Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #62

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office

By Chris M. Barkley:

Chris M. Barkley. Photo by Juli Marr

For many, many years, I have wanted to write a manual specifically to pass along my knowledge, feeling and opinions about working in and operating the Worldcon Press office.

For most people who attend any convention, they only see a fraction of what is going on behind the scenes, much like the tip of an iceberg. If those who complain about the things they see going wrong had any idea of the complex goings on that happens behind the scenes, it would certainly turn more than a few of their hairs white from shock.

And believe me, I’ve earned my share over the years but fortunately, I shave every other day so I’m not reminded of how I earned them.

From the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore (ConStellation) to Kansas City in 2016 (MidAmericon II), I worked in the Press/Media Relation offices for the World Science Fiction convention a total of nineteen times; fourteen as a staff member, five as the head of the office — three of those times I was asked on a last minute, emergency basis.

After MidAmericon II in 2016, I loudly announced (and not for the first time, mind you) that I was permanently retiring from the position.

I might as well have been shouting into the winds of Arrakis because I seriously considered taking the Press Office position this year at DisCon III at the request of a senior concom member.

After discussions with the members of my MidAmericon II (whom, I might add, was the BEST team of con-workers I had ever assembled), I quickly found that none of them could attend the convention during the alternate date in December.

I declined the offer and felt some considerable remorse, since it would leave the convention without anyone to handle media relations. Conversely, seeing that there was still an enormous amount of time until the start of the convention, I realized that this would be an excellent opportunity to impart and pass along a considerable amount of my knowledge and wisdom and still help the convention. (In addition, I also offered my services as a consultant to whomever took the Press Office position.)

So, for the past five months I have been hard at work, remembering, compiling, writing and editing a concise manual that could be utilized for practically any convention, regardless of the genre or fan base.

In doing so, I also chronicled several incidents, humorous anecdotes and near apocalyptic stories that happened along the way. I have NEVER shared many of these stories publicly before due to the privacy issues and the delicate nature of some of these encounters. But, I feel as though enough time has passed that discussing them now will not cause too much embarrassment or shock to anyone in particular. Even so, in some cases, I have omitted the names of the participants for the sake of privacy.

The entire Press Relations manual, sans some of these stories, will be made available by Our Gracious Host on a separate link at the end of the column, and at the conrunner.net website in the very near future.

1) The One Where I Nearly Caused An INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT With the Soviet Union (ConStellation,1983)

ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

My career in the Press Office began at the 1983 Worldcon in Baltimore, ConStellation. YES, the very last Worldcon to hold a full dinner banquet with the Hugo Awards Ceremony. Here’s the late Steve Stiles take on the dinner: Beautiful Steamers at Fanac.org.

And somewhere, I STILL have my crab mallet from that evening. But, I digress…

It was my fifth Worldcon and I was bored. Up until then, I had been content with going to panels, shopping in hucksters room, perusing the Art Show and partying with my friends. The only other time I had volunteered at a Worldcon was a brief stint working a shift for a friend at the IguanaCon II Art Show in 1978.

So, midway through the first day of the convention, I made my way to the ConStellation Gopher Hole, filled out the appropriate paperwork and presented it to a woman at the desk.

I was rather perplexed when she asked where I would like to be stationed because I hadn’t really given it any thought. Then, she wisely asked what sort of background I had. I replied that I had been an English major in college, a reporter and film reviewer for my college newspaper and, until recently, had been a sf radio talk show host at a public access station.

“Well,” she said, “I’m going to send you down to the Press Office. They could use some help there.”

So, I reported to the Press Office, which was nearby. I have no recollection of who was in charge. But I do remember that one of my first assignments as a staff member was to escort several reporters to a special reception taking place later that day.

The future Academy Award winning film (and future Hugo nominee as well) The Right Stuff was premiering later that year. Fan writer Evelyn C. Leeper’s convention report noted:

Chuck Yeager (who flew the X-1) and Gordon Cooper (one of the original Mercury astronauts) were there to help Warner Brothers promote the film The Right Stuff (about the early space program), and they were both very interesting. (By the way, I recommend the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.) There were also several other noted scientists and even a congressman to talk about the space program, etc.

I decided to hang out for a few minutes to watch the spectacle unfold before going back to the office. I was just about to leave when I noticed a tall, thin gentleman speaking with a distinctive accent I thought might have been Russian.

When I inquired who the man was, I was told by one of the hosts that he was one an envoy from the Russian Embassy who had driven up from D.C. to take in the convention for the day. He was standing about six feet away, laughing with another participant about something.

Laughing.

For a moment, my blood ran a little cold. Then I began to get angry.

Just two days before, Korean Air Lines Flight 007, a 747 aircraft headed to Seoul, South Korea with 246 passengers and a flight crew of 23, had been shot out of the sky by a Soviet interceptor. The crew committed a navigational error which resulted in the plane drifting too far off course to an area inside a restricted Soviet airspace, resulting in the destruction of the plane. There were no survivors. Among the dead was Lawrence P. McDonald, a conservative member of the US House of Representatives from Georgia.

At the time, very little information was available on exactly how and why this had happened. With the denials,suspicions, recriminations and military mobilizations occurring on an hourly basis between the Soviet and NATO forces, it was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War.

So, there I was, in the same room with a citizen of the Soviet Union.

Three feet away from me was a metal folding chair.

It would be a simple thing to grasp it in my hands, smoothly fold it together and smash it into the diplomat’s head.

So easy.

And if I did what I was thinking, I would probably have served a lengthy prison sentence and brought infamy and shame to my family, my newborn daughter, Laura, my friends and fandom.

So I turned my back to the Soviet diplomat and left the room.

In my heart of hearts, I hope someone expressed their displeasure with that fellow’s government and what happened just off the northern coast of Japan.

But that day, I knew it could not be me.

2) The One Where I Found Out Who Won The Hugo Awards For the First Time (LACon II,1984)

L.A.con II Hugo Award, (Photo from the Nippon 2007 Awards Design page)

I was VERY uneasy the very first time when I found out who was going to win the Hugo Awards in advance of the Ceremony. Usually, the Hugo Awards Ceremony Staff handles both the Hugo Awards results, nomination and voting statistics and the short press release that comes with them.

Needless to say, when I was working for the L.A.con II Press office in 1984, seeing the results of the Hugo Awards was not on my bingo card.

The convention was held at the incredibly impressive venue; the Anaheim Hilton and Convention Center, which were located right across street from Disneyland. My second tour of duty in the Press Office coincided with the largest attendance ever recorded at a Worldcon up until then, with almost 6400 members pre-registered in advance. With a strong marketing campaign by the convention committee, another 2000+ fans were walk ups.

Among the highlights (and by far biggest draw) was the first official showing of all three Star Wars films in an all-night marathon. (I was there and stayed awake through the middle of Empire Strikes Back and woke up in the middle of Return of the Jedi. I also remember staggering back to my hotel room as the sun peeked over the horizon to catch a few hours of sleep before I reported back at the Press Office.)

The biggest brouhaha I had to deal with came a few hours before; someone came in and said that a commercial LA radio station had announced that the Trilogy showing that evening was FREE to the public! I quickly got on the phone with the station and DEMANDED that whomever made that announcement should rescind immediately before the convention was overrun with people.

To this day I don’t know whether they did it or not. I do know that the showing was not mobbed, so there’s that.

Fast forward to the Hugo Awards Ceremony; that afternoon, manila envelopes the voting and nomination results were delivered to the Press Office. They were to be embargoed and kept in the office until after the Ceremony, when they would be distributed to the fannish and other news media outlets.

My boss, Fred Harris, looked in the envelope and noticed that the packet was missing a one-sheet press release with a summation of the winners. I remember that there were only three people on the team; Fred, myself and a woman I will call Linda for reasons of privacy (and I because I can’t remember her actual name).

Because Fred had to go to the auditorium and see to the seating of the press, Linda and I were charged with typing up a brief summation of the winners, xeroxing multiple copies and stuffing the envelopes.

Linda and I locked the door behind Fred and got to work. We looked, incredulously, at the winners in all of the categories and wrote up the summary in short order. Linda then went out, made the copies and returned to the office in short order.

When Linda and I finished, we sat down and just sat down and stared at each other. Beyond the Hugo Award administrators, we were the only people on the planet who knew who was going to win a Hugo that night. We were full of nervous energy and literally nowhere to go. Although Fred didn’t explicitly say so, we both felt as though we were going to be in the office until the end of the Ceremony.

After a while, I suggested we open the door for a little while so we wouldn’t feel so confined and Linda agreed.

The Press Office was located on one of the main hallways to the auditorium where the Hugo Ceremony. When I opened the door, there was a steady stream of people headed in that direction.

And then, something very improbable happened. As I was watching the crowd streaming by, I saw a very familiar face.

During the course of the convention, I made a lot of new friends, including one Glen David Brin, electrical engineer, astronomer and one of the emerging acclaimed authors of hard science fiction. His second novel in the Uplift series, Startide Rising, had already won the Nebula and Locus Awards for Best Novel and was heavily favored to win the Hugo as well.

Check that; it was GOING TO WIN THE HUGO AWARD that evening.

Once he saw Linda and I standing in the doorway, he made a beeline straight to us. Linda had never met him before and once he got close enough to read his con badge, her eyes got a bit wider and she looked as though she was going to go into shock.

“Hey Chris, good to see you! I’m on my way in right now. Are you guys coming too?”

I quickly explained that we had to watch the Press Office and that we might catch up with him later.

“That’s fantastic! Boy, I can’t tell you how excited I am about tonight. Wish me luck, huh?”

Both Linda and I sagely nodded and wished him well. With that, David Brin fairly bounded down the hall to his destiny.

When he was out of sight, both Linda and I looked at each other, went into the office and locked the door. We laughed hysterically for a minute just to throw off our nervousness. We stayed there until Fred came knocking on the door later.

So, your office may be asked to take custody of copies of the results before the Hugo Ceremony, to be embargoed and distributed to the press afterwards. Needless to say, it is vital that you, as the head of the Press Office, take full responsibility to keep the results safely under wraps.

They should be held strictly on a need-to-know basis: and you, personally, don’t need to know. As someone who has been privy to those results (on several RARE occasions) I cannot tell you how nerve-racking it is to walk around with that knowledge rattling around your noggin.

If you are offered the opportunity to know in advance, my advice to you is to try and avoid that situation or turn it down altogether.

DON’T DO IT! Enough Said…

3) The One Where I Took Over the Worldcon Press Office on Six Days Notice AND The Infamous Neil Gaiman and Rebecca Eckler Incidents (Torcon 3, 2003)

Another important thing to remember is that you cannot do this job alone. If you are lucky, as I have been over the many years, to have a number of trusted associates working closely with you at your convention, your chances of succeeding are quite good.

In 2003, the Toronto Worldcon (Torcon 3) faced a big crisis; it turned out that the person they had appointed to run their Press Relations office had done absolutely nothing regarding press contacts or registration in advance of the convention. Once I found out about the situation, I and my wife at the time, Naomi, volunteered to take over. I had headed up the Press Office previously at LoneStarCon II in 1997 on very short notice and I had a pretty good idea of how to set up an office in a hurry.

I immediately started calling and emailing all of the local media outlets to let them know that there would be a Press Office to help them with any of their inquiries. I also put a call out for volunteers on the Torcon 3 website and asked a few people in fandom I knew who could handle the job.

By the time we arrived in Toronto, I had done as much preparation as I could and hoped for the best.

One of the best examples of having the right person at exactly the right time came on the very first morning of the convention.

Anne Pinzow was a walk-on to the Press Office. She was (and still is, to the best of my knowledge) a writer and editor for a local New England newspaper and volunteered to help out at the convention as a change of pace. Needless to say, her skills and experience were put to the test almost immediately…

On the morning of the second day of Torcon III, our morning staff meeting was rocked by a headline in the Arts Section of the Toronto Star. Hugo Award Winning Fan Writer and Fan Editor Cheryl Morgan (who also served on the Press Room staff) chronicled what happened next and published her account in her fanzine, Emerald City (http://www.emcit.com/emcit097.shtml#Wheels):

The first major embarrassment that we suffered was on Thursday morning when an article appeared in The Star, a local newspaper, announcing that Neil Gaiman had won a Hugo for “Coraline”. This sounded terribly like a leak from the convention, but although we often give out the results under an embargo just before the ceremony, there was no way that the paper could have gotten word of the results that early. So we phoned them.

Here I must give credit to my colleague, Anne Pinzow, who handled the call, firstly for her patience in working through The Star’s automated call handling system, and secondly for the magnificent way in which she laid the law down. A Hugo, she explained, can make or break an author’s career. Winning it can be worth millions of dollars. And by suggesting that the results were known beforehand The Star was casting doubt on the validity and integrity of the voting process, and therefore on the awards themselves. It was a wonderful performance.

As it turned out, however, the editor in question was already duly contrite. Murray Whyte, the journalist who had interviewed Neil and written the piece in question had already phoned up and complained bitterly about his article being butchered. It turned out that what had happened was that an enthusiastic sub-editor had not understood the difference between being nominated and winning, and had “sexed-up” the article to make it sound better. There were red faces all round at The Star. They printed an apology on page 2 on Friday, and on Sunday they devoted half of page 2 to a report of the Hugos.

So, an utter disaster was averted, but just barely. And thankfully, Neil Gaiman, being a prince among writers, was a good sport about the imbroglio and did not hold up the scurrilous headline above his head as Harry Truman had infamously done back in 1948 (“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”) after winning the Hugo award for Coraline.

On the day of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies, I received a phone call from a reporter named Rebecca Eckler, a “lifestyle” writer from the National Post. She wanted a press pass plus one to attend the Hugo Awards. When I asked for the name of the other person she replied “Gollum” (which should have set off an alarm bell right then and there).

I told her that I would be in the press office with the badges and gave her instructions on how to find me. I had decided to skip going to the Hugo Awards and stay in the office to distribute the results of the Hugo Awards (with the stipulation that they were to be embargoed until the end of the ceremony) via individual email to newspapers and other media outlets. I released the staff to attend without any instructions other than seeing that any journalists were properly seated in a designated area.

In hindsight, those were not the best decisions. Here’s why:

Rebecca Eckler never showed up at the Press Office as she had promised. She and her companion turned up at the Hugo Awards pre-ceremony reception unannounced and were refused entry. Ms. Eckler, who was well along in her pregnancy at the time, decided to make a fuss at the entrance of reception, citing that she was a journalist and entitled to be admitted. None of my staff were there to ameliorate the situation or to alert me to Ms. Eckler’s presence.

When it came time for the nominees and their guests to be escorted into the hall at the beginning of the Hugo Ceremony, Ms. Eckler and her companion joined the line and were seated with the nominees! According to reports I heard afterwards (and her account that was eventually published in the National Post the next day), she eventually became bored and the two of them left before the end of the ceremonies.

The bottom line is that I, or someone on my staff, should have been present at the reception and at the Hugo Awards ceremony to mitigate what happened. While there was a high likelihood that a negative story about Torcon III could have been prevented, some prompt action could have stopped her disruptive behavior.

As a reminder of what happened, I kept Ms. Eckler’s press pass after all this time, pictured below:

Torcon 3 press badge. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

There are several things that you, as the head of the press relations for your convention, should remember:

  • You are responsible for what happens on your watch, whether it’s your fault or not.
  • Someone with authority must be present at ALL of the important public events and functions of the convention.

4) The One Where I Won a Kentucky Derby Bet, ROYALLY PISSED OFF J. K. Rowling, Her Publisher and Solicitors, But Lived To Tell About It. Barely. (Interaction, 2005)

J. K. Rowling. Photo by TheLeakyCauldron.org

When I was attending Noreascon IV in Boston, I was asked by Vincent Docherty, one of the organizers of Interaction (the 63rd Worldcon) whether I would be interested in helping run the Interaction Press Office. Vincent, and apparently others on the convention committee, were very impressed with how I handled the office at Torcon III.

(Also, although my memory may be a bit fuzzy on the details; back in 1995, I had heard secondhand that that year’s Scottish Worldcon, Intersection, had no Press Office. And foolishly (if it’s true), had not allowed any reporters to cover the convention at all. Naturally, at the time, I assumed that they did not want a repeat of that situation. I tried to find any mention of this online but I was unable to confirm whether this actually happened or not. In any event, I am quite sure that someone reading this will either acknowledge as a fact or take great pleasure in correcting me at length that this is some sort of fever dream fairy tale. And so it goes.)

In any event, I accepted the position of being a deputy to a very nice fellow named David Stewart. Little did he know what sort of trouble I was going to cause for him…

One of the first things I did after accepting was to send in my paperwork for my first passport ever, which was issued out of the State Department’s New Orleans processing facility. (It holds a special place in my heart because I received it before Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in late August of that year. It has since expired but I still carry it with me as an alternate photo ID.)

But here’s how the 2005 Kentucky Derby factored into what happened:

That spring, I started making plans in earnest to make the trip to Scotland, which would have been my very first trip outside of North America. I was working a steady job back then but I wasn’t able to save up enough for airfare and expenses. But as March melded into April, I was still far short of what I needed to go.

When the first of May rolled around, I had a crazy idea; I could get enough cash for the trip by achieving a big win at the Kentucky Derby. It was a family affair; my then wife, my daughter, Laura and I ambled over the Lebanon Raceway just east of where we were living to enjoy the day.

About a half an hour before the race, we started making our selections. Naomi and Laura made several relatively small bets on the three of the favorites, Alex Afleet, Wilko and Bellamy Road. I had allocated fifty dollars for myself and spread out most of it on other horses. When I was down to my last ten dollars, my gaze fell upon a 50-1 shot, a horse named Giacamo. (And, unbeknownst to me at the time, had finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in his previous start.) I sighed, went with my gut and placed the bet. 

You can imagine dead reader, my utter astonishment when Giacamo, in 18th place after three-quarters of a mile, made a jaw dropping move to make up ground while moving six wide around the backstretch turn. He then turned up the jets, closed on and muscled past the leaders and WON by half a length!

I was speechless! I now had at least enough for my airfare and all I had to worry about was saving up for food, transport and lodging. Things were finally looking up. What could possibly go wrong now?

Until, that is, things went terribly wrong.

About a week or so before the Derby, I was feeling a little perturbed towards J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was due to be published in July of that year. At that point in time, Ms. Rowling, who won a 2001 Hugo Award for Best Novel for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, had NEVER publicly acknowledged winning it. I couldn’t even find it even mentioned on any US copy of the paperback edition.

So, being the volatile, hotheaded type fan that I was back then, I was determined to do something about it.

Since this was before the advent of Twitter and Facebook, I wrote an actual, physical letter to Ms. Rowling, lamenting the fact that there was no mention of the Hugo Award on The Goblet of Fire. I also pointed out that the World Science Fiction Convention was being held in Glasgow, just a stone throw away (relatively speaking) from Edinburgh and it would be awfully nice if she were to send the convention some sort of greeting.

Somewhere, there is a copy of that letter sitting in the files of Scholastic Books.

And at Bloomsbury’s headquarters in the United Kingdom.

And her solicitors in London.

And her literary agent in London.

Because I wanted to be SURE that my letter would make it past her gatekeepers, mind you.

Well, kids, my message got through all right. And the gatekeepers were not pleased.

NOT.ONE. BIT.

So a week or so after my triumph at Lebanon Raceway, I received several anxious emails from David Stewart and members of the convention committee, demanding an explanation of my actions.

You see, dear reader, I sent those letters signed with my name along with my official designation as the Deputy Head of the Intersection Press Office, a HUGE faux pas that tied my perceived diatribe with the convention itself!

Needless to say the letter made everyone angry (especially the solicitors, I was told) that some cheeky Yank was telling them what they ought to do.

