Pixel Scroll 2/3/23 Listen To Them, The Pixels Of The Scroll! What Files They Make!

(1) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 21 to make your voice heard: “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2022!”.

…While we have our personal favorites, we’d like to know which stories YOU loved from Uncanny in 2022.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2022. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 31 to February 21, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

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

(2) LOCUS RECOMMENDED READING LIST. The 2022 Locus Recommended Reading List from the magazine’s February issue has been posted by Locus Online.

(3) CEMETARY DANCE DROPS MONTELEONE. [Item by rcade.] He was still an active columnist for the magazine, 29 years after the bigoted column. Not any more, though:

(4) A FAREWELL TO HARMS. Priya Sridhar writes “My Goodbye Letter To J.K. Rowling: What To Do When Your Magical World Has Cast You And Your Friends Out With Hate” at Medium in Counter Arts. (Via Cat Rambo.)

… J.K. Rowling has joined the list of these creators that break their pedestals. I’ve been debating on writing this article for several years, because I did not understand. How could a woman that wrote about fighting tyranny with courage and friendship say such things, to hurt people? Why would she dig herself deeper, going from misappropriating Navajo beliefs to claiming that trans people do not exist?

This recent transphobia has provided the answer. YouTuber Jessie Gender posted a video revealing that JKR found her tweets about Jessie talking about Hogwarts Legacy, and decided to send her own fanbase against one person, labeling her a “trans gamer”. Jessie had to spend Christmas in Buffalo, New York, dealing with the fallout. According to the video, JKR apparently earns more money every time she talks about this issue in her hateful way. She didn’t care that she would be hurting a vulnerable person if it got the desired reaction.

JKR isn’t causing controversy because she is being an idiot. She’s harassing marginalized creators and critics to earn more revenue from her books and establish power over those that disagree with her.

Now, doesn’t that sound familiar? Oh yes, I know two bigoted characters that did exactly the same thing in the Harry Potter series. Spoiler alert: they were not protagonists, or even heroic side characters….

(5) BLACK HERITAGE IN HORROR. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its series: “Black Heritage in Horror: Interview with Beatrice Winifred Iker”.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I grew up in Southern Appalachia with a rich sociocultural history to draw from. The horrors and allure of the South are genuinely neverending, fostering my interest in the genre, specifically in the subgenre of southern gothic.

Aside from that, I’m fascinated with the darker tendencies and desires of the human mind. We spend so much time assimilating and confining ourselves to social norms, but I’m more interested in examining people and histories who choose not to or don’t have a choice….

(6) IT’S A FELONY. Them explains why “Some Florida Teachers Are Removing Books from Classrooms Due to New State Law”.

Teachers in Florida’s Manatee and Duval counties are removing or physically covering up books in their classrooms after the State Board of Education ruled that a law restricting the books a district may possess applies not only to school libraries but to teachers’ classroom books as well.

House Bill 1467, which went into effect last July, requires that all schools’ books may only be displayed if they’ve been deemed appropriate by a librarian or “certified media specialist” who has undergone state retraining. Under the guidelines, books must be “free of pornographic material” and “appropriate for the age level and group.” New training approved by the State Board of Educators also asks media specialists to avoid books with “unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination.”

Breaking the law is a third-degree felony: A teacher could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for displaying or giving students a banned book. 

There’s a good chance that these “unsolicited theories” and “student indoctrination” tactics apply to the disproportionately high number of banned books that feature queer and trans characters, as well as other marginalized communities. A report from nonprofit group PEN America released last September found that over 41% of books banned over the past school year were targeted due to LGBTQ+ content…

(7) SCAM REVEALED. At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss alerts everyone to: “Peak Fake: United Writers Organization and the Perpetual Eagle Awards”.

There’s a new solicitation doing the rounds. It’s from United Writers Organization, which describes itself as a “leading professional organization” for writers and publishers, and it delivers exciting news: you’ve been nominated for an award! A “complimentary nomination certificate” is yours for the asking–you don’t even have to pay! Although of course it would be nice if you became a UWO member, which will cost you a mere $99….

… Of course this is a scam–the out of the blue solicitation is a big clue, as are the language and grammar mistakes and telltale info from UWO’s domain registration–just 7 days old as of this writing, somewhat contradicting “Est. 1957” in the UWO logo….

(8) FESTIVAL OF MONSTERS. The Center for Monster Studies has put out a call for papers for the 2023 Festival of Monsters Conference. The conference will be held October 13-15, 2023 at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The deadline to submit abstracts and short bios is March 1.

The Center for Monster Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz is an interdisciplinary research, arts, and outreach organization focused on the ways monsters and tropes of monstrosity both perpetuate and contravene forms of social and cultural injustice. Each year we host a Festival of Monsters that brings together scholars, artists, students, and members of the general public to consider these issues.

Our 2023 Festival of Monsters (Oct. 13-15 in beautiful Santa Cruz) includes an academic conference, performances, readings, presentations from monster-makers in theatre, film and television, and events in association with an exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) entitled Werewolf Hunters, Jungle Queens, and Space Commandos: The Lost Worlds of Women Comics Artists.

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers or presentations on any aspect of monsters or monster studies. We are particularly interested in work that addresses the following topics:

Women creators of monsters

Monsters and misogyny

Monsters in comics

Monsters and sexual politics from any time period

Monsters and queerness

Papers from all disciplines are welcome. Because participants in the Festival include members of the general public as well as people from within the academic community, we ask that proposed papers consider the Festival’s mixed audience. We welcome complex theoretical concepts and scholarly interventions, but please make sure the terms and stakes of your paper are articulated as clearly as possible.   

Please submit 250-word abstracts and 50-word bios to [email protected] and [email protected] by March 1, 2023.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1937 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Now it is time for my all-time favorite Beginnings. It’s the first words of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, a novel I’ve read so many times that I know it by heart at this point. I consider it a perfect novel. 

Now we all know that the hobbit here is named Baggins but that won’t know here until the third paragraph of the novel, a nice touch indeed.  

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained—well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 3, 1925 John Fiedler. He’s solely here as he played the ever so bland bureaucrat who gets possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper on the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. I’m less interested in him, though it was a stellar episode, than who wrote that screenplay. It was written by Robert Bloch, a master of horror who would write two other Trek episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 3, 1933 George Gipe. Screenwriter, The Man with Two Brains. He also wrote Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid but it’d be a stretch to consider that even genre adjacent. He wrote novelizations of Back to the FutureExplorers and Gremlins. And his Nearer to the Dust: Copyright and the Machine is interesting early (mid sixties) look at the potential effects of computers on copyrights. (Died 1986.)
  • Born February 3, 1938 Victor Buono. I remember him best in his recurring role of Count Manzeppi in The Wild Wild West. In his very short life, he showed up in a number of other genre roles as well including as a scientist bent on world domination in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in an episode titled “The Cyborg”, as Adiposo / Fat man in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Colonel Hubris in  The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Professor William McElroy / King Tut in Batman, Sir Cecil Seabrook in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Mr. Schubert on Man from Atlantis. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 3, 1954 Shawna McCarthy, 69. Editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction from 1983 to 1985, and Realms of Fantasy from 1994 to 2011. Sheila Williams in her history of the former said “While remaining a welcoming home for new writers, Shawna’s Asimov’s acquired an edgier and more literary and experimental tone.” 
  • Born February 3, 1963 Alex Bledsoe, born 1963, aged sixty years. I highly recommend his Tales of The Tufa which can sort of be described as Appalachian Fae though that’s stretching it. His Eddie LaCrosse novels remind of Cook’s Garrett PI series and that’s a high compliment as that’s one of my favorite fantasy PI series. Anyone read his Firefly Witch series? And to my surprise, he’s stopped writing fiction altogether.
  • Born February 3, 1970 Warwick Davis, 53. At least fifty live and voice appearances since first appearing in the Return of the Jedi in in place of Kenny Baker who was going to be a Ewok before he fell ill. Did you know he’s in Labyrinth as a member of the Goblin Corps? I certainly didn’t. Or that he did a series of humorous horror films centered around him as a Leprechaun? They did well enough that there was six of them. Hell he even shows up in Doctor Who during the Time of the Eleventh Doctor. 
  • Born February 3, 1979 Ransom Riggs, 44. He’s best known for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I’ll confess I know absolutely nothing about, so educate me. I know it was turned into a film by Tim Burton which could a Very Good Thing. 

(11) CHEAP IS GOOD, FREE IS BEST. “12 Surprisingly Low-Tech Special Effects Moments In Movies” – these are Ranker’s favorites.

Before there was computer-generated imagery (CGI), special effects crews often had to use practical effects to achieve their cinematic vision. Many of these practical effects were surprisingly low-tech genius creations that prove creative thinking often trumps throwing loads of money at a problem.

Practical effects include any special effects created without the use of computer-generated imagery. It’s a kitchen-sink term that incorporates everything from prosthetics to pyrotechnics to miniature models. Find out which grotesque movie monster was constructed in part with strawberry jam and creamed corn. How did they create that swirling tornado in The Wizard of Oz, which still looks great even by today’s visual effects standards? Some of these films were made more recently when computer effects were readily available. Yet, the filmmakers opted to get creative and go old-school low-tech practical effects that yielded a more authentic-looking result.

First up –

The Tornado In ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Was Made From A Stocking Wrapped Around Chicken Wire

Back in the 1930s, practical effects were not a stylistic choice, they were a necessity. At the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, a tornado takes Dorothy (Judy Garland) from the barren lands of Kansas to the magically magnificent world of Oz. 

The production hired prolific special effects master Arnold Gillespie to figure out how to create the movie’s famous twister. The Academy Award winner attempted several different methods before finally getting it right…. 

(12) RETRO SFF. Michael Dirda reviews The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sherriff in “The moon falls to Earth in a 1939 novel that remains chillingly relevant” at the Washington Post (behind a paywall.)

Late last month, NASA announced that an asteroid would pass exceptionally close to the Earth. As Jennifer Hassan wrote in The Washington Post, “NASA was quick to reassure people that the asteroid, which is estimated at between 11 feet (about 3.5 meters) and 28 feet (8.5 meters) across, would not end life as we know it on our planet.” Suppose, though, a much larger celestial object — say, the moon — were actually to crash into Earth. What then?

This is the scenario of R.C. Sherriff’s novel “The Hopkins Manuscript” (1939), recently reissued by Scribner. From its opening pages we learn that more than eight centuries have gone by since “the Cataclysm” and that Europe, particularly England, has been left a barren wasteland. For years, however, archaeologists of the Royal Society of Abyssinia have been seeking artifacts to help “reconstruct the lost glory of the ‘white man.’” During one expedition to what was once London, a young scientist, out gathering brushwood, unearths a small vacuum flask, inside which is a handwritten account of life in a small village called Beadle during the days leading up to the lunar catastrophe….

(13) IT’S BEING LET GO. “’Never Let Me Go’ Series Not Moving Forward at FX” reports Variety.

… The show was originally picked up to series by FX back in October and was meant to air exclusively on Hulu. It had originally been reported as being in development at FX in May 2022. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, production had not yet begun before the decision to scrap the series was made.

The drama series was inspired by Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 science fiction novel of the same name, which was previously adapted into a film in 2010. The film was written by Alex Garland, directed by Mark Romanek, and produced by Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich….

(14) BIG APPETITES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Raquel Welch please note… “Neanderthals lived in groups big enough to eat giant elephants” says a Science story.

Meat from the butchered beasts would have fed hundreds.

On the muddy shores of a lake in east-central Germany, Neanderthals gathered some 125,000 years ago to butcher massive elephants. With sharp stone tools, they harvested up to 4 tons of flesh from each animal, according to a study that is casting these ancient human relatives in a new light. The degree of organization required to carry out the butchery—and the sheer quantity of food it provided—suggests Neanderthals could form much larger social groups than previously thought…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, James Reynolds, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day by Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 11/26/22 A Pixel Short And A Scroll Late

(1) THE NEW NUMBER ONE. The ever-widening circle of people who are hearing about the death of beloved sf author Greg Bear has resulted in File 770’s obituary notice “Greg Bear (1951-2022)” becoming the site’s most-read post ever. It passed 55,000 hits today.

The previous two record-holders were both from 2015, “Sunday Business Meeting at Sasquan” and “Viewing the Remains of Bradbury’s Home”, each with over 50K hits.  

(2) TOASTS TO GREG BEAR. Also, today at 4:21 p.m. in each time zone people have been offering a rolling toast to Greg Bear, and some have posted photos – like Walter Jon Williams on Facebook.  

Astrid Bear’s own comment on Facebook details what was in her glass:

I sit here near Seattle WA as the skies darken. It’s been an overcast day with occasional rain, so there is no hope of a golden sunset here at ground level. In my glass is a wee dram of Zaya rum from Trinidad and Tobago, one of Greg’s favorites. I am hearted to consider this toast rolling along the globe as sunset travels westward. I know people will be toasting in Australia, Europe, and the Americas, as each in their turn see the shadows draw long.

The memories of Greg will remain with those of us who knew and loved him for many years to come. His books will live on for many more years, even centuries. And that is a grand thing.

To Greg!

——–

Tasting notes: a lot of caramel and vanilla. Almost crème brulee in a glass. The label says “Trinidad and Tobago/Land of the Hummingbird.” Greg loved watching the hummingbirds that come to our flowers and feeders, and he managed to get some very good photographs of them.

(3) BUTLER’S EARLY DAYS. E. Alex Jung chronicles “The Spectacular Life of Octavia E. Butler” at Vulture.

…In her family, Butler went by Junie, short for Junior, and in the world, she went by Estelle or Estella to avoid confusion for people looking for her mother. As a girl, she was shy. She broke down in tears when she had to speak in front of the class. Her youth was filled with drudgery and torment. The first time she remembered someone calling her “ugly” was in the first grade — bullying that continued through her adolescence. “I wanted to disappear,” she said. “Instead, I grew six feet tall.” The boys resented her growth spurt, and sometimes she would get mistaken for a friend’s mother or chased out of the women’s bathroom. She was called slurs. It was the only time in her life she really considered suicide.

She kept her own company. In her elementary-school progress reports, one teacher wrote that “she dreams a lot and has poor concentration.” That was true. She did dream a lot, and she began to write her dreams down in a large pink notebook she carried around with her. “I usually had very few friends, and I was lonely,” Butler said. “But when I wrote, I wasn’t.” By the time she was 10, she was writing her own worlds. At first, they were inspired by animals. She loved horses like those in The Black Stallion. When she saw an old pony at a carnival with festering sores swarmed by flies, she realized the sores had come from the other kids kicking the animal to make it go faster. Children’s capacity for cruelty stayed with her. She went home and wrote stories of wild horses that could shape-shift and that “made fools of the men who came to catch them.”…

(4) BRINGING THEM BACK TO LIGHT. Cora Buhlert’s new “Fancast Spotlight” is “Tales from the Trunk”.

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

Tales from the Trunk is a podcast about the stories that we, as writers, have had to give up on for one reason or another. Every episode, an author comes on to read a story out of their trunk, or in the case of book tour episodes to read an excerpt from a new or forthcoming release, and chat about the writing life, the reasons that some stories just don’t make it, and why every word you write is its own victory. Episodes come out on the first and third Friday of every month.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

Tales from the Trunk is hosted and produced by author Hilary B. Bisenieks (that’s me). I’m joined each episode by a guest author who works in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and beyond….

(5) GOING HOG WILD. Cora Buhlert has also debuted another “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Pig Invasion’”.

… Now I have a soft spot for pigs in general and the villain Pig-Head is a delightfully goofy character, a pig with a Samurai-style helmet in the most mid 1980s colour scheme ever. So once I spotted him for a good price, I bought him.

Since I like taking photos of new arrivals, I made a short photo story to post on Twitter before Twitter goes belly-up altogether, something which is looking increasingly likely.

So let’s see what happens when Pig-Head invades Eternia….

(6) CLOUDS OF PUNK WITNESS. New Lines Magazine appears to have a -punk suffix movement issue, since they published articles about cyberpunk and solarpunk.

Twenty minutes into the future, the transformative effects of computers and networks necessitate that misfits, outcasts and dissenters living on the fringes rebel against the abuse of cutting-edge science and tech for pleasure, profit and power.

That may seem extreme, but if “Star Trek” and its ilk were the summations of the optimism of the Atomic Age, this is the logical conclusion to the nihilism of the Information Age — one where technology won’t usher in the world of tomorrow. One where the solutions of yesterday will be our undoing; one where we wish we had dismantled the system we now live in before it was too late.

…Enter Solarpunk. By its simplest definition, Solarpunk is a literary and art movement which imagines what the future could look like if the human species were actually to succeed in solving the major challenges associated with global warming, from reducing global emissions to overcoming capitalist economic growth as the primary motor of human society. These seemingly titanic tasks are actually pragmatic necessities dictated by scientific knowledge. We know, for example, that it is simply impossible to have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. And yet, this impossibility is exactly where we are still heading towards as a species…

(7) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. Inverse speculates, “If Neanderthals had survived, this is what the world might look like now”.

For 99 percent of the last million years of our existence, people rarely came across other humans. There were only around 10,000 Neanderthals living at any one time. Today, there are around 800,000 people in the same space that was occupied by one Neanderthal. What’s more, since humans live in social groups, the next nearest Neanderthal group was probably well over 100 kilometers away. Finding a mate outside your own family was a challenge.

Neanderthals were more inclined to stay in their family groups and were wary of new people. If they had outcompeted our species (Homo sapiens), the population density would likely be far lower. It’s hard to imagine them building cities, for example, because they were genetically disposed to be less friendly to those beyond their immediate family…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1968 [By Cat Eldridge.] Charly 

So let’s talk about the film that was based off a Hugo Award winning story. 

Charly premiered fifty-four years ago on this date. It was based off “Flowers for Algernon” which is a short story and a novel by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, would win the Hugo Award for Best Short Story at Pittcon. The novel was published in 1966 and was the joint winner of that year’s Nebula Award for Best Novel with Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17

The scriptwriter for this film was Stirling Silliphant who is best remembered for his screenplay for In the Heat of the Night for which he won an Academy Award the previous year.  Not genre but worth noting is he created the Perry Mason series.

The movie had an outstanding cast of Cliff Robertson, Claire Bloom, Leon Janney, Lilia Skala and Dick Van Patten. 

I’m not going to detail the film here as I’m assuming y’all have seen, so no spoilers this time. May I say I found it a terribly depressing film and leave it at that? 

It’s worth noting that the short story became “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon”, a 1961 television adaptation for The United States Steel Hour in which Robertson had also starred. The UCLA Film & Television Archive has it legally up on YouTube so you can watch that version here.

