Pixel Scroll 5/27/22 I’ll File You, My Pretty, And Your Pixel Scroll Too

(1) NEED TO RELOAD. There will be no TitanCon in Belfast this year announced co-chair Samuel Poots.

We’re very sorry to have to announce that Titan Con is cancelled this year.

I don’t need to tell you that the past few years have been enormously challenging for everyone and many of us are still processing our experiences. While finances are good, the humans and human resources needed to make Titan Con viable have been impacted.

In recent weeks, a number of committee members, including my co-chair, have had to step away due to personal reasons. I’m sorry to lose them, and am extremely grateful for their hard work, but understand it’s the best decision.

After taking stock of the situation with the committee and advisers, it’s clear we do not have the resources for this year’s already smaller con, and unfortunately have to cancel it. This was a very difficult decision and one the committee wished could be avoided, but there was simply no alternative.

A fresh start is called for.

We need to cancel, regroup, and consider our way forward carefully.

We’ll be recruiting some people to help us look at delivering a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror convention with the best elements of our legacy events, while considering how to become sustainable going forward.

All current members will receive a full refund.

Thank you for your support and patience, and we hope to see you in the future to celebrate the wonderful media we are all fans of.

(2) MALIK Q&A. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its “Asian Heritage in Horror” theme in an “Interview with Usman T. Malik”.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

Don’t worry about pandering to western stereotypes or the market. Write your own darkness. Spill your own fears onto the page and the audience will follow.

(3) ABOUT THE BROKEN TRUST. Jake and Ron chat with author Juliette Wade about her projected five-book series, The Broken Trust on The Wrath of the iOtians podcast. (Also available on Spotify.)

Juliette Wade is a novelist … and after listening to this interview, you’ll understand why it’s a hard-earned and well-deserved title for this masterclass worldbuilder.

Her background is impressive. She is fluent in French and Japanese, has degrees in linguistics and anthropology, and also boasts a Ph.D. in education.

Juliette started writing fiction in 1999, and her short stories have been featured in Analog, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy & Science Fiction magazines. But she is perhaps best known for her projected five-volume Broken Trust series, whose latest volume, Inheritors of Power, was published earlier this year by DAW. Juliette’s specialty is sociological science-fiction, of which Broken Trust is one of our finest contemporary examples. Each stratum of Broken Trust’s complex caste system has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture, and naturally, they come into a devastating conflict. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dive in!

(4) JO FLETCHER NEWS. Publishers Lunch reports, “Publisher Jo Fletcher will leave the Quercus sci-fi, fantasy and horror imprint she founded 11 years ago on September 30. She will continue to edit some of her long-standing authors for the line.”

(5) WARNING LABEL. “’Stranger Things 4′ Warning Card Added Following School Shooting” reports Variety.

Netflix is adding a warning card to the “Stranger Things 4” premiere in light of the shooting on Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which left 21 people dead — including 19 children and two teachers.

The warning card, which will show up for viewers in the U.S. when the episodes launch on Friday, reads: “We filmed this season of ‘Stranger Things’ a year ago. But given the recent tragic shooting at a school in Texas, viewers may find the opening scene of episode 1 distressing. We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”

This warning will appear before the prior season recap that auto-plays at the beginning of “Stranger Things 4” Episode 1 for viewers in the U.S. only. Additionally, Netflix has also edited the description for the premiere to include the note, “Warning: Contains graphic violence involving children,” and added “disturbing images” to the show rating advisories….

(6) LIFT OFF. The New Yorker’s Neima Jahromi analyzes Disney World’s Starcruiser experience in “LARPing Goes to Disney World”.

In February, when it was cold and wet in New York, I rode a jitney under blue skies from the Orlando airport into Disney World. Before reaching the Magic Kingdom, the bus passed a range of gray crags perched on scaffolding—a sliver of Black Spire Outpost, which, in the “Star Wars” universe, is a settlement on a planet called Batuu. Nearby, the Millennium Falcon rested below a control tower built into the rock; Stormtrooper helmets were for sale at a sun-bleached military-surplus garage. Black Spire is also the destination of the Galactic Starcruiser, a spaceship that carries hundreds of interstellar tourists to and from the outpost, on what Disney calls an “immersive adventure.” The Starcruiser begins its journey floating in space, light-years from Batuu and Black Spire. In reality, the spacecraft is a massive brutalist building that sits beside a highway….

In one of the games —

In Calculations, written by Caro Murphy, a veteran larper with a side-swept cyberpunk haircut, Sinking Ship customers play a spaceship pilot delivering medicine to Mars, where colonists have been dying from an illness that causes “shortness of breath.” Murphy adapted the game from a nineteen-fifties sci-fi story by Tom Godwin.

(7) DIAL ‘M’ FOR MILKY WAY. No, E.T. should not be allowed to phone home. Vice looks at a scientific paper: “There Are 4 ‘Malicious Extraterrestrial Civilizations’ in Milky Way, Researcher Estimates”. The author, PhD student Alberto Caballero of Spain’s University of Vigo, readily admits he had to make a number of assumptions. Thus, it’s hard to put error boundaries on his conclusions. 

Stephen Hawking famously said sending messages from Earth into deep space could get human civilization destroyed: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Hawking’s words have often been used to discourage the practice of METI, which is Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence. But how many “malicious” alien civilizations are there? And what are the chances any message we sent into our own galaxy would be received by an evil alien civilization? There is precious little research on this topic, and very few scientists have even posited a guess.

new thought experiment attempts to at least venture a guess in hopes that other scientists will begin to take METI more seriously, and will try to determine how dangerous it actually is to try to contact alien civilizations.

According to this paper, which the author admits has “some limitations,” there are roughly four “malicious extraterrestrial civilizations” in the Milky Way, and we could likely send out 18,000 interstellar messages to different exoplanets in our galaxy and the probability of ensuring our own destruction would still be about the same as Earth being hit by a “global catastrophe asteroid.” 

(8) TWO SF ARTISTS REMEMBERED. “A Vision In Many Voices: The Art of Leo and Diane Dillon” at Unquiet Things.

It must have been fate. Born eleven days apart on opposite coasts, Leo and Diane met, competed artistically, and eventually fell in love while attending Parsons School of Design, each aspiring to a life of art. After their marriage in 1957, the artists initially pursued separate careers in illustration before recognizing their strengths were collaborative in nature. In an effort to work in a particular style that they both could master, they symbiotically and seamlessly melded their personalities and styles, employing pastels, colored pencil, watercolor, acrylic, stencils, typography, woodcut, pochoir, found-object assemblage, collage, and sculpture into an entity/partnership that they came to refer to as “the artist.”

Noted Leo on the gorgeously striking complexity of their distinctive decorative realism and unconventional techniques: “People often comment on the ‘Dillon style.’ I think that someplace, the two of us made a pact with each other. We both decided that we would give up the essence of ourselves, that part that made the art each of us did our own. And I think that in doing that we opened the door to everything.”…

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] Warning: there are lots of SPOILERS here. Go away now if you’ve not watched Babylon 5. Really I do mean it! 

Twenty-four years ago in the last season of Babylon 5, the “Meditations on the Abyss” episode aired. It has three story lines: a mission to the edge of Centauri space, Lennier both teaches and learns; John Sheridan struggles to keep the Interstellar Alliance together; a Drazi agents plant a bug in Londo Mollari’s quarters and faces the wrath of Vir Cotto which happens after Londo Mollari tells Vir Cotto he will have to be more careful if he wishes to be worthy of his new job as Centauri Ambassador to Babylon 5. 

Vir fascinates me. This episode, like so many involving him, upends the apparent light hearted nature of the character and show him to be something much more complex, more dangerous but good for the Empire in fact than Londo is as Londo has no sense of community and Vir does. Vir cares about the Centauri people in a way Londo doesn’t.

“I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike, as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave like this.” – Vir telling Mr Morden what he wants.

And he gets to do just that. Wasn’t that absolutely thrilling to see Vir looking up at the head of Mr Morden on a stake in the capital city of a devastated Centauri Prime and waving at it? 

And he will become the Emperor of an Empire almost completely shattered after Londo is strangled by the blind G’Kar.  It not known how the Empire fares under him but it has to be better than it did under under previous Emperors. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. Yes, I know he’s written some genre fiction but I’m interested this time in his mysteries. He wrote The Maltese Falcon which was turned into the film you remember and another film a decade earlier. And of course there are Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series that got turned in a six film series. Now my favorite character by him is the Continental Op in Red Harvest and The Dain Curse. And let’s not forget the Secret Agent X-9 comic strip which I think is genre, which artist Alex Raymond of Flash Gordon fame illustrated. (Died 1961.)
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “House of Horrors” sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 27, 1929 Burnett Toskey, 93. A Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones and served them in various offices from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the official editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society. His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pitcon, a honor he shared with  F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. 
  • Born May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. Setting aside the “The City on the Edge of Forever” episode”, I think I best remember him for the two Dangerous Vision anthologies which were amazing reading.  His awards are far, far too numerous to recount here so I’ll need to do an essay on them. His Hugos alone are legion and that’s hardly all of the awards that he was honored with.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 27, 1935 Lee Meriwether, 87. Catwoman on Batman. (And if you have to ask which Batman, you’re in the wrong conversation.) Also she had a turn as a rather sexy Lily Munster on The Munsters Today. And of course she had a co-starring role as Dr. Ann MacGregor on The Time Tunnel as well. And yes, I know I’m not touching upon her many other genre roles including her Trek appearance as I know you will. 
  • Born May 27, 1951 Stepan Chapman. He wrote but one novel, The Trioka, a most excellent steampunk affair that won that the Philip K. Dick Award. He’s written a lot of short fiction, some of it collected in Danger Music and DossierThe Trioka is available for a reasonable price at the usual suspects. (Died 2014.)
  • Born May 27, 1967 Eddie McClintock, 55. Best known no doubt as Secret Service agent Pete Lattimer on Warehouse 13, a series I loved. He’s also in Warehouse 13: Of Monsters and Men which is listed separately and has the plot of ‘the Warehouse 13 operatives uncover a mysterious comic book artifact and must work together to free themselves from its power.’ He’s had one-off appearances in Witches of East EndAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Supergirl, but no other major genre roles to date.  

(11) HORSING AROUND WITH SHATNER. Tomorrow, May 28, the Hollywood Charity Horse Show is offering “An Evening with William Shatner”. One ticket is $400. Or buy a table for 10 and only pay – eh, $4,000.

6:00pm – 7:00pm Dinner.  During Dinner, Mr. Shatner will go around to each table and take a group shot  (Due to Covid restrictions individual photos are not possible.)

7:00pm – 8:00pm Mr. Shatner will  tell stories and answer your questions

(12) SCENES OF HORROR. Cora Buhlert has a new article up at Galactic Journey about a forgotten tragedy: “[May 26, 1967] Flames over Brussels: The À l’Innovation Department Store Fire”.

…The last time I was in Brussel in April, I stopped at the Standaard Boekhandel book shop directly across the street from À l’Innovation to pick up the latest comics. The venerable weekly comics magazine Tintin has launched a slew of new strips to keep up with the competition of Spirou and particularly the French comics magazine Pilote….

(13) BOOK REVIEW. Cora Buhlert also appears in The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Studies (12.2) with a review of The Weird Tales Story: Enhanced and Expanded by Robert Weinberg et al. The publication is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted to the academic study of Howard’s literary works as well as the literary historical and print culture contexts associated with it. 

(14) DOZOIS AND ADLER TRANSCRIPT. The Eaton Collection shares a bit of history.

(15) AT THE HELM. Gizmodo asks the show creator about those odious comparisons: “Seth MacFarlane Interview: The Orville Versus Star Trek”.

…“I think it’s safe to say that we’re still occupying our own space this year,” MacFarlane told io9 over video chat at a recent Orville press event. “Certainly, the more that’s out there, you do start to become a little concerned that, you know, is it oversaturation? Is there a pocket where our show and only our show exists? And I think that is still very much the case.”

Not wanting to spoil what’s in store, MacFarlane didn’t get too into detail about what specifically sets The Orville apart from Star Trek this season. In more general terms, “It’s this genre that emerged in the 1930s of a ship in space, captained and crewed very much the same way that a sailing ship was,” he said. “It’s something that dates back a lot of decades. Star Trek was really the first to take it and turn it into something that really mattered and was a serious form of storytelling. You know, for us… sci-fi right now is very dark. It’s very dystopian. It’s very grim in a lot of ways. It’s very cautionary. And the optimistic, uplifting part of that genre is something we haven’t really seen in a while. So there was a pretty obvious open pocket for us to kind of slip into when we started. How we fit in now is—it’s really up to the audience, I think—what we’re bringing to the table in tone, in structure, in scope is in a class of its own. But that remains [to be seen], because the verdict [on season three] has not come in yet.”…

(16) GIVE A DOG A BAD NAME. James Davis Nicoll is happy to help.

(17) WE ARE NASA. People sent me links to this 3-year-old NASA video which has been the subject of several posts this week. Take a look.

We’ve taken giant leaps and left our mark in the heavens. Now we’re building the next chapter, returning to the Moon to stay, and preparing to go beyond. We are NASA – and after 60 years, we’re just getting started. Special thanks to Mike Rowe for the voiceover work.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Evil Dead:  The Game,” Fandom Games says this move tie-in “fulfills a need you never knew you had: fighting with four Bruce Campbells.” The narrator suggests that someone convince Lucy Lawless to appear in a game with her Xena armor, “a move that would cause a majority of gamers to regress into puberty.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Andrew (not Werdna), Cora Buhlert, 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 Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/22 Do Not Meddle In The Affairs Of Pixels, For They Are Subtle And Quick To Scroll

(1) TICKET TO RIDE. NASA invites you to add your name and have it included on a flash drive that will fly aboard Artemis I. “Send Your Name to Space”.

Artemis I will be the first uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. The flight paves the way toward landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon!

(2) SHUFFLE OFF TO NASFIC. A Buffalo in 2024 NASFiC bid is launching this weekend at Balticon reports Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News.

…With the only bid for the 2024 World Science Fiction Convention being for Glasgow, Scotland, there is expected to be a 2024 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC being held only in years when Worldcon is outside North America)….

The bid has a website and social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

The members of the bid committee are not named on the website, but is said to “include individuals who have experience working on Worldcon / NASFiC events, as well as others who have organized small conventions and other events across Western New York and Southern Ontario.”

(3) REASONS TO READ. Juliette Wade pitches The Broken Trust series in an appealing thread that starts here. (The series’ fandom is so broad that this thread was retweeted by Analog!)

(4) OH NOES! “Older Kindle e-readers will lose Store Access to buy ebooks in August” warns Good E-Reader.

Amazon has just sent an email to a number of Kindle users who have older e-readers on their account. The company has stated that the Kindle (2nd Gen) International, Kindle DX International, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle (4th Gen), and Kindle (5th Gen) will no longer be able to browse, buy, or borrow books directly from these Kindle e-readers. The only way you can have books delivered to these devices to buy them from your local Amazon website and have them delivered to the Kindle. Existing books that are on these models will still be accessible.

This is the first time that Amazon has ever totally cut off store access on a series of Kindle e-readers. Amazon has not disclosed the reason why these particular models are going to lose store access. I believe this likely due to a TLS issue, since the oldest Kindle models have an older version and likely can’t be upgraded. This is partly due to them only supporting TLS 1.0 and 1.1 and due to older hardware, won’t have the necessary permissions to make store purchases. This is why they Amazon can’t simply issue a firmware update to fix the issue.

(5) INDIANA HOME. “Indiana Jones 5: Harrison Ford Teases Film at Star Wars Celebration” and The Hollywood Reporter took notes.

