Pixel Scroll 9/13/22 Of Course That’s Scrollock Holmes. He’s Wearing A Godstalker And Scrolling A Meershaum Pixel

(1) CONGRATULATIONS. The 2022 Washington State Book Award Winners in the Books For Adults Categories include two by authors often in the news here.

Biography/Memoir

Fiction

(2) WHEN THE BIRD NESTS IN YOUR HEAD. Foz Meadows writes at length about the nature of Twitter interactions, taking as a text the criticisms and accusations made against her by Gretchen Felker-Martin and R.S. Benedict related to comments by Meadows about Isabel Fall and the author’s story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” for which Meadows subsequently apologized — “Twitter, Truth & Apologies”. At the end, Meadows sums up:

…And all too often, even when social media professes to want growth from those it accuses of wrongdoing, what it really wants is a new culprit to feel vindicated about shaming, because that’s easier than weighing up whether you think so-and-so deserves another chance, and whether all your mutuals will agree with you, and if saying so is worth the chance of being called an apologist in the event that they don’t. Being reactive is simpler, easier, but at some point, we have to accept that not all takes require responses, and that if they do, they don’t necessarily have to be ours. If there’s one positive thing I’ve taken out of all this, it’s a desire to be more judicious about how I speak online: to be less knee-jerk, to give less space to opinions that don’t merit discussion, and to try for kinder readings of the works and people around me…

(3) GET YOUR S&S FIX HERE. At Grimdark Magazine, John Mauro reviews the anthology A Book of Blades, edited by Matt John and L.D. Whitney, in which Cora Buhlert has a story.

…I’d also like to mention “The City of the Screaming Pillars,” Cora Buhlert’s quest story of four travelers seeking long-lost treasure in an abandoned city in the middle of the desert. “The City of the Screaming Pillars” starts off as a standard quest story but then dives into much darker Lovecraftian territory…. 

(4) NEAL ADAMS TRIBUTE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I just saw the 3-page (comic) story they’re talking about in the new issue of Fables (either #153 or #154, IIRC); here’s links to some articles about it.

DC Comics has published a comic paying tribute to legendary artist Neal Adamsfollowing his passing earlier this year. The three-page story, which is called “The Endless Line”, began to be published in all DC titles beginning Tuesday, July 19th, is written by Tom King and drawn by Neal’s son, Josh Adams. The story, which you can check out in a tweet from King below, features snippets from a real-life interview that Adams did with The Comics Journal in 1982, with wisdom that he is bestowing while drawing a sketch for one of his characters, Deadman.

The final page of the story shows a line of other characters that Adams is known for waiting in line for sketches, including Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Green Lantern. Also included among the story are quotes from some of Adams’ contemporaries and fans, including Jim Lee, Frank Miller, and Roy Thomas, which highlight his prolific work as an artist and advocate for creators’ rights…. 

In April, Bleeding Cool reported the sad news of the deal of comic book publisher, writer, artist and advocate, Neal Adams. From genre-defining runs on Batman, X-Men, Green Arrow and Green Lantern that would define the medium, and heavily influence the TV series and movies that would spin out of it, Neal Adams’ greatest legacy is one of creator rights, fighting for himself and fellow comic book creators against publishers, over rights, royalties, return of artwork and basic human decency. So much so that he even started his own publisher, Continuity Comics, and later his own comic book shop. He also fought creators to value their own contribution, demanding they charge for sketches and then signatures at comic book conventions, as a measure of their worth. 

And here’s a tweet to the full 3-page story!

(5) TALES FROM THE ROOF. In the Washington Post, Mary Quattlebaum interviews comedian George Lopez, who has co-written middle-grade horror novel Chupacarter with Ryan Canejo. “George Lopez, Ryan Calejo blend Latin folklore and laughs in new novel”.

… Like Jorge in the book, Lopez did some of his best thinking as a kid on the roof of his grandparents’ house in Southern California. “I’d sit there and look at the moon and wonder ‘Who am I going to be?’ ” he said.

His grandmother and step-grandfather, who raised him, are the models for Jorge’s loud, tough abuela and gentle abuelo.

Though his abuela didn’t throw empanadas at him, as does Jorge’s grandmother, she “did throw other things,” said Lopez with a laugh.

Calejo’s abuelas told him stories of frightening chupacabras and other legendary creatures to entertain and keep him out of mischief, Calejo said by phone from his home in Miami, Florida.

These tales inspired the first story he remembers writing in elementary school. It was about a protective doglike spirit known as el cadejo….

(6) ELLISON COMMEMORATION. “Troublemaker, Malcontent, Desperado: A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Harlan Ellison” will be hosted by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library on September 17. [Warning: The downloadable 2007 booklet is a 238MB PDF file.]

The Ohio Center for the Book, in collaboration with Cleveland State University and Celebrating Cleveland’s Past Masters*, are honoring the life and legacy of Harlan Ellison: speculative fiction author, screenwriter, social critic, and self-described “troublemaker, malcontent, desperado” on Saturday, Sept. 17, 1:00 pm at Cleveland Public Library’s Louis Stokes Wing, 2nd floor, 525 Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland.

The event commemorates the 15th anniversary of Ellison’s last public appearance in his hometown of Cleveland when he participated in the 2007 Midwest premiere of the biographical documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth in the auditorium of Cleveland Public Library.

Click here to download a high-resolution PDF of the 2007 program booklet, A Tribute to Harlan Ellison, with appreciations, congratulations, and “short stories” from Daniel Pinkwater, Stuart Kaminsky, Marv Wolfman, Michael Moorcock, Leonard Maltin, Eric Shanower, Leo and Diane Dillon, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, Richard Matheson, David Twohy, and many, many others!

(7) BEST OF THE BEST. The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog says next year’s Hugo ballot is already filled to overflowing with deserving media. Thread starts here.

(8) A DAUGHTER’S MEMOIR. “Emma Straub Remembers Her Father, Peter Straub” at Vulture. Andrew Porter sent the link with a note about his missed opportunity: “I confirmed that he was living in the Watermark, the assisted living facility in the former Towers Hotel, literally half a block from where I live… Wish I’d known; I’ve have visited him there.”

When I gave my father the pile of pages that would become my novel This Time Tomorrow, he quickly thumbed to the back and asked, “What page do I die on?” This was a joke and also not a joke. In the book, he (“he” being Leonard Stern, the fictional father in my novel) dies on page 301. In real life, off the page, my father, Peter Straub, died on September 4, 2022. In the book, Leonard dies in his bedroom at home with his daughter, her stepmother, and his nurse. In real life, my father died in the windowless ICU hospital room he’d been stuck in for a month, most of that time doing fairly well, recovering from a fractured hip and sitting up, reading books and watching MSNBC, just as he would have at home. My mother and brother and I were by his side, and I held his hand. It started very slowly — what page do we begin to die on, any of us — and, mercifully, ended fast….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1974 [By Cat Eldridge.] Forty-eight years ago this evening Kolchak: The Night Stalker first aired on ABC. It was preceded by The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler films, both written by Richard Matheson. 

It was based off a novel by Jeff Rice who Mike has some thoughts about here.

It was remade seventeen years ago as The Night Stalker with Stuart Townsend as Carl Kolchak. It lasted ten episodes. It was set in Los Angeles. Need I say more? 

Let’s talk about Darren McGavin for a moment. He was perfect for this role. Though only fifty-two when the series was shot, he looked a decade older and quite beat up. That suit he wore could have been acquired second hand. Or fourth hand. And that hat — I wonder how many they had in props that were exactly identical. 

