan sings the title-role with a cast including mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and baritone Alexander Robin Baker who are making their Royal Opera debuts. Sian Edwards conducts the Britten Sinfonia.

During the interval, Kate is joined by guest Fiona Maddocks with contributions from Mark-Anthony Turnage and Mary Bevan.

Neil Gaiman has transformed the landscape of children’s literature with his highly inventive, atmospheric and otherworldly narratives. His prize-winning novella, Coraline is packed with astonishing imagery – a much-loved story about a girl who discovers a door in her parents’ house, leading to an entirely different place and family. For Mark-Anthony Turnage “the fundamental message beneath the story is that we shouldn’t be afraid to do what we believe is right. Coraline is brave, not because she doesn’t cry or get scared, but because despite these things she still tries her best and doesn’t give up. That’s why I wanted to write Coraline, because here’s a message well worth telling; through opera or in any other way.”

(3) FANTASTIC HOW MANY? A trailer advertising the Fantastic 4’s return to comics in August. But Carl Slaughter says, “Wait a minute.  Maybe I missed someone, but I saw only 3 members of the Fantastic 4 at the end of that teaser….” Actually, Carl, couldn’t that pillar of fire in the closing image be your missing fourth character?

(4) TRACK RECORD. A member of the Universal Fan Con committee – a con cancelled at the last minute — is alleged to have a problemactic past.

(5) SPOILER ALERT. Commentary on a recent Red Dwarf-themed word puzzle: “Inquisitor 1533: A Little Light Relief by Eclogue”.

There were enough clues that I could solve to get a firm foothold in the grid and start to see the message emerging.  It was the skeleton of the message that gave me the breakthrough.  I could see something like IT’S COLD OUTSIDE and THERE’S NO appearing and  those five words were enough to track down the theme to Red Dwarf, a cult television series which was still producing new episodes in late 2017

The theme tune can be found by by clicking here

The full message is IT’S COLD OUTSIDE THERE’S NO KIND OF ATMOSPHERE which are the opening lyrics to the show’s theme song.  The wording of the preamble was very precise when it stated ‘the correct letters from misprints in definitions provide the opening to the theme’.

I could see then that the unclued entries were going to be the characters from the show.  It was the one I didn’t really know that fell first – KOCHANSKI –  followed by HOLLY, LISTER, RIMMER, KRYTEN and CAT.  CAT came last because I nearly missed it.

(6) IT’S HUGE! In “Kickstarter Final Note”, Steve Davidson shares a bit of news about Amazing Stories’ next first print issue.

One thing of note:  we’ve gone way over our word count for the first issue and none of us have the heart to deny any of our authors and artists the opportunity to be in Amazing first new issue since 2005 (and not even that’s technically correct – we’ve published four issues since 2012 in point of fact), so, rather than disappointing a handful of authors and artists, we’ve chosen the high road and are biting the bullet on an extended page count – rather than our originally planned 192 pages, it looks like we’re going for 248…

Yes, it’s going to blow our budget out a little bit, but, well, we really want this first issue to be SPECTACULAR, AWESOME and REALLY GREAT!  And it’s going to be.  (Really Great Science Fiction magazine was rejected as a title….)

(7) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Tough SF by “Matter Beam” says this is its mission:

… One genre defined by the struggle to create living settings in science fiction is Hard SF. ‘An emphasis on scientific or technical detail’ is a sure-fire way to create a realistic and functional universe, but often the need to adhere to realism slows creativity, stresses the narration, leads to improbable results or otherwise has negative effects. One of the biggest complaints is that it just isn’t ‘fun’….

…This blog therefore try to help authors, world-builders and game designers to create Tough Science Fiction. This is science fiction that is as resistant as Hard Science Fiction to criticism, review and general prodding and poking by the audience, but does not sacrifice the author’s vision or core concepts to pure, dry realism…

Here are a couple of illustrative posts:

Space Piracy is a common science fiction trope. It has been continuously derided in Hard Science Fiction as silly and a holdover of the ‘Space is an Ocean’ analogy.

But is it really that unrealistic to have space pirates? Let’s find out.