Once I gauged the gravity of what was going on, I felt I had no choice whatsoever but to offer my resignation from the Press Office. My would-be boss David had a different and slightly sardonic reaction. He still wanted me to work in the office. Because, as I remember him writing in an email, “You mean he doesn’t have to work but I still have to deal with this? That’s not very fair, is it?” (I am sorry to report that David Stewart and I never had a chance to meet in person; he died after a short illness in 2006. I definitely owed him a pint or two. Ad Astra, David…)

Alas, things also unraveled at home as well; I was laid off from my job, my wife moved out to go the graduate school at the University of Dayton and the five hundred dollars was quickly consumed by bills. So I had to stay home that summer, much to my chagrin.

During all of this turmoil, I never heard (either directly or indirectly) about any reaction from Ms. Rowling herself. And yes, In hindsight, I think everyone would have been better off if I had just signed my name but I doubt that it would have had the same impact if I had not.

Because two things happened in the wake of this international incident; in July, J.K. Rowling did issue a brief statement welcoming the World Science Fiction convention to Glasgow and the next year, the designation “Hugo Award Winning Novel” started appearing on the paperback edition of The Goblet of Fire.

So, for what it’s worth, I am quite satisfied with that…

5) The One With Michael Chabon (Denvention 3, 2008)

Michael Chabon, circa 2008. Photo via Getty Images for Esquire

In 2008, I was back in the Captain’s chair of the Press Office and I was hoping for a nice, quiet convention with very few annoyances or controversies.

And for a majority of the Denvention, my wish was granted.

On the day before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, I received a call from a producer from National Public Radio’s Weekend All Things Considered (whose name is lost to history). He wanted to know if I could arrange an interview with the winner of the Best Novel category with their then current host, Andrea Seabrook.

Checking the programming schedule, I told the producer that four of the five nominees for Best Novel, John Scalzi (The Last Colony), Ian MacDonald (Brasyl), Charles Stross (Halting State) and Robert J. Sawyer (Rollback) were there. The ONLY author who was absent was Michael Chabon, whose World War II alternate history epic, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, was a heavy favorite to win. (Historical note: by the time of Denvention 3, it had already won the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the Sidewise Award and the California Book Award Gold Medal AND had been shortlisted for the Edgar (from the Mystery Writers of America) and the British Science Fiction Association award. 

I told the producer that I would contact all of the nominees, including Michael Chabon, and have them contact NPR directly after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

Consulting the sprocket program, I spent some time out of the office Friday afternoon tracking down Scalzi, Sawyer and MacDonald and they all readily agreed to be on the air if (or when) they won.

Charlie Stross was the only one I couldn’t find that day. I looked up any contact information I could scrounge up on Chabon’s whereabouts online but I came up empty. I left several messages with HarperCollins in New York and sent an email to his agent and hoped someone would get the message by the next day.

I was feeling quite chuffed that NPR, a network that I had been an ardent fanboy of since 1973 was taking some serious interest in the Worldcon. I told any friend or acquaintance who wandered by the office that I was setting up this fabulous interview with NPR that day.

That evening, I was at a bid party, minding my own business and enjoying myself when a very good friend (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become very obvious) came in, spotted me, grabbed me by the arm and literally dragged me into a nearby vacant bathroom and closed and locked the door.

When I asked them what that was all about, they explained in a very excited tone that they had heard about the impending NPR interview and wanted to help. And before I could ask what sort of help, they blurted out that Michael Chabon was going to win Best Novel!

Now at that point in time I was a little crestfallen because I fervently try NOT to know who will win any of the Hugo Awards in advance but it seems as though every time I have tried to evade knowing, I’m cursed to find out. (I am truly grateful that they didn’t spill the beans about the rest of the rest of the categories, though.)

I thanked my “confidential source” and we returned to the party before anyone ( I had hoped) noticed that the two of us were conferring in a locked bathroom. 

So now, even though I knew who was going to win Best Novel, I still had to contact Charlie Stross and Michael Chabon, just in case any of the nominees caught up with each other and compared notes at some later date.

I finally caught up with Mr. Stross Saturday morning and imparted NPR’s request, feeling very badly about playing my part in this elaborate charade. That afternoon I finally heard back from Michael Chabon’s publicist, who informed me that he and his family were vacationing in Maine that weekend. I gave him the NPR producer’s contact information and told him to expect an announcement on who won later that evening.

After the ceremony, I sent the publicist an email with an official list of the Hugo Award results and hoped for the best.

I needn’t have worried so much. And the Sunday Weekend Edition featured the following interview with Michael Chabon: “Science Fiction Writing’s ‘Pulitzers’ Handed Out”

Here is the most pertinent slice of this interview:

SEABROOK: Can I ask you, what do you think of other work that’s going on in science fiction right now? Do you read science fiction?

Mr. CHABON: Yes I do. I still read science fiction, and I see all kinds of diversity. I think – I find a very intense ongoing kind of intellectual and aesthetic debate in the world of science fiction. The people who are reading it and the people who are writing it seem to me to be engaged in an ongoing conversation about the fiction that they love on a level that I think is enviable, that would be a credit to the world of mainstream fiction.

6) The One About George R.R. Martin (Chicon 7, 2012)

George R.R. Martin circa 2012, Photo by Nick Briggs/HBO

Chicon 7 was decidedly challenging for Juli and I on many fronts. For one, the Press Office was nowhere near the Information Desk or Registration; it was located near one of the main auditorium stages and a cluster of meeting rooms being used for panels. I had requested a meeting room for office space but was really disappointed when I found out that the “office” was actually a coat check booth. Fortunately, there was a small furnished room adjacent to the booth that was more than adequate to serve as the main interview room.

My partner Juli and I arrived without anyone else set to staff the office so we were trusting that we were going to attract some good volunteers out of the Gopher Hole. We were rewarded twice over when local Chicago fans Belma Torres and Dan Berger reported for duty. They were fantastic in the office and handled themselves very well during the convention. (Belma eventually moved to Australia a few years ago and subsequently got married there, Dan, his wife Terry and his two sons Alec and Ryan remain good friends with us to this day.)

We made do with the coat room as a base of operations and the Information Desk sent us a steady stream of registered and walk up journalists to cover Chicon 7.

Our one big hiccup occurred on the first day when several people from Logistics came by with several hand carts and requested that we surrender all the furniture in our interview room so it could be used on stage for several bits that had been planned for Opening Ceremonies.

Since the stage was not very far away from the office, I readily agreed. But I made them swear on a stack of fanzines that they would return the large couch and the three easy chairs as soon as the event was over because we needed it for several big interviews, among them a sit down with George R.R. Martin that was scheduled for the next day.

As the day progressed and Opening Ceremonies started, I began to feel a little uneasy about the arrangement. At one point I strolled over to the hall where it was under way and saw people lounging and having a good time with the audience. That was the last time I would see our furniture for the next 20 hours.

Because two hours after the Opening Ceremonies, our furniture had not been returned to us. I sent Dan Berger out to the Logistics to find out what happened. He returned a short while later and reported that no one in Logistics had any idea of what he was talking about.

Livid, I went to Logistics and demanded, in an usually loud voice, that we REALLY needed to find our goddamn furniture, immediately! The poor woman manning the desk promised to look into it and I fumed all the way back to the Press Room.

By the end of the day, the furniture had not been returned.

When we opened the office the next morning, there was STILL no furniture.

That’s when I decided we were going full vigilante on this situation.

Leaving Dan in charge of the office, Juli, I and another volunteer went to Logistics, borrowed several handcarts and started canvassing the convention hall rooms and hallways to find our furniture. We didn’t have to search long.

After checking the hallways and the Exhibits display, Juli spotted our couch in the Fan Lounge. Very quickly afterwards, we found the other lounge chairs nearby. We quickly loaded everything up and trucked it all back to the Press Office, just an hour before the start of George R.R. Martin’s interview.

The moral of the story is quite clear; if you loan out ANYTHING at a Worldcon, get it in writing and keep close track of it until it’s returned.

By the way, the Press Office staff returned the hand carts promptly to Logistics, because that’s how we roll…

7) The One With The VERY SAD Puppy (Sasquan, 2015)

Brad Foster’s Sasquan logo.

Sasquan was a very strange, tense and ultimately uplifting affair from start to finish.

The original co-Chair of the convention, Bobbie DuFault, died suddenly on the morning of September 14, 2013. Sally Woehrle, the other co-chair, took over in her stead. In hindsight, it was a portent of the terrible events that followed in the wake of this terrible news…

An arch conservative author, Lou Antonelli, made a scurrilous and false police report to the Spokane Police Department, claiming that Author Guest of Honor and Hugo Award Ceremony co-host David Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.

On August 11th, 2015, the following message was posted on the Sasquan Facebook Page:

“The Executive Committee of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, would like to address the matter of actions taken by Mr. Lou Antonelli with regards to one of our Guests of Honor, Mr. David Gerrold. On August 1st, Mr. Antonelli participated in a podcast in which he stated that he had written a letter to the Spokane Police Department, in which he stated to them that Mr. Gerrold was “insane and a public danger and needs to be watched when the convention is going on”.

Normally, online communications between members is not something in Sasquan’s purview to referee.  However, Mr. Antonelli’s letter, which requested police action against Mr. Gerrold during the time of the convention, is within our purview. As such, we found that there was a strong possibility this act was a violation of our posted harassment policy[1], particularly if the letter had, in fact, been sent.’

Well, a long story shortened…

‘However, after the recommendation was made, Mr. Gerrold, as the aggrieved party, specifically requested that the Executive Committee set aside this recommendation on the grounds that Mr. Antonelli did apologize, is sending a retraction to the Spokane Police Department and because, as a Hugo Nominee, he deserves to attend the ceremony.

The Executive Committee has chosen to accept Mr. Gerrold’s request, and considers the matter closed as of this time. Ms. Bourget has spoken and corresponded with the Spokane Police Department, and they also consider the matter closed. We would like to thank Ms. Bourget for the calm professionalism she lent to the proceedings, and Mr. Antonelli and Mr. Gerrold for coming to a settlement that benefits not just them, but the Worldcon and its members.”

There were lots of right wing, racist and sexist authors who had themselves slated onto the nomination ballot and a majority of fans who regularly vote on and or attend the Worldcon were in no mood for such shenanigans. In response to the Puppies chicanery, an incredible number of people joined the convention; an astounding 5,748 fans bought Supporting memberships (ostensibly to outvote the Puppy coalition), bringing the total number to a whopping 10,350 total members.

But now, small, brief, editorial aside:

(RANT/ON)

Here’s the thing, as far as I’m concerned; the Sad/Angry/Rabid Puppy affair accomplished nothing for the usurpers who wanted to disrupt and/or destroy the Hugo Awards. Looking back over the past eight years it is quite evident that they utterly failed in style, substance and in an overall way, had very little significant societal impact. There has always been some generational tension between fans, editors, writers and artists in fandom. But in the days before social media, it played out more like a slow motion riot with the participants trading shots through frequently published fanzines or in person at conventions (with and without fisticuffs in some cases).

These reactionaries wanted to stop something that has always been inevitable in literature, change. When these elements of the so-called conservative end of sf fandom thought that their brand of warping spaceships, alien wars and far flung empires were being ignored by the Hugo Awards electorate, they decided to cheat by nominating slates with their own nominees. But by doing so, they just mobilized and galvanized what was already happening, that women, people of color, indigeonous peoples from all of the world and the LGBTAQ community and other marginalized folks were becoming the emerging voices of this generation. The Puppies were driven by the fear of being replaced or, even worse, erased from our collective history. Their fears were expressed in some very unflattering ways; racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia and a decided lack of empathy for people who pushed back against their narrative.

Those of us who were actively opposing them, were portrayed as being out of control radicals, unpatriotic, socialists and traitors. It became so turbulent that even the mere mention or promotion of a disenfranchised person was labeled as racist by them. And while they promoted themselves with a great amount of hubris as the tree and roots of modern sf fandom and literature, in fact they are just merely a branch of a much larger tree. To this day, they remain so dogmatic about their own importance, their false sense of privilege and so devoted to their own myopic point of view that they still don’t realize that they have done themselves and fandom as a whole, a great disservice by acting like an unruly mob without any sense decency or of cognitive dissonance. And yes, they did manage to make a big fuss and draw some attention to themselves but in the long run, their actions will be judged by history to be abhorrent.

If anyone wants to read a fairly comprehensive history of what went down may do so here: The Puppy Kerfuffle Timeline at Camestros Felapton.

(RANT/OFF)

And, if that weren’t enough, a series of forest fires completely surrounded the city, enshrouding the entire region in a haze of smoke and ash and casting the convention into something akin to a hellish, eco-disaster film.

Juli and I were called in to head up the Press Office in emergency mode (again) because the convention’s original choice had to drop out for personal reasons. Although this time, unlike many of the other times, we had a full six weeks notice to get the office up and operational.

In addition to all of this, I got personally involved. I stepped up and volunteered to be a Hugo Award acceptor for Analog author Rajnar Vajra whose slyly aware John W. Campbell-ish pastiche, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” (published in Analog, 07/08-2014), had been slated onto the Hugo ballot by both the Sad and Rabid Puppy groups..

I made Mr. Vajar’s acquaintance in April 2015, right after the nominations were announced. He had posted on sf/horror writer Adam-Troy Castro’s Facebook page, vehemently condemning both camps and I quoted him (with his permission) in a File 770 column. I also offhandedly offered to pick up his Hugo and deliver his acceptance speech, too.

You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when Mr. Vajra emailed me in July asking if I would do exactly that. In a File 770 post soon after, I wrote:

Several months ago, after the nominations came out, I made the acquaintance of Rajnar Vajra, author of the Hugo nominated novelette, The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Story. Although nominated on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.  

I half jokingly told Rajnar that I would be happy to accept the Hugo Award on his behalf if it became necessary. He laughed it off at the time but a month ago, he found out that he could not attend. I was slightly aghast when he emailed me but I accepted because I knew what he had in mind.

I believe that Rajnar’s only loyalty is to his craft and to his readers. In his absence, he chose a person of color to represent him at the Hugo Ceremony as a pointed reminder of fandom’s diversity. Mr. Vajra has emailed his eloquent acceptance speech and if needed, I will proudly deliver it verbatim.

When Juli and I arrived at the Press Office, we were ably assisted by a well known Seattle fan, Margaret Organ-Kean, who agreed to serve as the Deputy Press Officer. I cannot begin to tell you how gracious and helpful she was in the office, especially during my prolonged absences because of my obligations to attend the Business Meeting and the Hugo Award Ceremonies.

On that Saturday afternoon, a very peculiar thing happened.

I was standing near the entrance of the Press Office when a middle aged man entered the office. He was white, middle-aged and looked as though he might need some help.

“Hello, how can I help you?”, I said in a pleasant voice.

He just stared at me.

I waited. He kept staring.

After about 20 seconds, I gave up, went back to my desk and sat down to keep an eye on him.

My partner Juli, who is white, witnessed this and decided to make a run at him while I watched warily from a distance.

He immediately perked up and said that he was looking for a reporter to give an interview. When Juli inquired why, he said that he was a John W. Campbell Award nominee for Best New Writer. (I am not identifying the writer because I don’t want to give this person any more publicity than he deserves. His fifteen minutes in the limelight has expired.)

Since this fellow was definitely NOT Wesley Chu, it verified my gut feeling that this guy was part of the Puppy delegation.

In overhearing some of his remarks to Juli, it was fairly evident that while he knew the Campbell Award was somewhat prestigious, he had no fucking idea who he was, his place his in the history of sf literature or, most importantly, what he stood for politically or on social issues.

The most amusing part of the conversation happened when Juli asked him about “The Tiara”.

His eyes blinked with confusion. “Tiara? What about a Tiara? I don’t know anything about that.”

“Well,” Juli said with some enthusiasm, “if you win, you get to wear the Ceremonial Tiara that comes with the Campbell Award.”

(For those of you who may have forgotten, The Ceremonial JWC Tiara was created in 2005 by the late sf writer Jay Lake and author Elizabeth Bear and, until recently, was handed down from winner to winner. Among the distinguished alumni who have proudly worn it have been DisCon III Chair Mary Robinette Kowal, Caribbean-American fantasy author David Anthony Durham and one John Scalzi, a frequent target and perceived arch-enemy of the Puppy crowd.)

“Uh, are you kidding?”

“Oh no,it’s a real thing. And you have to wear it if you win.”

I swear, his face actually blanched when he heard that he might actually be required to wear such an item on his precious, masculine head.

“No, no, no, I can’t do THAT!” he insisted. Juli turned her head slightly and could see the look of approval on my face. I winked.

But, no matter what his own political views, I had no objection to helping him. Our role in the Press Office is to provide journalists the opportunity to talk to and write about what was happening at Sasquan and that included any Puppy who wanted to talk to the media.

He left soon afterwards after Juli took his name and cell phone number and had promised to call if any reporter wanted to talk to him. Eventually, we arranged for him to talk to someone. I think it was Wired magazine, but I could be misremembering exactly who did. In any event, it’s lost to the mists of history as far as I’m concerned.

At the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the Puppies slate of nominees went unrewarded (including, unfortunately, Mr. Vajra, who finished third behind No Award). The only tangential thing they could claim as a victory was the Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form win for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was a HUGE consensus winner among all of the voters.

There was some good news that evening; for the first time ever, translated fiction won Hugos: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu) in the novel category and the novelette “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Lia Belt). Marvel Comics’s first volume of Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt), the feminist minded sf thriller Orphan Black (“By Means Which Have Never Been Tried” by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett) and the aforementioned Wesley Chu won the Campbell Award (which was recently re-christened the Astounding Award for Best New Writer).

The Hugo Award results were delivered to the office AFTER the Ceremony for distribution to the press at my expressed request.

The cherry on top of all of these proceedings came at Closing Ceremonies, where I was presented with a Hero of Sasquan medal for taking over the Press Office on short notice.

When I accepted before a standing room only crowd, I told them that I was not the only person in the Press Office; I was only as good as the team of people I was working with. I profusely thanked them for all of their hard work and dedication.

Then I praised the person I called the TRUE MVP of the Press Office, my partner Juli. I held up a black stainless steel ring she had given me for my birthday. The interior of the ring has an inscription that is a quote from Amy Pond (a Doctor Who companion) to her husband, Rory; “I Love Your Stupid Face”.

I told the crowd what the inscription said and they laughed and cheered. And then I shouted, “I LOVE YOU, JULI MARR!!!!!” and the crowd went crazy!

When I returned to my seat, I asked Juli whether or not she had gotten any pictures of my speech.

“I’m sorry’, she said, “I was too stunned to take any.” I smiled and gave her a kiss.

Mission Accomplished.

I STILL LOVE YOU JULI MARR!!!!!

Sasquan medal and ring. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

Download Chris Barkley’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Media Relations – Press Room Guide here:

Pixel Scroll 1/18/20 The Previous Title Appears to Be Accurate

(1) THE FOREVER FRANCHISE. Dave Itzkoff wonders “Can ‘Star Trek’ Chart a Way Forward?” in New York Times Magazine.

Michael Chabon’s job used to consist of writing novels, earning literary acclaim and receiving the occasional prestigious award. But this past June he was racing around the soundstages here at “Star Trek: Picard,” where he was working as an executive producer.

Chabon, a 56-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner, strode through hallways decorated with timelines that chronicled the fictional histories of alien empires and stepped onto the set of a futuristic spacecraft. He giggled to himself as he toyed with some of the fake technology, occasionally exclaiming “Engage!,” and flashed a thumbs-up across the room to the “Picard” star Patrick Stewart as he rehearsed a scene.

These were all welcome perks in Chabon’s new line of work. But what drew him to “Star Trek” as a fan in his teens and kept him invested as a producer, he said, was an underlying message about humanity that was hopeful within reason.

“It’s not saying human beings are basically wonderful and if we just learn to agree, all our problems will go away,” he explained. “It takes work. It takes effort.”

…“If you feel that each piece is handcrafted with care, then I think people really appreciate it,” said Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer of the many new “Star Trek” series. “If you feel like a universe is being shoved down your throat for speed and dollars, there’s no faster way to lose an audience.”

(2) OPENING THE DOOR TO BOOK BANNING. PEN America protests that “Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians”.

 … The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.” Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community.

