Pixel Scroll 10/2/21 Pixel Down, Scrollsocki, Pixel Down

(1) STOP THAT IMMEDIATELY! Richard Marpole writes one of those delectably sweeping accusations with the got-to-click-on-it title of “You Are Writing Medieval Fantasy Wrong” at Fantasy-Faction. Here is one segment:

TRAVEL WAS RELATIVELY COMMON

It’s quite possible that many Medieval people spent most of their lives in or near the place where they were born. But travel was far from unknown. Going back at least as far as the Celts, Europe was part of a vast trading network which could bring people from Africa to Asia to the British Isles and back.

Some countries specialised in particular kinds of warfare such as artillery or the use of crossbows. Regiments of mercenaries from these lands could see service all over the continent. Then there were the pilgrimages. Medieval Europeans of all social classes travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to the supposed resting places of saints all over the continent, and beyond, to Jerusalem, for example. They shared stories, made business deals, and brought back souvenirs. Some stuck to the Church-approved pilgrim badges, others stole stones, bits of fabric and entire bones from the shrines of saints.

(The alleged skeleton of one saint, Alban, was supposedly taken from its original resting place in England and placed in a monastery in Denmark. Years later, the story goes, a Saxon monk infiltrated the Danish order, gained enough trust to be given custody of its relics, secretly cut a hole in Alban’s coffin, stole his bones, hid them in a chest, and gave the chest to a merchant who was headed to England, ultimately sending them back home.)

So, your protagonist grew up in an isolated village. But an elder of the village could have travelled across the continent and beyond on a religious pilgrimage or to fight in a war, bringing back stories of wonders and monsters, and even artefacts that could help your hero in their own journeys. (Or perhaps the skeleton of a saint, which now longs to go home and may even return of its own accord.)

(2) SWEET FIFTEEN. Congratulations to Neil Clarke and staff on Clarkesworld’s fifteenth anniversary. Clarke looks back on the magazine’s history in his editorial for the October 2021 issue:

We were told we wouldn’t last a year, but here we are at our fifteenth anniversary issue and I have to say that it feels really good. To be fair to our early critics, the landscape for online fiction was more like a slaughterhouse back in 2006. While a lot of that was simply poor planning, a significant part of the problem was the lack of infrastructure to support such activities. Digital subscriptions, Patreon, Kickstarter, membership software, and most of the mechanisms that fund online fiction today simply didn’t exist and there were far fewer people reading online. Advertising? You’d be lucky to get pennies. That’s not to say that no one succeeded. Corporate funding, wealthy patrons (sometimes the editor/publisher), and other charity models existed, but had problems of their own. In fact, if it were not for the collapse of one corporate-funded publication, SciFictionClarkesworld may never have existed.

At the time, I ran Clarkesworld Books, an online bookstore. My passion for short fiction manifested itself there as a very large magazine section of over a hundred titles. Sometime in 2005, I started offering publishers the opportunity to include free sample stories on our website as a means of promoting magazines to our customers. In July 2006, I met up with Sean Wallace (then editor of Fantasy Magazine, one of the publications I was working with) at Readercon and we started discussing the impact of that experiment, the recent demise of SciFiction, and a post-mortem on several of the other recent losses in online publishing. A few hours later and sleep-deprived, we had a business model in mind and we decided to go for it…. 

Our in-house anniversary was in July and I thanked our staff in that issue, but I’m compelled to acknowledge their work once again. I’d also like to call out the two people who have been with me the longest: Sean Wallace and Kate Baker. They are like brother and sister to me and have been there for me through the best and worst. I am truly surrounded by amazing people.

(3) JUANITA COULSON Q&A. Fanac.org’s Fan History Zoom session with Juanita Coulson is now available to watch on YouTube.

PART 1 – Juanita Coulson has been an active science fiction fan for 70 years. She’s a marathon fanzine publisher, a mainstay of the filk community and a professional writer. Among her honors: Hugo winner (Yandro, 1965), Worldcon Fan Guest of Honor (1972), Filk Hall of Fame inductee (1998) and she famously outsang a steamboat whistle (NASFiC, 1979).

In this fascinating interview, Juanita provides personal recollections of some of the legendary fans of science fiction, of whom she is one. Juanita starts with her entry into fandom, her experiences at Chicon II (1952 Worldcon) and recalls how racism affected her friend Bev Bowles as she tried to check into a convention hotel. Juanita tells of her first meeting with Harlan Ellison, the origin of Bob Tucker’s “smooth” gesture, the first all night filksing and how she lost her job during the McCarthy era for being “different”. This interview is a rare and enlightening look into science fiction fandom in 50s, 60s and onward. Part 1 ends with Juanita’s rendition of one of the filksongs she made famous, Reminder, written by husband Buck Coulson.