There’s more to piracy than just attacking a target and running away afterwards.

Put yourself in the shoes of a pirate, a merchant or the authorities. What would you do?

(8) BUNCH OF LUNCH. Why aren’t there more big mammals? We ate them.  “New Study Says Ancient Humans Hunted Big Mammals To Extinction”.

Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals on the Earth has shrunk. And humans are to blame.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico.

Smith studied fossils going back 65 million years, when dinosaurs died and mammals came into their own. Many of the early mammals went on to get big. Among the giant creatures: “Llamas and camels and sloths and five species of pronghorn [antelope] actually,” she says, “and certainly mammoths. And then lots of really cool predators, like Arctodus, the short faced bear.” The short-faced bear stood 11 feet tall, about the shoulder height of some species of ancient camel.

And that was just North America.

Being big was just as successful as being small, and had some advantages when it came to surviving big predators. “Taken as a whole, over 65 million years, being large did not increase mammals’ extinction risk. But it did when humans were involved,” Smith found.

Looking back over the most recent 125,000 years of the fossil record, Smith found that when humans arrived someplace, the rate of extinction for big mammals rose. She says it basically came down to hunger. “Certainly humans exploit large game,” she says, “probably because they are tasty”—and because a bigger animal makes for a bigger meal. …

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of Gene Roddenberry journeyed into space.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian shared this link with pun lovers in mind — Off the Mark.

(11) BRADBURY MUSEUM UPDATE. A proponent told the Chicago Tribune “Ray Bradbury Experience Museum planning start in smaller space, eventual move to old Carnegie Library”.

The multi-million dollar dream of renovating and redeveloping the childhood library of Ray Bradbury for a museum dedicated to the Waukegan author is still alive more than two years after a campaign was launched to make it happen.

But a team of Bradbury devotees, civic boosters and creative minds has decided it isn’t going to wait for that overall package to take shape at the historic but dormant Carnegie Library on Sheridan Road.

Instead, early next month, plans will be unveiled for a more modest Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) with a goal of opening in a Genesee Street storefront in time for the 100th anniversary of the late author’s birthday in August 2020….

(12) WOTF. Kyle Aisteach posted a memoir about “My Writers of the Future Experience” in the 1990s. Aisteach was a paid add-on student of the workshop, not a contest finalist.

… The workshop itself was much like what others have described: A whirlwind of big names coming in to talk to us, intensely trying to churn out a complete short story in just a few days, a lot of theory, and a lot of making friends. I learned a tremendous amount, much of which I carry with me and still use to this day. The workshop was wonderful.

But the question everyone wants to ask is this: What about the Scientology?

Well, it was definitely there. The impression I had at the time was that L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology and therefore Scientology loves L. Ron Hubbard and everything he was associated with, and therefore the Church of Scientology wanted to support us in any way it could. David Miscavige was there to welcome us all. L. Ron Hubbard’s name was not just mentioned frequently, it was extolled. We were clearly and obviously using Scientology property for both the workshop and the gala. I, personally, found it a little uncomfortable at times, but I’m always uncomfortable in someone else’s sacred space, so there was nothing weird about that to me. A couple of the texts we used were clearly Scientologist documents (the biography of Hubbard had him transcending instead of dying, and another essay – I don’t recall exactly what it was about – Budrys explained was written for Scientologists and he explained what terms like “clear” meant so we could follow it), but that didn’t faze me either, since texts that inform writing can come from anywhere and most of us pull from our own traditions when teaching.

Before anyone has a meltdown about any of this, remember that this was the 1990s. Scientology had some legal troubles as a young religion, but at this point the general feeling was that it had left them behind….

And former Writers of the Future winner J. W. Alden has written another thread – start here.

(13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. Slashdot warns “Eventbrite Claims The Right To Film Your Events — And Keep the Copyright”.