“This is a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “This act is clearly aimed at empowering small groups of parents to appoint themselves as censors over their state’s public libraries. Books wrestling with sexual themes, books uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters, books addressing issues such as sexual assault—all of these books are potentially on the chopping block if this bill is passed.”

Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the January 15 KGB readings where Richard Kadrey read from his new novel The Grand Dark and Cassandra Khaw read from her forthcoming novella Nothing But Blackened Teeth.

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey 1
Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey

(4) PANTSER. At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Simon Jimenez” begins with a confession:

I wrote no encyclopedia and I drew no map before I began writing The Vanished Birds. I laid the track as the train chugged forward and hoped I wouldn’t be outpaced and run over. Of course I was. I wince now as I think back on all the soft resets and double-backs and total rethinks and rewrites I had to do. I’d blame this all on the fact that it was my first book and I didn’t know what I was doing, but that wouldn’t be the truth. This is how I tend to go about all things. Without a plan and screaming in freefall.

(5) WITCHER APPECIATION SOCIETY. On YouTube, Paste’s Allison Keene and Josh Jackson celebrate the new fantasy series from Netflix.

(6) COP ON THE CORNER. “Nine years later, Detroit’s RoboCop statue is finally ready for installation”Curbed Detroit has the story.

It started with a successful Kickstarter campaign. A mere nine years later, the RoboCop statue is nearly done.

The campaign, launched by the community arts nonprofit Imagination Station in March 2011, received $67,436 in donations.

In an update from December 31, 2019, the team showcased photos to scores of eager backers of the enormous, bronze, nearly finished statue. “Here are a last few teaser pics of Robo in the positioning and welding process before his final form is unveiled later this winter, with installation details to follow,” wrote Brandon Walley of the Imagination Station.

The last touches include installing its head and adding a gray patina, now only visible on a breastplate. Once finished around March, the recreation of the original Peter Weller costume will stand 11 feet tall.

(7) RETRO RESEARCH. Cora Buhlert has posted two more reviews of 1945 Retro Hugo eligible works, namely “The Big and the Little” a.k.a. “The Merchant Princes” by Isaac Asimov, which is the second Foundation story of 1944, and “Guard in the Dark”, a horror story by Allison V. Harding.

She’s also posted a roundup of links to other reviews of eligible 1944 works, including several reviews by Steve J. Wright:  “Retro Review Links for January 15, 2020”.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 18, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. Is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing the Monster as he played the role of the monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here.
  • January 18, 1959 Cage of Doom premiered in the United Kingdom. (It would be called Terror from the Year 5000 in the States.) it’s credits were long, so have patience when we say that it was by produced by Robert J. Gurney Jr., Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, and Gene Searchinger. It was directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr., and starred Ward Costello, Joyce Holden, John Stratton, Salome Jens, and Fred Herrick. The story was actually based on an actually SFF story that ran in in the April 1957 issue of Fantastic, Henry Slesar’s “Bottle Baby”. It is not credited as such however. It’s not a great film and hence it got featured in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are sure it’s not good giving it a Zero percent approval rating though we caution only a little over a hundred cared enough to express a view. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1920 Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial.  Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers?(Died 2005.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. Conspiracy nut or SF writer? Or both. I think I first encountered him in something Geis wrote about him in SFR in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to The Illuminatus! Trilogy. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did I think is an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. Yes, he frothed at the mouth on Campbell and Joyce! (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur with Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. He also directed the rather nifty The Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelising.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1943 Paul Freeman, 77. Best remembered I’d say for being the evil René Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also played Professor Moriarty in Without a Clue which had Michael Caine as Holmes and Kingsley as Watson.
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennett, 67. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug. 
  • Born January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 56. Her first SFF video role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Roald Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JUGGLING THE BOOKS. “Majipoor – Les Objets Volants” took inspiration from a Robert Silverberg novel to create this stage act.

Majipoor is a fantastic journey through juggling and object manipulation, an exploration of objects and bodies, individuals and community.

The show is freely inspired from Robert Silverberg’s 1980 novel «Lord Valentine’s Castle». This is the story of an identity winning back, a route surrounded by exotic landscapes on giant planet Majipoor, along with a juggling company of intelligent four-handed being called Skandars.

(12) WATER LOSS ON MARS GREATER THAN THOUGHT. Science reports that water is easily transported high into the atmosphere during storms and lost. This takes place even during the dusty season. “Stormy water on Mars: The distribution and saturation of atmospheric water during the dusty season”.

Mars once hosted abundant water on its surface but subsequently lost most of it to space. Small amounts of water vapor are still present in the atmosphere, which can escape if they reach sufficiently high altitudes. Fedorova et al. used data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft to determine the distribution of water in Mars’ atmosphere and investigate how it varies over seasons. Water vapor is sometimes heavily saturated, and its distribution is affected by the planet’s large dust storms. Water can efficiently reach the upper atmosphere when Mars is in the warmest part of its orbit, and this behavior may have controlled the overall rate at which Mars lost its water.

(13) VERY OLD BIRDS OF A FEATHER. SYFY Wire also reports on the distant past: “This new dinosaur just called it: even feathered dinos were nothing like birds”.

Some dinosaurs looked like birds. Some prehistoric birds looked like dinosaurs, and some birds that are still around echo dinosaurs. That doesn’t mean feathers and wings always make a bird—or a dinosaur.

Wulong bohaiensis was a small feathered therapod that lived 120 million years ago in what is now China, going twice as far back as T. rex. The dinosaur species this creature is most closely related to is (another star of Jurassic Park) the Velociraptor. “Wulong” translates to “dancing dragon,” and the fantastic specimen, which is preserved so well that even some of its feathers are frozen in time, is not only dragon-like, but also birdlike. The thing is that the bones and feathers revealed this newly unearthed dino to be a juvenile who went through different growing pains than birds….

(14) TIS MANY A SLIP. Popsugar thinks “Disney’s New Space Mountain Mug Is Light Years Ahead of Everything Else in My Kitchen Cabinet”.

Official blog Oh My Disney recently announced the upcoming arrival of Space Mountain mugs at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in honor of the high-speed roller coaster’s 45th anniversary.

(15) RELATIVELY WRONG. This week Andrew Porter saw another wrong question on Jeopardy! Can you believe it?

Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature

Answer: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Max Planck’s Quantum Theory inspired this book that won a 1963 Newberry Medal.

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Terry Pratchett: Back in Black” on Vimeo is a 2018 documentary about Sir Terry’s life from BBC Scotland. (Vimeo setting requires it be watched at their site.)

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Cora Buhlert, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/11/19 Electronic Sheep May Safely Graze, Thanks To Grounding Footware

(1) A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR’S CAST MEMBER. Ed Green, fandom’s working actor, has made another commercial! This time Ed advertises Rebate Key. He’s the fellow in the blue shirt.

(2) BABY YODA GRAFFITI. Reddit says this street art is in the south of France. (Near Remulac?)

(3) MIKE RESNICK GOFUNDME. Mike Resnick, beset by new medical problems, has more bills to pay and his GoFundMe target has been raised to $50,000: “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience”.

UPDATE on 12/11/2019: Mike is now battling cancer on top of his previous major surgery, for which this fundraiser was created. The doctors are very optimistic and say he is responding to treatment incredibly well, but because of new surgery, radiation and chemo bills, he is in need of this fundraiser more than ever. As you can imagine, he is literally bleeding money at he moment. Every dollar helps. Thank you, again, for all the support you have given Mike! <3

(4) BLUEPRINTS. “How To Structure a Cozy Mystery” by Sarah A. Hoyt at Mad Genius Club – I found her exploration of a popular formula completely fascinating.

3- For some reason your character has special knowledge.

This could be as inside-baseball as knowing it was the wrong tropical fish (I know NOTHING about tropical fish, btw) or how fanatic tropical fish collectors get.  Or it could be as “generic” as she saw something she can’t tell the police, either because it’s not clear or because she wouldn’t want to rope in a person she’s sure is innocent.

So, she’s going to investigate.

BTW by now we should have already seen or heard of the murderer. No, you shouldn’t make it obvious. But it’s important, to avoid the elephant from the ceiling feeling.  If not, we should see her or meet her early in the investigation phase. (Yes, it can be a him too, do I need to tell you that?)

At this point it might become obvious to everyone but your protag that love interest is interested.

(5) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne,] Prominent cultural critic Dave Itzkoff writing in The Gray Lady delves into the creative turmoil surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and J.J. Abrams’ attempts to live up to the mantle of the franchise. “A New Hype” is filled with interesting tidbits and observations about the creative process. It’s an example of why I think so highly of Itzkoff as a journalist. 

As [Abrams] slyly acknowledged, “Any great ending is a new beginning on some level.” But what the future of “Star Wars” might look like without its foundational narrative is something Abrams — who struck a lucrative overall deal with WarnerMedia in September — was in no hurry to envision. “I didn’t design that, so I don’t know,” he said.

(6) PICARD ALREADY IN REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Michael Chabon’s ‘Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’ Series Coming to Showtime”. The Hollywood Reporter says Chabon will exit Picard in 2020 to work with his wife on the series:

…The author, who serves as showrunner on the studio’s forthcoming Star Trek: Picard for CBS All Access, has, alongside his writer wife, Ayelet Waldman, signed an overall deal with the studio. Under the pact, Chabon and Waldman will adapt the former’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay as a limited series for CBS TV Studios’ corporate sibling Showtime.

The series, which earned Chabon the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, will be written and exec produced by the husband and wife duo and has received a series commitment from the premium cable network. Chabon and Waldman will serve as showrunners on Kavalier and Clay. Chabon will transition to the new series, an epic tale of love, war and the birth of America’s comic book superhero obsession in big band-era New York, in 2020 and exit Picard. The series is a co-production with Paramount Television, which controlled the rights to the book.

(7) LONG STRING OF SHOWS. Amazingly, after 56 years LA’s Bob Baker Marionette Theater still exists. The New York Times tells how that happened, with lots of pictures, in “Marionettes at Play”.

…But starting back in 2013, a series of calamities almost derailed these time-honored traditions. That was when Baker — a man who bubbled over with creativity, but when it came to business, was a car wreck — was forced to sell the building, and the troupe became tenants in their longtime home. When Baker died the following year at the age of 90, the company members dedicated themselves to preserving his legacy.

“At the end of the day, we’d still be doing shows, and there’d be a hundred happy kids,” said Alex Evans, a scruffy-bearded 34-year-old who arrived at the theater in 2006 from New York after Googling “Los Angeles” and “puppets.” He is now the theater’s executive director and head puppeteer. “So it was easy to look around and highlight this as a beautiful moment.”

After Baker’s death, the group learned the landlord intended to raze the theater and replace it with a mixed-use development, which would include a spot for them to perform. “Then we looked at the plan and it was like, ‘We are essentially going to be squeezed into a space otherwise allocated to a Starbucks,” Evans said. “We were, like, ‘This won’t work. We can’t do that.’ ”

They visited dozens of places before finding the two-story former Pyong Kang First Congregational Church on a bustling, tree-lined street, across from a children’s park. Not only was it bigger than their original home — at 10,000 square feet compared to about 5600 — it was also zoned for assembly. “We could just open the doors and just go,” Evans said.

(8) SHORT TREKS. SYFY Wire points the way as CBS All Access previews two new animated installments in the Short Treks series which will debut this week: “Star Trek shares whimsical peek at two new Short Treks animated tales”.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | Ephraim & Dot Trailer

Ephraim, a humble tardigrade, is flying through the mycelial network when an unexpected encounter takes her on a bewildering adventure through space.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | The Girl Who Made the Stars Trailer

When a lightning storm in space scares a young Michael Burnham, her father aims to ease her fears with a mythical story about a brave little girl who faced her own fears head on.

(9) CONSPIRATORS’ TOOLKIT. “‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’: Hivemind & Brian Taylor Conspire On TV Adaptation” says Deadline. If only Sam Konkin III had lived to see this day!

The Illuminatus! Trilogy is coming to television and Hivemind is in on the conspiracy. Hivemind, the production company behind The Expanse and Witcher, is partnering with writer-director Brian Taylor (Crank, Happy!) and the European production company Kallisti to adapt The Illuminatus! Trilogy, the off-kilter bookshelf series by authors Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea.

Originally published in the 1970s, The Illuminatus! Trilogy defies simple descriptions but the surreal and satirical milestone introduced “the Illuminati” lore to a global audience and sparked much of the contemporary American fascination with conspiracy theories and their modern rhythms.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 11, 1929 — The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “Fandom begins in New York with the first meeting of the Scienceers, 1929.” Timebinders has a history of that Club here as it appeared in Joe Christoff’s Sphere fanzine.
  • December 11, 1982 Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. Junk films are a great deal of fun (sometimes). Timerider is certainly junky. It’s directed by William Dear and starring Fred Ward as Lyle Swann, a cross country dirt bike racer. The film was scored, produced and co-written (with Dear) by Michael Nesmith of Monkees fame. There’s rating at Rotten Tomatoes but Amazon reviews really liked it as did some critics.
  • December 11, 1998 Star Trek: Insurrection premiered. Directed by Frakes who was widely praised for doing so, it starred the Next Gen cast. It did very well at the box office and critics mostly liked it. The story was by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It currently has a rating of 44% by viewers over at Rotten Tomatoes where an amazing 62,772 have registered their opinion. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1922 —  Maila Syrjäniemi. She was Vampira, the first tv horror host as she hosted her own series, The Vampira Show, from 1954–55 in the LA market.  After it was canceled, she showed up on Plan 9 from Outer Space in one of the starring roles. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 11, 1926 Dick Tufeld. His best known role, or at least best recognized, Is as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprised for the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Woman, Thundarr the Barbarian, Fantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 11, 1937 Marshal Tymn, 82. Academic whose books I’ve actually read. (I find most of these sorts of works really boring, errr, too dry.) He’s written two works that I’ve enjoyed, one with Neil Barron, Fantasy and Horror, is a guide to those genres up to mid Nineties, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines with Mike Ashley as his co-writer is a fascinating read indeed. A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies: An Annotated Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources for Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only work by him available in a digital form.
  • Born December 11, 1954 Katherine Lawrence. Short story writer and script writer for a number of animated SF series including Reboot, Stargate Infinity and Conan the Adventurer to which she contributed quite a number of stories. (Died 2004.)
  • Born December 11, 1957 William Joyce, 62. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. Michael Toman in an email says that “I’ve been watching for his books since reading Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo back in 1988.”
  • Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 60. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got three collections to date, Map of Dreams, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here. I’ve not read her novel, The Memory Garden, and would like your opinions on it. The latter and You Have Never Been Here are her only works available digitally. 
  • Born December 11, 1962 Ben Browder, 57. Actor best known, of course, for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode.  He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A town Called Mercy”,  a Weird Western of sorts. 
  • Born December 11, 1979 Rider Strong, 40. Making Birthday Honors for his voice work Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles as Pvt. Carl Jenkins. If you’ve not seen this series, go watch it. He’s done a lot of voice work including for Star vs. the Forces of Evil and his live work is mostly horror. 

(12) END OF MISSION. TMZ, in “William Shatner Files for Divorce, Prenup In The Stars”, reports that Shatner, 88, is divorcing from his fourth wife, Elizabeth, 61.

William Shatner wants Scotty the judge to beam him up and out of his marriage, ’cause he’s calling it quits after 18 years … TMZ has learned.

The ‘Star Trek’ actor just filed for divorce against his wife, Elizabeth, whom he got hitched with back in 2001. Sources familiar with the matter tell us Bill and Liz’s split should move along relatively smoothly, as we’re told the couple has a prenup.

…Elizabeth is Will’s fourth wife — he was previously married to Nerine Kidd, Marcy Lafferty and Gloria Rand … and only had children with Rand. It’s Elizabeth’s second go-around … she was married to Michael Glenn Martin before William. He’s 88 … she’s 61.

… According to William’s divorce docs — obtained by TMZ — he lists their date of separation as Feb. 1, 2019.

(13) LOOSED LIPS. “Vault of the Wordmonger” on The Dark Mountain Project is a short story by Nick Hunt about a future where words have become imprisoned and are only gradually being freed.

Our father bought words once a week. He was a big man in our town and fresh words gave him status. He paid for them in animal parts from the farm our family owned and sometimes in mineral parts from the mine beyond the hill. He did not own the mine but he had interests there. The animal parts and mineral parts he carried there in his hands and the words he carried back in his mouth. That is the way to carry words….

(14) NO FLIES ON THEM. One of the reasons for “The truth behind why zebras have stripes”.

Rudyard Kipling playfully wrote that zebras stripes were due to “the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees” falling on its body but are scientists getting closer to the truth?

In February 2019, at a horse livery yard in the UK, a fascinating experiment took place. A team of evolutionary biologists from the University of California, Davis, and their UK collaborators, investigated why zebras have stripes. In the name of science, they dressed several domestic horses at Hill Livery in zebra-striped coats, and studied them alongside actual zebras.

Owner Terri Hill keeps a herd of zebras which she has acquired from zoos across the UK – a collection which stems from Hill’s passion for the conservation of wild equids. Maintaining the herd, which live on a two acre paddock complete with sand pit and herb garden, is a way of maintaining breeding stock for zoos, and so helping to protect the animals against future extinction.

For Tim Caro, an ecologist from the University of St Andrews who has been studying zebra stripes for almost two decades, the livery yard’s relatively tame zebras provided a rare opportunity to stand within metres of them and observe them. “People have been talking about zebra stripes for over a hundred years, but it’s just a matter of really doing experiments and thinking clearly about the issue to understand it better,” he says.

How and why zebras evolved to sport black and white stripes are questions that have tested scientists for over a century. Scientists have put forward at least 18 reasons why, from camouflage or warning colours, to more creative explanations like unique markers that help to identify individuals like a human fingerprint. But, for a long time new theories were introduced without rigorous tests.

(15) LET US TELL YOU WHERE TO GO. BBC reports “Google: The most searched for questions and phrases of 2019 revealed”.

Game of Thrones, Caitlyn Jenner, the Rugby World Cup, what is Area 51, how to eat a pineapple and what is a dead ting?

These are some of the top phrases and questions you searched for on Google in 2019.

The Rugby World Cup – which South Africa won after beating England in the final – topped the list of overall trending searches in the UK, according to the search engine.

“What is Area 51?” and “How to pronounce psalm” were among the top questions you had this year.

(16) SCARECROW. “Bangalore: Dummies in police uniforms ‘control’ city traffic”.

One of India’s most gridlocked cities has come up with an unconventional solution to rein in errant drivers.

Mannequins dressed up as traffic police have been placed on roads in the southern city of Bangalore.

Dressed in police caps, white shirts and brown trousers, and wearing sunglasses, the mannequins are now on duty at congested junctions.

It’s hoped drivers will mistake them for real police and think twice about breaking the rules of the road.

Home to India’s IT industry, Bangalore has eight million registered vehicles on its streets. This number is expected to grow to more than 10 million by 2022.

At 18.7 km/h (11.61 mph) traffic speeds in the city are the second slowest in the country after Mumbai (18.5 km/h), according to a study by an office commute platform, MovinSync Technology Solutions. Cameras at traffic junctions have recorded more than 20,000 traffic violations every day.

But commuters have mixed feelings on whether mannequins can actually step in to help their real police counterparts.

(17) WORD OF THE YEAR. “Merriam-Webster Singles Out Nonbinary ‘They’ For Word Of The Year Honors”NPR has the story.

There are plenty of flashpoints for controversy littered among the grand pantheon of four-letter words. Plenty of examples probably come to mind immediately — from the relatively tame (“heck,” anyone?) to the kind of graphic profanity that may warrant an uncomfortable call from our ombudsman.

Still, one four-letter word has elicited more heated debate than most among grammarians lately. And it happens to be one that we’re free to print right here: they.

Merriam-Webster announced Tuesday that the personal pronoun was its 2019 Word of the Year, noting that the tiny, unassuming word had undergone a rather radical transformation in usage in recent years — and found itself at the heart of some wide-ranging cultural conversations in the process.

