Pixel Scroll 4/19/22 Better Call Scroll

(1) SCUM VS. VILLAINY. At Unusual Things in “Being a Better Writer: Delivering a Villain and Making Them Truly Scary”, Max Florschutz hosts a deeply thoughtful and fascinatingly detailed seven-course meal about writing “bad guys.” This is just an appetizer for you —

…Now, as a quick aside, I do want to remind us all that there is a difference between an antagonist and a villain. Just as there is a difference between a hero and a protagonist. Someone that is acting in opposition to a protagonist is not automatically a villain. They are an antagonist. Merely being opposed to a primary character is not an automatic trait of villainy. In fact, even the definitions of these two terms note the difference. An antagonist is one who opposes the protagonist of a story and acts as an obstacle, but that is the limit. A villain on the other hand, is a character who’s evil motivations are integral to the plot.

And yes, the definition does include the term “evil” there. A villain may have ambiguous reasons (for example, Thanos), but there is no doubt that what they are doing is wrong in some awful fashion, and their aims are more than just being an obstacle to the protagonist.

In other words, it’s like the old logic puzzle or play we all encountered in grade-school: Some antagonists are villains, and some villains are antagonists, but not all antagonists are villains, and not all villains are antagonists….

(2) OCTAVIA BUTLER AS FOLK OPERA. “’Parable of the Sower’ comes to Strathmore Music Center” and the Washington Post interviews the show’s composer on the eve of its national tour.

Singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon has had the idea of adapting Octavia Butler’s 1993 novel, “Parable of the Sower,” as a folk opera since the late 1990s. But recently, she’s felt a new sense of urgency. More and more, Reagon says, the book’s prophecy of a dystopian future seems to resemble our real-life present. That’s why the Washington-raised, Brooklyn-based artist pushed to take the show on a national tour, which stops at the Strathmore Music Center for two performances on April 28 and 29.

“When I looked at Octavia’s timeline, I realized that her story starts in 2024, when slavery is starting up again,” Reagon says in a phone interview. “The government is giving up on being a good government, and fires and droughts are ravaging the environment. That’s not so different than what’s on the news. It’s an emergency; we all have to do something in our communities to stop that from happening. I felt like we have to get this show out there before it’s too late.”

(3) FROM YOU, I GET THE STORY. “Janelle Monáe Writes For The Marginalized In New Science Fiction Collection ‘The Memory Librarian’”, an Essence interview.

“In The Memory Librarian there is a threat of censorship and I feel like that’s happening right now,” Monáe explains. “When you look at them trying to take critical race theory out of schools. Nobody wants to talk about slavery if it upsets a child, so they say. In Florida, they’re not wanting to even talk about the LGBTQIA and how these kids are identifying. That is a censorship that is happening now. It happens in The Memory Librarian, the protagonists are from marginalized communities. They do rebel. They do fight against it. It is going to be this book that predicts a potential future where the current sh-t we’re trying to ban is amplified in a way that our characters are fighting for the ability to live in our truth and to be seen in a nation’s larger story.”

(4) KAMALA KHAN’S GEAR. “Ms. Marvel’s Vibrant Poster Provides Best Look Yet at Kamala’s Costume” as CBR.com explains.

The latest poster for Ms. Marvel contains fans’ best look yet at Kamala Khan’s superhero threads.

The image, which depicts the titular hero surrounded by her friends and family, highlights Kamala’s crime-fighting threads. Fans of the character will undoubtedly recognize her iconic design, including the blue mask that covers her face and the long red scarf which dangles around her shoulders. While it’s currently unknown how the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Ms. Marvel comes into possession of her costume, the source material sees her creating it herself by modifying a burkini. At the very center of the image, Kamala can be seen sitting on a street light, a homage to both the series’ original poster and the cover of Ms. Marvel #5 which was created by artist Adrian Alphona.

The new poster also highlights the various characters in Ms. Marvel’s life that either aid or hinder her superhero adventures. Kamala’s closest friends Bruno Carrelli and Nakia Bahadir (Matt Lintz and Yasmeen Fletcher, respectively) can be seen on the bottom left while her overprotective brother Amir, played by Saagar Shaikh, takes a prevalent spot on the right. It’s worth noting that Kamran, who acted as Kamala’s crush and love-interest with ulterior motives in the comics, is also highlighted on the poster.

(5) SEE THREE. Is there anybody who didn’t already see this announced by John Scalzi at Whatever? Maybe you’d like to watch it again? Collider sets the frame: “Love, Death + Robots Volume 3 Trailer Reveals New Stories in Eclectic Series”:

…Created by Tim Miller and David FincherLove, Death + Robots invites different teams of artists and screenwriters to produce short stories about fantastic discoveries, distant corners of the galaxy, or surreal events. Some episodes of the previous volumes were horror stories, while others were straight-out comedies. While this variation makes each volume unbalanced, with some stories stealing the spotlight, that’s also what allows fans to explore a diverse set of creative narratives….

(6) NUTS. “Marvel Launches ‘Squirrel Girl’ Scripted Podcast From Writer Ryan North” reports Yahoo!

The six-episode SiriusXM podcast series titled “Marvel’s Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Radio Show,” which stars Milana Vayntrub of AT&T-ad fame as Doreen Green/Squirrel Girl and is written by North, debuted across multiple platforms on Monday. The podcast is produced by Radio Point, the podcast arm of “I Think You Should Leave” and “Life & Beth” production company Irony Point.

Variety adds:

…Here’s the official description for the “Squirrel Girl” podcast: “Squirrel Girl has taken down Thanos and Doctor Doom — but now she faces something far more terrifying… living authentically. The new series follows Empire State University college student, Doreen Green, who has recently been outed as a super hero — The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! Hoping to unify her personas in the public eye, Squirrel Girl has created a new student radio show on ESU’s own college station…

According to Marvel’s press release:

The first episode of Marvel’s Squirrel Girl: The Unbeatable Radio Show! is available now on all podcast platforms. Fans can also get early access to next week’s episode starting today via the SXM App or by subscribing to Marvel Podcasts Unlimited on Apple Podcasts, which also has exclusive bonus content! Future episodes will be available exclusively via the SXM App and Marvel Podcasts Unlimited for one week before being available widely on Pandora, Stitcher, and all major podcast platforms in the U.S. Learn more at Marvel.com/SquirrelGirlPodcast.

(7) ASK ERICKSON ANYTHING. Severance writer Dan Erickson announced on Twitter that he will be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) Thursday, April 21, 2022 at 12 PM PST to 1 PM PST.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Back in the summer of ‘20, I looked here at the first publication of Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves” short story in the Bananas literary zine where J.G. Ballard, Sara Maitland and John Sladek were the other writers present. (Copies of that zine are readily available as Meredith moments at online booksellers. The story itself is in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.) The Company Of Wolves film premiered in the States thirty-seven years ago on this date.

The screenplay was written by Carter and Neil Patrick Jordan, an Irish film director, screenwriter, novelist and short-story writer who I’ll praise for his later High Spirits film he directed and wrote. Carter would also write the screenplays for The Bloody Chamber and The Magic Toyshop films which I didn’t know exist. 

Did you know there’s a film on her, Angela Carter: Of Wolves & Women? I need to see this. Really I do. 

The film was directed by Jordan was produced by Chris Brown and Stephen Woolley. The latter would be responsible for producing Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and was the producer of the aforementioned High Spirits

It had an amazing cast: Sarah Patterson was Rosaleen, Angela Lansbury was Granny,  David Warner was Father,  Tusse Silberg was Mother,  Micha Bergese was The Huntsman, Brian Glover was The Amorous Boy’s Father,  Graham Crowden was The Old Priest,  Kathryn Pogson was The Young Bride, Stephen Rea as The Young Groom and  Georgia Slowe was  Alice, The Girl Killed by Wolves. Note the only two performers have personal names, Carter is using archetypes here. 

So how was the reception for the horror film? Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times was quite impressed saying it was a  “disturbing and stylish attempt to collect some of the nightmares that lie beneath the surface of “‘Little Red Riding Hood’”. And the anonymous TV Guide reviewer riffs on the erotic nature of Angela Carter’s story: “ The most innovative, intelligent, and visually sumptuous horror film of recent years. Not a traditional werewolf movie, this film explores the psychosexual undercurrents of the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale.  Taking place almost entirely in the troubled dreams of 13-year-old Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson), the film takes the viewer deep into the archetypal, erotically charged realm of fairy stories.” 

The film would win a British Science Fiction Award for Best Media. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are rather fond of giving a seventy three percent rating. 

The film is available for purchase digitally off Amazon but not ITunes. Huh.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M which you can see here. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at The Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.)  He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, not the Asimov Probe, the pilot for the sf TV series Search. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 87. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 76. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance. He’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers (1993), a most excellent genre film, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series, a most excellent affair. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 55. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine seven times. In 1995 he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. He has published the fanzine, Argentus, edited several issues of the Hugo-nominated Journey Planet. His debut novel After Hastings came out in 2020.
  • Born April 19, 1978 K. Tempest Bradford, 44. She was a non-fiction and managing editor with Fantasy Magazine for several years, and has edited fiction for Fortean BureauPeridot Books and Sybil’s Garage. She’s written a lot of short fiction and her first YA novel, Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion, is coming out this autumn. She was a finalist last year for two Ignyte Awards, the Ember Award for unsung contributions to genre and the Community Award for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre. 
  • Born April 19, 1981 Hayden Christensen, 41. Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the ClonesReturn of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith. And Christensen also plays Vader in his suit in the latter. He later has a voice cameo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In the forthcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney +, he’s Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater shows us some rare superhero paraphernalia.
  • Existential Comics shows that having a product return policy doesn’t really cut short the arguments with customers if they are not properly grounded in philosophy.

(11) JUST THE FACTS, MA’AM. H&I says it’s true — Star Trek’s Klingons were named after this LAPD Officer seen on Dragnet.

…And that’s where the alarm bells ring in the ears of Trekkies. W.L. Clingan is mentioned in several episodes of Dragnet 1967. In this particular case, he is played by Dennis McCarthy. That’s him with the white coat and gray hair in the top picture.

It just so happens this character was based on a real Los Angeles police officer, Wilbur Lee Clingan. He worked for the LAPD and the Pasadena police department for three decades. He was also, reportedly, a consultant on Dragnet. Which would explain the little nod Jack Webb worked into his TV show.

In his LAPD days, Clingan happened to work with a young man named Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry’s pop was a cop and he had followed his dad’s footsteps in the LAPD. Roddenberry first worked in the traffic division before ending up penning speeches for the chief of police in the Public Information department…. 

(12) LATE CHECKOUT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] After some bonus time on orbit due to a NASA-initiated delay, members of the first all-private trip to the International Space Station are due to head home tonight. “All-private SpaceX astronaut mission to return home from the ISS” at CNN.

The first all-private mission to the International Space Station is slated to complete the final leg of its journey this week, capping off what will be about a 12-day, multimillion-dollar journey.

The mission, called AX-1, was brokered by the Houston, Texas-based startup Axiom Space, which books rocket rides, provides all the necessary training, and coordinates flights to the ISS for anyone who can afford it. The mission has set off yet another round of debate about whether people who pay their way to space should be referred to as “astronauts,” though it should be noted a trip to the ISS requires a far larger investment of both time and money than taking a brief suborbital ride on a rocket built by companies like Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic.

The four crew members — Michael Lopez-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut turned Axiom employee who is commanding the mission; Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe; Canadian investor Mark Pathy; and Ohio-based real estate magnate Larry Connor — are slated to leave the space station aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Tuesday around 10:00 pm ET….

(13) THIRTEEN’S COMPANY. Something to look forward to: “Doctor Who: Former companions to join Jodie Whittaker’s farewell” at BBC News.

…Tegan and Ace will join the 13th Doctor in the special episode being broadcast this autumn.

The news was revealed in a trailer that followed the show’s Easter special.

The short teaser also revealed that the episode will feature the Doctor’s arch enemy The Master (Sacha Dhawan) and two of her most famous foes, the Daleks and the Cybermen….

(14) CLUELESS ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is only very vaguely genre adjacent (it does at times get surreal) and so may
not be of that much interest to Filers unless they are into British humour such as PythonI’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue is a long-running radio show that has this weekend celebrated half a century of being on air.  It is a comedy panel show with silly games.
For example, in a game giving a dictionary definition what would be the definition of ‘cabaret’?  Answer: ‘taxi rank’.  (Cab-array’ – get it?).

If you like silliness like such word play or games such as ‘singing one song to the tune of another’ or ‘verbal charades’ (well, it is a radio show) then you can download an .mp3 from BBC Sounds and you’ll gain an insight into British culture. “50 Years Without a Clue”.

(15) FREQUENCY 13. Or you might like to listen to “Doctor Who: Redacted – 1. SOS” at BBC Sounds. It’s an Thirteenth Doctor audio drama with Jodi. And yes, you can hear in the States.

Cleo, Abby and Shawna make The Blue Box Files – a podcast about their favourite conspiracy theory: is this one random blue box actually a spaceship? This week they discuss shady pharmaceutical company Adipose Industries. But things get a bit real when they start hearing about a mysterious figure called ‘the Doctor’.

(16) WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE. MAYBE. “Europa’s similarity to Greenland hints that Jupiter moon could harbor life” at MSN.com.

The uncanny resemblance between features on Europa’s frozen surface and a landform in Greenland that sits atop a sizable pocket of water are providing intriguing new indications that this moon of Jupiter may be capable of harboring life.

A study published on Tuesday explored similarities between elongated landforms called double ridges that look like huge gashes across Europa’s surface and a smaller version in Greenland examined using ice-penetrating radar.

Double ridges are linear, with two peaks and a central trough between them.

“If you sliced through one and looked at the cross section, it would look a bit like the capital letter ‘M,'” said Stanford University geophysicist Riley Culberg, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Radar data showed that refreezing of liquid subsurface water drove the formation of Greenland’s double ridge. If Europa’s features form the same way, this could signal the presence of copious amounts of liquid water – a key ingredient for life – near the surface of this Jovian moon’s thick outer ice shell….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands,” Fandom Games says this is “a generic role-playing game that can be gently described as a parody of Dungeons and Dragons” and that Tiny Tina is “one of the most irritating characters in the history of video-game making.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Bill, Will R., Nickpheas, Ben Bird Person, John A Arkansawyer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/11/22 This Is My Quest, To Pixel That Scroll

Going a bit light today so I can finish my tax returns!

(1) NIMONA SAVED. “Netflix Picks Up LGBTQ Animated Film ‘Nimona’ Dropped by Disney” reports The Wrap.

Netflix announced on Monday morning that it would be picking up “Nimona,” the LGBTQ animated project based on ND Stevenson’s graphic novel that was one of the projects scrapped following the Disney/Fox merger in 2019. The film is already in production and will be released in 2023.

“Nimona” will star Chloë Grace Moretz as the antihero Nimona, a shapeshifter bent on destroying a powerful organization known as the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics by any means necessary — even if it means killing people. To this end, she teams up with with Lord Ballister Blackheart (Riz Ahmed), who also seeks to bring down the Institution but will not break his own code of ethics to do so…

(2) TUNNELS IN THE SKY. James Davis Nicoll inspected the apple of the universe to find “Five SF Novels Featuring Different Kinds of Wormholes” at Tor.com. Second on the list is —

Starrigger by John DeChancie (1983)

The Skyway that connects the known worlds is unusually user-friendly. The sufficiently advanced aliens who created the Skyway planted their Kerr-Tipler objects on the surfaces of habitable worlds, allowing truckers like Jake to travel from world to world (provided only that their sufficiently robust vehicles follow a precise path past the rapidly spinning, hyperdense towers). At present, human knowledge of the Skyway is rudimentary. However, if someone were to come into possession of the fabled (and quite possibly mythical) Roadmap, a multitude of routes would be open: routes through space and even time. Which is why when whispers begin circulating that Jake has the Roadmap, his life gets very complicated indeed.

(3) SHALL WE DANCE? John Scalzi kicks off Reader Request Week with a thought experiment involving a point of view he ordinarily disdains. The reader asks: “For the sake of argument and fun, please defend your man-cred, and demonstrate your good standing in the white male dominated patriarchy.” The payoff is we get to hear about his high school dance class.  “Reader Request Week 2022 #1: My ‘Man-Cred’”.