But in addition, you’re also granting them permission to record and use footage of all your attendees and speakers, “in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed, without further authorization from, or compensation to.” And after that Eventbrite “will own all rights of every nature whatsoever in and to all films and photographs taken and recordings made hereunder, including without limitation of all copyrights therein and renewals and extensions thereof, and the exclusive right to use and exploit the Recordings in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed…”

(14) PERSISTENCE. At NPR, Genevieve Valentine analyzes Joanna Russ’ nonfiction classic: “‘How To Suppress Women’s Writing:’ 3 Decades Old And Still Sadly Relevant”:

…It’s hard not to get freshly angry at the status quo, reading this. But amid the statistics and the sort of historical pull quotes you’ll want to read out loud to horrified friends, Russ is also defying a literary tradition that, she points out again and again, wants to forget that women write. In so doing, she deliberately creates a legacy of women writers who came before. Well, white women. Russ mentions a few writers of color in the essay proper, and includes more in her Afterword, but this is a very white family tree. (It’s one of the ways the book shows its age; another is the way any genderqueerness is reduced to sexual preferences, which amid so much far-seeing commentary feels quaintly second-wave.)

And despite how much there is to be angry about, How to Suppress Women’s Writing is shot through with hope. There’s the energy of a secret shared in “the rocking and cracking of the book as the inadequate form strains or even collapses.” And beneath every denial of agency, there’s the obvious truth: For hundreds of years, despite those odds against them, the “wrong” writers still manage to write. Likely it won’t be remembered long enough or taken seriously enough, but to read this book is to admire this buried tradition, and realize how much there is to be discovered — and how there’s no time like the present to look at the marginalized writers you might be missing. “Only on the margins does growth occur,” Russ promises, like the guide in a story telling you how to defeat the dragon. Get angry; then get a reading list.

(15) MOVERS AND SHAKERS. In California, they’re “Betting On Artificial Intelligence To Guide Earthquake Response”.

A startup company in California is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to advise fire departments about how to plan for earthquakes and respond to them.

The company, One Concern, hopes its algorithms can take a lot of the guesswork out of the planning process for disaster response by making accurate predictions about earthquake damage. It’s one of a handful of companies rolling out artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that could help predict and respond to floods, cyber-attacks and other large-scale disasters.

(16) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. Great photo: “It’s The Hubble Space Telescope’s Birthday. Enjoy Amazing Images Of The Lagoon Nebula”.

The Hubble “has offered a new view of the universe and has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable 28 years,” the agencies said in a statement, adding that the telescope has “revolutionized almost every area of observational astronomy.”

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a joint project between NASA and the ESA. Each year, the telescope is diverted from important scientific observational duties to take an image of the cosmos in intense detail.

This year’s featured image, the Lagoon Nebula, is a colossal stellar nursery, 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall, that is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

 

(17) END GAME. Looper tries to explain the ending of Ready Player One. Watch out for spoilers, I assume!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, David Langford, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peter J, Mark Hepworth, Jim Meadows, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 3/31/18 It’s An Honor Just To Be Pixelated

(1) FAREWELL, PORNOKITSCH. Yesterday Anne Perry and Jared Shurin signed off their long-running sff blog: “Pornokitsch: The Exit Interview”. The existing content will remain online for some time to come.

Anne: …As you say above, Pornokitsch is what we wanted it to be: a home for thoughtful, fun (and funny) essays about… whatever. Back when it was just the two of us writing for the site, that’s what we did. And it’s been a pleasure to watch the site bloom with much, much more of that…

By and large, I’m happy to say that I think I wrote more or less exactly what I wanted to write for the site. There are a few reviews I would do differently now, if I could go back in time. But we  founded Pornokitsch as a way of talking about the pop culture we love with the humour and intelligence we wished to see in those conversations, and at the end of the day, I think we – and our many brilliant contributors over the years – have done just that.

Jared: On that note… We’ve mentioned our amazing contributors: words and art, regular and guest, past and present. We owe them a huge, huge thanks for all of their hard work and help and patience. Thank you all.

Anne: We owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks also to all the publishers – editors, marketers and publicists – who offered us books to review and put quotes from us on the actual books, zomg. And, finally, thanks also to our tolerant and very supportive families, enthusiastic friends and – most of all – our readers over the years.