IN PART 2, Juanita talks more about fandom in the 60s and beyond There are stories of filk and its evolution, Filthy Pierre, her appearance as General Jinjur of Oz, and the quirky story of Gene Wolfe and the jacket shot. She recounts the start of her professional writing career, with the mentorship and encouragement of Marion Zimmer Bradley. On breaking into the ranks as a professional writer, Juanita received this note from first reader Terry Carr: “In the immortal words of Lee Hoffman, you have lost your return postage” – meaning that a contract was coming. She speaks about women in science fiction fandom, the difference that Star Trek made, and tells the story of Harlan Ellison and the movie screen at St. Louiscon (1969). After 70 years, she’s still a fan, and why? “It’s home.” Fandom is home.

(4) KINKY BOOTS. “Elijah Wood: ‘I still have a pair of Hobbit feet in my house’” – so he told The Guardian.

…Nothing can prepare you for the magnitude of what the Lord of the Rings films became, and the world stage that it propelled all of us on to virtually overnight. I’d been acting for 10 years by then, and we collectively helped each other deal with the attention, which was intense. I remember the day that I saw us all plastered over the side of plane. At that point I compartmentalised it. I put it in its own universe.

I’ve had encounters with people who are a little unsettling. There was a woman who flew to Wellington airport in New Zealand to declare her love for me. It was clear her sense of reality may not have been intact. I’ve also had people show up at my door who weren’t entirely stable.

I try to be kind and listen, then move on.

I still have a pair of Hobbit feet in my house, but I don’t wear them any more. They’re made of latex. They were given to me by the makeup department. I did wear them at one stage. Now they’re in a box, tucked away. And, no, I don’t recreate Frodo at fancy dress parties.///

(5) PASSING FANCY. The European Space Agency shared a fly-by photo of the craters of Mercury: “Hello Mercury”.

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Mercury on 1 October 2021 as the spacecraft flew past the planet for a gravity assist manoeuvre.

The image was taken at 23:44:12 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2, when the spacecraft was about 2418 km from Mercury. Closest approach of about 199 km took place shortly before, at 23:34 UTC. In this view, north is towards the lower right.

(6) MEMORY LANE

  • 1959 – Sixty-two years this evening on CBS, the Twilight Zone as created, largely written by and presented by Rod Serling, premiered on CBS with the “Where is Everybody?” episode. An earlier pilot was developed but it ended up airing on a different show, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and was later adapted as a radio play. Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote ninety two of the show’s one hundred fifty-six episodes. The series would run four seasons in total. It would win the Hugo at Pittcon and then again the next year at Seacon for Best Dramatic Presentation repeating that for a third year straight at Chicon III. It didn’t do that for a fourth year running at DisCon I as no Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo was awarded. 

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone. —?Rod Serling

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 2, 1909 Alex Raymond. Cartoonist who was best remembered for creating the Flash Gordon strip for King Features Syndicate in 1934.  He actually started for them by illustrating Secret Agent X-9 scripted by Dashiell Hammett. George Lucas has often cited Raymond as a strong influence on the look and feel of Star Wars. (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 2, 1911 Jack Finney. Author of many novels but only a limited number of them genre, to wit The Body SnatchersTime and Again and From Time to Time. He would publish About Time, a short story collection which has the time stories, “The Third Level” and “I Love Galesburg in the Springtime”. The film version of The Body Snatchers was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon ‘79. He has a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 2, 1944 Vernor Vinge, 77. Winner of five Hugo Awards, though what I consider his best series, the Realtime/Bobble series, was not one of them. I’m also very fond of his short fiction, much of which is collected in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, though the last eighteen years worth of his work remain uncollected as far as I can tell. 
  • Born October 2, 1948 Avery Brooks, 73. Obviously he’s got his Birthday write-up for being Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine, but I’m going to note his superb work also as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk which are aren’t even tangentially genre adjacent. He retired from acting after DS9 but is an active tenured theater professor at Rutgers. 
  • Born October 2, 1950 Ian McNeice, 71. Prime Minister Churchill / Emperor Winston Churchill on Doctor Who in “The Beast Below”, “Victory of the Daleks”,  “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Wedding of River Song”, all Eleventh Doctor stories. He was an absolutely perfect Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune series which is far better than the original Dune film ever was. And he voiced Kwaltz in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 
  • Born October 2, 1953 Walter Jon Williams, 68. The last thing I read by him was his most excellent Dagmar Shaw series which I highly recommend. I also like his Metropolitan novels, be that SF or fantasy, as well as his Hardwired series. I’m surprised how few Awards that he’s won, just three with two Nebulas, both for shorter works, “Daddy’s World” and “The Green Leopard Plaque”, plus a Sidewise Award for “Foreign Devils”.  
  • Born October 2, 1972 Graham Sleight, 49. He’s The Managing Editor of the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which won the Hugo for Best Related Work at Chicon 7. He’s also a critic whose work can be found in LocusStrange HorizonsThe New York Review Of Science Fiction, and Vector. And he’s a Whovian who edited The Unsilent Library, a book of writings about the Russell Davies era of the show, and The Doctor’s Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows why slow downloads are a crime.