…Third, it really effectively short-circuited my concern about the judgment of other dudes. A lot of straight men, especially young men, don’t dance, because they think they will look foolish doing so, and when they’re concerned about looking foolish, the people they’re most concerned about looking foolish to are other men — who they often imagine will see them on the dance floor and cast judgment on them, not for their moves, but for being on the dance floor at all. Learning to dance got me over that, by actually teaching me how to dance and by teaching me to enjoy dancing for itself, and by giving my dancing proper focus — not on the other dudes, most not on the dance floor, who may or my not be judging me, but either on my dance partner, who legitimately deserved my attention, or on myself, enjoying the pleasure of the dance itself….

(4) TENSION, APPREHENSION, AND DISSENSION. Max Florschutz does a good job reminding everyone that dramatic conflict is not confined to physical conflict: “Being a Better Writer: Embracing Conflict in All its Forms” at Unusual Things.

…And again, there’s nothing wrong with writing fun fight scenes and life-threatening peril. I do it all the time.

But that’s not the only way we can have conflict in our story. Not all forms of conflict are violent, action-packed, or perilous.

Instead, they can be subtle, insidious, tense, or even comedic, all without resorting to direct, physical violence.

This concept is best, I feel, illustrated through examples, so let’s go over a few. Say you have a protagonist that is a chief diplomat for a fantasy kingdom. Their aim, as ordered by their ruler, is to keep the peace with another nation that they serve as a diplomat to. Unfortunately, things are tense. This other nation is undergoing a resource shortage, which has driven tensions to high levels, and while the kingdom our protagonist represents has a lot of that resource, they’re using it. They’d also likely win a war if it came to that, but not without the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, one of which is a close relative of the protagonist. Worse still, the ruler of the other kingdom is aggressively pushing for a conflict, since they feel it will cement their power, even if they lose.

Now, imagine writing out a scene or a chapter in which this diplomat has a meeting with a representative of this other ruler. Can you imagine how the tension might pile up as these two representatives, each with very different goals, do “battle” with one another using words and faint promises or assurances, each trying to secure their own “victory” over the other? The scene may not have blades, guns, and immediate peril like a collapsing building … but each and every word spoken by the pair could carry such weight that the sense of peril would still be very present. A single wrong word, stepping too far or not stepping far enough, could plunge the kingdom into a war that would kill tens of thousands….

(5) FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM WITH THE HALDEMANS. Joe Siclari announces: “We are doing another FANAC Fan History Zoom, This is an interview of Joe and Gay Haldeman titled ‘Science Fiction Fandom from Both Sides’.” It will be live on April 23, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. EDT (11:00 a.m. PDT, 7:00 p.m. London). To access the event please RSVP by sending a note to fanac@fanac.org.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2001 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

Twenty-one years on this evening ago over at that network the no one remembers (UPN), Special Unit 2 started out its two-year life. It was about Chicago police unit known as Special Unit 2who dealt with the city’s  population of mythological beings who were known as Links. Consider it an updated Night Stalker which also was set in Chicago. 

It was created by Evan Katz who was also over at Fox being the Executive Producer of a slightly more successful series, to wit 24.

Though set in Chicago, it, like so many other genre series, was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia. I know I watched enough it that I should’ve noticed that it wasn’t filmed in Chicago but honestly all those blend together after awhile. 

It had a small primary cast including Michael Landes who played Jimmy Olsen in the first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Alexandra Lee. She appeared as one of five corpses recounting the tales of their death on a most excellent CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode entitled “Toe Tags”. It’s well worth seeing.

It got cancelled after just nineteen episodes due to a change in UPN’s management as reported in all the trade papers.

Not that it was well-received at the time. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said of it that, “It’s true that ‘Special Unit 2’ is not bad compared to the rest of the shows on UPN. That is, if you take ‘not bad’ to mean dull and derivative. This low-budget cross between ‘The X-Files’ and ‘Men in Black’ wants to yuk it up one minute and incite fear the next. It fails on both counts.” 

And Variety said in its review, “As ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ approaches its final episode, UPN is trying to keep its sci-fi audience happy with ‘Special Unit 2,’ a tepid hour-long series about a secretive Chicago police unit that hunts, of all things, half-man/half-beasts. Positioned at 8 p.m. Wednesday, skein reps good counterprogramming opposite sitcoms and the femme-skewing ‘Ed’ and ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ and the debut’s ratings were decent — in a fledgling-network kind of way. But this ‘Men in Black’ wannabe must come up with sharper storylines if it wants to stay strong; otherwise, it’ll be yet another short-lived project on a network in dire need of a hit.”

Special Unit 2 (front) Danny Woodburn, (l-r) Alexondra Lee, Michael Landes, Richard Gant

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1867 William Wallace Cook. Newspaper reporter and pulp writer who wrote four novels (The Fiction FactoryA Round Trip to the Year 2000, or A Flight Through Time, Cast Away at the Pole and Adrift in the Unknown, or Adventures in a Queer Realm) which were serialized in Argosy in the early part of the last century. Clute in his usual blunt manner said at EoSF he was “was a crude writer, but is of interest for his attempts to combine adventure plots and Satire.” (Died 1933.)
  • Born April 11, 1892 William M. Timlin. Author of The Ship that Sailed to Mars, a remarkable work that has 48 pages of text and 48 color plates. It has become a classic of fantasy literature. You can view the book here. (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. Best remembered as the creator of Modesty Blaise of whom EoSF says her “agility and supple strength are sufficiently exceptional for her to be understood as a Superhero.” O’Donnell also wrote the screenplay of The Vengeance of She based on H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She novel. It rates eleven percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And let’s just say the critics were less kind. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1941 Gene Szafran. He did the cover art for genre  books published by Bantam and Ballantine from the Sixties to the Eighties, including a series of Signet paperbacks of Robert A. Heinlein’s work including Farnham’s Freehold, The Green Hills of Earth, and Methusaleh’s Children. His art would garner him four Locus Awards. (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 11, 1949 Melanie Tem. She was the wife of genre author Steve Rasnic Tem. A prolific writer of both novels and short stories, she considered herself a dark fantasy writer, not a horror writer. Bryant, King and Simmonds all praised her writing. If I had to make recommendations, I’d say start with Blood MoonWitch-Light (co-written with Nancy Holder) and Daughters done with her husband. ”The Man on the Ceiling” won her a World Fantasy Award and got her a Shirley Jackson Award nomination.  She died of cancer which recurred after she’d been in remission. Damn cancer. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 11, 1952 James Patrick Kelly, 71. One of his best stories, “Solstice” is in Sterling’s Mirrorshades anthology. The Mariska Volochkova series is the one I would definitely recommend if you’ve not read it yet. Hugo nominations? Why yes, he does starting at Conspiracy ‘87 for his “Rat” story, proceeding from there to his “Think Like a Dinosaur“ novelette win at L.A. Con III, with another at BucConeer for his “Itsy Bitsy Spider” short story nomination to his “1016 to 1? novelette win at Chicon 2000. Then he had another novelette nominated at ConJose for “Undone” and “Bernardo’s House” picked him up another at Noreascon 4. At Interaction, “The Best Christmas Ever” was a short story finalist, as his “Burn” novella was a L.A. Con IV, His last Hugo nomination was for the novelette “Plus of Minus” at Renovation. 
  • Born April 11, 1955 Julie E. Czerneda, 67. Canadian author whose In the Company of Others which won an Aurora Award is stellar as A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow which also deservedly won that Award. Need I say she won yet more of those Awards? Impressive writer indeed as she also won two Golden Ducks as well. Her latest novel Spectrum, just last year. She is extremely well stocked at the usual suspects, bless them. 
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 59. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He has done a lot, and I do mean a lot, of other media tie-in fiction including Babylon 5 where he did a Psi Corps trilogy of novels, Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Star Wars, Planet of The Apes, Independence Day and Pacific Rim.

(8) STAR CHAMBERS. SFF Book Reviews’ Dina says, “A Want All The Alien Hugs: Becky Chambers – The Galaxy And the Ground Within”.

… Strangers forced into proximity is a great trope but Becky Chambers makes something truly special out of it. Most of her characters are respectful of each other, some even become friends easily, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an underlying tension between others. Again, there are no big battles of fisticuffs but opinions clash on occasion and, honestly, that was enough tension for me.

At first, it’s just fun getting to know these characters, finding out their backstories, where they were headed when they got stuck on Gora, and what their lives are like. Then it became lovely to watch them grow into a sort of force-upon-each-other found family, at least for alittle while….

(9) THESE CREDENTIALS WILL BE NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT. “Hypoallergenic Cats Could Be Possible With CRISPR Gene Editing” promises Gizmodo.

…Researchers at the Virginia-based biotech company InBio (previously called Indoor Biotechnologies) have been working on their own approach. They’re hoping to use CRISPR, the Nobel Prize-winning gene editing tech, to produce cats that simply make little to no Fel d 1 [a suspected allergy-causing protein]. In their latest research, published Monday in The CRISPR Journal, they say they’ve collected evidence that this can be done effectively and safely….

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video of Tom Scott meeting his robot double dropped today: “My robot double sells out (so I don’t have to)”.

I haven’t been able to do VPN advertising for a long time. Well, this one time, I don’t have to: because the robot double’s going to do it for me. With many thanks to all the team at Engineered Arts who worked on this. To be clear, this is not sponsored by them, I paid money (technically, NordVPN’s money) for the Mesmer robot — or at least, for the silicone mask and 3D printed skull that were put together for just one day!

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/21 Revenge Of The Unknown Knowns

(1) SHIPPING NEWS. The New York Times tells how “’Ships of the Northern Fleet,’ a crowdsourced sci-fi project, navigated from TikTok all the way to the convention circuit,” in “The Show Is Fake. The Fandom Is Real.”

…Maybe you remember it, too — but it’s much more likely that you don’t. That’s because “Ships of the Northern Fleet” isn’t real. It’s fabricated. Fake. A nonexistent TV series.

Its fan base, however, very much exists. “Fleeters,” as they’re known, congregate on Discord and TikTok to talk about their favorite “memories” of the adventures of the ship crews of the Four Fleets. Popular discussion topics include the Cog Hogs, small clockwork hedgehogs that are cuter than the Porgs of “Star Wars” fame, and the majestic Sky Whales, giant beasts who flew in the sky next to the pirates’ soaring airships.

Fans debate the merits of the ships’ various captains, including Captain Neil Barnabus (the leader of the True Winds fleet, named after the fantasy writer Neil Gaiman) and Captain George Hellman (who is “played” by Nathan Fillion, a fixture of the sci-fi genre; he wrote in an email that though he hadn’t heard of the show, he is “all for it”).

So, how exactly did “Ships of the Northern Fleet” come into semi-existence? It started, like so many other dramatic arcs online, with a throwaway post on social media.

A Show Is Born

In early February, in a video on TikTok, the video game writer Tyler James Nicol encouraged his viewers to “participate in a hallucinatory experience” by sharing their favorite memories and moments from a show “that will and has never existed,” and that, according to the proposed imaginary construct, had been canceled before its time.

The fake “steampunk sky pirate show,” would be called “Ships of the Northern Fleet” after the name of a novel that Mr. Nicol, 36, had once planned to write.

He never got around to the manuscript, but he did have the title, a TikTok account and an idea to crowdsource its plot and fictional lore.

It took off quickly. Mr. Nicol, Mx. Osborn and four others — Patrick Loller, Erik Tait, Gary Hampton and Logan South — connected on TikTok and started streaming together on Twitch, where they performed improv in character, riffing on questions fans asked them via chat about “working” on the show.

Enthusiasts banded together to create a subreddit, a Discord server and a wiki with over 300 entries. They’ve also produced fan art, songs and a “Ships” tabletop game. There’s knockoff merchandise out there, too, though fans can buy “real” merch from Mr. Nicol; he donates all his earnings from those sales to the Trevor Project….

(2) KAFKA COLLECTION. “Max Brod’s Franz Kafka Archive Digitized”Smithsonian Magazine has the story.

During his lifetime, the celebrated Czech Jewish author Franz Kafka penned an array of strange and gripping works, including a novella about a man who turns into a bug and a story about a person wrongly charged with an unknown crime. Now, almost a century after the acclaimed author’s death, literary lovers can view a newly digitized collection of his letters, manuscripts and drawings via the National Library of Israel’s website.

As Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports, the collection contains around 120 drawings and more than 200 letters owned by Max Brod, a friend and fellow writer who served as Kafka’s literary executor. Instead of destroying the author’s papers as he had requested, Brod chose to publish and preserve them….

(3) AFROFUTURISM BUNDLE. StoryBundle is offering The Afrofuturism and the Black Fantastic Bundle curated by Tenea D. Johnson.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Slay by Nicole Givens Kurtz
  • Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl
  • Dominion by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
  • The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan by Zig Zag Claybourne

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus six more books and a fiction album! That’s a total of 11!

  • New Worlds, Old Ways edited by Karen Lord
  • Queen of Zazzau by J.S. Emuakpor
  • Baaaad Muthaz by Bill Campbell, David Brame and Damian Duffy
  • How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda D. Addison
  • Reenu-You by Michele Tracy Berger
  • Frequencies by Tenea D. Johnson
  • Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne

(4) FROM SCOTLAND TO THE BORGO PASS. At CrimeReads, Laurie R. King profiles Emily Gerard, whose travels in Transylvania provided Bram Stoker with a lot of inspiration and ideas when he was writing Dracula – “The Scottish Anthropologist Who Inspired Dracula”.

… When she was in her thirties, mother of two young sons, her husband took up a position in the far corner of Transylvania. Gerard was a writer by this time, having published stories, reviews, and a few novels in collaboration with her sister, so her imagination was roused by this fascinating and utterly unknown part of the world. Apparently fearless—“Nonsense!” she says, when her young son urges her to take her revolver on a solitary trek—and fluent in several languages, she would merrily set off on an “easy” walk (“not more than two hours off”) to a spot on a map far from any road, or to a ragged tent she’d spotted on waste-land. There she would watch, and listen, and ask all manner of questions about the work, beliefs, rituals, and lives of the residents.

From these experiences, Gerard wrote an essay on “Transylvanian Superstitions,” which was accepted for publication in one of Britain’s most widely respected journals….

(5) EREWHON AND ELSEWHERE. “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” Episode 14 is a visit with Liz Gorinsky.

Friend of the podcast Liz Gorinsky arrives to share her experiences as an editor, from her early days of reading comic books, to her work at Tor.com, and finally starting Erewhon Books. Mary Anne and Ben inquire about the technical and career aspects of editing, as well as the importance of grappling with their internal editor in their own writing process.

(6) DINOS RETURNING. And SYFY Wire has the new poster: “Jurassic World: Dominion prologue before IMAX F9 screenings, first teaser image”.

Jurassic World: Dominion is finally ramping up its larger-than-life marketing campaign with an extended preview that will play before IMAX screenings of F9 (out in North America Friday, June 25)….

Described as “a prologue” to the main story, the 5-minute sneak peek is set 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period when…*clears throat*…DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH. Mr. DNA is on vacation, but Michael Giacchino’s score will be there to guide viewers through the origin story of a lone mosquito that decides to slurp up some tasty dino-blood. The release also promises (count em’) SEVEN new species never before glimpsed within the Jurassic franchise. And just before you think it’s all over, the preview excavates “some real trademark Jurassic surprises with dinosaurs later roaming an Earth that is decidedly less theirs alone,” reads the synopsis.

(7) GRAYSKULL IS BACK. Netflix dropped a trailer forKevin Smith’s Masters Of The Universe:  Revelation.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 10, 1955 — On this day in 1955, This Island Earth premiered in New York City. It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Joseph M. Newman and Jack Arnold. It  Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue and Rex Reason. It was based on the novel by Raymond F. Jones, which was first published in the Thrilling Wonder Stories as three novelettes: “The Alien Machine” in the June 1949 issue, “The Shroud of Secrecy” in December 1949 issue, and “The Greater Conflict” in February 1950 issue.  Critics in general loved it, it did very well at the box office but currently the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not great forty-four percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 10, 1918 — Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, a show I never did quite cotton to, and he also appeared on the Twilight Zone , Outer Limits, The InvadersTekWarThe Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury TheaterSpace Island OneMemory RunThe Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton.  He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage, but he illustrated them excellently.  Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doomhere is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors.  Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki.  Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text).  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland.  For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz (Thorpe, Fleming, Vidor dirs. 1939) – winning her only Academy Award.  I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right, and otherwise, as a law-school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.  The rest of JG’s career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1928 — Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born June 10, 1935 – Tatsumi Yoshiro.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  He coined gekiga for a development of manga he preferred; see here.  I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan.  Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about gekiga and mangahere is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1937 — Luciana Paluzzi, 84. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1951 — Charles Vess, 70. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to about a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did as it’s amazing. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade-long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern (John Hertz knew her that way) and sold various ales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English and Harry Flashman as well who she incorporated into her novels effectively. (Died 2010.)(CE)
  • Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz, age 68.  Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, eight Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal. Two artbooks, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of DM Fantasy Art Trading Cards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road.  Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1962 –  Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D.  Author, physician, Professor of Medicine.  Two hundred books in both Egyptian and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines. Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures.  In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls.  Cheryl Morgan interviewed AKT in Locus 614.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1964 — Andrew M. Niccol, 57. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it still in development.  Personally I think it’s in the games section of The Library in The Dreaming. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard, age 35.  In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers.  Independent Publisher’s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult.  [JH]

(10) BONUS BIRTHDAY. A.V. Club also reminds us: “Today’s the birth date of the miracle replicant baby in Blade Runner 2049”.