…“It’s a great pleasure to be here,” Ford told the enormous crowd gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center, adding that he is “really proud of the movie that we made.”

The iconic actor came out onstage after John Williams’ famous Indy theme played. The composer was on-site and conducting a full orchestra.

“It’s a special honor for me to be able to congratulate John on his 90th birthday,” Ford said, acknowledging the composer turning 90 in February. “I told John on another occasion that we had the chance to be together, and that music follows me everywhere I go. And you know what, I’m happy about it.”…

(6) REBEL GENESIS. Disney+ released the teaser trailer for its next Star Wars entry “Andor”.

The “Andor” series will explore a new perspective from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.

Variety amplifies: “Andor Trailer: Diego Luna Returns, Premiere Set for Star Wars Show”.

…“Andor,” a prequel series to “Rogue One,” will premiere on Disney+ on August 31 with a two-episode launch. It will have 12 episodes total, but 12 more episodes, making up a Part 2 to the series, will begin filming in November. The Part 2 will lead up directly to the events of “Rogue One,” it was announced at the 2022 Star Wars Celebration.

… “Andor” is set five years before the events of “Rogue One,” and it tracks how and why Cassian joined the rebellion as the Empire aggressively expands its reach across the galaxy. Forest Whitaker is reprising his performance from “Rogue One” as Clone Wars veteran and radical insurgent Saw Gerrera, and O’Reilly is returning as Mon Mothma, one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join his brunch with writer Steven R. Southard on episode 172 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steven R. Southard

This episode of Eating the Fantastic is a serendipitous one, brought to your ears because writer Stephen R. Southard happened to stop by my neck of the woods for brunch while on a drive from Maryland to Texas. That resulted in us meeting on a sunny May morning at Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery in Winchester, Virginia, which has been serving food in what was previously an Esso Station since 2012. They have excellent fried chicken, biscuits, waffles, pastries and a lot more, so I recommend you drop by if you’re ever in the area.

Steven R. Southard is particularly fascinated by alternate and secret histories, and has written more than a dozen installments in his What Man Hath Wrought story series, starting in 2010 with The Wind-Sphere Ship, and most recently with After the Martians in 2020. His short stories have also appeared in magazines such as Curiosities and Steampunk Tales, and anthologies like Avast, Ye AirshipsQuoth the Raven and Not Far From Roswell. With Kelly A. Harman, he edited the anthology 20,000 Leagues Remembered, published in 2020. He and I have frequently appeared as co-panelists discussing the craft of writing at Balticon, ChessieCon, and elsewhere.

We discussed how an early meeting with Isaac Asimov had him hoping he could be just as talented and prolific, why it took him 15 years of working on a novel before he realized he was meant to be a writer of short stories, how Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea changed his life, why alternate and secret histories attract him so (as well as the stories in that genre I never got around to writing), his “snowflake” method for plotting short stories, the secrets to coming up with good ideas for theme anthologies, what movie and TV depictions of submarines get wrong (and which ones get it right), and much more.

(8) DON’T LOSE THIS NUMBER. Jon Mann says, “I was at the LA Times Festival of Books and ran across 770 PUBLISHING. Interesting coincidence and they never heard of File 770 or the famous room party!” “770 Publishing”.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ok, I’m assuming that most of you have read the Nebula-nominated story that the film Johnny Mnemonic was based off of? It was originally published in the May 1981 issue of Omni magazine but it has been reprinted quite a few times in the forty years since then. 

The screenplay was by William Gibson so one can’t fault the script here, can one? Well the critics were divided on that. Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review said “Johnny Mnemonic is one of the great goofy gestures of recent cinema, a movie that doesn’t deserve one nanosecond of serious analysis but has a kind of idiotic grandeur that makes you almost forgive it.” 

But Owen Glieberman in his Entertainment Weekly review was far less kind: “Johnny Mnemonic, a slack and derivative future-shock thriller (it’s basically Blade Runner with tackier sets), offers the embarrassing spectacle of Keanu Reeves working overtime to convince you that he has too much on his mind. He doesn’t, and neither does the movie.” 

I’ll let have Caryn James of the New York Times have the last word: “Though the film was written by the cyberpunk master William Gibson from his own story and was directed by the artist Robert Longo, ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ looks and feels like a shabby imitation of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Total Recall.’ It is a disaster in every way. There is little tension in the story despite the ever-present threat of an exploding brain. The special effects that take us on a tour of the information superhighway — traveling inside the circuits of Johnny’s brain, or viewing his search for information while wearing virtual reality headgear — look no better than a CD-ROM. Visually, the rest of the film looks murky, as if the future were one big brown-toned mud puddle.”

Now let’s talk about numbers. It’s generally accepted that a film needs to make at least three times what it cost to produce to just break even in the Hollyworld accounting system.  Johnny Mnemonic didn’t even come close to that. It cost at least thirty million to produce (the numbers are still are in dispute even to this day) and made just double that. 

There were two versions of this film. The film had actually premiered in Japan on April 15, in a longer version, well six minutes longer, that was closer to the director’s cut that came out later (oh there was a director’s cut — there’s always a director’s cut, isn’t there?), featuring a score by Mychael Danna and different editing. I doubt any version makes it a better film.

I haven’t discussed the film or the cast, so NO SPOILERS here. It’s possible, just possible , that someone here hasn’t seen it yet. I have. Someday I’m hope for a better interpretation of a Gibson film.  

It really isn’t liked by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes who give it a rating of just thirty-one percent. 

One sec… I see checking IMDb that The Peripheral is forthcoming from Amazon this year as a series, and Pattern Recognition has been announced as a forthcoming film. So there’s hope that Gibson will get treated decently yet. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 Robert W. Chambers. He’s best known for his book of short stories titled The King in Yellow, published in 1895. I see that it has been described by such luminaries as Joshi and Klein as a classic in the field of the supernatural. I have not read it, so would someone who has please tell me why they consider it such. And do tell me if I missed anything by not reading it. (Died 1933.)
  • Born May 26, 1913 Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. There’s a CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin used for his likeness in Rogue One. Having not seen Rogue One, I can’t say just how accurate it is. What’s your opinion? Come on, I know you have one. (Died 1994.)
  • Born May 26, 1921 Mordecai Roshwald. He’s best known for Level 7. (Read the expanded 2004 edition as it has his SF framing narrative which has such fascinating essays as “Preface by The Martian Institute for Archaeological Excavations in the Solar System”.) He is also the author of A Small Arrmageddon noveland his nonfiction work, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 26, 1923 Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the Thrones audiobooks. No, you don’t want my opinion on those. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 26, 1925 Howard DeVore. He was according to all sources, an expert on pulp magazines who dealt in them and collected them, an APA writer, con-runner and otherwise all-around volunteer in First Fandom. He wrote a fascinating-sounding publication with Donald Franson, A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 (which also had an updated edition). Not surprisingly, he’s in the First Fandom Hall of Fame. He also has a Neffy for the Fan the Year which I think he got just before he died. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 26, 1964 Caitlín R. Kiernan, 58. They’re an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards.  As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir which got a well-deserved Otherwise Award as being particularly worth reading. They also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Gaiman’s character, Delirium. You can find out more here on this band and their other delightful music projects. Well maybe delightful isn’t the right word…  Did I mention they’re well known in blood drenched horror circles?  Well if I didn’t I should as they’ve won an amazing three, yes three, International Horror Guild Awards as well as the two Stokers noted above. 
  • Born May 26, 1970 Alex Garland, 52. Writer of DreddEx Machina and Annihilation (which I still haven’t seen — opinions please on it — the books for the latter were excellent and usually don’t see films based on fiction I like). Ex Machina was nominated for a Hugo at MidAmeriCon II, Annihilation likewise was at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon. Dredd alas wasn’t nominated. He also wrote 28 Days Later but I’m really not into Pandemic films right now.

(11) ON THE AIR IS WHERE. Octothorpe 58 is out! Listen here: “Oh No! Really? Pancakes”

John Coxon has a paper cut, Alison Scott feels seen, and Liz Batty is cheating on her homework. We discuss Chinese translation before a deep dive into the Chicon 8 programme and collecting data for conrunning. Art by Brad W Foster.

Below: Illustration by Brad W Foster. Three aliens cluster around an old-style radio microphone in turquoise with a red speaker grille and green text saying “ON AIR”. The aliens from left to right are green, pink, and blue and look suspiciously like the hosts of Octothorpe. The title of the podcast is atop the artwork in orange.

(12) A PILE OF POOH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 100 acres of abject desolation. Perhaps the best argument ever that the Public Domain leads to the Tragedy of the Commons. A horrific assault on what’s left of my soul. The public disembowelment of a fallen hero. A knife slashing through our collective heart. Pick your own analogy. “See The Winnie The Pooh Horror Movie That Is Actually Happening” at Giant Freakin Robot.

So… did you know Winnie the Pooh is now in the public domain? Yeah. It is. And someone who has apparently stayed under all of our radars for a while now has taken advantage of that and made a horror movie based on the icon. We’re not joking, we’re not lying, and we have the photos to prove it. Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, a horror film and what looks to be a slasher flick, is a real thing and it’s on the way….

(13) TOP APOCALYPSE. David Yoon’s list of the ten best apocalyptic novels includes Ray Bradbury: “The 10 Most Captivating Apocalypse Novels” at CrimeReads.

The Last Policeman series by Ben H. Winters

Okay, the world hasn’t quite ended yet in these books, but we know it will. Winters plays with the importance (or pointlessness) of morality here, in the form of a cop who’s trying to solve a murder just weeks before kingdom come. The hardboiled prose perfectly matches the poor officer’s struggle. Because really, what’s the point in the doing the right thing when we vanish in the end, whether by errant meteor or natural death?

(14) “TODAY MY JURISIDICTION ENDS HERE.” [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The patent system assumes that inventors are human. Inventions devised by machines require their own intellectual property law and an international treaty. “Artificial intelligence is breaking patent law”   In today’s Nature.

In 2020, a machine-learning algorithm helped researchers to develop a potent antibiotic that works against many pathogens (see Nature https://doi.org/ggm2p4; 2020). Artificial intelligence (AI) is also being used to aid vaccine development, drug design, materials discovery, space technology and ship design. Within a few years, numerous inventions could involve AI. This is creating one of the biggest threats patent systems have faced.

Patent law is based on the assumption that inventors are human; it currently struggles to deal with an inventor that is a machine. Courts around the world are wrestling with this problem now as patent applications naming an AI system as the inventor have been lodged in more than 100 countries1. Several groups are conducting public consultations on AI and intellectual property (IP) law, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe.

If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge….

(15) SPACE CHOW. “Apollo Era Astronaut Meal — Meal B for Day 9 of an Apollo 7-10 Mission, Intended for the Command Module Pilot” was part of a lot offered by Nate Sanders Auction. The auction ended today without a bid. Might be past its sell date in more ways than one!

Complete meal for the Command Module Pilot for an Apollo mission. It’s unknown whether the meal was flown, but the white velcro stickers and menu indicates it was made for the Command Module Pilot on one of the Apollo 7-10 missions. Visible labels show a Corn Chowder packet as well as Coconut Cubes. Additional food is inside the vacuum packed meal, but labels aren’t visible. Label on front reads ”8027 / Day – 9 / Meal – B” with the WSD (Whirlpool Space Division) stamp of 14. Label on other side reads ”FAC185”. Entire meal measures approximately 5.25” x 3.75” x 2”. Very good condition. Rare.

(16) A VIEW OF THE FUTURE FROM 1976. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Arthur C. Clarke foresees telework and smartphones and almost foresees the World Wide Web in this interview with AT&T corporate communications from 1976. “Interview with author/futurist Arthur C. Clarke, from an AT&T-MIT Conference, 1976”.

Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author and futurist, crossed paths with the scientists of the Bell System on numerous occasions. In 1945, he concurrently, but independently, conceived of the first concept for a communications satellite at the same time as Bell Labs scientist, John Robinson Pierce. Pierce too, was a science fiction writer. To avoid any conflict with his day job at Bell Labs, Pierce published his stories under the pseudonym J.J. Coupling. In the early 1960s, Clarke visited Pierce at Bell Labs. During his visit, Clarke saw and heard the voice synthesis experiments going on at the labs by John L. Kelly and Max Mathews, including Mathews’ computer vocal version of “Bicycle Built for Two”. Clarke later incorporated this singing computer into the climactic scene in the screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the computer HAL9000 sings the same song. According to Bob Lucky, another Bell Labs scientist, on the same visit, Clarke also saw an early Picturephone, and incorporated that into 2001 as well. In 1976, AT&T and MIT held a conference on futurism and technology, attended by scientists, theorists, academics and futurists. This interview with Clarke during this conference is remarkably prescient—especially about the evolution of communications systems for the next 30+ years. The interview was conducted for an episode of a Bell System newsmagazine, but this is the raw interview footage.

(17) FEED ME. How bizarre! A Little Shop of Horrors slot machine based on the movie musical. Watch it in action on YouTube.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Moon Knight Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer is excited by the possibility of characters mooning Sir Patrick Stewart and other titled thespians.  But he’s less excited when we learn how little we see of Moon Knight and how many times the character blacks out. But he’s relieved when he learns that several characters seem to have died on the show, because “this is the MUU.  Death is only a plot point.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Jon Mann, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 3/1/21 Second Pixel On The Left, Scroll On Till Morning

(1) A KIND OF HOUSING CRISIS. In “Jonathan Lethem on Robert Heinlein and Other Influences” at The New Yorker, Lethem answers questions about his story in this week’s issue, “The Crooked House.”

The story’s protagonist, Mull, has found himself living in a once spectacular tesseract house—an architect’s grandiose solution to L.A.’s housing crisis—which has collapsed yet is still habitable. The structure keeps shifting and Mull struggles to find his way around. A corridor he used one day may have vanished the next. When did you first imagine this building? Do you see it as a three-dimensional space in your mind’s eye? Do you know it better than Mull? Or as well as Mull?

The idea of a tesseract as building comes from Robert Heinlein’s famous 1941 short story, “—And He Built a Crooked House—” (an influence my story wears on the sleeve of its title). It was one of my favorite stories growing up, and, for a lot of readers my age, it might be as responsible for the introduction of the idea of a tesseract as Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.” It’s also an L.A. story, and Heinlein was a resident when he wrote it. The house in the story is across the street from his own address, if I’m remembering right.

That people in Los Angeles live outside right now, in tents and under overpasses, is such a cruel and overwhelming reality that it may be atrocious to make reference to it in passing (though it probably isn’t better to leave it unmentioned at all, which is what happens constantly). I’ll try saying simply that I sometimes find it easiest to let certain realities express themselves in my thinking when I give them a surreal or allegorical expression. 

(2) MORE COMMENTS ON BAEN’S BAR AND DISINVITING WEISSKOPF. Here are three recent posts that go beyond rehashing others’ opinions.

LawDog: “Freedom of Speech by LawDog”, a guest post on According to Hoyt, is a non-lawyer’s defense of Baen’s Bar hosting the sort of comments called out in Jason Sanford’s article.

…This, however, isn’t where the deplatformers come from (I’m looking at you folks taking a thunder run at Baen’s Bar in particular), they’ve decided that “Incitement to Violence” isn’t Free Speech, as they clutch their pearls.

Lawdog briefs a Supreme Court case, then proceeds —

“How,” I hear you ask, “Does this pertain to Baen’s Bar?”

Simple. If someone has been yacking about doing violence unto the Fed.gov for ten or fifteen years … it’s pretty safe to say that lawlessness is not “imminent”, and thus fails the Brandenburg test. That speech, distasteful though you may find it, is protected Free Speech.