(9) HARI HARI SELDON SELDON. Camestros Felapton has a good discussion of the third episode of Foundation, but no excerpt here because I don’t want to spoil his spoilers. “Review: Foundation Episode 3”. But did I make that clear enough? Spoiler Warning.

(10) SMOOTH SEGUE. Paul Weimer finds a lot to like about this sequel: “Microreview [book]: In the Deep by Kelly Jennings” at Nerds of a Feather.

… One thing I did appreciate right from the get go is the synopsis of the previous book, Fault Lines. While I personally had read the book not long before picking up this second volume, it was good to have this here for those readers who want to start with this novel to start here. For readers who have read Fault lines, the key takeaway is that this tells the reader right off that this new novel is set three years later. The glossary at the beginning of the book also helps the reader get grounded in what is definitely a complex and complicated space opera universe.

That complex and complicated space opera universe seen here, with the aid of the Glossary, does not prevent new readers to Jennings’ verse from picking it up, because we are in a new and different area than the previous novel. The ground rules are different, both the planet Durbin as well as the Pirian ship Sungai…. 

(11) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. WIRED is concerned that “As SpaceX’s Starlink Ramps Up, So Could Light Pollution”. It’s a specific problem for astronomers.

WITH SOME 1,800 satellites already orbiting Earth, providing internet access to about 100,000 households, SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service is poised to emerge from the beta testing phase this month, according to a recent tweet from Elon Musk, the company’s founder and CEO.

Just a decade ago, there were only a few thousand spacecraft orbiting Earth. Now Starlink engineers aim to build up to 12,000 satellites, and SpaceX launches scores more on its Falcon 9 rockets almost every month. (A recent FCC report states that the company applied for authorization for 30,000 more.) The massive network of satellites, known as a “mega-constellation,” currently dominates the satellite internet industry, but other players, like Amazon and OneWeb, have plans to launch thousands of satellites of their own.

As the Starlink fleet grows, SpaceX and its competitors will have to address some potential problems. One is that more orbiting bodies means that, eventually, there will be more space junk, creating more chances for collisions. And astronomers, environmentalists, and indigenous groups, among others, express concern that Starlink will irrevocably light up the night sky, thanks to the sunlight reflected off its satellites….

(12) KEEP THEM DOGGIES ROLLING. “It’s man’s best friend’s worst enemy.” From The Late Show With Stephen Colbert: “Amazon Astro Wants To Haunt Your Dog’s Dreams”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/5/21 If You Pixel Something Hard Enough, It Will Scroll Over

(1) THAT NEVER HAPPENS. James Davis Nicoll introduces the Young People Read Old SFF panelists to “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison. “A surprising YP: they liked this one,” said James.

…“Ticktockman” represents a sea-change in the nature of works deemed worthy of Hugo Awards. Whereas previous entries were, for all their virtues, what one might call meat and potatoes SF, Ticktockman is a non-linear example of what was called the New Wave…. 

(2) BEST RELATED. Nicholas Whyte analyzes the category’s history in “The Hugo for Best Related Work, including my own votes for this year” – and partially pulls back the curtain on decisions administrators made while he was still the Division Head overseeing this year’s Hugo Awards.

…Now we have reached 2021. I relinquished my WSFS duties this year a bit earlier than planned, and so am in a position to give some commentary on eligibility decisions regarding works that ended up on the 2021 ballot. (Commentary on disqualifications will have to wait until the final results are announced; at this stage I will not even confirm or deny if there were any this year, let alone which categories might have been affected.)…

(3) HIS CHIEF COMPLAINT. Camestros Felapton’s Debarkle reaches Chapter 47: “August Part 1” and the antics of Lou Antonelli.

…Among the retrospectives was a podcast/live-stream by the Superversive SF blog on August 1. …Later, the discussion turned toward Worldcon guest of Honour novelist and screenwriter David Gerrold who had been consistently critical of the Puppy campaigns. It was at this point that events took another twist. Hugo finalist Lou Antonelli had this to say:

… I personally wrote a letter addressed to the police chief in Spokane and said I thought the man was insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention’s going on, and I mean it. I attached my business card. I said this guy’s inciting to violence….

The other guest did not react strongly to Antonelli’s comment and he didn’t elaborate on why he felt the need to contact the police department of Spokane (where Worldcon was being held). However, in a post on his own blog the following day elaborated on what he saw as a commercial threat from the critics of the Puppy campaigns…

(4) AUTHOR REDDING. Catherynne M. Valente will discuss her new book The Past is Red in a Zoom webinar on July 20 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

Catherynne M. Valente, the bestselling and award-winning creator of Space Opera and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland returns with The Past is Red, the enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world. The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time. But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.

(5) IT’S A MYSTERY. Hannah Marder says there are “32 Questions I Still Have About Harry Potter”. She shares them with Buzzfeed readers.

4. What would’ve happened if someone just, like, shot Voldemort?

Or the Death Eaters?? I feel like they should’ve at least tried it. Like, remember that Buffy episode where some mythical monster dude is like “no weapon forged can kill me” and Buffy literally just blows him up with a bazooka? We needed that energy.