“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years,” the dictionary publisher explained in a statement.

“More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.”

(18) THINKING OUTSIDE THE CAN. Delish thinks these will be irresistible — “Pringles Is Making A Pickle Rick Flavor For ‘Rick And Morty’ Fans” – but I’ll give you share!

Do you ever just shove your hand all the way into the bottom of the Pringles can to get the just-out-of-reach last chip? Because same. And now I’ll be doing that even more willingly because Pringles is bringing back its Pickle Rick flavor.

The flavor is obviously an ode to Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim cartoon series with a super cult following. In a now-famous episode of the show, a scientist turns into a pickle to avoid going to family therapy…as one does? Thus, “Pickle Rick” was born.

(19) A BOUNTY FOR YOUR TABLE. N sent the link to Binging with Babish: Bone Broth from The Mandalorian with the recommendation, “Unconventional, but I’m watching this right now and everything he’s making with the broth is just too tasty looking.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/23/19 Any Sufficiently Interesting Typo Is Indistinguishable From A Commenting Prompt

(1) WHO’S ON FIRST. The Mirror (UK) reports “No Doctor Who special this Christmas – but new series will start New Year’s Day”.

Doctor Who fans face a Christmas without their favourite show, with no festive special planned – for the second year running.

But there is some good news – the long-awaited 12th series is due to start on New Year’s Day, with one of the biggest episodes in the show’s history.

…The second half of the story is then expected to air on January 4, as the series shifts back to its traditional Saturday evening teatime slot.

(2) OVERHEARD. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware called attention to “Issues at Audible’s ACX: Attempted Rights Fraud, Withdrawn Promotional Codes”.

Two issues involving Audible’s ACX have come across my desk recently….

Rights Fraud

I’ve heard from several self- and small press-pubbed authors who report that they’ve found their books listed on ACX as open to narrator auditions…except that they, or their publishers, didn’t put them there. This appears to be an attempt to steal authors’ audio rights….

Promotional Code Shenanigans

Multiple authors have contacted me to report that they’ve received an email from ACX withdrawing their promotional codes. The cited reason: “unusual activity,” with no explanation of what that means….

(3) AND WHAT DO THOSE KNIGHTS SAY? In “The Knights of Ren Gather in New Footage For Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Io9 breaks down a new TV ad.

In a newly released 30-second TV spot for The Rise of Skywalker, things are coming to a head. We see and hear some familiar things: Rey and Ben gearing up for a climactic confrontation, Luke imploring a listener (probably Rey) to face fear, as confronting fear is “the destiny of a Jedi.”

(4) WRITER ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER. Michael Chabon tells readers of The New Yorker about writing for Star Trek while his father was dying: “The Final Frontier”.

Ensign Spock, a young half-Vulcan science officer fresh out of Starfleet Academy and newly posted to the Enterprise, found himself alone in a turbolift with the ship’s formidable first officer, a human woman known as Number One. They were waiting for me to rescue them from the silence that reigns in all elevators, as universal as the vacuum of space.

I looked up from the screen of my iPad to my father, lying unconscious, amid tubes and wires, in his starship of a bed, in the irresolute darkness of an I.C.U. at 3 A.M. Ordinarily when my father lay on his back his abdomen rose up like the telescope dome of an observatory, but now there seemed to be nothing between the bed rails at all, just a blanket pulled as taut as a drum skin and then, on the pillow, my father’s big, silver-maned head. Scarecrow, after the flying monkeys had finished with him. His head was tilted upward and his jaw hung slack. All the darkness in the room seemed to pool in his open mouth….

(5) THE APPEAL OF SFF. Michael Chabon also shares his youthful discovery of “Le Guin’s Subversive Imagination” in The Paris Review.

…But my first experience with her work was about more than delight, admiration, or love. It was about transformation. The person I was on the way to becoming, in 1972—a particular coalescent configuration of synapses, apperceptions, and neural pathways—did not survive the encounter, at age nine, with A Wizard of Earthsea. The first volume of her Earthsea trilogy, the book was set in a richly realized and detailed imaginary topography of islands and ocean where the craft of language—the proper, precise configuring and utterance of words by a trained adept who knew their histories and understood their capabilities and thus could call things by their true names—had the power to alter reality, to remake the world.

But what really rearranged the contents of my skull was this: the book itself was a fractal demonstration of its own primary conceit. With nothing but language—lines on paper, properly configured—Ursula K. Le Guin conjured an entire planet into vivid existence, detailed and plausible from its flora to its weather to the dialects and ceremonies of its inhabitants. And while that world vanished the moment I closed the book’s covers, the memory of my visit, of young Ged’s searing struggle with his own malign shadow, remained. In Earthsea, the wielders of linguistic power were known as wizards, and they called their craft magic, but it was obvious to me, even at nine, that the true name of magic was writing, and that a writer like Ursula K. Le Guin was a mage.

(6) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. Doctor Who has posted an updated compilation of “All The Doctor’s Regenerations.”

From The Tenth Planet, all the way to Twice Upon A Time – Re-live ALL of the Doctor’s regenerations.

(7) PRO TIP. “Toby Kebbell Has Advice for the Next Dr. Doom in Marvel’s Fantastic Four Reboot” and Movieweb passes it along:

Toby Kebbell, who played Doctor Doom the poorly received 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, was asked by Movie Web if he had any advice for the next actor to essay that role. He did.

“Make sure Marvel are in control.”

 (8) EARLY PROMISE FULFILLED. The New York Times obituary “Gahan Wilson, Vividly Macabre Cartoonist, Dies at 89” includes a selection of cartoons.

… he settled into a spartan 1950s bohemian life in New York, trying to break in but mostly accumulating rejections.

“Editors would take my drawings, laugh like hell, then hand them back and say, ‘Sorry, our readers wouldn’t understand,’” he told The Boston Globe in 1973.

And there are many more great cartoons in Michael Maslin’s farewell at The New Yorker, “The Beautifully Macabre Cartoons of Gahan Wilson”.

 Although he habitually delved into that dark funny corner that we associate with Charles Addams, his style was singular. He liked to depict ordinary folks encountering some kind of anxious terror, or experiencing the unthinkable in mundane places. It’s a man at a pizza counter hovering over an entire pizza—the man’s mouth the same oval shape, the same size, as the whole pie. It’s fishermen on a calm lake, with one about to be murdered by the other, who is removing a human mask to reveal his true monster self.

(9) MCPHEE OBIT. Former bookstore owner and NESFAn Spike McPhee died November 13 in Cambridge, MA. Proprietor of the Science Fantasy bookstore in Harvard Square from 1977 to 1989, McPhee was also an art collector, and avid follower of science and space exploration news.  He was a GoH at the 1990 Arisia.

Chip Hitchcock notes, “[Spike told] me some 40 years ago that he was the only fan to gafiate to run a science-fiction bookstore; he’d been active in NESFA before then but the store ate his time; I’ve lost track of whether Boston’s current genre store, Pandemonium, is a literal descendant (from days in two other Harvard Square locations) or just a successor.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who first premiered with the airing of “An Unearthly Child”. Written by Anthony Coburn and C E Webber, it starred Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, William Russell as Ian Chesterton, and William Hartnell as The Doctor. Critics were mixed with their reaction but generally favorable.
  • November 23, 2015 The Expanse premiered on Syfy. Based on the novels by James S. A. Corey (collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), it has now run three seasons, the latest on Amazon Prime. With a cast of seemingly hundreds, it has met with near unanimous approval, so much so that at Rotten Tomatoes, the third season had a score of 100%.itwas nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Dublin for “Abaddon’s Gate” but lost To The Good Place for their “Janet(s)” episode.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 23, 1887 Boris Karloff. Where do I start? Well consider the Thirties. He portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, and Imhotep in The Mummy. And he played a great pulp character in Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu too! Now let’s jump forward to the Sixties and the small screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas which featured him as both the voice of The Grinch and the narrator of the story as well. I know I’ve skipped four decades of that means not a word about such as Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he was the latter. (Died 1969.)
  • Born November 23, 1914 Wilson Tucker. Author and very well-known member of fandom. I’m going to just direct you here to “A Century of Tucker” by Mike as I couldn’t say anything about him that was this good. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 23, 1916 Michael Gough. Best-known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifties and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared in Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Burton in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 23, 1955 Steven Brust, 64. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. Ala are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, ‘A Rose For Ecclesiastes,’ which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, ““Songs From The Gypsy” is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
  • Born November 23, 1961 David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.)
  • Born November 23, 1966 Michelle Gomez, 53. Best-known genre role is Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used but she made a fine one. She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. She plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. And she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady. 
  • Born November 23, 1967 Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 52. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Shes shows up as character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She’s was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would. 
  • Born November 23, 1992 Miley Cyrus, 27. She’s had three genre appearances, each ten years apart. She was in Big Fish as the eight-year-old Ruthie, she was the voice of Penny in Bolt and she voiced Mainframe on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And there’s the matter of A Very Murray Christmas which is at least genre adjacent…

(12) LEIBOWITZ REDUX? “In ‘The Second Sleep,’ The World May End, But Life Goes On” says NPR reviewer Ilana Masad.

…Robert Harris’s new book is concerned with questions of institutional power, hypocrisy and individual moral choices, but in a wholly different era of changed perceptions.

The Second Sleep is a pleasingly genre-bending novel that passes itself off as historical fiction in its early pages. Christopher Fairfax, a young priest, rides to Addicott St. George, a village in Wessex, with a rather simple mission: He is to carry out the funeral service for Addicott’s recently deceased Father Lacey. Quickly, however, reader expectations are wonderfully overturned as Fairfax examines, with some distaste, a display case full of ancient artifacts, including “pens, glassware, a plate commemorating a royal wedding …” (wait, what?) “… a bundle of plastic straws …” (huh?) and “what seemed to be the pride of the collection: one of the devices used by the ancients to communicate,” which has on its back “the ultimate symbol of the ancients’ hubris and blasphemy — an apple with a bite taken out of it.”

The year may be 1468, but it’s not the one in the past — Fairfax is, in fact, living in the future, one in which the Apocalypse is widely believed to have occurred just as it was prophesied in the New Testament, after which Christ rose anew and humankind was once again saved. The Church — a political as well as religious entity in this future England, closely tied to and seemingly far more important than the monarchy — started counting years anew after the Apocalypse, beginning with 666, the number of the beast.

As Fairfax learns more about Addicott’s dead priest, he becomes increasingly uncomfortable. It appears that Father Lacey was a collector of artifacts that have become, in the past couple of decades, illegal to own. Worse even than the plastic doodads and useless electronics in his possession, which Father Lacey found in the vicinity of the village, the priest had a library full of illegal books hypothesizing about the ancients who worshipped science and forgot God, bringing about their own downfall.

(13) THE MASTER LIST. Rex Sorgatz is compiling “Best of 2010’s” lists.  It includes several Best SF/F Books, Best Comics/Graphic Novels, Best Horror Movies, etc. lists (and may pick up more as time goes by) — “LISTS: THE 2010s DECADE”.

We’ve covered some of the ones he’s collected, but I don’t think I’ve run this one yet — from Cultured Vultues: “Books of the Decade: 10 Best Sci-Fi/Horror Books of the 2010s”

(14) THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMASES PAST. Smithsonian issues “A Plea to Resurrect the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories”.

For the last hundred years, Americans have kept ghosts in their place, letting them out only in October, in the run-up to our only real haunted holiday, Halloween. But it wasn’t always this way, and it’s no coincidence that the most famous ghost story is a Christmas story—or, put another way, that the most famous Christmas story is a ghost story. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, and its story about a man tormented by a series of ghosts the night before Christmas belonged to a once-rich, now mostly forgotten tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Dickens’ supernatural yuletide terror was no outlier, since for much of the 19th century, was the holiday indisputably associated with ghosts and the specters.

“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

Telling ghost stories during winter is a hallowed tradition, a folk custom stretches back centuries, when families would wile away the winter nights with tales of spooks and monsters. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Mamillius proclaims in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And the titular Jew of Malta in Christopher Marlowe’s play at one point muses, “Now I remember those old women’s words, Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Moses Goes Down” on Vimeo is Nina Paley’s take on Moses leaving Egypt, with music by Louis Armstrong.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/28/19 A Pixel’s A Pixel, No Matter How Scrolled

(1) LEADING EFFECTS ARTISTS GATHER. Last night in Beverly Hills, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted “Galactic Innovations: Star Wars and Rogue One”, with some people who have made special effects history.

Over the last 40 years, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. But the impetus to create and inspire remains the same. This event contrasted the analog technologies developed for the first STAR WARS released in 1977 with the all-digital toolsets used to create ROGUE ONE released in 2016.

Key contributors from both STAR WARS and ROGUE ONE shared the journey of creating the impossible with their breakthrough visual effects. Our list of stellar participants included: John Dykstra, Dennis Muren, John Knoll, Ben Burtt, Marcia Lucas, Bill George, Harrison Ellenshaw, Bruce Nicholson, Richard Edlund and Rachel Rose. Hosted by Kiri Hart, co-producer of ROGUE ONE.

A recording of the livestreamed video is available today:

I learned from Craig Miller, “Lucasfilm has donated the original Dykstraflex Camera – used to do the miniature photography for Star Wars – to the Academy Museum and the significance of the camera prompted them to put together this event.”

(2) CELEBRATE. FIYAH Literary Magazine is making headway to fund its staff Hugo Meetup in Atlanta. Any donation helps.

(3) NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. Renay has kicked off what some admirers call 2020 Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom to collect recommendations of works published this year.

(4) THE FIFTH SEASON AUTHOR ON TV. See video of N.K. Jemisin’s appearance on the PBS News Hour in connection with her book being a selection for their #NowReadThis book club.

(5) ANTHOLOGY NEWS. Haka is an anthology of speculative / science fiction in Filipino by European authors, organized by Julie Novakova and Jaroslav Olsa Jr. that will include stories from 15 authors of different nationalities.

The publisher, Anvil Publishing, will announce the launching date soon.

Line Up:

  • Peter Schattschneider: Brief aud dem Jenseits (Austria)
  • Ian Watson: Walk of Solace with My Dead Baby (Britain)
  • Hanuš Seiner: Hexagrammaton (the Czech Rep.)
  • Richard Ipsen: The Null in the Nought (Denmark)
  • Johanna Sinisalo: Äänettömät Äänet (Finland)
  • Aliette de Bodard: Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight (France)
  • Michalis Manolios: Aethra (Greece)
  • Péter Lengyel: Napkelet Cím? (Hungary)
  • Francesco Verso and Francesco Mantovani: iMATE (Italy)
  • Tais Teng: Silicium Snelwegen (the Netherlands)
  • Stanislaw Lem: Podró? siódma (Poland)
  • Pedro Cipriano: Seeds of Hope (Portugal)
  • Zuzana Stožická: ?repiny z oblohy (Slovakia)
  • Bojan Ekselenski: ?asovni kredita (Slovenia)
  • Sofía Rhei: Secret Stories of Doors (Spain)
  • Bertil Falk: Gjort är gjort (Sweden)

(6) NEVER STEAL ANYTHING SMALL. Meanwhile, back at the slushpile, Neil Clarke thought he might have seen this one before:

(7) KEENE TELETHON CANCELLED. Brian Keene has announced they will not be holding the 3rd annual The Horror Show with Brian Keene telethon, which was scheduled to take place at Dark Delicacies in September. One of the hosts is medically not in a condition to do what needs to be done and the rest of the hosts are unwilling to proceed without him. Keene explained on Facebook:

It is with profound regret that I have to announce the cancellation of the 3rd annual The Horror Show with Brian Keene telethon, which was scheduled to take place at Dark Delicacies in September.

Listeners to the show know that co-host and engineer Dave Thomas has been experiencing some health problems. I am not going to share the private details of what has been occurring, but while Dave’s condition so far hasn’t greatly impacted his abilities to participate on the weekly program, his doctors this week have strongly advised against doing the telethon, given what is required for it. He can’t travel to California. And doing it here on the East Coast isn’t an option either because — to be blunt — staying awake and energized for 24 hours will kill him….

If Dave’s health fortunes change, I will absolutely reschedule this for early-2020. But as it stands right now, he simply can’t do it, and we simply won’t do it without him.

Keene hopes people will still find the cause worth supporting

If you’d still like to help, you can donate to Scares That Care by clicking here. And you can shop at Dark Delicacies from anywhere in the world by clicking here.

(8) ANIME MILWAUKEE BANS RYAN KOPF. Anime News Network reports “Convention Runner Ryan Kopf Banned from Anime Milwaukee Following Alleged Sexual Assault”, the consequences of a 2018 incident:

Anime Milwaukee (AMKE) staff confirmed with Anime News Network that Ryan Kopf, the chief executive officer of the AnimeCon.org convention organization, is banned from future Anime Milwaukee conventions following an incident that took place during the 2018 convention between February 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee hotel. Police were called to the hotel to respond to an alleged sexual assault involving Kopf.

Anime Milwaukee made a statement (full text at the linked post) which begins:

As the leadership of Anime Milwaukee, we take safety standards seriously. That is why we, AMKE’s parent non-profit organization (the Entertainment and Culture Promotion Society, Inc.) are choosing to come forward about an incident that happened at our show, and the preventative action we have taken since.

Anime Milwaukee can confirm there was an incident involving Mr. Kopf, a representative of Anime Midwest, at AMKE 2018. In this case, per protocol, Milwaukee PD were called by Hyatt staff. Convention staff also responded to assist the attendee as needed, until we were dismissed by police upon their arrival. Our details are pretty sparse from there, since this became a matter for law enforcement personnel. For our part, Mr. Kopf was immediately banned from Anime Milwaukee for 2018 and all future years. He is not permitted to attend AMKE in any capacity. We were also informed that the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee banned him from their property.

Our convention chair at the time, Corey Wood, acted decisively to ensure Mr. Kopf, all associated events staff, and promotional materials were ejected fully from Anime Milwaukee events space….

ANN asked for Kopf’s side of things:

Anime News Network reached out to Kopf for comment on alleged incidents at Anime Milwaukee 2018 and Anime-zing! 2013. Kopf denied he was removed from the Anime Milwaukee 2018 event or that any incident took place. He also denied anything improper took place at Anime-zing 2013.

“When attending Anime Milwaukee in 2018, I was always in the company of at least one of my staff members. We were not approached by anyone and we were not asked to leave. The precise nature of these allegations remain [sic] unclear to me. I have not done anything improper at either of these events, and I fully intend to pursue holding accountable those who have continued to repeat defamatory statements about me,” Kopf wrote.

Kopf has been involved in a number of incidents, and some litigation against those who reported them, over the pat few years – see File 770’s 2016 post “Ryan Kopf Refiles Suit Against Nerd & Tie”.

(9) NASA MISSION TO TITAN. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced yesterday that “NASA’s Dragonfly Will Fly Around Titan Looking for Origins, Signs of Life”.

NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet. During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years. Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.

… Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years’ worth of Cassini data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets.

(10) MALTIN AND GRRM. Leonard Maltin interviewed George R.R. Martin for his podcast Maltin on the Movies.

The prolific author behind Game of Thrones is also a lifelong movie buff and invited us to interview him at his very own theater, The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. George and Leonard compared notes about starting out as a fan and contributing to fanzines, back in the pre-Internet era. (For more on this, go to www.leonardmaltin.com.) George went on to teach writing and enjoyed success as a novelist before moving to Hollywood, where he spent a decade working in television. Ultimately he returned to his roots as an author, little dreaming that his novels would inspire one of the most elaborate and successful television shows ever produced. George is a great conversationalist and was a gracious host to Leonard and Jessie; you can join them vicariously by listening in.
Read more at http://maltinonmovies.libsyn.com/george-rr-martin#rKoWVaWd6LogrJmZ.99

Maltin also wrote a post about his fanpublishing roots: “My Link to Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin: Fanzines”. (Apropos to our current discussion of gatekeeping, Maltin put out a movie fanzine, and obviously would be shocked if anyone didn’t consider that a link to young GRRM’s fanac.)

