Pixel Scroll 5/14/22 Scroll Me A Pixel I’ll Be Back For Breakfast

(1) BRAM STOKER LOSERS UNITE. Scott Edelman has famously lost many Bram Stoker Awards – and he has the card to prove it. He invites tonight’s unlucky nominees to become card-carrying members of this group.  

Tonight’s Bram Stoker awards ceremony means — there will be winners — but also losers. If any of the new Never Winner losers created tonight would like this Susan Lucci of the HWA to mail you one of my “It is an honor to be nominated” cards — ask, and one will be sent your way!

However — if you’re a previous Never Winner in Denver tonight who already owns of one of these cards and should lose yet again — please track down Lee Murray, whom I have deputized to punch you a new hole. Good … luck?

(2) LIVE LONG ENOUGH, YOU’LL PROSPER. Somtow Sucharitkul tells Facebook readers why a recent Star Trek episode rang a bell. BEWARE SPOILERS.

SPOILER COMING – But For What Exactly?

The Enterprise discovers that a comet is hurtling toward a planet that doesn’t have warp drive and whose civilization they cannot interfere with because of the prime directive. Presently, they discover that the comet is alive, and has some kind of intelligence. The only way to save the planet is to find a way to communicate with the comet, and it turns out that the key is to sing to it a folk song from someone’s homeworld….

Yes, this is the plot of the new episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, but it’s also the plot of my 2001 Star Trek Novel, “Do Comets Dream?” which is itself vaguely adapted from a tale told in my Inquestor series, “The Comet That Cried for Its Mother”, originally published in AMAZING….

(3) IT’S A MASSACRE. “Everything on Broadcast TV Just Got Canceled” Vanity Fair declared yesterday. It will feel like that if you watched sff on CW.

In the ever-changing television landscape, this past Thursday was a particularly tough time to be a broadcast television show. Per TV Guide, 17 broadcast television shows were officially given the axe by their respective networks yesterday. “It’s the Red Wedding at WBTV/CW today,” tweeted showrunner Julie Plec, whose CW shows Legacies and Roswell, New Mexico were both among the carnage. “Much more to say, but not today. Loads of gratitude coming for fans and cast and crew in future tweets. But today, we mourn.” 

The CW was hit particularly hard, with nine shows getting chopped in all. Along with Legacies and Roswell, New Mexico, the teen-focused network said goodbye to Dynasty after five seasons, In The Dark after four seasons, and Batwoman after three seasons. The network is currently up for sale, which may explain why it was particularly ruthless with its cancellations and downsizing its slate from 19 original scripted series to 11 original scripted series ahead of next fall….

(4) WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE? James Wallace Harris reprints and analyzes Alfred Bester’s vintage analysis of the genre in “Blows Against The Empire: Alfred Bester’s 1953 Critique of Science Fiction” at Classics of Science Fiction (a 2020 post).

…Bester is looking back over what many have called the Golden Age of Science Fiction and burning it down with his blaster. I wish I could find the fan reaction to this essay from back in the 1950s, but Google only returns seven results. And for those who aren’t familiar with the name Alfred Bester, he wrote two books in the 1950s that became classics: The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man. At the time Bester had a reputation for being a writing stylist and innovator. So getting a dressing down from one of our own must have been painful.

I wonder what I would have thought if I read and understood this essay in 1962 when I first began reading science fiction. Science fiction wasn’t popular then like it is today. Science fiction was one step up from comic books, and you were called retarded (their word back then) by your peers if you read comics. I remembered also being called a geek and zero for reading SF. Back then those terms were the social kiss of death. I had two buddies that read science fiction in high school and I remember being very hurt by George’s mother when she sat is down one day and gave us a serious talk about evils of reading science fiction. George’s mother was a sophisticated, well-educated, widely traveled woman, and I was always impressed with her thoughts, so it really hurt when she tried to convince us we were reading trash. She implied reading SF was a sign we were emotionally and intellectually immature. We thought we were Slans…

(5) OPPOSING BOOK BANS. “More than 25 Organizations Join ALA’s ‘Unite Against Book Bans’ Campaign”. Among them are the Authors Guild and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The American Library Association this week announced that more than 25 major organizations, including a host of publishers and author and bookseller groups, have joined its Unite Against Book Bans campaign, an effort to help communities defend the freedom to read. The ALA launched the campaign in April to raise awareness about the surge in book bans and other legislation targeting the work of schools and libraries, with support from the Steve and Loree Potash Family Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

“Our partners and supporters are critical in moving the needle to ultimately bring an end to book bans,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “It’s time that policymakers understand the severity of this issue. ALA is taking the steps necessary to protect individuals’ access to information, but we can’t do this alone.”…

“Three-quarters of the 1,100 plus books currently banned in public schools in the United States have been written by authors of color, LGBTQ authors, or other traditionally marginalized voices,” said Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger, in a statement.

(6) NAMING CONVENTIONS. He has a point –

(7) PERSONAL TAXONOMY. Joe Vasicek, often quoted here in the Sad Puppy days of 2015, shares what he calls “an interesting personal discovery” at One Thousand And One Parsecs.

…I just made a very interesting personal discovery, gleaned from the data on my reading of the Hugo and Nebula winning books. Of the 110 novels that have won either award, I have now read all but 16 of them, which is enough data to get some representative results.

One of the best predictors that I will DNF a book is whether the author is a childless woman. Of the 18 books written by childless women, I have DNFed all but three of them (Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh, which I read years ago and would probably DNF today, and Network Effect by Martha Wells, which is a genuinely entertaining read, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke, which I haven’t read yet). For childless men, it’s a little bit more of a crapshoot: of the 31 books written by childless men, I’ve DNFed 16 of them and read 11, but only 6 of those are books I thought were worth owning.

Conversely, one of the best predictors that I will enjoy a book is whether the author is a mother. Of the 20 books written by mothers, I have DNFed only 6 of them and read 8, all of which I think are worth owning. Of the six remaining books that I haven’t read yet, I will almost certainly finish four of them, and may finish all six. The only book by an author I haven’t already read and enjoyed is The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, which I am currently reading and will probably finish next week…

(8) LIGHT MY FIRE. “Firestarter (2022) vs. Firestarter (1984): Which Stephen King adaptation burns brightest?” – Clark Collis supplies his answer at Entertainment Weekly. The summaries of each film make good reading, too.

… The 1984 film stars Barrymore as Charlie McGee, a young girl with pyrokinetic powers who is fleeing from a sinister government organization called “The Shop” with her father Andy, played by David Keith. Andy has been training Charlie to use her powers properly by getting her to turn bread into toast with her mind but it is the unfortunate Shop agents who get browned as Barrymore’s character periodically sets them ablaze. The supporting cast is notable for a few reasons. Oscar-winners Art Carney and Louise Fletcher play a couple who befriend Charlie and Andy, while Martin Sheen portrays the head of the Shop just a year after his performance in David Cronenberg’s adaptation of King’s The Dead Zone. Finally, another Academy Award-winner, George C. Scott, is inexplicably cast as the seemingly First Nation assassin John Rainbird, who has a fondness for punching his targets’ noses into their brains and an unhealthy interest in our heroine…

(9) TOM SWIFT. Edge Media Network supplies an intro as “First Trailer Drops for New CW Series ‘Tom Swift’ Featuring a Black Gay Lead Character”.

…”Tian Richards already made his debut as Tom Swift on one of the best episodes of ‘Nancy Drew’ yet, but get ready to see him in a whole new light on his own show,” EW said.

As previously reported at EDGE, being gay was a prominent part of the character’s depiction when he made a guest appearance on “Nancy Drew.” Sparks flew between Tom Swift and “Nancy Drew” regular character Nick (Tunji Kasim), leading to an onscreen kiss….

(10) WHEN I USE A WORD. At Tor.com, CD Covington’s series on sff linguistics finally tackles the 500-lb gorilla: “On Tolkien, Translation, Linguistics, and the Languages of Middle-earth”.

Since I started this column in 2019, I’ve been avoiding one famous—possibly even the most famous—example of using linguistics in SFF literature: the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s not because I don’t like Lord of the Rings—quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just such an obvious topic, and one which people have devoted decades of scholarship to exploring. Hell, my Old English prof has published academic scholarship on the topic, in addition to teaching a Maymester class on the languages of Middle-earth. But I suppose it’s time to dedicate a column to the book that first made me think language was cool and to the man who wrote it.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2010 [By Cat Eldridge.] I’m starting this essay by acknowledging that everyone has their favorite Robin Hood. My all-time favorite is the one in the Robin of Sherwood series, Robin of Loxley as played by Michael Praed. And yes, I acknowledge that the second Robin, Robert of Huntingdon as performed by Jason Connery was quite excellent too. Richard Carpenter did himself proud with this series. 

But I’m here tonight to talk about one of my favorite Robin Hood films (the other being Robin and Marian.) Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood premiered in the States on this date twelve years ago. It was written by Brian Helgeland who had done mostly horror films before this but was also the screenwriter of the beloved A Knight’s Tale. He along with Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris were responsible for the story.

It was produced by Ridley Scott, Brian Grazer and Russell Crowe. Yes the actor who played Robin Hood here helped produce it. So let’s turn to casting. 

I think Crowe made an outstanding Robin Longstride and Cate Blanchett as Marion Loxley was a great casting move. Other interesting casting here includes Max von Sydow as Sir Walter Loxley and William Hurt as William Marshal. This was not a cast of unknowns. I thought Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham was interesting as the actor usually had much lighter roles. Mark Addy as Friar Tuck was well cast. 

It was a very expensive undertaking costing at least two hundred million and it took in least three hundred and twenty-five million, so it likely just broke even.

And what was the opinion of critics at the time? Well it was decidedly mixed with Deborah Ross of UK’s Spectator on the side of the dissenters: “Scott decided, I think, to get away from the whole campy thing in tights business and wanted to make this ‘real’. So there is sweat and dirt and rats at the cheese and even bad teeth, which is fair enough, but it is also joyless.” 

But Richard Klein of Shadows on the Wall liked it: “Ridley Scott and his usual Oscar-winning crewmates turn the familiar old English legend it into a robust, thumping epic. The pacing is a bit uneven, but it keeps us thoroughly engaged.”

Let’s finish off with Jeffrey Westhoff of the Northwest Herald:  “Robin Hood doesn’t become the swashbuckling bandit of Sherwood until the final moments, when the tag “And so the legend begins” appears. You may walk away liking this Robin Hood well enough, but wishing you had seen the sequel.” 

It gets just a fifty eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 14, 1929 Kay Elliot. The actress who shows up in “I, Mudd” as the android form of Harry Mudd’s wife Stella Mudd. SPOILER ALERT (I promised our OGH I’d put these in. It’s possible someone here hasn’t seen “I, Mudd”.) Need I say she ends getting the upper hand in the end? She also had appearences in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as Miss Prendergast in “The It’s All Greek to Me Affair” episode and multiple roles on Bewitched. That’s it, but she died young. (Died 1982.)
  • Born May 14, 1933 Siân Phillips, 89. Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in David Lynch’s Dune, Cassiopeia in Clash of The Titans, Grandmother in A Christmas Carol, Charal in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, and The Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass. And I’m about to see her on Silent Witness.
  • Born May 14, 1935 Peter J. Reed. A Vonnegut specialist with a long track history starting with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; The Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays that he wrote with Marc Leeds; Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations again with Leeds again. He also wrote a handful of essays such as “Hurting ’til It Laughs: The Painful-Comic Science Fiction Stories of Kurt Vonnegut” and “Kurt Vonnegut’s Bitter Fool: Kilgore Trout”. (Died 2018.)
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 78. For better and worse, he created the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine, the others suck royally in my opinion. Later Star Wars films are meh though I adore the original trilogy. And let’s not forget THX 1138. So you ask, what are my favorite works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Yes Willow. Oh, and The Young Indiana Jones series which I really, really loved. 
  • Born May 14, 1945 Francesca Annis, 77. Lady Jessica in David Lynch’s Dune, Lady Macbeth in Roman Polanski’s Macbeth. I know only two roles, but what a pair of roles they were! She also appeared in Krull as The Widow of The Web but I’ll be damned if I can remember her in that role. 
  • Born May 14, 1952 Kathleen Ann Goonan. Her Nanotech Quartet is most excellent, particularly the first novel, Queen City Jazz. Her only Award was given for In War Times which garnered a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. She’s wrote an interesting essay on the relationship between sf and music, “Science Fiction and All That Jazz”. (Died 2021.)
  • Born May 14, 1952 Robert Zemeckis, 70. He’s responsible for some of my favorite films including the Back to the Future trilogy, The Muppet Christmas CarolThe WitchesWho Framed Roger Rabbit and the savagely funny in a twisted sort of way Death Becomes Her. So what’s your favorite films that’s he had a hand in? 
  • Born May 14, 1955 Rob Tapert, 67. I’d say he’s best known for co-creating Xena: Warrior Princess. He also produced and/or wrote several other television series including Hercules: The Legendary JourneysM.A.N.T.I.S. and American Gothic. Tapert also co-created the prequel series Young Hercules which I loved. He’s married to actress Lucy Lawless.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Let Nick Mamatas introduce Tom Gauld’s strip for today’s Guardian.
  • Next, here’s Gauld’s latest comic for New Scientist.

(14) CLUES OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Keith Roysdon remembers newspaper crime comic strips (remember Steve Roper and Mike Nomad?) “Black and White and Noir All Over: A Brief History of Vintage Newspaper Crime Comic Strips” at CrimeReads.

Who could have known that newspaper comic strips and crime stories, including noir, were a match made in heaven?

Newspaper comic strips are an artistic genre that’s largely forgotten now. The strips that remain are for the most part humor strips like “Garfield.” A handful of dramatic strips are still published.

But serial dramatic strips were once a staple of the newspaper comics page. Many of them were soap opera-ish strips like “Mary Worth” and “Apartment 3-G.” To say that drama strips were slow moving is an understatement. I wish I could remember who joked that they came back to read “Apartment 3-G” after decades away and the caption read, “Later that afternoon …”

But that deliberate pace – well, maybe not quite that deliberate – was perfect for teasing out a good crime storyline. And crime and noir look awesome in black and white newsprint.

(15) MUSIC WITHOUT THE SPHERES. “Peace is Still Weirder Than War” asserts Laurie Penny in a very entertaining essay about Eurovision. Admittedly, nothing to do with sff except a brief reference to Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera at the end.

…Britain is a lot worse at Eurovision than you’d think. We’ve spent half a century distracting the world from our post imperial decline by flinging out wild handfuls of pop music and self deprecating humour, so we really ought to be able to deploy them here. Sadly, we’re scuppered every time by our even more fundamental fear of looking daft in front of the French.

We’ve made worse choices for the same reason.

But reasons are not excuses, and the land of Monty Python, David Bowie and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band should be able to do better than another basic bearded guitar boy. We do have the best tv commentary by miles, after Graham Norton seamlessly accepted the baton from the great Terry Wogan, proving once again that Britain’s comfort zone is making fun of other people.  Yes. Hi.