(6) SERVING TEA ON THE TOPLESS TOWERS OF ILIUM. Spoon & Tamago celebrates that “Terunobu Fujimori’s latest tea house is a Trojan pig” – although my first thought was – if Henry V had Imperial Walkers, they’d have looked just like this.

Architect-extraordinaire Terunobu Fujimori currently has a retrospective at the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich. There, amongst a comprehensive documentation of the architect’s work since 1986, rests the mobile tea house “Walking Café.” Fujimori’s latest structure remains strongly affixed to his fascination with the tea house, but with a European twist, hence the name.

… Fujimori’s tea house is somewhat of a dichotomy – a structure meant to encourage moderation and, in some cases, even asceticism, being constructed in the symbol of gluttony and sloth. However, it’s important to remember that in the case of the Trojan horse, it’s not what was on the outside but what was on the inside that mattered most.

(7) RICHARD DONNER (1930-2021). Director Richard Donner died July 5 at the age of 91. His genre movies included The Omen (1976), Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Ladyhawke (1985) and The Goonies (1985). For TV he directed six episodes of The Twilight Zone, four episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and an episode of The Wild Wild West.

[He directed]  in the same year (1985) the medieval period adventure Ladyhawke and the seminal kids adventure pic The Goonies, the pic with a script penned by Chris Columbus based on a story by Steven Spielberg.

“Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres,” Spielberg said in a statement today on Donner’s death. “Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all.  He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty, laugh will stay with me always.”

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 —  Fifteen years ago, Charles Stross wins the Sidewise Award in Best Long Form Alternate History for his Merchant Princes series. Other nominated works were Robert Conroy‘s 1862, Jo Walton’s Farthing, Harry Turtledove‘s The Disunited States of America and Paul Park’s The Tourmaline. There are eight novels out in the series with a ninth, Invisible Sun, due out in the fall. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 5, 1904 — Milburn Stone. Though you no doubt best remember him as Doc on Gunsmoke, he did have several genre roles including as a German Sargent in The Invisible Agent, Captain Vickery in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, Mr. Moore in The Spider Woman Strikes Back and Capt. Roth in Invaders from Mars. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 5, 1929 — Katherine Helmond. Among her roles was Mrs Ogre in Time Bandits and Mrs. Ida Lowry in Brazil. Now I’ll bet you can recall her scene in the latter…  She also have a voice role in the Cars franchise, and one-offs in True BloodThe Six Million Man and Faerie Tale Theater, and yes it’s not really genre, appeared in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 5, 1930 — John Wood. His first genre role was in Slaughterhouse-Five as an unnamed English Officer, his next in Ladyhawke as the Bishop of Aquila and then in the awful Avengers film as Trubshaw. He’d actually been on the earlier Avengers series as Edgar Twitter in “The Bird Who Knew Too Much” episode. He’s had one-offs in DoomwatchYoung Indiana Jones Chronicles and Out of the Unknown. (Died 2011.)
  • Born July 5, 1950 — Huey Lewis, 71. He’s here because he has a brief role in Back to the Future as the band audition judge in that scene. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Huey Lewis reprised that role in a segment where the two actors as their characters arrive in the time machine and talk to the host.
  • Born July 5, 1957 — Jody Lynn Nye, 64. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent  MythAdventures series.  Since his death,  she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. Her latest two novels are both written with with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
  • Born July 5, 1958 — Nancy Springer, 63 . May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel, and her latest, The Oddling Prince, came out several years ago on Tachyon. 
  • Born July 5, 1962 — Marc Gascoigne, 59. Winner of the World Fantasy Special Award—Professional for his Angry Robot press, and later he won the British Fantasy Award in the category Best Independent Press, again for Angry Robot. If you’re a gamer, you’ll be impressed by knowing that he co-wrote Games Workshop’s original Judge Dredd RPG, and wrote the original Shadowrun source book.
  • Born July 5, 1964 — Ronald D. Moore, 57. Screenwriter and producer who’s best remembered  for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. He was one of the folks who won a Hugo at Intersection for the Next Generation’s “All Good Things…” and among the group nominated for one at LoneStarCon 2 for First Contact. His latest Hugo was won at Interaction for Battlestar Galactica’s “33”.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a Game of Thrones-style twist on a famous nursery rhyme.
  • The Duplex finds beer blurs the boundaries of science.

(11) TEXT-FILLED BUBBLES. In the Washington Post, Theresa Vargas discusses Jupiter Invincible, a comic written by Pulitzer-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa about an immortal who experiences the horrors of slavery. “Jupiter Invincible: Newest comic superhero is an enslaved man”.

…Komunyakaa’s name usually appears alongside a long list of accolades and accomplishments. Winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his poetry is just one of them. So he understands why people might be surprised to see his name at the bottom of a comic book. His own daughter was.