And what is speech protected from? Protected from suppression by the government. So the government can’t prevent Baen’s Bar from hosting, for example, Tom Kratman’s advice about a Trumpian militia.

However, the pertinent question is do fans want to honor a figure in the sff field that hosts this speech? Lawdog’s cite does not bridge that divide.

Ben Sheffield takes a 360-dgree look at the topic in “Baenposting” at Coagulopath.

… That’s the main issue under consideration: are these “threats” on Baen’s Bar any more substantial or interesting than symbolic posturing, like a Twitter leftist with a guillotine avatar saying “eat the rich”? I don’t think they are.

So the expose has problems, and avenues of counterattack. But the reaction from the forum’s defenders has largely been to shoot themselves in the foot.

Baen’s publisher Toni Weisskopf had a hard row to hoe. If she deletes the mentioned posts and bans the offenders, her users will perceive this as a craven surrender to a bully’s demands. But if she ignores the expose, it will be spun as a further endorsement of violence.

She tried to have it both ways, temporarily closing the forum pending an investigation while refusing to condemn the violent threats. “We take these allegations seriously, and consequently have put the Bar on hiatus while we investigate. But we will not commit censorship of lawful speech.” She might have hoped that the scandal would blow over in a week, and she could reopen the Bar without doing anything. This approach blew up in her face, and caused her to lose her Guest of Honor spot at the 2021 Worldcon.

As I’ve said, you can’t win with forums. In chess, zugzwang is when you’re forced to make a bad move, because there’s no other way. Jason Sanford put her in zugzwang on February 15. There was no way she could have responded without suffering reputational damage, either from the SF community at large or from her own fans.

The smart thing to do, of course, would have been to never allow posts like that on Baen’s Bar to begin with.

But moderation is tricky, particularly with regards to powerful, respected users who are also personal friends. Forums founded on an ethos of “everything goes!” are generally moderated as little as possible, and this establishes precedent that’s hard to break. Like a roof with a hole in it, “everything goes” only seems fine until it starts raining. Moderation is almost always necessary, regardless of your friends’ feelings.

I’ve seen some attempted defenses of Baen’s Bar, and they’re not impressive….

Linda Bushyager, who in the Seventies edited the fannish newzine of record (Karass) before passing the torch to File 770, told Facebook readers that Toni Weisskopf didn’t deserve this outcome:

… I went to Discon’s website to read what they had to say about their decision. Basically the committee said because some users of Baen Books discussion had said violent or nasty or non PC or whatever comments, Toni, as the main editor at Baen would be disinvited. Note, Toni never made those comments, but I guess did not criticize them or ban them. However after complaints Toni did close down the “offensive” forum.

So it’s like you rent a room in your house to someone (a stranger) who turns out to be a robber, or Nazi, or racist, or whatever — well now let’s ban you too for whatever they said or did. Or maybe I belong to some club or organization or political party and someone else in this group said abhorrent stuff and I didn’t immediately withdraw from that group, so ban me from whatever honor you were going to give me, even if I disagree with those spoken views. Etc. There are many examples one could imagine. Am I responsible for everything not only my relatives and friends may say or do, but for acquaintances and people I work with or casually ride an elevator with? Where is the line?

Guilt by association.

All in all a sad day for Science Fiction fandom, as I see it — especially where in years past we were known for being tolerant to people who were different and who may have had different views. And when we found fans who had abhorrent ideas or said awful things, we tried to understand where they were coming from and tried to be tolerant and sympathetic where possible in an effort to understand and change minds, not just rebuke bad behavior thoughtlessly….

(3) COMIC-CON@HOME AGAIN. Comic-Con International has cancelled this spring’s WonderCon, and once more will run both it and the San Diego Comic-Con as virtual events: “Statement Regarding Comic-Con 2021”

As you may be aware, due to concern for public health and safety, San Diego Comic Convention had to cancel both of its in-person events in 2020 and recently announced that our spring 2021 show, WonderCon in Anaheim, will also be canceled. In its place, WonderCon@Home will once again be held as a free online event on March 26 and 27, 2021.

It is the policy of the organization to continue to closely monitor information from local and national healthcare officials as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic. Never could we have imagined what the world experienced in 2020 and continues to experience today. While we are buoyed by the rollout of the vaccine and the growing number of individuals being inoculated, it appears that July will still be too early to safely hold an in-person event of the magnitude of Comic-Con. For this reason, we have made the challenging decision to postpone Comic-Con 2021 as an in-person gathering until our 2022 dates, and once again hold this year’s celebration as the free online Comic-Con@Home. Unfortunately, the challenges of this past year and the multiple postponements of our two largest events have left us with limited financial resources, so this year the online experience will be reduced to a three-day event, spanning July 23-25, 2021.

(4) VIABLE PARADISE. The Viable Paradise SF&F Writers’ Workshop is also postponing til 2022: “ANNOUNCEMENT: Viable Paradise 2021 and Covid-19”.

Despite a decline in the number of new Covid-19 cases and the increasing rate of vaccinations, we cannot be certain there will be no threat come October. Last year, a major surge of the disease began just as the workshop would have been taking place. The new variants of the virus represent a wild card. No one is more disappointed with this outcome than we are, but we will not take risks with the safety of our students, instructors, and staff.

(5) TACKLING THE GENDER DIVIDE IN WANDAVISION. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing at the DailyDot, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (@Hello_Tailor on Twitter) examines how differing standards for male and female magic users in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are indicative of existing prejudices about men and women. It’s an illuminating article about how often in comics (and superhero movies) a woman’s superpower is undercut by her own helplessness. “What ‘WandaVision’ and ‘Doctor Strange’ say about magical gender roles”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…While Wanda Maximoff’s role is all about emotional upheaval and uncontrolled outbursts of power, her male counterpart (and future co-star) Doctor Strange develops his magic through rigorous academic training….

(6) FLASH FICTION CONTEST. Queer Sci Fi opened its annual Flash Contest today, and will be accepting entries through April 30. Full details at the link. (Via Locus Online.)

Every year, QSF holds a flash fiction contest to create an amazing new anthology of queer speculative fiction stories. We ask authors to do the nearly-impossible – to submit a sci fi, fantasy, paranormal or horror LGBTIQA story that has no more than 300 words.

The theme for 2021 is “Ink”…

We’ll be accepting works from across the queer spectrum, and would love to see more entries including lesbian, trans, bi, intersex and ace protagonists, as well as gay men. We also welcome diversity in ability (physical and mental) and in race. We had our most diverse set of entries yet in 2020 – let’s keep up the trend!

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 1, 1997 –On this day in 1997, the Crime Traveller series premiered on BBC. It was produced by Carnival Films for the BBC. The premise being of  time travel for the purpose of solving crimes. It was created by Anthony Horowitz, and starred Michael and Chloë Annett. It would last but eight episodes being caught in the change of guard in the BBC Head of Drama position. You can watch the first episode here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 1, 1885 Lionel Atwill. He had the lead roles in Thirties horror films Doctor XThe Vampire BatMurders in the Zoo and Mystery of the Wax Museum but his most-remembered role was the one-armed Inspector Krogh in Son of Frankenstein which Kenneth Mars parodied in Young Frankenstein. He would appear in four subsequent Universal Frankenstein films. (Died 1946.) (CE) 
  • Born March 1, 1915 – Wyman Guin.  One novel, eight shorter stories.  Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  Some have praised his focus on the human implications of enduring the future, but I’ve always loved “Volpla”.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born March 1, 1918 Roger Delgado. The first Master in the Doctor Who series. The role was written especially for him. He would appear only with the Third Doctor as he died in car crash in Turkey. Other genre appearances were Quatermass IIDanger ManThe Mummy’s Shroud and First Man into Space. (Died 1973.) (CE) 
  • Born March 1, 1923 Andrew Faulds. He’s best remembered as Phalerus in Jason and the Argonauts in which he was in the skeleton fight scene that featured model work by Ray Harryhausen. He appeared in a number of other genre films including The Trollenberg TerrorThe Flesh and the Fiends and Blood of the Vampire. He had one-offs on Danger Man and One Step Beyond. Oh, and his first acting gig was as Lysander in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born March 1, 1946 Lana Wood, 75. She’s best remembered as Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. She was in The Wild Wild West as Vixen O’Shaughnessy in “The Night of the Firebrand” and Averi Trent in “The Night of the Plague” episodes. She was in both up the CBS televised Captain America films playing Yolanda, and she was still active in the genre as little three years ago playing a character named Implicit in Subconscious Reality. Be very suspicious that all the Amazon reviews of the later are five stars. (CE) 
  • Born March 1, 1950 David Pringle, 71. Pringle served as the editor of Foundation during the Eighties which In turned spawned Interzone during that time. The Glasgow Worldcon committee gave Pringle a Special Award for his work on Interzone. With Malcolm Edwards and Ian Watson, he also edited Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction from the late Seventies through the mid Eighties. Besides his various guides to the genre such as The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy, I see early on that he did a lot of work on J.G. Ballard such as Earth Is the Alien Planet: J. G. Ballard’s Four-Dimensional Nightmare and J. G. Ballard: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography.  (CE) 
  • Born March 1, 1952 Steve Barnes, 69. I remember him best from the Dream Park series with Larry Niven but the Insh’Allah series is quite stellar as is the Heorot series that he did with Niven. His only award to date is an Endeavour Award for Lion’s Blood.  (CE) 
  • Born March 1, 1954 Ron Howard, 67. Director of Cocoon and Willow. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And opinions are I believe are definitely divided on Solo: A Star Wars Story. As a producer only, he’s responsible for Cowboys & Aliens and The Dark Tower. (CE)
  • Born March 1, 1954 – Maureen Garrett, age 67.  Known as a fanartist – she did the Nine of Wands in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (see the whole deck here [PDF]; after BP’s introduction the suits are Cups, Pentacles, Swords, Wands, then the Trumps; yes, that’s the model for her card, named elsewhere in these birthday notes), contributed to Rune, moderated “What Is an Artist’s Life Really Like?” at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon – she was also Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm.  [JH]
  • Born March 1, 1955 – Tracy Barrett, Ph.D., age 66.  Six novels for us, two dozen all told.  The Song of Orpheus, seventeen Greek myths we’re little acquainted with, has been called nonfiction, but I dunno.  Anna of Byzantium is her novel of Anna Comnena (1083-1153; wrote The Alexiad, hello Joe Major). Taught at Vanderbilt thirty years. Likes Dickens’ Bleak House (as do I), “anything by Jane Austen, James Thurber, George Eliot.”  [JH]
  • Born March 1, 1962 – Dave Weingart, age 59.  Variously active fan, celebrated as a filker.  InterfilkGuest at Consonance 2001.  Official Filk Waif at FilKONtario 12.  Music Guest of Honor at Apollocon 2010.  Featured Filker at 8Pi-con.  Filklore Award.  [JH]
  • Born March 1, 1968 – Dorian Vallejo, age 53.  Five dozen covers, a few interiors.  Here is the Jul 91 Asimov’s.  Here is The California Voodoo Game.  Here is Lone Star.  Here is Smoke and Mirrors.  Jack Gaughan Award.  Son of Boris, which some say irks him; his Website has “Born into an artistic family” and nothing of us; but like any artist he gets to do what he thinks best.  [JH]
  • Born March 1, 1987 – Maxmilian Meinzold, age 34.  Thirty covers, a few interiors.  Here is The Silmarillion (in German).  Here is The King of Camelot (in German; tr. of The Once and Future King).  Here is The Hidden Oracle.  Here is Zealand (spelled Seeland in German; subtitle, “hitch-hiking to the Strudel Throat”; yes, in English it’s too bad there’s an r).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In today’s episode of Spaceman Spiff at Calvin and Hobbes, Spiff finds a huge monster camouflaged as a mountain range.

(10) STRATIGRAPHY. “Crossing Castes: Juliette Wade’s Transgressions of Power” is a Paul Weimer review at Tor.com of Wade’s new novel.

…. And that brings us to another theme of the series, and this book in particular (right in the title, Transgressions of Power). For, you see, Della and Tagaret do want to break down those adamantine boundaries of Caste. They see, even if darkly and imperfectly (and Wade does a great job in making them fallible and human in it) that the caste system is really the root of the problems of the crumbling civilization and if there is any hope for the Varin, from the Grobal on down, it will take crossing those boundaries…in making transgressions, if you will.  In keeping with that, not only do we see Tagaret and Della’s efforts, but we get an emphasis on a dreaded and whispered thing that can happen to the Grobal—to “Fall” down to another caste. This is shown as a dangerous and one possibility for Adon to escape the pressures on him, and while it is a societal safety valve,  it is treated as a fate almost worse than death. It is also a Chehkov’s Gun that the author effectively fires in the conclusion, as well….

(11) THE EVOLUTION OF MARIO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 24 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at the success of Nintendo character Mario.

Nintendo’s influential designer Shigeru Miyamoto came up with the blueprint for Mario when he was developing 1981’s Donkey Kong, in which a hero called Jumpman dodges obstacles to reach the top of a construction site where a gorilla is holding his girlfriend hostage.  Mario’s characteristics were determined by technical limitations and accidents:  his red and blue overalls were selected to contrast with a black background while his large nose and moustache were an effort to infuse personality into a character comprised of a handful of pixels.  According tto company lore, his name was inspired by Mario Segale, the irate landlord of Nintendo of America’s warehouse.

Mario was first cast as a carpenter, then as a plumber for Mario Bros., which featured him and his twin brother Luigi fighting off monsters which oozed up from the sewers of New York. Soon a polish formula was established, with nefarious king Bowser, hapless Princess Peach and a cast of surrounding characters drawn in broad brushstrokes.  Powers included mushrooms that made Mario grow or shrink, or items that turned him into a bee, a ghost, a flying squirrel, and, in the new release Super Mario 3d World, a cat. Mario appeared in educational games, a low-budget cartoon and an execrable 1993 live-action film–though an upcoming animated movie, co-produced by the studio behind the Minions films, might be better.

(12) CELESTIAL LODGINGS. “First-ever space hotel slated to be operational by 2027” in the New York Post. This design might look a bit familiar if you’re old enough to have watched Walt Disney’s original Disneyland series.  

… This decade will see the start and completion of construction on humanity’s first ever hotel in outer space, according to the group behind it, Orbital Assembly. 

The 3-year-old company plans to begin building Voyager Station in low Earth orbit in 2025, and believes its interstellar resort may be operational as soon as 2027, the Daily Mail reported. 

Renderings of the celestial hotel are cosmic-chic: Individual pods are attached to a rotating wheel, with tubes connecting the different areas forming an X, as if the wheel’s axle….

(13) SPOT MAKES ITS OWN SPOTS. “Boston Dynamics’ Robot Dog Is Now Armed—in the Name of Art” reports WIRED. Video here.

…The project, called Spot’s Rampage, is the work of MSCHF (pronounced “mischief,” of course), an internet collective that regularly carries out meme-worthy pranks.

Previous MSCHF stunts include creating an app that awarded $25,000 to whomever could hold a button down for the longest; selling “Jesus Shoes” sneakers with real holy water in the soles (Drake bought a pair); developing an astrology-based stock-picking app; and cutting up and selling individual spots from a Damian Hirst painting.

Daniel Greenberg, a member of MSCHF, claims there’s a serious side to Spot’s Rampage though. “Anytime you see a TikTok or a dance it’s like, ‘Oh God, Spot is so happy,’” Greenberg says. “But if we actually talk candidly about what it’s going to be used for in the real world, you could say it’s police, you could say it’s military.”