…For related reasons, Ukraine are likely to win this year. Russia can sulk all they like, just like they did when Ukraine stood down from Eurovision in 2015with the reasonable excuse that they were busy being invaded by Russia. in 2016, Ukraine was back, and it won, narrowly beating Russia, whose entry looked like someone repurposed a rave club as a re-education camp without redecorating. Not only did Ukraine win, it won with a song called ‘1944’, about the Soviet genocide of the Crimean Tartars. Russia has not forgotten this. State Television spent a long time denouncing Eurovision as a degenerate spectacle of homosexuality, which did as much good as denouncing bears for defecating in the woods.

But Russia has never really been any good at Eurovision. This year they’re not even going, partly because the Kremlin has no interest in any competition it can’t cheat at, but mostly because they got banned. It’s hard to get banned from Eurovision, but invading a neighboring country and massacring tens of thousands of people will do the trick….

(16) STOP, NOW, WHAT’S THAT SOUND? ScreenRant suggests “10 ‘Subtly’ Scary Horror Movies (For Horror Fans Sick Of Jump Scares)”. A Bradbury adaptation leads the list!

Sometimes the unknown or the unnatural can be much more terrifying than any masked slasher with a chainsaw.

….It’s not so much that these films rely on someone hiding in the shadows and yelling boo, but rather the audience knows something is wrong but can’t identify what. While jump scares and other such tactics might be sparsely employed, the real horror in these movies comes from both knowing and not knowing what might be in store.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Sometimes, the scariest movies are the ones where nobody dies, and Disney’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is a brilliant example. Based on the book by Ray Bradbury, the film tells the story of what happens when a mysterious carnival lurks into town one windy October.

Led by the mysterious Mr. Dark, Cooger and Dark’s Shadow Show has the uncanny ability to grant anyone’s wishes and make their dreams come true. But like with most things Disney, all magic comes at a price. When two boys and the local librarian are able to see through the illusions, a slow-burning battle with the freakshow for the souls of the town takes place.

(17) THE HUNDREDTH SHADE. Paul Weimer reviews “Gregory A. Wilson’s Grayshade” at A Green Man Review.

… We meet Grayshade in the midst of an assassination that doesn’t go quite to plan, and a relatively atypical assassination target at that – the outwardly flighty socialite wife of a political powerful man, which in itself seems odd to Grayshade. We come to Grayshade at a point in his career where he is extremely experienced and very good at what he does. This is no “coming of age” novel where we follow the assassin through his first mission; rather this is someone who has past adventures and missions behind him, which grounds him for when things do not go according to his expectations. Things spiral out from the assassination not going right, to the point where Grayshade starts to question his purpose, his role, and the entire Order.

This makes a lot of the novel about information control and dissemination, which in turn reminds me of Wilson’s gamemastering….

(18) BAD BACK TO THE FUTURE. At Galactic Journey, Jessica Holmes gives us an recap of the latest (in 1967!) episode of Doctor Who. “[May 14, 1967] Ben And Polly To The Departure Gate (Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones [Part 2])”.

…We left things off with the Doctor having a sudden attack of a bad back, and things only get worse, with Spencer disabling Jamie and Samantha within moments of the episode’s opening.

Now would be a good time to finish them off, you’d think, but instead he sets up some sort of death ray to kill them… eventually. The thing moves so slowly the trio would probably have time for a round of golf before the ray fries them. Though mostly paralysed, Samantha conveniently has enough control of her faculties to get her mirror from her bag and hand it to Jamie, who uses it to reflect the beam and blow up the death ray machine.

With the machine destroyed, their partial paralysis wears off, which doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me. I thought it was the freezing pen that paralysed them? And I’m still not sure what that device on the Doctor’s back did to him…

(19) AND YOU ARE THERE. This fossil is in a way a snapshot: “How the dinosaurs died: New evidence In PBS documentary” – the Washington Post digs into the story.

…The ground started shaking with intense vibrations while water in the nearby sea sloshed about in response. The sky filled with burning embers, which drifted down and set fire to the lush primordial forest.

Thescelosaurus panicked and looked to flee — but it was too late. Everything changed in a heartbeat as a 30-foot-high wave of mud and debris came racing up the seaway from the south, sweeping away life and limb in the process. The dinosaur was caught in the destructive deluge, its leg ripped off at the hip by the devastating surge.

That moment — 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, when an earth-shattering asteroid ended the reign of the dinosaurs — is frozen in time today through a stunning fossil found last year at the Tanis dig site in North Dakota. This perfectly preserved leg clearly shows the skin, muscle and bones of the three-toed Thescelosaurus.

While the details of the death scenario described above are embellished, they’re based on remarkable new findings and accounts by Robert DePalma, lead paleontologist at Tanis.

“We’re never going to say with 100 percent certainty that this leg came from an animal that died on that day,” the scientist said. “The thing we can do is determine the likelihood that it died the day the meteor struck. When we look at the preservation of the leg and the skin around the articulated bones, we’re talking on the day of impact or right before. There was no advanced decay.”…

(20) DRAWN WITHOUT DRAWERS. CBR.com remembers: “Star Wars: Why George Lucas Had to Fight for Chewbacca Not to Wear Shorts”.

…So he wanted McQuarrie to go beyond humanoid and try to do more of an animal design for Chewbacca. Lucas’ recall led him to a recent issue of Analog Magazine, which had a short novel in it by a pre-Game of Thrones George R.R. Martin called “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Artist John Schoenherr had designed some characters for Martin’s story and they made it to the cover of the magazine…

Lucas sent the drawings to McQuarrie and basically said, “Draw Chewbacca like that” and so that’s what McQuarrie did…

The problem with having basically a giant dog as a character is that dogs, well, you know, don’t have pants. McQuarrie kept coming up with some designs with the character in pants and Lucas kept saying no and that carried over to when the film started production. Lucas’ specific vision of what Chewbacca would look like required him to not have pants and that was a bit of a strange thing for the studio executives at the time.

During the DVD commentary for the 2004 release of Star Wars on DVD, Mark Hamill recalled what Lucas had to go through with regard to Chewbacca’s lack of clothes. “I remember the memos from 20th Century Fox. Can you put a pair of lederhosen on the Wookiee?’ All they could think of was, ‘This character has no pants on!’ This went back and forth. They did sketches of him in culottes and baggy shorts.”…

(21) BEING SNARKY. Would Lewis Carroll readers with an unassigned two hours or so available be interested in the opportunity to watch this complete production? “The Hunting of the Snark” posted by Official London Theatre.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/9/21 She Walks These Files In A Long, Black Scroll

(1) THE INSIDE STORY. Slashfilm boasts an exclusive preview: “The History Of Science Fiction Traces The Genre In Comic Book Form”.

“The History of Science Fiction,” a forthcoming illustrated book written by author/historian Xavier Dollo (“Under the Shadow of the Stars”) with illustrations by Djibril Morissette-Phan (“All-New Wolverine”), aims to be a comprehensive look at the origins of the now-beloved genre, and we have a few preview pages to exclusively debut for you. Here’s a glimpse at what you’ll see in the new book when it hits stores later this month.

… Here’s the eleventh page of the book, which touches on the massive influence Arthur C. Clarke had on the genre – and subsequently, the real world.

Got to love that exchange – did you know as a young fan Arthur C. Clarke’s nickname was “Ego”?

(2) A STROKE OF (DRAGON) GENIUS. [Item by Soon Lee.] Painting dragons in one stroke? Impossible you say? Okay, how about painting the body of a dragon in one stroke?

Ippitsu Ryu or Hitofude Ryu is the Japanese technique of painting dragons in one-stroke. It’s mesmerizing to watch. And the paintings are supposed to bring good luck too. “The Traditional Japanese Art ‘Hitofude-Ryu’” at Cool Japan Videos.

(3) SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE. Omar El Akkad has won the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his non-genre novel What Strange Paradise. The win is noted here because El Akkad’s first novel was sff, American War.

He’ll receive $100,000 for the win. Four other shortlisted writers will receive $10,000, including Angélique Lalonde, whose story collection Glorious Frazzled Beings is of genre interest.

(4) SLF RECEIVES GRANT. The Speculative Literature Foundation has received a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. SLF’s press release explained:

IACA General Operating Support Grants are offered to established not-for-profit organizations that make a significant local, regional, or statewide impact on the quality of life in Illinois. Grants recognize arts programming of high quality that is appropriate to and reflective of the communities served and that broaden opportunities for the public to participate in the arts. The $2,500 grant will allow the SLF to revitalize and expand to meet the needs of the speculative literature field in 2022.

The main objective of the SLF is to continue to grow newly established programs while maintaining our previous resources. We launched the Portolan Project in 2020, an online educational resource for writers that offers free, accessible content for people all over the world. Its first iteration includes interviews with authors at various points in their careers, discussing the art and business of craft as well as making connections within the speculative literature community

(5) THEY BROKE IT. SFF author Nick Mamatas also has “An Appreciation of Genre-Breaking Mysteries” which he shares at CrimeReads. There’s even a Philip K. Dick novel lurking on his list.

… Crime fiction is far more capacious than people who don’t read the genre give it credit for. The field of play is so wide that it is difficult to transcend the genre, but it is possible to break it. A relative handful of exciting books are mysteries, are entirely in sync with the protocols of the genre and, and then at some point all of it falls away and the book is something else. Of course, the book doesn’t become something other than a mystery or crime novel—the third act of any book exists before the reader gets to it—it is that the writer broke the tropes of mystery, and created something that feels very familiar until a page turns and then it isn’t.  Here are just a few examples….

(6) A VIEW OF SF IN CHINA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 6 Financial Times behind a paywall, Madhamita Murgia has an interview with Chen Qiufan.

Chen, who has worked in the marketing teams of Chinese search giant Baidu and Google, says the Chinese government has started promoting science fiction as a tool to popularise science and technology among youth, an idea borrowed from the former Soviet Union.

‘In recent years, China is undergoing a transition; we used to be a country with a lot of low-cost labour, old-fashioned manufacturing, but (now) the government is trying to catch up on chips and AI and material science and quantum computing,’ Chen says.  Science fiction has become a way to ‘educate the younger generation and ignite their passion’ for these fields.

(7) GRANDMASTER’S LATEST BOOK. Just named as the 2021 SFWA Grandmaster, Mercedes Lackey has a new fantasy novel out – Briarheart – “a fresh feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty about one girl destined for greatness—and the powerful sister ready to protect her by any means necessary.”

Miriam may be the daughter of Queen Alethia of Tirendell, but she’s not a princess. She’s the child of Alethia and her previous husband, the King’s Champion, who died fighting for the king, and she has no ambitions to rule. When her new baby sister Aurora, heir to the throne, is born, she’s ecstatic. She adores the baby, who seems perfect in every way. But on the day of Aurora’s christening, an uninvited Dark Fae arrives, prepared to curse her, and Miriam discovers she possesses impossible power.

Soon, Miriam is charged with being trained in both magic and combat to act as chief protector to her sister. But shadowy threats are moving closer and closer to their kingdom, and Miriam’s dark power may not be enough to save everyone she loves, let alone herself.

Available on Kindle from Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

(8) DEAN STOCKWELL OBIT. Actor Dean Stockwell, whose over 200 career credits include a couple dozen sff roles, died November 7 at the age of 85 reports Variety.

He was Quantum Leap’s, Admiral ‘Al’ Calavicci, the “womanizing, larger than life character [who] was the foil for Scott Bakula’s role as Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who engaged in space time experiments.” The show debuted in 1989 and ran five seasons. Stockwell’s performance earned four Primetime Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe win (1990).

Dean Stockwell started as a child actor, in films including the Rudyard Kipling adaptation Kim (1950). As an adult he had a dual role in a 1961 episode of Twilight Zone, “A Quality of Mercy,” in which he “starred an American officer ordered to lead a charge against the Japanese but is then transported back in time and transformed into a Japanese officer in an analogous situation, ultimately gaining a perspective he hadn’t had before.”

He starred in the Roger Corman-produced Lovecraftian horror film The Dunwich Horror (and also appeared in the 2009 TV remake). In David Lynch’s Dune (1984) he played the treacherous Dr. Yueh. In the new Battlestar Galactica (2006-09) he was the Cylon known as Number One or John Cavil.

He was an Oscar nominee for a non-genre supporting role in the 1988 comedy Married to the Mob. Stockwell was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 1992.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966 — Fifty-five years ago, Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs premiered. It was considered a sequel for reasons I can’t figure out to two unrelated films, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and Two Mafiosi Against Goldginger. It was actually paid for and produced with both Italian and American backing so it also has the charming name of Le spie vengono dal semifreddo, lit (The spies who came in from the cool).  It is getting a write-up here because it starred Vincent Price in the dual roles of Dr. Goldfoot and General Willis. And he’s oh-so-genre. 

The production itself was somewhat difficult as the filming had to satisfy both the American and Italian backers, so scenes had to shot in both countries, and it was required they emphasize brunettes in the Italian version of the film and blondes in the American version. Price had but a minor role In the Italian version, but was the star in the American version. He later said that the film was “the most dreadful movie I’ve ever been in. Just about everything that could go wrong, did.” 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1924 Larry T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited Nebula, Infinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. His award at L.A. Con II cited him as “One of the early unsung editors in the field”. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1938 Carol Carr. Fan and writer of note. Her participation in the so-called secret APA Lilapa and articles in the InnuendoLighthouse and Trap Door fanzines is notable. She wrote a handful of genre fiction, collected in Carol Carr: The Collected Writings. Mike has an obit here (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 9, 1947 Robert David Hall, 74. Best known as coroner Dr. Albert Robbins M.D. on CSI, but he has quite as few genre credits. He voiced Dinky Little in the animated Here Come the Littles, both the film and the series, the cyborg Recruiting Sargent in Starship Troopers,  voice of Colonel Sharp in the G.I. Joe series, Abraham in The Gene Generation, a biopunk film, and numerous voice roles in myriad DCU animated series. He was the voice of Colonel Sharp in the G.I. Joe series, Abraham in The Gene Generation, a biopunk film, and numerous voice roles in myriad DCU animated series. Interesting note: in Starship Troopers he has no right arm, but in real life he lost both of his legs at age thirty-one when they had to be amputated as a result of an accident in which an 18-wheeler truck crushed his car.  
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 67. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. He was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, last updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1971 Jamie Bishop. The son of Michael Bishop, he was among those killed in the Virginia Tech shooting. He did the cover illustrations for a number of genre undertakings including Subterranean Online, Winter 2008 and Aberrant Dreams, #9 Autumn 2006. The annual “Jamie Bishop Memorial Award for an Essay Not in English” was established as a memorial by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 9, 1974 Ian Hallard, 47. He lives with his husband, the actor and screenwriter Mark Gatiss, in London. He appeared as Alan-a-Dale in Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”, and in Sherlock as Mr Crayhill in “The Reichenbach Fall”.  He played Richard Martin, one of the original directors of Doctor Who in An Adventure in Space and Time. Genre adjacent, he co-wrote “The Big Four” with his husband for Agatha Christie: Poirot
  • Born November 9, 1988 Tahereh Mafi, 33. Iranian-American whose Furthermore is a YA novel about a pale girl living in a world of both color and magic of which she has neither; I highly recommend it. Whichwood is a companion novel to this work. She also has a young adult dystopian thriller series. 
  • Born November 9, 1989 Alix E Harrow, 32. May I note that her short story with one of the coolest titles ever, “Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, won a Hugo at Dublin 2019. Well I will. And of course her latest novel, The Once and Future Witches, has a equally cool title. It won the BFA Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio knows one product this particular home owner definitely doesn’t want.