For those arriving too late, they created a kind of postmortem FAQ on their “Bye!” page.

How can I check if you verbally flensed my favourite piece of pop culture? I need know whether or not I should hate you forever.

An index of features and reviews can be found here.

Is there some Pornokitsch memorabilia that I could cherish forever?

Nope. Buy one of our contributor’s books instead.

(2) PUPPY FREE. I like how this was the fifth point in John Scalzi’s “Thoughts On This Year’s Hugo Finalist Ballot” at Whatever.

  1. To get ahead of a question I know someone will ask, no, there’s not any “puppy” nonsense this year. It appears the changes in nominating finalists to reduce slating had their intended effect, and also, the various puppies appear to have lost interest slamming their heads into this particular wall. This makes sense as it provided no benefit to any of them, damaged the reputations and careers of several, and succeeded only in making their rank and file waste a lot of time and effort (and money). They’ve gone off to make their own awards and/or to bother other media, which is probably a better use of their time. There was an attempt by a cadre of second-wave wannabe types to replicate slating this year, but that unsurprisingly came to naught.

In its stead are excellent stories and people, all of which and whom got on to the ballot on the strength of their work. Which is as it should be.

(3) IT’S BEEN AWHILE. Piet Nel said on Facebook about Sarah Pinsker’s “Wind Will Rove” (from Asimov’s, September/October 2017), a Best Novelette Hugo finalist —

This is the first time since 2013 that a story from Asimov’s has made the final ballot of the Hugos.

(4) NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER. J.R.R. Tolkien on Elvish:

(5) GRIMOIRES. In the Horror Writers Association Newsletter, Lawrence Berry discusses a source of “Forbidden Words (And When to Use Them)”.

Do genuinely forbidden, occult treatises exist in the modern world?

Yes, definitely.

Who has them and how do I get a look?

The great libraries of the world, private antiquarian collectors, and the Vatican’s Secret Archives all house works on satanism and witchcraft. An interested party would need to earn scholar’s credentials or have someone very good at creating false identities counterfeit them. A wide and nimble knowledge of Olde English, Middle English, Latin, Arabic, ancient German and Italian, along with gifted insight into the science of cryptography would help—a person could be burned at the stake for the sin of heresy in more centuries than not and grimoires were often written in code. It would also be wise to attain a master’s knowledge of very old books themselves—the paper they were penned on, the material used to construct the covers, the ink used in the illuminated borders and illustrations, the quality and flow of period quills and brushes. Authentic editions, with provenance, sell for a great price, and forgeries are rampant. An equally lavish fee is charged for a single reading of the rarest, genuine, and powerful spell-books.

(6) SFF AUTHORS ON GENDER PANEL IN HONG KONG. In conjunction with the Melon Conference 2, the University of Hong Kong recently held a seminar on Gender in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Mlex interviewed an attendee about what the panelists had to say in “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Gender in SFF” for Yunchtime.

To find out more about the Hong Kong Science Fiction and Fantasy scene, Yunchtime reached out to Dr. Christine Yi Lai Luk, at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences of the Univeristy of Hong Kong, who attended the panel discussion….

YUNCHTIME: How did the seminar and panel discussion live up to the proposed topic?

LUK: There is plenty of room for improvement, I’d say. It is a panel of three women SF writers, but they did not explore “the world of women in SF” as advertised in the above description. It is more appropriate to call the seminar “women/gender and SF” because it is just three women talking about their SF work.

YUNCHTIME: How about the panelists, can you describe briefly some of their thoughts or comments?

LUK: I think Becky Chambers‘ views were the most relevant to the proposed topic. Chambers revealed how she was drawn into the world of SF from an early age onward. Raised in a space science-heavy family (her father is a rocket engineer and her mother an astrobiologist), she was introduced to SF and space fantasy movies as early as she could remember.

Her favorite SF novel of all time is “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula LeGuin (a lot of nods from the audience as the name was dropped). She said writing SF gives her confidence as she is an introvert.

I think her experience reflects a certain gender norm in the SF realm: Unlike the blondy sorority type of girls, girls who are into SF are perceived as shy and nerdy, and incapable of drawing the attention from the opposite sex (except maybe from Wookie-dressed superfans).