It’s a happy day on both Earth and the off-world colonies alike, at least for high-level replicants who haven’t been “retired” yet. That’s because today, June 10, 2021, is the date repeatedly shown in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 as the birth date of the miracle replicant messiah baby conceived by Nexus-7 replicant Rachael and Blade Runner Rick Deckard (who is also probably a replicant). The birth should’ve been impossible, because replicants are definitely just pieces of machinery who don’t have thoughts or feelings of their own and shouldn’t be capable of having children, because then it would be harder to argue that they’re not normal people and humans might start feeling bad for how they treat them (humans are the worst). That’s what makes this miracle messiah baby so important to the distinctly Jared Leto-like creep Niander Wallace, who wants to use the miracle baby to figure out how he can make more miracle babies and satiate his enormous god-complex…. but that hasn’t happened yet, because it’s still only 2021….

(11) BLESS THEIR HEARTS. ScreenRant pulled up a 1977 video interview where “Stan Lee Admitted Marvel Trolled DC In The Most Hilarious Way”.

…In an interview in the late ’70s, the former Marvel editor-in-chief was asked about his competition at DC Comics. Without hesitation, Lee said “bless their little innocent hearts,” before admitting that they had “fun with them” after they started selling more comics. According to Lee, DC studied Marvel’s covers in an effort to try to emulate their success. Lee said DC noticed the use of red on their comics and started doing their own red covers. He added DC did the same thing with dialogue on the covers. In response, Marvel took “all the red” and dialogue off their covers, which Lee revealed still led to their books still selling better. Lee said it drove DC “crazy.” (Lee’s answer begins around the 8-minute mark of the YouTube video below)….

(12) STORMBRINGER. Spoilerverse carries “Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse: From Melniboné to Hollywood”, a podcast with Andrew Sumner conducting the interview.

Sumner welcomes the world’s greatest living fantasy author, Michael Moorcock, to Hard Agree for the first in an ongoing series of conversations about Michael’s life and work. In this debut episode, Sumner & Moorcock discuss Michael’s parents, his Dad’s regard for Arthur C Clarke, completing the latest Elric of Melniboné novel (due for release in Fall 2022), the beginnings of Jerry Cornelius, Michael’s great friendship with feminist author Andrea Dworkin – and they begin a discussion of Michael’s wild ride through Hollywood that will roll into our next episode.

(13) MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO THE WRITER. Max Florschutz breaks down “Why You Won’t Be Seeing My Work on Serial Story Sites” at Unusual Things.

…See, story services like this are based off of similar setups that come from Asia that started with mangas. And from a business perspective, they’re designed to be explotative.

See, the idea is that the site itself exists to gather as many content creators as possible and then create a microcosm of a “free market,” where everyone is competing with everyone else. Except it’s not really that “free” since it’s controlled by a single entity who runs the service. And they can therefore manipulate how it functions to their advantage.

And oh, do they ever. These services are designed to maximize their profits … at the expense of those who flood them with content.

For instance, there’s an upper limit on how much you can release with each post. Vella, for instance, has a limit per chapter of 5000 words. You can’t release anything larger. Why? Because it maximizes the volume of content readers must click through or pay for, increasing ad and subscription revenue. What would be one chapter becomes two or even three, which means 2-3 times the revenue per reader. Tricky … but effective.

But worse, they actively design the system to produce free content the site runners earn revenue off of for free. When you start at these places, you start at “the bottom.” IE for a lot of the founding originators of this idea, you earned nothing… 

(14) ROUNDUP TIME. In Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 6/10/2021: It Gets Real” at Amazing Stories.

ODDTAXI #10 – Odokawa attempts to recruit Yamamoto into his scheme to upset the heist, only to wind up setting himself up to be conveniently murdered. It is only thanks to Shirakawa that he survives long enough to meet up with Dobu again for a sketch of Dobu’s plan and the long-awaited title drop.

It’s an excellent moment when Shirakawa finally gets to use her capoeira skills in anger, but it leads to the question: how did she happen to be hanging around in the very construction site where Yamamoto was planning to dispose of Odokawa in the middle of the night?…

(15) HE REVIEWS THOSE THEWS. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda gives an introduction to the fiction of Robert E. Howard as well as biographical and critical works about him. “Robert E. Howard became famous for creating Conan. But that warrior was only the beginning.”

As a reviewer, I’ve always regarded myself as a generalist, lurching from a novel this week to a biography or work of history the next, occasionally interspersing an essay or rediscovering a neglected classic. But every so often, I feel the need to be much more — what’s the right word? — serious, intense, almost scholarly. I yearn to immerse myself in the works of a single author, to spend time reading as much of his or her writing as possible. During these literary sprees, I even undertake actual research, scribble notes, talk to experts.

Last month, I realized that this column would coincide with Robert E. Howard Remembrance Days in Cross Plains, Tex. There, the writer’s fans gather each June 11 — the day the 30-year-old shot himself in 1936 — for talks, barbecue and camaraderie. This year’s guest of honor is Roy Thomas, who wrote the 1970s Marvel comics which — along with Lancer paperbacks featuring brutal and sensual cover art by Frank Frazetta — created a new audience for Howard’s best-known character, the greatest warrior of the ancient Hyborian age.

We first learn his name in the soul-stirring epigraph of “The Phoenix on the Sword”: “Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.”…

(16) COVER YOURSELF. The Retro Science Fiction Collage Hawaiian Shirt is an eye-catcher.

(17) A BEAUTY AND SOME BEASTS. Enchanted Living Magazine introduces readers to “The Magical Beasts of Anastasiya Dobrovolskaya”.

… Dobrovolskaya’s first shoot with Stepan took place in January, and she says, “it was a wonderful experience thanks to which we made amazing photos.” She describes Stepan as “the cutest bear in the world: very loving and delicate,” and says that his story “is an example of an endless love between people and an animal. When I saw him for the first time I could not hold back the tears because I saw such a huge love between this animal and his people. I wish that all people treated their pets like Stepan’s family have been treating him.”

Dobrovolskaya has always loved and cared for animals. “As a child I brought home puppies and kittens that had been thrown out,” she said. “On??, I brought a baby raven whose wing was broken. Nothing has changed. I still love animals with all my heart and am always trying to help those in trouble.” She first incorporated animals in her photography by chance in 2018. She’d been taking portraits for a few months when she received a message from a woman who organizes photo shoots in Moscow, offering Dobrovolskaya the opportunity to participate in a shoot with a chicken and a mini pig. How could she resist?

She found a model, plucked a dress from her  own closet, and went—but didn’t know what to do.  “Should the chicken be on the floor? Or should I put him on the fence? The pig suddenly fell asleep—was it okay to wake her up? The only thing I knew was that I wanted those photos to look like fashion ones.” So she told her model Margo, “Imagine that we’re making content for Vogue.” The photos turned out smashingly and even went on to be recognized in the huge international photo contest 35 AWARDS 2018.

As it turned out, the couple who owned the chicken and the mini pig took care of other animals too, including a baby fox cub and an owl. Dobrovolskaya asked if it were possible to take photos with them as well, though she was “very worried that it was stressful for the animals.” The owners assured her it was okay, and to Dobrovolskaya’s surprise, “both the fox and owl were very happy to have an additional walk in a park and didn’t even notice the paparazzi.”…

(18) GOOGLE FOR DUMBOS. Scientific American is there when “The First ‘Google Translate’ for Elephants Debuts”. [Via Slashdot.]

When a male African savanna elephant folds his ears while simultaneously waving them, he’s ready for a fight. When a female folds her ears and accompanies the action with an ear flap, that means she’s also issuing a serious threat. But when elephants come together and fold their ears while also rapidly flapping them, the animals are expressing a warm, affiliative greeting that is part of their bonding ceremonies.

Elephants possess an incredibly rich repertoire of communication techniques, including hundreds of calls and gestures that convey specific meanings and can change depending on the context. Different elephant populations also exhibit culturally learned behaviors unique to their specific group. Elephant behaviors are so complex, in fact, that even scientists may struggle to keep up with them all. Now, to get the animals and researchers on the same page, a renowned biologist who has been studying endangered savanna elephants for nearly 50 years has co-developed a digital elephant ethogram, a repository of everything known about their behavior and communication….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/20/20 Scrollcial Distancing

(1) TOWER OF FABLE. Mark Lawrence promoted a new book release by challenging his readers to make towers of their books and send him photos — “The Girl And The Stars – contest!”. He has posted the entries — it’s an amazing gallery.

(2) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May/June 2020 cover. The art by Maurizio Manzieri is for “Who Carries the World” by Robert Reed.

(3) ASIMOV RESEARCH SPARKS SUSPICION. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Australian SF fan Steven Cooper caught the interest of the security folks at Australia’s National Emergency Library due to his unusual borrowing habits. The software engineer had been checking out books ten at a time for several years, which made the organization wonder if something was amiss. In an interesting blog post on Archive.org, Wendy Hanamura (@whanamura) explains how a research project about Isaac Asimov put Cooper in the hot seat for a few minutes. “Suspicious Activity in the National Emergency Library? No, just the best kind of activity…” 

This software engineer with an obsession for Asimov never expected his passion project would be seen by the public, let alone a constellation of science fiction devotees. He did it for himself, to explore the many dimensions of Asimov’s thinking, where the writer’s curiosity would lead him, the clarity with which he would explain the world.

…The fruits of Steven Cooper’s labor are now available for anyone to use. His list is 676 pages long, at the moment. Yet, this software engineer with an obsession for Asimov never expected his passion project would be seen by the public, let alone a constellation of science fiction devotees. He did it for himself, to explore the many dimensions of Asimov’s thinking, where the writer’s curiosity would lead him, the clarity with which he would explain the world. “He is known as possibly the most wide-ranging writer of the 20th Century,” Cooper ruminated. “I was just interested to see how wide ranging that was. I don’t think anyone has ever read everything he wrote.”

Here’s the link to Steven Cooper’s “An Annotated Asimov Bibliography”.

(4) YOUR SPOILER MILEAGE MAY VARY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As part of research for an article I’m writing, I’m (re)reading Asimov’s The Caves Of Steel. I’d gotten a copy through interlibrary loan (via The Robot Novels, also includes The Naked Sun)… and, ~2/3rd of the way through the story, encountered this (see pic) reader annotation. So far, having finished tCoS, and, flipping through the pages (easy to do, since it’s paper), I don’t see said “solution” scribbled elsewhere.

Unless it was on the flip side of the very next page, which has ~1/3″ torn off at the bottom (thankfully, below the book text proper).

So, the spoiler spoiled?

It’s a decent re-read… yes, it has its share of oatmeal/porridge info-lumps throughout, many not plot-essential, but back then (early 50’s) that’s part of what many (of us) were reading sf for, no?

And it’s a plays-fair-with-the-reader detective story. The clues are there, all along. (Hardly surprising, given Asimov’s interest and writing in that sibling genre.)

(5) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. SF2 Concatenation wants to give some folk in lock-down some distraction and also wave the flag for con-going fandom. “SF convention-goers wanted”.

…So here’s the thing. Given the next few months many of us are going to be largely housebound, how about those of you who regularly go to a particular series of conventions give a shout out to that convention series?

There are a number of articles you could write and we’d be delighted to post.

Possibilities include, but not restricted to, writing an outline history (or recent history) of the series of conventions you wish to share.  Alternatively, if you are feeling creative, you could write a convention review of a convention that has been cancelled this year.  If you have been to two or three previous conventions in the series you can mine events that took place at those earlier cons paraphrasing them. You can check out the Guests of Honour that would have appeared at this year’s event and write a short paragraph on each….

(6) HUBBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In honor of the Hubble Space Telescope‘s 30th birthday, NASA would like to show you a great image shot on your birthday… Or any other day of the year that’s particularly special to you.

Just follow the link — “What Did Hubble See on Your Birthday?” — select & confirm the date, et voilà, a sure-to be spectacular image will be provided. 

(7) ROLL VS. ROLE. At Unusual Things, Max Florschutz unpacks the problems with a trendy solution for creating characters: “Being a Better Writer: Tools VS Actions”. An interesting diagnosis.

… There were several discussions I’d seen in the last few weeks across writing sites and discussions about so-called “gamification” of characters. Or, to put it another way, writing characters whose abilities felt like they were out of a video game….

…See, this writer had gone ahead and written out a character sheet, as writers often do. No problems there. But when it came to the section on their characters skills, rather than be general with what their character was good at, they had written—you guessed it—a named list of “actions” they could take.

Like a role-playing game. Or an anime. There was the name of the skill, and how it worked, and what they did with it. All in a neat little list.

But seeing that list made all these complaints I’d been reading “click” in my head and I immediately saw how and why so many were complaining about this type of writing, and how people were getting there.

Because in making lists like this, these authors had restricted themselves. Fallen into a trap of their own making wherein they were becoming too specific and limiting what they (and their characters) could do.

What it came down to, ultimately, was what I immediately made notes of as “Tools VS Actions.” Which ended up being the title of this post.

Okay, let me explain a little further by giving you a simple example. Suppose you are writing a character that is a thief. They break into places and steal stuff. Now, you sit down to create a character sheet, but have you ever considered that how you write the character sheet determine how you’ll see them in the story?…

(8) ROWE OBIT. The death of D.J. Rowe was announced by Michael Moorcock on Facebook.

Very sorry to hear of the natural death at 83 of D..J. Rowe, who ran my first fan club. He was a sweet, unassuming man and continued to be the hub of the Nomads of the Time Streams. He will be very sadly missed.

(9) DEITCH OBIT. Winner of the Winsor McCay Award (2004) for his lifelong contribution to animation, Gene Deitch has died at the age of 95. The Hollywood Reporter fills in his resume:

…Deitch’s movie Munro won the Academy Award for best animated short film in 1960. He also was nominated for the same award twice in 1964 for Here’s Nudnik and How to Avoid Friendship.

Earlier, Deitch had created the Tom Terrific series, while the short Sidney’s Family Tree, which he co-produced, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1958.

Born on Aug. 8, 1924, in Chicago, Deitch arrived in Prague in 1959, intending to stay for 10 days, but fell in love with his future wife, Zdenka, and stayed in the Czechoslovakian capital.