The actor himself had certainly had some interesting times with four divorces by then, and this was not his first time portraying a world-weary investigator. He was the title character in the short-lived Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series in the Fifties. It lasted a year.

Now Kolchak: The Night Stalker did not break the pattern of having a beautiful woman around as it had Carol Ann Susi as the recurring character of semi-competent but likable intern Monique Marmelstein in a recurring role.

And I really liked the characters of his boss, Tony Vincenzo as played by Simon Oakland, who was quite bellicose and had no clue of what Kolchak was doing. Good thing that was, too. 

Ahhh the monsters. Some were SF, sort of — a murderous android, an invisible ET, a prehistoric ape-man grown from thawed cell samples, and a lizard-creature protecting its eggs. Then there was the fantastic ones — a Jack the Ripper, a headless motorcycle rider, vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies to name but a few he tangled with. 

It has become a cult favorite which currently carries a not surprising ninety-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes but it was a ratings failure complicated by Darren McGavin being unwilling to do more episodes and only lasted one season before being cancelled.  

Chris Carter who credits the series as the primary inspiration for The X-Files wanted McGavin to appear as Kolchak in one or more episodes of that series, but McGavin was unwilling to reprise the character for his show. He did appear on the series as retired FBI agent very obviously attired in Kolchak’s trademark seersucker jacket, black knit tie, and straw hat.

C.J. Henderson, who won a World Fantasy Award for his Sarob Press, wrote three Night Stalker novels  — Kolchak and the Lost WorldKolchak: Necronomicon and What Every Coin Has. There have been other novels and shorts published. Three unfilmed scripts for the TV series have survived, “Eve of Terror”, written by Stephen Lord, “The Get of Belial”, written by Donn Mullally, and “The Executioners”, written by Max Hodge.

Let’s see if it streaming anywhere… It is streaming on NBC of course. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1916 Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or that he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected broadcast in the UK.  My favorite Dahl works are The BFG and The Witches. What’s yours? (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 13, 1920 John Crawford. He appeared in The Twilight Zone’s “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” as Joe. He was also Harrison in the early Fifties pulp The Invisible Monster.  Interestingly he was Roth in Zombies of the Stratosphere which was supposed to be a Commando Cody serial but got changed for reasons unknown. And late in his career, he was Polydeukes in Jason and the Argonauts. (Died 2010.)
  • Born September 13, 1931 Barbara Bain, 91. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell.  Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! She was active as of last year as showed in the Space Command series as Auut Simone in the “Ripple Effect” episode. 
  • Born September 13, 1933 Warren Murphy. Ok, I’ll admit that I’m most likely stretching the definition of genre just a bit by including him as he’s best known for writing along with Richard Sapir the pulp Destroyer series that ran to some seventy novels and was (making it possibly genre) the basis of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  He did a number of other series that were more definitely genre. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 13, 1937 Don Bluth, 85. Animator of quite some note. In his career, he’s been involved in some manner with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, the Fantastic Voyage series, the Archie series (seriously) Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down series (again seriously) The Secret of NIMHAn American TailThe Land Before TimeAnastasia and Titan A.E. 
  • Born September 13, 1944 Jacqueline Bisset, 78. I never pass up a Bond performance and so she’s got on the Birthday Honors by being Giovanna Goodthighs in Casino Royale even though that might have been one of the dumbest character names ever. As near as I can tell, until she shows up in as Charlotte Burton in the “Love the Lie” episode of the Counterpart series that’s her entire encounter with genre acting. Genre adjacent, she appeared in the Albert Finney fronted Murder on the Orient Express as Countess Helena Andrenyi. 
  • Born September 13, 1947 Mike Grell, 75. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green ArrowThe Warlord, and Jon Sable FreelanceThe Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth. The animated Justice League Unlimited “Chaos at the Earth’s Core“ episode made use of this story. 
  • Born September 13, 1974 Fiona Avery, 48. Comic book and genre series scriptwriter. While being a reference editor on the final season of Babylon 5, she wrote “The Well of Forever” and “Patterns of the Soul” as well as two that were not produced, “Value Judgements” and “Tried and True”. After work on the Crusade series ended, she turned to comic book writing, working for Marvel and Top Cow with J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars series being another place where her scripts were used. She created the Marvel character Anya Sofia Corazon later named Spider-girl. She did work on Tomb RaiderSpider-ManX-Men and Witchblade as well.

(11) MIRACLEMAN. Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s unfinished storyline “The Silver Age” begins October 19.  

 In the late 80s, Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham took over the saga of Miracleman to critical acclaim. The pair of comic visionaries expanded the Miracleman mythos with new characters and introduced the story of Young Miracleman. Their series was cut short mid-storyline almost 30 years ago, but now their Miracleman: The Silver Age saga will finally be completed! MIRACLEMAN BY GAIMAN & BUCKINGHAM: THE SILVER AGE #1 and MIRACLEMAN BY GAIMAN & BUCKINGHAM: THE SILVER AGE #2 will present the early chapters of the story that made it to stands but with stunning new remastered artwork by Buckingham and containing bonus content! And then, starting in December’s MIRACLEMAN: THE SILVER AGE #3, all-new material by Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham will at long last, continue this legendary comic story!

(12) SEARCHING FOR INTELLIGENT LIFE. Carl Sagan tells the BBC in 1967 how to send a message to outer space that extraterrestrials could understand. “Where Is Everybody?”

(13) MORE DISNEY SEQUEL MANIA. Disney revives the National Treasure franchise but without Nic Cage. National Treasure: Edge Of History Official Trailer”.

Jess Morales, a 20-year-old Dreamer, sets off on an exploration to discover the mystery of her family history, and, with the help of her friends, seeks to recover historical lost treasure.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the Screen Junkies say this film has “the joke rate of Family Guy” (including playing Jane Foster’s fatal pancreatic cancer for laughs) with “the look of that time you shroomed at Dave and Busters.”  Chris Hemsworth, who has played Thor ten times in eight years, struggles to come up with something new, and few will be excited by the “100 screaming goat jokes.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/29/22 It’s The Time Of The Pixels For Scrolling

(1) DISNEYLAND ORIGINALS FOR SALE. Heritage Auctions’ catalog for “Disneyland: The Auction” includes an impressive assortment of retired equipment from the park, in addition to all the other collectibles. Coming up for bid on May 21-22 will be things of this nature –

See more featured lots for ‘Disneyland: The Auction’ in this video.

(2) IN TIMES OF COVID. Norwescon 44 was held in Sea-Tac, WA from April 14-17. A week afterwards the committee published Norwescon 44 Post-Con COVID Report 1 dealing with cases they’d been informed about as of April 25. This case is receiving vocal attention in the comments:

Case 3: Reported on Friday, April 22. Started experiencing symptoms on Tuesday, April 12 (two days pre-con), tested positive on Friday, April 15, and stayed at the convention through Sunday, April 17. Was present throughout the convention, particularly the space-focused panels, and had dinner at Denny’s on Friday. Reported case to the Health Department and did not have exposure notification tracking active.

(3) CON OR BUST BEING REVIVED. The Flights of Foundry Opening Ceremonies video included an announcement by Alex Jennings and Brandon O’Brien about the return of the Con-or-Bust project in partnership with Dream Foundry.

[Brandon O’Brien:] As people of color we know how difficult it can be to access creative spaces like conventions. Travel, registration and other related expenses can be difficult to muster for a lot of reasons. When I attended my first convention it was only because there was a project that was generous enough to see people like me share space with my colleagues and fellow fans without it I would not have had the networking opportunities, the community, or even the will to participate in our field to this day and i am still deeply grateful for that generosity that project was Con-or-Bust….  