Tang Fei does not write in English, only in Chinese. Her Chinese works are translated into English and they draw attention in the English-speaking world partly because her works are banned in China. Actually, Tang Fei is a pen name.

Because the conference was being held entirely in English and due to the language barrier, Tang Fei’s sharing was not effective as we could have hoped. She only managed to say a few sentences in English (with a very soft voice). Then, during the Q&A, she was relying on the organizer, Nicole Huang, to act as her interpreter.

The main thing I caught from Tang Fei is that in the future, human beings will exist in disembodied form and thus the only “gender” issue for SF writers to engage in will be purely on the psychological aspect.

Zen Cho talked about her upbringing in Malaysia and her identity as an English-speaking Hokkien among mainstream Malays. She did not identify herself as a SF writer, but as a fantasy writer. I don’t think she has said anything remotely relevant to gender.

(7) STEELE AND SF IN HONG KONG. Mlex also covered “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Allen Steele on the Melon Conference 2018” for Yunchtime.

YUNCHTIME: What is your impression of Fritz Demoupolis? Is he a big SFF fan? Demoupolis is a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, do you think he sees a business opportunity for the SFF genre in Hong Kong and China?

STEELE: Fritz Demopoulos is an interesting fellow … a California-born ex-pat who came to Hong Kong about 20 years ago and has stayed to make his fortune. My brother-in-law did much the same thing, so I’m familiar with this sort of entrepreneurship. He’s most definitely a SF fan. He discovered the genre through finding his father’s beat-up copy of Asimov’s Foundation and has been reading SF ever since. He knows the field, is familiar with major authors both old and new, loves the same movies and TV shows the rest of us do, and overall is an example of a highly-successful businessman who also happens to be something of a geek.

Melon is Fritz’s brainchild — he’d have to explain to you why he gave it that name — and it’s unique among SF gatherings. As I said, it’s not a con in the conventional sense — yes, that’s a deliberate pun; stop groaning — but rather a symposium that’s sort of academic without being stuffy or pretentious. The people Fritz invited to be speakers were SF writers — a few Americans like myself, but mainly young Asian authors— scientists from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and a number of Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs working in both emerging technologies like AI and also mass media

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Henry Nicholls, in the Reuters story “Friends, Family, Public Flock To Funeral of Physicist Stephen Hawking,” says that Hawking’s coffin had white “Universe” lilies and white “Polar Star” roses and a “space music” composition called “Beyond The Night Sky” was played.

The 76-year-old scientist was mourned by his children Robert, Lucy and Timothy, joined by guests including playwright Alan Bennett, businessman Elon Musk and model Lily Cole.

Eddie Redmayne, the actor who played Professor Hawking in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything” was one of the readers in the ceremony and Felicity Jones, who played his wife, Jane Hawking in the film also attended the service.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1840 — President Van Buren issued executive order establishing 10-hour workday for federal employees.
  • March 31, 1987 Max Headroom aired on TV.
  • March 31, 1995 Tank Girl debuted in theaters.
  • March 31, 1999 The Matrix premiered.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WHICH COMES FIRST? THE PRESS RELEASE. In “The Silicon Valley elite’s latest status symbol: Chickens” the Washington Post says, “Their pampered birds wear diapers and have personal chefs — but lay the finest eggs tech money can buy.”

…In true Silicon Valley fashion, chicken owners approach their birds as any savvy venture capitalist might: By throwing lots of money at a promising flock (spending as much as $20,000 for high-tech coops). By charting their productivity (number and color of eggs). And by finding new ways to optimize their birds’ happiness — as well as their own.

Like any successful start-up, broods aren’t built so much as reverse engineered. Decisions about breed selection are resolved by using engineering matrices and spreadsheets that capture “YoY growth.” Some chicken owners talk about their increasingly extravagant birds like software updates, referring to them as “Gen 1,” “Gen 2,” “Gen 3” and so on. They keep the chicken brokers of the region busy finding ever more novel birds.