Needless to say, Boston Dynamics isn’t very happy. The company tweeted on Friday: “We condemn the portrayal of our technology in any way that promotes violence, harm, or intimidation. Our mission is to create and deliver surprisingly capable robots that inspire, delight and positively impact society.”

Michael Perry, the company’s vice president of business development, says Spot’s terms of use prohibit violent uses of the robot. “The core things we’re trying to avoid are things that harm people, intimidate people, or break the law,” Perry says.

Perry adds that it is a particular concern because the company is trying to sell its robots. “It’s not just a moral point, it’s also a commercial point for us,” he says.

Because the robot periodically checks in with Boston Dynamics servers, it would theoretically be possible to disable the Spot that MSCHF is using. “We’re wrestling with that,” Perry adds. The MSCHF crew claim to have a workaround ready just in case.

(14) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. Fanac.org has made videos of the 1989 Worldcon Masquerade available on YouTube.

Norascon 3, the 47th Worldcon, was held in Boston, MA. In this recording, costumers make their appearance on the big stage, and showcase the physical results of their imaginations and their skills. The costumers range from Novices to Journeymen to Masters, and the themes from silly and playful to very serious. Note: Some sections have been muted due to copyright laws. There’s more to come in part 2.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/21 Old Rossum’s Scroll Of Practical Credentials

(1) YOU TAKE THE HIGH ROAD. George R.R. Martin is involved in developing a series based on Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks for HBO, as he explained at Not A Blog: “On the Road with Roger Z”:

… We had not intended to announce anything yet, to be sure. Development is a long and uncertain process. Thousands of shows are pitched, hundreds of pilots are written, dozens of pilots are filmed, but only a very few of them ever get greenlit to series. There is a reason that Hollywood insiders call it “development hell.” And what’s the point of announcing projects that might never make it to air? That’s why HBO — like most other networks and streamers — prefers to keep these things quiet.

Even so, even so… you cannot win the lottery unless you buy a ticket, so we all keep playing.

…My career in television started in 1985 when I adapted Roger Zelazny’s “The Last Defender of Camelot” for THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It was the first script of mine ever to be filmed (starring Richard Kiley and Jenny Agutter and a stuntman whose nose got cut off during the swordfight). Roger was a friend, a mentor, and one of the greatest science fiction writers who ever lived. He died in 1995, but his work will live for so long as people read SF and fantasy. It was an honor to be able to bring one of his stories to television. And now I am hoping we will be able to do it again.

I pitched ROADMARKS to HBO last year — along with four other SF and fantasy works (by various other writers) that I thought had the makings of great shows. They all had (and have) lots of potential, but ROADMARKS was the one they responded to….

(2) LEVER OF CHANGE. Learn the key to an author’s new book in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

…The big idea of Transgressions of Power is that a human being, in the moment of action, may not know what the significance of their choices might be; they might not be in a position of power that allows for drastic change; but their choices and actions matter.

(3) FRY’S CLOSING. [Item by Betsy Hanes Perry.] Fry’s was where, in Northern California, you went to look for components; later it branched out into computers (of course!), computer components, large appliances. It used to stock snacks as a loss-leader to get geeks to come in for casual shopping.

All the stores were themed, and the one in Fremont was themed around the 1893 World’s Fair. It had a Tesla coil that went off once an hour (see here). The one in San Jose was themed as a Mayan temple. “The kitschy history of the Bay Area’s themed Fry’s Electronics” at SFGate.

…If you’re not familiar: Every Fry’s store has a theme and elaborate decorations to go along with it. In the Bay Area, the San Jose store “pays tribute to the first astronomers, the Mayans, with settings from Chichen Itza,” complete with a massive temple at the entrance, palm trees between shelves and hidden speakers that play the sounds of birds chirping through the parking lot. Fremont is the “1893 World’s Fair,” where a Tesla coil at the center of the store fires off every hour. Sunnyvale is “the history of Silicon Valley” and the Palo Alto store was “Wild West.” (Sadly, the Palo Alto store rode into the sunset earlier this year.)

[Editor’s postscript.] The Fry’s in Burbank near where I used to live had an explicitly Fifties sci-fi alien invasion theme. It was awesome.

(4) THE FIRST SILENCE. Tananarive Due conducts an interview with “Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins on ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Legacy” at Vanity Fair.

…FOSTER: We met at a reading. I didn’t really get a proper meet with Tony. So we’re sitting across from each other, and he launches in, and we start the reading. And I was just petrified. [Laughs.] I was kind of too scared to talk to him after that.

He did another movie, and I started the film without him. I still kept that kind of hold-your-breath feeling about the character just from that first reading. Jonathan wanted to use this technique that Hitchcock talked about, where you have the actors use the camera as the other person. And I think there was something really interesting about that for the film, but that also meant that Tony and I couldn’t see each other. For a lot of the close-ups, we were looking into a camera lens and the other person was just a voice in the background. And—remember?—they had to lock you into the glass prison cell. So he would do a whole day inside the prison cell, and they wouldn’t let him out. We’d just do his side. And then the next day, we’d do my side.

HOPKINS: Also, they discovered before we started filming that there would be a problem if there were bars on the prison cell for left and right eyelines. So the designer—it was Kristi Zea—came up with a Perspex thing, which makes it even more frightening, because he’s like a tarantula in a bottle. No visual borderline between the two. It was more terrifying, because it’s a dangerous creature in a bottle who can do anything. He could break the glass….

(5) MORE, PLEASE. In “The Canonical Sequel FAQ” John Scalzi tells fans what the future holds in store for his various series.

Pretty much on a daily basis, I get asked on social media whether there will ever be a sequel to [insert one of my books/series here]. To reduce the amount of typing that I have to do each time this is asked, I now present The Canonical Sequel FAQ, which will tell you — at a glance! — whether you can expect a sequel to whatever book it is that you are hoping to have a sequel to. This will be updated from time to time.

(6) TIM KIRK MAP. Brenton Dickieson introduces readers to “’The Country Around Edgestow’: A Map from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength by Tim Kirk from Mythlore” at A Pilgrim in Narnia. The map has been reproduced at the link with permission.

… One of Lewis’ key terran fictional places is “Edgestow,” the home of Bragdon Wood, Bracton College, and the literary centre of the events in That Hideous Strength. In my reading about Lewis and Arthurian literature, I happened upon Margaret Hannay’s piece, which included a map of “The Country Around Edgestow” by artist Tim Kirk.…

(7) ARE YOU BOOKED FOR THE LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY? “Doctor Who Master trilogy watchalong party confirmed for Sunday” says Radio Times.

…Doctor Who Magazine’s Emily Cook has organised most of the watchalongs so far, and announced that they would be coming to an end this month. She tweeted the news by saying, “Everything has its time, and everything ends… I’ll be announcing the final Tweetalong later this afternoon!”

She later followed up with a tweet that read, “Believe it or not, we’ve been doing Doctor Who Lockdown for almost a year now! This may be the last Tweetalong, but we’re going to end with a SPECTACULAR watch party.

“And here comes our final Tweetalong… A TRIPLE BILL! Sunday 28th February 6pm (GMT), UTOPIA 7pm (GMT), THE SOUND OF DRUMS 8pm (GMT), LAST OF THE TIME LORDS. Watch with fans around the world. Join in with the hashtag #YANA”

If you haven’t participated in the event before, the idea is that fans from all over the world re-watch classic episodes at exactly the same time, tweeting their reactions and comments along the way.

(8) CATCH AND SELL ‘EM ALL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 17 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber discusses the rise in value of rare Pokemon cards.

Today, a Chansey (Pokemon card) could be worth around $3,000. That’s a great deal less than the rare holographic Blastoise which sold at auction last month for $360,000, roughly the price of a brand-new Ferrari. In 2021, their 25th year of existence, Pokemon cards are enjoying a resurgence in popularity almost matching their late-1990s heyday.

This is partly down to the pandemic, which has left many stuck at home with extra disposable income, to take up a new hobby that combines investment with a waft of nostalgia. Streaming platforms YouTube and Twitch have cultivated communities of Pokemon card traders such as Leonhart, who quit his job as a lawyer to open card packs full-time on YouTube (the sealed packs contain a random selection of cards which could be precious or worthless), and streaming star Logan Paul, who says he has spent $2m on his card addiction.

(9) HEAR OCTAVIA BUTLER. NPR’s “Morning Edition” devoted a segment today to “Sci-Fi Writer Octavia Butler Offered Warnings And Hope In Her Work”. It includes numerous sound bites from an archival interview with the author. Listen to a recording or read a transcript of the NPR item at the link. (The complete transcript of Octavia Butler’s 2005 interview is available at Democracy Now! – “Remembering Octavia Butler: Black Sci-Fi Writer Shares Cautionary Tales in Unearthed 2005 Interview”.)

NOEL KING, HOST:

Octavia Butler seemed almost to belong to the future. She was the first Black woman to receive the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Those are the highest honors in science fiction and fantasy writing. She was the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur genius grant. She was prolific and prophetic from the 1970s until her death in 2006. Here’s Laine Kaplan-Levenson from NPR’s history show Throughline.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

OCTAVIA BUTLER: I don’t recall ever having wanted desperately to be a Black woman science fiction writer. I wanted to be a writer.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 24, 1952 — On this day in 1952, Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here. It is not one of the three Aladdin And His Lamp filmsthat are rated at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 24, 1786 – Wilhelm Grimm. With older brother Jacob (1785-1863) assembled and published the collection known to us as Grimms’ Fairy Tales (1812). Loved music; good story-teller; animated, jovial fellow. The Grimms weren’t the authors, so I can’t call them seminal, but they sure were vital. (Died 1859) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.) (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1921 – Richard Powers. Frank R. Paul Award. SF Hall of Fame. Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. Six hundred sixty covers, seventy interiors. Artbooks Spacetimewarp Paintings; The Art of Richard Powers. Our great pioneer of illustration that was not representation. You can see it start here with a 1950 cover (his first?) for Pebble in the Sky. By 1956 he did this for To Live Forever. By 1963 he was here for Budrys’ Inferno. Here is the Sep 78 Analog. Here is the Program Book for Chicon V the 49th Worldcon, 1991 – where he was Guest of Honor; before that, LoneStarCon I the 3rd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). Not one Chesley, not one Hugo. Did we appreciate him? Do we now? (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 88. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World, A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1941 – Sam Lundwall, age 80. Author, critic, translator, editor, publisher; television producer; cartoonist; photographer; singer. Organized Scancon 76 (Stockholm); Guest of Honor at Eurocon 9 (Zagreb), 21 (Dortmund). Translated his 1969 book on SF from Swedish into English as SF, What It’s All About (1971). SF, an Illustrated History (1978). Penguin World Omnibus of SF (1986) with Brian Aldiss. More nonfiction in Swedish about SF. A score of novels (four available in English), seven shorter stories (four). Reporter for Locus. Long thought by many the personification of SF in Sweden, idiosyncrasies (how not?) and all. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 74. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt In Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He was made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 70. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror. She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 55. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 53. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1975 – Socorro Acioli, age 46. A score of books; Head of the Saint is available in English. Author, teacher, translator. “I collect bookmarks and coffee makers. I like old photos, old houses, and things that no longer exist. In the same measure [na mesma medida], I love technology.” [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1979 – C.J. Harper, age 42. Two novels for us, also “funny books for teens under the name Candy Harper…. attended six different schools, but that honestly had very little to do with an early interest in explosives”; she’s been “a bookseller, a teacher and the person who puts those little stickers on apples”; has read Vanity Fair, Gone With the Wind, Of Mice and Men, David Copperfield. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1991 – Daryl Qilin Yam, age 30. One novel; co-editor of SingPoWriMo (i.e. Singapore). Studied at Univ. Warwick, Univ. Tôkyô. Stageplay producer at non-profit collective Take Off Productions. On the board of directors of literary charity Sing Lit Station. “I am first and foremost a writer of fiction and poetry … photography … is a field in which I remain an amateur. But … we live in a world that loves images…. I have a fondness for the backs of people (facial expressions are too didactic for my taste), and I like to frame my subjects in situations where highlights and shadows are nicely balanced.” [JH]

(12) PRESERVING WORLDS. Here’s a new Diamond Bay Press podcast on the classic online gaming environments and virtual worlds that have become virtual ghost towns. It’s based on a new video documentary series called Preserving Worlds, which is available for free on the streaming service called Means.tv.

A conversation between Lex Berman and Derek Murphy.

Derek Murphy is the co-director, with Mitchel Zemil, of the Preserving Worlds series, and the documentary film Sarasota, Half in Dream.

Recorded with Zencastr from Cambridge and Brighton, MA on 18th February, 2021.

what if the ghost of a player of a dead game, was telling us what it was all like?

(13) THE ’66 DOLLAR QUESTION. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks sends a missive from 1966 asking — “[February 24, 1966] Is 1966 the Best Year Ever for American Comic Books?”.

… A lot of the thrill these days has been at Marvel, as some of their comics are reaching unparalleled new levels of excellence. For instance, the work of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee on both Amazing Spider-Man and the “Dr. Strange” strip in Strange Tales has been outstanding. Peter Parker has graduated high school and enrolled at Empire State University in Spider-Man. Pete seems to be shedding his nature as a nebbish since he joined college, making new friends while having new (and more sophisticated) problems. The three-part “Master Planner” saga which ended in ASM #33 was a storyline nonpareil, a thrill a minute journey with a spectacular denouement. (I’m including the payoff below, but please try to find all these issues if you can, because the leadup is just as spectacular).

(14) ANOTHER GOOD QUESTION. Alexandra Erin wonders something —

(15) JPL’S TRICKSTERS. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Remember that on the last Rover they would not allow JPL to put a JPL plaque on it so they used Morse Code on the wheels that spelled out JPL. Holes that were “designed” to drain sand as it moved about.

This time, there are multiple Easter Eggs. The first was deployed as Perseverance was en route to the Martian surface: “Mars rover’s giant parachute carried secret message” at Yahoo!

The huge parachute used by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team.

Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Clark, a crossword hobbyist, came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to know how the parachute was oriented during descent. Turning it into a secret message was “super fun,” he said Tuesday.

Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. They waited until the parachute images came back before putting out a teaser during a televised news conference Monday….

This illustration provided by NASA shows a diagram added over the parachute deployed during the descent of the Mars Perseverance rover as it approaches the surface of the planet on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

(16) BOOKS ARE THE ESSENCE. The Essence of Wonder crew gets together on-screen to exchange book recommendations in “EoW Staff Share Their Favorite Books! Ready… Fight!” on Saturday, February 27, at 3 PM (US Eastern). Register at the link.

(17) THE DIRTY DOZEN PLUS THREE. 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a highly scientific list of the fifteen “Worst Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made”. Well, at least highly-less-pulled-out-of-somebody’s-butt-than-usual for a listicle.

…To determine the worst sci-fi movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes. We created an index based on the average critic rating from Rotten Tomatoes, the average audience rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and the average user rating from IMDb. We only considered feature films with at least 5,000 Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews, 10 Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews, and 10,000 IMDb user reviews…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: ‘Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Earthblood’” Fandom Games says you play a werewolf fighting evil corporation Endron, “which doesn’t even pretend not to be Enron with a D” but is so dumb on security that it has ventilator shafts with doggy doors so werewolves can pass through them.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mlex, John King Tarpinian, Betsy Hanes Perry, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Gadi Evron, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/14/21 Oh Mandalorian, You Came And You Gave Without Taking That Too-Cute Baby Yoda

(1) UNBOXING DAY. Juliette Wade’s copies have arrived!