Kate Nepveu has worked hard to make sure it can continue even in her absence.

[Alex Jennings:] Following the example she set we’re excited to share with you that we’ll be working with Dream Foundry to revive  and expand Con-or-Bust. This project will help make cons, writing retreats, and other opportunities available to writers and fans of color…  

Brandon O’Brien said he will be serving on the Dream Foundry board in an oversight capacity and be running the project. They’re working on the details and will have more updates soon.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to uncover Alex Segura’s secret identity in Episode 170 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Alex Segura

We’re about to do a little time traveling, you and I. That’s because I worked for both Marvel and DC Comics from the mid-’70s through the early ’80s, and my guest this episode is Alex Segura, a writer whose latest novel, Secret Identity, is a noir murder mystery set during the mid-‘70s comics industry I lived through.

Segura seems like the perfect person to tackle that particular overlapping Venn diagram of genres. He’s written murder mysteries before — including five novels in the Pete Fernandez series, beginning with Bad Beat in 2016 and concluding with Miami Midnight in 2019, plus the six-part Lethal Lit: A Tig Torres Mystery podcast series. He’s also worked for Archie Comics and DC Comics, and is currently the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Oni Press.

Some of his more well-known comics work includes his Archie Meets Kiss arc — he also had the gang meet the Ramones and the B-52s — plus his “Occupy Riverdale” story. His Black Ghost miniseries was named one of the five new comic book series for the end of summer by the New York Times. He also supplied an origin story for everybody’s favorite new Star Wars character in the novel Poe Dameron: Freefall.

In a better world, I’ve have been able to make a day trip to NY so we could have an in-person conversation, but that’s not the world in which we live at the monent, so he grabbed Chinese food at Taystee Garden in Kew Gardens, Queens, I did the same from Evergreen Chinese Restaurant in Inwood, West Virginia, and we chatted with several hundred miles between us.

(5) PORTAL STORY. “I think this new Amazon series is sf,” writes Martin Morse Wooster. I think so too! Night Sky arrives on Prime Video May 20.

(6) NEW BUHLERT FICTION. Congratulations to Cora Buhlert who has a flash story in Wyngraf Magazine of Cozy Fantasy: “A Cry on the Battlefield”.

Cora also shared the link to the other flash story Wnygraf posted today, “The God’s Apology” by Ian Martínez Cassmeyer, which she says is also well worth reading.

(7) FIVESOOTH! The Royal Shakespeare Company is staging My Neighbour Totoro from October 8, 2022 – 21 January 2023 at the Barbican.

In this video, Executive Producer Joe Hisaishi, Director Phelim McDermott and members of the creative team for My Neighbour Totoro, discuss the creative process behind the landmark adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s celebrated 1988 animated feature film to the stage, in collaboration with Improbable and Nippon TV.

(8) WRITER Q&A. “Neil Gaiman: ‘Whatever I loved about Enid Blyton isn’t there when I go back as an adult’” he tells a Guardian interviewer.

…The writer who changed my mind
It wasn’t until I was 22 that I realised I could stop dreaming of being a writer and instead be a writer. It was Harlan Ellison’s fault, from his introduction to a short story called Count the Clock that Tells the Time, in a collection called Shatterday. He wrote about wasting time, how you look around and time’s gone. It plugged straight into everything I had ever thought or dreamed about becoming a writer and in that moment I was determined to become a writer. I thought better to try and fail than not to try and let the time blow past.

The book that made me want to be a writer
I don’t recall there being a time that I ever didn’t want to be a writer, but CS Lewis and his Narnia books definitely made me realise that these stories I loved were being written by a person. Lewis wasn’t pretending to be invisible, he was very happily there in the text, making these lovely friendly asides to the reader. I loved that so much, and loved the idea of doing it too….

(9) WHEN WORDS FAIL. Sandra M. Odell cautions against being “More Writerly Than Thou” at the SFWA Blog. Her successful book set off a long struggle to resume writing again. While telling what helped her she advises:

… Before you encourage someone to write faster, better, more successfully, ask yourself if that’s what you mean to say.  More importantly, ask if that’s what they need to hear…

(10) NEAL ADAMS (1941-2022). Famed comic artist Neal Adams died April 29 at the age of 80. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute:

Adams jolted the world of comic books in the late 1960s and early ’70s with his toned and sinewy take on heroes, first at DC with a character named Deadman, then at Marvel with X-Men and The Avengers and then with his most lasting influence, Batman.

During his Batman run, Adams and writer Dennis O’Neil brought a revolutionary change to the hero and the comics, delivering realism, kineticism and a sense of menace to their storytelling in the wake of the campy Adam West-starring ’60s ABC series and years of the hero being aimed at kiddie readers.

… “It was no secret that we were doing Batman right,” Adams said during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. “It was as if the memory of DC Comics went along with the statements that both Denny and I were making, that we want it to be more realistic, more gritty. And that’s how we remember — whether it was true or not — that Batman should be. And when we did it, everybody went, ‘Ah, that’s it. We don’t need comedy anymore.’”

Adams, also with O’Neil, came up with a then-controversial turn for Green Lantern/Green Arrow, tackling social issues such as drug addiction, racism and overpopulation and creating the Green Lantern hero, Jon Stewart, who became one of DC’s first Black icons. Their 1971 two-part story “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” remains a watermark in the evolution to more mature readers….

…He helped change the practice of comic book publishers keeping the original art by artists or even shredding and tossing it, influencing companies to establish policies of returning the art, something that allowed artists to enjoy a second income stream. The biggest case in point: Marvel returned pages of art to Jack Kirby, the co-creator of Fantastic Four, Thor, X-Men and Hulk.

He also proved to be a champion of two writer-artists who laid the foundation for DC, Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster… [He] led a lobbying effort that eventually led to greater recognition for the pair, a creator tag in comics and other media that continues to this day, plus a pension….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-one years ago on this evening, The Greatest American Hero series served up the ever so sweet and rather nostalgic “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”. It starts off with Ralph quitting twice after perceiving that he has failed badly. 

Meanwhile one of the secondary characters tells Ralph that her friend wants to go to an appearance by John Hart, the actor who played the second version of the Lone Ranger. Ralph is excited because Hart is his childhood hero. Why am I not surprised? 

Later in the episode, Ralph and Hart get to have a talk and Ralph realizes that society needs its heroes and decide to wear the suit again. 

I watched a lot of the Lone Ranger when I was rather young and never realized that there were two actors in that role. And no, I never figured out the deal with the silver bullets. Obviously that version of the Old West didn’t have werewolves.

And yes, it was very, very sweet to see one of the Lone Rangers sort of playing his role again. If only as a mentor. 