Komunyakaa admits to hesitating before agreeing to work on the project, which was dreamed up by filmmaker and publisher Ram Devineni during a stay in Maryland. But then, Komunyakaa says, he thought about how he read comic books as a child and about his own upbringing in Louisiana. His family didn’t talk about slavery, but he found ways to learn about it through books and eventually taught African American history. A common theme in his poems is Black resilience….

(12) HIATUS. Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell tells why he is putting his strip on hiatus in “A Special Announcement From Patrick”.

I have a special announcement to share with all of you: I’m working on a literary graphic novel with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The tentative title is Heart to Heart and it will be published by HarperOne in the fall of 2022. The book is about the environment, animals, and (mostly) compassion. It has a strong, timely message and I’m honored and enthused to be part of this important project. As the book reveals itself, you will be the first to see its progress.

MUTTS has been my primary focus for over 26 years now and I have loved every minute — even the crazy pressure of the daily deadline. Like my hero Charles Schulz, I thought I’d never take a break from drawing my strip.

However, because of the time needed to focus on this book project, I’ll be taking my first sabbatical — starting July 5. Some of my favorite (handpicked) strips will run during this six-month period. On January 1, 2022, I’ll be back and excited to share new adventures with Earl, Mooch, and the gang. My short leave will be over before we know it.

(13) WE ATTRACT. “Why does Mercury have such a big iron core? Magnetism!” says Phys.org News.

…William McDonough, a professor of geology at the University of Maryland, and Takashi Yoshizaki from Tohoku University developed a model showing that the density, mass and iron content of a rocky planet’s core are influenced by its distance from the sun’s magnetic field. The paper describing the model was published on July 2, 2021, in the journal Progress in Earth and Planetary Science.

“The four inner planets of our solar system—Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars—are made up of different proportions of metal and rock,” McDonough said. “There is a gradient in which the metal content in the core drops off as the planets get farther from the sun. Our paper explains how this happened by showing that the distribution of raw materials in the early forming solar system was controlled by the sun’s magnetic field.”

McDonough previously developed a model for Earth’s composition that is commonly used by planetary scientists to determine the composition of exoplanets. (His seminal paper on this work has been cited more than 8,000 times.)

McDonough’s new model shows that during the early formation of our solar system, when the young sun was surrounded by a swirling cloud of dust and gas, grains of iron were drawn toward the center by the sun’s magnetic field. When the planets began to form from clumps of that dust and gas, planets closer to the sun incorporated more iron into their cores than those farther away….

(14) IT FOLLOWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Heineken has introduced a beer robot for people who think carrying a six-pack is too much work.

Put the can back into summer with a cooler that carries itself. The Heineken B.O.T. (Beer Outdoor Transporter) is a limited-edition autonomous robot cooler that dutifully follows its owner wherever they go with ice-cold cans of Heineken.

(15) REVENGE IS A DRINK BEST SERVED COLD. In another beer-tech breakthrough, Michael Reeves hacks Boston Dynamics’s Spot so that it can pee beer in a cup. Because: revenge!

…I emailed them. I even tweeted at them. I would do anything for a Boston Dynamics robot dog to just be here. And what did they say? “We’re only giving it out to construction companies.” And of course I was bummed about that. What am I gonna do? So I just accepted it, moved on. And then two weeks later what do I see but Adam Savage gallivanting around with the robot dog. Does he look like a construction company? No. Those bastards lied to me. And so I waited and I waited and I waited until Spot became publicly available and then with the help of offline tv and the sponsor I lied to about where their entire budget was going, there’s a Boston Dynamics robot dog right here and it’s the coolest [ __ ] I’ve ever seen in my entire life… Still, you lied to me Boston Dynamics and so you’re going to have to watch as I turn your state-of-the-art robot dog into a machine that pisses beer into a cup for me to drink….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Tomorrow War Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled summary, has the writer tell the producer that the aliens in this film are NOT bottles of hard seltzer because the hard seltzer is White Claw, and the villains in this movie are “white spikes.” This dropped yesterday.  And I decided if Ryan George or the Screen Junkies say their videos have spoilers I will listen to them.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Moshe Feder, N., Nicholas Whyte, James Davis Nicoll, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/3/20 The Hunting Of The Baby Snark

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present James Patrick Kelly and P. Djéli Clark on Wednesday, February 19, 2020, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.

James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly has won the Nebula, Hugo and Locus Awards; his fiction has been translated into eighteen languages. His most recent books are King Of The DogsQueen Of The Cats, a novella from Subterranean Press, and a collection, The Promise of Space from Prime Books.

Phenderson Djéli Clark

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the author of the fantasy novellas The Black God’s Drums and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His writing has appeared in numerous Best of the Year anthologies and his short story “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Negro Teeth of Washington” earned him both a Nebula and Locus award.