(2) IF IT WASN’T FOR THE HONOR OF THE THING. John Scalzi unpacks his “General Unstructured Thoughts On ‘Being Cancelled’” at Whatever.

…2. ‘Canceling’ is certain people discovering that capitalism doesn’t love them as much anymore. I don’t want to say that capitalism is value-neutral, because, whoooooo boy, it is not, buuuuuuut it is pretty much 100% percent accurate that capitalism will always, always, follow the money. And where is the money? Well, in America two decades into the 21st century, the large capitalist structures have decided that the money will be multicultural* and socially inclusive* and politically liberal*, and all those asterisks are there because it should be understood that the capitalist take on each of these concepts is heavily modified and strained through the “to the extent we can make money off this” filter, i.e., don’t expect capitalism to lead us to a multicultural American utopia, just expect it to be happy to rent-seek inclusively on the way there….

(3) ANCESTORS. Ann Leckie is interested in genealogy. Look who fell out of her family tree —

(4) IT’S NOT BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND. At Vector, Paul Kincaid tries to deduce the elusive answer to “When Was Westworld?”

There is no particular issue with the timeline of the original 1973 film, Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton. It is set in the then near future, 1983, and the linear action takes place entirely within the Delos theme park. But when the film became the basis for the television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld (2016-present), time became a complex and confusing issue.

Nolan had already displayed a rather cavalier attitude towards time in his earlier television series, Person of Interest (2011-2016). The first series, first broadcast in the autumn of 2011, was set in 2012, but contained multiple flashbacks to events over the previous decade. Although these flashbacks are often dated, it can be difficult to construct a coherent timeline for the two principal characters, Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and John Reese (Jim Caviezel). But when it came to Westworld, that tendency to play fast and loose with chronology became an often understated but defining characteristic of the series.

To date there have been three series of Westworld (it has subsequently been renewed for a fourth season)…each of which presents time in a different way, even though theoretically each is a direct sequel to the series before….

(5) GOONAN MEMORIAL SCHEDULED. There’ll be a Zoom memorial held for Kathleen Ann Goonan on March 7 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here. Those who wish to speak should reach out to Kathy.committee@gmail.com.

(6) SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE. HBO Max released a new trailer for The Snyder Cut of Justice League which includes new footage of Jared Leto as the Joker.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 14, 1988 — On this date in 1988 on BBC 2, the Red Dwarf series premiered. It was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor and it aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999, and on Dave since 2009. It is a sort of a SF comedy. We think. It’s based off Dave Hollins: Space Cadet, a BBC Radio 4 series. The official website explains the convoluted cast changes over three decades far better than we could. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent rating of eighty percent. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 14, 1906 – John Gould.  Three hundred interiors for us; much else in a long career for the pulps (so called because printed on cheap wood-pulp paper) and others e.g. RedbookThe Saturday Evening Post.  Advertising and fine art too.  Here is a cover for The Spider (no, not that one).  Here is an interior from the Jan 31 Astounding (illustrating C.D. Willard, “The Eye of Allah”).  Here is a 1948 toucan.  Here is a 1960 page for General Electric’s celestial-guidance system.  (Died 1996) [JH]  
  • Born February 14, 1919 – Dave Kyle.  A Pictorial History of SF and The Illustrated Book of SF Ideas and Dreams – a title which is like him.  Three novels, ten shorter stories.  A dozen anecdotes of “The Worldcon from the Beginning” (1939, 1956-57, 1962-63, 1969, 1974, 1977, 1982, 1986-88) in the souvenir book for Noreascon Three the 47th Worldcon; chaired NYCon II the 14th, was Fan Guest of Honor at ConStellation the 41st; by 2011 had attended more Worldcons than anyone else fan or pro.  Two dozen fanhistory articles in Mimosa; see here.  Big Heart (our highest service award; later administered it, 2000-16; after his death, named for him).  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  Notes by me here.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born February 14, 1925 – J.T. McIntosh.  A score of novels, a hundred shorter stories.  Journalist under another name.  I wish I could tell you that “Men Like Mules” was about Bel Riose, or even that “200 Years to Christmas” was about Eratosthenes, but it’s not so.  Nevertheless his early work warrants revival.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 14, 1942 Andrew Robinson, 79. Elim Garak on Deep Space Nine. He wrote a  novel based on his character, A Stitch in Time  and a novella, “The Calling” which can be found in Prophecy and Change, a DS9 anthology edited by Marco Palmieri. Other genre credits include Larry Cotton in Hellraiser, appearing in The Puppet Masters as Hawthorne and playing John F. Kennedy on the The New Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born February 14, 1951 John Vornholt, 70. I was musing on the difference between fanfic and profic (if such a word exists) when I ran across this writer. He’s written in a number of media properties with the most extensive being the Trek verse where he’s written several dozen works, but he’s penned works also in the Babylon 5BuffyverseDinotopiaEarth 2Marvel metaverse… Well you get the idea. All authorized, but really no different than fanfic on the end, are they? Other than they pay a lot better. (CE) 
  • Born February 14, 1952 Gwyneth Jones, 69. Interesting person that she is, let’s start with her thoughts on chestnuts she did when she was Winter Queen at Green Man. Just because I can. Now regarding her fiction, I’d strongly recommend her Bold As Love series of a Britain that went to pieces as it now certainly is, and her twenty year-old Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality polemic is still worth reading. (CE) 
  • Born February 14, 1954 – Jeff Easley, age 67.  A hundred covers, two dozen interiors.  Here is the Jul 84 Amazing.  Here is the Dec 98 Dragon.  Here is Legions of Space.  Here is Empire of Imagination.  [JH]
  • Born February 14, 1963 Enrico Colantoni, 58. Any excuse to mention Galaxy Quest is one I’ll gladly take. He played a delightful Mathesar on that film and that was his first genre role, lucky bastard. Up next for him was A.I. Artificial Intelligence as The Murderer followed by appearing in the most excellent animated Justice League Dark as the voice of Felix Faust where his fate was very, very bad. He had an amazing role on Person of Interest as Charlie Burton / Carl Elias. Not genre, but his acting as Sgt. Gregory Parker on Flashpointa Canadian police drama television series is worth noting as it that excellent series. (CE) 
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg, 51. Best known for playing Montgomery Scott in the new Star Trek franchise. His first foray into genre was Shaun of the Dead which he co-wrote and had an acting role in. Late gernre roles include Land of the Dead where he’s a Photo Booth Zombie, Diary of the Dead where he has a cameo as a Newsreader, and he portrays Benji Dunn in the ongoing Mission: Impossible franchise. (CE) 
  • Born February 14, 1972 – Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, age 49.  A novel (won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize) and two shorter stories for us; another novel, eight other shorter stories.  “I’m always looking and hoping for the swerve [alluding to Joan Retallack].”  [JH]
  • Born February 14, 1975 M. Darusha Wehm, 46. New Zealand resident writer who was nominated for the Nebula Award and won the New Zealand Sir Julius Vogel Award for The Martian Job novel. They say it’s interactive fiction. You can read the standalone prequel novella, Retaking Elysium, on their website which can be found here. (CE)
  • Born February 14, 1991 – Roshani Chokshi, age 30.  Nine novels (three NY Times Best-Sellers), half a dozen shorter stories; two poems in Strange Horizons and Uncanny.  Top of her class in law school, so dropped out and wrote.  Greek and Hindu myth, magic in 19th Century Paris.  Has read EmmaFrankensteinIvanhoeLolitaMoby-Dick, M. Tatar’s Annotated GrimmComplete Stories & Poems of Lewis Carroll.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows how kaiju celebrate Valentine’s Day.
  • Sarah C. Andersen thinks the action really happens on Valentine’s Night.
  • Lar De Souza depicts the surprising truth:

(10) NOTES FROM A BOSKONE 58 INTERVIEW.

(11) THE JETSONS. SYFY Wire eavesdrops as “SpaceX founder Elon Musk teases a lofty Tesla upgrade in the future” in a podcast.

During a recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Musk commented that he’d love to have upcoming Tesla Roadster hover “like a meter above the ground.”  Musk always makes the most of his visits to Rogan’s online program and it’s usually a treasure of interesting antics and sound bites.

“Maybe it can hover like a meter above the ground, or something like that,” he explained to the popular comedian and host. “If you plummet, it’ll blow out the suspension, but you’re not gonna die.”

Clearly not completely satisfied with the Roadster’s current roster of options, Musk has previously claimed that a next-generation version might be offered with a SpaceX package with rocket-like thrusters employing pressurized air to assist in acceleration, deceleration, and handling.

(12) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. “Archaeologists unearth world’s oldest known beer factory in Egypt”Yahoo! has the story.

American and Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed what could be the oldest known beer factory at one of the most prominent archaeological sites of ancient Egypt, a top antiquities official said on Saturday.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the factory was found in Abydos, an ancient burial ground located in the desert west of the Nile River, more than 280 miles south of Cairo.

He said the factory apparently dates back to the region of King Narmer, who is widely known for his unification of ancient Egypt at the beginning of the First Dynastic Period (3150BC-2613BC)….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How Wonder Woman 1984 Should Have Ended” on YouTube, the How It Should Have Ended team takes on the many problems of Wonder Woman 1984.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/21 The Scroll Unvanquishable, Save By Pixels

(1) IT’LL COST MORE THAN A SOCK TO FREE HARRY POTTER. Episode 75 of Our Opinions Are Correct, the podcast by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, asks “Has JK Rowling destroyed Harry Potter fandom?”

JK Rowling has become an anti-trans activist on social media. This news has sent Harry Potter fandom — always full of queers and trans people — into mourning. We talk to author/publisher (and longtime Slytherin) Cecilia Tan about how to ignore Rowling and take back Harry Potter.

And the shownotes at the above link are compellingly illustrated with a panel from Maia Kobabe’s work on Trans-Affirming Magical Care.

(2) RSR COMPARES NOTES WITH LOCUS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual “Annotated 2020 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction”. Eric Wong explains: “Like the last two years, we’ve merged it with RSR’s Best SF/F list (highlighting stories from the Locus List in red) and grouped the stories by length and score. It includes some observations about overlooked stories, notable publications, outstanding authors, new writers, and translated stories.” Ten of RSR’s top-rated 2020 stories did not make the Locus list.

Eric adds, “The main takeaway is that non-free stories from Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, and Interzone are under-represented in the Locus list. It’s worse than last year and appears to be a trend for several years now.”

(3) FROM CULTURE WAR TO THE THREAT OF CIVIL WAR. With “Debarkle: Introduction” Camestros Felapton launches a series about “An epic story of politics, conspiracies, fans and rocket ships in which the political chaos of 2020 was presaged by a culture war for a literary award.”

From January 6 2021 to January 7 2015

….One person I was reading [on January 6] was a writer for the right-wing media outlet PJ Media/Instapundit, wrote in a comment on her own blog about her own anger seeing major conservative news outlets condemning the protestors:

“FUCK THEM.
Seriously, I think we should do the media next. Put the fear of Americans into them.
Saint Augusto bless us.
Anyone has helicopters?”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2021/01/06/we-will-work-until-we-cant/#comment-732567

Here “Saint Augusto” and “helicopters” being a reference to a far-right meme about the use by Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet of “death flights“, a form of extra-judicial killing by pushing victims out of aircraft.

The following day, ‘alt-right’ ethno-nationalist publisher Vox Day described Sarah Hoyt as the “only non-cuck at Instapundit” [archive link]. In this context “cuck” is derogatory term for mainstream conservatives referencing “cuckold” pornography. Day was applauding a post by Hoyt were she celebrated the actions of the protestors…

(4) THE LONG GAME. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson has a Q&A with an author who made the leap from fanfic to tradpub: “Interview: Everina Maxwell, author of Winter’s Orbit”.

NOAF: You published an early version of Winter’s Orbit online at Archive of Our Own. What was the experience like, going from publishing it online, to then working with a traditional publisher?

EM: Pretty terrifying, honestly! Throughout editing I was nervous of what the people who read it as original fiction on AO3 would think of the new version, which has more worldbuilding and a plot with a much wider scope. Also, on AO3 people were very kind and didn’t tend to ask awkward questions like “why is this thematically inconsistent” or “why haven’t you explained how this worked” or “can you please pick one spelling of this character’s name and stick with it” – which the traditional publishing process absolutely asks and makes you fix. I think it’s a much better book now; I certainly love the new material myself. I hope both old and new readers will enjoy it!

(5) SEMIPROZINE CLOSE-UP. R. Graeme Cameron reviews Hexagon Speculative Fiction Magazine #3 for Amazing Stories’ “Clubhouse” column.

[Editor JW] Stebner is very proud of the role of semiprozines (like Hexagon) “in the literary Magazine industry.” As publisher of the semiprozine Polar Borealis and the soon to be introduced Polar Starlight (devoted to Canadian Speculative Poetry) I have to say I agree with him. I’m quite keen on enthusiasts starting up such and thus am very pleased to have discovered Hexagon. (Actually, I was led to it by Robert Runté, who told me about it, for which I am grateful.)…

(6) WEEPING ANGELS VIDEO GAME. Digital Spy has some eye-opening news: “Doctor Who confirms return date for Weeping Angels in new trailer”.

…”Merciless as ever, the Weeping Angels are back with a vengeance. Will you be able to uncover the truth and avoid their clutches? Now that the Weeping Angels have the power to infiltrate technology, no device is safe,” the synopsis teases, with The Lonely Assassins described as “blurring the line between live-action footage and gameplay”.

The dark mystery game, which is available to pre-order now ahead of its March 19 release, will build on the events of ‘Blink’ as you find a phone belonging to Lawrence, who has seemingly disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

At the other end of the phone is another returning Who character, ex-UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), who thinks that you are “the right person for the job” to track down Lawrence….

(7) PARTY OF FIVE, YOUR TABLE IS READY. Publishers Weekly reports Amazon is no longer the lone defendant in this consumer class action suit: “Big Five Publishers Now Defendants in E-book Price-Fixing Suit”.

The news comes after the initial complaint, first filed in the Southern District of New York on January 14 by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman, portrayed the Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—as “co-conspirators” in a bid to restrain competition in the e-book market, but had named only Amazon as a defendant. The amended complaint, filed on February 4, now pulls the publishers into the suit….

(8) NEW LIFE. Charlie Jane Anders tells Esquire readers “How The Expanse Transformed the Space Opera Genre For a New Generation of Sci-Fi Stories”. It all began when Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham ignored warnings that space opera was a dying genre.

…Now, of course, Leviathan Wakes has been followed by eight sequels and a TV show, The Expanse, whose fifth season ends tonight. And the shelves at your local bookstore are crammed with kickass space operas by authors like Valerie Valdes, Becky Chambers, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha Lee, Arkady Martine, Kameron Hurley, Nicky Drayden, Karen Lord, Tim Pratt, John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, and Karen Osborne.

A lot of these new space opera books share some of the same DNA as Corey’s Expanse series: they feature underdog characters, who are just trying to get paid, or survive, or get justice—they aren’t exactly crisp-uniformed explorers like Captain Kirk, or chosen ones like Luke Skywalker. These books also feature somewhat more realistic physics, with way less hand-waving—for example, faster-than-light travel is usually impossible without some kind of wormhole. And these books often have a touch of weirdness and body horror, along the lines of The Expanse‘s alien protomolecule….

(9) PLUMMER OBIT. Actor Christopher Plummer (1929-2021) died February 5 at the age of 91.

His genre roles included The Man Who Would Be King (1975, as Rudyard Kipling), Starcrash (1978), Somewhere in Time (1980), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, as a Klingon, General Chang), Harrison Bergeron (1995), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Dracula 2000 (2000), and voice acting in many animated films and several video games.