William Goldman was to write the screenplay on the strength of his No Way to Treat a Lady novel and got $30,000 to write a screenplay. However, Cliff Robertson was pissed off with Goldman’s work and he hired to Silliphant write a draft which he found most satisfactory.

It was a hit by the studio, making eight times its budget of just a million dollars. 

I think Vincent Canby, critic for the New York Times, summed it up best in saying that it is a: “self-conscious contemporary drama, the first ever to exploit mental retardation for…the bittersweet romance of it.”  It is still way too depressing and ethically questionable for me, but that’s me. I’ll entertain other opinions of course. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 26, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman, pure fantasy Graeme and the Dragon and an Arthurian novel in Chapel Perilous. (Died 1999.)
  • Born November 26, 1919 Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honored for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, magazines he edited won three Hugos, fiction he wrote won three Hugos and two Nebula Awards, and at the end of his career he circled back around and won the 2010 Best Fan Writer Hugo. His 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him the 12th recipient of its Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. OK, setting aside Awards which are fucking impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Astonishing StoriesGalaxy Science FictionWorlds of If, and Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astonishing Stories, plus the Star Science Fiction anthologies – and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 Shusei Nagaoka. Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue, by Electric Light Orchestra and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks which was launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.) (JJ) 
  • Born November 26, 1940 Paul J. Nahin, 82. Engineer and Writer of numerous non-fiction works, some of genre interest, and at least 20 SF short fiction works. Time travel is certainly one of the intrinsic tropes of SF, so certainly there should be at least one academic that specializes in studying it. Oh, there is: I present this Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire who has written not one, but three, works on the subject, to wit: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science FictionTime Travel: A Writer’s Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel, and Time Machine Tales: The Science Fiction Adventures and Philosophical Puzzles of Time Travel. No mere dry academic is he, as he’s also had stories published in genre venues which include Analog, Omni, and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. (JJ)
  • Born November 26, 1949 Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 73. Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two of her three Hugo Award nominations for Best Fan Artist. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado. (JJ) 
  • Born November 26, 1961 Steve Macdonald, 61. Musician, Writer, Singer, Filker, and Fan. He served for several years as the Evangelista for the Pegasus Awards (the Filkers’ most prestigious awards, given out by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest), and was responsible for many changes in the award process that led to greater participation among the voting base. In 2001, he attended ten filk conventions around the world and recorded filkers singing “Many Hearts, One Voice”, a song he had composed; the tracks were merged electronically for the WorlDream project to celebrate the new millennium. He has won six Pegasus Awards, for Best Performer, Writer/Composer, Filk Song, Adapted Song, Dorsai Song, and Myth Song. He has been Filk Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006, after which he emigrated to Germany to marry fellow filker Katy Droge, whom he had met eight years before at OVFF. (JJ)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mutts is one of the many comics paying tribute to Charles Schulz today on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

(11) MAKING NEW STAR WARS FANS. The conclusion of Andor has people raving (favorably). Here’s a transcript of NPR’s “Movie Review: ‘Andor’”. Beware spoilers.

…DEL BARCO: Showrunner Tony Gilroy created the show after working on “Rogue One” and having written movies such as “Michael Clayton” and the “Bourne Identity” franchise. For many years, he’s been fascinated with empires and revolutions throughout history.

GILROY: I mean, I have a library downstairs just on the Russian Revolution alone. I can go between the Montagnards and the Haitians and the ANC and the Irgun and the French Resistance and the Continental Congress. And literally, you could drop a needle throughout the last 3,000 years of recorded history, and it’s passion. It’s need. It’s people being swept away by betrayal and their own ability and failure to commit. And, oh, my God, it’s just everything.

DEL BARCO: Gilroy infused that kind of drama into “Andor,” and he’s been pleasantly surprised by the passionate reaction by critics and fans, even those like himself who were not necessarily hardcore “Star Wars” aficionados before….

(12) JPLRON. Space.com introduces listeners to “’Blood, Sweat & Rockets:’ Podcast series looks at colorful founders of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab”. The direct link to the podcast is: Blood, Sweat and Rockets.

The early years of rocketry weren’t all about horn-rimmed glasses and slide rules. 

Some of the 20th century’s most important aerospace pioneers were incredibly colorful characters — folks like Jack Parsons, a handsome young chemist who conducted occult rituals with L. Ron Hubbard and sold bootleg nitroglycerine during the Great Depression.

Parsons’ many interests also extended to the nascent field of rocket science: He helped establish the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which eventually became NASA’s lead center for robotic exploration.

…A new podcast called “Blood, Sweat & Rockets (opens in new tab)” delves into the lives and work of Parsons and his circle, which included fellow JPL co-founders Frank Malina and Theodore von Kármán. Some of these ambitious engineers, Parsons and Malina among them, were part of a group called the Suicide Squad. The name came from their aggressive approach to rocket research, as the podcast will doubtless detail….

(13) SHADES OF WEIRD TALES. Cora Buhlert has done a “Retro Review” for “’The Hanging of Alfred Wadham’ by E.F. Benson”, which she feels is “a not very good ghost story” that appeared in Weird Tales in 1929.

 …In addition to satirical novels about upper class people being jerks, Benson also wrote a lot of ghost stories and this is what brought him to the attention of H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote admiringly about Benson’s work in “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, and finally to Weird Tales….

(14) SF SCREENPLAY CONTEST. The Geneva International Science in Fiction Screenplay Awards are taking entries through December 2. Full details at the link.

GISFSA is a science related and Sci-Fi screenplay contest based out of Geneva, Switzerland, sponsored by the local production company, Turbulence Films, and CineGlobe the film festival of the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research).

Our roots in scientific research and connections makes GISFSA the premiere science and sci-fi screenplay contest. We connect winners with the most reputable scientists in the world, who regularly advise on sci-fi pictures.

When submitting a screenplay, all content is analyzed through our sponsors at Scriptmatix, the industry’s leading content evaluation technology company.

For Screenplay Contests:
CONTEST ENTRIES receive analytics on their screenplay’s execution across multiple categories.
ENTRIES + ANALYSIS receive full analytics and evaluative write-ups….

(15) CAST(ING) OF HUNDREDS. “’The sheer scale is extraordinary’: meet the titanosaur that dwarfs Dippy the diplodocus” in the Guardian.

It will be one of the largest exhibits to grace a British museum. In spring, the Natural History Museum in London will display the skeleton of a titanosaur, a creature so vast it will have to be shoehorned into the 9-metre-high Waterhouse gallery.

One of the most massive creatures ever to have walked on Earth, Patagotitan mayorum was a 57-tonne behemoth that would have shaken the ground as it stomped over homelands which now form modern Patagonia. Its skeleton is 37 metres long, and 5 metres in height – significantly larger than the museum’s most famous dinosaur, Dippy the diplodocus, which used to loom over its main gallery.

…The remains of Patagotitan mayorum were uncovered in 2010 when a ranch owner in Patagonia came across a gigantic thigh bone sticking out of the ground. Argentinian fossil experts later dug up more than 200 pieces of skeleton, the remains of at least six individual animals.

Casts have been made of these bones by the Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio in Trelew, Patagonia, and these form the skeleton that will go on display in London in March.

“The number of bones uncovered represents a treasure trove of material,” said Sinead Marron, the exhibition’s lead curator. “It means we now know a lot more about this species than we do about many other dinosaurs.”…

(16) GOOD NIGHT OPPY REVIEW. The New York Times shows why “This Mars Documentary Required Many Sols”.

Early in the documentary “Good Night Oppy,” footage from late 2002 shows Steve Squyres, clad in scrubs, staring down in quiet awe, his eyes welling up as he shakes his head in disbelief. Squyres, the principal investigator for NASA’s first Mars rover mission, is watching his babies take their first steps.

That at least is the sense one gets from the improbably sentimental journey at the core of this movie (which begins streaming Wednesday on Amazon Prime Video) about the Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity (a.k.a. Oppy). Squyres vividly remembers experiencing this exact moment from the film.

“The first time it sort of came to life, it was a very, very moving experience,” he said recently over Zoom.

Squyres had long awaited the moment. A former geologist, he had worked on Mars exploration proposals for 10 years, including three failed submissions to NASA, before spending another six years, including three cancellations and revivals of the mission, building the machines.

As much as “Good Night Oppy” chronicles the depth of the human achievement behind the Mars rover mission — which was initially planned for a roughly 90-day stretch but instead lasted 15 years — the film is anchored most of all by a kind of pure devotion and connection to the rovers.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended says this is “How Top Gun Maverick Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, Francis Hamit, Jack William Bell, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

Pixel Scroll 10/3/22 My Positronic Brain It Teems With Endless Subroutines

(1) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB FUNDRAISER. Fantastic Fiction at KGB is a monthly speculative-fiction reading series held on the second Wednesday of every month at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel. Admission is always free. To cover the next round of guest expenses, they have launched their first fundraiser in three years, with a $6,000 goal: “Fantastic Fiction reading series at the KGB Bar Gofundme”.

The monthly series, which has been running since the late 1990s , serves as a salon, where writers, editors, agents, and fans of science fiction, fantasy, and horror can co-mingle in a shared event space. The series also served a vital social function during multiple Covid lockdown periods, when we featured authors from all over the globe on our live YouTube channel, and people who were isolated due to the lockdown could keep in contact with the writing community. We also release a free podcast, where we post audio recordings of the monthly readings.

Running the series costs us money. We pay a stipend to our guests, we pay for their drinks at the bar, and we also take them out to dinner after the readings. At present, the series costs about $2,000 per year to run. Unfortunately, we are almost out of money from our last fundraiser three years ago. We hope to raise at least $6,000, which will fund the series for three more years. It would be great if we could raise more.

(2) BLACK PANTHER. “Show them who we are.” A new trailer for Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever dropped today. See it only in theaters beginning November 11.

(3) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS — JOURNEY PLANET: ANTHROPOCENE RUMINATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne and Amanda Wakaruk.] When Chris Garcia and James Bacon approached us to guest edit an edition of their Hugo-winning fanzine Journey Planet, they asked us “what subject would you most like to tackle?”

The answer was easy: climate fiction.

Climate change is the defining crisis of our age. Given that the causes of climate change are rooted in technological transformations celebrated by the past century of science fiction, enthusiasts like us have some responsibility to grapple with what it means.

The upcoming “Anthropocene Ruminations” will contain some of the various ways in which SFF fans are grappling with a rapidly heating and chaotic planet: through fiction, through art, through poetry, and through critical discourse. 

We’re hoping to have reviews of books depicting climate change, discussions of historical trends, and examinations of aspects of climate change that may have been neglected by genre fiction. 

We’d love to hear article and art pitches from across the fandom community (that means all y’all). Send us your ideas before October 15 (email BOTH of us at amanda.wakaruk at gmail dot com and olavrokne at gmail dot com). We’re aiming to have the finished works submitted by November 15. 

Will “Anthropocene Ruminations” singlehandedly solve climate change? It’s too early to say for certain. What it’s not too early to say is that it will contain some pieces by Hugo-finalist and Hugo-winning fanwriters.

Drop us a line. Amanda & Olav. Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog co-editors

(4) KEEPING UP WITH CORA BUHLERT. The alumni newsletter of Bremen University, Kurzmeldungen, listed Cora Buhlert’s Hugo win.

Issue Zero of New Edge Sword & Sorcery Magazine published Cora’s article about C.L. Moore and Jirel of Joiry, as well as fiction and non-fiction by Howard Andrew Jones, Brian Murphy, Milton J. Davis, Nicole Emmelhainz, David C. Smith, Dariel R.A. Quiogue, Remco van Strane and Angeline B. Adams, Bryn Hammond, J.M. Clarke, T.K. Rex, Robin Marx and editor Oliver Brackebury. The digital edition is free, the print editions are fairly cheap.

And Cora has an essay about anime in West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s in Rising Sun Reruns: Memories of Japanese TV Shows from Today’s Grown-Up Kids.

In these pages you will find glowing memories of flights of fancy such as Ultraman, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, Astro Boy, Battle of the Planets, Space Giants, Speed Racer, Robotech, and many, many more—including a few you may never even heard of!

(5) NOBEL PRIZE FOR PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE. “Svante Pääbo Wins Nobel Prize for Unraveling the Mysteries of Neanderthal DNA”Smithsonian Magazine has the story.

The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine awarded the field’s top prize on Monday to Svante Pääbo, a Swedish geneticist who determined how to extract and analyze DNA from 40,000-year-old Neanderthal bones. Pääbo’s decades of research have made it possible for scientists to begin probing differences between today’s modern humans and their ancient ancestors.

Pääbo, who is 67, has spent decades pioneering and perfecting new methods of extracting Neanderthal DNA, an extremely complex and challenging process. Over time, very old DNA degrades and can become polluted with the DNA of bacteria, and modern scientists can also easily contaminate it with their own genetic material.

But time and again, Pääbo found ways around these and other issues. In 2010, after years of painstaking work, Pääbo and his team published the sequenced Neanderthal genome, a feat that at one time was considered impossible, reports the New York Times’ Benjamin Mueller. As Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in her book The Sixth Extinction, the process was like trying to reconstruct a “Manhattan telephone book from pages that have been put through a shredder, mixed with yesterday’s trash, and left to rot in a landfill.”

…On Monday morning, Pääbo was just finishing a cup of tea when he got a call from Sweden. He assumed the call was bad news about his family’s summer home in Sweden and was instead surprised to learn he’d won the Nobel Prize. When asked whether he ever envisioned winning science’s most prestigious prize, Pääbo humbly replied that he “somehow did not think that this really would… qualify for a Nobel Prize,” per an interview posted on the Nobel Prize website….

Here’s a further excerpt from the Nobel’s “Svante Pääbo – Interview”.

…AS: Your work is of course on the sequencing of these early hominins. What does our knowledge, your knowledge of the genetic makeup of those species tell us about our relationship with them.

SP: Well, it does tell us that we are very closely related, first of all, and we’re actually so closely related that they have contributed quite directly, 50, 60 thousand years ago, DNA to the ancestors of most people today, those who have their roots outside Africa. And that variation that, sort of, those variants do have an influence, and influence many things in our physiology today.

AS: Do you think that changes our view of ourselves, knowing that?

SP: In some sense, I do think it does so, the sort of realisation that until quite recently, maybe 14 hundred generations or so ago there were other forms of humans around and they mixed with our ancestors and have contributed to us today. The fact that the last 40 thousand years is quite unique in human history, in that we are the only form of humans around. Until that time, there were almost always other types of humans that existed.

(6) A MOMENT IN SFF HISTORY. “Science Fiction In Communist Bloc Changed Forever 40 Years Ago” writes Jaroslav Olsa Jr., the Consul General of the Czech Consulate in Los Angeles.

In October 1982, the first issue of FANTASTYKA, Polish science fiction monthly reached its first readers. This was the first real science fiction magazine in the former Soviet bloc! And it had an enormous impact on science fiction in other neighbouring countries as the situation in Eastern Europe was significantly different than in Western Europe as all publishing business in Soviet bloc was under strict control of each state and its leading (often Communist) party. The publishing houses were operated and owned predominantely by state ministries or its subsidiaries, controlled more or less visibly by various types of censorship bodies and though in some Soviet bloc countries in different times publishing was allowed greater freedom (e. g. Yugoslavia, Hungary and/or 1980s Poland), there was never allowed a free press.

And thus even publishing SF fanzines was a sort of risky adventure…

Thank you late Adam Hollanek, late Maciej Parowski, late Andrzej Krzepkowski, Jacek Rodek, Andrzej Wójcik and many many others, who gave us Fantastyka, and who helped us to open the window to science fiction in the West and internationalize science fiction – something then a real novelty….

(7) MICKEY MOUSE CAPITALISM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Elaine Moore discusses how Disney CEO Bob Chapek is concerned that people who show up at a Disney park every week are crowding out the occasional visitor who will spend a lot of money on stuff.

The problem is that super fans don’t spend as much per visit as occasional park visitors.  There are only so many Minnie Mouse headbands a person can wear.  For some, the annual pass that allows buyers to visit Disney parks throughout the year is extremely good value too.  A one day trip to Disney World in Florida is $109.  The annual Incredi Pass is $1,299 plus tax. Visit once a month and you break even.  Go every week and you’d save over $4,000.  The mismatch has shades of the MoviePass debacle, in which subscribers paid less than $10 per month for multiple cinema trips.  MoviePass guessed they might visit once or twice a month.  But their willingness to go day after day left the company bankrupt…

…At the recent D23 Expo there were complaints that passes were still suspended.  Unluckily for them, Chapek used to run the parks division.  He knows that demand is far higher than supply and is sufficiently unsentimental to take advantage.  Prices would double and visitors would pay them.  Disney fans may moan but they will still keep coming back.”

(8) ANTI-MUSLIM SENTIMENTS. The culture war is engulfing Bollywood reports the Guardian: “Bollywood under siege as rightwing social media boycotts start to bite”.

…For decades, India’s Hindi film industry, known as Bollywood, has been one of the country’s most popular products, for Indians themselves and the world at large. But the consolidation of Hindu nationalism under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has marked a cultural shift.

Laal Singh Chaddha stars, and is produced by, Aamir Khan, one of Hindi cinema’s trio of superstar Khans (Shahrukh and Salman are the other two, all unrelated). On its release, social-media platforms witnessed a tidal wave of targeted attacks calling for a boycott of the movie. The resurfacing of remarks made by Khan on the rise of “intolerance” in India in 2015, as well as clips from his 2014 film PK (which criticised blind-faith belief) were coupled with targeted tweets. Laal Singh Chaddha has fared poorly at the box office, but the calls for a boycott have not stopped. Other movies, such as Vikram Vedha, Dobaara, Shamshera and Brahmastra, are also in the line of fire, the last two owing to the recirculation of 11-year-old remarks by the lead actor, Ranbir Kapoor, on eating beef….

(9) SALES FIGURES. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt looks at the process that Hasbro uses to make 32-inch action figures that cost $399,99.  (The latest, Galactus, will be “a towering 32-inch monstrosity of plastic articulation.”)  Betancourt says Hasbro uses a crowdfunding method of deciding which giant action figures to make; they greenlit the huge Galactus last summer after 14,000 people agreed to buy it.) “Would you buy a $400 Marvel action figure? Thousands of people can’t wait.”

In comic books,Galactus is known as the devourer of worlds. When it comes to action figures, Galactus is now the destroyer of wallets.