(12) HISTORY OF BEANO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Arwa Haider discusses an exhibit at Somerset House in London on The Beano, a comic book which has been published weekly in Britain since 1938.

The Beano was never pitched as explicitly political, though exceptions were made during the second world war, when strips would feature fascists being outwitted by kid characters including Pansy Potter, the Strongman’s Daughter. Pansy, introduced in issue 21, also heralded The Beano‘s strong and increasingly diverse tradition of female rebels, any of whom are now likely to be cover stars:  Minnie the Minx, created by Leo Baxendale in 1951 and currently drawn by the comic’s first regular female artist, Laura Howell, and relative newcomers such as sporty JJ, tech whizz and wheelchair user Rubi, and prank supremo Harsha Chandra.

As the exhibition highlights, The Beano has always made subversive digs at social inequalities.  The characters ‘ traditional reward of a ‘slap-up feed’ reflected the postwar scarcity of food (sweets were rationed in Britain until 1953).  Nowadays, the Bash Street Kids’ rival group is Posh Street (which includes one snorting, mop-haired character called Boris) and Dennis’s longtime adversary, Walter, is no longer a ‘softie’ but the bullish son of Beanotown’s rich mayor.  The ‘good guys’ are everyday kids rather than superheroes.

(13) GOING GREEN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In addition to being available as a physical book to buy (or request/borrow from one’s public library), N.K.Jemisin’s 12-issue Far Sector Green Lantern series is e-available (e-vailable?), in particular, on Hoopla (includes a dozen or so pages at the end of variant covers, art sketches, etc.) [See James Bacon’s interview of N.K. Jemisin about her work on the comic, posted today.]

Hoopla is free — you just need to have a library card from a library that offers Hoopla as (one of its) digital services. (If your library doesn’t, you may be able to also get a card at one that does.)

Far Sector is also nearly-all available via DC’s streaming subscription service (1-11 are up now, so #12 hopefully Real Soon Now.)

Note, Jemisin’s Sojourner “Jo” Mullein also appears in DC’s new Green Lantern series, also including Teen Lantern Keli Quintela (first seen in Brian Bendis’ Young Justice run over the past year or so.

(14) BLAME JULIE SCHWARTZ? “DC Comics Used To Add Gorillas To Their Covers To Increase Sales”. We’re not kidding  – ScreenRant has the details.

… If there was an editor who became prolific for gimmicks, it was Julius Schwartz, and the gimmick of Strange Adventures #8 from May 1951 would prove to be one of the most successful and often used gimmicks in comic history. Strange Adventures (which was rebooted for DC’s Black Label in 2020) was originally edited by Schwartz, and the eighth issue featured a cover by Win Mortimer for the story “Evolution Plus: The Incredible Story of an Ape with a Human Brain!” which featured an ape in a cage holding a note claiming to be the victim of a “terrible scientific experiment.” This issue quickly became one of the highest selling issues of Strange Adventures to date….

(15) EARWORMS AND OTHERS. “Re-Ragging in Red: Murder Ballads and Dirty Cops” is Candas Jane Dorsey’s exploration of song lyrics at CrimeReads.

…[This] happened when a folklorist friend asked online what our favorite murder ballads were, and I realized that I knew SO MANY MURDER BALLADS REALLY SO MANY!

…But for some reason “King Brady” infested, earworm-style, for a whole week. One day when I should have been writing, I upped-fluffy-tail and dived down the Internet rabbit hole—and am still chasing phantasms down little twisty corridors.

*

I started with the lyrics. Everyone who has researched song lyrics online knows that they are full of errors. People write them down as they imperfectly heard them, then other people cut and paste, and suddenly the “canon” version of a ballad has a great big malapropism right in the middle of it, creating a cascading generation error that upsets purists and detail freaks, but also means that all over the world, people are singing the wrong lyrics to a lot of folk songs. Which is pretty hard to do when the prevailing wisdom of folklorists is that there are no wrong lyrics, there are just variations, but thanks to the magic of the Internet, it’s now possible.

But never mind that now. We’re at “Brady, Brady, Brady don’t you know you done wrong…”, which is how I learned the song, almost 60 years ago when I was a kid….

(16) RINGS MORE THAN A BELL. [Item by Rob Thornton.] I found a Black Metal band named VORGA and that name sounded very familiar, of course. So I looked at the track list and found a song named “Stars My Destination.” It’s from their album Striving Toward Oblivion which will be released in January.

(17) TWO CHAIRS TALKING. In the latest episode of their Two Chairs Talking podcast, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss discuss a number of recent award winners and take the Hugo Time Machine zooming back to the year of 1967, the year Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress won the Best Novel Award.

(18) SOLD! In case you want to know, Screen Rant says “Captain Kirk’s Phaser Rifle Used In One Episode Sells For $615k” through Heritage Auctions.

The Phaser Rifle was used in the second pilot episode, entitled “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which effectively launched the show as fans know it. And, because the episode was the first to replace Christopher Pike with James T. Kirk, the prop accompanied Shatner as he made his Star Trek debut.

(19) DON’T WANT TO RUN INTO ONE OF THOSE. “Rolls-Royce Gets Funding To Develop Mini Nuclear Reactors”Slashdot has the story.

Rolls-Royce has been backed by a consortium of private investors and the UK government to develop small nuclear reactors to generate cleaner energy. The creation of the Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactor (SMR) business was announced following a [195 million pound] cash injection from private firms and a [210 million pound] grant from the government. It is hoped the new company could create up to 40,000 jobs by 2050. However, critics say the focus should be on renewable power, not new nuclear.

(20) BUILD YOUR OWN. Probably don’t want to collide with one of these, either. Not even the LEGO Star Wars AT-AT Model — it has 6,785 pieces!

…Extensive is certainly the best way to describe this set, as this intricate replica is made up of 6,785 pieces, falling about 800 bricks short of LEGO’s similarly complex Millennium Falcon. Nevertheless, that is an exhausting amount, all of which come together to construct a painstakingly detailed display that fans will inherently admire. As expected, the four-legged tank from the films boasts authenticity in every which way, featuring rotating cannons, a pair of speeder bikes, and a strikingly large interior that’s capable of housing up to 40 other LEGO minifigures you want to take along for the ride….

Damn, for a moment I thought they were going for a “few bricks shy of a load” reference.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Hackers” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on this 1995 film which was Angelina Jolie’s first.  The film shows such antique skills as getting calls from a pay phone for free. And half the characters are so clueless about computers that when someone mentions “an uncorrupted hard drive” they’re told, “speak In English.”  But being a hacker means you rollerblade everywhere and get to scream “hack the planet!” when you’re hacking!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, David Grigg, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, abd Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 6/28/21 Elevenses At Tiffany’s

(1) ON THE JOB. Slate has posted the June short story from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination: “The Skeleton Crew,” by Janelle Shane, about a haunted house (supposedly) powered by AI.

Aroha had been a closet skeleton for two weeks now, the longest anyone had managed to hold the position. At first the job had been utterly undoable, but she and her co-workers had hacked in some we’d-totally-be-fired-for-this improvements…

 It was published along with a response essay by Melissa Valentine, an expert on how data and algorithms are changing work: “Ghost work, artificial intelligence, and Janelle Shane’s ‘The Skeleton Crew’”.

“The Skeleton Crew” asks us to consider two questions. The first is an interesting twist on an age-old thought experiment. But the second is more complicated, because the story invites us to become aware of a very real phenomenon and to consider what, if anything, should be done about the way the world is working for some people….

(2) FOUNDATION AND TEASER. What would I do if my civilization was about to end? Uh, log into Facebook? Of course, I’m not head of a galactic empire.

(3) HWA PRIDE. Horror Writers Association’s “A Point of Pride” series continues with an “Interview with Larissa Glasser”.

What inspired you to start writing?

I was more of a TV baby than a reader when I was little. The year after my dad died, I saw the original cartoon version of The Hobbit (1977) and it was the first time I’d seen the portrayal of an invented world—well, like mine it had darkness and evil but also hope and magic, and that was a great place to start from. I was so hooked in to the idea the something could be different in my own world of grief and losing my dad, so I sought out Tolkien and there was no turning back after that. The idea of having an experienced wizard and guardian helping you through trauma and hardship, and yet taught you to self-rely on your own cunning and imagination really appealed to me. In its own way, Tolkien’s novel surpassed the film adaptation. It expanded a world that I needed to see. So, I sought out other fantasy literature. Not long after, I discovered Clive Barker’s Books of Blood and I was astonished not only by its visceral brutality but also by its variety and diversity of setting and plotlines. As a trans kid, I needed different worlds, and to have even the most vague impression that I could create one or many from dreams and imagination drew me in to the creative process. All uphill from there.

(4) VERDICT OF FANHISTORY. Camestros Felapton has assembled the first 33 chapters of The Debarkle into downloadable free ebook: “Catch up on the Debarkle with ebook of Volume 1”.

Volume 1 in the epic saga of the culture war within science fiction. This volume covers the story up to 2014 of the people and events that would lead up to the 2015 Sad Puppy controversy at the prestigious Hugo Awards.

Links to Books2Read, Apple Books, and Rakuten Kobo in the post.

(5) NOT COMING BACK. Nicholas Whyte begins his series of blog reviews of this year’s Hugo nominees by putting some speculation to rest: “2021 Hugos: Best Graphic Story or Comic” at From the Heart of Europe.

A couple of people have asked me if I will return to the staff of DisCon III now that the Chair has resigned. Whoever the new Chair is, I will decline any such invitation. My former position as WSFS Division Head was filled within twenty-four hours of my own resignation, by someone who (unlike me) has actually done that job before, and who does not need me looking over their shoulder. I have no information about the rest of the vacancies, and frankly it’s none of my business whether others of the former team decide to return if invited to do so. Whoever does pick up the reins, I wish them well; I think that we left the Hugo Administration side of things in pretty good shape, and there is of course continuity in Site Selection and the Business Meeting. (One of my few regrets about the way things ended is that we had not yet set up systematic monitoring of the votes coming in, so I have absolutely no idea who is winning.)…

(6) READING THE FUTURE. Given all the interest a few years back about how sf writers were cooperating with the Defense Department, what the Germans are doing might be of interest: ‘At first I thought, this is crazy’: the real-life plan to use novels to predict the next war in The Guardian.

His favourite example of literature’s ability to identify a social mood and cast it into the future is a retelling of the Cassandra myth by the East German novelist Christa Wolf. Kassandra, published in 1983, casts Troy as a state not unlike the late-stage German Democratic Republic, succumbing to the paranoia of a Stasi-like secret police as it veers towards a not-so-cold war. Kassandra, cursed with the gift of prophecy, is also a cipher for the author’s own predicament: she foresees the decline her society is heading for, but her warnings are ignored by the military patriarchy.

If states could learn to read novels as a kind of literary seismograph, Wertheimer argues, they could perhaps identify which conflicts are on the verge of exploding into violence, and intervene to save maybe millions of lives….

.. In 2018, weeks after the Bundeswehr officers had travelled to Tübingen, Wertheimer presented his initial findings at the defence ministry in Berlin. He drew attention to a literary scandal around Jovan Radulovi?’s 1983 play Dove Hole, about an Ustashe massacre against their Serbian neighbours, and the expulsion of non-Serbian writers from the Serbian Writers’ Association in 1986. In the years that followed, he showed, there was an absence of tales about Albanian-Serbian friendships or love stories, and a rise in revisionist historical novels. Literature and literary institutions, he told the military men, had “paved the way for war” a good decade before the start of the bloodshed of the Kosovo war in 1998.

Carlo Masala was at the presentation. “At the beginning, I thought: this is crazy shit,” he recalls. “It won’t fly.” But Masala, who had spent a part of his academic career studying the conflict in Bosnia, remembered how the hardening tensions in the regions had been preceded by a decline in interfaith marriages. “In Kosovo, it seemed, you could detect similar early warning signs in the literary scene.”

“It was a small project that created a surprising amount of useful results,” says one defence ministry official who attended the presentation. “Against our initial instincts, we were excited.”

In its bid for further government funding, Wertheimer’s team was up against Berlin’s Fraunhofer Institute, Europe’s largest organisation for applied research and development services, which had been asked to run the same pilot project with a data-led approach. Cassandra was simply better, says the defence ministry official, who asked to remain anonymous.

“Predicting a conflict a year, or a year and a half in advance, that’s something our systems were already capable of. Cassandra promised to register disturbances five to seven years in advance – that was something new.”…

(7) UNREAL ESTATE. James Davis Nicoll has the listings for “Five SFF Homes from Hell” at Tor.com.

… Unsurprisingly, speculative fiction authors have been swift to see the narrative potential in home renovation, whether for those who wish to own their own homes or who merely wish to find an affordable rental. Consider these five examples:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

Hill House’s no doubt substantial real-estate potential has one impediment: a reputation for inducing madness in the inhabitants. Hill House was built by the cruel, eccentric Hugh Crain and is subtly, disturbingly, out of true. It has a long and bloody history, which has so far deterred occupation by the sane and the living.

A quartet of occult investigators sees opportunity here. Luke Sanderson is present to keep an eye on his aunt’s cursed property; bohemian Theodora appears to be intrigued by novelty. Doctor John Montague hopes to find scientific proof of the supernatural; Eleanor Vance wants to escape a life of being exploited and disparaged by her kin. What better place to find one’s dreams than an estate legendary for its nightmares?

(8) BLADES AND BIRKENSTOCKS. The Saturday Evening Post remembers “When Sword & Sorcery Cast a Spell on the 1980s”.

Between the time of the rise of disco and when the oceans drank the polar ice caps, there was an age undreamed of . . . and the name of this age was . . . The Eighties. And unto this age was born a seemingly sudden explosion of mystic tales about mighty warriors. For years, those stories shook the theaters with the strength of their steel before they diminished into perennial cable reruns and cult fandom. Now, forty years hence, cast your gaze back upon a time of stop-motion dragons and barbarian queens. Let me remind you of the days of HIGH ADVENTURE . . .

The Sword & Sorcery is a subgenre with an adventure-oriented style that contains elements of fantasy, like magic (hence the “sorcery” part). The name arose from correspondence between American writer Fritz Leiber and British writer Michael Moorcock in the 1960s as they debated what to call the kinds of tales that Robert E. Howard wrote (and which frequently featured his most famous creation, Conan the Barbarian). Leiber landed on “Sword and Sorcery” as a way to differentiate it from historical fantasy and “high fantasy” (which often dealt with world-shaking threats versus the more personal or sword-for-hire quests of “sword and sorcery”). It’s also a nod to the “sword and sandals” nickname that some myth and fantasy films had acquired in the 1950s and 1960s, generally movies featuring the likes of Steve Reeves or Reg Park as Hercules.

(9) LONG AND SHORT OF IT. Mental Floss catalogs “15 Facts About ‘Flowers for Algernon’” – many of which you already know, though maybe not all of them.

4. DANIEL KEYES FOUND INSPIRATION FOR CHARLIE IN HIS WORK.

Charlie Gordon isn’t based on a specific person or an existing experiment, but the character’s resolute drive to become smarter was inspired by one of Keyes’s students. In interviews over the following decades, Keyes would recount how one of his pupils in a class for children with intellectual disabilities asked to be transferred out. “Mr. Keyes, this is a dummy class,” the child said, according to the author’s recollection. “If I try hard and get smart before the end of the term, would you put me in a regular class? I want to be smart.”