“At Amazon, whenever we build anything we write the press release first and decide what we want the end to be and I bring the same mentality to the backyard chickens,” said Ken Price, the director of Amazon Go, who spent a decade in San Francisco before moving to Seattle. Price, 49, has had six chickens over the past eight years and is already “succession planning” for his next “refresh.”

(12) ENERGIES IMAGINED. In “Fuelling the Future” on Aeon, Aberstywyth University historian Iwan Rhys Morus analyzes Robert A. Heinlein’s 1940 story “Let There Be Light” in an analysis of how sf writers created stories about new power sources.

Heinlein needed the sunscreens to make his future work; that is, to answer the problem of how technological culture might flourish in a world of diminishing resources. This was not a new problem, even in 1940, and it is an increasingly pressing one now. The question of what is going to fuel the future has never been more urgent. Is it going to be wind or wave power? Will fuel cells, solar panels or even the holy grail of fusion be the answer to our problems? Or are we going to frack ourselves into oblivion? If we want to better understand how we speculate about future energy now, then we need to appreciate the extent to which those speculations have a history, and that their history (from the early Victorian period on) contains such fictions as Heinlein’s story as often as, and frequently mixed in with, highly technical debates about the characteristics and requirements of different modes of energy production and consumption.

(13) RUSS’ INFLUENCE. The Baffler’s Jessa Crispin, in “No Mothers, No Daughters”, an excerpt from her introduction to a new edition of Joanna Russ’s How to Supress Women’s Writing, says “I came at Russ sideways…seeing her name-checked by the punk rock chicks who created their own culture through zines an mix tapes when they failed to see themselves through thee wider culture.”

Reading Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing, I wondered, what the hell is it going to take? For decades we have had these types of critiques. We have had books and lectures and personal essays and statistics and scientific studies about unconscious bias. And yet still we have critics like Jonathan Franzen speculating on whether Edith Wharton’s physical beauty (or lack of it, as is his assessment of her face and body) affected her writing, we have a literary culture that is still dominated by one small segment of the population, we have a sense that every significant contribution to the world of letters was made by the heterosexual white man—and that sense is reinforced in the education system, in the history books, and in the visible world.

This complaint wasn’t even exactly fresh territory when Russ wrote her book, which I do not say to diminish her accomplishment. It is always an act of bravery to stand up to say these things, to risk being thought of as ungrateful. Your small pile of crumbs can always get smaller.

But what is it going to take to break apart these rigidities? Russ’s book is a formidable attempt. It is angry without being self-righteous, it is thorough without being exhausting, and it is serious without being devoid of a sense of humor. But it was published over thirty years ago, in 1983, and there’s not an enormous difference between the world she describes and the one we currently inhabit.

(14) THE MARCHING GENIUSES: At Featured Futures, Jason’s prepared another list of bright literary lights in the Summation: March 2018

The fifteen noted stories (nine recommended) come from the 112 (of about 560,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between February 26 and March 31. The printzines were decent, with Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF and Interzone (the latter reviewed for Tangent) being represented by more than one story from their bi-monthly issues. On the web, Lightspeed has two from just this month while Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flash
Fiction Online
, and Nature also make appearances.

(15) JDA SIGHTING. Kilroy was there.

Or as JDA put it in his press release (!) –

Today was a step forward for the cviil rights of conservative-libertarians in SF/F, as I attended the Hugo Award Nomination ceremony without harassment from the Worldcon 2018 staff. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am 1. not disruptive at Worldcon events — or any convention, as FogCon proved and 2. that the discrimination I face from them was for reasons other than my being a danger to any guests (since I am clearly not, and they clearly didn’t think I was here).

The Worldcon Staff was uninviting — a nearly all white group I might add — not seeming to want to have a Hispanic author in their presence. It is something we will have to overcome in fandom together in time.

(16) GRAND THEFT LUNCH. SFF cannot keep up with stories like this from the real world!!!! Begin here —

(17) IN CHARACTER. Jeff Goldblum in his Thor: Ragnarok character in a short film “Grandmaster Moves To Earth.” From 2017, but it’s news to me!

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