Hasbro decided that its newest figure depicting the giant planet eater from Marvel’s Fantastic Four wouldn’t be the typical six-inch toy that retails inthe $20 to $30 range and decorates work desks and bookshelves. This Galactus,with a design based on the art of famed Marvel writer-artist John Byrne, would be a towering 32-inch-tall monstrosity of plastic articulation. The figure, scheduled for release some timethis fall, is the biggest toy Hasbro has ever built for its Marvel line, which is fitting, given Galactus’s gigantic stature….

(10) A FREE-TO-READ STORY. Sunday Morning Transport presents “A Hole in the Light” by Annalee Newitz, “an astounding new world wrapped around a stellar story of grief and growth.”

Arch had never been to a ritual of dissolution for someone who mattered.

Of course, there were distant kin who had died. But when they dissolved, it felt like they had moved to the next village: poignant, but not a disaster. The artificiality of the ritual made her more uncomfortable than their loss. Well, perhaps that wasn’t quite true. She had genuinely suffered when her physics teacher had died, and she could no longer ask questions about what lay beyond the village of Slope-Toward-Sea, on the planet Skiff, wrapped in the mottled glow of the eroding firmament. Even when her teacher dissolved, though, the ritual had seemed absurd….

(11) MEMORY LANE.  

2016 [By Cat Eldridge.] Six years ago on NBC the Timeless series debuted. (Yes, I do delve into the recent past on occasion). It would last but two seasons. (Yes, two seasons. Read below for why it was only two seasons, really.)

Not terribly original in concept, it involved a group that attempts to stop a mysterious organization from changing the course of history through time travel. 

It was created by Eric Kripke who of Supernatural series fame along with the later The Boys, and Shawn Ryan who’s done nothing else they genre wise but has created S.W.A.T. that I love and Lie to Me, a rather odd crime drama series I also like a lot. Yes, I have odd tastes.

Project Lifeboat, among its members, had a history professor, a Delta forces soldier, a computer programmer and a creator of the Lifeboat time machines. Ok I did say it wasn’t a terribly original concept, didn’t I so guess what? NBC got sued by the Spanish series El ministerio del tiempo (The Ministry of Time), which follows the adventures of a three-person team made up of two men and a woman who travel to the past with a view to preserving past events.  

It went to court but eventually “their attorneys of record hereby stipulate that the entire civil action may be and hereby is dismissed with prejudice, with each party bearing that party’s fees and costs of suit.” One assumes that large sums of money were involved. Isn’t there always money involved when such things need to be settled?

Getting back to the series, it was cancelled after the second season but a massive, and I do mean massive, fan campaign sort of saved it, so it got a special two-part finale. It originally didn’t make the cut for the next fall season but when they started getting a pushback from fans, NBC responded saying “And then we woke up the next morning, heard the outcry (from fans). We went back to the drawing board, with our partners at Sony, and we found a way to bring it back. It’s extraordinarily well produced and deserved to come back.”

Unlike many similar series, it was allowed a proper wrap-up. Fandango noted, “A fitting farewell, Timeless wraps with a fun, festive finale that ties up loose ends and provides enough fan service to satisfy.”

It carries a most excellent seventy-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It does not appear to be streaming for free anywhere. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 3, 1933 Norman Adams. The SF Encyclopedia says genre wise that “Adams may be best known for his cover for the first edition of Larry’s Niven’s World of Ptavvs” on Ballantine Books in 1966.  I must say having looked at his ISFDB listings that their assessment is absolutely right. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 3, 1927 Don Bensen. Best-known for his novel And Having Writ… which is not in print in form digitally or in hard copy — damn it. Indeed, nothing by him is. Huh. (Died 1997.)
  • Born October 3, 1931 Ray Nelson, 91. SF writer best known for his short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” which was the basis of John Carpenter’s They Live.  He later collaborated with Philip K. Dick on The Ganymede Takeover. In the 1940s Nelson appropriated the propeller beanie as a symbol of science fiction fandom. His fannish cartoons were recognized with the Rotsler Award in 2003. He was inducted to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 2019.
  • Born October 3, 1935 Madlyn Rhue. She on Trek’s “Space Seed” as Lt. Marla McGivers, Khan Noonien Singh’s (Ricardo Montalbán) love interest. Other genre appearances included being on the original Fantasy Island as Lillie Langtry in “Legends,” and Maria in the “Firefall” episode of Kolchak: The Night. (Died 2003.)
  • Born October 3, 1944 Katharine Kerr, 78. Ok I’m going to confess that I’ve not read her Deverry series so please tell me how they are. Usually I do read such Celtic tinged series so I don’t know how I missed them.
  • Born October 3, 1964 Clive Owen, 58. First role I saw him in was the title role of Stephen Crane in the Chancer series. Not genre, but fascinating none the less. He’s been King Arthur in film of the same name where Keira Knightley was Guinevere. He’s also was in Sin City as Dwight McCarthy, and in The Pink Panther (though weirdly uncredited) as Nigel Boswell/Agent 006. I’ll also single him out for being Commander Arun Filitt in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
  • Born October 3, 1973 Lena Headey, 49. Many of you will know her as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones, but I liked her sociopathic Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal on Dredd better.  She was also Angelika in The Brothers Grimm, a film I’m sure I’ve seen but remember nothing about. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SURPRISE BEGINNING. John Grayshaw of the Middletown PA Public Library arranged for questions about Murray Leinster to be answered for his Online Science Fiction Book Club by Steven H Silver and the author’s daughter, Billee Stallings. See the Q&A here: “Interview about Murray Leinster”. Note: Murray Leinster was the pen name of Will Jenkins, but I never knew til now that H.L. Mencken was behind his decision to use one.

Damo Mac Choiligh: A trivial question perhaps, but where did he get the pseudonym ‘Leinster’? The word is the English version of the name of a region of Ireland, well known to any Rugby fans.

Billee: When Will was published in Smart Set magazine in his teens, H. L. Mencken put down the other magazines he was selling to and said he should use a pen name and save his own for the “good stuff” (ie; Smart Set). Dad selected Murray from his mother’s maiden name (Murry. Wyndham Martyn, an English writer for the magazine, suggested Leinster. Martyn (known for the Anthony Trent novels) told him the Fitzgeralds (Dad’s middle name) were descended from the Dukes of Leinster.

(15) A DIFFERENT KIND OF TIMELESS NEWS. In 2020, Alex Ross crafted over 30 extraordinary depictions of Marvel’s most beloved super heroes in a beautiful art piece known as Timeless. This iconic imagery was used to produce a best-selling variant cover program and now… it’s the villains turn.

The legendary artist’s newest art piece deviously unites 37 of Marvel’s classic villains! Capturing the menace, danger, and allure of characters like Green Goblin, Doctor Doom, and Thanos, this stunning group shot represents the definitive takes on Marvel’s deadliest foes straight from one the industry’s most revered talents! Look for this beautifully painted artwork to be used for a new series of variant covers starting in March 2023.

“The passion I held for illustrating many of Marvel’s heroes in a timeless representation was easily matched by the passion I felt for illustrating the villains,” Ross said. “Marvel clearly has some of the greatest concepts in the realm of supervillains as well as heroes.”

Find more information about Alex Ross’ new piece including which titles it’ll grace the covers of at Marvel.com.

(16) HERE THEY COME AGAIN. “’The Rings of Power’ Season 2 Has Started Filming” in the UK says The Hollywood Reporter.

The news follows the first official Nielsen ratings being released Thursday for the Prime Video series, showing The Rings of Power topped the streaming charts for its debut week with 1.3 billion minutes viewed (likely an Amazon series record given that only two hours were released).

The first season of the show was filmed in New Zealand over an epic stretch of 18 months during the pandemic. For season two, which will consist of eight episodes, Amazon switched the show’s production to the U.K., which is considered more economical and is also where the company is establishing a multishow hub….

(17) SCREEN TIME. Here are JustWatch’s September’s Sci-Fi Top 10 lists:

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1NopeQuantum Leap
2Everything Everywhere All at OnceThe Handmaid’s Tale
3Jurassic World DominionSeverance
4MoonfallWar of the Worlds
5AvatarThe Twilight Zone
6PreyOrphan Black
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomDoctor Who
8The ThingLa Brea
9Jurassic WorldThe X-Files
10Crimes of the FutureMoonhaven

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(18) MORE HOLLYWOOD BUZZ. The teaser trailer for the new Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania movie dropped Friday.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Kate Yeazel, Kathy Sullivan, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/29/21 I Should Have Been A Pair Of Ragged Pixels, Scrolling Across The Floors Of Silent Files

(1) BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL. The Brooklyn Book Festival, running from September 26-October 4, has several virtual panels of interest to sff readers. Register at the links.

From creating slice-of-life cyclops and mermaid stories to horror-infused dramas and Afrofuturist epics, worldbuilding—complete with specific rules, cultures, and logic—is no small feat. Join creators Tim Fielder (Infinitum), Kat Leyh (Thirsty Mermaids), John Jennings (After the Rain), and Aminder Dhaliwal (Cyclopedia Exotica) as they discuss the unique challenges and joys of speculative storytelling and how fantastical worlds can say more about our own. Moderated by writer and editor Danny Lore (Queen of Bad Dreams, FIYAH Magazine). 

A dystopian London, a child caught in the midst of a deadly epidemic, and a grieving taxi driver in a ghostly Washington, D.C. Join the authors of A River Called Time (Courttia Newland), Phase Six (Jim Shepard), and Creatures of Passage (Morowa Yejidé) for a conversation on what draws them to speculative fiction, from world-building to the mechanics that make a story tick. Moderated by Carolyn Kellogg.

A Life of Crime (virtual) – Brooklyn Book Festival – October 3, 9:00 p.m. Eastern

Join award-winning mystery authors Naomi Hirahara and Walter Mosley for a discussion about their prolific and versatile writing livest. Hirahara’s latest mystery, Clark and Division, revolves around a Japanese American family building a new life in 1940s Chicago after their release from mass incarceration during World War II. Mosley’s indefatigable detective, Easy Rawlins, returns in Blood Grove, solving a new mystery on the streets of Southern California in 1969. Moderated by Dwyer Murphy, editor in chief of CrimeReads.  

The in-person programming includes “The View from the End of the World”, October 3, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

A cross-country road trip in an atomic-powered tunnel digger, when everything else has stopped working.. A scavenger hunt for extinct species set against the backdrop of environmental collapse.. Hollywood dreams literally going up in flames, amid nefarious corporate dealings.  Join Jonathan Lethem (The Arrest), Jeff VanderMeer (Hummingbird Salamander), and Alexandra Kleeman (Something New Under the Sun), as they discuss visions of our world and how we’ll manage to keep living in it. Moderated by Alice Sola Kim.

Jonathan Lethem and Jeff VanderMeer will be appearing virtually.

(2) FLAME ON. SF2 Concatenation’s Autumn 2021 issue weighed in on fan controversies from last spring in this incendiary Editorial Comment.  (The creators of this long-lived periodic sff news publication are The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation Team.)

EDITORIAL COMMENT

The 2021 Worldcon has a new Chair who deserves best wishes from all in the SF Worldcon community.  We need to remember, she has taken over following the successive resignations of the convention’s former co-chairs one of which was due to the continued abuse conrunners and others are receiving from a minority of self-righteous, perfervid, strident Worldcon fans.
          Of course, it is not just convention runners, this year one major author who has given much to the Worldcon community – in both time, effort and cash over many years – has received disparaging attention due to what is arguably a non-malicious misjudgement unfortunately made at last year’s Worldcon. The maltreatment this well-known author has received includes a nasty little article whose title uses profanity against its target (the article’s writer was unable to marshal her argument with calm logic). Sadly, there were enough of these strident fans for it to be short-listed for a Hugo Award to be presented at this year’s Worldcon. That the article contains both a profanity and the author’s name – the target of her abuse – means that it clearly runs contrary to the Worldcon convention’s own code of conduct, yet the Worldcon committee has decided to do nothing: the least it could have done would have been to censor the offending words and explain why.
          Such Worldcon abuse from a minority of fans is not new, in fact it seems to be increasingly regular.  Indeed the last time the Worldcon had been held in our neck of the woods in Brit Cit there was a volatile reaction to the proposed host for the Hugo ceremony that was both unwarranted and totally over-the-top that even spilled over into the mainstream press.
          And so it will be interesting this year to see whether the Hugo will go to a hate-mongering work or whether the majority of Worldcon’s Hugo voters will take a stand?
          The Worldcon is next likely to come to our neck of the woods in 2024; that is if the Cal Hab Worldcon bid for that year wins.  Let’s hope that by then the braying, vociferous minority will have moved on so that that event can be tantrum free.

(3) BIDDERS CALLED OUT. SF2 Concatenation – which is produced by a predominantly UK team – also challenged the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid to address crowding issues at the last three European Worldcons.

The 2024 bid for a British Worldcon in Glasgow is still on….  But given the increasing overcrowding problems at recent European Worldcons (London in 2013Helsinki in 2017, culminating in a jam-packed Dublin in 2019) it seems that the current generation of European Worldconrunners are unable or (worse?) unwilling to curb numbers to fit their venue’s size.  It would arguably be helpful if the Glasgow 2024 bid team gave a clear steer as to its planning policy on avoiding overcrowding so that those contemplating registering having attending the programme (as opposed to the socialising) as a big draw can decide whether or not to commit a four-figure investment in registration, travel, accommodation and food to attend.

(4) HOLLYWOOD ICON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this 2018 interview Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Rick Baker and his daughter Veronica Baker: Maltin on Movies: Rick and Veronica Baker. Rick Baker won seven Oscars for makeup and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  His daughter, Veronica, is a producer at DC Universe Infinite.

Rick Baker discovered his calling in 1958 when he was 8 and bought the third issue of Famous Monsters Of Filmland.  As a teenager, he discovered the home address of master makeup artist Dick Smith and sent him some photos of his work.  Smith realized that Baker had talent and then spent a day with the teenage Baker giving him tips and subsequently hired him as an assistant for The Exorcist.  Smith, Baker recalled, was a very nice guy who was really good at spotting talent, since three of the teenage monster enthusiasts he corresponded with became Baker, J.J. Abrams, and Peter Jackson.

Baker, who retired in 2015 because he was tired of dealing with the suits, had lots of stories.  He notes he was King Kong in the 1976 movie and played the pilot who killed Kong in the 2005 remake.  He still works on new designs and enthusiastically posts them on Instagram.

Cosplayers whose favorite holiday is Halloween will find Baker and his family simpatico because they spend three months a year prepping their  Halloween costumes. One year Baker, his wife, and their two daughters played four different versions of the Joker.  Another year they were characters from Beauty And The Beast with Baker playing the Beast.

I thought this was very enjoyable.

(5) ENJOYING ASIMOV’S BOOKS. Adam-Troy Castro tries to stick up for Asimov, though necessarily begins his Facebook post with a hefty list of concessions.

Thanks to the new TV adaptation of Asimov’s FOUNDATION, some people are rushing to the internet to make the clever observation that Isaac Asimov really wasn’t a great writer of fiction.

They are also talking about his disgusting personal conduct toward women at conventions, but let us put that aside, mostly because I absolutely agree that it was disgusting and have no reason to argue with you….

…When I was a kid of about 8-10, precociously picking up books that had been marketed to adults from a school library that had the whole set of Asimov and Clarke books, they were a godsend to me. I had no problem parsing the prose, any prose. But for a kid who had not yet even begun to decode adult interactions, beginning a process that I am still shaky on today, as are we all, it was helpful to have books that imparted the sense of wonder and provided drama that was pretty much all surface because anything more sophisticated was precisely the stuff that I would be confused by and get bogged down in. Through Asimov I learned the trick of reading a book. And from Asimov I moved on to writers capable of introducing, among other things, more elegant prose, more complex description, more sophisticated characterization, and the resonance of human interactions that were by their nature harder to navigate than math problems….

(6) PROPERTY IS THEFT. WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast interviews a professor who believes “Sci-Fi Is a Good Way to Learn Political Theory”. Listen to the complete interview with Joseph Reisert at the link.

…Reisert is currently teaching Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed to help students understand Marxist ideas of a society without private property. “It’s the one imagining of a society without property that seems reasonably plausible to me,” he says. “I love that novel, and I think the central insight there is that to make that society without property work, even apart from the organizational challenges, requires a kind of moral transformation that’s not easy to accomplish.”

Another advantage of science fiction novels is that they tend to be more entertaining than political treatises, meaning that students are more likely to actually read them. “One shouldn’t underestimate the importance of having a light, easy reading at the end of a long semester right before people take exams,” Reisert says.

(7) THEFT IS THEFT, EVEN MORE SO. A press release on Business Wire reports “Educational Publishers Obtain Preliminary Injunction Against 60 Illegal Websites that Use Online Ads to Sell Pirated Content”.

Educational publishers, Macmillan LearningCengage Group, Elsevier, McGraw Hill and Pearson,have obtained a Preliminary Injunction from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against 60 websites that sell illegal, unlicensed copies of eBooks. The publishers filed suit against the operators of these websites on August 9, 2021, and on the same date obtained a Temporary Restraining Order that required the immediate shutdown of the infringing activity on these websites, as well as the cessation of the services provided by intermediaries that support the websites. With the Preliminary Injunction, that injunctive relief has now been extended through the pendency of the litigation. This is the fourth suit in less than two years that the publishers have brought against pirate eBook websites, and the fourth time they have successfully obtained a Preliminary Injunction.

Like the prior lawsuits, the current lawsuit states that the operators of the pirate eBook websites use online ads—most notably ads on Google and Microsoft’s Bing—to attract customers searching for the publishers’ legitimate content to their illegal websites. In addition to Google and Bing, the websites rely on payment processors, web hosts, domain registrars, proxy service providers and other internet service providers, all of whom are required by the Court’s injunction to stop facilitating the pirate websites’ illegal activity.

The sale of pirated textbooks injures students, who do not receive legitimate copies of the products they seek to purchase. Piracy also causes publishers financial injury, creating a ripple effect impacting the ability to invest in the creation of new works and scholarly contributions that benefit education as a whole. The educational publishers’ enforcement efforts seek to stop online piracy.

(8) SANDMAN CLIP. IndieWire introduces “’The Sandman’ First Look at Neil Gaiman’s Netflix Series”.

Netflix’s logline for the dark fantasy show reads: “A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are seamlessly interwoven, ‘The Sandman’ follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.”

The preface at YouTube says —

The Lord of Dreams has been summoned, and captured, by mortal men. Once free from his captivity, this eternal ruler of Dreams will realize that his troubles are only just beginning. The Sandman is a Netflix series based on the groundbreaking comic book series created for DC by Neil Gaiman.

(9) LITERARY CHOCOLATE. Fine Books & Collections brings to fans’ attention a new Lovecraftian delicacy that will soon be available.