(10) SHATNER HEALING UP. William Shatner, now 90,  told The Guardian he is recovering from falling off a horse, as he answered their questions about his work in Senior Moment, playing a retired Nasa test pilot and self-proclaimed ladies’ man who loses his driving license and meets a woman who changes his life, and about his next album.

…Shatner, who will release an album called Love, Death and Horses later in the summer, said he wishes he knew when he was younger that fame and success do not prevent loneliness.

He said: “The album is autobiographical and one of the songs is about loneliness, how much loneliness was a part of my life. It is a part of everybody’s life, no matter how much attention you get, and how happily married you are, and how many children you have. As the song says, we’re all essentially alone and the big mystery is will there be anybody there at the end?”

Shatner said he attributes the energy he still has to “DNA, no question about it” and added: “I have lived a good life. I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink and smoke, and I try to exercise as much as possible, with good food.”

However, he revealed he is currently suffering from a serious injury, saying: “My shoulder is shattered right now. I cracked the bone falling off a horse a couple of weeks ago. So my left arm is bad but I keep exercising it. It’s getting better and better.

“But I’ve had the good luck of not having anything really debilitating. So nothing has sapped my energy.”

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1982 – Thirty nine years ago, John Crowley’s Little, Big would win both the World Fantasy Award and the  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. It would place fifth in the voting at Chicon IV for Best Novel Hugo. (C. J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station won that year.) It would also be nominated for a Balrog, BSFA and Nebula as well.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 28, 1920 — James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. His first genre series would’ve been Space Command where he played Phil Mitchell. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E.film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which he played Phillip Bainbridge, during the first season of Trek. After Trek, he was on Jason of Star Command as Commander Canarvin. ISFDB notes that he did three Scotty novels co-written with S.M. Stirling. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 28, 1926 — Mel Brooks, 95. Young Frankenstein (1974) (Hugo and Nebula winner) and Spaceballs (1987) would get him listed even without The 2000 Year Old ManGet Smart  and others. Here is an appreciation of Mel on YouTube. (Alan Baumler)
  • Born June 28, 1946 — Robert Asprin. I first encountered him as the co-editor along with Lynn Abbey of the Thieves’ World Series for which he wrote the superb “The Price of Doing Business” for the first volume. I’m also very fond of The Cold Cash War novel. His Griffen McCandles (Dragons) series is quite excellent. I’m pleased to say that he’s well stocked on both at the usual suspects. (Died 2008.)
  • Born June 28, 1947 — Mark Helprin, 74. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter, which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it as I love the novel. 
  • Born June 28, 1951 — Lalla Ward, 70. She is known for her role as the second actress to play Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on  Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus
  • Born June 28, 1954 — Raffaella De Laurentiis, 67. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis, hence she was the producer of the first Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both starting Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series. She was the Executive Producer of the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
  • Born June 28, 1954 — Alice Krige, 67. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli  and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now it’s in Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I will only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World
  • Born June 28, 1954 — Deborah Grabien, 67. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld foresees the future of job interviews:
  • And don’t miss the Bloom County / Calvin & Hobbes crossover –

(14) GENRE DICTIONARY. Nick Mamatas revises an entry:

(15) LEGO KERFUFFLE. “Disney drops ‘Slave I’ name for Boba Fett’s ship, prompting outcry from ‘Star Wars’ fans, actor”Yahoo! has the story.

…Nonetheless, each attempt to bring inclusivity to Star Wars has been met with backlash from a small but vocal group of Star Wars fans lamenting the saga’s “social justice warriors” and “woke” approach to its latest endeavors.

Now, some Star Wars fans are mad again. This time at a Lego set.

As originally noted by the fan site Jedi News, the new Mandalorian-themed toy line features beloved bounty hunter Boba Fett’s spaceship; however, its traditional Slave I moniker has been changed to “Boba Fett’s Starship.” Per the definitive Star Wars reference site Wookieepedia, Fett’s heavily modified “Firespray-31-class patrol and attack craft” formerly belonged to this father, Jango. While originally built as a police craft with cells to transport criminals, Fett revamped the holding area into prisoner cages, “coffin-like cabinets that were less humane but better controlled his prisoners.”

Speaking to Jedi News, Lego designer Michael Lee Stockwell said the toymaker was no longer using the Slave I name, with fellow designer Jens Kronvold Frederiksen adding, “It’s probably not something which has been announced publicly but it is just something that Disney doesn’t want to use any more.”…

(16) ON THE RECORD. NPR interviews Sally Ride’s life partner in “Loving Sally Ride, The First American Woman In Space”.

Tam O’Shaughnessy and Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space — in 1983, aboard the space shuttle Challenger — shared a passion for getting girls involved in STEM. It led them to co-found Sally Ride Science, a company focused on equity and inclusion in science education.

There was much more to O’Shaughnessy and Ride’s relationship, however. They met as kids in the early 1960s and developed an instant connection. Years later, they fell in love.

But their relationship remained largely private until after Ride’s death in 2012 at age 61. In an interview with Short Wave host Madeline Sofia, O’Shaughnessy remembers how Ride opened the door to that revelation shortly before she died.

O’Shaughnessy says she asked Ride, “Who am I going to be in the world?”

“And she kind of thought about it for a second,” O’Shaughnessy remembers. “And she said, you decide. Whatever you decide will be just fine. …

“Very few people in general knew that she was gay. So it was really Sally telling me to do what I thought was best and then my friends helping me realize that I needed to be true to myself. And it changed my life, and I wish Sally could experience that.”…

(17) UNDER THE LID. Spencer Kornhaber endeavors to show “How Disney Mismanaged the Star Wars Universe” at The Atlantic.

…Had Lucas’s galaxy lost its power, or had its new stewards simply mismanaged it? The recent success of a remarkable Star Wars television series suggests the latter. When the streaming-TV service Disney+ launched in late 2019, it featured The Mandalorian, which picks up five years after the events of the original trilogy, and follows the adventures of a mysterious mercenary who has sworn never to take off his helmet. By the end of Season 2, a critical consensus had emerged: It was the best live-action Star Wars product to arrive since the early 1980s. Millions of viewers cooed over the short-statured enigma known to fans as Baby Yoda, who has a price on his adorable head for unknown reasons. As The Mandalorian’s laconic and lethal hero travels from one planet to the next, the sublime feeling of immersion that laced Lucas’s early movies reemerges. To watch the show and then look back at the sweep of Star Wars history is to understand where that feeling comes from—and why most of Hollywood’s hero-driven, special-effects-laden fantasies never attain it….

(18) SLEEP NUMBER. “This Implant Could One Day Control Your Sleep and Wake Cycles”Smithsonian Magazine discusses an innovative idea.

In 1926, Fritz Kahn completed Man as Industrial Palace, the preeminent lithograph in his five-volume publication The Life of Man. The illustration shows a human body bustling with tiny factory workers. They cheerily operate a brain filled with switchboards, circuits and manometers. Below their feet, an ingenious network of pipes, chutes and conveyer belts make up the blood circulatory system. The image epitomizes a central motif in Kahn’s oeuvre: the parallel between human physiology and manufacturing, or the human body as a marvel of engineering.

An apparatus currently in the embryonic stage of development—the so-called “implantable living pharmacy”—could have easily originated in Kahn’s fervid imagination. The concept is being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in conjunction with several universities, notably Northwestern and Rice. Researchers envision a miniaturized factory, tucked inside a microchip, that will manufacture pharmaceuticals from inside the body. The drugs will then be delivered to precise targets at the command of a mobile application. DARPA’s initial, modest goal for the four-and-a-half-year program, which awarded contracts to researchers this May, is to alleviate jet lag….

(19) WHO BOOKS FOR BLIND FANS. There is a Crowdfunder for tactile Doctor Who books for blind fans: “Louis’ Campaign – Doctor Who for Blind Children – a Community crowdfunding project in Kingsclere for Living Paintings”. At present, it’s raised £5,317 of its £15,000 goal.

Learn more about the campaign at Living Paintings “Doctor Who Touch to See Books”.

Louis Moorhouse, from Bradford has been blind since he was 18 months old.

Now aged 19, and about to finish his first year at University, Louis has been a beneficiary of Living Paintings Touch to See library since childhood; enjoying and learning from the audio tactile images and books, developing skills and experiencing things his sighted peers take for granted….

… Recently Louis approached us with a brilliant idea: to create a Touch to See book based on the greatly loved character: Doctor Who.

 “I’m a big fan of the show Doctor Who, but I have yet to fully meet the weird and wonderful characters, aliens, monsters and devices from the show because I can’t see them.

If I could sum up what I think is the most important thing about my campaign I would ask a sighted person to just imagine – close your eyes and now imagine you can’t open them ever again. This is how it is and now you want to read a book or watch Doctor Who. How are you going to do that? How important is reading a book to you? As a sighted person how would you feel if that was taken away from you and you couldn’t read anymore?

Then you discover Living Paintings and the books are full of characters you’ve heard about and imagined all the time, they’ve been on TV, you’ve listened to the audio books, you may have had the books read to you and you never quite understood what they looked like and now, because of Living Paintings you do.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Joey Eschrich, Jeff Warner, Lise Andreasen, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/6/20 Look Dave, I Can See You’re Really Upset About This. Take A Pixel Scroll, And Think Things Over

(1) CAREER PATH. At Lit Reactor, Nick Mamatas hits close to home — “Ask Nick: Publishing 201 — Do I Need to Attend Conventions or Conferences?”

…A relative handful of science fiction/fantasy/horror conventions are considered “professional” and it is expected that people who work in publishing will travel cross-country or even internationally to make an appearance. In the mystery and romance genres, a greater percentage of conventions are “professional” and relatively fewer are run by and for fans. Regardless of whether the convention is fannish or professional, published writers are essentially zoo animals to be gawked at for the weekend. You can tell the writers from the other attendees because they are always clutching a drink in their hands like it was only accidentally given to them for free.

The conference, by way of contrast, has different roots. Literary conferences are often organized like other academic conferences—the focus is on writers who work in academe and the concerns of pedagogy and craft, though the keynote speakers are almost inevitably prominent writers who don’t need to grade term papers for a living. Panels at conferences are only occasionally roundtable discussions; more often the panelists read from essays, bits of memoir about the struggles of trying to either publish or teach their dumb-ass students, or their critical work. There are also lots of poets who constantly declare their identity as poets: “Oh, I don’t know how to organize my receipts to get reimbursed by my department! I’m a poet.” “I can’t be expected to know which button to press in this hotel elevator, I’m a poet!” In the sales room, university presses and university-backed literary journals that demand writers pay to submit and that have an organic audience somewhere in the low teens predominate, while at conventions you can buy ratty old magazines, leather corsets, and insipid badges with phrases such as “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup” on them. So clearly, attending either kind of gathering is a fate worse than death.

(2) SUPER STRINGS ATTACHED. Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter ae having “A Super Lockdown Supermarionation Superconversation in 5…4…3” – read the transcript at Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon.

AR: It was Gerry Anderson’s birthday a couple of days ago (he’d have been 91) so given that we’ve both watched Thunderbird Six recently -and have a shared enthusiasm for his shows – I thought it would be fun to talk about the film, as well as the puppet series more generally. Perhaps we could start by covering our introductions to the worlds of GA? I know you go back at least as far as Stingray, the series which preceded Thunderbirds – was that the first exposure to Supermarionation for you, or are we looking at the even earlier shows like Fireball XL-5, Supercar and so on? Any really early memories of the shows or even the merchandise surrounding them?

SB: As it happens I was born on the day Anderson’s first show was first broadcast,  The Adventures of Twizzle. An omen! But the first show I remember properly was Fireball, which was launched when I was nearly 5. Supercar was around but as repeats, I  guess.  Fireball was the one. It wasn’t the stories that struck me I think as much as the background world. The fantastic huge ship, and it looked huge thanks to good effects work, luxurious inside – Professor Matic  lived on it,  and how I envied him! And this was no fantasy, we were given one-century-ahead dates, 2062 and so on. Authentic SF, and I was lost forever.

(3) HYBRID PRODUCTION. The Hollywood Reporter reveals “‘The Blacklist’ Turns to Animation to Complete Season Finale”.

…NBC’s The Blacklist will close out its seventh season with a twist: After production on the drama was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the show turned to animation to help complete the season finale.

The hybrid episode is set to air May 15 and will serve as the season finale for The Blacklist (it has already been renewed for 2020-21). 

The episode, titled “The Kazanjian Brothers,” was midway through filming in New York when production stopped in mid-March due to the pandemic. The show’s producers looked for outside-the-box ways to complete the installment and settled on graphic novel-style animation (as shown above) to be incorporated with scenes that had already been filmed. 

Actors recorded dialogue from their homes for the animated scenes, and all animation and editing was done remotely. As The Hollywood Reporter has reported, production on a number of animated series has continued largely uninterrupted during the pandemic as studios and producers have adapted to working remotely.

(4) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Lorie Shaull explains — “I assure you we’re not open,” a reference to the movie Clerks, and “You’re Still here? It’s over. Go home. Go,” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, seen on the Uptown Theatre marquee in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

(5) AIR APPARENT. Pirated Thoughts reports “DC Comics Wants to Flatten “Swampthing” Tires”.

DC Comics is battling a tire company that is using the SWAMPTHING mark in association with its monster tires.

Transamerica Tire, Co widely distributes its “Swampthing” tires which figure some “monster” treads that allow  added traction thru sand, gravel, dirt, mud or…swamps. 

…In July 2019, Transamerica filed a trademark registration to protect the name SWAMPTHING for its tires. But there is a big green guy who has something to say about that.

(6) SECOND FIFTH. Craig Miller prefers the “Revenge of the Sixth” as a reference, and in honor of the date he’s shared a couple more things he’s remembered since his book Star Wars Memories was released.

…But I’d completely forgotten that I’d also gotten a character’s name changed. A document in my files reminded me….

(7) PROCESSING GRIEF. A writer tells the BBC “How the Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped me grieve”

Since writer Hanna Flint’s grandmother died from Covid-19 complications, she has found solace in superheroes. Here she explains why the films are great for processing tough emotions.

…After my parents called me that Friday night to tell me the news, I cried myself to sleep. But the next morning, I woke up with the strongest urge to escape into the fantastical world of Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers, Thor and the rest of these Marvel heroes – so I camped out on my sofa and binge-watched MCU movies for the remainder of the Easter Weekend.

I’ve spent more than a decade being invested in this film franchise, so it’s no wonder that it’s become the cinematic equivalent of an emotional support dog for me in my time of need. There’s a familiarity that I have with these heroic characters and their fist-pumping adventures that must cause a release of serotonin in my brain, because with each film I watched anew, I felt the thrum of grief lessen, allowing in moments of joy that lifted my spirit.

…Alongside the gags, the series has also deepened as time has gone on, with the MCU opening itself up to a broader range of stories and sensibilities. No longer is the focus only on white male heroes and villains – instead there is a diverse range of characters for a wider audience to connect with. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man films, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel from Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, are all brilliant examples of Marvel Studios allowing the filmmakers’ voices to shine, while still staying true to the unifying structure and webbed narrative of the franchise. Ragnarok is probably the most distinctive individual Marvel offering so far – Waititi’s deadpan, self-referential humour keeps things especially grounded and accessible, despite the out-of-this-world setting. The Kiwi filmmaker flips your expectations of certain characters – as when Korg, a member of the rock alien Kronan race, turns out to be far more mild-mannered and intellectual than his previously-seen peers – but also uses comedy to make space for a deeper cultural commentary on issues like refugees, slavery and the white-washing of history.