Working from behind the Iron Curtain, he directed 13 episodes of Tom and Jerry and also some of the Popeye the Sailor series….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 20, 1950 Dimension X’s “Report On The Barnhouse Effect” first aired on NBC. A mild college professor discovers the secret of telekinesis and becomes a most potent weapon. It was the first short story written and published by Kurt Vonnegut, and would be in the February 11, 1950 issue of Collier’s Weekly. In 1952, the story would be in Heinlein’s Tomorrow, the Stars anthology. Here the cast was Santos Ortega and William Quinn with direction by Edward King from a script by Charles Ross. Bob Warren was the announcer. You can hear it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 20, 1908 Donald Wandrei. Writer who had sixteen stories in Astounding Stories and fourteen stories in Weird Tales, plus a smattering elsewhere, all in the Twenties and Thirties. The Web of Easter Island is his only novel. He was the co-founder with August Derleth of Arkham House. He has World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and he’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. Only his “Raiders of The Universe“ short story and his story in  Famous Fantastic Mysteries (October 1939 issue) are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 20, 1937 George Takei, 83. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel.  Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again. He also was Kaito Nakamura on Heroes. And later he got to play his character once again on one of those video fanfics, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.
  • Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 81. I’ve known him for about fifteen years now, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back.)  My favorite works? TamsinSummerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born April 20, 1943 Ian Watson, 77. He’s won the BSFA Award twice, first for his novel, The Jonah Kit, and recently for for his short story, “The Beloved Time of Their Lives“. He also got a BSFA nomination for the charmingly titled “The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080”. 
  • Born April 20, 1949 John Ostrander, 71. Writer of comic books, including GrimjackSuicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The Spectre,  Martian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad isavailable on the DC Universe app as his amazing work on The Spectre.
  • Born April 20, 1949 Jessica Lange, 71. Her very first role was Dwan in the remake of King Kong. Later genre roles are modest, Sandra Bloom Sr. in Big Fish and Constance Langdon / Elsa Mars / Fiona Goode / Sister Jude Martin in American Horror Story
  • Born April 20, 1951 Louise Jameson, 69. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed here. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her tole for Big Finish productions. 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Clint Howard, 61. So the most interesting connection that he has to the genre is playing Balok, the strange childlike alien, in “The Corbomite Maneuver” which I remember clearly decades after last seeing it. He’s also John Dexter in Cocoon, and Mark in The Rocketeer as well as Jason Ritter in the Austin Powers franchise. He’s got a minor role in Solo: A Star Wars Story as a character named Ralakili. 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Carole E. Barrowman, 61. Sister of John Barrowman. John and Carole co-wrote a Torchwood comic strip, featuring Jack Harkness, entitled Captain Jack and the Selkie. They’ve also written the Torchwood: Exodus Code audiobook. In addition, they’ve written Hollow Earth, a horror novel. She contributed an essay about her brother to the Chicks Dig Time Lords anthology which is lot of fun to read. 
  • Born April 20, 1964 Crispin Glover, 56. Actor in such roles as George McFly in Back to the Future, Ilosovic Stayne aka The Knave of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Grendel in Beowulf and Mr. World, the god of globalization, in American Gods
  • Born April 20, 1964 Andy Serkis, 56. I will freely admit that the list of characters that he has helped create is amazing: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, King Kong in that film, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series. Captain Haddock / Sir Francis Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin (great film that was), and even Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Last year, he portrayed the character of Baloo in his self-directed film, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • At The Far Side, a palm reader’s advice is right on the mark.
  • This Pearls Before Swine has the word “moon” in it – that makes it science fiction, right?
  • Bizarro gets into type.
  • F-Minus shows a way to shrink monsters.
  • Non Sequitur quotes what one dinosaur was saying right before the meteor hit.

(13) PAINTING WITH WORDS. Bizarro’s Dan Piraro does a blog accompaniment to his week’s cartoons in “Senses”.

…The above cartoon, a satire of the ancient Japanese maxim, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” attempts to illustrate how on the Internet, seeing, hearing, and speaking evil has become the preferred norm. And not just in ways that authoritarian conspiracy nuts use it to mislead people, but in the way we all use it to eavesdrop, spy, gossip, argue, insult, and otherwise exercise our insecure egos in ways that seem delicious and satisfying at the first, but which darken our outlook and mood over time.

This is the primary reason I don’t read or respond to comments on the Interwebs. To be clear, I read all comments left on my cartoon posts and occasionally will respond once to an attack (succinctly, in an adult manner, without insult or profanity) but it ends there. I won’t argue with people online. I may as well be arguing with the radio in my car.

I find that this approach leads to a more peaceful daily existence. If I read a rant by someone who thinks Donald Trump was sent by God to give Amurica back to white people, it aggravates me for days. As pointless as it is, I can’t stop arguing with them in my head. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. I know the world is full of gullible idiots—there’s no need to keep proving it to myself by spending time on Facebook….

(14) NO HARD FEELINGS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] According to IndieWire, a site that covers the world of independent movies, David Lynch is not interested in Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming two-part cinematic adaptation of Dune. Lynch is known to be unhappy with his own adaptation of Dune in the mid-80s: “It Should Surprise No One That David Lynch Has ‘Zero Interest’ in Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’”.

Lynch has been a vocal detractor of his own “Dune” film since its release in 1985, going so far as wanting to remove his name off the final theatrical cut. Some longer cuts of the film that feature an extended introduction with still illustrations even replace Lynch’s name in the end credits with that of Alan Smithee, the industry pseudonym used by filmmakers who wish not to be associated with their films. Lynch spent three years making “Dune,” only for producers and financiers to get in the way of his creative vision. As cast member Brad Dourif once said, Lynch had to cut some of the “most gorgeous” sequences from his script because producers refused to give Lynch the money to film them. The tightening of the budget also forced Lynch to be complacent with shoddy visual effects and a more cheap-looking production.

(15) SONG FOR THE TIMES. “‘Toy Story’ composer Randy Newman shares social-distancing song ‘Stay Away'”ABC News has the story.

Some of the lyrics of “Stay Away” include: “Stay away from me. Baby, keep your distance, please. Stay away from me. Words of love in times like these. I’m gonna be with you 24 hours a day. A lot of people couldn’t stand that. But you can. You’ll be with me 24 hours a day. What a lucky man I am.”

(16) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! A bit of Tolkienesque humor. And the man below NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-general of Health. He often gives the daily COVID-19 press conference.

(17) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? “‘Alien comet’ visitor has weird composition” – BBC has the story.

The first known comet to visit us from another star system has an unusual make-up, according to new research.

The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov was detected in our Solar System last year.

This mysterious visitor from the depths of space has provided astronomers with an unprecedented opportunity to compare it to comets that formed around the Sun.

New data suggests it contains large amounts of carbon monoxide – a possible clue to where it was “born”.

The findings appear in two separate scientific papers published by Nature Astronomy.

…The teams identified two molecules in the gas ejected by the comet: hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and carbon monoxide (CO).

HCN has already been detected in this interstellar vistor, and is present at similar amounts to those found in Solar System comets.

However, they were surprised to see large amounts of CO. The researchers using Alma for their observations estimated that 2I/Borisov’s CO concentration was between nine and 26 times higher than that of an average Solar System comet.

(18) SIGN OF THE TIMES. Seen in The Week.

A man wearing a Batman costume and driving a custom-made replica Batmobile has been patrolling the streets of Monterrey, Mexico, earning reisdents to stay indoors and observe government-ordered social-distancing measures.  ‘Hey, you! Stay home,’ urges the recorded message blasting from the faux-Batmobile as the anonymous caped crusader drives through the city.  ‘Join us superheroes, stay home.’

(19) RETURN TO NATURE. “Australia coronavirus lockdown: Kangaroo hops through empty Adelaide streets” – video.

South Australia Police have captured the moment a kangaroo hopped through the heart of downtown Adelaide during coronavirus lockdown.

(20) APOCALYPSE AHEAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Sydney Diary” by Geraldine Brooks in the January 11 Financial Times.

“When I was in my early teens, I read John Wyndham’s post-apocalypse novel The Chrysalids.  In it, one of the characters keens for her devastated planet:  ‘What did they do here?  What can they have done to create such a frightful place?…There was the power of gods in the hands of children, we know; but were all of them mad children, all of them quite mad?…

…”I am a novelist, so in my mind I create a character like Wyndham’s in the aftermath of the climate apocalypse, looking back at the devastation, trying to fathom the madness that allowed it.  The country was burning, but they gave the go-ahead to the vast Adani coal mine.  Their rivers were dying, but they flushed their toilets with drinking water.  They used the fossil fuels that were poisoning their planet to make plastic things they used just once then threw in the oceans.  And yes, because I too am among this moment’s mad and guilty, they thought it was OK to fly around the planet, willy-nilly, just because they wanted to.”

(21) MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Gimme Love” — Genius explains:

The themes of space travel seen in the videos of Nectar’s first two singles, “Sanctuary” and “Run,” are continued in the video for “Gimme Love.” The video features a montage of clips showing Joji’s journey in becoming an astronaut, finishing as Joji rebelliously launches to space inside a rocket.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Gordon Van Gelder, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Errolwi, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rob Thornton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 7/1/19 We Shall File On The Pixels, We Shall File On The Scrolling Grounds

(1) GOT THAT RIGHT. Fast Company’s Jeff Beer points out “Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ is dangerously close to becoming ‘Sponsored Things’”.

We’re mere days away from the Stranger Things season three debut, and it feels like we’ve already hit Peak Brand Tie-In for the show, culminating in this senseless Cubs business. It’s actually a pleasant surprise the team didn’t go full Nostalgia Things and reissue 1985 caps and shirts, since just about every other brand has been using the 1985-ness of it all as the foundation of the entire marketing exercise. Throwback Mongoose BMX bike? Check. Nike Hawkins High School sweats? Check. New Coke? Big time check.

(2) STERLING AND PLATT AND MERCER, OH MY! David Langford has added three more free ebooks to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site. Download, and feel free to donate something to the fund!

Bruce Sterling donned his unsecret identity of Vincent Omniaveritas to publish the 1980s “samizdat” fanzine Cheap Truth, whose 18 issues engaged in much shit-kicking denunciation of fuddy-duddy old SF/fantasy and praise of radical new stuff (or sometimes vice-versa) in those days when the genre’s Cyberpunk and Humanist cliques were supposed to be deadly rivals. Subversive and fun, Cheap Truth was explicitly not copyrighted and so has been assembled into an Ansible Editions ebook without any tiresome formality about asking permission.

The Patchin Review ran for seven issues from 1981 to 1985 and generated much controversy in the SF community with its no-holds-barred criticism, satire, examination of dubious publishing practices, exuberant “Gabby Snitch” gossip column and numerous polemics – both signed and pseudonymous. As its title indicates, this ebook contains the complete run – plus two bonus articles by Charles Platt that appeared elsewhere.

The Meadows of Fantasy was first published in traditional duplicated fanzine format in 1965. …Archie Mercer (1925-1998) was a prolific fanzine publisher in the 1950s and 1960s, and the second winner of the UK Doc Weir Award for general contributions to the fan scene. Publications and other achievements are listed in his Fancyclopedia 3 entry.

The Meadows of Fantasy is not a fan allegory like The Enchanted Duplicator but a light humorous novel set against the general background of 1960s British science fiction fandom. One character echoes the author’s fondness for variously excruciating puns. Although Dungeons and Dragons had yet to be launched, role-playing games – in storytelling rather than dice-throwing mode – had considerable popularity in 1960s fandom:

(3) DAY OF RAGE. Sarah Gailey wrote some tweets that caught the eyes of those on the other end of the political spectrum.   

(Read “JynErso’s” email to the Hugo Awards here.)

Bounding Into Comics is working hard to make this a kerfuffle: “Tor Books Blogger Sarah Gailey Calls For Violence and Murder After Reporter Andy Ngo Attacked by Antifa”.

Tor Books blogger and the author of Magic for Liars and the American Hippo Sarah Gailey called for violence and murder following the attack on reporter Andy Ngo by members of Antifa.

Gailey in a number of now-deleted tweets called for not only violence against those opposing Antifa, but also called for murder….

(4) HALF OF THE BEST. [Item by Dann.] This is Petrik Leo’s “best of the year so far” lists.  I found it interesting as I have read from three of the series listed.  I’ve heard of several more.  And it includes three self-published works.

I had not had a chance to read any of the books in Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series.  But I’ve heard consistently good things about it.  So I plowed through all three books in the last couple of weeks.  It’s a shame that this series isn’t getting more discussion on the awards circuit.  The first two books were Goodreads nominees, but that’s about it.

So there you have it. It’s quite crazy that my best book of the year so far was actually the third book that I finished this year. Honestly speaking though, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Sword of Kaigen [by M.L. Wang] is my book of the year so far, I don’t even know if I’ll find a book better than it for the remaining of this year. I’ve been praising and shouting about this book non-stop across all my social media platform for the past six months and I will continue to do so.

(5) HAWKING MEDAL. Brian Eno was among those who received the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication  in June. Ansible adds, “And asteroid 81948 has been given his full name, Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, but mercifully will be called Eno for short.” (“Brian Eno gets asteroid named after him, receives Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication” at Consequence of Sound.)

Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication

On Monday, Eno attended the prestigious science festival Starmus V, where he was presented with the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication. The Here Come the Warm Jets mastermind received the award celebrating popular science at an international level alongside this year’s other recipients: Elon Musk and Todd Douglas Miller’s new documentary film, Apollo 11.

(6) MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRIC. Sarah Lazarus, in “Obituaries for the Recently Canceled” at McSweeney’s, has advice for people who have been cancelled by the Internet. For example —

Following a long battle in defense of a controversial Facebook post, Meredith Van Dorn, 20, finally succumbed to cancellation at her home on Thursday night. Ms. Van Dorn was surrounded by friends and loved ones who, upon her cancellation, insisted they always had kind of a weird feeling about her, actually. Ms. Van Dorn’s parents, Peter and Linda, would like their daughter to be remembered for her sweet smile and love of dancing, rather than her provocative feelings about Japanese toilets.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz would believe in it, Lupoff did not. (Died 1945.)
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 85. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to Oz, Willow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse, 84. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. 
  • Born July 1, 1939 Karen Black. Her first foray into genre was playing three characters in Trilogy of Terror based on short stories by Richard Matheson. Later films were Killer FishThe Last Horror Film (an uncredited role since credited), Invaders from Mars (really stinker of a film), It’s Alive III: Island of the AliveThe Invisible KidZapped Again!Evil SpiritsChildren of the Night (errr, no), Dark BloodChildren of the Corn IV: The Gathering (no, no, no), Dinosaur Valley Girls (it’s a soft core porn film), TeknolustLight Speed and a lot more.  (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 1, 1952 Dan Aykroyd, 67. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Raimis), he actually shows up a year earlier in his first genre role in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprising his role in Ghostbusters 2020
  • Born July 1, 1955 Robby the Robot, age, well, sixty four years.Yes this is this official birthday of the robot in Forbidden Planet which debuted a year later. He would later be seen is such films and series as The Invisible Boy,Invasion of the Neptune Men, The Twilight Zone, Lost In Space, The Addams Family, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.  He was also featured in a 2006 commercial for AT&T.
  • Born July 1, 1962 Andre Braugher, 57. He’s got the voice of Darkseid in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse which is why he makes the Birthday list. If there’s ever proof that a great voice actor can make an animated role, this is it. It’s also a superb film. His other major genre role is as General George W. Mancheck in The Andromeda Strain series that originally aired on A&E. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 Charles Coleman Finlay, 55. Editor for past five years of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The Traitor to the Crown series is best known work.  
  • Born July 1, 1965 Kevin J. Maroney, 54. He’s a long-time fan who’s the managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction. In the latter capacity, he has received fourteen nominations for the Best Semiprozine Hugo: 1997-2009, 2012. 
  • Born July 1, 1967 Pamela Anderson, 52. Yes, she makes the Birthday list for being the character named Barb Wire in the Barb Wire film which in turn was based on a Dark Horse series that never should’ve been filmed. And yes I’ve seen it — she really  deserved the Worst New Star Award she got from The Golden Raspberry Awards. Other than appearing on Futurama, that’s it for her genre credits. 
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 38. Author of the superb Persona series and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Non Sequitur takes up the issue of anti-science-fiction snobbery.

(9) WAKANDA. “The Goal Is To Feel Strong, Says ‘Black Panther’ Jewelry Designer” – read the NPR interview.

Douriean Fletcher is Marvel Comics’ first licensed jewelry maker. She’s behind the powerful adornments worn by the women of Wakanda in Black Panther, which helped pull audiences into an imagined world where power and societal roles are based on expertise and ability. On Sunday, she’s giving a talk at the National Museum of Women in the Arts about the aesthetics of gender equity in Wakandan society.

On one of her favorite pieces from Black Panther:

It is the piece at the scene at the very end of the film, Black Panther, and then it also makes another appearance at the very end of Avengers which was exciting for me because I didn’t know that it was going to be filmed. When I saw it in the theater, I screamed because I was so excited.

Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter “really wanted something that was very, very strong,” Fletcher says of the necklace she designed for Angela Bassett’s character, Ramonda.

(10) MYTHCON 50. Book ‘em, Danno.

The second Progress Report for Mythcon 50 is now live on the website; it includes essential updates and reminders, especially the July 15 deadline for purchasing Room & Board packages for those staying on campus, the Commuter Dinner Package for those staying elsewhere but who would like to join us for Friday & Saturday night dinner and the Sunday evening banquet, and stand-alone banquet tickets for those not resident on campus who don’t want the Friday & Saturday cafeteria dinners.

(11) ONE LAST LANDING. The July/August 2019 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine is all about space — missions, methods and more, including tether and catapult launchers. One of the articles is provocatively titled “What Neil Armstrong got wrong”.