(2) SPEAKING OF DOGS AND CATS. James Patrick Kelly has made available as a free download the audiobook version of King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats:  

I don’t know about you but I’ve been waiting for a long time for this day.  King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats is now available in print and as an ebook from Subterranean Press and I certainly hope you’ll consider buying a copy there. But I’m trying an experiment with the audiobook version. If you’ve followed my career at all, you know that I might have recorded this myself, as I have for many of my other stories. But I’m particularly proud of this work and thought it deserved a truly outstanding performance. Which is why I turned to Stefan Rudnicki of Skyboat Media to record this short novel. Stefan has narrated more than three hundred audiobooks and has participated in over a thousand as a writer, producer, or director. For these efforts he has won a Grammy as well as many Earphone and Audie awards. In short, he’s one of the best. 

I took the unusual step of paying to have my audiobook recorded by Stefan because this gives me the right to make it available to you for free.  I mean, you could buy it on Audible for twelve bucks and change, but why would you?  This is my gift to my readers.  But I do have a favor to ask.  If you like what you hear, please make copies. Share them with your friends and families.  This publishing experiment will only succeed if my book reaches as many listeners as possible. So click on my circus announcement for your download.

(3) PREVIEW EUROCON SITE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a short video from the German language cultural TV program “kulturzeit” about the Croatian city of Rijeka, which is the 2020 European Capital of Culture (along with Galway in Ireland) and also the site of the 2020 EuroCon. So if some Filers are considering attending EuroCon, here is a look at what they could see in Rijeka: “Kulturhauptstadt Rijeka”.

The video is in German (and Croatian), but you don’t really need the text anyway.

(4) DATA POINTS. Gizmodo’s James Whitbrook unfolds “A History of Star Trek’s Uneasy Relationship With Androids”.

…Separately, early Trek also featured androids that, while synthetic, were replicas of organic beings instead of their own selves. “I, Mudd” featured a few, notably Mudd’s recreation of his “beloved” wife Stella—but we also had the Exo III androids of “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” Even more advanced than the Mudd Androids or Rayna, they couldn’t just deal with emotions but developed their own android duplicator that could create a synthetic copy of an organic being, complete with their memories and personality.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture also gave us a grim form of android in V’Ger’s creation of the Illia Probe, a hybridization of one of its sensor probes with the unfortunate body of the Enterprise’s Lieutenant Illia, using her corpse essentially as a puppet. We also got the inverse of that idea in the Sargon-types of “Return to Tomorrow”—android “shells” designed by the disembodied being Sargon, intended to store the disassociated minds of the last survivors of his race.

(5) LET THE WOOKIE WIN. “All Nerddoms Welcome: The Intergalactic Krewe Of Chewbacchus Parades In New Orleans” — lots of pictures.

In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras on Feb. 25, the streets of New Orleans are filled with a series of extravagant parades organized by local krewes.

Saturday night’s parade was a glittering, glowing procession of Wookiees, Trekkies, and other self-proclaimed sci-fi geeks and super-nerds: the tenth annual parade of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus.

The krewe’s name is, as you might guess, an irreverent mashup of Chewbacca, the shaggy 8-foot Wookiee from Star Wars, and Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.

“That is a huge part of the krewe: mashups, puns and stacking together things that you love,” said one of the krewe’s captains, Brooke Ethridge, better known as Overlord Padme Almandine.

Richard Riggs, aka Overlord Strangelover, added: “The mission of the krewe is ‘Saving the galaxy one drunken nerd at a time.'”

…When the krewe was formed 10 years ago, it focused on classic sci-fi – Star Trek and Star Wars. But over the years, the boundaries loosened, in a big way.

“We say now, all nerddoms,” Ethridge explained. “So anything that you want to nerd about is welcome in the Chewbacchus parade.”

NPR also devoted a segment to the krewe – the transcript is here: “Nerd Out With Mardi Gras’ Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus”.

BLOCK: This parade marches with wildly elaborate, handmade contraptions propelled by bikes or shopping carts or whatever roles – no combustion engines, though, no people riding on top of floats. They’ve constructed an alien in a gigantic spaceship hovering over a scale model of New Orleans, an old favorite Bar 2-D-2 – there’s a keg inside – and the krewe’s idol, Chewbacchus, a six-armed Wookiee made of Styrofoam. As Overlord Strangelover shows me, Chewie is in full roar riding on top of the starship Millennium Falcon.