(9) MAY THE FOURTH PROMOTION GOES AWRY. “Alberta police take down woman, 19, dressed as Star Wars stormtrooper to promote reopened restaurant” – Canada’s National Post has the story.

Police in southern Alberta are being investigated after a restaurant worker in a Star Wars stormtrooper costume who was carrying a plastic gun was forced to the ground and ended up with a bloody nose.

…The Lethbridge Police Service said officers were called to the restaurant Monday morning for reports of a person in a stormtrooper costume carrying a firearm. A news release Tuesday said when officers arrived, the person dropped the weapon but didn’t initially comply with directions to get down on the ground.

Whalen disputes the account that his employee didn’t obey police commands. When officers arrived, she immediately dropped the weapon and put her hands up, he said.

But Whalen said that the stormtrooper helmet makes it hard to hear and to be heard. It also makes it difficult to move, let alone to kneel or get down on your stomach. Whalen said this may have caused a delay in the employee getting on the ground.

“It’s not the easiest thing to kneel down in. You can’t even sit down in it. It takes 20 minutes to put on.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 6, 1956 Dimension X’s “Knock” aired. It was based on Fredric Brown’s story of the same name, first published in the December 1948 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. It was the first of three adaptations of his story, with the latter ones being X Minus One and Sci Fi Channel’s Seeing Ear Theatre. This version was adapted was by Ernest Kinroy. Fred Wiehe and Edward King were the directors. Norman Rose was heard as both announcer and narrator. The entire script can be summed up as “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…” Frederic Brown is the running for two Retro Hugos this year, one for Best Novelette for “Arena” and another for Best Short Story for “And the Gods Laughed“. You can hear “Knock” here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 6, 1914 Randall Jarrell. Author of the ever so charming The Animal Family which is illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Go read it – you’ll be smiling afterwards. The Anchor Book of Stories has more of his genre friendly stories. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 6, 1915 Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success. But for the Federal Theatre Project he did a 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That it was known as the Voodoo Macbeth might give you an idea of what he did with it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. And, of course, he made a most excellent radio Shadow as well! (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 6, 1946 Nancy Kilpatrick, 74. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice.” I know that I’ve read something of her fiction but I’ll be damned if I remember what it was. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection. 
  • Born May 6, 1952 Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5.  Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 6, Carlos Lauchu, 59. Anubis, the captain of Ra’s personal guard, in the original Stargate film. His only other genre acting was two appearances in the Monsters anthology series. 
  • Born May 6, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 51. They are the winner of 2019 Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Dublin 2019 for “Our Opinions Are Correct”. And their novel Autonomous was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel while winning a Lambda Literary Award. They are also the winner of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short science fiction, ”When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis”. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows Spider-craft.
  • Peanuts from 50 years ago today:

(13) BRUSHWORK. Cora Buhlert has an eye on some of the latest – in 1965 – high culture trends: “[MAY 4, 1965] THE OP AND THE POP: NEW MOVEMENTS IN MODERN ART”

…So what do you see, when you look at a work of Minimalist art? You’ll see simple patterns, geometric shapes, hard edges, primary colours and monochromatic palettes. The so-called “Black Paintings” by the above mentioned Frank Stella consist of concentric stripes painted on raw canvas in the black wall paint that Stella uses in his day job as a house painter. Canadian artist Agnes Martin paints grids and stripes in pastel watercolours. Meanwhile, Dan Flavin eschews paint altogether and instead creates artworks from tubes of neon lights arranged in various geometric patterns.

(14) SOCIAL MEDIA GAVEL BANGERS. BBC is there when “Facebook’s ‘supreme court’ members announced”.

Facebook has announced who will sit on an independent board, set up to have ultimate say over what controversial content should be taken down.

Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt will co-chair the panel with three others.

The panel said they will judge some of the “hardest cases out there.”

One expert said it was a bold experiment, but others were more cynical about how much difference they would make.

In a blog announcing the oversight board, Facebook said it “represented a new model of content moderation”

Initially consisting of 16 members, there are plans to expand numbers to 40. It will begin hearing cases later this year.

At first this will just be deliberating on content that individuals feel has been wrongfully removed but, in following months, it will also look at appeals from users who want Facebook to remove content.

(15) BOOKS BY THE POUND. The New York Times analyzes why “The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory” – provided yours isn’t filled with duds.

…In April, an anonymous Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, emerged to keep an eye on the trend and quickly accumulated more than 30,000 followers. Its tagline is “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you,” and it offers arch commentary on the rapidly solidifying tropes of the genre as well as genuine respect for a well-executed specimen. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears before “a standard credibility wallpaper presentation in the unthreatening homely style.” The migrants’ rights activist Minnie Rahman’s Encyclopaedia Britannica collection “is a lazy hand wafted at convention.” And the British politician Liam Fox’s “bold grab at credibility is somewhat undermined by the hardback copy of The Da Vinci Code.”

Similarly, Atlas Obscura reports “The Zoom Era Inspires a ‘Bookshelf Championship’ in Portugal”.

…As expected from a nation with one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, the Portuguese rallied behind the Bookshelf Championship. All of a sudden, book-related opinions were all over social media. “He’s stacking books horizontally to fit more,” a Twitter user said of his preferred contestant, journalist Nuno Rogeiro, whose all-embracing bookshelf featured books wedged into every available cranny. Some contemplated the definition of a bookshelf: Should a shelf full of binders be disqualified, or was it a “spectacular variation” on the theme? Others called for the “immediate resignation” of the Minister of Education, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, on the grounds that his video conference set-up featured zero books. It didn’t take long for the debate to make it, in an apt twist, onto the evening news. Ricardo Araújo Pereira, one of Portugal’s top comedians, submitted his formal entry by taking a conference call from a deserted university library, where he sat flanked by tidy bookshelves in perfect social isolation. Twitter deemed his entry “extremely strong.”

(16) A CRUISE IN SPACE. The original report from Deadline: “Out Of This World! Tom Cruise Plots Movie To Shoot In Space With Elon Musk’s SpaceX”.

I’m hearing that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk’s Space X are working on a project with NASA that would be the first narrative feature film – an action adventure – to be shot in outer space. It’s not a Mission: Impossible film and no studio is in the mix at this stage but look for more news as I get it. But this is real, albeit in the early stages of liftoff.

Mission: Impossible Fallout took a break, literally when he broke his ankle in a leap from one rooftop to the other and he also hung from a helicopter; he hung from the side of a jet plane during takeoff in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, and in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol he scaled the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyscraper, and executed stunts 123 floors up. He is meticulous in preparing these stunts he does, which are frightening just to watch.

There has never been a leading man (Jackie Chan might dispute this) who puts himself at risk as often as does Cruise, in the name of the most realistic action sequences possible. If he is successful shooting a project in Musk’s space ship, he will be alone in the Hollywood record books. Stay tuned.

NPR picks up the story: “Tom Cruise And NASA Could Be A Match Made In The Heavens”.

… NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed by tweet that “NASA is excited to work with @TomCruise on a film aboard the @Space_Station! We need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to make @NASA’s ambitious plans a reality.”

At 57, the actor is a good deal older than the run-of-the-mill astronaut (if there is such a thing) though a number “spaceflight participants” (the official NASA and Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — designation for non-astronauts) have flown before.

Cruise is demonstrably in excellent shape, and evidently fearless when it comes to doing his own stunts. That’s fortunate, as up to this point, Space X has launched only unmanned missions of its Dragon 2 craft, which is designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station. Its first launch with a human crew is scheduled for later this month.

(17) AND BABY MAKES E=MC2. Is everything Musk does newsworthy? (Or is this just freaky enough to be interesting?) “X Æ A-12: Elon Musk and Grimes confirm baby name”.

Elon Musk and singer Grimes have confirmed they have named their baby X Æ A-12.

The Space X CEO announced the birth of their son on Monday. “Mom & baby all good,” he said on Twitter.

He posted that the child would be called X Æ A-12 Musk and his girlfriend later offered an explanation to her followers on social media.

(18) COME OUT OF YOUR SHELL. “‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Movie 30th Anniversary Pizza Party Announced by Original April O’Neil”. Actress Judith Hoag, who played April O’Neil, is hosting the official 30-year cast reunion Pizza Panel Party on May 23rd, “World Turtle Day,” with the original cast and crew – Food & Wine has the story.

“It’s our 30th anniversary. We had some really great stuff planned to celebrate with you guys, and then the pandemic hit,” Hoag said. “It would be great to have a virtual pizza party with you guys, our fans […] We want to get together, hang out with you, and eat some pizza. I personally will probably be having a martini while I’m doing it.”

As of this writing, there aren’t any additional details about the Zoom event, but the TMNT Movie 1990 Facebook page says that it will post more information for online attendees in the days ahead….

(19) FROG GOT YOUR TONGUE? Delish is sure “‘Star Wars’ Fans Will Love These Fruit Roll-Ups With ‘Mandalorian’ Tongue Tattoos”.

…Giving yourself a temporary tongue tattoo from a sticky fruit roll-up is an inexplicable joy. Why is it so fun to have a blue outline of a character on your tongue? Who knows, but it’s about to get a whole lot more exciting. Star Wars-themed Fruit Roll-Ups with The Mandalorian tongue tattoos are expected to come out this fall, which means you can take your Baby Yoda obsession even further that you thought.

The Fruit Roll-Ups by General Mills are expected to be released this September, according to Nerdist. The package features two Mandalorian-themed tattoos: one of Baby Yoda with a frog in his mouth and the other of the Mandalorian’s helmet.

(20) OF HUMANS YET TO COME. John Folk-Williams applauds this developing series — “The Quantum Evolution by Derek Künsken: A Review” at SciFi Mind.

Derek Künsken’s series, The Quantum Evolution, so far consisting of two novels (The Quantum Magician and The Quantum Garden) is a brilliant space opera that probes the depths of a future human nature engineered to produce new subspecies. And they are wild, at times repulsive, at times capable of incredible breakthroughs in knowledge or massive deception and theft, at times mired in twisted love of false gods.I’ve rarely been so intellectually engaged by the idea of a quantum evolution of humankind and so drawn to a set of fascinating characters as they fight and con their way across various star systems.

(21) MURDER HORNET. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From today’s NY Times — even more timely as Wednesdays are also when the Gray Lady does its weekly Food/Dining section (although this wasn’t in that section, hardcopywise): “In Japan, the ‘Murder Hornet’ Is Both a Lethal Threat and a Tasty Treat”.

… But in the central Chubu region, these insects — sometimes called “murder hornets” — are known for more than their aggression and excruciating sting. They are seen as a pleasant snack and an invigorating ingredient in drinks….

(22) STEPHEN KING ON THE LATE SHOW. The legendary master of horror covers a lot of ground in this talk with Stephen Colbert, including how he would fare in quarantine with his most feared characters, some things he learned about pandemics when doing research for “The Stand,” and the many reasons he recommends reading The Lord of the Rings.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Olav Rokne, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/20 Pixels, Get Ready, There’s A Scroll A’comin’

(1) PRESSING IN. Cat Rambo’s video “Why Small Press Books Don’t Almost Always Suck” challenges negativity about small presses with examples from her own career.

Cat talks about some of the small press books she’s appeared in or worked with, and what she likes about them

So far as I can tell she doesn’t identify any particular person as holding this opinion. But it might be more than a coincidence that a few weeks back Nick Mamatas wrote a column for LitReactor titled “Why Are Small Presses Almost Always So Awful?”

(2) IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. [Item by Dann.] Regarding Archive.org, Brian Keene has gone through the process of figuring out how to get his works removed from the National Emergency Library. To make it easier for other authors, he supplied the process in The Horror Show with Brian Keene – episode 259.

  • Authors need to send an email to info@archive.org.
  • The subject line should read “National Emergency Library Removal Request”
  • Authors need to include the URL(s) from within the National Emergency Library so they will know which work(s) they need to remove.

It’s kind of crappy to force authors to jump through hoops to prevent copyright infringement, but I guess it’s better to have hoops available than to just ignore the infringement and drive on as if nothing is wrong.

(3) IMPROVING SHORT FICTION. The Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews guest lecturer Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s.

…You’ve read quite a number of short stories over the years as an editor. For writers looking to improve their understanding of how short stories work, how would you suggest critically reading stories with an eye to improvement and understanding? Are there particular elements critical readers should look for?

This is a great question. Years ago I heard of an author who retyped a famous story to figure out what the author was doing. I don’t think the writer has to go that far, but critical reading is essential. Pick a favorite story that wowed you and read it a few times. Take notes. Look for the foreshadowing. Look for the metaphors and the similes. Pay attention to the arc. Pay attention to every clue. A professional author rarely wastes a word in a work of short fiction. It takes practice to pick up on most of the details the first time through a tale, but it’s a lot easier to see these details once you know what’s coming.

(4) NOT A DESIRABLE CHAPTER. Publishers Weekly reports on the troubles of a major book printer: “LSC Files Chapter 11”

LSC Communications announced this morning that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The filing has been expected for several months as the country’s largest book printer—and one of its largest printers overall—has struggled under the weight of its failed merger with Quad Graphics and the outbreak of the new coronavirus. LSC’s subsidiaries in Mexico and Canada are not included in the filing, and will continue to operate normally.

LSC said it has received commitments for $100 million in debtor-in-possession financing from certain of its revolving lenders, subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions. If approved by the bankruptcy court, LSC said, the new financing, combined with cash on hand and generated through its ongoing operations, “is expected to be sufficient to support the company’s operational and restructuring needs.”

Since LSC’s deal with Quad was called off last summer following objections from the Justice Department, the company has worked to streamline its business, a process that has included closing eight facilities and signing new contracts, noted Thomas Quinlan III, LSC chairman, president, and CEO. Quinlan added that a review of its operations determined that the best way forward was to pursue a restructuring of its financial structure.

And Quad, LSC’s would-be merger partner, hit the wall two weeks ago: “Quad Closes Book Printing Operations”.

Publishers were dealt an unhappy surprise last week when Quad unexpectedly closed its book printing facilities, sending publishers scrambling to find a replacement. Quad did not respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it had plans to re-open the book plants.

The closure comes at a time when the loss of printing capacity is one of the many concerns publishers are facing because of the new coronavirus outbreak. Overall, most printers are printing, although on different schedules as they adjust to state policies, staffing, and types of books.

Quad put its book printing business up for sale last fall following the collapse of its proposed merger with the country’s largest book printer, LSC Communications, after the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit. Quad has yet to respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it has found a buyer, but to date, none has been announced.

LSC, meanwhile, is continuing to operate, though it is dealing with its own financial challenges. 

(5) WORLD FANTASY AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The World Fantasy Convention chairs still plan to hold their con in Salt Lake City from October 29-November 1.

WFC 2020 is still six months away. Every day brings new developments and, we sincerely hope, progress toward controlling and conquering the virus. We have every hope that the current crisis will be over long before 29 October. Besides our own continuing discussions and plans, we’re monitoring the efforts of other conferences and similar gatherings, and will adapt all measures that make sense to keep our membership safe. We know this is a difficult time, and everyone’s plans are in a state of flux. Be assured we have no plans to raise membership rates during this worldwide emergency.