Fifty years after Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, it’s hard not to conclude that he got things backwards. The moon landing was a giant leap for a man—Armstrong’s life was forever changed—but, in hindsight, only a small step for mankind….

(12) WRITER AT WORK. Who’s in charge of the book, you or the kaiju? Show the monster whenever you want! Max Florschutz says that and much more in “’Being a Better Writer: Summer of Cliche Writing Advice!’ Announcement” at Unusual Things.

Simply put, have you ever heard any cliche writing advice? Something that’s short and pithy and sort of correct but not entirely? Like “always show the monster last” or “show, don’t tell?”

You know, the kind of thing that comes out of the woodwork the moment anyone says they’re thinking of writing a book or working on a short story. The kind of stuff people who are not writers can repeat in quick sound bites to sound knowledgeable.

There’s a plethora of this stuff out there. In fact, that’s what gave me the idea of doing a themed BaBW series for the summer. A writing chat I hang out on was discussing how a lot of this advice is fairly pithy and usually weak … but contained a grain of truth.

“Show the monster last” for example. There are actually some circumstances where this statement makes sense. There’s a line of logic to it. But the problem is that, like many sayings, the actual context around it has been lost over time, and what we’re left with is a single, short line that doesn’t have any of that context and suddenly can be just as unhelpful as it is helpful. After all, there are plenty of instances where you won’t want to show the monster last.

(13) BREAK’S OVER. Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer is back from hiatus, and he’s not wearing those spurs for no reason – listen to him tell you about the books he wants to write: “Back in the saddle”.

Another was a somewhat satirical take on SJW and the inevitable collision with real life that happens when those of genuine conviction go and try actually help the people they believe need it (and these people exist, and always have – my grandmother was a missionary’s daughter, and I read a few of the letters her father wrote.  I’ve also had a fair bit to do with the volunteers clearing a particularly nasty invasive thorn from the outer island.  It’s physical, often painful and involves lots of ‘evil’ modern machinery and poisons.  They may be batty… but they’re each worth fifty of the typical upper-middle class urban white woman who rants about the cause de jour on twitter.  They are a very different beast to the current virtue-signaling herd-follower who never ACTUALLY physically did anything to help the designated victims). The ‘victims’ of course are also nothing like the straw-man poor little usually brown people patronized to your standard issue SJW.

(14) SJWCS VS AI. Meanwhile, if you don’t really want your cat bringing you little gifts of dead things — “Cat flap uses AI to punish pet’s killer instincts”.

A cat flap that automatically bars entry to a pet if it tries to enter with prey in its jaws has been built as a DIY project by an Amazon employee.

Ben Hamm used machine-learning software to train a system to recognise when his cat Metric was approaching with a rodent or bird in its mouth.

When it detected such an attack, he said, a computer attached to the flap’s lock triggered a 15-minute shut-out.

…The process took advantage of a technique called supervised learning, in which a computer is trained to recognise patterns in images or other supplied data via labels given to the examples. The idea is that once the system has enough examples to work off, it can apply the same labels itself to new cases.

One of the limitations of the technique is that hundreds of thousands or even millions of examples are sometimes needed to make such systems trustworthy.

Mr Hamm acknowledged that in this case the results were not 100% accurate.

Over a five-week period, he recalled, Metric was unfairly locked out once. In addition, the cat was also able to gain entry once out of the seven times it had caught a victim.

(15) FANDOM CIRCA 1940. Someone’s doing her research:

(16) WARM UP THE POPCORN. ScreenRant invites you to step inside  the “Avengers: Endgame Re-Release Pitch Meeting.”

Avengers Endgame had one of the best theatrical runs in the history of cinema. But not quite… THE best. In a pretty transparent attempt to dethrone James Cameron’s Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time, Marvel decided to re-release Endgame in theatres with a little bonus content to try and entice people to see it again. But is an intro from the director enough to get people to come out? What about a deleted Hulk scene? Did they include a Stan Lee tribute just to try and tug us by the heartstrings all the way to the movies? Do they really think people will pay for a movie ticket just to see a few minutes from Spider-Man: Far From Home which is set for release a week after the Endgame re-release? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to the Avengers Endgame Re-release! It’s super easy, barely an inconvenience!

[Thanks to Dann, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, Own Whiteoak, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Carl Slaughter. Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/19 We Have Always Lesnerized In The Castle

(1) DOUBLE DUNE.  Deadline reveals there will be a Dune TV series concurrent with the new films (the two back to back). “‘Dune: The Sisterhood’ Series Ordered By WarnerMedia Streaming Service With Denis Villeneuve Directing”.

WarnerMedia has given a straight-to-series order to Dune: The Sisterhood, a drama from Legendary Television based on Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune and the popular sci-fi franchise it spawned.

The series is designed to co-exist with the Dune feature film, currently in production at Warner Bros., as part of Legendary’s comprehensive plans for Dune which also include video games, digital content packages and comic book series.

Further underlining the symbiotic relationship between the movie and the series, Denis Villeneuve, who is directing and producing the new Dune film, also is set to executive produce the series and direct its pilot episode, with one of the feature’s co-writers, Jon Spaihts set to write the show. It mirrors NBCUniversal ‘s approach to the Purge franchise, which also encompasses a film and TV series franchise.

(2) GREAT FANTASY NOVELS BY WOMEN. The writer and filmmaker Sarah Passos tweeted:

She has gotten over 500 replies, including recommendations from Gaiman and Rothfuss.

(3) MY IMPOSTOR SYNDROME. Once in a dream I was impersonating a famous fantasy writer and Oxford scholar, wearing suitably tweedy clothes. “Hello,” I said to a middle-aged woman, and introduced myself. “I’m J.R.R. Tolkien.”

“Tres bien,” she answered in French. She was buying it. That much French I understood. In fact, that was all the French I understood. I was going to need an excuse to hold the conversation in English. Uh. Uh. So the next thing I said was, “I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten all of my French, Old Norse, Greek, Latin, and 14 other languages I made up myself.”

(4) THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY. That tech had to be good for something. Variety has learned, “Steven Spielberg Writing Horror Series for Quibi That You Can Only Watch at Night”.

Steven Spielberg is penning a horror series for Quibi that users will only be able to see when their phone knows it’s dark outside, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said on Sunday.

…Katzenberg said Spielberg has already “written five or six episodes (which Quibi calls “chapters,” like a novel) of a 10- or 12-chapter story.” The program is being developed under the title “Spielberg’s After Dark.” (Spielberg is also developing a revival of his anthology series “Amazing Stories” for another new content programmer, Apple TV Plus.)

(5) CHELSEA CAIN. Comic writer Chelsea Cain has deleted her Twitter-account after a controversy regarding her new comic Man-eaters. At Women Write About Comics, Jameson Hampton analyzes the controversy: “Questioning Chelsea Cain’s Feminist Agenda”.

…Insisting that her book is not trying to imply that all women menstruate is one thing, but the implication that all people who menstruate are women is something else entirely — and plays into a societal habit to assume all trans issues are trans women issues. Compounding that issue is Mags Visaggio, a prominent trans woman in comics who came to Cain’s defense on twitter, insisting the book wasn’t offensive and that Cain should be able to write about “her experience as a cis woman” — again, missing the point that transmasculine people were primarily the ones being harmed.

Specifically, Cain has been back under scrutiny this week after the release of issue #9 of Man-Eaters on June 5th. The controversy? Imagery of propaganda posters in concentration camps featuring the text from fan tweets that had been critical of Cain’s work on the book.

Cain claims that her intention was to “acknowledge the really painful criticisms” that made her feel “worthless and small.”

However, she clearly hasn’t given a lot of thought to the implications of sharing criticism in this way. While the tweets were unattributed in the comic, she has claimed that she “didn’t know” people could still find the original tweets by searching for the text — which feels like a dubious claim, not only because it’s a basic function of Twitter, but also because (as pointed out by CK Stewart) it seems difficult to believe that someone who has experienced so much online harassment is so naive about how online harassment can happen. It’s possible she didn’t consider the nuance of using these words on the walls of a concentration camp, but worth noting that “being more nuanced” was something she explicitly promised to the very writer of the tweets used here. The potential implication that trans folks and their allies are the oppressors and women are the victims is subtext, but it’s hard not to read into it, especially while Cain continues to complain about how the criticisms of her book are mean and hurting her feelings….

(6) THAT’S WHAT THEY SAID. Max Florschutz, in “Being a Better Writer: Voice VS Grammar”, supports this point with some colorful analogies (which you should go there to read).

…I want you to think for a moment, and think hard. Have you ever read a book where a scene or chapter begins without telling you who the viewpoint character of the chapter is, but you can tell anyway because of the voice in the narration? Or read a book where two characters are speaking unattributed, but you’re able to figure out who they are because of their voices?

I have. To both. Because those characters are given strong voices that, while often not grammatically correct, are vivid and real. They have a way of speaking, from use of particular words, to phrases, to even just a cadence or a flow that makes them uniquely identifiable.

That is the power of character voice. To be so vivid and real that even if a character doesn’t offer a name, the reader can figure out who they are simply based on their style of speaking. And since dialogue and narration are the two things our reader will see the most in most books, this makes character voice as powerful a tool as a character walking in screen in a film or show.

(7) SPEAK, MEMORY. The book created for Vonda McIntyre’s memorial, Remembering Vonda, is available for purchase at Lulu.com.

Award-winning SFF author Vonda N. McIntyre died April 1, 2019. The world lost a force of nature, a brilliant, kind, generous, fiercely talented artist. In this volume, friends, colleagues, admirers, fans all pay tribute to a radiant life. McIntyre’s oeuvre includes Dreamsnake (Hugo and Nebula award winner, ’78), The Moon and the Sun (Nebula ’98; a movie based on it is awaiting release); as well as stories, novelizations and tie-ins, including the Star Trek novel The Entropy Effect. She founded the Clarion West workshop and was a “fairy godmother” to hundreds of students; a quiet, tireless feminist, Kentucky-born McIntyre moved to Seattle with her family and became a life-long resident, as well as a prolific creator of crochet topoplogy; McIntyre also collaborated with Ursula K. Le Guin, and was a founding member of the Book View Cafe, an author-owned publishing cooperative. McIntyre both shaped and nurtured the SF/F community; as her friend Jane Hawkins has said “we shall not see her like again.

(8) STEPHEN COLBERT MEETS KING KONG. Just another Tony Award nominated guest….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 10, 1922 Judy Garland. Best remembered for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, it was also her only genre role in her tragically short life. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 10, 1928 Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 10, 1937 Luciana Paluzzi, 82. She’s best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. Genre wise, I see she was also in Journey to the Lost City (in the original German, Das indische Grabmal), HerculesThe Green Slime1001 NightsCaptain Nemo and the Underwater City and War Goddess (also known as The Amazons and The Bare-Breasted Warriors in its original Italian title). The latter film is online in its entirety on Youtube. 
  • Born June 10, 1950 Ed Naha, 69. Among his many genre credits, he was Editor of both Starlog and Fangoria. An even more astonishing genre credit was that he produced Inside Star Trek in 1976 wth Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard talking about the series. Fiction wise, he wrote one series as D. B. Drumm, The Traveller series and adapted a number of movies such as Robocop and Robocop 2 under his own name. Way back in the Seventies, he wrote Horrors: From Screen to Scream: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Greatest Horror and Fantasy Films of All Time which alas has not been updated. There are no digital books at iBooks or Kindles for him.
  • Born June 10, 1951 Charles Vess, 68. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. 
  • Born June 10, 1952 Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company Concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen.(Died 2010.)
  • Born June 10, 1953 Don Maitz, 66 Winner of the Hugo twice for Best Artist and ten Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. And a World Fantasy Award as well. Yes, I’m impressed. From Asimov to Wolfe, his artwork has adorned the covers of many genre authors. He’s married to Janny Wurtz and their excellent website can be found thisaway.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DUBLIN 2019 DAY PASSES. Available June 15.

(12) SLOW CHANGE. Unlike Sweden (noted in a Pixel some time ago), “For Many Germans, Cash Is Still King”.

This may be surprising to some. After all, Germany is Europe’s leading economy and famous for technological know-how. But, even while some of its neighbors in Europe and elsewhere are quickly swapping physical money for new pay technologies, many Germans prefer their euro bills. Cash is quick and easy to use, they argue. It provides a clear picture of personal spending, keeps transactions more private and is widely accepted in the country.

“I usually pay cash. This way I have the feeling of keeping track of the money I spend,” says Madeleine Petry, 29, as she shops at a supermarket in Berlin. “Sometimes when I couldn’t make it to the ATM, I use my debit card in the store, but I never use my credit card for shopping in the real world — just for online shopping.”

She is not the only one with this mindset.

A 2017 study by the country’s central bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, said Germans carried an average of 107 euros (over $115 at the 2017 exchange rate) in their wallet. That’s more than three times what the average French person carries (32 euros), according to the European Central Bank. It is also far more than what Americans carry. Three-quarters of respondents in a U.S. Bank survey said they carried less than $50 — and one-quarter said they keep $10 or less in their wallet.

(13) THE ROBOTS RETURN. John Scalzi announces “Love Death + Robots Renewed for Season Two”. The Hollywood Reporter has the story:

Netflix has picked up its series Love, Death and Robots for a second run, and the anthology is bringing aboard an animation veteran to help bring the show to life.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the director of Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3, will join the series as supervising director for the second season — or “volume,” as the show’s producers call it. A release date and episode count for the new run has yet to be determined.

(14) HIDE AND SEEK. “Scientists close in on hidden Scottish meteorite crater”, estimated to be 20 times older than Chicxulub.

Scientists think the time has come for a full geophysical survey of The Minch, to see if the Scottish strait is hiding an ancient meteorite crater.

The idea that such a structure lies between the Western Isles and mainland Scotland was first raised back in 2008.

They found evidence on the Highlands coast for the rocky debris that would have been produced by a giant impact.

Now, the team from Oxford and Exeter universities believes it can pinpoint where the space object fell to Earth.

Writing in the Journal of the Geological Society, Dr Ken Amor and colleagues say this location is centred about 15-20km west-northwest of Enard Bay – part way across The Minch towards Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.

The feature would be buried deep under the seafloor, they add.

(15) ALIEN MUSEUM PIECES. In the Washington Post, John Kelly remembers seeing Alien when it was released 40 years ago and interviews National Air and Space Museum curator Margaret Weitekamp about the artifacts from Alien and Star Trek in the Air and Space Museum’s collections: “‘Alien’ scared me silly 40 years ago. Today, my chest bursts with affection for it.”

In 2003, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History welcomed into its collection a 3-foot-tall plaster-of-Paris xenomorph egg that was used as a prop in “Aliens.” It may not be a moon rock or a first lady’s dress, but it’s iconic just the same. The National Air and Space Museum has a set of 103 “Alien” trading cards.

(16) RETURN OF THE BLOB. Watch where you step! ABC7 in LA reports “Tar oozes on to sidewalk, street near La Brea Tar Pits”.

A black, gooey mess was bubbling up out of the ground near the iconic La Brea Tar Pits on Saturday.

The sight was attracting the attention of locals and tourists alike.

City workers were on Wilshire Boulevard trying to contain the seepage that was taking over a corner across the street from the historic landmark.

“I’ve seen it bubble up a little bit before, and it’s always fascinating when it happens. Thinking, OK, the tar pits are gonna win this time and take over the world,” Andrea Ross-Greene said laughing. “This is the biggest eruption I’ve seen, and I think it’s pretty cool.”

The earth has been oozing tar and methane gas in the area since pre-historic times.

(17) GRRM Q&A. In Santa Fe at his Jean Cocteau Cinema, George R.R. Martin emcees occasional author events, which they have now started recording for streaming and later viewing. Here are three available on YouTube.

  • Marlon James (author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.)
  • Alan Brennert (from The Twilight Zone, author of Daughter of Molokai.)
  • Lee Child (Creator of Jack Reacher.)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/28/19 Pix-El, Last Scroller Of Krypton

(1) BAYCON. The Mercury News shared its very positive impression of last weekend’s BayCon: “Bay Area science fiction fans beam up to San Mateo to talk Star Trek, transgender fans and activism”.

…Speakers over the weekend included Brianna Wu, a congressional candidate from Massachusetts who was one of the most high-profile victims of an online harassment campaign aimed at women in the video game industry in recent years.