The Greatest American Hero series is streaming currently on Peacock. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Game are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. In 2006, Wildside Press published a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. By the end of his long career in sff he had won eight lifetime achievement / grand master honors, and been inducted to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t really recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him either in hard copy or digitally. A quick bit of research suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best when I was reading him. Aussiecon Two awarded him a Hugo for Wonder’s Child: My Life in Science Fiction (1985), and Millennium Philcon saw him get one for his “Ultimate Earth” novella (2000), which also won the Nebula. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way, several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1943 Russell M. Griffin. Author of but four novels as he died far too young of a heart attack. The Makeshift God was his first novel,  I remember that novel as being a rather excellent dystopian affair, and Century’s End was even bleaker. He wrote but nine stories. He alas has not made into the digital realm yet. (Died 1986.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; he also did the editing of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. He also wrote the engaging Mr. Majeika children’s series which is most decidedly genre. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1955 Kate Mulgrew, 67. Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager and she’ll be voicing that role again on the animated Star Trek: Prodigy.  Other genre roles include voicing Red Claw on Batman: The Animated Series, the recurring role of Jane Lattimer on Warehouse 13 and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia 2.0 at the Signature Theatre Company. Finally she voiced Titania in a recurring role on Gargoyles.
  • Born April 29, 1958 Michelle Pfeiffer, 64. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsippōrāh in The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in the Marvel Universe. 
  • Born April 29, 1960 Robert J. Sawyer, 62. Hominids won the Hugo for Best Novel at Torcon 3, and The Terminal Experiment won a Nebula as well. Completing a hat trick, he won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan too. Very impressive.  And then there’s the FlashForward series which lasted for thirteen episodes that was based on his novel of that name.  Interesting series that ended far too soon. 
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 52. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film alongside Time Bandits; review by Kage here), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood film that starred Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers

(13) TIME LORD. The May issue of David Langford’s Ansible appeared today. How can that happen? He claims, “I reversed the polarity of the neutron flow!” Today the ansible, tomorrow the sonic screwdriver!

(14) OUTSIDE THE BOX. The Guardian calls it “‘Very gay, very trans’: the incredible Doctor Who spin-off that’s breathing new life into the franchise”  — the Doctor Who Redacted podcast. (Available here at BBC Sounds.)

…Written by Juno Dawson, Doctor Who: Redacted was launched alongside the Easter TV special, Legend of the Sea Devils, and has been described by the producer/director Ella Watts as “very gay, very trans”, and sitting “to the left” of the main show. The 10-part BBC Sounds audio drama follows three best mates who make “the Blue Box Files”, a paranormal conspiracy podcast about a certain police box popping up throughout history. Their tongue-in-cheek theorising suddenly gets all too real when they’re sucked into an action-packed alien adventure of their own.

The friends are university dropouts, who now live in different UK cities but stay connected via their hobby podcast. The leader of the gang (and the drama) is a trans woman, Cleo, who works as a theatre usher, lives on a south London estate and is saving up for surgery. She’s played by transgender activist Charlie Craggs, a scene-stealer in her first ever acting role, who describes her casting as “a huge step for the trans community. I’m so honoured to be part of something so sacred to so many”.

Juno Dawson always had Craggs in mind to play her protagonist. “She’s such a force,” says Dawson. “The label “trans activist” can be a club with which to beat trans people. It’s a dehumanising term, but Charlie uses her voice so cleverly – with humour and honesty. When it came to casting, I said to Ella: ‘Look, we can either audition Charlie Craggs or find a trans actor and tell her to play it like Charlie Craggs.’ There were some nerves at the BBC about hiring someone untrained but I’m so glad we stuck to our guns.”

Founder of the podcast-within-a-podcast is devoted “boxspotter” and resident believer Abby (Vigil’s Lois Chimimba), who is bisexual and a full-time carer for her sick mother in Glasgow. The lineup is completed by sceptical Shawna (Grange Hill’s Holly Quin-Ankrah), an out-and-proud lesbian studying computing at her local college in Sheffield….

(15) WORD OF THE DAY. Here’s something Jon Del Arroz had never been called before.

(16) A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE. Forbes reports “A Massive Asteroid Visible To The Naked Eye Is Heading Our Way And NASA Is Re-Routing An Old Spacecraft To Visit It”.

Remember NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft that visited the distant Bennu asteroid and scraped-up a sample in October 2020. It’s going to deliver that sample to NASA September 24, 2023 as it swings by Earth—and then it’s off on a new mission of explore a near-Earth asteroid that could one day be a “planet-killer.”

The Apophis asteroid is enormous and classed as “potentially hazardous” by NASA. Thought to be about 1,100 feet/340 meters in diameter (that’s about the same height as the Empire State Building in Manhattan in New York), Apophis will get to within just 23,000 miles/37,000 on April 13, 2029.

During that close pass it will even be visible to the naked eye as seen from some parts of Earth.

The newly-named OSIRIS-Apophis Explorer (OSIRIS-APEX) will already be in orbit of it by then. NASA announced this week that the spacecraft, having dropped off its package in 2023, will make its first maneuver toward Apophis 30 days later.

Although it will pass Earth inside the orbits of our geosynchronous satellites in 2029, Apophis won’t pose a danger this time around.

So why visit it?

Scientists suspect that the effect on it of the close pass in 2029 could be a slight alteration to its future trajectory. We know Apophis will make very close passes in 2060 and 2068. Might the 2029 event put Apophis on an “Earth-resonant impact trajectory ?”…

(17) SJW CREDENTIALS IN HISTORY. The BBC in 1973 meets Quicksilver and Quince, two cats with their own checking account who make charitable donations to cathedrals and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds!

(18) ROLL CREDITS. This is how Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episodes will begin. Here are the opening seconds of the five-year mission.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. And Wil Wheaton hosts this special preview of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

 [Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, Christian Brunschen, John A Arkansawyer, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Dominey.]

Pixel Scroll 12/13/19 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Tsundoku. Attempt No Pixels There

(1) MARVEL SNAPSHOTS. Kurt Busiek is overseeing a Marvel showcase series featuring history-making characters.

This March, prepare to see the greatest moments of Marvel’s 80-year history told like never before! In MARVEL SNAPSHOTS, industry legend Kurt Busiek will bring together incredible creative teams for eight standalone, double sized issues showcasing Marvel’s most beloved characters from the golden age to today. Like 1994’s critically acclaimed MARVELS series, MARVEL SNAPSHOTS will be tales told through the eyes of ordinary people, offering unique insights on the legendary mythos of the Marvel Universe. MARVELS SNAPSHOTS also reunites Busiek with renowned MARVELS co-creator Alex Ross who will be providing the series with his iconic painted covers.

It all begins with SUB-MARINER: MARVELS SNAPSHOT #1 when best-selling novelist and Emmy Award-winning TV writer Alan Brennert (L.A. LAW, TWILIGHT ZONE) and superstar artist Jerry Ordway (ALL-STAR SQUADRON, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) unite to tell an unforgettable story about Marvel’s original antihero: Prince Namor!

Set circa World War II, things kick off with an action-packed tale featuring Namor, Betty Dean, and the All-Winners Squad–a dream come true for Brennert. “I can honestly say that I enjoyed working on this story more than any comics story I’ve done in years. I grew up reading (and loving) Marvel’s Golden Age heroes in the 1960s, in reprints in FANTASY MASTERPIECES. But I never thought I’d have a shot at writing them–especially the All-Winners Squad!–and I’m grateful to Kurt Busiek and Tom Brevoort for providing me the opportunity, and to Jerry Ordway for bringing it all to glorious life,” Brennert says. “I’m enormously proud of ‘Reunion’ and honored to be the first story published in MARVELS SNAPSHOTS.”

Artist Jerry Ordway is just as passionate about bringing this tale to life. “When I was offered this project, I jumped at it, being a big fan of the original MARVELS book by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Getting to draw a Sub-Mariner story set in the 1940s, with appearances by the All-Winners Squad, lets me connect with Marvel’s World War II era history, and the work of Subby’s creator, Bill Everett,” says Ordway. “I’ve been a Marvel maniac from the age of 10, so this is pretty cool! Alan Brennert wrote a great script which fits neatly into the bigger tapestry that is the Marvel Universe. I’m thrilled to get to play in this sandbox after so many years as an artist.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Listeners are invited to join host Scott Edelman and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry for lunch in Little Italy on Episode 111 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

My guest this time around is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, who was a winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award earlier this year for her work as a Guest Editor of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue. She was also a 2019 Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer. Her fiction has appeared in such magazines as Fireside and Uncanny, as well the anthologies Ghost in the Cogs and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. She’s written non-fiction for The Boston Globe, Barnes & Noble, Tor.com, and other venues. She is a feminist scholar and disability rights activist (which I knew), but also a burlesque historian (which I did not know).