Download Progress Report #2 from the website.

Members of the 2018, 2019, or 2020 World Fantasy Conventions may nominate books, stories, and individuals for the 2020 World Fantasy Award between how and May 31. Voting instructions here.

(6) THE LOOK OF DUNE. Vanity Fair posted on Instagram the first photos of Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve’s production of Dune.

(7) FERRELL OBIT. Former OMNI editor Henry Keith Ferrell (1953-2020) died of an apparent heart attack while fixing his roof, before the storm currently sweeping up the East Coast. He is survived by his wife, Martha, and son, Alec, who made the announcement on Ferrell’s website.

…Graduating from Raleigh’s Sanderson High in 1971, he attended the Residential College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he met Martha Sparrow — a woman of equal beauty and intellect — at a Halloween party in the basement of Guilford dormitory. His face covered in wax, she overheard him mentioning the name “Lawrence Talbot” and she got the reference, having no idea what Keith looked like. On their first date, they ditched a French play to go see King Kong instead. They fell in love, moved off campus, and started their lives together. They were married on July 20, 1974, and would remain together for almost 47 years.

…Now a family man, Keith set out on his career in publishing, first at Walnut Circle Press as a print salesman, then as editor of trade magazine The Professional Upholsterer, onward to feature writer of COMPUTE! Magazine, where he was at the forefront of reporting on the burgeoning home computing industry throughout its emergence as a household staple. All the while, he raised his son and loved his wife, planted many gardens, and wrote and wrote and wrote.

From 1983 through 1987, Keith published four critically-acclaimed biographies of legendary writers for young adults through M. Evans and Company: H.G. Wells: First Citizen of the Future; Ernest Hemingway: The Search for Courage; George Orwell: The Political Pen; and John Steinbeck: The Voice of the Land. These were the first of many printed works to bear his name in the byline.

In 1990, COMPUTE! was acquired by General Media out of New York City, and Keith was recruited and ultimately served as Editor-in-Chief of OMNI Magazine, the preeminent science and technology publication of the day — a career-defining accomplishment. During his tenure at OMNI, Keith worked with (and edited) many of the heroes of his youth and forged friendships across the fields of anthropology, gaming, evolutionary studies, telecommunications, and writers of all stripes. Keith stewarded OMNI as a vehicle for the vanguard of cutting-edge technology and futurism until its final issue…

He wrote until his dying day, which turned out to be April 11, 2020, at 2:32pm. His heart gave out after fixing a hole in his roof, but finished the job before doing so….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 13, 2012 Lockout premiered. Also known as MS One: Maximum Security, It directed by James Mather and Stephen Saint Leger, and written by Mather, Saint Leger, and Luc Besson. It was both Mather’s and Saint Leger’s feature directorial debuts. The film stars Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, and Peter Stormare. It did poorly at the box and critics were not fond of it either; it holds a 46% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. So why write up here? Because John Carpenter successfully sued the film’s makers in the French courts for the film having plagiarized both Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.., a verdict held upon appeal. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1923 Mari Blanchard. Remembered best as B-movie femme fatale, she did a number of genre films including Abbott and Costello Go to Mars where she was Queen Allura, She Devil where she had the lead role of Kyra Zelas and Twice-Told Tales, a Vincent Price horror film where she had a not major role as Sylvia Ward. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverley Cross. English screenwriter responsible for an amazing trio of films, to wit namely Jason And The ArgonautsSinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger and Clash Of The Titans. He also wrote the screenplay for The Long Ships which is at genre adjacent. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 13, 1949 Teddy Harvia, 71. Winner of the Hugo for Fan Artist an amazing four times starting in 1991 at Chicon IV, then in 1995 at Intersection, next in 2001 at the Millennium Philcon and last at in 2002 at ConJosé. He was honored with the Rebel Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation in 1997 at that year’s DeepSouthCon
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 69. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 66. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His TV resume includes notable work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written a number of genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. He was an American science fiction editor, author and anthologist. Founding editor of the Questar Science Fiction line for which he was a Nolacon II Hugo finalist in the Best Professional Editor category. I’ve read and will recommend The American Fantasy Tradition which he did, and likewise Masters of Fantasy which was co-edited with Bill Fawcett. I see he helped Julius Schwartz put together his autobiography,  Man of Two Worlds. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 70. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates as Zeno was followed quickly by the role of Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel  De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it.) At the time, I thought it was the the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1960 Michel Faber, 60. Dutch born author of three genre novels, Under the SkinThe Book of Strange New Things and D: A Tale of Two Worlds. He was a finalist for the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Book of Strange New Things.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THERE’S NOTHING HALFWAY ABOUT THE IOWA WAY. Shaenon K. Garrity tweeted, “The Iowa Digital Library has a collection of sci-fi fanzines from the 1930s and 1940s, and my entertainment needs through the rest of the pandemic are taken care of.” Thread starts here.

(12) SECOND THOUGHTS. Cora Buhlert continues her assessment of this year’s finalists in “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part II: The 2020 Hugo Awards”.

…This year, however, I’m largely happy with the Best Related Work finalists. Joanna Russ by Gwyneth Jones, The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, by Farah Mendlesohn are exactly the sort of finalists I want to see in this category. All three were also on my longlist, two of them were on my ballot.

Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski was not on my ballot, but is a highly deserving finalist, since autobiographies of people of genre relevance have always been a part of Best Related Work – see also the recent nominations for Carrie Fisher’s and Zoe Quinn’s respective autobiographies….

(13) LOOKING FOR A JOB IN WASHINGTON. If Lou Antonelli doesn’t get voted in as SFWA director-at-large, he’s got a fallback position. Lou has declared himself a Libertarian candidate for Congress in Texas’ 4th District. Ballotpedia shows he’s up against a Republican incumbent.

Brianna Wu is running for Congress as a Democrat in a Boston-area district once again. It would be an interesting coincidence if they were both on the floor of the House to start the 2021 term.

(14) SCARED STRAIGHT. “Indonesian village uses ‘ghosts’ for distancing patrols” according to the BBC.

A village in Indonesia has reportedly taken to using volunteers dressed as ghosts to try to scare people into social distancing over the coronavirus.

Kepuh village, on Java Island, started deploying the patrols at night last month.

In Indonesian folklore, ghostly figures known as “pocong” are said to represent the trapped souls of the dead.

Indonesia so far has about 4,500 cases and 400 confirmed virus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But there are fears, according to experts, that the true scale of the infection across the country is much worse.

According to Reuters news agency staff who travelled to see the pocong in action, the unusual tactic initially had the opposite effect to that intended – with people coming out to try to spot the volunteers.

But locals say matters have improved since the team began deploying unexpectedly.

“Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” resident Karno Supadmo told Reuters. “And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”

(15) FLAT NOTES. Today’s thing to worry about — “Coronavirus: What’s happening to the beer left in pubs?”

Pubs, like other public venues, look set to stay shut for the foreseeable future. But what’s going to happen to the contents of their cellars?

Fifty million pints – give or take.

That’s the amount of beer expected to go unused in barrels if pubs remain closed into the summer because of coronavirus. Publicans are currently unable to sell their lagers, ales and ciders – save for takeaways and home deliveries.

“It’s a very sad waste of all the work and talent that goes into producing great beer,” says Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). “People won’t get to drink it and all those resources have been used up for nothing.”

Mr Stainer estimates the UK’s 39,000 pubs have, on average, 15 barrels in their cellar at any given time. Most are kegs containing 11 gallons (88 pints) each – although many real ales come in nine-gallon (72-pint) casks. The best-before dates on pasteurised beer – including most lagers – are usually three to four months after delivery.

Those for real ales and other unpasteurised beer are usually set at six to nine weeks.

So most stock could go to waste if social distancing measures remain in place for several months.

(16) PLAYING POLITICS. My daughter used to play this game by the hour: “Animal Crossing removed from sale in China amid Hong Kong protests”.

The Nintendo Switch’s current best-selling game has been removed from Chinese online stores after activists used it to criticise the state.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons lets players customise their own island and invite others to visit.

Some players in Hong Kong have used the platform to stage protests.

Players in mainland China had previously been able to buy foreign editions of the title from online marketplaces.

The country’s censors strictly regulate video games and had yet to approve the title’s formal release in the country.

Now, even local sites which had advertised imported copies have removed the listings.

It is not clear, however, whether this is because there has been an intervention by the authorities or whether the stores are proactively removing the product.

(17) GROUNDHOG DAY. Bill Murray in another Jeep commercial.

Wake up. Wash hands. Miss groundhog. Repeat. Every day is probably starting to seem the same, but the more we all remember to stay inside, the sooner we can get back outside.

(18) HOUSTON, WE USED TO HAVE A PROBLEM. “Apollo 13: Enhanced images reveal life on stricken spacecraft” — many pictures at link.

Image enhancement techniques have been used to reveal life aboard Nasa’s stricken Apollo 13 spacecraft in unprecedented detail.

Fifty years ago, the craft suffered an explosion that jeopardised the lives of the three astronauts aboard.

Unsurprisingly, given they were locked in a fight for survival, relatively few onboard images were taken.

But imaging specialist Andy Saunders created sharp stills from low-quality 16mm film shot by the crew.

One of the techniques used by Mr Saunders is known as “stacking”, in which many frames are assembled on top of each other to improve the image’s detail.

(19) IT’S A GAS. In “‘Pinocchio’ at 80: 5 things you never knew about the Walt Disney classic” on Yahoo! Entertainment, Ethan Alter reports that if Disney followed Carlo Collodi’s story, Jiminy Cricket would have died in the film, and that Mel Blanc was originally cast as Gideon the cat but his lines were cut and replaced by burping.

Eighty years ago, moviegoers discovered exactly what happens when you wish upon a star when Walt Disney’s second animated feature, Pinocchio, premiered in theaters on Feb. 23, 1940. Flush with cash from the enormous success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney gambled his studio’s future on an adaptation of Italian author Corlo Collodi’s 19th century story of a walking, talking marionette who longs to be a real boy. At the time, the gamble didn’t entirely succeed: While Pinocchio received instant critical acclaim, it didn’t attract the same crowds that turned out in droves to see Snow White….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wong Ping’s Fables 2” on Vimeo tells the story of the cow who became rich and the rabbit who wanted to be a judge.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/2/20 Pixels Are Bigger On The Scrollside

(1) THE ANSWER, MY FRIEND. George R.R. Martin empathizes with the Kiwis at Not A Blog: No Fooling.

…The biggest news in that regard is that this year’s worldcon, CoNZealand, has also decided to go virtual.   I know what a difficult decision that was for the Kiwis, who have worked so hard bidding and winning the con, and dreamed so long of bringing fandom to their magical island.   New Zealand is one of my favorite places in the world, and Parris feels the same way.  We have been there several times before, and I know we will visit again… just not this year, alas.  I gather that pushing the con back to late 2020 or early 2021 was not feasible, for various logistical reasons, which meant that going online was the only real alternative to cancellation.   How that will work, I have no idea.   No one does, really.  It has never been done before.   The technical aspects are going to be daunting, no doubt… but I know that everyone concerned is going to do their best.   Fingers crossed.

If there is a silver lining in these clouds, this will give me more time to finish WINDS OF WINTER.   I continue to write every day, up here in my mountain fastness….

(2) HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL. Will the San Diego Comic-Con be an exception? SYFY Wire says “San Diego Comic-Con Organizers Remain ‘Hopeful’ That The Con Will Go On”.

“To our amazing Comic-Con and WonderCon fans: We understand how difficult the current climate has been for all of us and appreciate your continued support through these trying times,” said an announcement posted on SDCC’s official Twitter page. “No one is as hopeful as we are that we will be able to celebrate #SDCC2020 together come July.”

(3) ANY BOOB CAN TAKE AND SHOVE A BALL IN A POCKET. Nick Mamatas tells LitReactor readers why he doesn’t hold small presses in any esteem: “Ask Nick: Publishing 201: Why Are Small Presses Almost Always So Awful?”

…The sad and horrible fact is that most small presses are labors of love. By this I don’t mean a love of the written word or some community of under-published writers, I mean that the owners of small presses are seeking love, and one way to be loved, in the short term, is to splash around some money and the dubious promise of prestige and literary reputation.

Now, running a small press is difficult. The initial outlay can be extensive, and everyone you interact with is also a love-seeker. When one opens any business, the first people one meets aren’t customers with full wallets, but would-be vendors, jobseekers, glad-handers, and the like. Open a dry cleaner tomorrow and the first people through the door will be unqualified folks looking for work, kooks wanting to hang flyers about the school play in your window, a Little League team hitting you up for sponsorship, someone with a sob story about a shirt they need for a job interview that may keep them from becoming homeless in a week and so can’t they pleeeease get a “nice guy” discount of 70 percent, a batty weirdo complaining about non-existent smells and carcinogens, and the like.

In publishing, it’s worse. Writers, mostly not very good ones, line up for a chance to be published—the big presses have already rejected them all…. 

(4) ON THE NOSE. “Gene Roddenberry, Co-Pilot, B-17 41-2644 LOS LOBOS Of The 394th BS”Wings Remembered has a photo gallery about his war service.

Gene Roddenberry flew over 80 missions, most of which would have been as Bill Ripley’s co-pilot on LOS LOBOS. We have had this section of nose art from LOS LOBOS for more than 20 years.  During this time we had not been able to positively identify the B-17 that this nose art section was from. That changed recently when author and historian Steve Birdsall contacted with this information 

(5) ORSINIAN PASSPORT. Time to revisit the Library of America’s 2016 selection “Imaginary Countries, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018)” (from Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia).

During her college years in the early 1950s, Ursula Kroeber began working on her first novel. She later recalled that the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia and subsequent events had “roused the political spirit in me,” but she hadn’t yet visited the countries of Eastern Europe and didn’t feel comfortable writing about them. She explains:

“I was twenty years old, working at one of the dining tables about midnight, when I got the first glimpse of my other country. An unimportant country of middle Europe. One of those Hitler had trashed and Stalin was now trashing. . . . I see the river, the Molsen, running through an open, sunny countryside to the old capital, Krasnoy (krasniy, Slavic, “beautiful”). Krasnoy on its three hills: the Palace, the University, the Cathedral. The Cathedral of St Theodora, an egregiously unsaintly saint, my mother’s name. . . . I begin to find my way about, to feel myself at home, here in Orsenya, matrya miya, my motherland. I can live here, and find out who else lives here and what they do, and tell stories about it” [from the Introduction, The Complete Orsinia].

It’s not a coincidence that the name of this imaginary country (Orsinia) and her own name both stem from Latin words for a female bear (orsa in Italian, from ursa in Latin)….

(6) ON LOCATION. LA Curbed has “The ultimate ‘Back to the Future’ filming locations map”. And holy cats! Who knew Marty McFly and fanzine fan Ed Cox were practically neighbors! (Well, within a mile-and-a-half of each other, anyway.)

4. McFly house

9303 Roslyndale Ave
Arleta, CA 91331

The McFly residence (built in 1954) still stands on Roslyndale Avenue in Arleta. Roslyndale and several nearby streets stand in for Hill Valley’s somewhat rundown Lyon Estates suburb.