We had a great conversation for our podcast, Maltin on Movies, which you can find HERE. In doing homework for that chat I discovered that Mr. Martin and I have at least one thing in common, other than growing up in New Jersey: we both got our start writing for fanzines….

It turned out that the school paper had no use for cocky freshmen, so another friend, Barry Gottlieb, and I launched a more ambitious publication we called Profile. It reflected my growing interest in film history and Barry’s love of magic and magicians. Profile was reproduced on a used mimeograph machine, which was given to me by my father’s cousin, who was in the printing business. It lacked an automatic paper feed, so it was truly labor-intensive—and messy, to boot. I still feel like I have black ink under my fingernails from that experience. Barry had artistic skills and graced our covers with lineoleum-block prints. When we felt flush we sprang for wraparound covers featuring photos and posters from a local job-printer. That spruced up our little magazine, which was starting to build a following outside of our schoolmates.

I was 13 years old when Forrest J. Ackerman’s popular newsstand magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland printed a survey of fanzines. That’s how I learned of The 8mm Collector, published by Samuel K. Rubin in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Film Fan Monthly, published by Daryl Davy in Vancouver, B.C. I submitted articles to them both and they were accepted. That’s when I saw my byline in print for the first time in a publication other than my own. Believe me, that was a heady experience. Only after they published my pieces did I tell them that I was 13. Sam Rubin said he didn’t care and Daryl Davy said the same, adding that he was 19 at the time. I became a regular contributor to both magazines.

(11) COWBOY V. ROBOTS. The Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles is running a “Weird West Film Series” and on July 13 will host a marathon screening of the cowboy star’s serial The Phantom Empire (1935)”

Join us for a marathon screening of all 12 chapters of the classic sci-fi Western serial The Phantom Empire! The underground empire of Murania threatens the world with robots, ray-guns, and Thunder Riders—and only Gene Autry, in his first starring role, can save the day! Watch for Griffith Observatory (the super-scientific, highly advanced kingdom of Murania 20,000 feet below Gene Autry’s Radio Ranch). Chapters are screened every half hour and introduced by Karla Buhlman, President of Gene Autry Entertainment. Drop in or stay for the whole show, cliffhangers and all.

For more details on the cast and songs in this film, visit the Official Gene Autry website page for The Phantom Empire.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 28, 1957 Beginning of the End premiered. (Think giant grasshoppers)
  • June 28, 1957The Unearthly debuted in theaters.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 28, 1926 Mel Brooks, 92. Blazing Saddles I’ve watched, oh, at least two dozen times. Get Smart several times at least wholly or in part. Spaceballs, errr, once was enough. And let’s not mention Robin Hood: Men in Tights though The Producers (not genre I grant you) was brilliant. So what do you like or dislike by him? 
  • Born June 28, 1941 Martin Greenberg. Founder of Gnome Press who’s not to be confused with Martin H Greenberg. Not on Asimov’s list of favorite people despite being the first publisher of the Foundation series. Not paying authors is a bad idea. (Died 2011.)
  • Born June 28, 1944 Peggy Rae Sapienza. Anything I could possibly say, Mike has said of this fan of the first order far more eloquently here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 28, 1946 Robert Asprin. I first encountered him as one of the editors (along with Lynn Abbey) of the Thieves’ World Series for which he wrote the superb “The Price of Doing Business” for the first volume. I’m also fond of The Cold Cash War novel. His Griffen McCandles (Dragons) series is quite excellent. I’m please to say he’s well stocked on both Apple Books and Kindle. (Died 2008.)
  • Born June 28, 1948 Kathy Bates, 71. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King-derived film. Other genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name.
  • Born June 28, 1951 Lalla Ward, 68. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus.
  • Born June 28, 1954 Alice Krige, 65. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World.
  • Born June 28, 1954 Deborah Grabien, 65. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. 
  • Born June 28, 1954 Raffaella De Laurentiis, 65. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis hence she was the producer of the Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both starting Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series.
  • Born June 28, 1957 Mark Helprin, 72. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it.  
  • Born June 28, 1966 Sara Stewart, 53. Martha Wayne in Batman Begins, she played the Sheriff of Nottingham’s sister, Davina, in “Sister Hood”, the opening episode of Season 2 of Robin Hood, her voice appears in the Dr Who episode “The End of the World”, and a loa possess her in the London Voodoo film.
  • Born June 28, 1979 Felicia Day, 40. She was Vi in  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys shows somebody who’ll be surprised that Dracula doesn’t think this is good news.

(15) ST:P. Picard is slated to debut later this year, and famed genre figure Michael Chabon will be at the helm: “‘Star Trek: Picard’ Names Michael Chabon Showrunner”.

“‘Star Trek’ has been an important part of my way of thinking about the world, the future, human nature, storytelling and myself since I was ten years old,” said Chabon. “I come to work every day in a state of joy and awe at having been entrusted with the character and the world of Jean-Luc Picard, with this vibrant strand of the rich, intricate and complex tapestry that is ‘Trek.’”

(16) UP, PERISCOPE. The Cut brings its investigative powers to bear on “A Close Reading of the Most Deranged Sandwich Commercial Ever”.

Those of you who’ve spared yourselves of Twitter might have missed the absolute calamity that ensued when Simmons shared this example of advertising run wild. At the time of writing, it had been retweeted tens of thousands of times, received thrice as many faves, generated roughly 5,000 comments, and immediately cemented itself as a meme. It has also raised a lot of questions:

(17) FRANKENSTEINLY SPEAKING. Daniel Kimmel, a film critic and author of several humorous sf novels, is interviewed by the Jewish Journal: “In new book, Somerville author explores ‘What is it like to be Jewish in the 21st century?’” The accompanying photo shows Kimmel posed with his Skylark Award

…Kimmel’s earlier novels include “Jar Jar Binks Must Die … and Other Observation about Science Fiction Movies,” and “Time On My Hands: My Misadventures In Time Travel.” He’s the winner of the 2018 Skylark Award, given by the New England Science Fiction Association for lifetime contributions to the genre. It’s a distinction he shares with such notables as Isaac Asimov, Jane Yolen, and Bruce Coville.

…In a recent conversation, Kimmel said his new novel is a mashup of two classic films, “Father of the Bride” (1950, remade in 1991), and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), an irresistible challenge for the 63-year-old who lives in Somerville.

It’s Kimmel’s first work of explicitly Jewish fiction, with memorable characters – including a rabbi – enlivened with Kimmel’s Jewish sensibilities from growing up in Queens, N.Y.

“Father of the Bride of Frankenstein” opens with a prologue from the father-narrator, a bank executive who sets the stage of the wildly imaginative tale of the unlikeliest Jewish wedding about to unfold: the marriage of his darling daughter Samantha, a college philosophy major, to Frank, the charismatic human who, only a few years earlier, was brought to life from tissues taken from a corpse in an (illegal) experiment by scientists (who are now behind bars).

With a witty pen, Kimmel manages to touch on issues of the day, from bioethics to politics and human rights, all wrapped up in hilarious family dynamics bursting with Borscht-Belt humor.

(18) LOVECRAFT BOBBLEHEAD. World Fantasy Award winners didn’t want little Lovecraft statuettes, but maybe you do. Especially if it’s a bobblehead. On sale at MVD Entertainment Group: “H.P. Lovecraft – Limited Edition Bobblehead By Rue Morgue Rippers”.

Rue Morgue Magazine’s next release in the Rue Morgue RIPpers line is the father of cosmic horror, H.P. Lovecraft. This 7-inch polyresin figure of Lovecraft is limited to 1500 numbered units. Sculpted with incredible accuracy, the H.P. Lovecraft Rue Morgue RIPper will surely please fans worldwide.

(19) DEAD CERT. There’s not a ghost of a chance that the lease will be renewed – details in The Brag: “Melbourne’s Haunted Bookshop lease denied on account of landlord’s ‘Spiritual Beliefs’”.

A Melbourne paranormal bookstore has had a lease application denied because of the potential landlord’s “spiritual beliefs.”

The Haunted Bookshop was established in 1997 but will be closing permanently this year. Any hope of remaining open at a new, nearby location seems to have been diminished with the establishment becoming the latest flashpoint to dominate national discourse in the debate around a perceived attack on religious expression.

… In the post, Sinton mentioned that the landlord is “a high-profile member of the Buddhist community” though The Brag is unable to confirm this at the time of publish. The Brag has also reached out to the agent representing the property for comment.

(20) ALL KNIGHT LONG. “Michael Palin to produce Radio 4 specials for Monty Python birthday” – BBC has the story. Chip Hitchcock comments, “A pity the world record attempt is too late for Worldcon-related tourism — I bet a lot of fans would have shown up.”

Sir Michael Palin is to serve as the executive producer on five new Radio 4 specials to mark the 50th anniversary of the Monty Python comedy troupe.

The shows, to air in September, will feature “never-before-released material from the Monty Python sound archives”.

The 50th anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus first airing on BBC One will be marked as well by a month-long season at BFI Southbank in London.

The 5 October anniversary will also be marked by a world record attempt.

Organisers are hoping to encourage the largest gathering of people dressed as Gumbys – the spectacle-wearing, knotted handkerchief-sporting imbeciles who became part of Python lore.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/9/19 The Scrolls of Our Teeth

(1) YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION. Deadline says a TV series based on a Hugo-winning novel is in development: “‘Yiddish Policemen’s Union’ Alt-History Drama Set From Michael Chabon & Ayelet Waldman, PatMa, Keshet & CBS Studios”.

What if Alaska is home of a big Jewish settlement and the fledgling state of Israel was destroyed? That is the setup of a TV series project based on Michael Chabon’s acclaimed 2007 alternative history book Yiddish Policemen’s Union. CBS TV Studios, Nina Tassler and Denise DiNovi’s PatMa Productions and Keshet Studios have acquired a spec drama script by husband-and-wife writing duo Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. The project will be taken out shortly to premium cable and streaming networks….

Yiddish Policemen’s Union, published in 2007 by HarperCollins, has received the Hugo, Sidewise, Nebula and Ignotus awards. Chabon’s other notable books include Wonder Boys (1995), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), Telegraph Avenue (2012), and Moonglow: A Novel (2016). He received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001.

(2) TOLKIEN COMES TO AMERICA. The Morgan Library & Museum in New York will host the “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” exhibit from January 25-May 12.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth celebrates the man and his creation. The exhibition will be the most extensive public display of original Tolkien material for several generations. Drawn from the collections of the Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Library (Oxford), Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee), the Morgan, and private lenders, the exhibition will include family photographs and memorabilia, Tolkien’s original illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts, and designs related to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

[It is] an exhibition organized by the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford in collaboration with the Morgan Library & Museum, New York with the support of The Tolkien Trust.

(Robin Anne Reid, who toured the exhibit when was at The Bodleian in Oxford, wrote an overview, ”Visiting Middle-Earth”. Reid predicts the Morgan version will not be as large.)

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018 Future Tense Fiction — a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— published a story on a theme. A new story came out December 29: “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis” by Annalee Newitz.

It was time to start the weekly circuit. Robot leapt vertically into the air from its perch atop the History Museum in Forest Park, rotors humming and limbs withdrawn into the smooth oval of its chassis. From a distance, it was a pale blue flying egg, slightly scuffed, with a propeller beanie on top. Two animated eyes glowed from the front end of its smooth carapace like emotive headlights. When it landed, all four legs and head extended from portals in its protective shell, the drone was more like a strangely symmetrical poodle or a cartoon turtle. Mounted on an actuator, its full face was revealed, headlight eyes situated above a short, soft snout whose purple mouth was built for smiling, grimacing, and a range of other, more subtle expressions.

It was published along with a response essay by AI programmer Janelle Shane, “No Robot Like Robot”

In 2018 the A.I. robot CIMON was sent to the International Space Station—and that’s when the awkwardness began. A floating sphere with a digital face displaying a few simple expressions, CIMON was supposed to help astronauts through many-step procedures by displaying information and answering questions. When astronaut Alexander Gerst tested it, he found CIMON’s maneuverability impressive but its social awareness perhaps less so. It had been programmed to know Gerst’s favorite song, but had to be ordered multiple times to stop playing it. “Let’s sing along with those favorite hits,” it interrupted, as Gerst tried to get it to record video. Moments later it seemed to take exception to Gerst’s mild comments on its flying ability. “Don’t be so mean, please,” it told him. “Don’t you like it here with me?” Soon it seemed CIMON’s mood detection system had a “hangry” category and had confusedly placed Gerst in it. “Oh, dear, I feel you. I can already hear your stomach roaring. Should we take a look for when it is time for food?” CIMON was soon stowed away.

(4) BIO COMICS. Print recommends the “3 Best Biographical Comics of 2018”. First on the list —  

Femme Magnifique: 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World

editor: Shelly Bond (Black Crown)

In Femme Magnifique, Michelle Obama is quoted as saying, “We’ve got a responsibility to live up to the legacy of those who come before us by doing all that we can to help those who come after us.” And that, in a nutshell, is what this book is helping to accomplish. Appropriately subtitled 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World, it includes biographies of Michelle and of Hillary Clinton, Harriet Tubman and Margaret Sanger, Disney’s Mary Blair and Brenda Starr’s Dale Messick, Björk and Laurie Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin and Elizabeth Cady Stanton… you get the idea.

(5) DC GOES MORE UNLIMITED. According to a press release from DC —

DC, comiXology, and Amazon have announced that select DC and DC Vertigo titles are now available through multiple subscription services at no additional cost: comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited, and Prime Reading. Expanding availability to these three services makes it easier than ever for Amazon customers to enjoy DC’s Super Heroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Justice League, as well as DC Vertigo’s high concept series like Sandman, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Transmetropolitan, Preacher, 100 Bullets, Fables, and more.

With the addition of thousands of select DC single issues, collections and graphic novels – including exclusive fan-favorites from the DC Vertigo imprint –  comiXology Unlimited remains $5.99 a month with a 30-day free trial for new members. Kindle Unlimited members will also enjoy a selection of single issues, collections and graphic novels, while subscribers of Prime Reading will have access to a curated and rotating list of highly regarded DC and DC Vertigo graphic novels, for no additional cost. This expansion across the three services provides the perfect entry points for those new to DC and DC Vertigo.

(6) EXTRA TREKS. More Trek animation and “Short Treks” are on the way says The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’: Second Animated Series, More ‘Short Treks’ Coming to CBS All Access”.

Alex Kurtzman tells The Hollywood Reporter that there will be a “minimum of two” animated series as he continues to build out the franchise.

Alex Kurtzman isn’t done building out the Star Trek franchise for CBS All Access.

The franchise captain has plans for at least one more animated series to join the previously announced Star Trek: Lower Decks, the half-hour animated comedy from Mike McMahan (Rick and Morty). Additionally, CBS All Access has ordered two more installments of shortform series Star Trek: Short Treks — both of which will be animated. Both installments will debut in the spring, after Star Trek: Discovery wraps its second season on CBS All Access. 

(7) PICARD. And another Hollywood Reporter article, “‘Star Trek’ Boss: Picard Leads “Radically Altered” Life in CBS All Access Series”, hints at the answer to the other big Trek question —

What is the next chapter in the life of Jean-Luc Picard?

That’s the question Star Trek diehards have been asking since August, when Patrick Stewart officially boarded an untitled CBS All Access series that will see him play Picard for the first time since 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. Little is known about the plot of the show, which has been described as an exploration of the next chapter of Picard’s life. Fans have speculated that it will find him serving as an ambassador, just as Leonard Nimoy’s Spock did in the later years of his life.

Now, Trek captain Alex Kurtzman is pulling back the curtain on the upcoming project, revealing that a cataclysmic event depicted in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie impacted Picard in a big way. In that film, written by Kurtzman and former producing partner Roberto Orci, it was revealed that Nimoy’s Spock failed to save the Romulan homeworld Romulus from a supernova several years after the events of Nemesis.

(8) SPACE COMMAND. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicrees, discusses his Space Command pilot.

A hopeful vision of the future spanning the galaxy! Starring Ethan McDowell, Doug Jones, Robert Picardo, Bruce Boxleitner, Mira Furlan.

(9) SAMUEL L. JACKSON. The coolest ever: “120 Movies, $13 Billion in Box Office: How Samuel L. Jackson Became Hollywood’s Most Bankable Star “.

He arrives exactly on schedule, not a minute early, not a minute late, and comes dressed in character: Armani cashmere shirt, translucent Alain Mikli eyeglasses and, of course, a Kangol cap. There are no formalities, no handshakes, no, “Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Samuel L. Jackson.” He simply strolls into the restaurant in midtown Manhattan — a short walk from the $13 million condo he shares with his wife of 38 years, LaTanya Richardson, who’s currently starring as Calpurnia in Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird — slips into a corner booth and buries his face behind a menu.

“Go ahead,” he says. “I’m listening.”

This is how the world’s most successful actor begins an interview.

(10) IO TRAILER. Io is a new sff series coming to Netflix on January 18:

Sam, one of the last survivors on a post-cataclysmic Earth, is a young scientist dedicated to finding a way for humans to adapt and survive, rather than abandon their world. But with the final shuttle scheduled to leave the planet for a distant colony, her determination to stay is rocked by the arrival of another survivor, Micah. She must decide whether to journey with him to join the rest of humanity and begin life anew, or stay to fight for Earth’s survival.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 9, 1890  — Karel Capek. Author of the his 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. R.U.R.was a dystopian work about a really bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. ISFDB shows two additional works by him, Krakatit: An Atomic Fantasy and The Absolute at Large which I’ve not heard of. (Died 1938.)
  • Born January 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. I trying to remember what I read by him him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for Galaxy, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and  genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any of. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 69. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack
  • Born January 9, 1955 J.K. Simmons, 64. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League.
  • Born January 9, 1956 Imelda Staunton, 63. Voice of the Snow Queen in The Snow Queen’s Revenge, A Nurse in Shakespeare in Love, Polly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dolores Jane Umbridge In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which I thought was a so-so film at best) and in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well and Knotgrass In Maleficent and the sequel. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville shows some people look farther ahead than others.

(13) RICHARD & WENDY PINI. SYFY Wire’s “Behind the Panel” interviews “Elfquest Creators On How They Met & Jack Kirby Stories You Never Knew.”

Richard & Wendy Pini have been the creative force behind Elquest for 40 years. And now it’s ending. They tell us what the future holds, how they met (it’s AWESOME), Jack Kirby stories & more. These two are just the best – and this interview will show you.

(14) PRE-THRONES CASTING. “‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Casts 8 Rising Stars “The Hollywood Reporter tells who they are:

The cast of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel is coming together.

The premium cable network has cast eight rising stars to join Naomi Watts and Josh Whitehouse in the pilot from writers Jane Goldman and franchise mastermind George R.R. Martin. Additionally, SJ Clarkson (Jessica Jones, Succession and the upcoming Star Trek feature) has been tapped to direct the pilot.

Cast as series regulars are Naomi Ackie (next appearing in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars), Denise Gough (Guerrilla, Tony-nominated for Angels in America), Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd, Twilight, Mortal Instruments), Sheila Atim (Harlots), Ivanno Jeremiah (Black Mirror, Humans), Georgie Henley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Alex Sharp (To the Bone) and Toby Regbo (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald).

As with all things Game of Thrones, details about their characters are being kept under wraps. The only character detail that has been revealed is that Watts is taking on the role of a charismatic socialite hiding a dark secret.

(15) AND PRE-GRRM. The PBS series Finding Your Roots kicked off its fifth season with “Grandparents and Other Strangers”, which includes a session with George R.R. Martin.  

Host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. helps actor Andy Samberg and author George R. R. Martin answer some family mysteries when DNA detective work uncovers new branches of their family trees. The DNA analysis upends family history and reveals new relatives.

(16) IN FLUX. The Washington Post’s John Kelly tracks down the “big nerd” and ’80s sci-fi movie fan who put an ad in the Post asking for a “flux capacitor” like that in Back to the Future: “Who placed a classified ad in The Washington Post looking for a flux capacitor?”