We lunched at La Tavola, where I’d previously joined Marv Wolfman during the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con. We discussed her roller coaster of emotions the night she won a Hugo Award earlier this year during the Dublin Worldcon, how that editorial gig increased her empathy, the way writing roleplaying games and being a Sherlock Holmes nerd taught her about world-building and led to her first professional fiction sales, the dinosaur-themed Twitter feed that gave birth to her most recently published short story, the novel she’s working on which she describes as The Conjuring meets The Stand, her expertise in obscenity law and fascination with the history of burlesque, why she felt the Bird Box novel handled blindness better than the movie, her background in competitive improv and the way that helped her within science fiction, advice on how not to let Internet trolls get you down, and much more.

(3) PILE PELION ON OSSA. John Scalzi chronicled the results of his Twitter poll which asks: “Would Baby Yoda eat a porg?” (Is it cannibalism if one cute thing eats another cute thing?) Thread starts here.

(4) JUST PLAIN FOLKS TALES. RS Benedict has released another episode of the Rite Gud podcast, “No More Heroes with JR Dawson”. In this interview with sff short fiction author JR Dawson, they talk about writing fiction that doesn’t focus on Big Important Heroes of Destiny. It’s called No More Heroes.

Much of speculative literature focuses on superheroes and Chosen Ones. But what about ordinary people or flawed people who don’t save the world? Do they matter?

Sci-fi/fantasy author JR Dawson joins us to talk about why she writes about ordinary people, and how privilege and inequality warp our idea of whose story deserves to be told. She also talks about being a Midwestern writer, her favorite literary losers and that time Hans Christian Andersen got really weird with Charles Dickens’ family.

(5) BEST SFF. Andrew Liptak chimes in with “The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” at Polygon. (It’s interesting to see that several of the year’s most-discussed books only made his Honorable Mentions.)

Here’s one that made the list —

The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan

Cixin Liu might have become the best-known science fiction writers to come out of China, but he’s far from the only one. Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide is a far cry from Liu’s epic science fiction tales, taking a grim look at the near future of China, where impoverished workers struggle to make a living from the world’s electronic waste.

Waste Tide follows a series of people who come together in Silicone Isle: Mimi, a worker who heads there for work; Scott Brandle, an American who is trying to arrange a contract; and Chen Kaizong, a translator, all of whom find themselves wrapped up in a greater plot for control. It’s a book that reminded me quite a bit of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, with a pointed commentary on class warfare and the lifecycle of the devices we use.

(6) HAPPY BLANDINGS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll wryly claims “SFF Needs More Incompetent Autocrats”. This turns out to be a Wodehouse tribute as much as anything.

One of SFF’s grand traditions is carefully filing the serial numbers off historical events (the American Revolutionary War, perhaps, or the Napoleonic Wars), or famous and classic works (Lord of the Rings, the Hornblower series, Zulu), and re-purposing the result as SFF. This is usually known as “research” (See Tom Lehrer on this point). Examples abound—my disinclination to deal with crowds of irate authors protesting at my door precludes naming them here….

(7) HOLLYWOOD HISTORY. Profiles in History’s “Hollywood: A Collector’s Ransom Auction” has all kinds of genre movie props, models, and figurines. It even has examples of correspondence between director Sam Peckinpah and Ray Bradbury. “Ray and Sam would lunch (hoist a few pints) at the Formosa Café,” recalls John King Tarpinian.

(8) A PYTHON SPEAKS. Leonard and Jesse interviewed Terry Gilliam for their Maltin on Movies podcast.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote completes a quest that has consumed Terry Gilliam for thirty years, but as Leonard and Jessie learned, he bears his burdens lightly. He made his name supplying unique animated sequences for   Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his films include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Brazil, and The Fisher King. He’s a delightful man with stories to tell (about everyone from Robin Williams to Heath Ledger) and a great outlook on life.

(9) MICROLOAN. Rachel Swirsky signal-boosted an “Opportunity to Support a Palestinian Library” and so will we.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva.org through years, and this project caught my eye. A Palestinian woman is looking to convert an old house into a library and bookshop: 

Check it out at Kiva: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1893559

Duha is a nice girl who lives with her family in a small humble house near Ramallah. Duha has an amazing idea: she decided to restore an old house to make it a library and a place to sell books and other stationery.

She went to Palestine for Credit and Development (FATEN) to request a loan to help her to cover all restoration expenses to convert the old house into a library. Duha hopes that all the students and residents of the area will benefit from the library.

(10) OVERCOMING REJECTION. Alex Woolf advocates “Seven Ways to Grow Your Resilience as a Writer” at the SFWA Blog.

Study the nuances of rejection
In the miserable miasma of reading a fresh rejection, it can be easy to miss the nuggets of positivity and constructive feedback that are often contained in the message too. Some messages are form rejections, but it’s well-known that many venues have form messages that vary according to their take on the writer. A writer a venue wishes to encourage, for example, may get a standard message that’s quite different from the standard message that’s sent to a writer that for whatever reason they are never likely to publish.

So once the initial disappointment has subsided, make a point of going back to the message and seeing what you can learn from it for your next project or submission. Sometimes there is a valuable nugget in there (e.g. Try to use fewer adverbs or We felt we wanted to know more about what was happening from the protagonist’s perspective.) These are valuable insights that you can work with.

However disappointing the message, always send an acknowledgment – stay polite and professional. And if a venue says you should submit again, then do so, once or twice more at least. They didn’t have to say that, after all.

(11) YIKES! Bloomberg confirms “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments”.

Amazon declined interview requests for this story. In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman wrote, “Privacy is foundational to how every team and employee designs and develops Alexa features and Echo devices. All Alexa employees are trained on customer data handling as part of our security training.” The company and its competitors have said computers perform the vast majority of voice requests without human review.

Yet so-called smart devices inarguably depend on thousands of low-paid humans who annotate sound snippets so tech companies can upgrade their electronic ears; our faintest whispers have become one of their most valuable datasets. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News was first to report on the scope of the technology industry’s use of humans to review audio collected from their users without disclosures, including at Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Few executives and engineers who spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek for this story say they anticipated that setting up vast networks of human listeners would be problematic or intrusive. To them, it was and is simply an obvious way to improve their products.

… Several of the big tech companies tweaked their virtual-assistant programs this year after a steady drip of news reports. While Google has paused human transcriptions of Assistant audio, Apple has begun letting users delete their Siri history and opt out of sharing more, made sharing recordings optional, and hired many former contractors directly to increase its control over human listening. Facebook and Microsoft have added clearer disclaimers to their privacy policies. And Amazon has introduced a similar disclosure and started letting Alexa users opt out of manual reviews. “It’s a well-known thing in the industry,” Amazon’s Limp recently said about human transcription teams. “Whether it was well known among press or customers, it’s pretty clear we weren’t good enough there.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Cat Eldridge emailed that he needed urgent care for some physical problems – I hope they are able to get him feeling better soon. Go ahead and mention birthdays you know about in the comments.]

(13) STAR TREK SHIP IN A BOTTLE. So is there a teeny-tiny Kirk and Spock in there somewhere?

On this episode of Ben’s Worx I make a ship in a bottle with epoxy resin and Australian burl.