“How boring it would be to be just one thing — just a movie actor, or just a stage actor — when you can just keep going from one to the other. I think one also helps the other,” he told The [LA] Times in 1998. “I’ll go on doing it until I drop.”

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • February 5, 1994 — On this day in 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” aired. This episode which looked at lives of some of the junior officers is much beloved by Trek fans and is cited as the inspiration for the Below Decks animated series. If you’re interested in an in-depth discussion of this episode, Keith R.A. DeCandido did one at Tor.com.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 5, 1870 – Charles Brock, R.I.  Painter, line artist, illustrator of Austen, Defoe, Dickens, Eliot, Scott, Swift, Thackeray.  Member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors.  Here is an illustration for Ivanhoe.  Here is one for Emma.  Here are Frey and Freya from Keary’s Heroes of Asgard.  Here are Goliath and David.  Here is Gulliver with the Lilliputians.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of Frankenstein,  Ali Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s in Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. He was one of many Hollywood stars who appeared in the The Muppets Go Hollywood special. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1934 – Malcolm Willits, age 87.  Two novels, three shorter stories.  Co-edited Destiny; three poems, half a dozen interiors; here is his cover (with Jim Bradley) for the Spring 53 issue.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1942 – Dame Susan Hill, age 79.  Seven novels, as many shorter stories for us; threescore books all told.  Married a Shakespeare scholar.  The Guardian called her Woman in Black the most celebrated ghost story of modern times.  Somerset Maugham Award, Whitbread Award, Rhys Prize.  Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1957 – Margi Curtis, age 64.  Poet and musician.  She’s been in Spectral Realms, e.g. here.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 60. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him —  Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman BeyondStatic ShockJustice League in several series, and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 57. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 47. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as Production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1974 – Pablo Castro, age 47.  Four short stories, two available in English; for “Reflections” see Words Without Borders.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1991 – Sharona van Herp, age 30.  Gamer and graphic designer.  Here she is at DeviantArt.  Here she is at ArtStation.  Here is a cover.  I found this at Tumblr.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss knows there’s more than one well-paved road to Hell.

(13) HE’S A BIG FAN. “Schitt’s Creek Cast Q & A  With Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart” on YouTube is the last part of a discussion that Sir Pat Stew had with the cast of Schitt’s Creek, a show Sir Patrick likes a lot.

(14) OUI ARE FRENCH. Heavy shares “The French Accent Patrick Stewart Almost did for TNG”. Hear it on this clip from The Graham Norton Show.

…Stewart said that the producers of the show did want Picard to have a French accent. After they’d cast Stewart, they asked him to come in and read some of his lines with the French accent. Stewart continued, saying that he did his very best, but the producers were far from impressed with his attempt. After hearing the character with Stewart’s attempted accent, the producers decided to let him perform the character in his normal voice, and they came up with the canon explanation for why a Frenchman had a British accent.

When Stewart was done explaining why the French accent was rejected, he offered to let the audience hear exactly how bad his attempt had been. After they cheered at the offer, Stewart started reciting the lines from the voiceover synonymous with the show in the accent he’d attempted years before. The audience, and everyone on stage, immediately burst out laughing at how hilariously different the lines sounded.

(15) WADE’S NEXT. Paul Weimer has read a new book I wanted to hear more about: “Microreview: Trangressions of Power by Juliette Wade” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this brings us to Pyaras. Cousin to Nekantor and Tagaret, we got a look at him in Mazes of Power, but here he is “promoted to titles” and given a large section of the point of view. Pyaras comes off for a lot of the book as “upper class twit” in a textbook example of the form. His story is about learning better, and eventually doing better. I was dubious about him at the beginning of the book, but he does go on a journey of character that redeems and strengthens him by the end of the novel…. 

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. Ty Johnston revisits “Lords of Creation a tabletop RPG before its time” for Black Gate.

…Lords of Creation is very much a game of its time, but in many way it’s also a game ahead of its time. The D&D influence is obvious in the mechanics, especially concerning character and monster stats, but this game was one of the earliest to stretch beyond the boundaries of any single genre. Lords of Creation wasn’t just a fantasy tabletop rpg, but was meant to be a game for all genres, including science fiction, mythology, noir, and more. In fact, the back of the game box reads, “The ultimate role-playing game … a game of science, fantasy, science fiction and high adventure that explores the farthest reaches of your imagination! Splendid adventures take place throughout time, space and other dimensions.”…

(17) NUTRITIONAL ADVICE FROM MIDDLE-EARTH. From 2013, but it’s news to me: “The hobbit – an unexpected deficiency” from PubMed.gov:

Abstract

Objective: Vitamin D has been proposed to have beneficial effects in a wide range of contexts. We investigate the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency, caused by both aversion to sunlight and unwholesome diet, could also be a significant contributor to the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature….

(18) SPOT GETS AN UPGRADE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Boston Dynamics robotic dog, Spot, is now available with an integrated arm, and even has an available upgraded “Enterprise” version. The basic bot can be purchased for $74.5K direct from BD online. If you want the arm or anything from the Enterprise line, though, best be prepared for some real sticker shock—you’ll still have to contact a salesperson before they’ll divulge the price. Ars Technica has the story: “Boston Dynamics’ robot dog gets an arm attachment, self-charging capabilities”.

For the first time in the company’s 29-year history, Boston Dynamics actually started selling robots to the general public, and it’s pretty incredible that you can actually just head to the Boston Dynamics website, press the “add to cart” button, and have a robot dog shipped to your home. The company says it has sold more than 400 Spot units to date, and the robots are out there doing real work, usually monitoring hazardous work sites like “nuclear plants, offshore oil fields, construction sites, and mines.”

After a year of working with businesses and getting feedback, Boston Dynamics is launching a new Spot revision, a long-awaited arm attachment, and some new features.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Around The Block” by Jonnie Lewis on Vimeo is a brief portrait of how David Zinn draws cartoons on sidewalks and walls with chalk.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/20 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) PASSING THE GRAIL. “Steven Spielberg Won’t Direct Indiana Jones 5” reports Vanity Fair.

“Indiana…let it go.”

This was what the adventurer’s father said to him in the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as he hung by one hand from a cliff and reached with the other toward the Holy Grail. Ultimately, the words hit home. As much as he wanted one more treasure, he had gone far enough.

That’s apparently the conclusion Steven Spielberg just reached. The Oscar winner has decided not to direct a planned fifth movie about Harrison Ford’s punch-throwing archaeologist, multiple sources confirmed to Vanity Fair. Instead, James Mangold, director of Ford v Ferrari, Wolverine, and Logan, is in talks to take over the project, which is still set to hit theaters on July 9, 2021.

A source close to Spielberg told Vanity Fair, “The decision to hand over directing duties was entirely Steven’s,” adding that “he felt now was the perfect time to let a new director and a new generation give their perspective to the overall story and this film.”

(2) EGYPT ACROSS THE AGES. Juliette Wade hosts “K. Tempest Bradford” at Dive Into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis, watch the video, or do both!

…She’s been researching Egypt for a long time. She told us about how she’s been attempting to write a novel set in Egypt since college. In fact, it’s a grouping of projects, not one (as is appropriate with a long and thorough research project of this nature!).  

She started with a novel based on the life of Pharaoh Akhenaten with links to Oedipus, and then decided she didn’t have the skills to do it well and put it on the back burner. At that point she started learning a lot about the 18th dynasty. People know a lot about that period, she points out, and she has become very knowledgeable about it. Then she started writing a Steampunk story set in ancient Egypt, pushing boundaries. It started out as a short story and turned into a novel. That, she says, has been common for projects she’s worked on since Clarion West. That piece is set at the start of the beginning of the 18th dynasty….

Tempest says she’s thought about carrying forward the steampunk cultural elements into her other novel. Giant flying scarab beetles run by the heat of the sun for Akhenaten to ride in sounded pretty awesome to us!

(3) FOWL PLAY. In the February 1 Irish Times, Niamh Donnelly interviews Eoin Colfer about his new fantasy Highwire, as Colfer discusses the forthcoming Artemis Fowl movie, how he hopes to slow down after 43 books, and the graphic novels he writes that deal with contemporary political issues: “Eoin Colfer: ‘Humour defines me … I’m obsessed with it’”.

… “As a teacher I always found that telling stories was the best way to teach because you could sneak the information inside an adventure story. So, a lot of the Artemis books, for example, would have a very ecological message. My books tend to be, of late, a mixture of escapism and trying to tackle issues head on. Last year we did the graphic novel, Illegal, which was, just blatantly, a book about how tough it is to migrate from Africa to Europe. But because it was a graphic novel, we got to people who wouldn’t normally get that subject. And we also brought a lot of people who do like that subject into the world of graphic novels. And then the flip side of that is I like to do books like Highfire and Fowl Twins just so people can have a laugh and kids can go to bed smiling.”

(4) ATTENTION STATION ELEVEN FANS. Penguin Random House talks ghost stories and more in a Q&A with Emily St. John Mandel:

Q: Was there a particular event or idea that was the genesis for The Glass Hotel?

A: My original idea was that I wanted to write a ghost story that was also somehow about money. (In fact, one of my early working titles was Ghosts and Money, because titles are hard.) But the event that captured my imagination was the collapse of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The characters in the novel are entirely fictional, but the central crime is essentially Madoff’s.

Q: Station Eleven fans will find some small nods to that beloved novel here. While this novel is different in so many ways how do you see it in relation to Station Eleven? It seems like they are both in many ways about art?

A: Yes, I think that’s fair to say. I also think it’s fair to say that if The Glass Hotel is a departure from Station Eleven, it’s in many ways a return to the themes that preoccupied me in my earlier work. My first three novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were largely concerned with bad decisions, the question of how to live honourably in a damaged world, memory, and questionable morality.

(5) AVOID THE TRAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This anecdote about Bradbury and Matheson is from “The Genre of You” by Jonathan Maberry behind a paywall in the March Writer’s Digest

‘What kind of writer do you want to be?’

That question was asked of me when I was 13.  I’d been dragged along to a party at a penthouse in New York City.  It was 1971 and the person asking the question was the legendary writer Richard Matheson…

…Before I could answer, another of the writers at the party — national treasure Ray Bradbury –touched my shoulder and said, ‘Be careful, young man.  That question’s a trap.”…

…So, what was the trap?  I found out when I did not step into it. ‘I don’t know,’ I said.  ‘A lot of things, I guess.’

Matheson beamed a great smile. ‘Good answer!’ he said, then explained why. ‘A genre is something that matters to the people in marketing.  It doesn’t matter much to me.  It doesn’t matter to Ray. We write what we want to write and then figure out how to sell it.”

Bradbury agreed.  ‘I like science fiction and fantasy, but if an idea for mystery comes and whispers loud enough to my ear, I’ll have to listen.’

The rest of the article includes anecdotes from Matheson, Harlan Ellison, and Joe R. Lansdale.  Here’s one more Bradbury quote:

“Don’t just write what you want to read — everyone does that. Write the story you would go out of your way to hunt down and read.'”

(6) MICHAEL HERTZ OBIT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Michael Hertz, creator of definitive New York City subway map, RIP. Among other things, he found a way to redo the map so it could be done as one rather than 5. Paywalled NYT obit. Non-paywalled Chicago Tribune pickup of NYT article: “He designed one of the most consulted images in modern history: Creator of the NYC subway map dies at 87”

“It was the 1970s,” Arline L. Bronzaft, a psychologist who worked on Hertz’s replacement map, told Newsday in 2004. “People were fearful of going on the subways. We wanted people to use the map to see the sights of New York.”

The map that Hertz’s firm came up with included streets, neighborhoods and other surface reference points. And it depicted the city and its signature elements like Central Park and the waterways in a fashion more reflective of reality — the park wasn’t square, as on the earlier map, and the water wasn’t beige.

It feels like I recently read an article on the evolution of subway maps, as the systems’ complexity grew… but I can’t find or remember it. Ah well.

(Somewhere I still have a few NYT subway tokens of various sizes (= different values over the years). Pretty sure at least one was for a 10cent fare.)

Transit-map-wise, I did buy these two books a year or three ago (but haven’t really looked through them yet): Transit Maps of the World: Expanded and Updated Edition of the World’s First Collection of Every Urban Train Map on Earth

Or, for the train-specific: Railway Maps of the World.

For the sfnal connection, I’ve got a list of transit maps for Middle Earth that I put together a year and a half ago (if the Fellowship had had ’em, those books and movies could have been shorter, methinks), but apparently didn’t offer to OGH… I’ll recheck and update it and send it in.

Meanwhile, there’s the Westeros Metro System map.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 27, 1979 The Curse of Dracula premiered on NBC. Michael Nouri was Count Dracula, who is living undercover as a college teacher in 1979 San Francisco.  It was part of Cliffhangers which attempted to resurrect the genre of film serials. Each hour-long episode was divided into three 20-minute (including commercials) stories featuring different storylines Including this one. The Secret Empire was another genre serial done as part of this show. You can see the first episode of The Curse of Dracula here. Cliffhangers lasted but a single season from the 27th of February to 1st of May 1979. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1902 John Steinbeck. Yes, John Steinbeck. ISFDB lists one novel, The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication, Plus a bevy of short fiction such as “The Wedding of King”, “The Affair at 7 Rue de M—“ and “The Death of Merlin”. I’ll admit that i didn’t know these existed. So, has anyone read these? (Died 1968.)
  • Born February 27, 1915 Donald Curtis. His first genre role was an uncredited one as Ronal in the first twelve chapters of the Forties Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe. He’s a German sentry in Invisible Agent, an WW II propaganda film, and Dr. John Carter in It Came from Beneath the Sea, a Fifties SF film. Likewise he’s in another Fifties SF film, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, as Major Huglin. He played five different characters during on Science Fiction Theater, and he’d later have a one-offs on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart!. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 27, 1927 —  Lynn Cartwright. She had a career in genre productions starting with two Fifties pulp films, Queen of Outer Space and Wasp Women. She next shows up in The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood, his Lusty Men and Bawdy Wenches. She has an appearance in the Far Out Space Nuts series, and earlier showed up on Science Fiction TheaterThe Lucifer Complex is her SF role. (Died 2004.)
  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. So, what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 60. Creator and illustrator of the most awesome Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 56. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as  Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex Nolan. 
  • Born February 27, 1970 Michael A. Burstein, 50. He won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 1997 for “TeleAbsence”. His “Sanctuary” novella was chosen by Analog readers as the best novella published by the magazine in 2005. He has one to date, Remember the Future: The Award-Nominated Stories of Michael A. Burstein, which is available fir the usual digital publishers.
  • Born February 27, 1976 Nikki Amuka-Bird, 44. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”.  She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending)takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5).

(9) NEBULA PLATTER. Nerds of a Feather’s Adri Joy and Joe Sherry hit the highlights of the Nebula ballot in “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The 2019 Nebula Awards”.

Joe: I’d love to see a Nebula Longlist where we can see the even just the three or four books that just missed the ballot because here’s where things get interesting for me – I’m surprised that neither The City in the Middle of the Night nor The Light Brigade made the ballot. There’s no telling how, exactly, the Nebulas will translate to the Hugo Awards except that I think we both agree that A Song for a New Day feels more like a Nebula Book than a Hugo Book for whatever that means and whatever that’s worth.

Adri: I agree. Because the Nebulas don’t release voting statistics, they can feel like a closed box in this regard, albeit one that we collectively put our trust in to be delivering a result accurate to the voting base (and, hey, no 20booksto50k shenanigans this year!). Anders, Hurley and also The Future of Another Timeline feel like books that must have been bubbling just under. I wonder, also, about books like Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and some of the other literary “crossover” titles we were looking at on the Locus list. Are those also in the hidden longlist, or is that not what SFWA voters were looking at when putting this together?