RIGGS: Chewbacchus is the sacred drunken Wookiee who we worship. Yes. He is our godhead.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 3, 1961 Twilight Zone‘s “A Penny For Your Thoughts” it was written by George Clayton Johnson who scripted the first broadcast episode of Star Trek called “The Man Trap”. He would script these additional Twilight Zone episodes: “Nothing in the Dark”, “Kick the Can” and “A Game of Pool”. It was directed by James Sheldon, with a rather large cast of Dick York, June Dayton, Dan Tobin, Hayden Rorke, Cyril Delevanti and James Nolan. The opening narration was “Mr. Hector B. Poole, resident of the Twilight Zone. Flip a coin and keep flipping it. What are the odds? Half the time it will come up heads, half the time tails. But in one freakish chance in a million, it’ll land on its edge. Mr. Hector B. Poole, a bright human coin – on his way to the bank.” 
  • February 3, 1977 Fantastic Journey premiered on NBC. Intended to run thirteen episodes, it was canceled after nine and a tenth was later shown. It was written by D. C. Fontana et al. while it was directed by Barry Crane and a lot of other folk as well.  Its cast was Jared Martin, Ike Eisenmann, Carl Franklin. Katie Saylor and Roddy McDowall.  Much of the canceled production team would end up working on the Logan’s Run series. You can see the “Vortex” episode here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 3, 1925 John Fiedler. He’s solely here as he played the ever so bland bureaucrat who gets possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper on the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. I’m less interested in him than who wrote that screenplay. It was written by Robert Bloch, a master of horror who would write two other Trek episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 3, 1933 George Gipe. Screenwriter, The Man with Two Brains. He also wrote Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid but it’d be a stretch to consider that even genre adjacent. He wrote novelizations of Back to the Future, Explorers and Gremlins. And his Nearer to the Dust: Copyright and the Machine is interesting early (mid Sixties) look at the potential effects of computers on copyrights. (Died 1986.)
  • Born February 3, 1938 Victor Buono. I remember him best in his recurring role of Count Manzeppi in The Wild Wild West. In his very short life, he showed up in a number of other genre roles as well including as a scientist bent on world domination in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in an episode titled “The Cyborg”, as Adiposo / Fat man in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Colonel Hubris in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Professor William McElroy / King Tut in Batman, Sir Cecil Seabrook in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Mr. Schubert on Man from Atlantis. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 3, 1954 Shawna McCarthy, 66. Editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction from 1983 to 1985, and Realms of Fantasy from 1994 to 2011. Sheila Williams in her history of the former said “While remaining a welcoming home for new writers, Shawna’s Asimov’s acquired an edgier and more literary and experimental tone.” 
  • Born February 3, 1963 Alex Bledsoe, 57. I highly recommend his Tales of The Tufa which can sort of be described as Appalachian Fae though that’s stretching it. His Eddie LaCrosse novels remind of Cook’s Garrett PI series and that’s a high compliment as that’s one of my favorite fantasy PI series. Anyone read his Firefly Witch series?
  • Born February 3, 1970 Warwick Davis, 50. Nearly fifty live and voice appearances since first appearing in the Return of the Jedi in in place of Kenny Baker who was going to be an Ewok before he fell ill. Did you know he’s in Labyrinth as a member of the Goblin Corps? I certainly didn’t. Or that he did a series of humorous horror films centered around him as a Leprechaun? They did well enough that there was six of them. Hell, he even shows up in Doctor Who during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. 
  • Born February 3, 1979 Ransom Riggs, 41. He’s best known for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I’ll confess I know absolutely nothing about, so educate me. I know it was turned into a film by Tim Burton which could a Very Good Thing. His first book btw was The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: The Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective.
  • Born February 3, 1980 Ben Turner, 40. Louis XV In the Tenth Doctor story, “The Girl in the Fireplace”. He’s also General Artaphernes in 300: The Rise of An Empire which is very loosely based on historical fact, and Achilles in The Iliad at Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. 

(8) FLAME ON. At SYFY Wire “Locke & Key’s Joe Hill shares the ‘smoking rejection’ he got after pitching Doctor Who”.

Hill’s been making the rounds lately to promote the new Locke & Key Netflix series and his Hill House line of horror comics for DC — check out SYFY WIRE’s interview with Hill about his new comic Plunge right here — and that included a recent stop at Brian Keene’s The Horror Show podcast. Near the end of the show, while talking about projects that might have been, Hill mentioned his deep love of Doctor Who and his fond memories of watching the David Tennant era of the legendary BBC series with his children. Then he revealed that he actually tried to pitch several story ideas to the show at one point, with a little help from one of Doctor Who‘s most famous contributors…. 

(9) WISHES. Frank Olynyk spotted this little note on a bottle of Acai water and, realizing it is probably of genre interest, sent photos. The complete label is shown in the second image.

(10) LOCAL HERO. “Google Doodle celebrates Scots scientist Mary Somerville”.

Scots scientist Mary Somerville is being celebrated with a Google Doodle on its UK homepage.

The firm said it wanted to honour “one of the greatest intellectual writers of the 19th Century”.

The illustration of the Jedburgh-born mathematician and astronomer will appear on the page for 24 hours.

Google said her books were some of the most popular scientific publications of her time “opening the door for generations of female scientists”.

Somerville enjoyed similar recognition a few years ago when it was announced she would appear on the new Royal Bank of Scotland £10 note.

The company said it wanted to recognise her “immense contribution to science and her determination to succeed against all the odds”.

Who was Mary Somerville?

Mary Fairfax Somerville was a mathematician, geographer and astronomer, who was born in 1780 in Jedburgh but her childhood home was at Burntisland in Fife.

Her parents tried to stop her studying because they thought it would kill her. Her sister had died and they thought studying was to blame.