(14) RABID IN THE NORTHWEST. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, was referenced by the Guardian in a story about a Washington state representative: “Report on far-right Republican Matt Shea in hands of Washington legislators”

Outside investigators have submitted a report to the Washington state house about the activities of the far-right Republican state representative Matt Shea, but legislators on both sides of the aisle remain tight-lipped about its contents.

…Last Monday the independent investigator, the Rampart Group, presented their findings to the chief clerk of the Washington state legislature . He in turn delivered the findings to the executive rules committee, composed of leaders of both parties in the house.

…Shea, meanwhile, was interviewed last week on Infowars’ David Knight Show, where he attacked perceived critics.

Shea then quoted Theodore Beale, whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes as a “champion of the alt right movement”, and whose blog is described as a home of “misogynistic, white supremacist diatribes”.

“Social justice warriors always lie, they always double down on their lie, and they always try to project on to you how they really are themselves,” Shea said.

(15) HIGH-STAKES COMICS AUCTION. Heritage Auctions brought home the bacon again: “Marvel Comics #1 Brings Record $1.26 Million to Lead Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction Beyond $14.9 Million”.

The finest known copy of Marvel Comics No. 1, sold for $1,260,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ record-setting Comics & Comic Art auction to $14,936,295 Nov. 21 in Dallas, Texas.

The second-largest comic auction of all time, trailing only the $15,121,405 realized in Heritage Auctions’ Chicago Comics & Comic Art Auction in May 2019, this sale included 15 lots that sold for at least $100,000.

…The issue, with famous cover art by Frank R. Paul and interior art by a group of illustrators that included Bill Everett, Carl Burgos and Paul Gustavson, was purchased by a Pennsylvania postal carrier who bought every No. 1 issue he could of both comic books and magazines, beginning in the 1940s. It’s grade of 9.4 on a scale of 1-10 makes it the best copy of the issue ever found, according to Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

More than two dozen collectors made bids for Robert Crumb Your Hytone Comix #nn “Stoned Agin!” Inside Back Cover Original Art (Apex Novelties, 1971) before it closed at $690,000, breaking the record for the most ever paid for an interior piece of comic art. Created at the height of the artist’s popularity, the image is instantly recognizable, even by many who don’t know the work of Crumb, who is revered for his contribution to the underground comics movement in the 1960s. This iconic image was reproduced countless times, including on a blacklight poster, on pinback buttons, postcards and t-shirts.

Neal Adams Batman #251 Cover The Joker Original Art (DC, 1973) sold for $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage Auctions for a piece of DC art. The spectacular image of one of the most famous Joker covers of all time debuted a new version of the villain, trumpeting the return of the Joker after a four-year hiatus from Batman comics….

(16) HE CREATED THE UBIQUITOUS MARKS. NPR reports “IBM Engineer Who Designed The Universal Product Code Dies At 94”.

On a June morning in 1974, a Marsh Supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, rang up a 67-cent pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum using something novel — the black and white stripes of a universal bar code.

The Universal Product Code is now a packaging mainstay on everything from cereal boxes and produce to electronics and airplane tickets, but it might not have worked without IBM engineer George Laurer.

Laurer, who died this month at 94 in North Carolina, had been given an assignment by his manager: Write a proposal for grocery executives explaining how IBM would take a previously invented bar code pattern, in the shape of a bull’s-eye, and make it work in supermarkets across the country.

But when that manager returned from a vacation, Laurer was there to meet him. “I didn’t do what you asked,” he said.

Instead, Laurer had created something else — the bull’s-eye was gone and in its place was a linear bar code. Laurer had deemed the bull’s-eye design unworkable. The circular code, inspired by Morse code and patented by N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was too small, and it would smear when run through the poor-quality printing presses used for most food labels at the time.

(17) SIMMERING. Kotaku discovered that “Baby Yoda Can Be Bought In The Sims 4”.

Because EA owns The Sims, and because EA also has the rights to Star Wars video games, we finally have a digital tie-in with the new live-action Mandalorian series. It’s not a Carl Weathers outfit. It’s not a “Bounty Hunter” job for your Sim. It’s a Baby Yoda statue you can buy and put in your yard.

(18) IN SEARCH OF REPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. They hope a tool will make them easier to come by. “Can A Research Accelerator Solve The Psychology Replication Crisis?”

In 2008, psychologists proposed that when humans are shown an unfamiliar face, they judge it on two main dimensions: trustworthiness and physical strength. These form the basis of first impressions, which may help people make important social decisions, from whom to vote for to how long a prison sentence should be.

To date, the 2008 paper — written by Nikolaas Oosterhof of Dartmouth College and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University — has attracted more than a thousand citations, and several studies have obtained similar findings. But until now, the theory has been replicated successfully only in a handful of settings, making its findings biased toward nations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic — or WEIRD, a common acronym used in academic literature.

Now, one large-scale study suggests that although the 2008 theory may apply in many parts of the world, the overall picture remains complex. An early version was published at PsyArXiv Preprints on Oct. 31. The study is under review at the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The study is the first conducted through the Psychological Science Accelerator, a global network of more than 500 labs in more than 70 countries. The accelerator, which launched in 2017, aims to redo older psychology experiments but on a mass scale in several different settings. The effort is one of many targeting a problem that has plagued the discipline for years: the inability of psychologists to get consistent results across similar experiments, or the lack of reproducibility.

(19) THEY LIE, YOU KNOW. “How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings” – BBC will explain.

If you’ve wondered whether there were actually 30 people trying to book the same flight as you, you’re not alone. As Chris Baraniuk finds, the numbers may not be all they seem.

Ophir Harpaz just wanted to get a good deal on a flight to London. She was on travel website OneTravel, scouring various options for her trip. As she browsed, she noticed a seemingly helpful prompt: “38 people are looking at this flight”. A nudge that implied the flight might soon get booked up, or perhaps that the price of a seat would rise as they became scarcer.

Except it wasn’t a true statement. As Harpaz looked at that number, “38 people”, she began to feel sceptical. Were 38 people really looking at that budget flight to London at the same exact moment?

Being a cyber-security researcher, she was familiar with web code so she decided to examine how OneTravel displayed its web pages. (Anyone can do this by using the “inspect” function on web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.) After a little bit of digging she made a startling discovery – the number wasn’t genuine. The OneTravel web page she was browsing was simply designed to claim that between 28 and 45 people were viewing a flight at any given moment. The exact figure was chosen at random.

Not only that, the website’s innards were surprisingly blatant about what was going on. The bit of code that defined the number shown to users was even labelled “view_notification_random”.

(20) MECHANICAL BULLS***. “General Election 2019: How computers wrote BBC election result stories”.

For the first time, BBC News published a news story for every constituency that declared election results overnight – all written by a computer.

It was the BBC’s biggest test of machine-generated journalism so far.

Each of nearly 700 articles – most in English but 40 of them in Welsh – was checked by a human editor before publication.

The head of the project said the tech was designed to enhance the service provided rather than to replace humans.

“This is about doing journalism that we cannot do with human beings at the moment,” said Robert McKenzie, editor of BBC News Labs.

“Using machine assistance, we generated a story for every single constituency that declared last night with the exception of the one that hasn’t finished counting yet. That would never have been possible.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Quail on Vimeo, Grant Kolton explains that if you want to be a quail, it’s hard work!

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

Pixel Scroll 11/18 Count Hero

(1) John Picacio’s thoughts about “The New World Fantasy Award: What’s Next”.

  1. THE FIRST QUESTION NEEDS TO BE THE RIGHT ONE. In this case, I would offer that the first question should not be, “Hey, World: what do you think this award should look like?” The first question should be, “Who are the best sculptors and who is the sculptor that can best elevate this award toward a new timeless icon? Who can carry this responsibility? Who can take us to a place we could not have imagined on our own?” The same respect that is given to a great novelist should be given to a great sculptor here.