Open Book Chocolates, purveyors of handmade, literary-themed chocolates, has announced a Lovecraft-inspired dark chocolate bar infused with Nori seaweed, ginger spice, and candied ginger. It’s called ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ and a Kickstarter campaign is underway to launch this new flavor into the world. They’ve already met their funding goal, but potential backers can still get in on the action through October 12.

The Kickstarter still has 13 days to run: The Call of Cthulhu Chocolate Bar by G. E. Gallas.

…Our newest flavor, The Call of Cthulhu, is inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s 1926 short story about narrator Francis Wayland Thurston’s search for the truth behind his recently deceased great uncle’s papers. Cthulhu is an ominous, nightmarish, octopus-like creature that hibernates underwater until the time is right for him to emerge and cause havoc. Nori seaweed represents Cthulhu’s aquatic origins, while the spicy kick of ginger expresses the discombobulation he bestows on man….

Call of Cthulhu is just one of a whole line of book-inspired chocolate bars that includes Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Treasure Island, The Raven, Les Miserables, and A Christmas Carol.

(10) ANOTHER TASTE OF HPL. Heritage Auctions has a big Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy auction coming up on October 14 when  The Gary Munson Collection of Horror and Fantasy Rare Books goes under the hammer. One example is this Lovecraft rarity:

…No discussion of genre-defining work is complete without a mention of H.P. Lovecraft. Though a somewhat controversial character, there can be no doubt that his curious mind, monstrous creations and bone-chilling descriptions of creeping madness continue to shape the horror genre — and will well into the future. There is a reason we describe the worst of our nightmares as Lovecraftian: because H.P. Lovecraft shined a spotlight on all the darkest corners of our world and our minds.

As rare and secretive as the Eldritch gods themselves is this copy of an autographed manuscript signed for the short story, Pickman’s Model. Featuring 16 leaves of Lovecraft’s spidery handwriting, the manuscript is not only signed by Lovecraft, but is also written on the backs of 15 letters written to the author himself. Purportedly, Lovecraft was no fan of typewriters and often used the backs of correspondence, notes and other scrap paper for getting down his ideas. These unique letters contain a laundry list of recognizable names of Lovecraft’s peers and provide unique insight into the publication timeline of the story and Lovecraft’s correspondence and interactions in the years leading up to publication…

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1963 – Fifty eight years ago this evening on CBS, My Favorite Martian first aired. It was created by John L. Greene who had absolutely no SF background. (Think The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.) It starred Ray Walston as “Uncle Martin” (aka the Martian) and Bill Bixby as Tim O’Hara. The first two seasons, seventy five episodes, were black and white, while the last thirty two episodes of season three were in color. It did very well for the first two seasons but ratings dropped significantly in the third season and it got cancelled. An animated series, My Favorite Martians, was made by Filmation and aired on CBS a decade later. It lasted sixteen episodes. Jonathan Harris voiced Martin. It would be remade in 1999 as a film with Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Martin and Ray Walston in a new role, Armitan/Neenert. It was a box office disaster. It currently has a twelve percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1873 — Theodore Lorch. He’s the High Priest in 1936 Flash Gordon serial. He also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial as well. (Died 1947.)
  • Born September 28, 1930 — Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes she was a redhead. Unless you can count her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. In 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 28, 1934 — Stuart M. Kaminsky. Though best remembered as a very prolific mystery writer for which I single out the Toby Peters series about a private detective in 1940s Hollywood and the Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov series about a Moscow police inspector,  he does have genre works. He did two Kolchak the Night Stalker graphic novels, plus wrote the scripts for two Batman stories, “The Batman Memos” and “The Man Who Laughs”. As an editor, he’s responsible for the On a Raven’s Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe anthology. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 28, 1942 — Ian McShane, 79. Setting aside Deadwood which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrayed Mr. Wednesday in American Gods. And it turns out, though I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. 
  • Born September 28, 1944 — Isla Blair, 77. Her first credited film appearance was in  Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. She’s Blaker in The Quatermass Experiment. Finally she has played a starring role as Sally in the BBC’s alternate history An Englishman’s Castle series.
  • Born September 28, 1959 — Scott MacDonald, 62. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next Gen,  Voyager,  Deep Space Nine, and  Enterprise. He’s also up on Space Above and BeyondBabylon 5X-FilesStargate: SG-1Carnivale and Threshold. He was also in Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a film which you can guess how bad the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is.
  • Born September 28, 1961 — Nicholas Briggs, 60. A Whovian among Whoians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Well not just them as he also voices the Judoon, the Ice Warriors, the  Nestene Consciousness, the Jagrafess and the Zygons.  Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he did act twice in the Whoverse. Once on Torchwood as Rick Yates on “Children of Earth: Day Four” andThe Sarah Jane Adventures as Captain Tybo in “Prisoner of the Judoon” episode.  Fourth he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
  • Born September 28, 1974 — Alexis Cruz, 47. He was Skaara in the Stargate film and  remarkably got to play the same character in the Stargate SG-1 series as well which is unusual indeed. He’s done a number of fairly obscure horror films (DarkWolfSpectres, Slayer and Altergeist).
Hayao Miyazaki

(13) LOVE FOR MIYAZAKI. {Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the September 21 Financial Times, former Financial Times film critic Nigel Andrews noted the 20th anniversary of Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spiritied Away, the only film in Andrews’s 46-year career he gave six stars to (Andrews judged on a 1-5 star scale).

Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is 20 years old. I saw it at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival, where it won the golden Bear for Best film.  Some months later it won the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Is it the best film I’ve ever seen?  Quite possibly.  I’d want it on a desert island.  Yes, my life would be poorer without it. And I never, during my 46 years as a practicing movie reviewer, bestowed that 6/5 rating on anything else; or even thought to….

…Maybe Miyazaki’s masterpiece is better seen as a movie to crown his own career than to coronate future directors.  He never followed it with a better one himself, though there are marvels in Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and The Wind Rises.  But then Welles never surpassed Citizen Kane, nor Hitchcock Vertigo.  Spirited Away is the great treasure of 21st century animation, and we may be saying that when the 21st century ends. 

(14) TRADPUB’S ANSWER TO THE $600 ASHTRAY. Amanda S. Green, in “Who can read your book?”, discusses news reports about the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee grilling publishers about library e-book contracts.  

…As an example, the article notes how a California school district had to pay $27/yr per student for access to e-books of The Diary of Anne Frank. In other words, if 100 students that year studied the book, the district paid the publisher $2700–and the district nor the kids “owned” that e-book. If they bought the paperback book directly from Amazon instead of through Baker & Taylor where they’d probably get a discount, they’d pay $11/copy or less. The e-book would cost $6.99. So why is the per student cost for the school library for this e-book so much more?

Why aren’t publishers trying to encourage school districts to invest more of their limited library funds in books and e-books–and giving them more for their money–than they are? After all, if we teach our youngsters to enjoy reading, that should be a win-win for publishers, right?

When publishers have politicians pointing out the obvious, there’s a problem….

(15) ON WRY. David Bratman’s report about visiting “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” in San Jose begins with a rather clever comment.

… You show your proof of vaccination – though they’re quite bewildered by the actual card, expecting it to be transferred to a phone – and nobody’s very interested in your ticket – and head down a clogged (because people read very slowly) passage by a series of panels with explanatory narration and quotes from Vince’s letters in English and Spanish. Finally, if you get around that and the arrow-bearing signs reading “Gogh This Way” which must be terribly confusing to anyone who doesn’t know how to mispronounce the name, you get to the main hall….

(16) REWRITING THE DICTIONARY. The WPM Invitational site has an archive of the results of two Washington Post competitions, among other things: “Word Play Masters”.

The Washington Post’s Mensa invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.   Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.                     
                                                                            
2. Ignoranus : A person who’s both stupid and an asshole….               

And there are 15 more.

The same site also has the 16 winners of a different challenge:

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.  And the winners are:
                                                                                                              
                                                                            
 1. Coffee , n. The person upon whom one coughs.                            
                                                                            
 2. Flabbergasted , adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained….             

Etc.

(17) LIVED IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. “Scientists Unseal Secret Cave Chamber Used by Neanderthals”Yahoo! has the story.

Scientists exploring a cave network inside of the Rock of Gibraltar—a monolithic limestone mass in the British territory of Gibraltar—have discovered a chamber that nobody’s seen for 40,000 years. The chamber, which measures about 42 square feet, not only offers insight into a pocket of Earth long untouched, but also, in all likelihood, an area where Neanderthals visited. And perhaps snacked on animal carcasses.

Gizmodo reported on the discovery, which the scientists recently announced. The team visited the Gibraltar cave network—known as Gorham’s Cave complex—in August of this year as a continuation of a nine-year-long effort to determine its true dimensions. The complex is of intrigue as experts consider it to be one of the last habitations for Neanderthals in Europe. The site’s so important for archaeology, in fact, it’s even a UNESCO World Heritage Site….

(18) ROBOTECH. Here’s a promotional video with footage the Amazon Astro mentioned in the Scroll the other day:

(19) AUTEUR’S DEBUT. Dementia 13, the 1963 horror film that marked Francis Ford Coppola’s debut has been released last week in a restored director’s cut.

Presented in HD and available on Blu-ray for the first time, Francis Ford Coppola’s director’s cut of Dementia 13 is quintessential gothic horror, wrapped in the twisted mysteries of a family’s deepest, darkest secrets. A widow deceives her late husband’s mother and brothers into thinking he’s still alive when she attends the yearly memorial to his drowned sister, hoping to secure his inheritance. But her cunning is no match for the demented, axe-wielding thing roaming the grounds of the family’s Irish estate in this cult favorite featuring Patrick Magee, Luana Anders, William Campbell, and Bart Patton.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Costume Designer Tutorial” on Screen Rant, Tyler Lemco plays costume designer Dode L.who took off Superman’s underwear for Man Of Steel and says “I knocked Thor’s dumb helmet off his dumb head and never looked back”  Among his suggestions:  black leather jackets always work and make sure all male superheroes have abs built into their costumes; but don’t ask him about “that credit card thing” that got him into trouble with Willem Dafoe. This was written by Seb Decter.  Ryan George has a brief cameo.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/11/21 Pixels Are Reactionaries, And The Scrolls Are Missionaries

(1) IT’S TIME. Kristian Macaron analyzes “Why I Love Time Travel Stories” on From the Earth to the Stars, the Asimov’s SF blog.

Time travel is never only about the science, rather, the impossibilities.

The science and whimsy of time travel are infinite, complex, and lovely, but I love time travel stories because the quest of traversing Time can explore how possibilities and probabilities shape the person we are in the Present, the person we become in the Future. Fate is more fluid than it would like us to believe.

There are three reasons I love time travel stories. First, it’s a form of storytelling that transcends genre; next, the rules of the time machine or loop are creative and crucial; finally, no matter the plot, Time as a player forces the character to confront the infinity of their impact….

(2) CUTTING OFF CIRCULATION. Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler protests “Amazon’s monopoly is squeezing your public library, too”.

Mindy Kaling has gone missing from the library.

I was looking forward to reading the comedian’s new story collection, “Nothing Like I Imagined.” So I typed Kaling’s name into the Libby app used by my public library to loan e-books. But “The Office” star’s latest was nowhere to be found.

What gives? In 2020, Kaling switched to a new publisher: Amazon. Turns out, the tech giant has also become a publishing powerhouse — and it won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. That’s right, for a decade, the company that killed bookstores has been starving the reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious. And that’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own.

Many Americans now recognize that a few tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. But it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on exactly why that’s a problem. The case of the vanishing e-books shows how tech monopolies hurt us not just as consumers, but as citizens….

(3) BUTLER’S AND OTHERS’ LITERARY ESTATES. The Writers’ Room on NPR discusses “The State Of Literary Estates” with panelists Merrilee Heifetz, literary executor, the Octavia Butler Estate, and former agent for Octavia Butler; Blake Hazard, trustee, F. Scott Fitzgerald Estate and Zelda Fitzgerald Estate; great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald; and Miranda Doyle, intellectual freedom chair, Oregon Association of School Libraries; district librarian, Lake Oswego School District.

Much has been made recently of the literary estate of Dr. Seuss choosing to discontinue printing several of his books due to racist imagery and stereotyping in several titles.

Some right-wing news outlets have decried the decision as an example of cancel culture, despite the estate making the decision independently. Seuss’ story isn’t particularly novel, either. Roald Dahl’s books for children have also been criticized for racist language and the author’s anti-Semitism. At the end of 2020, the Dahl family released a statement in which they apologized for “lasting and understandable hurt” caused by his anti-Semitic comments.

Many online and in the news are continuing to discuss the best way to handle problematic content in significant pieces of art from the past. But others are asking fundamental questions: What’s the purpose of a literary estate? And what’s their role in managing the legacy of an artist or author?

(4) CHINA THEME ISSUE. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector 293 (Spring 2021) is devoted to the theme of Chinese SF, and is produced in collaboration with guest editors Yen Ooi and Regina Kanyu Wang. “Yen Ooi introduces the issue as well as many of its recurring concepts, such as techno-orientalism. Regina Kanyu Wang takes us through the history of women writing SF in China….” And much more.

One item from the issue is available online: “Chen Qiufan: Why did I Write a Science Fiction Novel about E-waste?” a transcription of a public talk given by the author in 2019.  

 …Many people have asked me why I wrote a science fiction novel instead of discussing the issue of environmental pollution in a documentary literature, if I wanted to talk about it. But for me, science fiction has a metaphorical role that cannot be found elsewhere. It can transcend the limits of the “present” and incorporate literary symbols that are applicable to all cultures in all countries concerning the imagination of the future. Thus, in science fiction, environmental issues can be generalised to a broader social context, and readers are more willing to consider how their personal actions can affect our environment, or the work and lives of garbage workers they have never met….

(5) SPEAKS VOLUMES. Elizabeth Knox’s “Metaliterary Worlds: On Fictional Books Within Books” includes a paragraph about Clifford D. Simak’s Time and Again. The post begins:

I set out to remind myself about fictional books within books and, researching, discovered how much has been said already about the cursed and forbidden ones. The characters of my novel, The Absolute Book, think about some of these in the course of the story—Lovecraft’s Necronomicon or, in Robert Chambers’ short story collection The King in Yellow, the eponymous play said to drive all who encounter it insane. I wanted to suggest that the Firestarter of The Absolute Book—an ancient scroll box which has survived so many library fires that scholars have begun to imagine it starts them—is cursed in some way. I also wanted to suggest the possibility that the Firestarter might in fact be blessed and revelatory….

(6) GRRM, DEVELOPMENT HELLION. George R.R. Martin has what seems like a pretty exhaustive list of all of his current media projects in his most recent post in “Coming…Eventually…Maybe” at Not A Blog. (This excerpt covers only part of them.)

…I am not quite sure why all these stories seem to be breaking now.   The SANDKINGS project has been underway for more than a year (Covid obviously shut things down) and IN THE LOST LANDS for something like six years.   We also have an animated feature of THE ICE DRAGON in development at Warner’s (as it happens I wrote “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” within a couple weeks of each other, during a Christmas break from my job teaching college in Dubuque, Iowa — that was a good break).

And that’s just in the feature sphere.   In television, as seen here, I am working with Kalinda Vazquez on a pilot for Roger Zelazny’s ROADMARKS, and I am part of the terrific team that is trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH to series on HBO…. 

(7) BAILIE OBIT. South African-born character actor David Bailie died March 5 at the age of 83. On TV he played “Dask” in the 1977 Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death, and also appeared in Blake’s 7. In movies, he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. His other film credits include The Creeping Flesh (with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), Son Of Dracula (1973), Legend Of The Werewolf (also with Cushing), The Beyond (2017), The House That Jack Built and In The Trap. Bailie reprised his Doctor Who role as Dask in the Kaldor City audio drama series, and he was in Big Finish Productions audio dramas playing the “Celestial Toymaker”. Bailie also was a professional photographer, specializing in portrait photography. 

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The New York Times article “A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again” focuses on how the artist often used people in his town as models. For most of them it was their main claim to fame, with one exception —  

…The people he painted were real, though. Like Sorenson in “Bright Future,” many lived in or near Stockbridge. William J. Obanhein, the police chief in Stockbridge, posed for Rockwell several times (though he was better known as “Officer Obie” in Arlo Guthrie’s Vietnam-era ballad “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” because he had arrested Guthrie for littering)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 11, 1971 — On this day in 1971, THX 1138 premiered. It was the first feature film from George Lucas. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It starred Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. A novelization by Ben Bova was published. The film was not a box office success though critics generally loved it and it developed a cult following after Star Wars released, and it holds a ninety percent rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor.  He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of novels after that decision came into effect. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read the book and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 58. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1967 John  Barrowman, 54. Best genre role without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul.  He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack,  Aladdin as, well, Aladdin and Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons. (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and  Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1914 – Francis Towner Laney.  Active fan in the late 1940s, he left telling us all why in Ah! Sweet Idiocy! (1948).  He answered FIAWOL (“Fandom is a way of life”) with FIJAGH  (“Fandom is just a [gosh-darned] hobby”); we took things too seriously, he took 130 pages to say; we were a lot of fuggheads, a term he coined, cuttingly, disputably, memorably.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1925 – Christopher Anvil.  Twoscore stories about the Federation of Humanity; another dozen about Pandora’s Planet; another nine about War with the Outs; fourscore others; half a dozen collections; two novels; comical, daredevilish, moving.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1953 – Judith Silverthorne, age 68.  Six novels for us; nonfiction e.g. Ingrained about pioneer Saskatchewan woodworkers 1870-1930.  Two Moonbeam Awards.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1964 – Libba Bray, age 57.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  A Great and Terrible Beauty NY Times Best-Seller.  Printz Award for Going Bovine.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1970 – Nicole Murphy, age 51.  Seven novels, two anthologies, 15 shorter stories.  Wrote up Artist Guest of Honour Shaun Tan for the Aussiecon 4 Programme Book (68th Worldcon).  Chaired Conflux 4, co-chaired 9.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1971 – Jonas Karlsson, age 50.  Actor (Guldbagge Award) and author; three novels so far available in English.  Born in Salem, the one in Stockholm County, Sweden, not the one in Essex County, Massachusetts.  Played Mats, which Swedish-speakers do not rhyme with “Do cats eat bats?”, in Bang Bang Orangutang, a Swedish film which is not SF but who couldn’t love the title? which rhymes in Swedish too.  [JH]

(11) SUING FOR SUPER NON-SUPPORT. Joe George is “Ranking the Live-Action Members of Superman’s Supporting Cast” for Tor.com. Did you ever wonder who is the worst Lex Luthor? Here’s George’s candidate:

9. Jesse Eisenberg (DCEU) — Okay, I’m going to lose some of you right away, so let’s get this over with. I dislike all of Zack Snyder’s movies, especially those with Superman in them. But the worst part of his very bad Superman movies is, without question, Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor. There’s potential here to update Lex from an early 20th-century mad scientist to a 21st-century villain like Mark Zuckerberg. But Eisenberg’s jittery, manic take is all irritating style and no substance, coming off as the perfect embodiment of the phrase “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person.”