(10) SOME LIKE IT SHORT. Then, Adri Joy reviews five sources of short sff – including collections and magazines – as part of “Questing in Shorts: February 2020” at Nerds of a Feather.

Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press)

Aliette de Bodard’s Subterranean press collection is as beautiful as you’d expect on the outside, with a Maurizio Manzieri cover and the standard level of Subterranean finishing. It’s also an excellent collection that’s largely comprised of pieces from the Best Series-nominated Xuya universe, which ranges from alternate history Earth stories in which the Western part of North America is colonised by China, and the Aztec empire of Mexica survives into the present day in a loose alliance with the power now called Xuya. The collection contains one piece from this Earthbound continuity “The Jaguar House, in Shadow“, an intriguing political thriller which, along with the opening story “The Shipmaker“, sets up the rest of the intergalactic political, cultural and technological traits of the Xuya universe very nicely. De Bodard’s stories dealing with cultural clashes of some kind are highlights for me: from “The Waiting Stars“, the tale of a young Dai Viet woman who has been taken from her family and raised in the Galactic Empire, to “Scattered Along the River of Heaven“, a story of conflict and war and cultural revolution told two generations after the fact, de Bodard is quietly unflinching in her portrayals of displaced characters and their struggles to find connection with the different cultures they are surrounded by and yet, to some extent, alienated from. The absolute highlight on this front is “Immersion“, a Nebula and Locus winning short story which alternates between Quy and another woman from the Rong people, both of whom wear Galactic (western culture)-made “Immersers” which allow them to communicate with Galactics but at the expense of their own culture and personhood. For Quy, who wears the Immerser briefly to help her family with business transactions, the experience is unpleasant but temporary; for the other narrator, it has become her permanent reality. The story’s sense of isolation, and the various losses which the casual dominance of Galactic culture in this part of space has created, come around into a perfect, heartbreaking, circle by the end as the second narrator finds tentative connection in her isolating, but unique, understanding of both Rong and Galactic culture….

(11) RETURNING TO THE GALACTOSCOPE. And there’s so much sff coming out in 1965 that Galactic Journey ran a second batch of reviews:

(12) DOES IT LIVE UP TO THE HEADLINE? Mike Kennedy passed along this 2016 link because he loves the title: “All 35 Video-Game Movies, Ranked From Least Bad to Absolute Worst”. If you want to save yourself the suspense, here’s the film at the bottom of the barrel —  

1. Postal (2007)

Here it is, a movie that should make you think Warcraft is high art. Postal opens on two terrorists in the cockpit of a plane, fighting about how many virgins greet martyrs when they enter heaven. The argument ends with them deciding to fly to the Bahamas instead, but then the passengers of their hijacked plane revolt and force it to crash into the World Trade Center. Everything hovers around that level of bad and offensive for the rest of the movie, making this an easy call for definitively worst video-game adaptation ever. Uwe Boll, you make it so hard to love you.

(13) FILL ‘ER UP. BBC reports: “Docking gives Intelsat telecoms satellite new lease of life”.

Two American satellites have docked high over the Atlantic in a demonstration of what many commentators expect to be a burgeoning new industry.

One of the platforms is an old telecoms spacecraft low on fuel; the other is an auxiliary unit that will now take over all the former’s manoeuvring functions.

This will allow Intelsat-901 to extend its 19-year mission of relaying TV and other services by another five years.

The event has been described as a major accomplishment by the firms involved.

Northrop Grumman, which produced the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 that grabbed hold of Intelsat-901, said it was the first time two commercial satellites had come together in this way at an altitude of just over 36,000km.

…Northrop Grumman’s vehicle will now control all movement for the pair, including the precise pointing required by IS-901 to map its telecommunication beams on to the right regions of Earth’s surface.

When the Intelsat’s extended mission comes to an end, the MEV-1 will take the telecoms platform to a “graveyard” orbit before then joining up with another “running on empty” customer that needs the same manoeuvring assistance.

Northrop Grumman, which is operating its new servicing business through a subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, said it planned to expand the basic “tug” concept offered by MEV-1 to include vehicles capable of in-orbit repair and assembly.

Already it is working on systems that would feature not just simple docking probes but robotic arms to grab hold of satellites. Another option being developed is fuel pods that can be attached to satellites running low on fuel.

(14) BITTEN TO DEATH BY DUCKS. Daffy and Donald, lunch is served: “China prepares 100,000 ducks to battle Pakistan’s locust swarms”.

China is preparing to deploy 100,000 ducks to neighbouring Pakistan to help tackle swarms of crop-eating locusts.

Chinese agricultural experts say a single duck can eat more than 200 locusts a day and be more effective than pesticides.

Pakistan declared an emergency earlier this month saying locust numbers were the worst in more than two decades.

Millions of the insects have also been devastating crops in parts of East Africa.

The Chinese government announced this week it was sending a team of experts to Pakistan to develop “targeted programmes” against the locusts.

Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, described the ducks as “biological weapons”. He said that while chickens could eat about 70 locusts in one day a duck could devour more than three times that number.

“Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,” he told Chinese media.

(15) NICKELODIOUS. The New York Times takes you “Down on the Farm That Harvests Metal From Plants”.

Some of Earth’s plants have fallen in love with metal. With roots that act practically like magnets, these organisms — about 700 are known — flourish in metal-rich soils that make hundreds of thousands of other plant species flee or die.

Slicing open one of these trees or running the leaves of its bush cousin through a peanut press produces a sap that oozes a neon blue-green. This “juice” is actually one-quarter nickel, far more concentrated than the ore feeding the world’s nickel smelters.

The plants not only collect the soil’s minerals into their bodies but seem to hoard them to “ridiculous” levels, said Alan Baker, a visiting botany professor at the University of Melbourne who has researched the relationship between plants and their soils since the 1970s. This vegetation could be the world’s most efficient, solar-powered mineral smelters. What if, as a partial substitute to traditional, energy-intensive and environmentally costly mining and smelting, the world harvested nickel plants?

(16) PULLING THE WOOL OVER. “This Lady Crochets Her Neighbors and It Is Incredible”Awkward has a photo gallery.

Aritst Liisa Hietanen is one talented lady. Like, incredibly talented. Hietanen takes crocheting to a whole new level when she creates life-like models of her friends and neighbors in her native Finland.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/7/20 If You Don’t Eat Your Soylent Green, You Can’t Have Any Flying Yorkshireman Pudding

(1) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. The Royal Mail Visions of the Universe stamps are being issued in celebration of the Royal Astronomical Society’s 200th Anniversary.

A collection of eight Special Stamps with stunning images depicting astronomical features and phenomena studied by British astronomers and astrophysics over the centuries.

(2) BIG MANDALORIAN GOLD. It might be an iron on his hip, but it’s gold in the bank. The Hollywood Reporter hears “Disney’s Bob Iger Considering ‘Mandalorian’ Spinoff Shows”.

The Mandalorian, created by Jon Favreau, has become the de facto flagship show for Disney+, with the Star Wars series introducing the world to Baby Yoda, easily the breakout character of 2019.  

During the earnings call, Iger also said Disney+ had reached 28.6 million paid subscribers as of Monday, less than three months after launch.

The CEO also revealed premiere windows for two of the streaming platform’s anticipated Marvel Studios shows. August will see the debut of The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, Marvel’s first Disney+ series, which will be followed in December by WandaVision, which stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany as Scarlet Witch and Vision, respectively.

(3) NEXT IMPRESSIONS. Learn about “6 Books with Juliette Wade” at Nerds of a Feather.

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing? 

I was in college when I first read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. Since then, I’ve read it at least five times. I find new things in it every time. It has blown my mind in so many ways, and really inspired me to challenge worldbuilding elements that I had always taken for granted. I really love the way the book uses both researcher and character points of view. It’s one of the works that really got me to pay close attention to the kinds of drive and conflict that point of view changes can create.

(4) MUSIC INSPIRED BY DHALGREN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the Newton (MA) Tab, Feb 5, 2020 —

SPOTLIGHT ON

House of the Ax is a haunted performance installation, inspired by the labyrinthine novel “Dhalgren” by Samuel R. Delaney [sic]. The performers [missing comma sic] Rested Field, are a Boston-based experimental ensemble, invested in exploring alternative modes that integrate both deterministic and improvisatory strategies….

There is one workshop and two perforamnces scheduled. Open free rehearsal/workshop is Friday, Feb. 7, 6-9pm and will feature an open discussion about surveillance, performativity, anonymity, and bullying, particularly in online spaces. Performances are Saturday, Feb. 8, 6-9PM and Sunday, Feb 7, 2-5pm. At the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds, 286 Waverly Ave., Newton. Tickets are $15….

More information here.

(5) HUGO CHAT. YouTuber Kalanadi presents 2020 Hugo Nomination Recommendations. At the site, the video is supplemented with a list of resources including File 770’s Best Series eligibility compilation by JJ.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s movie Pinocchio debuted.
  • February 7, 1992The Ray Bradbury Theater aired “The Utterly Perfect Murder” episode. Based on a short story by Bradbury, it concerns the long plotted revenge of a boy tormented in his childhood who now thinks he has plotted the utterly perfect murder. It’s directed by Stuart Margolian, and stars Richard Kiley, Robert Clothier and David Turri. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 7, 1931 Gloria Talbott. A spate of Fifties films earned her the title of Scream Queen including The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, The Cyclops, I Married a Monster from Outer Space and The Leech Woman. Her longest role was on Zorro as Moneta Esperon. She retired from acting in her mid-Thirties. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 70. Michael Toman, in an email asking OGH that we note her Birthday today, says that he has “A Good Word for one of my favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L .Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and “The Pelican Bar” won significant awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. 
  • Born February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two-season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 7, 1955 Miguel Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in RoboCop who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World. Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voice Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 7, 1960 James Spader, 60. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No, I did not enjoy that film, nor the Ultron character. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. 
  • Born February 7, 1962 Eddie Izzard, 58. I’m going to give him Birthday Honors for being a voice actor in the Netflix series Green Eggs and Ham where he voices Hervnick Z. Snerz, an arrogant, overbearing  businessman. No idea if that’s a character from the book or not. He’s also had roles in the awful reboot of The Avengers series as a film, Shadow of the Vampire, Alien Invasion, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Lego Batman Movie.
  • Born February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He also played the lead role in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do though other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)

(8) DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE. Big Finish announces “Final four Doctor Who Short Trips for 2020 confirmed!”

Her Own Bootstraps, written by Amy Veeres, performed by Jacob Dudman 
Extracting a dangerous Time War weapon from an irresponsible scientist, the Doctor arrives on Krakatoa in 1883 to destroy it. Problematically, the scientist is also in Krakatoa to steal the weapon. This is where she found it before the Doctor stole it from her. Trapped in a paradox, the Doctor must overcome a future he cannot change.  

A future that has already happened.  

The Meaning of Red, written by Rod Brown, performed by Nicola Bryant 
The TARDIS accidentally strands Peri alone on the inhospitable world of Calleto. Taking refuge with the planet’s only colonists, she waits and waits, but the Doctor doesn’t return. Her only hope lies in discovering the secrets of this planet. 

It’s that, or she dies.  

Blue Boxes, written by Erin Horakova, performed by Mark Reynolds
Death stalks the phone lines.  

UNIT’s been inundated with prank calls. Bored, the Doctor agrees to help Liz investigate. Quickly immersed in the world of phone line hackers, it is revealed that they’re being killed, one-by-one. With the death toll rising, the Doctor will have to use all his cunning and wits to defeat a foe he can’t even talk to.  

He’ll also have to use a blue box. Just not the one you’re expecting.  

The Shattered Hourglass, written by Robert Napton, performed by Neve McIntosh
The Time Agency has been meddling with time ever since its inception. Of all the days in history, today is a day that will define the agency forever.  

Today is the day of their greatest achievement. Today is the day they removed an entire galaxy from the timeline.  

Today is the day the Doctor’s shutting them down.  

(9) EVEN BIGGER FINISH. Also on the way is a River Song and Captain Jack Harkness team-up.

At last! – …River Song and Captain Jack Harkness cross paths for the first time in their zig-zagging timelines. Will the universe ever be the same again? Alex Kingston co-stars along with Camille Coduri, also returning as Jackie Tyler.  

The Lives of Captain Jack volume three will be released in March 2020, and is available on pre-order from today from £19.99, exclusively from the Big Finish website.  

Actor John Barrowman said: “Alex Kingston and I have talked about this for years. We knew that the fanbase always wanted River and Jack to meet, or to cross timelines, and we just never knew when it would happen. Alex and I were always game for it and, thanks to Big Finish, this is where it’s happening.  

“It’s like Jack is the male River and River is the female Jack. There are all sorts of comparisons in their behaviours and how they react; the verve and vivacious passion they have for solving problems; getting to the heart of the action and adventure; the determination to get what they want, but also the sadness behind both of their eyes.”  

Co-star Alex Kingston added: “I’ve always imagined that, when River’s not on adventures with the Doctor, she’s somewhere having fun with Captain Jack. I’ve always had that at the back of my head.  

John Barrowman and I get on so well, and whenever we’ve met at conventions, it’s the one request that the fans have come up with more than any other. We have a lot of fun together so it’s something we’ve both been pushing independently for. I was so thrilled to find out that our dream has come true.” 

The Lives of Captain Jack volume three features the following rollicking good adventures:  

Crush by Guy Adams
Captain Jack takes Mrs Tyler on a luxury cruise in space. 

Mighty & Despair by Tim Foley 
On a distant planet in the far future, two travellers have come looking for a mythical hero. 
 
R&J by James Goss 
From ancient battles to eternal wars 
A pair of time-cross’d lovers take the stars 

The Lives of Captain Jack volume three will be released in March 2020, and is available on pre-order from today at £19.99 as a download and £24.99 as a collector’s edition CD box set (which also unlocks a free download version on release). This exclusive Big Finish pre-release price will be held until the set’s general release at the end of May 2020. 

(10) PAPERBACK WRITERS. At Counterpunch, Ron Jacobs’ long introduction eventually leads to a review of PM Press’ second in a series of pulp fiction reviews, Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980.

…In the late 1960s, I spent many hours at the various drugstore newsstands in my suburban town reading for free. It was at one such establishment where I discovered Mickey Spillane, Harlan Ellison, Frederick Pohl, Herman Hesse, and the Harvard Lampoon, among others. I would finish up my morning newspaper route on Saturdays and head to the drugstore in the local shopping center. There I would meet up with other newspaper carriers and eat breakfast. That was where I had my first cup of coffee. After the three or four of us delivery boys finished breakfast, I would head to the newsstand to catch up on the newspapers I didn’t deliver and the magazines I didn’t want to buy and my parents didn’t subscribe to. After a quick survey of this media, I would scan the paperbacks and find one to read. If, after a half hour or so of reading, I was intrigued I would buy the book. Usually, the cashier didn’t care what I was buying. Sometimes, however, the cashier would be some uptight older woman or a wannabe’ preacher and they would refuse to sell me the paperback. This usually meant that I would go back to the newsstand and ultimately walk out with the book without paying for it. My library of paperback fiction resided in a box under my bed in the room I shared with one of my brothers. It was mostly made up of pulp novels featuring seedy criminals, badass private eyes, sexy covers, science fiction speculations, and fiction/new journalism popular with hippies and freaks—Herman Hesse, Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe come immediately to mind.