The sculptor of this award needs to be an artist, first and foremost — someone who solves problems, conceives original thoughts, has unique insights, and visually communicates those thoughts, insights, emotions and intangibles into tangible form. If the plan is to take a straw poll of the most popular and familiar symbols and word pictures, or to concoct a preordained vision and then hire some poor sap to carefully sculpt to that prescription, then please hire a pharmacist, not a professional artist. However, the World Fantasy Award can do better than that, and I’m hoping it will. If I were a decision maker in this process, I would be sky-high excited about the amazing creative (and branding) opportunity ahead, and I would be vigorously searching for the right sculptor to cast a new icon, rather than casting a fishing line praying to hook an idea.

(2) Many others continue to discuss what it should look like, including Charles Vess on Facebook (in a public post).

Ari Berk (friend & folklorist) suggested this idea. Going back to the original story that it seems all cultures around the world share: the hand print on the cave wall. “I am here and this is my story”.

vess wfa idea

(3) Frequent commenter Lis Carey is looking for financial help. Her GoFundMe appeal asks for $3,000, of which $400 has been donated so far.

I’m in a major fix. I don’t have an income right now, but I do have some major expenses. The tenant’s apartment has no heat, and a leaky kitchen sink, and needs a plumber. I have outstanding gas,and electric bills, and water bills for both apartments. I’m looking for work and trying to hold things together, but I’m desperate and need some breathing space. Help!

(4) Sarah Avery delves into some reasons for the success of multi-volume fantasy in “The Series Series: Why Do We Do This To Ourselves? I Can Explain!” at Black Gate. It’s a really good article but not easy to excerpt because it is (unsurprisingly!) long. This will give you a taste, anyway:

I love an ensemble cast. Reading, writing, watching, whatever. In my imaginative life as in my personal life, I’m an extrovert. The struggles of a main character connect with me best when that main character is part of a community. The solution to the existential horror Lovecraft’s protagonists face had always seemed so obvious to me that I’d never articulated it fully, even to myself. The cosmos as a whole doesn’t prefer you over its other components? Of course not. Unimaginably vast forces that would crack your mind open if you let yourself understand them are destroying your world, and you are entirely beneath their notice? Well, that would explain a lot. So what do you do?

You take comfort in the people you love, you go down swinging in their defense, and you live your mammalian values of compassion and connection intensely, as long as it does any good — and then longer, to the last breath, if only in reproof of whatever in the universe stands opposed to them.

Or maybe that isn’t obvious. But I’m pretty sure it’s not just me.

For whatever reason, Lovecraft was not a person, or an author, who could go there.

But the man could write a shorter story than I could. I’ll go to school on anyone who knows something I don’t, including authors who stretch me beyond the bounds of easy sympathy. What could the thing that appeared to me to be a malady in Lovecraft teach me about the gap in my craftsmanship?

First, I tried sharpening the distinction between the main character and the secondary characters. Simplifying the supporting cast, making my protagonist the only one who got to be as vivid and three-dimensional as I prefer for every significant character to be, got me out of novella territory. I could get my stories down to about 10,000 words and still feel that my work hit my own sweet spots.

What about getting the count lower? Magazine editors tend to set their cutoffs at 4,000 words or 7,000 words. What kind of cast size can you fit into that length, and what can you do with it?

I really don’t think you can squeeze in much of a supporting cast, unless those secondary characters are functioning more as props than as people. At most, you can have two realized characters, but that second can only be squeezed in if you’ve got serious writing chops. More characters than that, and you’re down to tricks that, as Elizabeth Bear likes to put it, hack the reader’s neurology: one telling detail that leads the reader to do all the work filling in a character around it. Okay, that’s a cool skill, one worth having, especially if you can do it so that the reader forgets s/he did all the work and remembers the story as if you’d written the character s/he filled in for you. I think I’ve pulled that trick off exactly once. Man, that was strenuous, and not in the ways I find exhilarating.

Avery’s subtopics include “Is It Enough to Call a Novel Community-Driven When It Sprawls across Two Continents, Seven Kingdoms, Three Collapsed Empires, a Passel of Free Cities, and Two Migrating Anarchic Proto-Nations?” Her short answer is, “Nope.”

(5) Mary Robinette Kowal seeks to lock in real progress to keep pace with conversation since the World Fantasy Con with the “SF/F Convention Accessibility Pledge”.

Over the last few years, there have been numerous instances of SF/F conventions failing to provide an accessible experience for their members with disabilities. Though accessibility is the right thing to do, and there are legal reasons for providing it in the US thanks to the 25-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act, many conventions continue to have no trained accessibility staff, policies, contact information, or procedures for accommodating their members with disabilities. As Congress said in the opening of the ADA, these “forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem.”

…We the undersigned are making a pledge. Starting in 2017, to give conventions time to fit this into their planning, the following will be required for us to be participants, panelists, or Guests of Honor at a convention:

  1. The convention has an accessibility statement posted on the website and in the written programs offering specifics about the convention’s disability access.
  2. The convention has at least one trained accessibility staff member with easy to find contact information. (There are numerous local and national organizations that will help with training.)
  3. The convention is willing and able to make accommodations for its members as it tries to be as accessible as possible. (We recommend that the convention uses the Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces as a beginning guideline. Other resources include Fans for Accessible Cons, A Guide for Accessible Conferences, and the ADA rules for places of public accommodation, which apply to US conventions.)

Many people have co-signed.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden also observed, “…When you put in the work on these issues, you find out how many people out there have been staying home.”

(6) Michael Kurland’s autobiographical essay “My Life as a Pejorative” is featured on Shots Crime & Thriller Ezine.

At fourteen I discovered mystery stories and couldn’t decide whether I was Rex Stout, Dorothy Sayers or Dashiel Hammett. Or maybe Simon Templar. Not Leslie Charteris, but Simon Templar. How debonaire, how quick-witted, how good looking.

I was 21 when I got out of the Army, enrolled at Columbia University and began hanging out in Greenwich Village. There I fell into bad company: Randall Garrett, Phil Klass (William Tenn), Don Westlake, Harlan Ellison, Bob Silverberg, and assorted other sf and mystery writers. This was my downfall, the start of my slide into genre fiction. I wrote a science fiction novel, Ten Years to Doomsday, with Chester Anderson, a brilliant poet and prose stylist who taught me much of what I know about writing, and followed that up with The Unicorn Girl, a sequel to Chester’s The Butterfly Kid, a pair of fantasy novels in which the two main characters were ourselves, Chester Anderson and Michael Kurland. These books, and The Probability Pad, a continuation written by my buddy Tom Waters, have become cult classics, known collectively as the Greenwich Village Trilogy, or sometimes The Buttercorn Pad.

(7) Today In History

  • November 18, 1963 – Push-button telephones made their debut.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boys and Girls

  • Born November 18, 1928: Mickey Mouse
  • Born November 18, 1939: Margaret Atwood
  • Born November 18, 1962: Sarah A. Hoyt

(9) John Scalzi makes “An Announcement Regarding Award Consideration for 2015 Work of Mine”. He asks people not to nominate him, and in comments indicates he will decline nominations that come his way.