(12) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Mental Floss says these are “14 Things You Might Not Know About ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’”.

3. BEFORE CRITICIZING PROPAGANDA IN NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, GEORGE ORWELL WORKED AS A PROPAGANDIST.

During World War II, Orwell worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation. His role with the BBC Empire Service involved creating and supervising programming that the nation would feed to Indian networks to encourage a pro-Allies sentiment and spark volunteering.

4. GEORGE ORWELL MODELED ROOM 101 AFTER AN OFFICE AT THE BBC.

Nineteen Eighty-Four’s most horrifying setting is Room 101, the Ministry of Love’s torture chamber in which victims are exposed to their worst nightmares. What readers might not know is that Orwell modeled the chilling locale on an actual room.

As a propagandist, Orwell knew that much of what the BBC said had to be approved by the Ministry of Information, possibly in the BBC’s Room 101. He probably drew the name of his nightmare room from there. Curious about what the dreadful room looked like? The room has since been demolished, but in 2003 artist Rachel Whiteread created a plaster cast of the room.

(13) URB BLURB. Science News reviews Annalee Newitz’ nonfiction book Four Lost Cities: “A tour of ‘Four Lost Cities’ reveals modern ties to ancient people”.

… The section on Cahokia (A.D. 1050 to 1350) — located in what is now Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis — offers an unexpected reason for a city’s emergence. Many people link cities with capitalism and trade. Cahokia’s 30-meter-tall pyramids, 20-hectare plazas and a population (at the time) bigger than Paris suggest that spiritual revival can also build a major metropolis. Cahokia and Angkor, which reached its peak from A.D. 800 to 1431 in what is now Cambodia, also show how cities can form when power gets concentrated in a few influential people. 

Through touring such diverse cities, Newitz shows that the move to urban life isn’t just a setup for a hero of a story. It’s a common setup for many ancient cultures….

(14) E.T. PHONE ROME. In “Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination”, John C. Wright points out he is one of three sff authors who contributed to Cambridge Scholars Publishing’s essay collection Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination: Explorations in Science, Science Fiction and Religion:

Included:

Sciopods, Blemyae, and the Green Children of Woolpit: “Aliens” in the Catholic Imagination, Premodern Era
Michael F. Flynn

What Has Outer Space to Do with Christ?
John C. Wright

Catholic Questions in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Tim Powers

I was honored to be asked to pen an essay titled “What Has Outer Space To Do with Christ?” for this volume. The burning question of whether soulless and dispassionate Vulcans can be baptized is not necessarily addressed, but questions of like magnitude are.

However, as is only to be expected, Mike Flynn’s essay on Sciopods and Blemyae is the more interesting. It is the first I ever heard about the Green Children of Woolpit — and if you have not heard these names before, prepare to be fascinated.

(15) FAIR HEARING. A reconstructed Neanderthal ear adds a new piece to the puzzle of whether the early humans could speak. “Neanderthals Listened to the World Much Like Us” in the New York Times.

…In the new study, the researchers used high-resolution CT scans of ear structures in five Neanderthals, 10 modern Homo sapiens and nine early hominids from Sima de los Huesos, an archaeological site in what is now Spain, who lived before Neanderthals.

The team created 3-D models of these ear structures and ran the measurements through a software model to calculate the sound power transmission, which describes the way sound energy moves from the environment into the ear canal and winds its way toward the cochlea — essentially how much of the sound energy ultimately makes it to your inner ear.

The researchers used this metric to calculate the occupied bandwidth, which reflects the range of frequencies in which at least 90 percent of the sound power reaches the inner ear — the “sweet spot” of hearing, according to Dr. Quam. This sweet spot is the range we hear best in, where our ears are most tuned to sound.

The study found the Neanderthal ear’s sweet spot extended toward frequencies of 3 to 5 kHz, which are specifically dedicated to consonant production. The researchers believe this optimization toward consonants could be a key sign that Neanderthals had verbal language.

“The use of consonants distinguishes human language from mammalian communication, which is almost completely vowels,” Dr. Quam said. “Like grunts, howls, shrieks.”

In fact, the study found Neanderthals’ sweet spot was the same as modern human hearing, whereas the early hominids from Sima de los Huesos had a hearing range somewhere between chimpanzees and modern humans….

(16) WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? Here’s a show I knew would produce a Scroll item sooner or later. And the promise was fulfilled by the opening episode of its fifth season: “First reveal of ‘The Masked Singer’ Season 5 is ‘most famous guest ever’”.

This Wednesday, when guest host Niecy Nash removed the Snail’s stovepipe chapeau and Kermit’s adorable little green noggin popped out of a foxhole in the costume’s back, viewers were united in their excitement and delight over this meta, puppet-within-a-puppet, Russian-doll-like moment. (There was a pair of decidedly less adorable actual Russian Dolls who also performed on Wednesday’s premiere, but I’ll get to them later.) Judge Ken Jeong even declared Kermit the “most famous guest ever” to compete on the show, and — sorry Lil Wayne, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Tony Hawk, et al — Ken wasn’t wrong. Kermit is an icon… and, as it turns out, he’s not a bad Daryl Hall impressionist either.

Sadly, while Kermit the Snail gave a charming and not-at-all-sluggish performance, as he told Niecy: “It’s not easy being green, but sometimes it’s even harder being a snail!”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Rich Lynch.] “Right Up Our Alley” — not exactly genre, but it caught the attention of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. The video footage is not CGI.

[Thanks to Dan B., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, PJ Evans, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 1/12/21 Our Operators Are Standing By. On Three Legs

(1) 55 ISN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA. Cora Buhlert, in her new series “Fanzine Spotlight,” interviews Hugo eligible fanzines and fansites and the people behind them. The first post features Gideon Marcus discussing one of my favorites: “Fanzine Spotlight: Galactic Journey”.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Galactic Journey is more than a site or a zine. It’s a time machine.

The 20+ writers for the Journey produce an article every other day from the context of SF fans (and professionals) living exactly 55 years ago.  Thus, when it turned January 1, 2021 in your world, we rang in the new year of 1966.

When we started eight years ago, in “1958”, we were just covering the three big American SF mags: Fantasy and Science FictionGalaxy, and Analog, as well as the space shots — Pioneer 1 had just gone halfway to the moon.  Very quickly, as more people became associated with the Journey, we expanded our coverage to all the SF mags, current SF movies and TV shows (we’ve reviewed every episode of Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and Doctor Who), comicsfashionartmusic, politics, counter-culture…you name it!

(2) SWORD AND ADVOCACY. In “Bran Mak Morn: Social Justice Warrior” at Black Gate, Jason Ray Carney contends Robert E. Howard’s character was an SJW long before the phrase was invented.

…Weird Tales, November 1933, containing “Worms of the Earth”
by Robert E. Howard. Cover by J. Allen St. John

Despite Howard’s pulpster credentials, the young writer demonstrates intellectual ambition in this story. Readers are introduced to a historical framework philosophically anchored in the ideas of “Rome” and “Pictdom,” i.e. “civilization” and “barbarism.” Make no mistake: philosophy aside, this is a fantasy story, a sword and sorcery tale delicately painted with a gossamer-thin layer of history. Howard’s Picts are not the historical Picts, and Howard’s Romans are not the historical Romans. Without question, both tribes are unreal, fictionalized in this story, and fictionalized tendentiously: the Romans are rendered as irredeemable oppressors and the Picts are rendered as the brutally oppressed victims. Artful and strategic distortions allow Howard to bring into focus his troubling theme: the hatred of an oppressed race for their brutal oppressors and the evil consequences of that hatred.

Despite the story’s fantastic nature, it nevertheless engages with the actual, with real oppression, oppressors, and oppressed. Real racism was prevalent in the early 1930s in Howard’s rural Texas, a racially-mixed frontier where the elderly and the descendants of settlers and displaced first tribes remembered (and witnessed) the bloody battle, civil war, banditry, and rapine that characterized what has been mythologized as “the wild west.” Indeed, this earnest engagement with actual racism can be gleaned by contextualizing the “Worms of the Earth” with Howard’s correspondence…

(3) A WRITER’S RELICS. You might also be interested in a guided “Tour of the Robert E. Howard Home” in Cross Plains, Texas conducted by Howard scholar Rusty Burke. Includes a chart based on a map by Catherine Crook de Camp!

(4) HUGOS THERE. John Picacio is among those who posted a very favorable response to DisCon III’s U-turn (see “DisCon III Abandons Previously Announced Hugo Policy”) —

(5) WAREHOUSE £2. Is there anything not wrong with this coin? The Guardian reports “War of the words: HG Wells coin also features false quote”.

…Intended to mark 75 years since the death of the author, the coin has already been criticised for depicting the “monstrous tripod” featured in The War of the Worlds with a fourth leg, and for giving his Invisible Man a top hat, which the character never wore. Then the Wells expert Prof Simon James spotted the quote chosen for the edge of the coin: “Good books are warehouses of ideas.” James and his fellow academic Adam Roberts, a vice-president of the Wells Society, could source no such quote in Wells’s writing – although it is credited to him on various inspirational quote websites.

…Author Eleanor Fitzsimons solved the mystery. She tried searching Wells’s writing for a quote with “warehouses” in it, and found an approximation in his obscure work Select Conversations With an Uncle (Now Extinct) and Two Other Reminiscences. That quote, however, is not what appears on the coin: it reads, “Good books are the warehouses of ideals.”

(6) INFINITE WORLDS. [Item by rcade.] There’s a full-page ad in the new issue of the Previews catalog for Infinite Worlds magazine, a science fiction magazine that has its seventh issue coming out in March.

The magazine is published by Winston Ward and was launched by a Kickstarter campaign that raised around $3,500. Infinite Worlds is described as an “independent magazine” and does not take any advertising.

Issue 7 has stories by Adele Gardner, Daniel Kozuh and Emily Martha Sorensen and an interview with Stu Mackenzie of the Australian rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

Infinite Worlds has an Instagram audience of 105,000 followers featuring illustration-heavy posts such as this collection of the first six covers.

(7) IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO LAUGH. In ‘”Funny, How?’ Why Comedy is Crucial in Crime Writing” on CrimeReads, Christopher Fowler (who also writes fantasy and sf) discusses why comedy is important in his Bryant and May mysteries.

…Creating a funny character is one thing, but consciously setting out to write a witty crime novel is another matter altogether. Humour must emerge organically; you can’t simply parachute characters into a funny situation. It also requires a moral viewpoint, if only so that morality can then be flung aside. The tragedy of sudden death and its investigation needs to be treated with gravity, the humour confined to those who have no idea that they’re amusing. People are at their most ridiculous when they’re desperately serious.

(8) SUPER LIST. If superhero movies are your cup of tea, this list will tell you when all the tealeaves are scheduled for harvest: “Here’s the New Schedule For Every Superhero Movie Coming Out For the Foreseeable Future” at Yahoo!

…The rigmarole of last year really changed the shape of what Black Panther will look like moving forward. There’s also still quite a lag when it comes to seeing any iteration of Black Adam or a second Shazam film, but there is a lot of hope when it comes to films that were shelved last year. Black Widow? Still slated to come your way in May. The Eternals and Shang-Chi? Also making a 2021 debut. All of this is to say, while there’s still some bad news, there’s also a lot to look forward to in the coming year so get that bag of popcorn ready. We got some blockbusters on the horizon.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 12, 1966 — The Batman series premiered on ABC. It ran for three seasons and one hundred twenty twenty-five minute episodes.  Starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin, Alan Napier was Alfred, Neil Hamilton was Commissioner James Gordon and Yvonne Craig was Barbara Gordon / Batgirl. Its villains were many and featured many a famous performer. It enjoys a 62 rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.
A poster for the British release of Leslie H. Martinson’s 1966 superhero comedy, ‘Batman The Movie’, starring (left to right) Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether and Burgess Meredith. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)
  • January 12, 1967 – Star Trek’s  “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 84. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She was not nude as is thought but was wearing monokini. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1937 – Joyce Jumper.  Just as David McDaniel and Ted Johnstone lived in the same body, likewise David’s wife Joyce McDaniel and Ted’s wife Lin Johnstone.  David, a pro author, published eight novels, three shorter stories; Ted was a leading Los Angeles fan.  I knew Ted but hardly saw David; I knew Joyce but hardly saw Lin.  When David and Ted died, Lin gafiated; after a while Joyce married L.A. fan George Jumper; following his death (2001) she grew less active.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1940 – Tomas Endrey.  Escaped from Hungary 1956.  Often attended Boskone, Lunacon.  Active in APA:NESFA.  Assistant editor of SF Chronicle.  See Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH] 
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 69. He’s the genius behind the rejuvenated Twilight ZoneAmazing StoriesFarscapeSeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter I couldn’t get interested in though I did try. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 69. An odd one as I  have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t  been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue LightFutureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent FutureThe Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Seth Breidbart, Ph.D., age 67.  Chaired Lunacon 1988, 1999 (alas for pattern-lovers, not in 2000 or 2011).  Served a term as President of the Lunarians.  Guest of Honor at Albacon IV.  Often found in responsible positions at SF cons, e.g. he was House Manager in the Events Division of MidAmeriCon II the 74th Worldcon.  Annoyingly successful in fannish auctions and lotteries.  Two Harvard and two Yale degrees, which is like him.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Bill Higgins, age 67.  Radiation-safety physicist, thus seen here and elsewhere as Bill Higgins, Beam Jockey.  Plays baritone ukulele.  Guest of Honor at ConClave 15, Windycon XX, DucKon 2 & 22, Congenial 9, Capricon 10; Hal Clement Science Speaker at Boskone 51.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Paula Lieberman, age 67.  Thoughtful and vigorous in Boston fandom, e.g. at Noreascon 3 the 47th Worldcon she was Creative Consultant in the Program Division, in the Extravaganzas Division was part of the Brains Trust and ran the Anniversary Party.  Does some filking.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1964 Jeff Bezos, 57. He actually does have a genre credit for having played a Starfleet official on Star Trek Beyond. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 41. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA fir non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer as well. Nice. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 – Ameriie, age 41.  Recording artist; three golds, one silver; two Soul Train Awards; Club Banger of the Year; one Rolling Stone Best Album of the Year.  Edited one anthology for us, a short story of her own in it.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK CREATORS. The Detroit Free Press features the story behind “Invisible Men, the Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books” by Michigan resident Ken Quattro in “Chronicling the forgotten Black artists of early comic book industry”.

…The idea for “Invisible Men” started 20 years ago, when Quattro was writing an article about Matt Baker, the Black artist who in 1945 created Voodah, a character that is considered the first Black hero in a comic book aimed at white audiences.

Quattro was having a hard time tracking down information about Baker until someone suggested he reach out to Samuel Joyner, an influential cartoonist, teacher and illustrator from Philadelphia who died last year at age 96. 

He wrote me a beautiful four-page letter about not only Matt Baker, but about all these other Black cartoonists, and it stunned me at the time,” recalls Quattro, who wasn’t familiar with the other names that were included.

Quattro began reading what he describes as thousands of past issues of publications written by and for African Americans. “There was nothing in the white media, in newspapers or magazines at all, about Black comic book artists. I started going to Black newspapers of the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s, and there was a lot of information on these guys.”

(13) GAME TIME. [Item by Cath.] I spent a couple of enjoyable hours recently playing the text game ”Stay?” It incorporates Groundhog Day-style loops. WARNING: The link as I entered shows spoilers for how to “get the good ending.”

Welcome to Elaia, a magical city nestled in a high valley. It’s the end of your first year at university & time to choose your major. 

Find yourself among potential friends or lovers– young people with secrets, dreams, fears, and tragedies. Learn about the history & breadth of Elaia’s world, and decide what kind of mark you want to leave on it. 

WHAT IS “STAY? ” ?

  • An interactive fiction story. 
  • A dating sim wrapped up in a fantasy adventure puzzle.
  • A quest to find your own happy ending in a world where you always get a second chance.

(14) DOING SCIENCE. Vox tells how “Citizen science is booming during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

… Early in the pandemic, a fire hose of data started gushing forth on citizen science platforms like Zooniverse and SciStarter, where scientists ask the public to analyze their data online. It’s a form of crowdsourcing that has the added bonus of giving volunteers a real sense of community; each project has a discussion forum where participants can pose questions to each other (and often to the scientists behind the projects) and forge friendly connections.

“There’s a wonderful project called Rainfall Rescue that’s transcribing historical weather records. It’s a climate change project to understand how weather has changed over the past few centuries,” Laura Trouille, vice president of citizen science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and co-lead of Zooniverse, told me. “They uploaded a dataset of 10,000 weather logs that needed transcribing — and that was completed in one day!”

Some Zooniverse projects, like Snapshot Safari, ask participants to classify animals in images from wildlife cameras. That project saw daily classifications go from 25,000 to 200,000 per day in the initial days of lockdown. And across all its projects, Zooniverse reported that 200,000 participants contributed more than 5 million classifications of images in one week alone — the equivalent of 48 years of research. Although participation has slowed a bit since the spring, it’s still four times what it was pre-pandemic….

(15) THE SUN IS ALWAYS RISING. Not well done, not medium, but a “Rare Planet With Three Suns Has a Super Weird Orbit” is chronicled at Gizmodo.

… KOI-5Ab is likely a gas giant, similar to Neptune in terms of its size. It resides within a triple-star system, and while its orbit is a bit strange, it’s overall environment is less chaotic than it may sound.

Despite having three stellar companions, KOI-5Ab orbits a single star, KOI-5A, once every five days. This host star is caught in a mutual orbit with a nearby star called KOI-5B, and the two twirl around each other once every 30 years. A more distant star, KOI-5C orbits this pair once every 400 years.

(16) THE HYDROPONICS THAT FALL ON YOU FROM NOWHERE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post today had a piece about CES.  The gadget that seemed pretty futuristic to me is “Gardyn,” a portable hydroponic garden that’s about five feet tall.  Seeds are inserted via pods like coffee pods.  All you do is add water occasionally and the device says it grows enough veggies to feed a family of four. Video at the link: “Gardyn, the AI-driven indoor, leafy green growing machine”.