In conversations with the attendees on Sunday — an intimacy organizer Chris Castro said is a selling point of BayCon over larger conventions — Wu and moderator Gregg Castro discussed activist burnout and creating spaces for people who want to help but may not be comfortable canvassing or making phone calls. Wu also encouraged more women to run for office, calling it “the best job in the world.”

Also presenting at that panel was Sarah Williams, who grew up in Fremont and now lives in Davis. She said discussing social issues and activism is “almost necessary” in science fiction because it’s so forward-looking. The panels are also useful in fans’ personal lives, she said. As a queer woman, Williams said she knew she had to be supportive when her daughter told her she was a transgender girl.

Still, she said, she needed guidance on what support her daughter would need. She could access that through panels such as “Transfans,” a presentation held on Sunday morning about transgender science fiction fans. Williams said she also knew she could look up the speakers and reach out to them for advice.

However, Sumiko Saulson was present at another panel which didn’t reflect that kind of acceptance, and wrote about the experience on Facebook:

I’m reluctant to get into what happened when I was on a panel yesterday because it was fairly traumatic, but the short of it is that a well-known author guest (David Brin) started the panel by saying he wouldn’t trust regular Americans with this but we’re alpha sci fi writers, then went into a very ableist spiel about how we all know some beings – including, specifically certain humans, and he referenced the developmentally disabled – are inferior, people are just too politically correct to say so. Then he asked a moral dilemma question about if it would be more ethical to uplift animals and have them as servants than to genetically alter humans as servants and make them low IQ

Then he got into an argument with a young enby [non-binary] person in the audience who was sitting near Darcy (Chris Hughes) and the rest of the extremely poorly moderated panel included lots of yelling between the audience and panel, as he’d set the tone. He seemed to be intentionally asking baited or loaded questions….

(The report goes on for several more paragraphs in which some panelists’ conduct grew even more disturbing.)

(2) ANIMENEXT UPDATE. As a result of harassment allegations against AnimeNEXT chair Eric Torgersen (see Pixel Scroll for May 22, item #4), he has been suspended while the con’s board of directors investigate. They made the following announcement on Facebook over the weekend:

…as of April 14th, 2019, Eric Torgersen has been suspended from AnimeNEXT staff, pending this investigation, and will not be present at the 2019 event. AnimeNEXT and Universal Animation, Inc. have hired a neutral third party to conduct the investigation.

Additionally, Mr. Torgersen has not been a member of the board since 2018 and has not been Convention Chairman since 2017.

AnimeNEXT and Universal Animation, Inc. want our convention to be a safe and positive experience. As such, we do not condone harassment of any kind. We appreciate your patience and understanding until this investigation is completed.

Sincerely,

The Universal Animation Inc. Board of Directors

(3) ENTERPRISING FANS. Ernest Lilley tells Amazing Stories readers all about the Museum of Science Fiction’s weekend event: “MOSF Escape Velocity 2019 — Dominique Tipper GoH “.

While Amazing Stories editor Steve Davidson was holding down a booth at Balticon, the Capital Region’s largest sci-fi convention, I was an hour away at the Museum of Science Fiction’s annual convention: Escape Velocity 2019.

Escape Velocity is a different sort of con than anything else in sci-fi. Visually it looks like a media con, with lots of large-scale movie props and cosplayers, but behind the closed panel doors, there’s a serious attempt to create a fusion of pop-sci-fi culture, accessible science, resources for educators, and even a few policy wonks talking about the future of space conflict….

(4) PROOF NEGATIVE. Fabrice Mathieu unblushingly presents MOON SHINING » or: How Stanley Kubrick shot the Apollo 11 Mission?  — “an imaginative behind the scenes of the Moon Landing of Apollo 11 directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1969!”

(5) MOON COLLECTIBLES AUCTION. And yet people bid millions on Heritage Auction’s Spring Space Exploration Auction #6206

This was the second installment of The Armstrong Family Collection™ (TAFC) and, when the floor sessions were over, the top seven and fifteen of the top twenty sale prices were TAFC lots. A section of Lunar Module Flown Wright Flyer Wing Cloth and a Lunar Module Flown Wright Flyer Propeller Piece tied for top price at $175,000 each. Currently, the total sales are $4.579 million with Post-Auction Buys continuing.

(6) WHO’S TOXIC? Marvel’s Captain Marvel is coming out on Blu-Ray, heralded by the release of an extended version of a scene from the film. It’s caused an uproar.

Stylist takes this side: “Why Captain Marvel’s deleted scene on toxic masculinity has angered trolls”.

… Captain Marvel counters with a handshake and introduces herself. The man tells her: “People call me… The Don.”

Releasing an unimpressed “wow”, Captain Marvel then unleashes her superhero powers on the man, sending electrical pulses through her hand, forcing the man to his knees in pain.

“Here’s a proposition for you,” she says. “You’re going to give me your jacket, your helmet and your motorcycle, and in return, I’m going to let you keep your hand.”

He quickly hands over his keys, and Captain Marvel lets go, adding: “What, no smile?”

In just a minute-long scene, Captain Marvel sums up what’s wrong with men telling women to smile, and unsurprisingly, that’s made some men angry.

…The men criticising the scene — and attacking Larson — are missing the point, and being purposefully obtuse as to its message.

Yes, it shows Captain Marvel using her powers to harm someone else, but plenty of superheroes before her have done exactly the same, and gone much further than she did. That Captain Marvel is called out for behaviour that male superheroes have got away with for decades is sexist.

And saying the scene will hurt “feminist causes” is a fundamental misunderstanding of what feminism is about — women want equality, and that partially means dismantling the idea that the only good women are nice women.

Max Florschutz takes the other side in “The Captain Marvel Kerfluffle”.

…. Both sides have, as you can predictably guessed, gone up in arms. Both make some good points, and both make some bad points.

However, the reason I chose to take some time out of my crunched day to post about this was because at its core, the argument Disney’s marketing team and the writers of Captain Marvel have claimed is … well, wrong.

Vers isn’t a hero in that scene. Not by any definition of the term. And to see people so aggressively defending Vers actions as “heroic,” even the writing team? Well … I think that’s in part why the Captain Marvel had the problems it had.

See, the problem isn’t that the scene exists, but that people, creators included, are insisting that it is “heroic.” And it isn’t. It’s far from it, in fact, unless you’re aiming to redefine “heroism” as something completely different. Which I don’t think the writers are trying to do … They just genuinely don’t seem to know what heroism is.

Already there are people defending the “heroism” of the scene online by saying that naysayers are only unhappy because it’s “a woman,” declaring that no one had issues with a male character doing similar in Terminator 2.

No. Because in Terminator 2 the T-800 is nota hero. He’s an anti-hero. If someone declares that heroic, than they’re wrong. Flat out. He threatens physical harm to innocents because he doesn’t care, and has no morals. Classic anti-hero trait.

Vers threatening a slimy guy past simply shutting him down isn’t heroism with the goal of stealing his possessions isn’t heroism. It’s the mark of an anti-hero, just as it was with the T-800….

(7) DOGGONE IT. This week New Zealand’s Stuff showed that a problem persists: “Game of Thrones fans buying huskies from unregistered breeders”.

…A New Zealand husky rescue charity that has dealt with hundreds of abandoned dogs after Game of Thrones ramped up the breed’s popularity is pushing for reform outlawing “backyard breeders.”

Michelle Attwood, who founded the Canterbury-based charity Husky Rescue NZ in 2009, said that hundreds of huskies had been abandoned to her charity every year since Game of Thrones launched – their TV connection clear through names like Ghost, Nymeria, Stark and Snow.

Huskies have become a real “status symbol,” she said, with Thrones fans driving a vicious cycle.

Peter Dinklage publicized the problem in 2017:

At the time he released a statement:

‘Game of Thrones’ star Peter Dinklage is asking fans to stop buying huskies as pets just because they resemble the fictional direwolves in the blockbuster HBO show. The actor warns fans the pups still need constant care after the novelty wears off. “Not only does this hurt all the deserving homeless dogs waiting for a chance at a good home in shelters, but shelters are also reporting that many of these huskies are being abandoned,” Dinklage said Tuesday in a statement released by PETA.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 28, 1908 Ian Fleming. The James Bond novels of course which are no doubt genre but also Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang which originally was published in three volumes and became a much beloved film. Like Heinlein, he would do a travelogue, this one called Thrilling Cities. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 28, 1951 Sherwood Smith, 68. YA writer best known for her Wren series. She’s also co-authored The Change Series with Rachel Manija Brown. She also co-authored two novels with Andre Norton, Derelict for Trade and A Mind for Trade.
  • Born May 28, 1954 Betsy Mitchell, 65. Editorial freelancer specializing in genre works. She was the editor-in-chief of Del Rey Books. Previously, she was the Associate Publisher of Bantam Spectra when they held the license to publish Star Wars novels in the Nineties.
  • Born May 28, 1977Ursula Vernon, 42. She is best known for her Hugo Award-winning graphic novel Digger which was a webcomic from 2003 to 2011. Vernon is also the creator of The Biting Pear of Salamanca, a digital work of art which became an internet meme in the form of the LOL WUT pear. 
  • Born May 28, 1982 Alexa Davalos, 37. Her first genre role i think was Gwen Raiden on the fourth season of Angel. She‘s Juliana Crain currently on The Man in the High Castle. And she was Andromeda in the remake of Clash of the Titans

(9) HUGO AWARDS ON JEOPARDY! TOMORROW.For once you get the news before the show is aired. Kevin Standlee says, “The Hugo Awards will be featured in a category on Jeopardy! on Wednesday, May 29.”

(10) DARKNESS FALLS. Fantasy Book Critic weighs in on “Necromantica by Keith Blenman (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)”.

…Necromantica is, essentially, a love story. You feel it in the way Lama speaks to Mornia. You see it in Mornia’s behavior. Remember, they’re not sharing a drink. They’re in the midst of the battle and they slaughter enemies. Call it a dark fantasy romance. I mean, you don’t write a story called Necromantica without it being dark, right?

Lama and Mornia share heart-wrenching stories. Mornia used to live a free, spiritual life and wanted to grow into a healer. By the time the story begins, her life has been robbed from her and ell her loved ones killed. She survived, but she’s broken. Whatever magic she possessed, she used for revenge. Instead of healing people, she focused on black arts and necromancy. …

(11) BY THE HAIR ON THEIR CHINNY-CHIN-CHIN. SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” column has published a “scientific” study entitled “A very serious cultural study on beards and which dudes look hotter with them.”

To beard or not to beard, that is the question.

Last year, when the Avengers: Infinity War trailer revealed that Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers had grown a beard, the internet went wild. How is it possible that Evans, this hunky cinnamon roll of a golden retriever boy scout bro, could get even hotter? It was almost unfair, yet there it was. We mourned the loss of Cap-beard for an extended period of time on SYFY FANGRRLS, but it also got us thinking as to what it was about some well-organized facial hair that had us all aflutter.

It turns out that there’s a scientific reason for that. It’s not just pure shallowness! According to a study in 2013 on the subject, facial hair acts as a major influence in shaping people’s ideas about what we expect from men in society. The study revealed that “women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive.” For men, it was the opposite case, with full beards as the most attractive. Those conducted for the study also revealed that full beards were judged as an excellent sign of parenting ability and healthiness, so all your daddy Steve Rogers jokes paid off in a big way.

They go on to judge the beard-appeal and stylings for Jason Momoa, Chris Evans, Henry Cavill, Chris Hemsworth, John Krasinski, Rahul Kohli, Keanu Reeves, and Jason Mantzoukas.

(12) LOVE THAT MECHA. Future War Stories tunes into Japanese TV in “Future War Stories From the East: Armored Troopers VOTOMS”.

…Many of the more famous anime and manga is often defined and remembered because of a certain iconic character, unique setting, or piece of machinery (which is often Mecha). Some imported Japanese animations or comics are lucky enough to be imported wholly to the West along with other associated products like models, video games, or toys. Others were not so lucky and came over to our shores in pieces and over a great length of time, forging fans along with way….

…What is “Armored Trooper VOTOMS”? VOTOMS is the brainchild of Fang of the Sun Dougram creator Ry?suke Takahashi and despite being developed in 1983, VOTOMS is still an on-going Japanese military science fiction franchise encompassing anime TV series, OVAs, video games, models, and toys. At about the time that Fang of the Sun Dougram was ending its run on Japanese television, Takahashi and Nippon Sunrise animation studio would continue the mecha-centered war stories with the VOTOMS 52 episode television show that aired on TV Tokyo from April 1st, 1983 through March 23rd, 1984….

(13) NOVELLA NOTIONS. Garik16’s Hugo finalist reviews continue with — “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Novella”.

Hugo Award voting just opened at the start of May and continues through the end of July.  For those of you new to the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre, the Hugo Award is one of the most prominent awards for works in the genre, with the Award being given based upon voting by those who have paid for at least a Supporting Membership in this year’s WorldCon.  As I did the last two years, I’m going to be posting reviews/my-picks for the award in the various categories I feel qualified in, but feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments….

(14) COLLECTIBLE HARDCOVERS. Gizmodo/io9: “Folio Society Is Doing Special Editions for All of A Song of Ice and Fire…If It’s Ever Finished”.

The Folio Society recently announced that it was releasing a special collector’s edition of A Game of Thrones, the first novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Now, on the cusp of the series finale for HBO’s Game of Thrones, it looks like we can expect even more—the entire A Song of Ice and Fire, including those famously still-unwritten books. Of course, that all depends on whether Martin ever finishes them. 

In a statement to io9, the Folio Society’s representative confirmed that it was following up its A Game of Thrones hardcover edition with other books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The publisher says the project is a collaborative with Martin, who’s been involved “every step of the way.” The first book is available for preorder, and is set to come out on July 16.

(15) [PROCESSOR] POWER TO THE PEOPLE. “The tablet computer pulled by donkey” – BBC has the story, and a photo:

Back in 2016, mobile technology the like of which had not been seen before rolled into the remote community of Funhalouro, in Mozambique.

Pulled by donkey, the container consisted of four LCD screens, powered by solar panels.

It was a mobile roadshow, starting with music to draw a crowd and then switching to a three-minute film on the biggest of the screens.

While the topic – digital literacy – was not the most entertaining, it was engaging for the audience, many of whom had never seen a screen or moving images before.

After the film, the audience was invited to use smaller touchscreen tablets to answer a series of questions about what they had seen.

There were prizes of T-shirts and caps for those with the highest scores.

For those who couldn’t read, the questions were posed in diagram form….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Shocking Truth of Lightsabers vs. Lightning,” on YouTube, Martin Archer, a physicist at Britain’s Queen Mary’s University, says that if lightsabers are made of plasma, having two of them blast each other is a bad idea and having lightning bolts sent toward a lightsaber is a really bad idea.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/19 Like Pixels Through File 770, So Are The Scrolls Of Our Lives

(1) COVER REVEAL. Here is The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s March/April 2019 cover. The cover art is by Kent Bash.

(2) BETTER WORLDS. The latest short story (and video adaptation) in The Verge’s “Better Worlds” series is “A Sun Will Always Sing,” by Karin Lowachee. (Video byYeah Haus.)

There’s also a Q&A: “Karin Lowachee on how humanity can peacefully coexist with AI” conducted by Andrew Liptak.

What inspired this story, and how did you construct this future?

I’d seen on YouTube a discussion from scientists about if an AI possessed an exact neural map of the human brain that it would not be out of the realm of possibility to believe that they would also be imbued with curiosity and maybe even a sense of responsibility for the Earth because now they, too, were a part of its systems. Around the same time, I stumbled on articles written by social scientists who believed that in taking care of certain economic necessities, humanity ideally could free up resources for creative problem-solving on the world scale and exploration.

These points of reference were really the general jumping-off points for me to try to logically extrapolate a human society that accommodated AIs (though not without some implied struggle) because the AIs were not, in fact, seeking a judgment day. They wanted to live and progress just as humans, and though their consciousness was not exact to humans, they were their own kind and just as worthy to be respected. We recognize this in intelligent animals, or even animals as a whole, so my thinking was it could be possible for AIs as well.

(3) WASTE NOT, WANT NOT. Max Florschutz offers advice about “Being a Better Writer: Garbage”. His ideas are far more realistic than J.K. Rowling’s.

Consider, for example, your trash. What happens to it? How do you dispose of it? Is it a garbage can next to your desk or in the kitchen? What happens to it once the can is full? Where does it go? Who deals with it? Do you know? Or does it simply “vanish?”