But this year, when it comes to awards, I want to take a break and celebrate the excellent work that other people are doing, and who deserve attention for that work. My year’s already been, well, pretty good, hasn’t it. I’ve had more than enough good fortune from 2015 and I don’t feel like I need right now to ask for another helping…

But for work that was put out in 2015, please look past me. Find the other writers whose work deserves the spotlight you can put on them with your attention, nomination and vote. Find the works that move your heart and your mind. Find the writers whose work you love and who you feel a nomination can help in their careers and their lives. Look past your usual suspects — including me! — and find someone new to you whose stories and effort you can champion to others. Put those people and works on your ballots. 2015 has been genuinely great year for science fiction and fantasy; it won’t be difficult to find deserving work and people for your consideration.

(10) Bigger than your average bomb shelter. “Czech out the Oppidum, the ultimate apocalypse hideaway” at Treehugger.

We do go on about the importance of resilient design, the ability of our buildings to survive in changing times and climates. We are big on repurposing, finding new uses for old buildings. And if the greenest brick is the one already in the wall, then surely the greenest bomb shelter is the one that’s already in the ground. That’s why the Oppidum is such an exciting opportunity; it’s a conversion of a classified secret facility built in 1984 by what were then the governments of Czechoslovakia and The Soviet Union. Now, it is available for use as the ultimate getaway, deep in a valley in the Czech Republic. The developer notes that they don’t make’em like they used to:…

It has a lovely above-grade modestly sized 30,000 square foot residence, which is connected via secret corridor to the two-storey, 77,000 square foot bunker below, which has been stylishly subdivided into one large apartment and six smaller ones for friends, family and staff, all stocked with ten years of supplies.

(11) Former child actor Charles Herbert died October 31 at the age of 66. The New York Times obit lists his well-known roles in movies like The Fly and 13 Ghosts.

Mr. Herbert was supporting his parents by the time he was 5. He appeared in more than 20 films and 50 television episodes, in which he fended off all kinds of adversaries, from a robot to a human fly.

He shared the limelight with Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and James Cagney. He played a blind boy in a memorable episode of “Science Fiction Theater” in 1956, and appeared in a 1962 “Twilight Zone” episode in which a widowed father takes his children to choose an android grandmother.

(12) SF Signal’s latest Mind Meld, curated by Rob H. Bedford, asks Andrew Leon Hudson, Stephenie Sheung (The BiblioSanctum), Richard Shealy, Michael R. Fletcher, Mark Yon, and Erin Lindsey

Q: Who is your favorite animal companion (pet, familiar, etc) in SFF?

A significant number of genre stories features character’s pets or animal companions. From Loiosh of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books to Snuff from Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October to Hedwig from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, animals can be companions, pets, or near equals to their “owners.” Who is/are your favorite(s)?

(13) Bruce Gillespie invites fans to download SF Commentary 90, November 2015 — over 100 contributors and 70,000 words.

(14) A Christopher Reeve-worn Superman costume is available for bid until November 19 at 5 p.m. Pacific in a Nate D. Sanders auction.

Superman lot COMP

(15) Heritage Auctions reports a menu from the Titanic fetched a high price in a recently closed auction.

Ironically, the top two lots related to a major disaster and a national tragedy. The first was a first class dinner menu from the last supper on the R.M.S. Titanic, the evening of April 14, 1912. Five salesmen and retailers shared a meal, each signing a menu with their place of residence. Of the five, all but one managed to survive the sinking which occurred in the wee morning hours. We believe this to be the only signed example and the only one from the “last supper”. It sold for $118,750.

The second lot was the license plates from the limo President Kennedy was in when he was shot — which went for $100,000.

(16) And this weekend, Heritage Auctions will take bids on Neal Adams’ original cover art for Green Lantern #76, “one of the most important and influential comic books ever published,” as part of the company’s Nov. 19-21 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction where it is expected to bring $300,000+.

Adams’ iconic cover is striking and symbolic. This issue broke more than just the lantern on the cover! Adding Arrow’s name to the title and logo of the book was genius. It created the first “buddy book” in the comic industry… the equivalent to the “buddy movie” genre. It also allowed writer Denny O’Neil to launch into a 13 issue run that dove into political and sociological themes like no comic had before.

 

Green lanter green arrow

(17) Lovecraft’s mug has already been saved from awards obscurity (or permanently guaranteed it, depending on your view) by the administrators of the Counter Currents and the administrators of its H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature. (Which can also be reached using this handy Donotlink link.)

Last year, we at Counter-Currents saw this coming. Thus we have created the Counter-Currents H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature, to be awarded to literary artists of the highest caliber who transgress the boundaries of political correctness. Our first laureate is novelist Tito Perdue, who received the award at a banquet in Atlanta on March 7, 2015.

The prize bust is by world-famous porcelain artist Charles Krafft, whose own defiance of political correctness has just led to the cancellation of an exhibition in London.

Wikipedia has an entry on Tito Perdue.

More details about Krafft’s exhibit being pulled by a Whitechapel art gallery from Jewish News:

A fashionable Whitechapel art gallery has pulled the plug on an exhibition by an artist who has been described as a “Holocaust denier” and a “white supremacist,” after complaints and threats were made.

Charles Krafft, who denies both charges, was due to show his work at StolenSpace for the second time, but gallery bosses said they pulled out after receiving “both physical and verbal threats”.

Krafft’s controversial ceramics include busts of Hitler, swastika perfume bottles with the word “forgiveness” emblazoned upon them and plates covered in drawings of Nazi bombings. His work and attributed comments has led to him being labelled a white supremacist, a Nazi sympathiser and a Holocaust denier.

(18) Triple-threat interview with Ken Liu, Lauren Beukes and Tobias S. Buckell at SFFWorld.

Ecotones are the points of transition that occur when two different environments come into contact, and almost inevitably conflict. Can you describe for us an ecotone that has had personal significance for you?

Ken Liu: We’re at a point in our technological evolution where the role played by machines in our cognition is about to change qualitatively. Rather than just acting as “bicycles for the mind,” computers, transformed by ubiquitous networking and presence, will replace important cognitive functions for us at an ever accelerating pace. Much of our memory has already been outsourced to our phones and other devices—and I already see indications that machines will be doing more of our thinking for us. Not since the invention of writing has technology promised to change how we learn and think to such an extent.

The transition between the environment we used to live in and the environment we’re about to live in is going to be exciting as well as threatening, and we’re witnessing one of the greatest transformations in human history.

Tobias Buckell: Last year a deer walked on down through Main Street and then jumped through the window of the local downtown bar. They got it on security camera.

Lauren Beukes: The shared reality of overlapping worlds I live through every day – the schism in experience between rich and poor where everything works differently, from criminal justice to the food you eat, how you get to work, schooling, the day-to-day you have to navigate.

I saw this most clearly and devastatingly when I tried to help my cleaning lady get justice for the scumbag who fatally assaulted her daughter. The cops didn’t care. The hospital put it down as “natural causes”. The prosecutor had to throw the case out because there was so little evidence. This compared to an incident when a friend’s motorbike was stolen at night in the nice suburbs and five cops ended up on his balcony drinking tea, having recovered the vehicle.

(19) Sarah Chorn at Bookworm Blues wonders if her conflict of interest should bar her from reviewing two books.

I feel pretty weird about doing this, but I also think it has to be done. This year I was a beta reader for two books that are currently published (a few more that have upcoming publication dates). I have struggled a little bit with how to approach these novels. While I feel obligated to review them (and I want to review them), I feel like being a beta reader for them takes my objectivity out of it, which is a problem for me. Is it really a review if I can’t objectively judge it?

Am I pondering my navel?

I’m surprised her desire to ask the question didn’t lead to a built-in answer.

(20) The Ant-Man Gag Reel has a few bloopers, though it’s not all that funny.

(21) Marvel’s Agent Carter Season 2 premieres January 5 on ABC.

[Thanks to Kate Savage, Will R., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]