(17) NEANDERTHALS. BBC Future takes a long look at “How did the last Neanderthals live?”

…There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task.  What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.

“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewellery.

To show me exactly what he meant, Clive and his team reconstructed some intriguing Neanderthal habits. A dead vulture, carefully kept frozen, was brought out and dissected in front of me, to show how Neanderthals might have done so thousands of years earlier.

They carefully removed the bird’s body tissue. What was left appeared to be a stunning and elaborate black-feathered decorative cape, extending, of course, the length of the vulture’s wing span. They may have wrapped this around their shoulders, Clive says.

This all points to one thing: that Neanderthals had a sophisticated understanding and appreciation of cultural symbols.The fact that Neanderthals could, and would, take these steps – including the creativity and abstract reasoning required to turn a flying animal into a decorative cape – shows that their cognitive skills could have been on par with ours. And regardless of exactly how intelligent they were, their creation of these kinds of cultural artefacts is one of the defining traits of humanity.

(18) THE MOUSE NEVER PREDICTED THIS. “Disneyland to Become Covid-19 Mass-Vaccination Site”Deadline has the story.

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the bulk of which has been closed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, will serve as the first super Point-of-Dispensing (POD) site for Covid-19 vaccines in Orange County.

The site is expected to become operational later this week, county officials announced Monday. Also on Monday, Los Angeles County announced that its mass Covid-19 testing operation at Dodger Stadium will be phased out this week so the sports arena can be turned into a large-scale vaccination location….

(19) BEHIND THE LITTLE GREEN DOOR. “U.S. Intelligence Agencies to Share Everything They Know About UFOs” notes Mental Floss.

…According to Snopes, the Office for the Director of National Intelligence has confirmed that the omnibus bill includes a 180-day window for the U.S. director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to prepare a report for senators and armed services committees on the potential existence of UFOs and any potential they may have to pose a threat.

The data would be sourced from FBI reports as well as the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The language comes from the bill’s Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that the story arc of Steve Trevor in this movie make WONDER WOMAN 1984 “more problematic than a Rob Schneider movie” and the film explains you “shouldn’t cat-call women because they’ll turn into a cat and fight you!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/11/20 My Chief Pixel Has Told Me To Scroll And Fifth This File

(1) BEST TRANSLATED BOOK AWARDS FICTION FINALISTS. One work of genre interest survived the cut to make the finals for the 2020 Best Translated Book Awards, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder (Japan, Pantheon). The complete shortlist is at the link.

The award, founded by Three Percent at the University of Rochester, comes with $10,000 in prizes from the Amazon Literary Partnership. The prize will be split evenly between the winning authors and translators. The winners will be announced on May 27.

(2) SFWA REFERENDUM. An overwhelming majority of SFWA members favor including authorship of sff/h graphic novels and comics as qualifications for membership according to the ”2020 Election Question Results” posted today on the SFWA Blog.

During the recent SFWA elections… the voting members of the organization also voted on two questions.

Question: Should SFWA allow writing of graphic novels and comics in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and related genres to be used as qualification for membership?

Yes      95.18%

No       4.82%

Question: As noted in the January 31st email to members, “active members” has a specific meaning, thus leading to our need to change our membership class name for Active members. Which name would you prefer to be called?

Full Member      47.19%
General Member   11.99%
Regular Member   6.89%
Voting Member     33.93%

In the coming weeks, the board will be discussing the implementation of the graphic novel question and will make an announcement when the rules for admittance under the new rules are open.

(3) BSFA AWARDS STREAMING SCHEDULE. BSFA, the British Science Fiction Association, invites fans to attend their award ceremony for works published in 2019 on YouTube here on Sunday May 17. They will be announcing the winners of Best Novel, Best Shorter Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Artwork from 7 p.m. BST.

(4) THE SIMPLE BARE NECESSITIES. Tor.com’s Emmett Asher-Perrin really fired up the commenters with “Thought Exercise: Do Jedi Sleep Naked?” I’m envious!

Sometimes you’re watching a lot of Clone Wars, and sometimes your brain points out little innocuous things to you… like the fact that Jedi never seem to have luggage.

So, during the Clone Wars, Jedi are dispatched across the galaxy constantly to handle various galactic disputes, battles, and diplomatic messes. Often, they take Jedi starfighters and land them on big Republic cruisers, giving them flexibility to come and go as they need to. When they sleep, it’s typically on planets during missions, or it’s in quarters on the bigger ships. Sometimes there’s a chance to get back to the Jedi Temple and sleep in quarters there, but generally, they’re on the go all the time.

Yet you’ll never find them slinging a weekender over their shoulder, or dragging a little rolly carry-on bag behind them….

(5) FREAKAZOIDS PLEASE REPORT TO THE DANCE FLOOR. Production Club’s “Micrashell” is “A Suit That Allows You To Safely Socialize in Times of a Pandemic”.

Micrashell was born as a socially responsible solution to safely allow people to interact in close proximity. Specifically designed to satisfy the needs of nightlife, live events and entertainment industries, Micrashell is a virus-shielded, easy to control, fun to wear, disinfectable, fast to deploy personal protective equipment (PPE) that allows socializing without distancing….

Here’s a snip from the long list of advantages:

BASIC NEEDS & SUIT HANDLING
• “Top only” suit design allows the user to wear their normal clothes, use the toilet and engage in intercourse without being exposed to respiratory risks
• Hand latch system to facilitate dressing and undressing the suit

(6) WILL THE U.S. MAIL BE STAMPED OUT? The New York Times finds “A Fight Over the Future of the Mail Breaks Down Along Familiar Lines”.

…Postal leaders and their allies have made unusually blunt appeals for support in recent weeks, running advertisements on President Trump’s favorite Fox News programs and laying out an urgent account of how the pandemic has had a “devastating effect” on the U.S. mail service. Without a financial rescue from Congress, they have warned, an agency that normally runs without taxpayer funds could run out of cash as soon as late September, raising the specter of bankruptcy and an interruption in regular delivery for millions of Americans.

But after nearly reaching a bipartisan deal for a multibillion dollar bailout in the last coronavirus rescue package in late March, Republicans and Democrats have sharply diverged over whether to provide a lifeline. Now, the fight over the future of the Postal Service has spilled onto the campaign trail, increasingly freighted by deeply held disagreements about labor rights, the role of government versus private enterprise in providing basic services, and voting access.

(7) NIGHT AFTER NIGHT. “Travelling Text”: The London Review of Books’ Marina Warner discurses on The Arabian Nights and a book of essays about them.

Like a dance craze or a charismatic cult, The Arabian Nights seized readers’ imaginations as soon as translations first appeared – in French between 1704 and 1717, and in English from 1708. Oriental fever swept through salons and coffee-houses, the offices of broadsheet publishers and theatrical impresarios; the book fired a train of imitations, spoofs, turqueries, Oriental tales, extravaganzas. It changed tastes in dress and furniture – the sofa, the brocade dressing-gown – and even enhanced the taste of coffee. In fact its diaspora almost mimics the triumphant progress of coffee, as it metamorphosed from the thimbles of thick dark syrup drunk in Damascus and Istanbul and Cairo to today’s skinny latte, macchiato et al. Antoine Galland, the French savant and explorer who discovered and translated the earliest manuscript in Syria in the late 17th century, also published a translation of an Arabic treatise in praise of coffee, one of the first if not the first of its kind. It is his bowdlerised version of the stories that dominated their diaspora, from the ‘Arabian Nights’ Entertainments’, serialised in 445 instalments over three years in the London News, to the fantasies of the Ballets Russes, to the 1924 Thief of Baghdad, to Disney’s Aladdin and Sinbad.

In the countries of the book’s origin, the stories were considered popular trash, and excluded from the canon. In Europe, a similar sense that they had negligible status as literature came about because so many of their early enthusiasts were women. The Earl of Shaftesbury, writing in 1711, three years after the book’s first appearance in English, denounced the Desdemona tendency, claiming that the tales ‘excite’ in women ‘a passion for a mysterious Race of black Enchanters: such as of old were said to creep into Houses, and lead captive silly Women’. It’s significant, in the history of East-West relations, that Shaftesbury could only understand the alien bogeys in terms of beliefs rather closer to home than Baghdad or Cairo.

Another reason the work wasn’t taken seriously was that it eluded concepts of authorship: the stories were anonymous and composed at different periods in different places. The architecture of the frame story – Scheherazade telling stories to the sultan every night till dawn to save her life – insisted on the oral, collective, immemorial character of the tales, presenting them as a compendium of collective wisdom, or at least as literature with a thousand and one owners and users. Madeleine Dobie, in the opening essay of ‘The Arabian Nights’ in Historical Context, a collection edited by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum, shows how Galland’s work set the trend. A brilliant linguist, antiquarian and Orientalist, Galland began the process of treating the book as something that could be altered and made to express fantasy. The most popular tales of all, the ones that have become synonymous with The Arabian Nights and have been retold in children’s books and films (‘Aladdin’, ‘Ali Baba’, ‘The Ebony Horse’, ‘Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Peri Banou’), are probably Galland’s invention, concocted of pomegranates and ebony, damask and jasmine, in tribute to the style of the original stories.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 11, 1899 — E.  B. White. He’s a co-author with William Strunk Jr. of The Elements of Style. In addition, he wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1904 – Salvador Dalí.  Two Basket of Bread paintings twenty years apart – The Persistence of Memory between them – show he could be realistic if he felt like it.  Having said “The difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad,” he told a group of Surrealists “The difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.”  He put an unfolded tesseract in Crucifixion; created in 1950 a Costume for 2045 with Christian Dior; drew, etched, sculpted; illustrated The Divine Comedy and The Arabian Nights.  Memoir, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.  (Died 1989) [JH
  • Born May 11, 1916 — Maurice Nahum. ISFDB credits him with being editor in the Fifties of the Futuristic Science StoriesOut of This World MagazineSupernatural Stories and several other publications. Langford at the usual source says of them that ‘All were juvenile, undated and of poor quality.’ (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1918  – Sheila Burnford.  In The Incredible Journey a Bull Terrier, a Siamese cat, and a Labrador Retriever travel 300 miles (480 km) through the Canadian wilderness to find their humans; a Disney film was made.  Later Burnford spent two summers on Baffin Island, traveling by komatik (a dog sled) and seeing the narwhals migrate. “Poor Albert Floated When He Died” was in Women of the Weird with a Gorey cover.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1918 – Richard Feynman.  He had a gift for looking from the abstract to the concrete: hence Feynman diagrams; plunging a piece of O-ring material into ice water at a hearing on the Challenger disaster; winning a Nobel Prize and teaching undergraduates. Kept a notebook Things I Don’t Know About.  A curved-space lecture handout had a bug on a sphere: “the bug and any rulers he uses are all made of the same material which expands when it is heated.” Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman reviewed by Alma Jo Williams in Science Fiction Review.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1920 — Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into  SpaceTwilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1927 – Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  Three fantasies won the Newbery Honor; a score of books for us, four dozen in all.  Below the Root is the first of her Green Sky trilogy; after the third, she worked closely with a programmer and a graphic artist on a Below the Root computer game.  Cover for Song of the Gargoyle by Jody Lee, who was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor when I was Fan GoH at Lunacon XLIV.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 11, 1936 — Gordon  Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born May 11, 1952 — Frances Fisher, 67. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on MediumX-Files, Outer LimitsResurrectionThe Expanse and has some role in the forthcoming Watchmen series. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range finds a UFO that may be unidentified but does not look unfamiliar.

(10) ANIMAL MAGNETISM. “Early drawings and letters by Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter dating back to the 1890s sell for £213,000 at auction” – the Daily Mail has the story.

…Peter Costanzo, specialist at Doyle Auctions, said: ‘Part of the charm of this early period is that Potter apparently did not intend to publish books for children.

‘She simply sought a simple and affectionate way to communicate with them, and in combining an early mastery of the drawing of animals and a playful love of verse, Potter created a style all her own.

‘This was truly an insightful, important and whimsical group, one of the finest collections of early Beatrix Potter artwork and it represented a rare opportunity for collectors and institutions alike.’

…Her most famous book, The Tale of Petter Rabbit (1901), has been translated into 36 languages and sold 45 million copies.

She died aged 77 in 1943.

(11) STEPPING UP. A slightly creepy use for tech’s best friend: “Robot dog enforces social distancing in Singapore park”.

A robot dog is patrolling one of Singapore’s parks as part of coronavirus-related trial.

The machine – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – is fitted with a camera to monitor how busy Bishan-Ang Moh Kio Park becomes.

It also carries a loudspeaker to broadcast social-distancing messages.

(12) OWN A PIECE OF SPACE! “Branson to sell Galactic stake to prop up Virgin”

Sir Richard Branson is selling a stake in Virgin Galactic to raise $500m to prop up his other businesses including Virgin Atlantic.

The billionaire has been criticised for seeking financial help from the taxpayer for the airline.

Sir Richard will now sell a share of his space tourism business.

Virgin Group said it will use the proceeds to support its “leisure, holiday and travel businesses” hit by “the unprecedented impact” of Covid-19.

(13) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. BBC reports “Longer overlap for modern humans and Neanderthals”.

Modern humans began to edge out the Neanderthals in Europe earlier than previously thought, a new study shows.

Tests on remains from a cave in northern Bulgaria suggest Homo sapiens was there as early as 46,000 years ago.

This is up to 2,000 years older than evidence from Italy and the UK.

Around this time, Europe was populated by sparse groups of Neanderthals – a distinct type of human that vanished shortly after modern humans appeared on the scene.

There’s considerable debate about the length of time that modern humans overlapped with Neanderthals in Europe and other parts of Eurasia.

This has implications for the nature of contact between the two groups – and perhaps clues to why Neanderthals went extinct.

(14) KEEPS ON TICKING. Quanta Magazine’s “Arrows of Time” infographic tracks the development of human ideas about the concept of time.

The human mind has long grappled with the elusive nature of time: what it is, how to record it, how it regulates life, and whether it exists as a fundamental building block of the universe. This timeline traces our evolving understanding of time through a history of observations in CULTURE, PHYSICS, TIMEKEEPING and BIOLOGY.

It begins with —

c. 50,000 BCE

Australia’s first inhabitants, the ancestors of today’s aboriginal peoples, are believed to have embraced a timeless view of nature, in which the present and past are intimately connected. The spirits of long-dead ancestors, for example, were believed to inhabit the living. These spirits reflected a long-ago golden age sometimes known as the Dreamtime.

(15) GASSY TOOTS IN SPACE. Yahoo!’s headline is more aspirational than literal right now, but it might come true soon: “Look Up! A Dazzling Comet Is Now Visible to the Naked Eye to Viewers Across the World”.

Officially named C/2020 F8 (SWAN), the comet, which is technically an “outgassing interplanetary iceberg,” will be closest to Earth on May 13, and nearest to the sun May 27, according to NASA. (The warmth of the sun causes comets to vaporize.) Right now, it’s only visible to individuals in the Southern hemisphere, including those in Australia, Chile, and New Zealand, but if it continues to brighten along its journey, those of us in the Northern hemisphere could see it soon. NASA reports that people might be able to see it with the naked eye in June.  Space.com notes the best times to see it will be in the West-Northwest sky after sunset, and in the East-Northeast sky before sunrise.

However, just because it’s visible now, doesn’t mean it will stay that way…. 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, 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 4/10/20 A Tribble Standing On Top Of A Roomba Isn’t Meaningfully Taller Than A Tribble Laying On The Floor

(1) LIBERTYCON CANCELLED. The Chattanooga, Tennessee convention has been called off for this year. They announced on their website:

Sadly, we recieved the news from the convention center that we will be unable to have LibertyCon this year.

Brandy, LC Chairman, posted a video on Facebook explaining the situation and the sad message we have to give you all. It can be seen by clicking on this link.

LibertyCon 33 will be held June 25-27, 2021

(2) SAVE THE INDIES. George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema tells how to buy a ticket to a virtual showing of Extra Ordinary to support them

The staff of the Jean Cocteau Cinema would like to thank you for your support during the COVID-19 crisis. Your participation in this and other virtual screenings gives us an invaluable revenue stream to help us stay afloat until the quarantine is over and in-person screenings can resume. We owe everything to you, our patrons, and we look forward to the return of normalcy and to continuing to provide a cozy community-focused local cinema and performance space to Santa Feans for years to come! Stay safe, stay sane, and above all be excellent to each other!

(3) NASA AT WORK. Are your SJW Credentials in on this conspiracy?

(4) MEANWHILE, BACK AT BAIKONUR. Then there’s the cosmonaut program. An Ars Technica writer declares, “I was bored, so I watched the movie that astronauts must view before launch”.

…This Soviet-era building in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, is where astronauts spend their final days before launching into space on board the Russian Soyuz vehicle. Cassidy’s crew is due to launch on Thursday afternoon, at 1:05pm local time. (This is 4:05am ET Thursday, and 8:05am UTC.) They will spend about six hours catching up to and docking with the International Space Station.

The Russians have the oldest space program in the world and by far the most traditions and superstitions related to launch, including peeing on the wheel of the bus that takes the crew to the launch pad—a tradition that dates back to Yuri Gagarin’s first human spaceflight in 1961.

Among those traditions is watching a movie the day before launch in the Cosmonaut Hotel. It’s always the same movie, White Sun of the Desert. No one is quite sure why this Soviet-era film, which came out in 1970, is always watched (yes, it’s mandatory). But it likely dates to Soyuz 12, in 1973, when cosmonauts Vasily Lazarev and Oleg Makarov watched the movie before their mission. This return-to-flight mission followed the disastrous Soyuz 11 flight two years earlier, when the spacecraft depressurized as the crew prepared to reenter Earth’s atmosphere, killing all three men. Soyuz 12 proved a success, and the movie came to be seen as a good luck charm. Since then, over the course of five decades, the Soyuz has never lost a crew….

(5) TENTACLE TIME. Camestros Felapton presents “The Being Not Human Awards” – a highly amusing ceremony.

… I’d like to discuss with you all what it is to be you. Now I must apologise in advance. There are many you in the audience, people I love dearly, who may take offence at what I am going to say next. Yes, yes, I am looking at you Mr Spock and yes, you C3PO and there’s no point waving that screwdriver at me Doctor, nor hiding behind Gimli’s axe Legolas. I love you all but I’m sorry, this really is not about you. Yes each of you is distinctly not human in deep and notable ways as explained in great detail in the backstory section of your Wikipedia pages. However, for our purposes tonight while you may be the big stars, this is not your turn in the spotlight. We love you but we love you because you have to admit that your are not exactly not-human….