But Mary ploughed on and carried out detailed and highly-accurate studies of the solar system.

(11) ISLE BE SEEING YOU. “The divers rescuing a drowning island” – BBC has the story.

Vaan Island in India’s Gulf of Mannar has been rapidly disappearing into the Laccadive Sea. But a team of marine biologists is working to save it.

Hundreds of fishing boats bob on the bright blue waters surrounding Vaan Island, a tiny strip of land between India and Sri Lanka. The island marks the beginning of a fiercely protected fragile zone, the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve. These waters are home to India’s most varied and biodiverse coastlines. Teeming with marine life, it is home to 23% of India’s 2,200 fin fish species, 106 species of crab and more than 400 species of molluscs, as well as the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, the finless porpoise and the humpback whale.

…The reason that small, ecologically rich islands like Vaan are vanishing is a combination of unsustainable fishing practices, rising sea levels due to climate change and historic coral mining, which has now been banned in the area. Artificial reefs were deployed to help buffer waves reaching the islands, and they were effective. But to give Vaan and its neighbours a longer-term future, the ecosystem as a whole needed replenishing.

Gilbert Mathews, a marine biologist at the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) in the nearby coastal town of Thuthukudi in southern India, turned to seagrass, a plain and innocuous-looking type of marine plant, as a way to save the island ecosystem. Often mistaken for seaweed, seagrasses are plants that grow underwater and have well-defined roots, stems and leaves. They produce flowers, fruits and seeds, and play a vital role in maintaining a marine ecosystem.

“Like corals, these tufts of grass provide a habitat to many splendorous sea-creatures, such as seahorses and lizard fish, which can be found in seagrass throughout the year,” says Mathews. Seagrass provides the right environment for young fish and invertebrates to conceal themselves, while absorbing dissolved carbon dioxide and creating an oxygen and nutrient-rich environment. With its ability to trap sediments, seagrass also acts as a natural filter, clearing the waters and slowing erosion.

Mathews first surveyed the seagrass around Vaan Island in 2008, diving into the shallow waters twice a month, for up to eight hours a day. With a sense of dismay, he saw many tufts of seagrass floating in the water around him. These islands were home to the most luxuriant seagrass meadows of the Indian sub-continent, but they were coming loose.

(12) WANDERING STARS. “Mercury: How to spot the planet in the night sky in February”

…Mercury will be visible in the evening, around 35 to 40 minutes after sunset.

You don’t need a telescope to spot it – you should be able to see it with your eyes.

Mercury will be visible very near to the horizon. To make sure you’re looking in the right direction, it’s recommended that you look for the planet Venus, shining very brightly nearby.

Once you’ve spotted that, look to the lower right and you’ll come to Mercury.

(13) BEFORE HE WAS JAWS. The actor, that is, not the collector — “Meet Ed Montalvo Extra: Autographed Kanamit Doll” – a video interview with the owner of a fabulous Twilight Zone collection.

Richard Kiel, the towering actor who played James Bond’s nemesis Jaws, signed this bobblehead based on his Twilight Zone character Kanamit, the alien in “To Serve Man.”

(14) MULAN. Walt Disney Studios dropped the final trailer for the live-action Mulan remake.

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.

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

Planet Stamps – And Pluto Too

Pluto Explored

The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Pluto—Explored! and Views of Our Planets Forever stamps took place on May 31 before a crowd of 500 at the World Stamp Show-NY 2016.

The Pluto—Explored! souvenir sheet contains two stamp designs, an artist’s rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft, and the spacecraft’s image of Pluto taken at its closest approach.

Honoring Pluto with its own stamp helps skate around sentimental attachments to the former ninth planet, now reclassified, which might have prevented some fans from enjoying the Views of Our Planets stamp set, with just eight planets…. *sniff*

Views of Our Planets

Frosty on Mercury

Your average science fiction reader probably includes Mercury, planet closest to the Sun, on the list of places where having “a snowman’s chance” is a bad thing. However, that depends where the snowman is standing. If it’s in a crater near Mercury’s north pole, he may be quite comfortable.

Two decades ago, Earth-based radar images of Mercury showed polar deposits that were predicted to consist of water ice. That was confirmed by NASA’s Mercury Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft through instrument measurements. Now MESSENGER also also provided optical images of the ice and other frozen volatile materials within the permanently shadowed craters around the planet’s north pole.

Nancy Chabot, the Instrument Scientist for MESSENGER’s Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) and a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory is on her way to unraveling the next mystery:

“One of the big questions we’ve been grappling with is ‘When did Mercury’s water ice deposits show up?’ Are they billions of years old, or were they emplaced only recently?” Chabot said. “Understanding the age of these deposits has implications for understanding the delivery of water to all the terrestrial planets, including Earth.”

Overall, the images indicate that Mercury’s polar deposits either were delivered to the planet recently or are regularly restored at the surface through an ongoing process.

[Thanks to James H. Burns for the link.]