A mysterious ad appeared over the weekend in The Washington Post Classifieds, under the Electronics category, sandwiched between Collectibles and Furniture. It took up three lines and it read: “WANTED — Flux Capacitor — Needed to complete an important project. Must be in good condition. 571-444-5995.”

Because, after all, what use is a busted flux capacitor? You’d never get your DeLorean to achieve time travel, as explained in “Back to the Future,” that documentary movie released in 1985.

I called the number and got a recording. It was of a harried-sounding man saying, “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, we’re gonna see some serious [stuff].”

I left a message and my cellphone number….

…He collects replicas of movie props, including the hoverboard that Marty McFly rode and the self-lacing Nikes he wore. Doc even owns a DeLorean. (“I’m in one right now, waiting to go to lunch,” he said.)

Doc’s stunt — placing “Back to the Future”-inspired ads — reminded me of the 2014 movie “Safety Not Guaranteed,” based on a joke ad a writer placed inviting people to travel back in time with him.

(17) A TRANS-FJORD TUNNEL, HUZZAH! “Norway Embarks On Its Most Ambitious Transport Project Yet” and NPR is there:

Driving the nearly 700 miles along the coastal route from the city of Kristiansand in the south to the city of Trondheim now takes about 21 hours and requires seven ferry crossings. To cut travel time in half, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has launched a nearly $40 billion transportation project that will include the world’s longest floating bridge and — perhaps — a first-of-its-kind floating underwater traffic tunnel.

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note that “This article has what could easily become my favorite proverb for the new year: ‘It’s a saying that there’s nothing in the world that is in a bigger rush than a dead fish,’ Kleppe says.”

(18) SEXISM AT CES. BBC reports “‘Award-winning’ sex toy for women withdrawn from show”.

A sex toy designed for women has been banned from the technology show CES.

Lorna DiCarlo said it had been invited to display its robotic Ose vibrator at CES, after winning an innovation award.

CES organiser the Consumer Technology Association, which granted the award, said it had included the device by mistake and could withdraw any immoral or obscene entry at any time.

Lorna DiCarlo chief executive Lora Haddock said the CES and CTA had a history of gender bias.

In a statement to The Next Web, the CTA said: “The product does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted.

“We have apologised to the company for our mistake.”

But, in a statement on the Lora DiCarlo website, Ms Haddock cites several examples of other female-oriented products included in the award category the vibrator was in.

“Two robotic vacuum cleaners, one robotic skateboard, four children’s toys, one shopping companion robot – looks like all of women’s interests are covered, right?” she said.

…Ms Haddock said there was a double-standard at CES when it came to sexual health products targeted at men versus women.

“Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit, with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle,” she said.

(19) CLEANUP ON VEIN SIX. A kind of advance in fighting cancer: “Sponge offers hope of ‘less toxic’ chemotherapy”.

Scientists believe they may have found a way to make cancer chemotherapy treatment less toxic to the body.

They have begun testing a tiny sponge that sits inside a vein and removes excess chemo drugs from the blood once they have attacked the target tumour.

Experts say the early work, in the journal ACS Central Science, offers hope of avoiding treatment side-effects, such as hair loss and nausea.

So far, it has been tried in pigs, but researchers want to test it in people.

If all goes well, those trials could happen within a couple of years, says scientist Dr Nitash Balsara, from the University of California.

(20) YOU BOUGHT IT, YOU UN-BREAK IT. “Climate change: ‘Right to repair’ gathers force” – BBC has the story.

It is frustrating: you buy a new appliance then just after the warranty runs out, it gives up the ghost.

You can’t repair it and can’t find anyone else to at a decent price, so it joins the global mountain of junk.

You’re forced to buy a replacement, which fuels climate change from the greenhouse gases released in the manufacturing process.

But help is at hand, because citizens in the EU and parts of the USA will soon get a “right to repair” – of sorts.

This consists of a series of proposals from European environment ministers to force manufacturers to make goods that last longer and are easier to mend.

The European proposals refer to lighting, televisions and large home appliances.

At least 18 US states are considering similar laws in a growing backlash against products which can’t be prised apart because they’re glued together, or which don’t have a supply of spare parts, or repair instructions

(21) EQUAL TIME. Cthulu’s response to President Trump’s speech last night:

(22) MAGNOLIA PARK. Help save John King Tarpinian’s favorite Burbank neighborhood:

The retro charm of Burbank’s unique shops is what makes Magnolia Boulevard a must-visit destination for all. Beloved by the community and visited by people worldwide, we are now in danger of losing everything that makes this strip unique.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY BOOKS. The popular culture website Paste calls these “The 15 Best Fantasy Novels of 2018”.

The following 15 books capture the range that makes fantasy fiction so great, from epic high fantasy to alternate reality to urban fantasy to literary fiction that just happens to star a Greek goddess. These books visit other magical worlds, sure, but also draw from West African, Chinese and Greek mythology, as well as the American Civil War, ’80s punk scenes, far-off planets and Edwardian England. Most of these are stand-alone novels, but there are also a few continuations of some of our favorite fantasy series.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Named Paste’s best Young Adult novel of 2018, Dread Nation blends elements of fantasy, horror and alternate history to create something wholly unique and utterly memorable. Set in an alternate world in which the undead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the novel picks up years later as the United States is spiraling into horror. Readers meet Jane, a teen studying to be an Attendant who is trained to fight zombies for the wealthy white class. But it isn’t the life she wants. A novel that discusses race, class and so much more, Dread Nation is one of 2018’s best reads. —Eric Smith

(2) QUEST, OR GUILT TRIP? However, Forbidden Futures’ Cody Goodfellow takes a skeptical view of epic fantasy: “Exiled from Middle-Earth: Why Fantasy Failed Us”.

…If Tolkien stirred our noblest aspirations, he also created a benign propaganda that mythologized cultural differences until nationalities became species, and denied basic humanity to its antagonists, rendering the defense of the divine right of kings into a Manichean conflict between absolute light and absolute darkness––arguably, in spite of his denials, an allegory for Europe’s agonizing crusade against Hitler. As noted contrarian David Brin observed in an essay coinciding with Jackson’s grandiose adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the humans and their allies worship at the altar of absolute hereditary rule, and libel the one agent of merit, inclusion and technological progress in Middle Earth. Certainly, the notion that the land might incarnate itself in the form of a devoted ruler is a beautiful conceit, but it’s only the most richly embroidered defense of a myth that’s brought little but tribulation and tragedy, in the real world. If one were to ask the Saudi Crown Prince in a candid moment about the butchery of Jamal Khashoggi only this month, he would no doubt clothe his rationalization by noting that the Washington Post journalist dismembered with bone saws in the Saudi consulate in Turkey was just another orc threatening his divinely ordained kingdom….

(3) ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER. A highlight from the CW event — “Black Suit Superman Speaks With Kara In Meta Jail — Elseworlds Crossover Supergirl.”

(4) DEEP FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon discusses “Aquaman, From Super Friend To Surfer Dude: The Bro-Ification Of A Hero”.

Let’s get the bona fides out of the way up top.

This post is about some of the sweeping changes that the DC Comics superhero Aquaman (Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean! King of the Seven Seas!) has undergone on his way to this weekend’s blockbuster movie Aquaman. Inevitably, it will elide many details important to ardent fans of the character, and open its author up to charges of not knowing whereof he speaks, of a willful ignorance of the character, of simply echoing stale observations hastily ransacked from the Aquaman Wikipedia page.

The defense humbly (okay, smugly) presents the following evidence.

Exhibit A: That photo atop this post? That’s the author’s collection of aqua-memorabilia. Kindly do not refer to it as a shrine, as it is simply the by-product of what happens when the author’s lifelong obsession with a fictional character intersects with his husband’s insistence that said obsession not take up more space in their tiny apartment than the top of one friggin’ dresser.

(5) COUNTERPOINT. Despite several quibbles, NPR’s Linda Holmes says “‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Is A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic”.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it’s no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don’t know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

It’s hard to bring to life a character with no past and no future except to visit more children, take them on more adventures, and then leave them again. Created in the P.L. Travers children’s books and indelibly committed to film by Julie Andrews in 1964, Mary is special in part because since she’s magic, she is nurture without need. She doesn’t need to be thanked; she doesn’t even need to be remembered. The helping is all.

(6) OUT, DARNED DOTS. Jeff VanderMeer says the problem is very simple:

If the semi-colon is ruining your writing, periods, colons, and commas probably are ruining it, too.

(7) HANG UP. Continuing today’s Abbreviated Wisdom for Authors section: “Michael Chabon’s Advice to Young Writers: Put Away Your Phone”.

…And it’s advice I give to myself, as much as to anyone, but especially to younger writers. Writers coming up now. Which is put your?—?put this [points to phone]?—?away. When you’re out in the world, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re on the subway, when you’re riding in the back of a car, when you’re doing all those everyday things that are so tedious, where this [phone] is such a godsend in so many ways. As in that David Foster Wallace graduation speech, when he talks about standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re in those moments where this [phone] is so seductive, and it works! It’s so brilliant at giving you something to do. I mean walking down the street looking at your phone?—?that’s pretty excessive. But in other circumstances where it feels natural, that’s when you need to put this [phone] away. Because using your eyes, to take in your immediate surroundings… Your visual and auditory experience of the world, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people interact, noticing weird shit out the window of a moving car, all those things are so deeply necessary to getting your work done every day. When I’m working on a regular work schedule, which is most of the time, and I’m really engaged in whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a part of my brain that is always alert to mining what can be mined from that immediate everyday experience. I don’t even know I’m doing it, but I’ll see something, like,“That name on that sign is the perfect last name for this character!” Or the thing I just overheard that woman saying, is exactly the line of dialog I need for whatever I’m doing. And if you’re like this [phone in your face], you miss it all.

(8) BILL CRIDER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION. Bouchercon 2019 will inaugurate the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction in the mystery genre.

Debuting at the 50th Anniversary of Bouchercon, Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon Dallas committee launched the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction to celebrate this treasured literary form, both the short story and the widely-admired mystery author and reviewer, Bill Crider. Designed to encourage writers from all over the world, these distinguished prizes award stories with fascinating characters and twisty plots, all in the mystery genre.

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $750

Third Prize: $500

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, will choose the winners from the shortlisted writers.

Once the final four writers have been chosen, all shortlisted authors will be notified on or near October 1.

Bouchercon Dallas Guest of Honor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, will recognize the shortlisted authors and award the top prizes during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The convention takes place October 31-November 3, 2019.

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2019. Full guidelines at the link.

(9) MORE ON NINE WORLDS. Robot Archie steered me to another exposition about the fate of Nine Worlds. Avery Delany’s Twitter thread begins here.  

(10) STRONG LANGUAGE, HARLAN? Fanac.org returns you to the thrilling days of yesteryear with an audio recording of Harlan Ellison at Pacificon II, the 1964) Worldcon, speaking about “Adaptation of Science Fiction to a Visual Media.” Visually annotated, illustrated with convention photos, and preceded with this little warning —

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. WARNING – 1) Harlan uses some strong language in this recording. 2)The first few minutes are missing. Harlan gives an engrossing talk (audio, enhanced with images) about writing for television and about how Hollywood works. The talk took place during the filming of the Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand”, and Harlan speaks very frankly (including complaints) about his experience as the writer on the episode. Includes Harlan’s reading of a scene as written, and as changed by management as well as discussion on the casting, the directing and the location. Embedded are photos of Harlan throughout his science fiction career. This audio material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1933Son Of Kong premiered in theaters.
  • December 20, 1961 – The film version of Jules Verne’s drama Mysterious Island was released.
  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1942  — Angel Tompkins, 76. Anyone remember Amazon Women on the Moon? Yeah she was in it. She later shows up in the Knight Rider series and, oh, that Starlost series which Cordwainer Bird swore off before the first episode. There’s an episode of Wild Wild West and Night Gallery as well but she stopped acting twenty years ago.
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. Longest and definitely best known role would be as the evil Supreme Commander Servalan/ and Commissioner Sleer on Blake’s 7. She’d show several times in Doctor Who, one on screen in The Two Doctors (Yes, I saw it) and once as a voice only role in Death Comes to Time, a Seventh Doctor story.  She played a Mrs. Annabelle Levin in the “Paris, October 1916” episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well, a series I really liked. She did a bit of time travel in Moondail as Miss Vole / Miss Raven and finally showed up in The Avengers as a character named Miaranne. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role was Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (great film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 58. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like all her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 48. I first saw her in a Canadian produced series called Beyond Reality where she played multiple roles. Very odd show. You’ll more likely know her as Ezri Dax on i or Sarah Bracknell Bannerman on The Dead Zone as those are her major genre series to date. She’s also shown up in Forever Knight, TekWar, Poltergeist, The Outer Limits, Stargate Atlantis, Haven, Five Days to Midnight, The Fearing Mind, Mission Genesis and Psi Factor. I believe all of these latter shows were filmed in Canada, some of them of Toronto if memory serves me right.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. WhatCulture has designated these the 10 Best Comic Books of 2018.

(15) COMICS’ JEWISH INFLUENCERS. Career artist and fan Hugo winner Steve Stiles responded to the Baltimore Jewish Times’ farewell to Stan Lee in this recently-published letter of comment. Steve begins —  

As one who enjoyed a five-year stint as a freelance illustrator for Marvel’s British publications, I enjoyed reading Arie Kaplan’s article on Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Gave Comic Books Permission to Be More Jewish, JT online”). I was, however, surprised that one of Marvel’s leading Jewish characters, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, the strong man of the Fantastic Four, was overlooked….

(16) KEEP COUNTING. Seems there’s still a lot to discover on this planet! Per the BBC: “The secret life of plants: Ten new species found this year”.

Plant collectors have searched for the hidden wonders of the plant world for centuries.

Yet plants that are new to science are still being described, at a rate of about 2,000 a year.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discovered and named more than 100 new plants in 2018.

Their list of the top new plants includes carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic orchids and climbers with untapped medicinal powers.

(17) LITTLE BROTHER IS LISTENING. Get ready to shake and bake: “Nasa’s InSight deploys ‘Marsquake’ instrument”.

The American space agency’s InSight mission to Mars has begun to deploy its instruments.

The lander’s robotic arm has just placed the bell-shaped seismometer package on the ground in front of it.

This suite of sensors, developed in France and the UK, will listen for “Marsquakes” in an effort to determine the internal structure of the Red Planet.

InSight touched down near the world’s equator in November.

(18) PIE A LA GIANT MODE. Speaking of baking, this has nothing to do with genre, but dang! In Australia, “Domino’s Is Selling Its Biggest Pizza Ever, And It Barely Can Fit Into Cars”.

It’s available in extremely limited quantities.

Only two are available per store, per day, so you have to order one online ahead of time if you want in. Domino’s requires a 24 hour heads-up, so plan your hang-outs accordingly.

It’s too big for delivery.

Do you really expect someone to carry this on their bike to you?! No, you gotta go in and pick it up. And since it’s a full 40 inches across (Domino’s had to make new boxes to stand up to the weight!) you might want to go in an SUV.

(19) MONSTERS FROM THE US. From Entertainment Weekly: Us first look: See photos from Jordan’s Peele’s Get Out follow-up”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?

“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”

Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer.

(20) GET STARTED BOOING NOW. No need to wait — you know this will end badly The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Harvey’ Remake in the Works at Netflix”. The idea does not sound either oh, so nice, or oh, so smart….

‘Shrek 2’ writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been tapped to write.

One of film’s best-known rabbits is hopping his way back to Hollywood.

A Harvey remake is in the works at Netflix, with J. David Stem and David N. Weiss set to write the screenplay. Fabrica de Cine, which is working with the streamer on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will produce.

(21) I DREAM OF GENIE. Footage from the forthcoming Aladdin live-action movie with Will Smith as the Genie.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Robot Archie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 10/29/18 Pixel Was The Doctor. The Croll’s Name Was Pixel’s Croll

(1) THE ORVILLE RETURNING. The second season of The Orville premieres December 30 on Fox.

THE ORVILLE is a live-action, one-hour space adventure series set 400 years in the future that follows The Orville, a mid-level exploratory spaceship. Its crew, both human and alien, face the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the familiar, often humorous problems of everyday life.

 

(2) ABOUT TIME. TV Line says the farewell episode of Timeless will air on December 20: “Timeless Series Finale Gets Air Date, EPs Promise ‘Unforgettable Thrill Ride Through Past, Present and Future'”.

NBC is giving Timeless fans an early Christmas gift: The cancelled drama’s two-hour series finale will air on Thursday, Dec. 20 at 8/7, the network announced on Friday.

According to the press release, executive producers Eric Kripke, Shawn Ryan and Arika Lisanne Mittman are “promising fans an epic, unforgettable thrill ride through the past, present and future, with a healthy dose of Christmas spirit. Spread across three centuries and two continents, the finale will test Lucy, Wyatt and the entire Time Team like never before as they try to #SaveRufus, preserve history and put a stop to Rittenhouse once and for all.”

Returning cast members include Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, Goran Višnji?, Paterson Joseph, Sakina Jaffrey and Claudia Doumit

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Leanna Renee Hieber and Cat Rambo on November 21:

  • Leanna Renee Hieber

Leanna Renee Hieber is an award-winning author, actress and playwright who has written twelve Gothic, ghostly Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautiful series, The Eterna Files, the Magic Most Foul trilogy and The Spectral City series. Her work has been featured in many notable anthologies and translated into many languages. A veteran of stage and screen, Leanna works as a Manhattan ghost tour guide for Boroughs of the Dead. http://leannareneehieber.com

  • Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo is the author of two novels, the most recent of which is Hearts of Tabat, five collections, 200+ stories, several non-fiction works, and co-editor of one cookbook. A Nebula Award, World Fantasy Award, and Endeavour Award nominee, she is also a two-term President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and runs online school The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers.

Things begin Wednesday, November 21st, 2018, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(4) VAMPIRE RESEARCH. Bram Stoker marked up library books but these librarians aren’t upset. The Bookseller has the story — “London Library finds Bram Stoker’s source books”.

The London Library says it has located a number of the actual books used by Bram Stoker in researching his novel Dracula.

Stoker’s own notebooks list a wide range of the author’s sources for Dracula, including hundreds of references to individual lines and phrases in books that he considered relevant. A recent trawl of the London Library’s bookshelves has revealed that the Library has original copies of 26 of these books, and many of them carry detailed markings that closely match Stoker’s notebook references – whether crosses and underlinings against relevant paragraphs, or page turnings on key pages, or other notations – and which the library believes were made by Stoker himself.

…Philip Spedding, the library’s development director, and the man who uncovered the books’ annotations, commented: “Bram Stoker was a member of The London Library but until now we have had no indication whether or how he used our collection. Today’s discovery changes that and we can establish beyond reasonable doubt that numerous books still on our shelves are the very copies that he was using to help write and research his masterpiece.”

(5) HOW TO AMEND THE LAWS OF NATURE. Steven Sottong tells SFWA Blog readers why this job is not that bleepin’ easy in “Suspension of Disbelief”.

I’d even gotten as far as figuring out about gravity. If you accelerate at 1G for the first half of the voyage, turn the ship around and decelerate at 1G for the last half, you always have gravity and it’s always in the same direction. But if you stop accelerating at some point in the voyage, you end up with zero G which is highly disruptive. So if I can’t accelerate and decelerate the entire voyage, then all or part of the ship must spin to create an artificial gravity with centripetal force. Unfortunately, the direction of the artificial gravity is at right angles to the direction of acceleration, so you have to rotate all of the living quarters of the ship to keep the floor where floors normally go — a major pain. Additionally, I found out at a presentation at the 2018 WorldCon that centripetal force doesn’t behave like natural gravity, meaning I needed to adjust many of the scenes in the story.

(6) MYTHCON 50 GOHS. These are your guests of honor for Mythcon 50 in San Diego:

  • John Crowley will be our Author GOH (“Little, Big” – won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in 1982; “KA: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr” – won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award this past summer, 2018).
  • Verlyn Flieger will be our Scholar GOH (“A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie”, “Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth”, and “Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien” – all winners of the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies – in 1998, 2005, and 2013).