Well, here’s the thing. It definitely doesn’t vanish. Refuse is refuse: Someone has to do something with it or it piles up. Waste from your home, for example, at least in the US, is collected in a larger can and taken to the side of the road for a garbage truck to collect (99% of the time. The US’s coverage with this system is so ubiquitous that I’ve been to rural places where the only vehicle in town that isn’t a four-wheeler or a boat is the town garbage truck). That truck then takes it to a landfill or a processing center. At the first, the garbage is dumped out. At the second, it’s sorted and separated, usually with an end-goal in mind of dividing up the garbage into smaller, more dedicated end-states, from compost to recycling.

(4) NYRSF READINGS. Jim Freund asks, “Why waste your time with the State of the Union, when we have such a brilliant and more fulfilling alternative?”

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series resumes Tuesday, February 5.

Mimi Mondal (Bone Stew) writes about history and politics, occasionally disguised as fiction. Her first co-edited anthology, Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler won a Locus Award and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2018. In the past Mimi has worked as an editor at Penguin India and Uncanny Magazine, and spent eleven years at universities in India, Scotland and the US, from which she is currently recovering in New York and at @Miminality on Twitter.

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and others. She has published four novels and a novella, and her fourth story collection has just been published by Tartarus Press.

The events begins at 7:00 p.m. in The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt & Bond St.) in Brooklyn, NY.

(5) FIVE STORIES IN ONE. Syfy Wire gets to Hogwarts by way of Korea: “Geek Road Trip: Harry Potter fans in South Korea just opened a five-story cafe devoted to the boy wizard”.

Once we get inside, we’re quickly pointed to the counter. The food and drink offerings here are relatively run-of-the-mill Seoul cafe classics: Americanos, various flavored lattes and milk teas, and fruity adeS. On the menu, they promise chocolate wands are coming soon, and on select days there’s Butterbeer. Dessert-wise there’s a selection of cakes, none of which are themed, save for one: the wizard cake, a mini replica of the birthday cake Hagrid brings to Harry. We ordered the wizard cake for a cool 17,000 Won (around $15), grabbed our pager, and began to explore.

And trust me, there’s a lot to explore. Everywhere you turn there’s a poster or a reference to something Harry Potter-esque. Quotes in English and Korean line the staircases along with posters and portraits. Even the elevator is fully decked out.

(6) NO CODE FOR THIS CONDUCT.  The infosec industry conference DerbyCon is calling it quits after this year. Their explanation sounds like “We’re closing down rather than resorting to enforcing our code of conduct.”

Read their announcement here: “DerbyCon 9.0 – Every Beginning Has an End”.

…This year, we had to handle issues that honestly, as an adult, we would never expect to have to handle from other adults. Conferences in general have shifted focus to not upsetting individuals and having to police people’s beliefs, politics, and feelings. Instead of coming to a conference to learn and share, it’s about how loud of a message a person can make about a specific topic, regardless of who they tear down or attempt to destroy. To put it in perspective, we had to deal with an individual that was verbally and mentally abusive to a number of our volunteer staff and security to the point where they were in tears.

This is not what we signed up for.

Admittedly, we had no idea how to handle this person, and in fear of repercussion of removing this person, allowed them to stay at the conference in order to “not upset the masses”. The best we could do was just apologize, for other apologies, and apologize more for another’s actions. This is just one example of many we have had to deal with over the past few years, and each year it becomes increasingly harder for us to handle. We do everything as a conference to ensure the safety, security, and go above and beyond that of others. Maybe that puts us on a different level where something that would normally not be an issue explodes into a catastrophic situation on social media.

Who knows? What we do know is each year it gets harder and harder.

2019 will be our last year of DerbyCon.

Motherboard reports “Hackers Baselessly Blame Women and ‘SJWs’ for the End of DerbyCon Security Conference”.

…Some in the infosec community read the organizers’ statement and began to blame the shutdown on “Social Justice Warriors,” and women who complained too much. For example, far right blog Gateway Pundit pointed to an incident where an attendee complained that other attendees were joking about sexual assault outside of the conference’s Mental Health Village. Others on Twitter latched on to the rumor that “SJWs” killed DerbyCon.

Regardless of the reason for the conference’s cancellation, the announcement renewed a conversation about toxicity in the infosec community that has been taking place in earnest since at least 2017 (and in smaller circles before then), when the Verge reported on chat logs from well-known security researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire, in which he confessed to a series of sexual assaults; the Verge and VICE corroborated that reporting with multiple women who have knowledge of the assaults.

While some women in the cybersecurity world were discussing the toxic interactions, sexual harassment, and assaults they’ve faced in the infosec community, members of a popular closed Facebook hacking group called “illmob” began to attack women who have spoken up about these issues, including Georgia Weidman, a security researcher who recently tweeted that her career was hurt by attending and speaking at DerbyCon in 2013….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Riddley Walker may well be one of the most difficult novels I’ve ever read but it’s certainly also worth it. ISFDB lists a lot of other SF works by him but I must say I hadn’t realised that he’d written any beyond this work. Had any of you known this? (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 79. 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, 1961 Neal Asher, 58. 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 ten thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again). He’s the sort of writer that I think drives our Puppies to madness — literate pulp SF pumped out fast that readers like. 
  • Born February 4, 1970 Gabrielle Anwar, 49. Currently Lady Tremaine on Once Upon a Time. On the BBC series Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, she once played Ramandu’s Daughter. Marti Malone in Body Snatchers which is the third film adaptation of that Finney novel.  She was Queen Anne in The Three Musketeers which I love and Emily Davenport in The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Patriotic Ewoks will shed a tear over this Brevity.

(9) STAR TREK: RENT. On The Late Late Show With James Corden, the cast of Star Trek: Discovery leaves the bridge for this week’s episode of Carpool Karaoke. Sing along with Sonequa Martin-Green, Anthony Rapp, Doug Jones and Mary Wiseman. Complete show is accessible through an Apple app.

There’s another preview on Twitter.

(10) WORLDCON ECONOMICS. Persistent Scribble tasks an unnamed author who feels the Worldcon should give them a free membership. Thread starts here.  

(11) VAMPING IT UP. What We Do in the Shadows, from writer Jemaine Clement and director Taika Waititi, premieres March 27 on FX.

What We Do in the Shadows is a half-hour comedy series based on the feature film of the same name by co-creators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Set in New York City, the show follows three vampires who have been roommates for hundreds and hundreds of years. Stars Matt Berry, Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillen and Mark Proksch.

(11) Y? Y NOT? The Hollywood Reporter has posted that, “‘Y: The Last Man’ Ordered to Series at FX.” Much of the cast had been announced as early as mid 2018 (The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Y: The Last Man’ FX Cast Unveiled, Diane Lane and Barry Keoghan to Star”), but FX has now definitized the series order.

File this under “years in the making.”

Brian K. Vaughan’s beloved comic series Y: The Last Man is finally coming to a screen. FX on Monday announced that it has picked up its TV adaptation to series. The network has handed out a series order for the drama from showrunner Michael Green and starring Barry Keoghan and Diane Lane. It is expected to premiere in 2020.

[…] Green (American GodsBlade Runner 2049Logan) and Aïda Mashaka Croal (Luke CageTurn) serve as showrunners and executive producers. Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson of Color Force (American Crime StoryPoseThe Hunger Games) and Vaughan executive produce and developed the series. Melina Matsoukas (InsecureMaster of NoneBeyonce: Formation) directed the pilot and exec produce the FX Productions drama. In addition to Keoghan and Lane, the cast also includes Amber TamblynImogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield and Marin Ireland.

(12) BLUER MARBLE. BBC story says “Climate change: Blue planet will get even bluer as Earth warms”.

Rising temperatures will change the colour of the world’s oceans, making them more blue in the coming decades say scientists.

They found that increased heat will change the mixture of phytoplankton or tiny marine organisms in the seas, which absorb and reflect light.

Scientists say there will be less of them in the waters in the decades to come.

This will drive a colour change in more than 50% of the world’s seas by 2100.

(13) AS EASY AS A. Chip Hitchcock says BBC’s article “How easy will it be to build a Moon base” is an “interesting overview despite one huge error-of-fact.” (Can you spot it?)

How can astronauts build a lunar base if traditional building materials are too heavy to load into a rocket?

In 1975, three years after the final Apollo Moon landing, Space: 1999 first aired on British television. It began with a nuclear explosion wrenching the Moon, and an international lunar colony of over 300 people, out of its orbit and into an unknown journey into space.

The TV series obviously made an impression on a young Elon Musk because, when the SpaceX founder revealed their plans for a lunar colony in August 2017, he called it Moonbase Alpha after the lunar base in Space: 1999. “Cheesy show,” Musk tweeted, “but I loved it.”

SpaceX is not alone is wanting to get humans back on the Moon. The Chinese space agency CNSA (China National Space Administration) has announced the next stages of its successful Chang’e lunar exploration missions – shortly after Chang’e 4 became the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the far side of the Moon.

Chang’e 5 and 6 will be sample return missions while Chang’e 7 will survey the South Pole, a region of specific interest for human habitation because it contains water ice. “We hope that Chang’e 8 will help test some technologies and do some exploring,” deputy head of the CNSA Wu Yanhua said in January, “for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries.”

China is not alone in this ambition. Across the globe, 50 years after the Moon landings, the practicalities of a moonbase are taking shape. The irony is that, while only the United States of America has left footprints on the Moon, the Americans are now having to play catch up. It didn’t unveil plans for a permanent moonbase until August 2018. Nasa’s primary focus until then had been Mars. The European Space Agency (Esa) was already one step ahead.

(14) YARN V. GLASS CEILING. Pixar has a new short film that blurs the line between genre and a workplace dramedy (Mashable: “Pixar’s newest short ‘Purl’ is a must-watch for every workplace”).

Pixar’s new animation program SparkShorts has released its first short film, a powerful story about the difficulty of fitting into a workplace of human males. 

“Purl” might be about a pink ball of yarn, but its title character adopts new behaviors and aggression to be one of the boys, a transparent allegory for women trying to break the glass ceiling in corporate culture.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Gordon Van Gelder, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to ULTRAGOTHA.)

Pixel Scroll 10/23/17 A Long Scroll To A Small Angry Pixel

(1) ASKING FOR A MULLIGAN. The Hugo Award Book Club casts aspersions on a 2001 winner in “Harry Potter and the Undeserved Hugo”.

If Hugo Award voters had the prescience to have recognized (via award or nomination) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1998, perhaps it would be more forgivable. But looking at the situation with 15 years of hindsight, it feels like the Hugos were just bandwagon jumping on an established series that was already extraordinarily popular.

It seems to me that honouring the book with a Hugo Award did nothing to help it find new readers, and this feels like an abdication of what the award should be about.

(2) SOUND THE HORN. Since being chastised for misspelling Froot Loops, John King Tarpinian has been doing penitential research about the cereal. Those of you who were saying you can’t get unicorn burgers may want to know you can get unicorn breakfast cereal, for a limited time — “Unicorn Froot Loops Are Now Enchanting Store Shelves”.

Kellogg’s is giving early mornings a major dose of magic. According to Delish, the cereal giant is remixing its fan-favorite Froot Loops with a very 2017 makeover: unicorn.

Almost unrecognizable without Toucan Sam, eagle-eyed shoppers are sure to get pulled in by the rainbows, stars, and a very cute unicorn. The limited-edition cereal comes with new packaging that features the as-yet-unnamed animated unicorn complete with a requisite rainbow mane, but the real magic is inside the box.

While standard Froot Loops are already a Technicolor addition to any breakfast, the unicorn version is a little more subdued, but ups the ante when it comes to trendy hues.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZNpru1j9F7/

(3) SPEAKING UP. Neil Gaiman voiced a character on The Simpsons on Sunday – a Coraline parody was part of the latest “Treehouse of Horror” episode.

A.V. Club reviewed the overall effort: “The Simpsons walks us through a visually ambitious but forgettable Treehouse Of Horror”.

The 28th “Treehouse Of Horror” carries on the venerable Simpsons institution by, as ever, tossing a whole lot of stuff at the screen and seeing what sticks. To that end, this year’s outing gives us: An Exorcist parody, a Coraline parody, Homer eating human flesh (just his own, but still), stop-motion segments, horror and fantasy-specific guest stars, a little light Fox standards-pushing (Homer does, as stated, eat human flesh), and the usual string of hit-or-miss gags. That last part isn’t really a criticism in itself. Freed up from the need to calibrate the heart-yucks equation, a “Treehouse Of Horror” rises or falls on the strength of its jokes, although the annual Halloween anthology provides its own unique degree of difficulty.

(4) ON THE CANVAS. Walter Jon Williams does a draft cover reveal for the next book in the Praxis Series. He has been making a heroic effort to complete it but  the book isn’t cooperating, as he says in “Punch Drunk”.

I haven’t been posting for several days, because I’ve been trying to finish  The Accidental War, which (according to the publisher) is Book IV of the Praxis series, but which (according to me alone, apparently) is Book VI, because I count Impersonations and Investments, and they don’t.

See?  It even has a cover!  Though this may not be the actual cover when it’s released, at the moment it’s just sort of a cover suggestion the art department is playing with.

Wow!  Sure looks like MilSF, doesn’t it?

(5) PENRIC. And at Goodreads, Lois McMaster Bujold has shared “The Prisoner of Limnos cover sneak peek” with art by Ron Miller.

So, as promised, here is the e-cover of the new Penric & Desdemona novella. It will be #6 in the current internal chronology (and publishing order.)

The vendor-page copy will read:

“In this sequel novella to “Mira’s Last Dance”, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary.

“Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.”

(6) PRODUCT PLACEMENT. Adweek tells how “A Baby Dragon Brings the Heat for Doritos on Twitter”.

You don’t have to be a Targaryen to know the value of a baby dragon.

When Doritos U.K. released a limited edition of extra-hot tortilla chips called Heatburst this past spring, it became part of the conversation on Twitter by creating its own “celebrity”—a comical, fire-breathing baby dragon—to represent the new flavor.

As described in the video below, the Heatburst campaign, with the hashtags #HeatWillCome and #BabyDragon, centered on the dragon character. It launched with a series of quirky videos where the baby dragon innocently ignited virtually everything around him. As awareness for the product grew, the baby dragon became a Twitter character in his own right, inserting himself into pop-culture moments and current events to keep the brand top of mind. Doritos U.K. did this using a full-range of Twitter formats, including branded emojis, GIFs, and conversational videos.

(7) CONTINUED WEINSTEIN AFTERMATH. The Hollywood Reporter says female animators sent a letter to executives at major animation studios insisting on an end of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Among the 217 women and gender-nonconforming people who signed the letter are Netflix’s head of kids programming Jenna Boyd, Bob’s Burgers producer and writer Wendy Molyneax, Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar and Danger & Eggs co-creator Shadi Petosky, as well as animators of BoJack Horseman, Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls.

The full text of the letter is at The Wrap (“Women Animators Pen Open Letter on Sexual Harassment: ‘This Abuse Has Got to Stop’”.) The demands include:

  1. Every studio puts in place clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies and takes every report seriously. It must be clear to studio leadership, including producers, that, no matter who the abuser is, they must investigate every report or face consequences themselves.
  2. The Animation Guild add language in our constitution that states that it can “censure, fine, suspend or expel any member of the guild who shall, in the opinion of the Executive Board, be found guilty of any act, omission, or conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.” To craft and support the new language, we ask that an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee be created to help educate and prevent future occurrences.
  3. Our male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us. When their co-workers make sexist remarks, or when they see sexual harassment happening, we expect them to say something. Stop making excuses for bad behavior in your friends and co-workers, and tell them what they are doing is wrong.

(8) MAKING LIGHT. Overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis is Galactic Journey’s review of the November 1962 Fantastic.

It seems likely that the threat of violence, which hangs over our heads in these troubled times, makes it necessary for us to make light of traditional terrors.  We laugh to keep from screaming.  As an example, on the same day that China invaded India, Bobby Picket’s novelty song, The Monster Mash, reached the top of the charts.

Appropriately, the latest issue of Fantastic features another comic version of old-fashioned horrors….

It’s Magic, You Dope! (Part 1 of 2), by Jack Sharkey Lloyd Birmingham’s cover art, which reminds me of the macabre cartoons of Charles Addams, captures the spooky but laughable nature of this short novel by editor Cele Goldsmith’s resident comedian.

(9) YESTERDAY’S DAY

(10) THE MALL’S OUR DESTINATION. At Pornokitsch, Jared takes us shopping: “Malls, Mallrats and Browsing”.