(6) INTERVIEWED IN ISOLATION. Scott Edelman invites listeners to shelter in place as he answers the questions in Episode 113 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Scott Edelman

It’s been exactly one month since I joined Michael Dirda for lunch to record an episode of Eating the Fantastic, and the way things are going in this age of social distancing, it will likely be many more months before I’ll be able to sit down at a restaurant with a guest to record another. The three episodes I’d planned to harvest for you during the final days of March all had to be cancelled. So what’s a podcast predicated on breaking bread to do when bread can no longer be broken?

What it means for this episode is that it’s time for the interviewer to become the interviewee, as you join me for lunch in my kitchen while I continue to shelter in place. Last episode, I asked listeners to send in questions for things which might not have been revealed about my life as a writer, editor, publisher, podcaster, and fan during the previous 118 episodes. I also reached out to my former guests to see if they’d like to turn the tables and ask questions instead of just answering them.

I ended up with 93 questions, which I knew was far more than I’d be able to answer in a single episode. But I printed them, folded them up, tossed them inside the head of a Roswell alien, and then pulled them out randomly one at a time and tried to answer as many as I could over the course of my meal.

(7) HELP IS ON THE WAY FOR UK WRITERS. “ALCS Offers Additional Financial Support To Writers Through The Society Of Authors’ Emergency Fund”.

ALCS – alongside the Royal Literary Fund, TS Eliot Foundation, English PEN, Amazon UK and, as of 7 April, Arts Council England – has contributed to the Society of Authors’ fund that will be paid out in grants to writers who have found themselves financially affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak.

ALCS is a collecting society set up by writers, for writers. Paying money to writers through licensing when their works have been used is at the core of what we do. Later this week, we will pay £24 million to over 89,000 writers – and since 1977 we’ve paid over £500 million to writers – but these are difficult and unique times, so we wanted to see what else we could do to support all writers….

Applicants do not need to be ALCS or SoA members; the fund is open to all professional authors who are resident in the UK or British subjects for whom author-related activity makes up a substantial amount of their annual income. The SoA have run this fund since 1960, so they have a great deal of experience in assessing applications and their approach is broad, agile and fast; aiming to turn around applications within weeks.

(8) DO YOU KNOW YOUR WHO? RadioTimes reports “Doctor Who fans plan massive virtual pub quiz over Easter Weekend”.

Now, though, they can finally engage in every Doctor Who fan’s favourite activity – proving how much arcane trivia they know – because long-running real-life pub quiz The Quiz of Rassilon (which has hosted Doctor Who trivia nights since 2010) has announced that it’ll be hosting an online version of the event over the Easter Weekend.

“The Quiz has always been a place where fans from all corners of the fandom can come together for a bit of fun and to talk about their favourite show,” Quiz of Rassilon co-creator Michael Williams told RadioTimes.com.

… During the quiz itself most participants (who are expected to number in the hundreds) will have their microphones muted in the main hosting room, with each team given their own “private TARDIS” (in other words a separate videocall meeting) where they can confer, chat and screen share, before they’re pulled back to the main call after a few minutes.

“We’ve designed this Quiz using Zoom’s ‘breakout rooms’ feature which gives teams the opportunity to have their usual table at the Pub where they can discuss between themselves and enjoy some time with their friends,” explained Williams.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 10, 1966 Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter premiered. It was directed by William Beaudine and produced  by Caroll Case. It was written by Carl K. Hittleman. It starred John Lupton, Narda Onyx,  Estelita Rodriguez, Cal Bolder and Jim Davis.  The film was first released as part of a double feature along with Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. It was not treated well by critics at the time with one saying “it sucks”, and currently the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an eleven percent rating. We cannot determine if it’s in the public domain so we’re not providing a link. 
  • April 10, 1987 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home enjoyed its first theatrical release which was in the United Kingdom. Starring the entire original cast, the story was by Harve Bennett and Leonard Nimoy with the screenplay by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer and  Harve Bennett.  It was a box office success making far, far more than it cost to produce. The critics loved it for the most part, and  it currently has a stellar rating of eighty-one percent at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 10, 1897 Eric Knight. Decidedly better known for his 1940 Lassie Come-Home novel which introduced Lassie, but he had one genre undertaking according to ISFDB, the Sam Small series. I’ve never heard of them, nor are they available in digital form though Lassie Come-Home of course is. Anyone read them? (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 10, 1921 Chuck Connors. His first genre role was as Senator Robert Fraser in Captain Nemo and the Underwater City followed by being Tab Fielding in Soylent Green. He’s Captain McCloud in Virus, a Japanese horror film, and he one-offs in The Adventures of SupermanThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy Island and a recurring role as Captain Janos Skorzenyn in Werewolf. (Died 1992.)
  • Born April 10, 1929 Max von Sydow. He played  Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the Never Say Never Again and Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. He shows up in the Exorcist II: The Heretic as Father Lankester Merrin while being King Osric in Conan the Barbarian. Dreamscape sees him being Doctor Paul Novotny while he’s Liet-Kynes the Imperial Planetologist in Dune. He was Judge Fargo in Judge Dredd (and yes, I still like it), in Minority Report as Director Lamar Burgess, Sir Walter Loxley in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood and finally in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Lor San Tekka. (Died 2020.)
  • Born April 10, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it. Ok, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in the superb Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 10, 1953 David Langford, 67. And how long have you been reading Ansible? If he’s not noted for that singular enterprise, he should be noted for assisting in producing the second edition of the EoSF, not to mention some 629,000 words as a principal editor of the third (online) edition of the Encyclopedia of SF, and contributed some eighty thousand words of articles to EoF as well. And let’s not forget his genre writing as well that earned him a Short Story Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for “Different Kinds of Darkness”.  
  • Born April 10, 1955 Pat Murphy, 65. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. And The Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born April 10, 1957 John M. Ford. Popular at Minicon and other cons where he would be Dr. Mike and give silly answers to questions posed to him while wearing  a lab coat before a whiteboard. His most interesting novel I think is The Last Hot Time, an urban fantasy set in Chicago that might have been part of Terri Windling’s Bordertown series but wasn’t. Possibly. (Did 2006.)
  • Born April 10, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 42. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind me a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. Quite fascinating. 
  • Born April 10, 1992 Daisy Ridley, 28. Obviously she played the role of Rey in The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. She was also in Scrawl, a horror film as well as voicing Cotton Rabbit in Peter Rabbit. Though stretching to even call it genre adjacent even, she was Mary Debenham in Murder on The Orient Express.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) RINGO AWARDS 2020 NOMINATIONS OPEN. The public can vote until June 25 – click here to participate.

The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards is an annual celebration of the creativity, skill, and fun of comics. The awards return for their third year on Saturday, October 24, 2020 as part of the fan- and pro-favorite convention, The Baltimore Comic-Con.

Unlike other professional industry awards, the Ringo Awards include fan participation in the nomination process along with an esteemed jury of comics professionals. 

More than 20 categories will be celebrated with top honors being given at the awards ceremony in October.

Click here to see the 2019 winners and nominees.

(13) TRAILBLAZERS. James Davis Nicoll salutes that Promethean resource — “All Hail The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Bringer of Knowledge!” – at Tor.com.

Imagine, if you will, a dark age in which information was not at the tip of one’s fingertips, in which acquiring it required a trip to the library or the bookstore, in which tidbits of useful information might be limited to brief introductions and afterwords, in which there was no guarantee that the information would exist in an accessible form anywhere at all.  Imagine further that one was a snoopy highly inquisitive young reader, curious about the authors whose works he was consuming and eager to know more about the works themselves. Imagine the frustration….

(14) BEHIND THE MASK. ScreenRant’s Mike Jones says “Alien Facehugger Inspired Face Mask Is Creepy & Effective”. Mike Kennedy admits, “Not sure I could wear this, no matter how effective it is are.” See it here. 

 … In addition to preventative measures such as social distancing and lockdown/quarantining, many people around the world have taken to wearing masks when out in public. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for citizens to get their hands on masks. Fortunately, people can make their own adequate replacements, and some have even gotten very creative with this practice.

To add a little levity to the issue of wearing a mask, Facebook user Lady Frankenstein added images of an extraordinary homemade mask. By taking a cue from Alien, the mask in question was made to resemble the classic film’s dreaded facehugger. Victims of the facehugger later experienced the slightly uncomfortable arrival of an alien, but thankfully, Lady Frankenstein’s mask will ultimately keep its wearer far safer than the facehugger’s victims.

(15) TWISTING THE ROPE. “The Oldest String Ever Found May Have Been Made By Neanderthals”.

Tiny bits of twisted plant fibers found on an ancient stone tool suggest that Neanderthals were able to make and use sophisticated cords like string and rope.

Cords made from twisted fibers are so ubiquitous today that it’s easy to take them for granted. But they’re a key survival technology that can be used to make everything from clothes to bags to shelters.

This prehistoric piece of string, described in the journal Scientific Reports, was preserved on a flint tool that dates back to around 41,000 to 52,000 years ago. It came from a cave-like rock shelter in southern France that was once inhabited by Neanderthals.

(16) WHERE FANS ONCE TROD. The BBC shows us how the exhibits hall of the 1995 Worldcon is being repurposed: “Look inside Glasgow’s temporary NHS hospital”.

More images have been released of a temporary hospital which is being built at he Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow.

The emergency facility, called NHS Louisa Jordan, will take up a 10,000 sq m hall and will have capacity for 516 beds.

Since construction started on 31 March, nearly 800 contractors and NHS staff have been working on site.

…So far, partitions between beds have been erected, 8,000 pieces of medical equipment have been ordered and the flooring has started to be laid.

A new bespoke system which will deliver an oxygen supply to every bed has also been put in place.

The NHS Louisa Jordan is named after a nurse who died from typhus while serving in Serbia during the height of an outbreak.

(17) THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE. “Coronavirus Turns Urban Life’s Roar to Whisper on World’s Seismographs”.

Geoscientists are getting a clearer picture of what’s going on beneath our feet as lockdowns keep many of us at home.

Seismometers may be built to detect earthquakes, but their mechanical ears hear so much more: hurricanes thundering hundreds of miles away and meteoroids exploding in the skies on the other side of the planet. Even the everyday hum of humanity — people moving about on cars, trains and planes — has a seismically detectable heartbeat.

But coronavirus has upended our lives. Hoping to curtail the pandemic’s spread, nations have closed their borders, cities have been shut down and billions of people have been instructed to stay home. Today, in cities large and small, the thumping pulse of civilization is now barely detectable on many seismograms.

“It did make the scale of the shutdowns a bit more real to me,” said Celeste Labedz, a graduate student in geophysics at the California Institute of Technology.

In person, you can see only your neighborhood’s dedication to remaining home. With seismometers, Ms. Labedz said, you can see the collective willingness of millions of the world’s urban dwellers to hunker down. As a result, the planet’s natural quavering is being recorded with remarkable clarity.

This seismological experiment began with Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels. He wanted to see what happened to his city’s anthropogenic hiss after its lockdown began in mid-March. His finding, that it had declined precipitously, was shared on Twitter and via news organizations, prompting seismologists elsewhere to look at their own city’s lack of shakes. Many used Dr. Lecocq’s bespoke coding to eke out the human noise in their seismic data.

…A cleaner and more frequent detection of Earth’s seismic activity grants seismologists a less filtered look into the planet’s interior. Although many seismometers are purposefully located far from cities, plenty of urban areas — especially those in seismically hyperactive parts of the planet — are peppered with seismometers. In this time of human quiescence, the creaking of some potentially dangerous faults may be detected better than ever.

(18) UNMANNED MISSIONS ANNOUNCED. “NASA Selects Four Possible Missions to Study the Secrets of the Solar System”. More details at the link.

The selected proposals are:

DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus)

DAVINCI+ will analyze Venus’ atmosphere to understand how it formed, evolved and determine whether Venus ever had an ocean….

Io Volcano Observer (IVO)

IVO would explore Jupiter’s moon, Io, to learn how tidal forces shape planetary bodies….

TRIDENT

Trident would explore Triton, a unique and highly active icy moon of Neptune, to understand pathways to habitable worlds at tremendous distances from the Sun….

VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy)

VERITAS would map Venus’ surface to determine the planet’s geologic history and understand why Venus developed so differently than the Earth…..

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Terry Gilliam’s Closet Pick” on YouTube is a video about how Gilliam paid a visit to the Criterion Collection in 2019 and shared anecdotes about Brazil and The Brothers Grimm as he loaded a bag with free DVDs.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/28/20 No, For The Comte De La Scroll It Is Too Little; For Pixel, Too Much.

(1) TURNING THE TABLE. Scott Edelman volunteers to be the next interviewee on the Eating the Fantastic podcast if you’ll think of the questions. Thread starts here.

(2) BALTICON MOVES ONLINE. Michael Rafferty, now Chair, Virtual Balticon 54, and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) have announced “a free Virtual Balticon” over Memorial Day weekend.  

We decided this was the best way to bring the Balticon Community together without contributing to the spread of the illness.

Plans for Virtual Balticon are still in development….

The virtual convention will kick off Friday night May 22nd, 2020 and run until Monday afternoon.  Details on the schedule will be listed on the Balticon website (https://balticon.org).

The shift to a virtual convention this year presents a challenge to many of the artists and dealers who depend on sales made at Balticon for a substantial part of their income.  If you had planned on attending Balticon 54 and making purchases, please consider purchasing directly through the links we will provide at Balticon.org.

BSFS depends on memberships from Balticon for nearly all of its yearly budget, including the seed money for the next Balticon. While the Virtual Balticon will be free of charge, donations would be greatly appreciated.  As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all donations to BSFS are tax-deductible (please contact your tax professionals for full details). Please visit http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm to donate.

Lastly, we have been sending emails regarding pre-paid Balticon 54 memberships and reservations for Artist Alley, Dealers Room, or Art Show.  If you purchased one of these and have not yet received an email, please contact [email protected].

(3) CHOSEN HORROR. At The Line-Up, “Ellen Datlow Recommends 13 Dark & Creepy Books to Read In the Time of COVID-19 (That Are Not Apocalyptic)” . The list includes:

The Library at Mount Char

By Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is an accomplished debut novel. A group of neighborhood children orphaned simultaneously in a devastating event are taken in by a mysterious stranger who becomes their overbearing “father.” Whenever the reader thinks they know what will happen next, the story veers into another direction, perfectly controlled by the author. An excellent, very dark fantasy about the monstrousness of gods. It’s both horrifying and funny, and it hits every mark. 

(4) NGHI VO CONSIDERED. NPR reviewer Jessica P. Wick gets busy “Uncovering The Secrets Of A Fallen Ruler In ‘Empress Of Salt And Fortune'”.

“Accuracy above all things. You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.”

What details are truly small? Who says they are? Ask yourself as you read The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

This book is not a happy ending book. This is a salt and fortune book: dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. Here, the truth is delicately, tenderly fished out of darkness. Ugliness is couched in exquisite poetry and the ordinary is finely-drawn; any object, however plain in purpose or silly in function, might be a relic of endurance and a witness to greatness. Nghi Vo’s story of women and intrigue at the end of one empire and beginning of another reveals in flashes that what you think you see isn’t all there is to see. It asks — and answers — the question: What is important? Who is important? Here, the old aphorism “all that glitters is not gold” is particularly apt.

Cleric Chih is on their way to the new Empress’s first Dragon Court, accompanied by their assistant Almost Brilliant (a “neixin” or talking hoopoe with mythical, generational recall of history), when word comes that all sites put under imperial lock during the previous Empress In-Yo’s reign have been declassified. Fortunately, they happen to be near Lake Scarlet, the haunted site of In-Yo’s exile from court “before the mammoth trampled the lion.”

They can’t resist the chance to be first to uncover Lake Scarlet’s secrets about this mysterious but important time in the empire’s history, and are surprised to find the residence there, though locked down, hasn’t been abandoned….

(5) XPRIZE GETS INVOLVED. The “Xprize Pandemic Alliance” intends “to bring the innovative power of the global crowd together with a powerful network of partners who can work together to solve the world’s greatest challenges and enable radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego is a proud founding member of the XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance, a data-powered global alliance to stop COVID-19. 

The Pandemic Alliance is a global coalition that combines the power of collaboration, competition, innovation, and radical thinking to accelerate solutions that can be applied to COVID-19 and future pandemics. We are focusing on dire areas such as accelerating solutions for remote care, provision of personal protective equipment to the front line, testing access, and food and medicine security for vulnerable populations. 

The Clarke Center joins the Alliance alongside the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Ending Pandemics, Intel, Illumina, IEEE Standards Association, MIT Solve, C2 International, Cloudbreak Health, the Foundation Botnar, McGill University, Nvidia, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and the PPE Coalition, among others. Dr. Erik Viirre, Director of the Clarke Center, is Medical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE

(6) GEEZER WORLD. Cosmos declares “Jupiter is the most ancient planet in the solar system”.

…According to the modeling, Jupiter’s inner core grew to the equivalent of about 20 times the mass of the Earth within the first million years. The Sun was still a protostar at this stage, not having become dense enough for hydrogen fusion to begin.

The growth rate then slowed down, but continued, reaching about 50 times the mass of earth three million years later.

“Thus, Jupiter is the oldest planet of the solar system, and its solid core formed well before the solar nebula gas dissipated,” the team writes.

(7) GOODMAN OBIT. Minneapolis-area fan Dan Goodman (1943-2020) passed away March 25. He discovered fandom in New York City in 1962, participating in FISTFA (the city’s “fannish insurgents” group), before moving to the Bay Area and on to Los Angeles. He joined LASFS in 1969 and remained active for several years. When I knew him he worked as a typist at the IRS producing statutory notices of deficiency (which was no trivial job for a typist in those days). We were together in several APAs, not the least of which was the weekly APA-L. Goodman, Jack Harness, perhaps John Hertz,  and I don’t know who else, lived near downtown and helped each other get their contributions in, or delivered finished copies of the APA, and joked about being members of STUD – Shoving Things Under Doorways. He contributed to my early genzines, and even to an issue of File 770 — in #12 (1979) Dan’s article “Just the Facts” used his own fannish biography to satirically demonstrate how anyone bidding for a convention could simulate an impressive resume. Dan was one of several LASFSians who were attracted by Minneapolis’ very congenial fandom and moved there. He edited some issues of the Minn-stf’s newsletter, Einblatt. He was always strongly interested in fiction writing – I’m a little surprised that ISFDB reports only one published story, “The Oldest Religion” which appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1988. His CaringBridge page indicates Dan’s health began a final decline early this year. In a wonderful gesture on February 8, they brought the Minn-stf meeting to him – about 10 people. It certainly sounds like he chose the right place to put down roots.