(7) THRILLING TSUNDOKU TALES. By O. Westin —

(8) WHO COMIC BEGINS. Titan Comics’ Thirteenth Doctor comic series debuts November 7.

Taking control of the TARDIS for this regeneration is an amazing new team: Eisner-nominated writer Jody Houser (Stranger Things, Mother Panic, Faith, Spider-Man), illustrator Rachael Stott (Doctor Who, Motherlands), and colorist Enrica Angiolini (Warhammer 40,000).

(9) SCIENCE FICTION/DOUBLE FEATURE: Jason got caught in a bit of a time warp over at Featured Futures and only recently finished Summation: September 2018 with its lists of reviews and recommended readings:

Apologies for taking so long to finish what I read for this month. I ended up reading 90 stories of about 533K words. That netted fourteen noted stories (four recs), with Lightspeed’s special issue, Asimov’s, Analog, and Galaxy’s Edge contributing multiple tales.

But you don’t have to shiver with antici… pation for Summation: October 2018 as it’s been completed on time:

October was fairly light in both total and noted stories. Counting a couple of late September stories in the month’s first Wrap-Up, there were 37 of the former, weighing in at about 207K words, and a half-dozen of the latter at about 41K (with two recommendations of 7K). Somewhat unusually, Nature and CRES produced the recommended tales, with a science fantasy from Lightspeed and a trio of BCS fantasies from one of its anniversary issues getting the honorable mentions

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 29, 1906 – Fredric Brown, Writer who produced a handful of novels and a prodigious number of short works which have been translated into more than a dozen different languages, and are known for their use of humor and for the mastery of the “short-short” form. One of his stories, “Arena”, was the basis for an episode of the original Star Trek series. Four of his stories have been finalists for Retro Hugo Awards, and a collection of his stories translated into Spanish won a Premio Ignotus. He has been credited as an influence for a wide range of well-known SFF authors, from Philip K. Dick and Robert A. Heinlein to Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. In 2012 he was the recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. History records that he was an SJW with a Siamese cat named Ming Tah.
  • Born October 29, 1935 – Sheila Finch, 83, Writer and Linguist from England who emigrated to the U.S. in her early 20s. She won the Compton Crook Award for her first novel, Infinity’s Web. She is best known for her Guild of Xenolinguists series; one of its novellas, Reading the Bones, won a Nebula Award, and she is credited with coining the term “xenolinguist”, a title used for Uhura in the Star Trek reboot movies. She served as Vice-President of SFWA and Chair of their Grievance Committee for five years, is a founding member of the Asilomar Writers Consortium, and has been Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Balticon.
  • Born October 29, 1938 – Ralph Bakshi, 80, Animator, Writer, and Director from Israel who started as a low-level animator at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. His first major break was as creative director for CBS on Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes, fast-forwarding to Fritz the Cat (which may or may not be genre, but it’s got a talking cat). Genrewise, I’d say he’s most noted for the Hugo finalist Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and for which the name was changed from War Wizards, so that it wouldn’t be confused with you-know-what film. Next up was the Hugo-nominated The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair, followed by by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Hugo-winning artists Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series! He created the animated series Spicy City, which was SF noir with lots of sex and violence, and got cancelled after six episodes. Then there’s Cool World… His career work was recognized with an Annie Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Art of Animation.
  • Born October 29, 1941 – Hal W. Hall, 77, Librarian, Writer and Member of First Fandom who is best known for his nonfiction bibliographies and indexes of genre works. His Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index, 1985-1991 was computerized in 2000 and put online as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database; it currently indexes more than 113,000 items about SF and fantasy. His work has been recognized with the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award and their Thomas D. Clareson Award, First Fandom’s Sam Moskowitz Archive Award, and the J. Lloyd Eaton Memorial Award, given by the UC-Riverside Eaton Collection’s foundation to honor contributions of lasting significance to the field.
  • Born October 29, 1954 – Paul Di Filippo, 64, Writer and Critic. Ciphers: A Post-Shannon Rock-n-Roll Mystery was his first work. He is, I’d say, an acquired taste. I like him; for first-time readers, I’d suggest The Steampunk Trilogy and go from there. His A Year in the Linear City was a finalist for Hugo Award for Best Novella, a World Fantasy Award, and the Sturgeon Award. He’s one of genre’s stellar reviewers, having reviewed at one time or another for Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Science Fiction Eye, The New York Review of Science Fiction, Interzone, Nova Express, and Science Fiction Weekly. His work has received numerous nominations for BSFA, Nebula, World Fantasy, Philip K. Dick, Tiptree, Sidewise, and Premio Ignotus Awards, and he has won a British Science Fiction Award and the Prix Imaginaire.
  • Born October 29, 1967 – Rufus Sewell, 51, Actor from England who is currently appearing as Reichsmarschall John Smith in The Man in The High Castle, which is loosely based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick. He was the lead in Dark City, a film which is often compared to the Matrix films, but which actually preceded them. He’s also appeared in The Legend of Zorro, Arabian Nights, Hercules, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, A Knight’s Tale, Mermaid Chronicles, The Illusionist, and the U.S. version of the TV series Eleventh Hour.
  • Born October 29, 1969 – Jason Chong, 49, Actor from Australia whose first genre appearance was in an episode of Time Trax; he has gone on to roles in the films See No Evil, The Forbidden Kingdom, The Pact, Guardians of the Tomb, Little Monsters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and episodes of Farscape, The Lost World, Terra Nova, Marco Polo, Wolf Creek, and Bite Club.
  • Born October 29, 1971 – Winona Ryder, 47, Actor who has a long history in the genre starting with Beetlejuice, but also including Saturn-nominated roles in Edward Scissorhands, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Alien: Resurrection, and the Hugo-nominated TV series Stranger Things, as well as parts in S1m0ne, A Scanner Darkly, Being John Malkovich, Black Swan, and the 2009 Star Trek reboot, as Spock’s mother.
  • Born October 29, 1972 – Gabrielle Union, 46, Actor who has solid genre creds with extended roles as Perri Reed in the new Night Stalker and as Zoey Andata in FlashForward, for which she was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She also played the Klingon officer N’Garen in the “Sons and Daughters” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, had a guest part on The Others, and was nominated for a Saturn Award for her role in Cradle 2 the Grave.
  • Born October 29, 1977 – Ben Foster, 41, Musician and Composer from England, best known for his work on the Torchwood TV series (for which he received three BAFTA nominations) and as orchestrator for Murray Gold on the Hugo-winning Doctor Who; he has also worked on the series Thunderbirds Are Go, Sherlock, Mars, The Last Witch, and films including Poltergeist, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and Prometheus.
  • Born October 29, 1985 – Janet Montgomery, 33, Actor from England who has had main roles on the TV series Salem and the TV version of DC Comics’ Human Target. She has also appeared in the films The Space Between Us, Black Swan, Dead Cert, The Hills Run Red, and Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, and in episodes of Black Mirror and Merlin.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHERE NO TREK HAS GONE BEFORE. From Fansided we learn about the “Star Trek short from author Michael Chabon”.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon. Chabon’s short, called Calypso, is set 1000 years after Discovery, meaning it’s set later down the Star Trek timeline than any film or TV show yet produced. There’s a new trailer for that, too:

 

(13) BEAUTY IS IN THE ABACUS OF THE BEHOLDER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Data visualization is probably as much art as science and the shortlists for the 2018 Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards support that. The lists include several items of potential genre & genre-adjacent interest. You’ll need to click the links below to get to the nominee page, then click through to the various creator’s websites to see the full visualizations.

A 3-D linked look the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the nominees in the Arts, Entertainment & Culture category. Also in that group is Fear and Loathing In Cinema Theatre: Our Favourite Genres and Emotions In IMDB Top 250. In the Science & Technology category, there’s an ambitious wrap-up of Satellites: 60 Years In Orbit. (Though some people may hesitate to go to the Russian host site to view this one.) For the astronomically inclined, Figures in the Sky looks at how constellations vary across a host of cultures. The Next Bechdel Test may already have been reported in File 770. Both those latter two are in the People, Languages & Identity category. YMMV on how many other of these nominees are genre-adjacent.

(14) TENTACLE TIME. National Geographic video shows where “World’s largest deep-sea octopus nursery discovered”.

Off the coast of Monterey, California, and some two miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, scientists piloting a remotely-operated submersible saw something no one has ever seen before.

Octopuses. Hundreds of them. Huddled on a rocky outcrop at the base of an underwater mountain.

“We went down the eastern flank of this small hill, and that’s when—boom—we just started seeing pockets of dozens here, dozens there, dozens everywhere,” says Chad King, chief scientist on the Exploration Vessel Nautilus.

All in all, King estimates that more than 1,000 octopuses known as Muusoctopus robustus were nestled among the rocks, most of which appeared to be inverted, or turned inside out. For this species, that inside-out pose is common among females that are brooding, or protecting their growing young. In some cases, the submersible’s camera could even spot tiny embryos cradled within their mothers’ arms.

(15) HALLOWEEN TREE. It’s Bradbury season at the Take Me To Your Reader podcast: “TMTYR Episode #70: This Movie is Woke! (The Halloween Tree)”.

Once, again, the Pavement Pounders are joined by Dr. Phil Nichols to discuss some Ray Bradbury. This time, it’s The Halloween Tree, the book, the television film, and the Colonial Radio Theater production.

(16) ON THE ROAD. Filmmaker John Carpenter’s Official Music Tour will take him all over Europe, but the last stop will be in Los Angeles.

(17) BARELY SFF ADJACENT. Slate presents “The 10 Commandments of Baby Halloween Costumes”. And a lot of the photos are of genre costumes!

There are almost no wrong answers. You don’t have to be especially creative. Tons of babies dress up as pumpkins, and guess what? Each and every one of them makes an excellent pumpkin. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to do something weird or special, go for it! This Halloween will be one of the few your baby isn’t old enough to express any preferences of her own, so if you want to dress her as Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born or a Chippendale’s dancer, I say go for it.

(18) DUM VIVIMUS VIVAMUS. SYFY Wire has made note of Halloween yard art that pays homage to (spoiler alert) the demise of Spider-Man at the end of the latest Avengers movie (“Avengers: Infinity War fan Halloween display pays hilarious homage to the snap”).

Thanos’ finger snap at the end of Avengers: Infinity War sucked for pretty much everybody but the Mad Titan himself — and perhaps most of all for Peter Parker and Tony Stark. Stranded with a busted alien spacecraft on Thanos’ home planet and already left for dead, Stark has to watch as his superhero friends vaporize all around him one by one — including Spidey, who turns to ash right in Tony’s arms.

Just in time for Halloween, one MCU fan has used a little low-fi elbow grease, along with a ton of creative thinking, to commemorate what may be the movie’s most poignant moment. With nothing more than some pumpkins, a handful of leaves, and a couple of Marvel bits you can buy at the nearest big-box store, they’ve captured the tear-jerking moment of Peter’s sad goodbye, and the result — we have to admit — is way funnier than it probably should be.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/24/18 I’ve Reversed The Scrollarity Of The Neutron Flow

(1) CHABON AT WORK ON NEW PICARD SERIES. Newsweek fills in the background behind Sir Patrick Stewart’s tweet: “Michael Chabon, Patrick Stewart Look Captivated in New Star Trek Photo”.

Assembled is the creative team for the new Picard series, and many are also involved with Star Trek: Discovery. Kirsten Beyer is the Star Trek novelist and Discovery staff writer; the Picard series is described as her “brain child.” Michael Chabon is a Pulitzer, Hugo and Nebula-award winning author (he also wrote John Carter). Akiva Goldsman is executive producer of most things in this world, including Stephen King projects like The Dark Tower and Doctor Sleep, DC’s Titans and Star Trek: Discovery . Diandra Pendleton-Thompson is a veteran writers assistant, on Stranger Things Season 3 and now on projects with Goldsman (according to her alumni magazine, she’s also written a pilot “about supernatural mafias in 1970s Las Vegas”). James Duff created The Closer and joined the Star Trek: Discovery team after the exit of former showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts.

(2) PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS. Voting is open in the final round of the 2018 Peoples Choice Awards, now through October 19. The voting rules specify a “Turbo Voting” periods for this final round (October 4-9) wherein votes count double. You can vote in several ways and  multiple times, up to limits noted in the rules. Winners will be announced in a televised ceremony the evening of November 11.

The full list of nominees is online at E! News, many of them genre. For example, up for the year’s best movie are –

Movie of 2018

Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War
Incredibles 2
Fifty Shades Freed
A Quiet Place

(3) SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. CanSMOF Inc. has announced the three winners of its scholarships to SMOFcon 36, a con for convention runners.

  • The first scholarship, open to a Canadian citizen or resident, was awarded to Rebecca Downey of Montréal, QC.
  • The second, open to a non-North American resident, was awarded to Marguerite Smith of Dublin, Ireland.
  • The third, open to anyone involved in running conventions, regardless of their place of residence or citizenship, was awarded to Kate Hatcher of Layton, UT.

SMOFcon 36 runs November 30-December 2 in Santa Rosa, CA.

(4) FISH IN A RAPIDLY GROWING POND. Adam-Troy Castro wrote a confessional post that deals honestly with the tug-of-war between a writer’s aspirations for the field, and for his own career:

You think it doesn’t bother me, on some level, when younger writers make a splash on some epic level I haven’t, when they win multiple awards I haven’t, when they make movie deals I haven’t, you don’t know how the human animal works.

One can be happy for any individual one of them, even several of them, and still seethe with that reptile-animal cry, “You’re forgetting about me!”

Any claim that I had never experienced that thought process would be a lie….

(5) ELEVATOR YOUR GAME. Joshua Palmatier is updating his “Elevator Pitch Project”. Click to see his list of links to the authors’ posts.

A few year ago, I ran a couple of projects designed to help writers with some of the basic essentials of trying to get a novel published, things like query letters and plot synopses. Since then, my blog had changed and those links to those bits of writerly advice from various published authors have been lost. So I thought I’d run another set of projects to refresh those links AND to bring in new thoughts from today’s authors. So for the next three days, I’ll be running three projects, one on elevator pitches, one on query letters, and one on plot synopses. This is the central hub for all of the posts on:

Elevator Pitches:

Here are some thoughts on how to write elevator pitches from various authors. Not everyone does this the same way, so I’d suggest reading through the posts, think about the advice, and then decide which approach works best for you. Maybe try a few of them to find out. This is the first time I’ve done a elevator pitch project, so all of these posts are new. Also, I’ll add to this list if more authors want to participate in the future, so check back every now and then and see if there’s a new post on the list. I hope some of you find these projects helpful!

(6) TOLKIEN. The Hobbit did not appear in German translation while the Nazis were in power. Newsweek revisits the 1936 correspondence that may explain why: “The Hobbit: How Tolkien Sunk a German Anti-Semitic Inquiry Into His Race”.

…New owner Albert Hachfeld fired all Jewish staff and dropped all Jewish writers. In the letter to Tolkien, his firm explained that before it could start work on a German version of The Hobbit, they had to ensure Tolkien’s “Aryan descent,” i.e., make sure he had no Jewish ancestry.

In a letter to his friend and publisher Stanley Unwin, Tolkien said the letter from Berlin was “a bit stiff.” He questioned whether “I suffer this impertinence because of the possession of a German name, or do their lunatic laws require a certificate of arisch [Aryan] origin from all persons of all countries?”

“I should be inclined to refuse to give any Bestätigung [confirmation] (although it happens that I can), and let a German translation go hang,” Tolkien added. “In any case I should object strongly to any such declaration appearing in print.”

Tolkien submitted two draft replies to the German. The first simply ignored the request. But the second demonstrates the author’s opinion on the Nazi state—and its misunderstanding of the word “Aryan”—in no uncertain terms. It reads as follows….

(7) SHEFFIELD HOSTS A WHO. “Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker lands in Sheffield for red carpet premiere” covers a sneak preview at the site of the opening episode. A companion (get it?) post has a collection of as-it-happened coverage, with pictures: “Doctor Who premiere: How Sheffield red carpet happened”.

(8) BUMBLEBEE TRAILER. The new Transformers movie will be in theaters at Christmas.

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

 

(9) KURTZ OBIT. Here are some more acknowledgements of Gary Kurtz’ passing —

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 24, 1825 – Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Teacher, Writer, Poet, Journalist, and Activist. The only child of free African-American parents, she was a strong supporter of abolitionism, prohibition and woman’s suffrage, and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape to Canada. Her 1860 speculative fiction story “The Triumph of Freedom – A Dream” was anthologized in The Vintage Book of American Women Writers in 2011.
  • Born September 24, 1918 – Bernard J. ‘Jack’ Daley, Writer. I’m quoting his well written obit: “But a large part of his life revolved around writing and an enduring passion for science fiction, fantasy, horror stories and comics. His stories appeared in Infinity and Fantastic Universe, as well as a 1957 anthology of science fiction and fantasy tales. Fun-loving, witty and compassionate, Mr. Daley was among the earliest customers at Greg Eide’s comic store when it opened in Etna in 1972. In the pre-Internet era, “We were all finding each other. Jack would come in with his son, Chris,” said Mr. Eide, who hosted after-hours, monthly gatherings at his store on Saturday night where collectors traded and sold comics while appreciating the imagination of author Stan Lee and the artistry of illustrators like Frank Frazetta.”
  • Born September 24, 1930 – John “Jack” Gaughan, Artist and Illustrator, winner of several Hugo Awards for both Professional and Fan Artist. Working mostly with Donald A. Wollheim at Ace Books, and DAW Books from 1971 onwards, his style could be seen on Andre Norton’s Witch World novels and E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensmen and Skylark novels. He was the house illustrator for Galaxy Magazine from ‘69 to ‘74 as well. In addition, you can find his work on the unauthorized first paperback edition of Lord of the Rings which Ace released in 1965.
  • Born September 24, 1934 – John Brunner, Writer, whose best novels I think were The Shockwave Rider, Stand on Zanzibar, and The Sheep Look Up. Stand on Zanzibar won the Hugo and BSFA Awards and was a Nebula finalist. The Jagged Orbit won a BSFA too. He wrote the screenplay for The Terrornauts. And it should be noted he was a Guest of Honor at the first European Science Fiction Convention, Eurocon-1, in 1972.
  • Born September 24, 1936 – Jim Henson, Actor and Puppeteer. After some early puppeteering work on variety shows, Henson became famous for developing puppet characters for Sesame Street. Frustrated at being typecast as a children’s entertainer, he created The Muppet Show, which was wildly popular and led to several spin-off movies. He created a foundation to promote the art of puppetry, and a company which went on to produce movies featuring his creatures, including the cult hits The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Sadly, he died suddenly at the far-too-early age of 53, but his company continues to mentor puppeteers and produce creatures for movies and TV shows.
  • Born September 24, 1939 – Janet Berliner, Writer and Editor. A South African author who emigrated to the U.S., she co-edited, with Martin H. Greenberg and Peter S. Beagle, the Locus Award-shortlisted Immortal Unicorn Anthology in 1995, an homage to Beagle’s Last Unicorn which includes stories by many well-known SFF authors. She was a past President of the Horror Writers Association, and her novel Children of the Dusk, co-written with GRRM-protégé George Guthridge, won the 1997 Stoker Award for Best Novel.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Candorville find out “Why Lemont Says We Must Build Oneill Cylinders Now.”

(12) SCIENCE WARRIORS. Amanda Marcotte on Salon interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose new book, Accessory to War, discusses the relationship between science and the military throughout history — “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Accessory to War’: Where “space scientists and space warriors” collide”.

…In his new book, “Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military,” Tyson and his co-author Avis Lang look the darker side of astrophysics and astronomy — advances in the field have always gone hand in hand with the development of military technology meant to more efficiently kill people.

“The universe is both the ultimate frontier and the highest of high grounds,” Tyson and Lang write. “Shared by both space scientists and space warriors, it’s a laboratory for one and a battleground for the other.”