(11) THIS IS NOT YOUR FATHER’S INVISIBLE MAN. SYFY Wire: “WIRE Buzz: Invisible Man trailer teases terrifying backstory; Vanessa Kirby returning to Mission: Impossible”.

Unlike its titular character, the horrors of writer/director Leigh Whannell‘s Invisible Man remake will be fully perceived by the naked eye. In the new and terrifying official trailer for the upcoming film, Elisabeth Moss‘ Cecilia tries to leave her abusive boyfriend, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), only for him to literally punch through a car window to get her back.

[…] “There have been a lot of great Dracula movies and a lot of great werewolf movies, but I feel the Invisible Man is kind of the Aquaman of this stable of monsters,” Whannell told SYFY WIRE during our visit to the project’s Australian set.  “With this film, I feel like it wants to be more serious tonally. Not to say there aren’t moments with the characters where there might be levity, but it’s not a tonal thing. I wanted to make something that was like a vise that was tightening on people, which doesn’t leave much room for one-liners.”

(12) IN ALL HUMILITY. Gary L.M. Martin, author of Sleeping with Hitler’s Wife, dispenses genre wisdom on his Amazon author page. He begins —

Let’s talk about the dismal state of scifi/fantasy novels:

1) There are basically five kinds of scifi/fantasy novels:

a) teenagers with magical powers fighting vampires in Brooklyn; 

b) teenagers surviving a post-nuclear wasteland;

c) a moody boy/girl growing to become warrior/magician/king;

d) everyone fighting World War II again, in outer space; and

e) “Hard” scifi, with 200 pages of description of how to drive a moon buggy.

For the most part, there are only five kinds of scifi, because people only can write what they’ve already read. So what you end up reading are bad imitations of bad imitations of bad imitations, and so on….

(13) DOUGLAS FAMILY ALBUM.

(14) SHOCKING! A clip from The Late Show: “Patton Oswalt Is Shocked When Stephen Colbert Tells Him To Skip “The Hobbit.” The Tolkien stuff begins at 5:51.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/20 You Always Snark the One You Love, the One You Shouldn’t Snark At All

(1) OUT OF THE FRIDGE. Tom Nicholson, in “Harrison Ford In ‘Indiana Jones 5’ Is The Tragedy America Needs Right Now” in Esquire, says that Harrison Ford has agreed to be in another Indiana Jones movie, and speculates on what sort of Indiana Jones film that would be given that given Ford’s age (77). This film would take place in 1970.

…Let’s take a step back. At 77, Ford apparently hasn’t quite completed the valedictory tour of his most beloved roles which began back in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, continued with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and rounded off with Blade Runner 2049 in 2017. During that run it felt like Ford was being very savvy in using Rick Dekkard, Han Solo and Indy to cement his legacy and remind younger audiences that he wasn’t always a man badly CGI’d into the fight scene in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

(2) RAGTIME GAL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Finally saw The Rise of Skywalker.

Scenes we hadn’t expected to see included:

  • Jar-Jar Binks’ daughter showing as the new Darth Vader. (Helmet problems, of course, ears ended up dangling out from visor, tssk!)
  • The Force Ghost of Yoda does a comedy song routine, including some action riffs from Singing in the Rain and Make ‘Em Laugh. Using lightsaber as a cane/umbrella was inspired!

What were your (non-spoiler) favorites?

(3) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 6 to make your voice heard: “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2019!”.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2019. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 9 to February 6, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

(4) IT’S IN THE RNA. Romantic Novelists’ Association released the shortlists for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards on February 3. [Via Locus Online.]

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award:

  • The Girl at the Window, Rowan Coleman, Ebury Press, Penguin Random House
  • The Ghost Garden, Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead, Totally Bound
  • Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel, Ruth Hogan, Two Roads
  • The Hotel Where We Met, Belinda Jones, Independently published
  • The Stone’s Heart, Jessica Thorne, Bookouture

The awards will be presented in London on March 2.

(5) WIKIPEDIA SPOTLIGHTS FALL’S ‘HELICOPTER’ STORY. Rhetorical question Do very many short stories have their own Wiki article? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Sexually_Identify_as_an_Attack_Helicopter

This seems to have popped up in a hurry, and was promptly featured on Wikipedia’s front page (see last item):

(6) I.D.O.U. Brian Keene weighs in about “The Only Thing An Author Owes”.

…As a public figure, the contract between an author and a reader is as follows:

Author writes the book. Reader purchases and reads the book.

That’s it. That’s the sum total. Purchasing a book or wanting to be an aspiring author doesn’t entitle you access to an author’s social media any more than it entitles you to sleep in their bedroom at night. Social media is necessary marketing for authors, but that doesn’t mean they have to engage with unpleasantness. Some do. In the past, I often have. But I’m older, and hypertension is a thing, and quite frankly, I don’t need the bullshit. If I invite you into my living room, am I expected to sit there and let you call me an “arrogant egotistical asshole with sycophants surrounding” me simply because you shared a link to my podcast a few days ago, or because you bought a book by me at some point?

Hell no.

I don’t block people for politics. I don’t block them for what they like or dislike, or for who they follow. But if I feel someone is being purposely antagonistic or ignorant, or if I think they’re the latest in a very, very, very, very long line of geniuses whose beginning and ending marketing plan is, “I’ll pick a fight with Brian Keene/Nick Mamatas/Wrath James White/insert other name here and that will get me noticed” (a ploy so old, by the way, that Maurice Broaddus wrote about it way back in 2005), or if I think they have the potential to join in on those shenanigans, then yeah, I block them. It’s better for my mental health, and it’s definitely better for my blood pressure.

(7) THE ZINES OF ’44. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari helps voters decide for themselves what deserves  Retro-Hugo this year. http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1944.html

In support of the Retro Hugos project for CoNZealand, we’ve added an alphabetical list of 1944 fanzines. It is the largest list of 1944 fanzines that we could compile. We have linked, both from our site and others, all the zines we can find to give you the ability to read what was going on in 1944. We will link to additional zines as we find them, and are also still scanning more ourselves. If you know of appropriate materials not on the list, please let us know. We hope this will give you some ability to judge the 1944 materials first hand. Much of it may not seem of significant quality to us today, but it gives context and the ability to compare the writers and editors of 1944, rather than just relying on their later reputations.”…Joe Siclari 

(8) CLI-FI FICTION CONTEST. The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative launched their third global climate fiction writing contest yesterday. The Everything Change Climate Fiction Contest 2020 is taking submissions until April 15. Full guidelines at the link. 

Inspired by the incredible international response to our climate fiction contests in 2016 and 2018, we are proud to announce our third contest in 2020—a momentous year for climate action, and an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine how humans will live on this planet in the future.

Work will be selected and judged by Claire Vaye Watkins, a Guggenheim Fellow, winner of The Story Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and author of Gold Fame Citrus, a climate fiction novel that was named a best book of 2015 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and NPR. Claire will join an interdisciplinary group of judges with expertise in climate science, sustainability, creative writing, and environmental literature.

All genres are welcome. The author of the winning story will receive a $1000 prize, and nine finalists will receive $100 prizes. The winning story and finalists will be published in an anthology by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University.  

(9) HEMMING AWARD NOMINEES SOUGHT. The Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is taking entries in the Norma K Hemming Award for works published in 2019. Submit items here through February 29.

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 now open for entries.

The 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.

Two prizes will be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations are open to all eligible work produced in 2019.

“We encourage publishers and creators to carefully consider their work from the eligible period,” said award administrator Tehani Croft. “It is our goal to see all eligible material considered by the jurors. It is important to us that every person has the opportunity to see themselves reflected in fiction, and we hope that the Norma can have some part to play in making works dealing in themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in speculative fiction more visible.”

(10) CLARK OBIT. Bestselling thriller author Mary Higgins Clark died January 31 at 92. The LA Times notice ends —

Married since 1996 to former Merrill Lynch Futures Chief Executive John J. Conheeney, she remembered well the day she said goodbye to hard times. It was in April of 1977, and her agent had told her that Simon & Schuster was offering $500,000 for the hardcover to her third novel, “A Stranger Is Watching,” and that the publisher Dell was paying $1 million for the paperback. She had been running her own script production company during the day and studying for a philosophy degree at Fordham University at night, returning home to New Jersey in an old car with more than 100,000 miles on it.

“As I drove onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, the tailpipe and muffler came loose and began dragging on the ground. For the next 21 miles, I kur-plunked, kur-plunked, all the way home,” she wrote in her memoir. “People in other cars kept honking and beeping, obviously sure that I was either too stupid or too deaf to hear the racket.

“The next day I bought a Cadillac!”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 4, 1983 Videodrome premiered. It was written and directed by David Cronenberg, with a cast of James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Debbie Harry. It was the first film by Cronenberg to get Hollywood backing and it bombed earning back only two million dollars of its nearly six million budget. In spite of that, critics and audience goers alike found it to a good film. Today it is considered his best film by many, and it holds a sterling 80% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1922 William Phipps. He started off his genre career by being in both The War of The Worlds and Invaders from Mars. He’d later be in Cat-Women of the Moon, The Snow Creature, The Evil of Frankenstein, and the Dune series. He’d have one-offs in Batman, Green Hornet, The Munsters, Wild Wild West and a lead role in the Time Express series which would last four episodes according IMDB. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Author of a number of genre novel of which the best by far is Riddley Walker. Indeed, ISFDB lists some fifteen such novels by him, so I’m curious how he is as a genre writer beyond Riddley Walker. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1936 Gary Conway, 84. Best remembered I’d say for starring in Irwin Allen‘s Land of the Giants. You can see the opening episode here. He was also in How to Make a Monster, a late Fifties horror film which I’m delighted to say that you can watch here. He’s the Young Frankenstein in it. 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George A. Romero. He’s got an impressive listing form the Dead films, I count seven of them, to Knightriders, which is truly genre adjacent at best, and one of my favorites of his, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Oh, and he wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as Stan Lee, but he did show up in at least seven of his films.  (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 80. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn in “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 60. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters), voicing a role in The Cat in The Hat short, Night Gallery, Sealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO. She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 59. I’ve been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I’m listening to The Line War right now and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of a hundred thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again). As I said last year, h the sort of writer that I think drives our Puppies to madness — literate pulp SF pumped out fast that readers like. 
  • Born February 4, 1962 Thomas Scott Winnett. Locus magazine editorial assistant and reviewer from 1989 to 1994. He worked on Locus looks at books and Books received as well. In addition, he wrote well over a hundred review reviews for Locus. He died of AIDS-related pneumonia. (Died 2004.)

 (13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus shows the origins of empire building.

(14) WADE IN. Find out what’s behind the new novel Mazes of Power in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

This is the story of a very old, and very big idea. When I first had it, I was thirteen years old, and the idea was so big that I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. It was the idea for a world of cavern cities, where families were restricted in their professions, and about conflicts of power… but until I’d turned this idea over hundreds of times, over years, it always seemed out of my grasp. I learned about anthropology, and added a new social awareness to my idea, and realized it was for a work of sociological science fiction. I studied linguistics, and added that, too. I tried to write a story about it, knew it was wrong, and learned more, and wrote it again. I concentrated hard on learning how language and the world around us reflect our concepts of our social selves, and wrote it again.

Until it stopped being wrong, and became the world of Varin….

(15) TRUE GRIT. Dune and The Martian are two of the recommendations on Penguin Random House’s “Books to Read on a Desert Island”, which makes an unintentionally humorous kind of sense….

So you found yourself stranded on a desert island, what book do you wish you had with you? More realistically, you’re sitting on a long plane flight or waiting for an appointment, but the question still applies! We’ve suggested a few fiction and nonfiction books below that will have you contemplating life or forgetting reality.

(16) DO NOT COLLECT $200. Vanity Fair replays the crime – and no, the culprit wasn’t the Hamburglar: McMillions: The Stranger-Than-Fiction Story of the $24-Million McDonald’s Monopoly Theft”

…But in 2000, the FBI got an anonymous tip about an “Uncle Jerry” rigging the McDonald’s competition. The organization launched an investigation that would uncover the fact that many of the winners—despite the out-of-state addresses they listed—actually lived within a 25-mile radius of the lakefront home Jacobson owned. According to the Daily Beast, “25 agents across the country…tracked 20,000 phone numbers, and recorded 235 cassette tapes of telephone calls.” McDonald’s even sent an employee undercover to help the FBI stage a fake TV commercial campaign—Argo–style—to get the fraudulent winners to incriminate themselves on camera. There were raids. And in 2001, in a scene tailor-made for the third act of an action thriller, McDonald’s launched another Monopoly game—knowing that their game had been compromised—because the FBI needed more evidence.

(17) EXTRAORDINARY. Adler #1 will be released in comic shops tomorrow. “Irene Adler is on a mission to take down Sherlock’s greatest nemesis, Moriarty!”

It’s the League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen, as Adler teams up with a host of famous female faces from history and literature to defeat the greatest criminal mastermind of all time!

Written by World Fantasy Award Winner Lavie Tidhar, with art by Paul McCaffrey (TMNT).

(18) VAMPIRE PAPERWORK. The AP reports “Tulane acquires archive of “Vampire” author Anne Rice”.

Tulane University has acquired the complete archives of bestselling author Anne Rice, who was born and raised in New Orleans and whose books, including “Interview with the Vampire,” often drew inspiration from her hometown.

The collection was a gift from Stuart Rose and the Stuart Rose Family Foundation to the university’s Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, the university said in a statement.

“That Tulane has provided a home for my papers is exciting and comforting,” Rice said in the statement. “All my novels — in a career spanning more than 40 years — have been profoundly influenced by the history and beauty of New Orleans, and by its unique ambience in which my imagination flourished even in early childhood.”

Rice has written 30 novels. She moved to California to attend university and has spent much of her life since then in California, according to her biography. But New Orleans has played a central role in much of her fiction.

(19) AUTISM RESEARCH. “Researchers Link Autism To A System That Insulates Brain Wiring”.

Scientists have found a clue to how autism spectrum disorder disrupts the brain’s information highways.

The problem involves cells that help keep the traffic of signals moving smoothly through brain circuits, a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The team found that in both mouse and human brains affected by autism, there’s an abnormality in cells that produce a substance called myelin.

That’s a problem because myelin provides the “insulation” for brain circuits, allowing them to quickly and reliably carry electrical signals from one area to another. And having either too little or too much of this myelin coating can result in a wide range of neurological problems.

For example, multiple sclerosis occurs when the myelin around nerve fibers is damaged. The results, which vary from person to person, can affect not only the signals that control muscles, but also the ones involved in learning and thinking.

The finding could help explain why autism spectrum disorders include such a wide range of social and behavioral features, says Brady Maher, a lead investigator at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and an associate professor in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“Myelination could be a problem that ties all of these autism spectrum disorders together,” Maher says. And if that’s true, he says, it might be possible to prevent or even reverse the symptoms using drugs that affect myelination.

“If we get to these kids really early, we might be able to change their developmental trajectory and improve their outcomes,” Maher says.

(20) SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT MISTER ROGERS’ DOOR. “’Exploding meteor’ drops out of night sky in Derby” — short video.

A man’s doorbell camera has captured a celestial light show as what is thought to be a meteor dropped through the night sky in Derby.

Gary Rogers, 52, who captured the footage about 23:30 GMT on Monday, said he was amazed and felt lucky to have seen it.

Experts at the National Space Centre in Leicester said they believe it was a bolide – a bright meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.

Rob Dawes, chairman of nearby Sherwood Observatory, said the brightness suggested it was larger than a normal meteor.

He said: “[Mr Rogers] was very lucky to get such a nice bright one. But you’d be surprised how many of these do come into the atmosphere at any time of year.”

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