(7) BENNETT OBIT. Voice actress Julie Bennett (1932-2020) died March 31 of complications from COVID-19. Here’s a brief excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter’s tribute — 

Her animation career began with “Fractured Fairy Tales” in 1960 on The Bullwinkle Show, and she voiced Cindy Bear for the first time a year later on The Yogi Bear Show, which featured Daws Butler doing his best Art Carney impersonation as Jellystone Park’s most famous resident.

She also voiced Aunt May on a 1997 Spider-Man animated series, did the talking for a Barbie doll and worked in films including the Judy Garland-starring Gay Purr-ee (1962) and Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966).

Her résumé also included Mr. MagooGet SmartThe Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, Garfield and Friends…

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 2, 2005 The Quatermass Experiment premiered.  It was a live television event remake of the 1953 television series of the same name by Nigel Kneale. Written by Richard Fell and directed by Sam Miller, it starred Jason Flemyng was cast as Quatermass, with long-time Kneale admirer Mark Gatiss as Paterson, Andrew Tiernan as Carroon, Indira Varma as his wife Judith, David Tennant as Briscoe, Adrian Bower as Fullalove and Adrian Dunbar as Lomax.  The critics really liked it and it became BBC Four’s fourth-highest-rated program of all time. It’s not that popular at Rotten Tomatoes where the audience reviewers give it only a 47% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 2, 1914 Alec Guinness. Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy. (What? There were more movies after them? No!)  That’s it for filmed genre roles but theatre is another matter altogether. He played Osric first in Hamlet in the early Thirties in what was then the New Theatre, Old Thorney in The Witch of Edmonton at The Old Vic and the title role of Macbeth at Sheffield. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 2, 1921 Redd Boggs. Los Angeles fanzine writer, editor and publisher. The 1948 Fantasy Annual was his first zine with Blish as a contributor, with Discord being nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1961. He was nominated for the Retro Hugo for Best Fan Writer, and Sky Hook was nominated for Best Fanzine. Boggs was also a member of First Fandom. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 2, 1933 Murray Tinkelman. Illustrator who provided numerous book covers for paperback of genre novels for Ballantine Books in the Seventies. He’s particularly known for his work on the paperback editions of Brunner novels such as The Shockwave Rider which you can see here and Stand on Zanzibar that you can see over here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 2, 1939 Elliot K. Shorter. He began attending cons in the early Sixties and was a major figure in fandom through the Seventies. Some of the zines he worked on were Engram, the Heicon Flyer and Niekas. He was the TAFF winner at Heicon, the 28th Worldcon, in Heidelberg Germany. And he helped Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon. Mike has a detailed obituary here (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 2, 1940 Peter Haining. British author and anthologist responsible for a number of really cool works such as The Sherlock Holmes ScrapbookThe Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring Heeled JackDoctor Who: The Key to Time A year by year record (which covered all of classic Who) and James Bond: A Celebration. He was responsible for some one hundred and seventy books in his lifetime. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 2, 1945 Linda Hunt, 75. Her first film role was Mrs. Holly Oxheart In Popeye. (Anyone here who’s disputing that’s genre?) She goes on to be Shadout Mapes in Lynch’s Dune. (Very weird film.) Next up is Dragonfly, a Kevin Costner-fronted horror film as Sister Madeline. And in a quirky role, she voices Lady Proxima, the fearsome Grindalid matriarch of the White Worms, in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
  • Born April 2, 1948 Joan D. Vinge, 72. Best-known for The Snow Queen which won a well-deserved Hugo and its sequels, her most excellent series about the young telepath named Cat, and her Heaven’s Chronicles, the latter which I’ve not read. Her first new book in almost a decade after her serious car accident was the 2011 novelization of Cowboys & Aliens. And I find it really neat that she wrote the anime and manga reviews for The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies.
  • Born April 2, 1978 Scott Lynch, 42. Author of Gentleman Bastard series of novels which is to my utter surprise now at seven. I know I read The Lies of Locke Lamora, but who here has read the entire series to date?  He’s also stated that there will be a sequel series set some twenty years on in the future with new protagonists which will also be seven books in length. And I see he was writing Queen of the Iron Sands, an online serial novel for awhile. May I note he’s married to Elizabeth Bear, one of my favorite authors? 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MARVEL MAKES SOME COMICS A TEMPORARY FREE READ. Marvel Unlimited, Marvel’s digital comics subscription service, is now offering all fans “FREE access to some of Marvel’s most iconic stories from recent years, including now-classic Marvel Comics events and critically acclaimed runs featuring the Avengers, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and more. Fans who are social distancing will be able to escape into the Marvel Universe and revisit their favorite stories from a curated selection of complete story arcs – completely free – on Marvel Unlimited, starting Thursday, April 2 until Monday, May 4.”

To access Marvel Unlimited’s free comics offering, download or update the Marvel Unlimited app for iOS or Android at the respective Apple and Google Play app stores, and click “Free Comics” on the landing screen. No payment information or trial subscriptions will be required for the selection of free comics.

This month’s free comics will feature instant Marvel Comics classics and can’t-miss events including:

  • AVENGERS VS. X-MEN
  • CIVIL WAR
  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RED GOBLIN
  • BLACK PANTHER BY TA-NEHISI COATES VOL. 1
  • THANOS WINS BY DONNY CATES
  • X-MEN MILESTONES: DARK PHOENIX SAGA
  • AVENGERS: KREE/SKRULL WAR
  • AVENGERS BY JASON AARON VOL. 1: THE FINAL HOST
  • FANTASTIC FOUR VOL. 1: FOUREVER
  • BLACK WIDOW VOL. 1: S.H.I.E.L.D.’S MOST WANTED
  • CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER ULTIMATE
  • CAPTAIN MARVEL VOL. 1: HIGHER, FURTHER, FASTER, MORE

Customers on the Marvel Comics App and webstore as well as comiXology will also have free access to these stories for a limited time.

(12) MCU NEWS. Bradley Russell, in the Total Film Magazine story “Everything we know so far about Marvel Phase 4, including new MCU movie release dates and cast news” has a detailed listing of forthcoming release dates for MCU films, including the revised Black Widow release date and what’s happening with Marvel series coming to Disney Plus.

…The last current Marvel Phase 4 movie – and probably the most exciting. Thor: Love and Thunder is coming on November 6, 2021, and will almost definitely shock you with its big reveal: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is the new Thor (now officially called Mighty Thor). Just let that sink in for a moment.

(13) IN THE ISOLATION ZONE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna notes that, in the first episode of “The Twilight Zone,” Rod Serling spoke of “the barrier of loneliness” as he discusses the seven best Twilight Zone episodes that deal with loneliness and isolation. “Seven ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes that are eerily timely during the coronavirus pandemic”.

1. “Time Enough at Last”

One person’s mass-casualty event is another person’s opportunity to finally get a little reading done. Burgess Meredith plays the clerk who hides in his bank’s vault to enjoy a few page-turners. When that girded vault allows him to survive a nuclear attack, the clerk is left gloriously alone — just himself and stacks of books to happily devour. The twist, of course, is to watch his step — isolation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

(14) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. The Guardian reports “Cats can infect each other with coronavirus, Chinese study finds”. (The study doesn’t show feline transmission to humans, however.)

Cat owners may wish to be more cautious about contact with their pets, as a study from China has revealed Covid-19 can be transmitted between cats.

(15) ORIGIN OF $PECIE$. David Quammen reviews three of the very many works about Darwin and his theories in “The Brilliant Plodder” at New York Review of Books.

…One lesson from all this is that Darwin’s name sells. A less mercantile way of viewing it is that Darwin’s name stands for what Daniel Dennett has called “the single best idea anyone has ever had,” and therefore serves as a portal to scientific and philosophical ruminations of vast depth and breadth. We can’t stop reading and talking about Darwin, 138 years after his death, because the great theory of which he was co-conceiver (with Alfred Russel Wallace) and chief propounder (in On the Origin of Species) was so big and startling and forceful, yet so unfinished when he died in 1882, that there’s always more work to do. We’re still trying to figure out how evolution by natural selection—Darwin’s dangerous idea, in Dennett’s phrase—applies to every aspect of life on Earth, from virulence in coronaviruses to human social behavior. 

(16) WE WERE NOT ALONE. “Three human-like species lived side-by-side in ancient Africa”.

Two million years ago, three different human-like species were living side-by-side in South Africa, a study shows.

The findings underline a growing understanding that the present-day situation, where one human species dominates the globe, may be unusual compared with the evolutionary past.

The new evidence comes from efforts to date bones uncovered at a cave complex near Johannesburg.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

The new work also revealed the earliest known example of Homo erectus, a species thought to be a direct ancestor of modern humans (Homo sapiens).

The three groups of hominins (human-like creatures) belonged to Australopithecus (the group made famous by the “Lucy” fossil from Ethiopia), Paranthropus and Homo – better known as humans.

Andy Herries, from LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues evaluated remains found at the Drimolen Cave Complex using three different scientific dating techniques: electron spin resonance, palaeomagnetism and uranium-lead dating.

(17) FOR THE FAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING. BBC has learned an online buyer has won an opportunity to launch a commercial rocket for 40 million yuan ($5.6m; £4.5m) in central China.

According to the official People’s Daily, popular online shopping platform Taobao live-streamed the sale of a commercial rocket yesterday evening.

The official China Daily said that the rocket was “a small launch vehicle” in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, which has already seen eight commercial launches.

Buyers were told that they could paint the body of the rocket and the launch platform, and that they could visit the launch site and control the launch.

Posters advertising the livestream, headed by celebrity shopping anchor Wei Ya, went viral on Wednesday 1 April, leading many to speculate they were part of an April Fools joke.

But national newspaper Global Times says that Taobao confirmed that “this is for real” in an online post.

(18) THEY LOST ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter knew what the contestants didn’t on tonight’s Jeopardy! But in this case, is that something to brag about?

Category: Movie Monsters.

Answer: “Based on a 1960 Hugo Award-winning novel, this movie starred Casper Van Dien & Denise Richards as soldiers fighting insect-like aliens.”

No one could ask, “What is ‘Starship Troopers’?”

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Guitarist Mike Dawes won’t explain where his composition “William Shatner’s Pants” got its name, but it’s a good tune and an immortal title!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/17/19 After the Police Bread, What Can You Expect?

(1) DESPITE CODES OF CONDUCT. In a post for Medium, Erica Friedman and J. Lynn Hunt count off the many reasons “Why Anime Conventions Are Still Inviting Sexual Predators As Guests”. They hit a lot of familiar problems, and explain them concisely.

…Here’s why.

1)Lack of Training
2) Policies Without Procedures
3) Lack of Organizational Memory
4) Tribalism
5) Misogyny
6) Financial Incentive

Let’s look at each of these in order.

Lack of Training
Con chairs are usually mostly-untrained volunteers with a staff of untrained volunteers. Even the largest cons tend to draw chairs from their own volunteers, so there’s no competence required beyond years of experience and your team of volunteers not walking out on you. No one receives training in sexual harassment policies, or, frankly, anything. Worse, many of the leadership structures in conventions encourages those seeking power and rewards those willing to be assholes. In our experience, we’ve seen volunteers who exploit or abuse their staff allowed to continue because no one feels comfortable removing them from that position. As people around them leave, they rise in the ranks, filling holes they cause. Abusive and exploitative leaders report to no one, especially at small conventions that are privately funded. AnimeMidwest is a perfect example of this. Having been banned from one con, [Ryan] Kopf created his own. Who will be in a position to police him? No one….

(2) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “A Matter of Proportion” by Ann Walker and gets a good range of responses.  

In general, classic SF wasn’t particularly interested in fiction about the disabled, except perhaps as a first step towards a new life as brain-a-jar piloting a space ship or a cyborg covert operative, or to justify testing Phillips’ experimental regeneration treatment on a Lensman. In A Matter of Proportion, Walker focuses on the challenges facing a disabled individual in a world not particularly invested in accommodating their needs. Anne Walker is an author new to me, one I discovered thanks to Rediscovery, Volume 1. This story convinced me I need to seek out more of her work.

(3) TOY LAUNCH. BBC serves up a slice of genre marketing history: “Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy”.

…But initially, with no guarantee that the first film would be a box office success, let alone spawn a smash-hit series, and with no actual toys or market data to show potential buyers, Palitoy had a tough job to convince retailers to invest.

“You have to remember, this was a film people weren’t sure about… they were reluctant to take stuff because it was what they thought was a B-movie – you know, science fiction, all that business,” said Bob Brechin, the firm’s chief designer.

Salvation came in the form of Action Man. Retailers were offered discounts on the firm’s hugely popular soldier figures if they would take Star Wars toys.

Sales manager John Nicholas recalled how one chain’s whisky-loving buyer was handed a bottle of Scotch and asked how many Star Wars figures he wanted.

About half an hour later, and with a third of the bottle gone, he had decided. He would take a million.

“Well, it was my biggest order ever. I’ve never taken an order for that, and, you know, when Woolworths came along and said, ‘All right, I’ll have 100,000’, it was ‘Oh, is that all?’.”

(4) SPEAKING OF CREDENTIALS. I’d love to get another Cats Sleep on SFF entry to see the year out!

(5) THE RESISTANCE. Philip Pullman not only discusses the poem, but interrogates what prevents many people from enjoying poetry in general: “The Sound and the Story, Exploring the World of Paradise Lost” at The Public Domain Review.

A correspondent once told me a story — which I’ve never been able to trace, and I don’t know whether it’s true — about a bibulous, semi-literate, ageing country squire 200 years ago or more, sitting by his fireside listening to Paradise Lost being read aloud. He’s never read it himself; he doesn’t know the story at all; but as he sits there, perhaps with a pint of port at his side and with a gouty foot propped up on a stool, he finds himself transfixed.

Suddenly he bangs the arm of his chair, and exclaims “By God! I know not what the outcome may be, but this Lucifer is a damned fine fellow, and I hope he may win!”

Which are my sentiments exactly.

I’m conscious, as I write this essay, that I have hardly any more pretensions to scholarship than that old gentleman. Many of my comparisons will be drawn from popular literature and film rather than from anything more refined….

(6) WATCHMEN EFFECTS FEATURETTE. I don’t know if there are any spoilers – caveat emptor!

The visual effects on Watchmen are a thermodynamic miracle. See how we brought you squid attacks, clones, and Europa

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 17, 1973 Sleeper premiered. Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, and written by him, it was made as a tribute to Groucho Marx and Bob Hope. Sleeper was awarded the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II. It was equally well received among critics and reviewers, indeed it currently holds a hundred percent rating among the latter at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 17, 2010 Tron: Legacy premiered. It was directed by Joseph Kosinski, in his feature directorial debut, from a screenplay written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, based on a story by Horowitz, Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. It is a sequel to Tron, whose director Steven Lisberger returned to produce. The cast includes Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley.  It did decently at the box Office, got deciedly mixed reviews among critics and currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1903 Erskine Caldwell. He’s listed by ISFDB as having only two SFF pieces, both short stories, of which one, and no I’m kidding, is titled “Advice About Women”. It was published in The Bedside Playboy as edited by a certain Hugh Hefner and published of course on Playboy Press in 1963. Fredric Brown, Ray Bradbury, Avram Davidson, Richard Matheson and Robert Sheckley were the SSF writers present therein. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As Barbara Wright, she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) She’d play another character later in the series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazinetheSF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton whose Birthday was noted here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, as he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 66. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 46. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1974 Sarah Paulson, 45. She’s most likely best known for being Bunny Yeager in The Notorious Betty Paige, but she has solid genre creds having acted in Serenity, The Spirit, Bird Box, Abominable, American Gothic and Glass. She was in seven series of American Horror Story playing at least fifteen different characters. And she’s Nurse Ratched in the upcoming Ratched series.
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 44. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 
  • Born December 17, 1993 Kiersey Clemons, 26. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her who was Iris West is Justice League but all her scenes were deleted. You can see hose scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original but this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg. 