(13) A PATREON CALL. The “Worlds Without End Patreon Campaign” will help cover the site’s expenses.

What is Worlds Without End?
Worlds Without End is a website and online community built to help fans find, read, and share the best speculative fiction. WWEnd offers a forever free membership and is built around the biggest genre fiction awards and best books lists. It features an array of members-only tools that you can use to narrow your search for your next great read. As part of our community of like-minded fans, you’ll find plenty of reviews, commentary, and recommendations to keep you busy reading great books for years to come. We don’t want you to ever read a bad book again.

From the Patreon appeal:

Worlds Without End is now, and should always be, a free resource to the genre fiction community but real life circumstances have changed, and we are looking for a little help from our members and fans.  We recently lost our free web hosting arrangement with our former employer so we are now having to pay out of pocket for hosting, domain names, and all those other bits of software etc. that go along with running a website.  In addition, we have spent many hundreds of hours developing the site, and with the new WWEnd 3.0 in the pipeline, we are spending more and more of our free time on upgrades and new features.  All that time comes at a personal cost that is getting harder and harder to justify to ourselves and our families….

(14) MAKING LEMONADE. In a manner of speaking. BBC tells “How to use seawater to grow food — in the desert” – with solar energy for power, there are swamp coolers so the crops don’t fry.

“My basil’s a bit straggly,” head grower Blaise Jowett says, apologetically. “But I’m keeping them for pesto.”

He shouldn’t be too apologetic. Outside of the greenhouse, a camel grazes. Pale pink sand extends to the rocky mountains in the distance. Only the hardiest tufts of green thrust up through the ground. There is no water. There are no trees.

(15) UNWINDING THE ENIGMA. From the BBC: “Code-cracking WW2 Bombe operation recreated at Bletchley”.

Computer historians have staged a re-enactment of World War Two code-cracking at Bletchley Park.

A replica code-breaking computer called a Bombe was used to decipher a message scrambled by an Enigma machine.

Held at the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), the event honoured Polish help with wartime code-cracking.

Ruth Bourne, a former wartime code-cracker who worked at Bletchley and used the original Bombes, oversaw the modern effort….

Chip Hitchcock adds the comment, “Unfortunately this was only one-time; I wonder if they could turn it into an attraction and sell tickets? cf the spy museum in DC, which was jammed when I visited a few years ago.”

(16) THE METRE IS RUNNING. Tech history, with landmarks: “How France created the metric system”. Most Filers probably know the fundamentals, but the present-day traces are interesting.

On the facade of the Ministry of Justice in Paris, just below a ground-floor window, is a marble shelf engraved with a horizontal line and the word ‘MÈTRE’. It is hardly noticeable in the grand Place Vendôme: in fact, out of all the tourists in the square, I was the only person to stop and consider it. But this shelf is one of the last remaining ‘mètre étalons’ (standard metre bars) that were placed all over the city more than 200 years ago in an attempt to introduce a new, universal system of measurement. And it is just one of many sites in Paris that point to the long and fascinating history of the metric system.

(17) POTENTIAL TWOFER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The American Astronautical Society’s 11th annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium will be 23–25 October 2018  at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Charger Union Theater in Huntsville AL. The event is cosponsored by UAH and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The landing page for the event describes it as:

“Galvanizing U.S. Leadership In Space”

The Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium is an annual event that features panel discussions and guest speakers reflecting government, industry, academia, business and international perspectives on space exploration.

Session and speaker topics at this year’s event will include:

  • Commercial Space Initiatives
  • Exploration Technologies
  • Exploration Partners Update
  • Future SLS Missions
  • Gateway Planning
  • ISS Commercialization
  • Lunar Surface Operations
  • National Security in Space
  • Space Policy Direction
  • State of the Workforce

By happenstance, you could come to Huntsville a few days early and meet local fans at Not-A-Con 2018, which is being held 19–20 October. Huntsville was the site for over 3 decades of Con*Stellation, the last one of which (XXXV) was held in 2017. But, the local club (NASFA) is still going strong and wants an excuse to socialize for more than just a few hours… thus Not-A-Con.

(18) ABOUT DOWNSIZING. NitPix says Alexander Payne’s first venture into sci-fi, Downsizing, can’t make up its mind what kind of movie it wants to be. The author of this review, however, has targeted his audience well –

….Everyone has a bit of curiosity about this film – not enough to actually go watch, it obviously….

 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/4/18 Your Pixeled Pal Who’s Fun To Scroll With!

(1) AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE, DAY FOUR. Crusading investigative fanwriter Camestros Felapton has been trying to find out why the Dragon Awards ballot wasn’t released August 1, the date posted on the site, and when it will come out. Here’s what he’s been told:

The latest report is this. I got an email saying that the finalists will be announced this upcoming Tuesday (presumably US time). Don’t all get too excited at once.

(2) COME BACK, JEAN-LUC. “Patrick Stewart to star in new Star Trek TV series”Entertainment Weekly has the story.

Stewart will reprise his iconic character, Jean-Luc Picard, for a CBS All Access series that “will tell the story of the next chapter of Picard’s life.”

Stewart himself just announced the news in a surprise appearance at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.

“I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course,” Stewart said. “It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”

And Michael Chabon will be one of the executive producers reports Variety.

The untitled series hails from Alex Kurtzman, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Kirsten Beyer. Kurtzman, Duff, Goldsman, and Chabon will also serve as executive producers on the series along with Stewart, Trevor Roth, Heather Kadin, and Rod Roddenberry. CBS Television Studios will produce. The new series does not currently have a premiere date

(3) BOREANAZ ON BUFFY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “David Boreanaz has no plans to be in controversial ‘Buffy’ reboot: ‘I just let it be and lend my support from afar'” says that Boreanaz is too busy with SEAL Team to worry about the forthcoming Buffy reboot (which is controversial because showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen might find a new actor to play Buffy) but he doesn’t have any objections to it.

 “I think it’s great,” says David Boreanaz, who played the ensouled vampire Angel on Buffy for three seasons before graduating to his own self-titled spin-off. “I’m sure they’ll find the right storylines and the right people to fill shoes of whatever characters they want to portray. It was great to be a part of it when it first started, and now to see it being revived is just another testimony to the hard work that we did. I congratulate that, and applaud that.”

(4) KRESS REQUEST. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook:

A few people have asked if I will autograph their books at Worldcn San Jose. However, I was disappointed that Programming Reboot has given me no panels, no autographing session, and no kaffeklatch. I do have one reading, at 4:30 on Sunday, which I cannot linger afterwards because of a Hugo dinner. So if anyone wants anything autographed, I will hang around the Hyatt lobby at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

(5) REACHING OUT TO HUGHART. Mike Berro, who runs the Barry Hughart Bibliography website is asking for help:

If anyone knows how to contact Barry Hughart, please let me know. I run a fan page, and would constantly get emails from people wanting to contact him, mostly about doing a movie or theatrical adaptation of Bridge of Birds. I would forward them to him, and he would always politely reply (with “no thanks”). I haven’t had a reply now for over a year, and just got an email from someone who reported that even his publishers cannot contact him. I fear something unfortunate has happened.

Berro says neither SFWA nor Subterranean Press have been able to offer any help.

Mike Berro’s contact email address is — hughart@collector.org

(6) PRO ADVICE. Not certain who Mary Robinette Kowal had in mind, although JDA was sure it was about him. (Of course, he thinks everything is.)

(7) CLOUDS OF WITNESSES. Crisis Magazine recalls “When C.S. Lewis Befriended a Living Catholic Saint”.

When Luigi Calabria, a shoemaker married to a housemaid, died in Verona, Italy in 1882, the youngest of his seven sons, Giovanni, nine years old, had to quit school and take a job as an apprentice. A local parish priest, Don Pietro Scapini, privately tutored him for the minor seminary, from which he took a leave to serve two years in the army. During that time, he established a remarkable reputation for edifying his fellow soldiers and converting some of them. Even before ordination, he established a charitable institution for the care of poor sick people and, as a parish priest, in 1907 he founded the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The society grew, receiving diocesan approval in 1932. The women’s branch he started in 1910 would become a refuge for Jewish women during the Second World War. To his own surprise, since he was a rather private person, his order spread from Italy to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Kenya, Romania, and the Philippines.

With remarkable economy of time, he was a keen reader, and in 1947 he came across a book translated as Le lettere di Berlicche by a professor at the University of Milan, Alberto Castelli, who later became a titular archbishop as Vice President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. Berlicche was Screwtape and “Malacode” served for Wormwood. The original, of course, had been published in 1943 as The Screwtape Letters and Calabria was so taken with it that he sent a letter of appreciation to the author in England. Lacking English, he wrote it in the Latin with which he had become proficient since his juvenile tutorials with Don Pietro.

… Lewis’s correspondence with Calabria went on for about seven years, and after the holy priest died, Lewis wrote at least seven letters to another member of Calabria’s religious community, Don Luigi Castelli, who died in 1986 at the age of 96. Learning of Calabria’s death, Lewis referred to him in a message to Castelli with what I suspect was a deliberate invocation of the phrase about “the dearly departed” that Horace used to console Virgil on the death of Quintilius Varo: tam carum caput. It appears as well in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. It was an unfortunate habit of Lewis to throw out letters he received when he thought he might otherwise betray confidences. So what we have are only what he sent. The letters are a radiant model of philia friendship that he described in his 1958 radio talks:

(8) WHO’S THE HERO? John Dilillo claims “Amazon’s Proposed ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Misses the Point of Middle-Earth” at Film School Rejects.

…Every conventionally heroic duty performed by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings is performed in service of a greater act of heroism by Hobbits, characters who choose their own destiny instead of following the path their bloodline lays out for them. Without Hobbits, Middle-earth is just another cliched fantasy tapestry, painting with the same old tired strokes. What makes Aragorn special is not his heritage or his backstory; it is that he recognizes that he is not the hero of this story. Aragorn is the king who bows to the Hobbits. Stripped of that identity, he is indistinguishable from any other gruff sword-wielding badass.

On top of all this, we’ve already seen the type of story that results from a Tolkien adaptation that loses sight of true heroism in favor of grand tales of redeemed sons and doomed kings. The great failing of the Hobbit trilogy is that it abandons its titular character all too often in favor of the gloomy angst of Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage does a fine job projecting gloomy wounded pride, and whoever assumes the lead role in Amazon’s series will doubtless give just as effective a performance. But all of that is ultimately wasted when the real appeal of a Middle-earth story comes from the Shire, not the Lonely Mountain. A Hobbit story that isn’t about Bilbo Baggins is a failure, and it’s a failure that should be learned from….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 4 — Richard Belzer, 74. The Third Rock fromThe Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-Files, The Invaders, Human Target, and acrecurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4 — Daniel Dae Kim, 50. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4 — Abigail Spencer, 37. First genre role was in the Campfire horror anthology series, other roles include Ghost Whisperer, Jekyll, a film that’s an sf riff off that meme, Cowboys & Aliens, the Oz the Great and Powerful film and Timeless, the sf series recently allowed a proper ending
  • Born August 4 — Meaghan Markle, 37. Yes, Her Royalness. Appeared in Fringe and the newer Knight Rider. Also the near future legal drama Century City.

(10) INSTAPOLL. Survey says –

(11) KEN LIU TO TV. Andrew Liptak says an animated show is on the way: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show based on Ken Liu’s short stories”.

Ken Liu is one of science fiction’s most celebrated writers working today. In addition to translating Cixin Liu’s acclaimed Three Body Problem and Death’s End, he’s also earned numerous awards, most significantly for his short story, “The Paper Menagerie”. Now, it looks as though his works could reach a new audience: AMC is developing series based on his works called Pantheon, according to Deadline.

If it’s produced, Pantheon will be an animated show “based on a series of short stories by [Liu] about uploaded intelligence,” reports Deadline. Craig Silverstein, who created and produced AMC’s American revolution drama Turn, will serve as showrunner, producer, and writer.

(12) SOLO. Lela E. Buis points out the casting problems: “Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

…The worst problem with this film, of course, was Alden Ehrenreich trying to step into Harrison Ford’s shoes. Ehrenreich did a workmanlike job with the character, but workmanlike just isn’t Han Solo. Donald Glover as Calrissian got glowing reviews, but it was really the charismatic Woody Harrelson as Beckett who lights up the film—an understated, low key performance notwithstanding. Also prominent was Lando’s co-pilot L3-37, an animated character fighting against the slavery of droids.

This brings up another question. Why isn’t Disney investing in flashier talent for these movies?

(13) BAEN CHALLENGE COINS. Baen Books is taking orders for the first pressing of its new Challenge  Coins commemorating iconic names or events in the books of Ringo, Williamson, Kratman and probably whoever else you’d expect to fill out a list that starts with those three names.

Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. Shipping and handling is a flat rate of $15, $45 international, for up to 13 coins. Write to info@baen.com for rates on bulk orders.

These coins were designed by Jack Wylder with the active participation of the authors. Here’s an example —

Front: I Read Baen’d Books

Reverse: RIP Joe Buckley

All profits from this coin will go to support two charities founded, supported, and run by Baen readers: Operation Baen Bulk, which provides care packages for deployed service members, and Read Assist, a 501c3 company that serves our disabled readers. http://www.readassist.org/ Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. “I read Baened Books” was first used by Chris French. “Joe Buckley” used courtesy of Joe Buckley. Don’t forget to duck

(14) A CENTURY OF STURGEON. Scott Bradfield tries to jumpstart the party — “Celebrating Theodore Sturgeon’s centenary – so should we all” in the LA Times. (Unfortunately, the Times initially failed to get David Gerrold’s permission to run his photo of Sturgeon with the post…)

I’ve always been a bit confused by these various centenary and multi-centenary celebrations that punctuate our discussions of literature, such as Thoreau’s recent 200th birthday (2017), or the centenary of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (first published in 1917), or even the fourth centenary of the death of Cervantes (d. 1616), etc. (By the way, celebrating the anniversary of someone’s death strikes me as pretty grisly.) But while some writers seem to continually receive such posthumous honors, others suffer unfairly in silence. No cake, no candles, no old friends leaping out of closets, no nothing. And this year, that seems to be the case for one of America’s greatest and most original short story writers, Theodore Sturgeon, who was born on Feb. 26, 1918. From what I can tell, nobody has yet to pitch in and even buy him a decent card.

…Take, for example, the opening of his brilliant (and often poorly imitated) 1941 novelette, “Microcosmic God”: “Here is a story about a man who had too much power, and a man who took too much, but don’t worry; I’m not going political on you. The man who had the power was named James Kidder, and the other was his banker.”

Or this, from the aforementioned “The Dreaming Jewels” (1950): “They caught the kid doing something disgusting under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street.”

Or even this, from his haunting and beautiful story, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959): “Say you’re a kid, and one dark night you’re running along the cold sand with this helicopter in your hand, saying very fast witchy-witchy-witchy.”

Every opening plops you down bang in the middle of a story that is already happening and in the life of a character it is already happening to. And while many of his stories were collected in “horror” or “suspense” anthologies, they are rarely shocking or violent or grotesque. Instead, they begin by introducing you to a slightly strange world and a slightly strange character who lives there; then, before the story is over, you both feel at home in the world and compassion for the character who now lives there with you.

The greatness of Sturgeon’s stories reside in their almost inflexible, relentless unfolding of strangely logical events and relationships; each sentence is as beautiful and convincing as the last; and the science-fictional inventions never rely on tricks or deus ex machinas to reach a satisfying resolution; instead, a Sturgeon story always resolves itself at the level of the all-too-human.

(15) ACCESS. At io9 Ace Ratcliff asks “Staircases in Space: Why Are Places in Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?”

I never used to notice stairs. They were simply a way for me to get from one place to another. Occasionally they were tiresome, but they never actually stymied or stopped me entirely. Eventually, I managed to get where I needed to go.

Then I started using a wheelchair. Suddenly, stairs became a barrier that prevented me from getting from here to there. One step was often enough to stop me in my tracks. It turns out that when you start using a wheelchair, you quickly realize that there are a lot of staircases and steps in our world—and a lot of broken (or nonexistent) elevators and ramps….

Once you start realizing how many stairs there are stopping you in real life, it becomes impossible not to notice them existing in the sci-fi you adore. Turns out they’re everywhere, in all of our sci-fi. Whether it’s decades-old or shiny and brand-new, our sci-fi imitates a real-world reliance on steps and stairs in our architecture.

When we think of sci-fi that’s run the test of time, Doctor Who immediately springs to mind. The inside of the TARDIS is littered with steps—from Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, there’s no way a wheelchair using companion would be able to navigate that beautiful blue time machine. Prior to the 2005 reboot, previous embodiments of the spaceship were no less inaccessible. You’d think that a spaceship that is regularly re-decorated could easily manage ramps in at least one iteration, but no set designers seem bothered enough to make it happen. I was pleased to learn that a quick finger snap seems to occasionally unlock the TARDIS doors—a quirky replacement for the buttons that exist in real-life, usually installed near closed doors and pressed by disabled people to assist with automatically opening them—but trying to scootch through the narrow opening of that British police box with an accessibility device looks nigh impossible, even without the need for a key.

(16) KERMODE ON SF FILMS. On August 7, BBC 4 airs an episode of Mark Kermode’s Secrets of the Cinema about science fiction.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says —

This is an excellent series for film aficionados but the August 7th edition will also appeal to SF fans as this episode will be on science fiction film.

Also the series is co-written by the genre critic Kim Newman whom,  some Worldcon fans will recall, with SF author Paul McAuley,  co-presented the last CalHab (formerly known as Glasgow) Worldcon Hugo Award ceremony (2005). So be assured this episode has a solid grounding.

Mark Kemode’s Secrets of the Cinema SF film episode should be available on BBC iPlayer for a few weeks after broadcast.

BBC 4’s intro reads —

Mark Kermode continues his fresh and very personal look at the art of cinema by examining the techniques and conventions behind classic film genres, uncovering the ingredients that keep audiences coming back for more.

This time Mark explores the most visionary of all genres – science fiction, and shows how film-makers have risen to the challenge of making the unbelievable believable. Always at the forefront of cinema technology, science fiction films have used cutting-edge visual effects to transport us to other worlds or into the far future. But as Mark shows, it’s not just about the effects. Films as diverse as 2001, the Back to the Future trilogy and Blade Runner have used product placement and commercial brand references to make their future worlds seem more credible. The recent hit Arrival proved that the art of film editing can play with our sense of past and future as well as any time machine. Meanwhile, films such as Silent Running and WALL-E have drawn on silent era acting techniques to help robot characters convey emotion. And District 9 reached back to Orson Welles by using news reporting techniques to render an alien visitation credible.

Mark argues that for all their spectacle, science fiction films ultimately derive their power from being about us. They take us to other worlds and eras, and introduce us to alien and artificial beings, in order to help us better understand our own humanity.

(17) GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS. “NASA Announces Crew For First Commercial Space Flights”NPR has the story.

NASA has announced the names of the astronauts who will be the first people in history to ride to orbit in private space taxis next year, if all goes as planned.

In 2019, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board. “For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

(18) MUNG DYNASTY. FastCompany predicts “Plant-based eggs are coming for your breakfast sandwiches”.

When you order a breakfast sandwich or a scramble at New Seasons Market, a local chain in Portland, Seattle, and Northern California, you’ll bite into a yellow, fluffy food that tastes just like an egg, but did not, in fact, come from an animal. Instead, what you’re eating is a mung bean, a legume that people have been eating for thousands of years that, when ground into a liquid, happens to scramble and gel just like an egg.

Mung beans are the key ingredient in Just Egg, the latest product from Just, Inc.–the company formerly known as Hampton Creek, which manufactures plant-based alternatives to products like mayonnaise, cookie dough, and salad dressing. Just Egg, a liquid that scrambles in a way that’s eerily similar to an egg when cooked in a pan, is derived from mung bean protein, and colored with turmeric to mimic the light yellow of an egg. It’s slowly rolling out in stores and restaurants across the U.S., and New Seasons Market has gone as far as to entirely replace its regular eggs with the mung bean mixture.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Berro, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]