Doug Stephens wrote a powerful piece on how ‘to save retail, let it die’. In it, he lists all the ways in which retail is doomed (hi, Amazon!) on his way to a, more-or-less, familiar conclusion: retail spaces need to become experiences.

Stephens posits that the future retail spaces aren’t about buying products at all, but about:

  1. gathering data
  2. selling experiences that involve the products

Imagine, I suppose, the LEGO store, but solely with the build-your-own minifig display. And lots of covert measurement over which pieces everyone uses… (Ok, this must happen already, but still. Imagine!)

Then, presumably, we all go home and receive Snapchats telling us that a new set of our favourite LEGO can be purchased, right now. Just wink acceptance, and your facial recognition purchasing programme will do the rest. Then, when you lose a piece, you shout at Alexa, and the replacement follows. Whatever. That sort of thing. All beside the point.

(11) LOU ANDERS. Variety includes Lou Anders’ good news in “‘Dark Matter’ EP Vanessa Piazza Sets Multi-Year Producing Partnership With eOne”.

Piazza is also developing “Masked,” based on the original super-hero fiction anthology edited by Lou Anders, who will also be involved in the series adaptation. Notable comic and graphic novel writers, including Lilah Sturges, Paul Cornell, and Gail Simone whose short stories appear in the book, will contribute to the anthology series, working with Piazza and executive producer and showrunner Joseph Mallozzi.

(12) INDIE FOCUS. The inaugural issue IndiePicks Magazine is now on the street.  You can read an electronic copy via their website.  Subscriptions to the electronic and paper versions are also available.

Their sff reviewers appear to be Alan Keep and Megan McArdle.  Their horror reviewer is Becky Spratford.  And their YA reviewer is Magan Szwarek.

(13) EARLY ELECTRONIC MUSIC. NPR on the creator of the Doctor Who theme: “Forebears: Delia Derbyshire, Electronic Music’s Forgotten Pioneer”.

All that changed in 1960 when she went to work at the BBC as a studio manager. She soon became enamored of the Radiophonic Workshop, a division of the media conglomerate dedicated to electronic experimentation. The invention of tape recording in the 1950s allowed sounds to be manipulated in entirely new ways; in a time when radio dramas ruled popular entertainment, the Workshop was a creative — and coveted — place of employment. In 1962, Derbyshire was assigned a position at the workshop, where she’d work for over a decade, becoming a sound specialist and a leading voice in musical counterculture: The weirder her soundscapes became, the more wondrous they felt. She created music for the world’s first fashion show with an electronic soundtrack (and considering the commonality of techno/dance music on the runway, she left a legacy in that field, too). She organized robotic noise in a way that felt truly alien, shocking sounds whole decades ahead of this music’s time.

(14) GUARD YOUR ARTISTIC FREEDOM. Max Florschutz issues a warning in “Being a Better Writer: Preaching to the Choir” at Unusual Things.

They adjust the story that they’re telling so that it is no longer aimed at the general audience, but at those who already buy into it. And that means changing the presentation.

For example, say someone writes a story that is going to preach to the choir with regards to one of the US’s political parties (which happens a lot, unsurprisingly). Writing a story that appeals to the group already supporting that party is going to result in a different story than one written to a general audience. A story that was written for a general audience on the topic would need to, for starters, approach all of its topics from a neutral starting point, as it would need to assume that those approaching the work didn’t share or even know of the authors ideas and views. It would then need to examine the ideals it wanted to present from a variety of points, answering the reader’s questions and concerns—which could be fairly vast—as it attempted to explain the stance of the author. It would also need to do so while maintaining a level voice and giving the various viewpoints a fair shake.

But if we compare that to a title written for an audience that wants to be preached too, most of that will disappear. For example, that audience does not want to start from a neutral point. They’ve already left that ground. They want a position already ensconced in their stance. Nor do they want to examine their own beliefs from a variety of angles—that can raise uncomfortable questions and truths that they’d rather not deal with—so each angle approached must be designed to reinforce that safe space they’ve already built for themselves by making sure that all other ideas, themes, etc, are wrong. It also can’t have a level voice nor give equal treatment to other views; after all, those views are wrong. Lastly, to preach to the choir, the work needs to reinforce the idea that the audience is safe where it is, that they have made the right or smart decision by believing what they believe.

And the truth is, creating this kind of work is extraordinarily popular. Everywhere. Because there’s a guaranteed audience as long as the “choir” exists. Michael Moore films, for example? One-hundred percent preaching to the choir. Baptist-ploitation films like God’s Not Dead? Also preaching to the choir. And many, many others—crud, you readers along could probably fill the comments with thousands of works from all sides of any spectrum or idea that preach to the choir. It works because it appeals to a set audience that wants to be told that they’re right, to be reinforced without thinking critically (or in some cases, by being giving a thought that sounds critical, but actually isn’t). And that audience? They eat this kind of pandering up.

… So, with that said—specifically the bit about a quick buck—why wouldn’t you want to preach to the choir? Why not go for it?

Well, the answer is pretty simple: Once you do, it’s hard to go back. Once you’ve started writing stories that support that little “safe zone,” you’ve effectively shackled yourself to it and to that audience. That audience is going to want more of the same, and if you don’t deliver it, they will become unhappy.

(15) I’M NOT OKAY, YOU’RE NOT OKAY. Douglas Smith spends the first four paragraphs of “On Writing of a Different Culture” at the SFWA Blog apologizing for world history before getting to the point:

So, yes, I was a tad paranoid of being accused of cultural appropriation.

Let me first explain why I was drawn to Cree and Ojibwe culture for The Wolf at the End of the World.

If you think you’re doing something wrong, wouldn’t it be better to not do it? If you haven’t done something wrong, why are you apologizing?

(16) JOE HILL. Lisa Taylor reviews “Strange Weather by Joe Hill” for The Speculative Herald.

Strange Weather is a collection of 4 short novels, each telling a unique story. They are all independent of one another, and could be read in any order. I may not rate this one quite as high as most of the works I’ve read by Hill, but I suspect most of that comes from my preference for longer works. The stories are quick and varied covering funny to horrifying to creepy and the main character in each are varied.

(17) PERSONAL BEST. Here’s a record that will appear with an asterix next to it.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/10/17 Eric And The Dread Pixel Scroll

(0) TRAINING COMPLETED. Thanks to you who wished me a good trip to New Mexico for my mother’s 91st birthday celebration. I’d say your wishes were effective, not only because we had a fine reception and dinner, but because my Amtrak experience was far superior to that of the folks who left Los Angeles aboard the previous day’s Southwest Chief. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the story

Passengers and crew aboard a Chicago-bound Amtrak train spent the night stopped in Northern New Mexico hill country after the lead engine struck a boulder and partially derailed.

No serious injuries were reported, but the two engineers in the lead engine were taken to a hospital for evaluation, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday from Chicago.

The incident occurred Thursday evening on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a rural area near Watrous about 105 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

…The train’s second engine and all the cars remained on the tracks and the train still had power, heating and toilet service while it remained at the derailment site, the Amtrak spokesman said.

Not to overstate things — I would have missed the excitement anyway, since my destination was one of the last stops before they hit the rock, however, it still felt like a narrow escape.

(1) RUH ROH! Last month Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared the long history behind “Why Amazing Stories Isn’t Back on NBC”. However, over the weekend the media reported “Steven Spielberg will revive ’80s NBC series ‘Amazing Stories’ for Apple”.

Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.

A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business…

More as the story develops.

(2) PUPPY LOVE. Yahoo! says get your Kleenex ready — “Carrie Fisher’s dog watching the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer will destroy you”.

Millions of Star Wars fans watched the new trailer for The Last Jedi on Monday night — including one very good boy.

A photo of Gary, Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog, was posted to his official Instagram account on Monday, and, guys, we’re warning you — it’s going to make you whimper….

(3) WHO ARE YOU? Jim C. Hines, in “A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges”, asks conventions to fix a problem that people have been complaining about the entire time I’m been in fandom.

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Jim provides illustrations of what works for him, and what doesn’t.

(4) A NEW YORK COMIC CON STATE OF MIND. The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg, in “Marvel cancels comic book deal with Northrop Grumman after Twitter backlash”, says that Marvel cancelled a proposed partnership with Northrop Grumman (whose “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes were supposed to team up with The Avengers) after lots of fans objected, noting, among other things, that Tony Stark gave up his defense contracts.

Marvel teased the partnership Friday morning in a tweet that promised more details in a presentation the following day at the New York Comic-Con festival. A retro-style comic book cover temporarily posted on Marvel’s website featured a team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” super heroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers superheroes. The cover was quickly scrubbed from the company’s website, but not before it went viral on Twitter.

Twitter users ridiculed Marvel, accusing it of partnering with “death merchants.” Some pointed out that the Marvel character Iron Man, alias Tony Stark, had been the billionaire CEO of a company that built advanced weaponry but had turned his back on the weapons business after seeing its effects. Angry fans called out specific Marvel executives, and at least one suggested publicly protesting the issue at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth.….

(5) SZECHUAN LETDOWN. Meanwhile, another corporation was breaking hearts in the culinary arena. Michael Cavna and Maura Judkis, in “McDonald’s botched its ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce stunt, and fans are not happy”, report that McDonald’s has disappointed thousands of viewers of the Cartoon Network show Rick and Morty. After 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition inspired by the show calling on the company to bring back Szechuan Sauce (originally created to promote Mulan in 1998), McDonalds promised select locations would have the sauce, but only a few did.

One Washington Post reporter was among those “Rick and Morty” fans who went questing Saturday for the fabled sauce, driving to three Maryland locations — one of them listed as an official “participating” outlet — and none had received a Szechuan shipment. One restaurant tried to pawn off Sriracha sauce. Another tried to sell the tangy Signature sauce. And a third outlet’s shift manager came to the drive-thru window to apologize profusely — clearly this wasn’t her first “Rick and Morty”-related apology of the day.

(6) REMEMBER WHEN? The Atlantic bills this article as “Revisiting Star Trek’s Most Political Episode” – which is saying something about a series that often delivered messages.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they’ve given up.” This was how Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, described early 21st-century Americans in an episode from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When it aired in 1995, “Past Tense” spoke to contemporary concerns about homelessness by telling a story set in 2024—the near future for viewers, but the distant past for characters. In the two-part episode, Sisko and two of his companions from the U.S.S. Defiant find themselves stranded in San Francisco, where they’re reminded that the federal government had once set up a series of so-called “Sanctuary Districts” in a nationwide effort to seal off homeless Americans from the general population. Stuck in 2024, Sisko, who is black—along with his North African crewmate Dr. Julian Bashir and the fair-skinned operations officer Jadzia Dax—must contend with unfamiliar racism, classism, violence, and Americans’ apparent apathy toward human suffering.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Tiaan Jerjerrod was the project manager of the second Death Star, which was destroyed at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Supervising Jerjerrod was Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Darth Vader. (Source: Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study.)

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day, whose goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.” (Wikipedia)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 10, 1965 — The Red Baron first appeared in  Peanuts comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EXPLORER

  • Born October 10, 1861 — Fridjtof Nansen, whose arctic navigation inspired fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. His ship, Fram, shares a museum with Kon Tiki and Ra.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

Martin Morse Wooster approves this “old school groaner” in today’s Frank and Ernest.

(12) SCI-FI SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO. In “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias”, a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, several sff authors suggest that they are tired of the wave of grim visions of humanity’s future. Is it time to create more works around an optimistic future based on expanding technology and human understanding?

In “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens Friday, post eco-disaster Los Angeles has built a massive coastline wall to fend off rising ocean levels. Few of the overpopulated city’s human or android occupants have ever seen a tree or a real animal. The incessant rain is as dour as Harrison Ford’s facial expressions. Worst of all? One character bemoans the fact that there’s no more cheese in the world.

Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny. But do the kinds of stories we tell ourselves have a cultural impact on shaping a better tomorrow?

“I want to nod at something that Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker about the dangers of drowning ourselves in dystopian stories,” says Christopher Robichaud, who teaches a class at Harvard Extension School on Utopia and Dystopia in fiction and philosophy. “The utility dystopian fiction used to serve was to bring problems to our attention and seek solutions. But the danger is that these stories can become a collective act of despair in response to current events.”

(13) SPACE TUTOR. In “Astronaut encourages kids to flip for STEM”, the Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant says that the Air and Space Museum recently hosted a webcast with astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station where he had floating candy and showed kids an official NASA barf Bag.

If you could ask an astronaut orbiting in space any question, what would it be?

Students from several Washington-area schools got to do that recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of its “STEM in 30” program.

Among other things, they wanted to know: Is it hard to move around up there? Can you watch TV? How do you know when it’s time for bed? What if you get sick?

(14) GRIM TIDINGS PODCAST SEEKS SUPPORT. The hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast have invited fans to support them via Patreon.  Rob Matheny and Philip Overby focus on interviewing authors, editors, and agents working within the Grimdark sub-genre.  They have recorded over 100 episodes including luminaries from the field such as Joe Abercrombie, C.T. Phipps, Anna Smith Spark, Brian Stavely, Michael R. Fletcher, Sebastien De Castell, Laura M. Hughes, and Deborah A. Wolf.

(15) HAIR APPARENT. Is singing songs like this the real reason John Scalzi constantly needs to think up new names for his band?

(Just kidding – I laughed….)

(16) A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Alex Acks finds more to criticize about fantasy maps in a post for Tor.com — “Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth”.

…So what is it about the mighty Anduin that makes me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise? There are four main factors, in ascending order based on how easily I’m able to mentally excuse each point.

It cuts across two mountain ranges.

There is one fact you really need to understand to grasp the basics of how rivers work. Ready? Water flows downhill. That’s it. That’s the secret. Water flows downhill, and as it flows it tends to erode sediment and transport it downstream, and over long enough periods of time, that gets us our classic V-shaped river valleys and a ton of other morphological features. Which is why, when a river is on a collision course with mountains—normally places where the elevation goes up—you have to stare at it for a minute.

This is the easiest oddity for me to find an excuse for—because it is actually something that happens in reality! For example, the Colorado River cuts pretty much perpendicularly through the entire Basin and Range Province of North America. And the reason this works is because the Colorado was here before all that extensional tectonic silliness happened and the basins started dropping down from the ranges—and that process of down-drop was slow enough, relative to the ability of the Colorado to cut its own channel, that the river didn’t get permanently trapped in one of the basins.

So if we make the assumption that the Anduin existed before the mountains—and assume that the mountains uplifted in a natural way, thank you—it’s very possible for it to have cut down fast enough to maintain its course despite uplift. (Keep this in mind, we’ll be coming back to it later…)

(17) KEEP ON SWIMMING. And over the weekend Camestros Felapton gave us “Even More Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

Big Islands

In Earthsea islands are large and numerous, in Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, islands barely appear and are small. In both cases they are locations and destinations and themselves contain terrain.

In Tolkien’s wider work, Númenor is the most notable island – a version of Atlantis, which itself gives us a classic inspiration for islands in Western literature. Oceanic islands can be countries with their own terrain but cut off from surroundings. Le Guin depicts the islands of Earthsea more like medieval era city-states with a wider common culture but no central authority.

It is interesting to me that Tolkien, who draws on many aspects of Britain and Britishness in building Middle Earth, avoids the island quality of Britain. This despite a tendency to mythologize the insular quality of Britain in English propaganda-history both in high-culture (Shakespeare’s ‘sceptered isle’) and low-culture (‘fog in the channel, continent cut off’). George R.R. Martin’s Westeros does this by having it be an eratz England circa the War of the Roses (with Scotland being another place full of ice zombies). Westeros’s scale seems flexible but it’s primary plot role as an island is to be a container. Events are within Westeros (up to the Wall) or beyond (either over the wall or on another continent).

The point being – oceanic islands are treated as political units rather than as terrain.

(18) JUXTAPOSITION. The title of Max Florschutz’ latest post halted me in my tracks — “Being a Better Writer Delayed” — until I remembered “Being a Better Writer” is a recurring topic at his Unusual Things blog.

(19) HOLY BLEEP. Camestros Felapton subjected his precious bodily fluids to a famous corporation’s bizarre new offering, “Coca-cola with coffee”.

…There is also a weird slimy quality to it. It’s like drinking coke but a bit more unpleasant.

The coffee is “real” and from Brazil. If I was Brazil I might object to the free advertising.

(20) X-FILES SEASON 11 TRAILER. The truth etc. etc.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Christian Brunschen, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]