Dan Goodman (in yellow) at 1972 LASFS Board of Directors meeting. Others visible: (seated) Len Moffatt and Lois Newman; (standing) Elst Weinstein, and in the corner, Larry Niven.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 28, 1959 The Manster premiered. Shot in Japan, it was produced by George P. Breakston as directed by Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane. The screenplay was by Walter J. Sheldon. Sheldon’s script was based on Breakston’s story which he originally titled The Split, presumably because the process that created the monster gave it two heads. (It was marketed as The Split in areas.) It starred  Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura and Terri Zimmern. One reviewer at the time called it “a pathetic pot-boiler” and another noted that “the second head lolled around at random”. The audience at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 30% rating. You can see it for yourself here.
  • March 28, 2003 Tremors: The Series premiered on Syfy. It followed three Tremors films and starred Michael Gross, Gladise Jimenez, Marcia Strassman and Victor Brown. Created by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson who brought us the entire Tremors franchise, it lasted but thirteen episodes. You can watch the first episode, “Feeding Frenzy” here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian-tinged space opera that was the universe of John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus of To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t.  (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 28, 1932 Ron Soble. He played Wyatt Earp in the Trek episode, “Spectre of The Gun.” During his career, he showed up on a huge number of genre series that included Mission: ImpossibleThe Six Million Dollar ManShazamPlanet of The ApesFantasy IslandSalvage 1 and Knight Rider. His last genre role, weirdly enough, was playing Pablo Picasso in Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 28, 1933 J. R. Hammond. Looking for companionable guides to H.G. Wells? Clute at EoSF has the scholar for you. He wrote three works that he recommends as being rather good (H G Wells: A Comprehensive Bibliography,  Herbert George Wells: An Annotated Bibliography of his Works and An H G Wells Companion: A Guide to the Novels, Romances and Short Stories). Clute says that his “tendency to provide sympathetic overviews, now as much as ever, is welcome.” (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 28, 1944 Ellen R. Weil. Wife of  Gary K. Wolfe. She wrote a number of works with him including the non-fiction study, Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. They wrote a fascinating essay, “The Annihilation of Time: Science Fiction; Consumed by Shadows: Ellison and Hollywood”, which can be found in Harlan Ellison: Critical Insights. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 28, 1946 Julia Jarman, 74. Author of a  children’s book series I like a lot, of which I’ll single out Time-Travelling Cat And The Egyptian GoddessThe Time-Travelling Cat and the Tudor Treasure and The Time-Travelling cat and the Viking Terror as the ones I like the best. There’s more in that series but those are my favorites. 
  • Born March 28, 1955 Reba McEntire, 65. Her first film role was playing Heather Gummer in Tremors. Since then, she’s done voice work as Betsy  the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and as Etta in The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave. She also voiced Artemis on the Disney Hercules series.
  • Born March 28, 1960 Chris Barrie, 60. He’s Lara Croft’s butler Hillary in the most excellent Tomb Raider franchise films. He also shows up on Red Dwarf  for twelve series as Arnold Rimmer, a series I’ve never quite grokked. He’s also one of the principal voice actors on Splitting Image which is not quite genre adjacent but oh so fun.
  • Born March 28, 1972 Nick Frost, 48. Yes, he really is named Nick Frost as he was born Nicholas John Frost. Befitting that, he was cast as Santa Claus in two Twelfth Doctor stories, “Death in Heaven” and “Last Christmas”. He’s done far more genre acting that I can retell here starting with the Spaced series and Shaun of The Dead (he’s close friends with Simon Pegg) to the superb Snow White and The Huntsman. He’s currently Gus in the forthcoming Truth Seekers, a sort of low budget comic ghost hunter series 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A PSA YOU SHOULD FOLLOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] When the Silver Surfer tells you you should practice #SocialDistancingNow, you should probably listen. You really don’t want him to sic Galactus on you. “Silver Surfer Provides a PSA for Self-Quarantining” at CBR.com.

“Hello, True Believers! This is Norrin Radd, Sentinel of the Spaceways and Herald to Galactus, Devourer of Worlds,” begins Radd. “It is important to remember that while I wield the Power Cosmic, you do not and, as such, it is your responsibility to maintain your social distance during this pandemic.”

After delivering the PSA, the Surfer goes on to play electric guitar and sing his own theme song.

(12) LEADFOOT ON THE TIME ACCELERATOR. I thought it was interesting to read how developments from the coronavirus epidemic broke into John Scalzi’s plan to get away from the news while he was on the JoCo cruise: “The Last Best Time”.

(13) LIVE! With everything under quarantine, the nerd-folk duo doubleclicks compiled this list of upcoming live shows streamed directly to your computer screen: “We Recommend These Live Shows You Can Watch From Your House!”

Last week, the Doubleclicks streamed every day and played games, interviewed authors, recorded and even wrote songs! It was really fun, and you can watch all the videos we made up on this YouTube playlist. We’ll definitely do more streaming in the future, but we’re taking a little while to regroup and rest next week. However, we want to recommend some awesome livestreams you should check out, done by people we really enjoy and recommend!

(14) IS THE EFFECT MORE THAN YOU THINK? In the Washington Post, Ron Charles interviews Tom Perrotta, whose 2011 novel The Leftovers shows what happened to America three years after an apocalypse wipes out two percent of the American population. “Tom Perrotta’s ‘The Leftovers’ imagined 2 percent of the population disappearing. That could be our reality.”

…Speaking from his home outside of Boston, Perrotta says he was startled by some people’s scornful response to the premise of “The Leftovers.” “Two percent?” they said. “That’s nothing.”

But that would be 6.5 million Americans, and it could soon be this administration’s economic plan for the United States.

The horror of even contemplating a loss of that magnitude is staggering. “I look out my window, and it’s a beautiful day, and the water comes out of the faucet when I turn it on, and my car works,” Perrotta says. “The infrastructure of the world is intact, but there is this feeling of dread and grief that makes it feel entirely different than what it did a month ago. I wake up and as soon as I go downstairs and come in contact with any information, this heaviness just comes over me that I carry through the whole day. And I think, you know, 2 percent is a lot.”

As he suggested in “The Leftovers,” which was later adapted into an HBO series, Perrotta doubts anybody would survive such a “minor” apocalypse unscathed. “It may not be somebody in your first ring of acquaintances,” he says, “but it’ll be someone in the second and maybe someone right next to you. One of the things it does is really make you aware of just how connected we are.”

(15) SO MUCH FOR THAT. “OneWeb blames pandemic for collapse” says BBC.

OneWeb, the high-profile London-based satellite start-up, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US.

The firm, which has been building a network to deliver broadband across the globe, blamed the Covid-19 crisis for its inability to secure new investment.

OneWeb issued a statement saying it was laying off most of its staff while it seeks a buyer for the company.

The start-up recently launched the 74th satellite in a constellation planned to total at least 648 spacecraft.

The idea is that this network will provide high-bandwidth, low-latency internet connections to any point on Earth, bar Antarctica.

Rumours of a collapse had been swirling around OneWeb this past week. It had raised £2.6bn to implement its project but experts in the space industry speculated that double this sum would probably be needed to complete the system.

The statement released by OneWeb in the early hours of Saturday, London time, said the company had been close to obtaining financing but that, “the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of Covid-19”.

(16) NOT SO DIFFERENT. “Neanderthals ate sharks and dolphins”. “You know when he bites sharks with his teeth, babe…”

Neanderthals were eating fish, mussels and seals at a site in present-day Portugal, according to a new study.

The research adds to mounting evidence that our evolutionary relatives may have relied on the sea for food just as much as ancient modern humans.

For decades, the ability to gather food from the sea and from rivers was seen as something unique to our own species.

Scientists found evidence for an intensive reliance on seafood at a Neanderthal site in southern Portugal.

Neanderthals living between 106,000 and 86,000 years ago at the cave of Figueira Brava near Setubal were eating mussels, crab, fish – including sharks, eels and sea bream – seabirds, dolphins and seals.

The research team, led by Dr João Zilhão from the University of Barcelona, Spain, found that marine food made up about 50% of the diet of the Figueira Brava Neanderthals. The other half came from terrestrial animals, such as deer, goats, horses, aurochs (ancient wild cattle) and tortoises.

(17) THE NATIVES ARE RESTLESS. “East Antarctica’s glaciers are stirring”.

Nasa says it has detected the first signs of significant melting in a swathe of glaciers in East Antarctica.

The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent.

But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.

If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.

There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.

“That’s the water equivalent to four Greenlands of ice,” said Catherine Walker from Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/18/20 They Paved Alpha Ralpha Boulevard And Put Up A Parking Lot

(1) AREN’T THESE LOVELY? “Royal Mail: James Bond stamps released for new movie” – BBC has the story.

Some new stamps have been released by Royal Mail to mark the 25th, and latest, James Bond movie No Time To Die. They’ve all been inspired by the classic opening sequences and feature the six actors who’ve played 007

The Royal Mail is taking orders for the stamps and all kinds of cute Bond collectibles here. For example, the “James Bond Secret Dossier”, “A confidential dossier containing six missions linked to the Special Stamps.”

(2) JOHN SCALZI’S LAST (EMPEROX) TOUR. From coast to coast – and in the middle, too, John Scalzi will be promoting The Last Emperox. Find out when and where: “Tour Dates! Tour Dates! Tour Dates!”.

(3) BANDERSNATCH. Phillip Berry recommends “Surround Yourself With Resonators”. He learned it from a book —

…i recently finished a book called Bandernatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings that struck me with a surprising insight into peak performance. The book is about the creative collaboration among a group of exceptional English writers in the 1930’s and 1940’s and its amazing results. If you are a Tolkien or Lewis geek like me, you’ll love the book for its insights into the story behind the story of their writing. For purposes of today’s post, I want to focus on a particular concept introduced to me by author Diana Glyer: the resonator.

The resonator is “…anyone who acts as a friendly, interested, supportive audience … they show interest, give feedback, express praise, offer encouragement, contribute practical help, and promote the work to others. … they are enthusiastic about the project, they believe it is worth doing, and they are eager to see it brought to completion. But more importantly, they show interest in the writer — they express confidence in the writer’s talents and show faith in his or her ability to succeed. They understand what the writer is attempting. They catch the vision and then do all they can. Resonators help innovators to make the leap from where they are to where they need to be.”

Of course, right? How else would anyone get anything amazing accomplished? We like to talk a big collaboration game but few of us do it and fewer still are good at it. Peak performance in our world is the lone athlete doing the impossible. The brilliant scientist with a break through in the dark, lonely hours of the night. The deft surgeon making all of the right decisions, and incisions, in the OR. The inspired novelist typing away in insolation as she produces a story that touches everyone. We see our best coming in isolation and, like much of the rest of our lives, we approach our best life, best self, and best performance with a lottery ticket mentality: buy the ticket and hope for the best.

(4) A SIMPLE TEST YOU CAN DO AT HOME. Aidan Moher did the math and was stunned by the answer.

(5) WEIRD TALES COLLECTIBLES. Doug Ellis calls attention to the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction scheduled for April:

Weird Tales was Bob Weinberg’s favorite pulp and besides the pulp itself, he loved to collect ephemera related to it. Among the items that will be in the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction being held at the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (April 17-19, 2020 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center) are not only many issues of Weird Tales, but some related items as well. The auction will be held on the evening of Friday, April 17, 2020.

Bob collected many letters from Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright over the years, including several from the estate of author Greye la Spina. She was one of the pioneering female writers of horror and fantasy for the pulps.

(6) PICARD. Una McCormack is the author of The Last Best Hope, the first novel associated with the Star Trek: Picard television series. It embraces both a big idea and a big ideal: “The Big Idea: Una McCormack”.

…In Star Trek: Picard, we are presented with a future where the powers that be are no longer committed to these great ambitions. Starfleet, it seems, withdrew from the great challenge of its age, the humanitarian project to save the Romulan people from the effects of their sun going supernova, making a distinction between ‘lives’ and ‘Romulan lives’. We see a man whose values are no longer shared by the institutions to which he devoted his whole life, and who is struggling with this misalignment….

(7) DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. Writer Beware poses the question, “Should You Pay To Display Your Book At BookExpo? (Short Answer: No)”.

Solicitations Your May Encounter

1. You may already have received an email from the Combined Book Exhibit’s New Title Showcase. The CBE, an area of standing bookshelves outside the entrance to the BEA display floor, offers display packages for a few hundred dollars. For a few hundred more, you can buy an ad in its catalog; for many hundreds more, you can buy an autographing session.

Your book will be placed on a shelf with hundreds of others, in no particular order: there are no separate areas for genres, for instance. I’ve attended BEA many times, and the CBE is often completely deserted, with not a customer or a staff person in sight. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people browsing it at any one time. There is definitely no handselling involved.

A number of predatory marketing companies re-sell CBE services for enormous markups. The CBE is aware of this, and has posted a warning on its website (it’s no coincidence that all the companies named in the warning appear on the scam list in the sidebar of this blog).

(8) COYNE OBIT. The Rev. George V. Coyne, a Jesuit astrophysicist and the longtime director of the Vatican Observatory, who defended Galileo and Darwin against doctrinaire Roman Catholics, and also challenged atheists by insisting that science and religion could coexist, died on February 18 at the age of 87 The New York Times tribute is here.

…Recognized among astronomers for his research into the birth of stars and his studies of the lunar surface (an asteroid is named after him), Father Coyne was also well known for seeking to reconcile science and religion.

…Brother Guy Consolmagno, the current director of the Vatican Observatory, said in an email that Father Coyne “was notable for publicly engaging with a number of prominent and aggressive opponents of the church who wished to use science as a tool against religion.”

Among those he engaged on the debate stage and in print were Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and atheist, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who, in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2005, defended the concept that evolution could not have occurred without divine intervention.

During Father Coyne’s tenure, the Vatican publicly acknowledged that Galileo and Darwin might have been correct. Brother Consolmagno said it would be fair to say that Father Coyne had played a role in shifting the Vatican’s position….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in Galaxina, The Incredible Hulk, Jason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, Adult Fairytales, Clones, Dracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and he had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 91. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 66. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Given it is now generally considered one of the worst SF films ever, I do wonder what he thinks of it now. I can almost forgive him for it as he went on to become involved in Chicago which is one of the finest musicals ever filmed. 
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 52. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. 

(10) IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. In “Love and Loss in the Time of Swamp Monsters” on CrimeReads, Andy Davidson recalls his three favorite Swamp Thing stories, and explains Swamp Thing’s romantic problems because “it can’t be easy falling in love with a vegetable.”

From his first appearance in 1971 in DC’s House of Secrets #92, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing seemed doomed to be the monster lurking beyond the darkened pane.

By the time Swamp Thing #1 hit spinner racks a year later, Wein and Wrightson’s series had revamped and fleshed out the story of Dr. Alec Holland, a research scientist murdered, along with his wife, for his “bio-restorative formula.” Horribly burned in an explosion that destroys his lab, Holland flees into the swamp, where he succumbs to his injuries, only to be miraculously reborn from the bog, “a muck-encrusted, shambling mockery of life.”

(11) WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T PICK YOUR PARENTS? Takayuki Tatsumi, a Keio University English professor and an expert on cyberpunk who has been a frequent panelist at Worldcons, was interviewed by Elif Batuman in a piece that appeared in the April 30, 2018 New Yorker on the Japanese practice of “rental relatives,” where companies rent out actors who pretend to be a client’s spouse, children, or parents. “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry”

Rental relatives have inspired a substantial literary corpus.  In Tokyo, I met with the critic Takayuki Tatsumi, who, in the nineties, wrote a survey of the genre.  He explained that postmodern and queer novelists had used rental relatives to represent the ‘virtual family,’ an idea he traced back to the -ie- of the Meiji period, where adoption of family members was common and biological lineage was subordinated to the integrity of the household.  ‘According to Foucault, everything is constructed, not essentially determined,’ Tatsumi said.  ‘What matters is the function.’

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was perched in front of the TV tonight when all the contestants whiffled on this Jeopardy! answer:

Category: Speaking Volumes.

Answer: Here’s a revelation — it’s the seventh and “last” book in the Narnia series.

No one got, “What is ‘The Last Battle’?”

(13) MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Brad Torgersen recently was a convention GoH. Guess which of his good friends praised the choice in these terms:

The very best part of Brad being GoH however was that it caused several of the Shrieking Harpies of Tolerance to throw a temper tantrum and declare that they were going to boycott the event (and they did, yet absolutely nobody missed them). Upon hearing that I asked if they could make Brad emeritus GoH every year forever, because that’s like putting a tick collar on a dog.

To think he used to be the Sad Puppies’ lead dog. Now he’s just the collar.

(14) MISSED MANNERS. The Genre Traveler calls your attention to “10 Things Not to Do at a Science Fiction Convention”. Uh, yeah?

6. Take flirtation too seriously.

Con-goers flirt a lot, it is part of the fun of the event … and is really meant to be light-hearted, not a promise of a serious relationship.

5. Point and stare at people in costume…

…even if you’re one of them. It may look exotic and strange to you, but for a con, costumes are quite common at science fiction conventions. That said, if you like someone’s costume, you can always compliment. Just be sure it is a costume…

(15) PRACTICING? In the Washington Post, Rick Noack and Stefano Petrilli discuss how the spread of the corona virus has increased interest in plague-related video games, with “Plague Inc.” and “Pandemic” racking up sales around the world. “Virus games are going viral as the coronavirus spreads”.

The popularity of games centered on the proliferation of pathogens has surged in recent weeks.

As officials and experts worked to stem the global spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has left more than 1,500 people dead, gamers have turned their attention to parallel, imaginary struggles.Foremost among them: Plague Inc., a strategy game that rose to the top of Apple Store charts in China, the United States, and elsewhere as coronavirus fears mounted. First released by U.K.-based studio Ndemic Creations in 2012, the game, of which there are a handful of variants, asks players to take the part of a pathogen, helping it evolve to wipe out humanity.

The popularity of such games makes sense amid efforts to cope with the coronavirus and the fears it has sown, researchers and game developers said.

(16) EX-TERMINATE! Fabrice Mathieu’s new mashup is Terminators:

Several T-800 are sent back in time by Skynet. But their mission is scrambled. And now they are all targeting each other!

(17) DEM BONES. In Iraq, “Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade”.

Researchers have described the first “articulated” remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.

An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.

The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.

Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.

During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.

This “flower burial” captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view – prevalent at the time – that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.

(18) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dans La Nuit” by Agathe Simoulin on Vimeo is a creepy story about ghosts in a graveyard adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant.

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