(9) GET IN ON THE DRAWING. Standback is so enthusiastic about “The Outspoken Authors Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas” for Storybundle that he’s organized his own giveaway.

(10) EAT YOUR VEGGIES, OR VICE-VERSA. Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation – I love the title. The essay collection, edited by Katherine E. Bishop, will be released by the University of Wales Press in May 2020.

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant-life are driven, as are many threads of science fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today. Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant-life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; questioning and shifting our understandings of institutions, nations, borders, and boundaries; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures

(11) IN MEALS TO COME. Coincidentally, the journal Science asked young scientists to write an advertisement that answers this question: “How will food options, food availability, and individuals’ food choices change in the future?” Their answers were decidedly SFnal. “Foods of the future” [PDF file.] For example —

Health food

Tired of managing your diet? Health Capsule provides non-invasive, cognitive control of your hunger, satiation, and weight. Made possible by deep brain stimulation and neuromodulation technology, this environmentally sustainable capsule will keep you healthy and fit while satisfying all your cravings. Put calculating your calories and carbon footprint behind you!

Saima Naz

 Pakistan.

Personalised diet

Send us your DNA, and we will predict your food preferences! Receive your personalized food basket, with a day-by-day diet program. We will send you full meals and personalized smoothies based on your genetic taste predisposition. We know what you love; it’s in your DNA.

Ada Gabriela Blidner

Laboratorio de Inmunopatología,

Argentina.

(12) EMPLOYEE THEFT! From Jimmy Kimmel Live, “Star Wars Cast on Premiere, Stealing from Set & Gifts from J.J. Abrams.”

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie & Keri Russell talk about the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, gifts that J.J. gave them, what they stole from set, and they surprise the audience with IMAX movie tickets.

Followed by —

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Chewbacca from the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker play #ForceFamilyFeud!

(13) WINDOW ON TRAVEL INTO CHINA. [Item by Bill.] Bunnie Huang is a well-known hardware hacker.  He goes to China annually with a group of MIT students to show them where the products they design will be built, and has written a “how-to” guide for navigating the Shenzen electronics district.  Most of it is specific to the electronics markets, but there is good information on getting around in China generally – internet limitations and work-arounds (p. 19), local customs (dress, tipping, etc.) (p. 20),  point-to-translate written material for getting around (p. 67), visas and border crossing (p. 84), etc. With all the recent discussion about China’s Worldcon bid, it might be a useful introduction. The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen [PDF file].

(14) ARCHAEOLOGICAL SUPERFUND SITE? In this case, we know why it was buried. “Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory”.

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a 2,000-year-old factory for making garum, the fabled fish sauce that the Romans took with them on all their journeys of conquest.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came across the small cetaria, or factory for making the prized sauce, while inspecting the site of a planned sports park on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports.

The dig was funded by the local authorities, and young people and school children from the Ashkelon area came to help out.

It is one of the very few garum factories found in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the Romans’ long presence in the area and the premium they put on the pungent fermented sauce.

Most surviving examples are to be found in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy.

“We have something really unusual here,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel, as the Romans added garum to almost all their dishes to give them a salty savoury kick.

“It’s said that making garum produced such a stench that cetariae were located some distance from the towns they served, and in this case the factory is about two kilometres from ancient Ashkelon,” Dr Tali Erickson-Gini said, according to Kan.

(15) FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION. “DNA from Stone Age woman obtained 6,000 years on” – image at the link.

This is the face of a woman who lived 6,000 years ago in Scandinavia.

Thanks to the tooth marks she left in ancient “chewing gum”, scientists were able to obtain DNA, which they used to decipher her genetic code.

This is the first time an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than human bone, said the researchers.

She likely had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

Dr Hannes Schroeder from the University of Copenhagen said the “chewing gum” – actually tar from a tree – is a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains.

“It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone,” he said.

What do we know about her?

The woman’s entire genetic code, or genome, was decoded and used to work out what she might have looked like. She was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time, and, like them, had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

(16) ECUMENICAL. “Gloas and Cruinlagh: Planet and star become first with Manx names” reports BBC.

A star and planet will be given Manx Gaelic names for the first time after being chosen in an international competition.

The star WASP-13 will be known as Gloas (which means ‘to shine’) and the planet WASP-13b as Cruinlagh (‘to orbit’).

A class of Manx eight and nine-year-olds came up with the names for a competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Professor Robert Walsh said they had made their “mark on the universe”.

The names were chosen due to their “sense of mystery” after taking 20% of 15,000 votes cast by members of the public.

(17) LINE ITEM. Popular Mechanics proclaims “The Space Force Will Become the Sixth Branch of the U.S. Military”. Will it be the right kind of smoke and mirrors?

It’s really happening. A bipartisan budget agreement for 2020 will see the creation of a new branch of the military specifically oriented towards space. The United States Space Force will be the first new service branch in more than 60 years, tasked to ensure America’s freedom to operate in outer space—or take space away from somebody else.

According to a draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Agreement, also known as the 2020 U.S. defense budget, the Pentagon will redesignate the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command the U.S. Space Force, spinning it off from an arm of the Air Force into a separate service.

The service will be headed by a Chief of Space Operations, similar to how the U.S. Navy is headed by a Chief of Naval Operations and consist of “the space forces and such assets as may be organic therein.” That’s pretty ambiguous language but probably means most of the Air Force’s space assets, from satellite launching facilities like Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to spacecraft ground control bases like Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. It’ll also include america’s network of GPS satellites, the X-37B spaceplane, and other military space assets. The Space Force will also likely strip away a smaller number of assets and personnel from the U.S. Army and Navy.

(18) A FEW WOODS FROM OUR SPONSOR. Somebody has taken care of making a bunch of cute sequels to these commercials: “Geico makes sequels to popular Pinocchio, racoons and woodchucks ads” at The Drum.

…Six humorous spots from The Martin Agency continue where the originals left off. Pinocchio continues his lying ways in two spots. One finds him pulled over by a cop and his nose grows as he tries to fib his way out of a ticket to no avail. The other finds his lengthening wooden nose becoming a problem as he lies on a first date he booked on a dating app….

You can access the playlist if you click through this video to YouTube.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Bill, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/19 All Those Pixels Will Be Lost In Files, Like Scrolls In The Rain

(1) LIBRARY OF CONGRESS. Authors Charlie Jane Anders, Holly Black, Seanan McGuire, and John Scalzi, as well as many other writers outside of the genre, will be at the “2019 Library of Congress National Book Festival”. The Festival will be held in Washington, DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on August 31. Check out the Festival blog.

(2) ON THE WAY TO THE MOON. The first two episodes of the new Washington Post podcast Moonrise focus heavily on John W. Campbell and Astounding Science Fiction, and it looks like there’s a lot more to come. Episodes can be downloaded from various distributors, or listened to through the Post’s website.

Want to uncover the real origin story behind the United States’ decision to go to the moon? In the 50 years since the moon landing, as presidential documents have been declassified and secret programs revealed, a wild story has begun to emerge. “Moonrise,” a new Washington Post audio miniseries hosted by Lillian Cunningham, digs into the nuclear arms race of the Cold War, the transformation of American society and politics ?— and even the birth of science fiction ?— to unearth what really drove us to the moon. Listen to the episodes as they’re released each week, and come along with us on a fascinating journey from Earth to the moon.

(3) WHAT IS “SENSE OF WONDER”? In “First Men and Original Sins” at Image, Adam Roberts reviews the movie First Man, Catherine Newell’s Chesley Bonestell biography Destined for the Stars: Faith, Future, and America’s Final Frontier, and Kendrick Oliver’s To Touch the Face of God, in order to discuss the sense of wonder many feel about space.

PROFANE IS AN INTERESTING WORD. Etymologically the word describes the ground outside—or, strictly, in front of (pro)—the temple (fanum). How do we understand the profanity, or otherwise, of space travel? Is earth the temple and outer space the outer (pro) fanum? Or could it be that the heavens are the temple, and it’s we who are stuck down here in a mundane, profane antechamber? Is the sense of wonder that attends space exploration fundamentally a religious impulse? Or is the achievement of Apollo a triumph of solidly non-spiritual science, engineering, technology, and materialism?

This matter is addressed by To Touch the Face of God, Kendrick Oliver’s absorbing social history of the space program. Oliver has sensible things to say about the limitations of simply mapping the religious convictions of NASA scientists and astronauts onto a project like Apollo, but nonetheless he assembles a convincing picture of just how interpenetrated the undertaking was by a kind of providentialist, Protestant ethos, exploring the pros and cons of considering spaceflight as a religious experience. He’s especially good on the way the program channeled national concerns about the separation of church and state, a debate that had been galvanized by the 1963 Supreme Court judgment ruling mandatory school prayer unconstitutional.

As Apollo 8 orbited the moon in December of 1968, astronaut Bill Anders informed “all the people back on earth” that “the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.” They then read the creation account of Genesis 1 aloud. The reading, Oliver shows, had an enormous impact. The Christian Century ran an editorial declaring themselves “struck dumb by this event,” and Apollo flight director Gene Kranz wept openly in the control room: “for those moments,” he later recalled, “I felt the presence of creation and the Creator.”

(4) HWA GUIDELINES. Nick Mamatas reacted to yesterday’s post, “Bram Stoker Awards Co-Chairs Interviewed About HWA Guidelines for Promoting Works”

(5) STUDENT JOURNALISTS LOOK INTO SCA. Paul Matisz was one of the people interviewed by the student magazine The Tattler for its article about “The Dark Side of Medieval Reenactment.” (The issue is here, and the article is on pages 17-19.) Matisz, who formerly participated in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Fulk Beauxarmes, has posted the full text of his responses on his blog “Interviewed for an Article on the SCA”. He praised the thoroughness of their reporting.

Here’s a clipping from the article:

(6) RINGS A BELL. While skimming Shelf Awareness, Andrew Porter spotted a notice for The Best of Manhunt edited by Jeff Vorzimmer (“… the crime-fiction magazine Manhunt (1952-1967)….editor Jeff Vorzimmer has pulled together 39 gripping and pitiless tales…”) That seemed an uncommon name and he wondered if this fellow was any relation to Fifties fan Peter Vorzimer (with one “m”, his fannish AKA spelling). Indeed, Jeff is his son, as confirmed by this blog post: “Death in Hollywood” (2017). I’ve heard of Peter myself – his name was still cropping up in anecdotes about the old days of LASFS when I joined in the Seventies. Most of this excerpt quotes a reminiscence written by Peter himself: 

My father was in the last half of his senior year at Hollywood High and … he was inconvenienced by losing his driver’s license for a year. 

 “It was on the way to HAC one day, March 17th, 1954, that I got involved in an accident in which I killed an elderly pedestrian. Which, though she had made some negligent contribution, cost me my driver’s license for one year. It also took the wind out of my senior year of high school. 

“My lack of wheels forced me to concentrate on my writing skills—particularly my editorship of an amateur science fiction magazine, Abstract, a fanzine, as they are called. This brought me closer to a group of similarly minded young men. Charley Wilgus was my closest friend, followed by Don Donnell, Jimmy Clemons and Burt Satz. Don was the most creative and, at 16, already a good writer; Burt, who was universally picked on by the rest, was the best read (Hemingway, Joyce, and a host of others). Clemons introduced me to the world of Science Fiction and the L. A. Science Fiction Society—whose meetings were attended by E. E. “Doc” Smith, Ray Bradbury, and the agent Forry Ackerman. Possibly because of its controversial—read argumentative—editorials, its excellent mimeographed and often salacious art, Abstract became quite popular in the world of science fiction fandom. The high point of my early career was my bus trip to San Francisco to meet various pen pals: Gilbert Minicucci, Terry Carr, Bob Stewart, and Pete Graham. It took something for my mother to permit her 15-year-old son to go up by bus to San Francisco from L.A. to attend a Sci Fi convention on his own for a week!”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1911 Reginald Bretnor. Author of many genre short stories involving Ferdinand Feghoot, a comical figure indeed. It looks like all of these are available in digital form on iBooks and Kindle. He was a consummate SJW. He translated Les Chats, the first known book about cats which was written by Augustin Paradis de Moncrif in 1727. He also wrote myriad articles about cats, was a companion to cats, and considered himself to have a psychic connection to cats. Of course, most of us do. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I’ll single him out here for his role as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China, a film I adore. He also appeared in Beauty and the Beast as Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode, and in Poltergeist: The Legacy as Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 71. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Homn on Next Gen, companion to Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams Family, Addams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen…
  • Born July 30, 1961 Laurence Fishburne, 58. Appeared in The Matrix films of which I watched at least two before deciding I could be reading something more interesting. His voice work as Thrax in Osmosis Jones on the other hand is outstanding as is his role as Bill Foster in Ant-Man
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 53. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I didn’t know he was an author ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 49. Obviously the Batman films of which I think I’ve seen several (too noisy, too vivid). However The Prestige is magnificent as is Inception and Interstellar
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 44. Her southern gothic Eden Moore series is quite good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks. I’ve not read Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how they are.
  • Born July 30, 1984 Gina Rodriguez, 35. Anya Thorensen in Annihilation based on Jeff VanderMeer’s novels which I’ve read though I’ve not seen the film. She was also Robin I the “Subway” episode of the Eleventh Hour series, and directed the “Witch Perfect” episode of the new Charmed series. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) CORKING GOOD NEWS. “New ‘Star Trek’ wine lets you sample Capt. Jean-Luc Picard’s vino”USA Today tells where you can pick up a bottle.  

Here’s a pair of vintages that should be engaging to “Star Trek” fans.

The first two selections in a new Star Trek Wines series are available with one celebrating the United Federation of Planets, the other paying tribute to the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” character Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart.

The 2016 Chateau Picard Cru Bourgeois from Bordeaux, France, is timely as Stewart’s Picard returns next year in a new CBS All Access series, “Star Trek: Picard.” That wine can be purchased along with a numbered, limited edition of the United Federation of Planets Special Reserve for $120 (Only 1,701 packs will be sold. Star Trek fans will know 1701 as the starship Enterprise’s identification number.)

The wines, available at StarTrekWines.com, are being brought to market by Wines that Rock, which sells wines carrying the labels of rock bands such as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, and The Police and Woodstock. They will be poured at the Star Trek Las Vegas event, which runs Wednesday to Sunday.

(10) DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES? Who needs a Hugo Award when you’ve got an SJW Credential?

(11) FLIGHTS OF FANCY. In the Washington Post, John Kelly inquires about the work of eccentric British artist Rowland Emett at the National Air and Space Museum.  If Emett isn’t a sf artist, he is certainly “sf-adjacent” — “Air and Space Museum used to feature flying machines of the strangest sort”.

…This was the start of what Emett called his “machines.” He gained international fame for designing the contraptions featured in the 1968 film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Soon, companies began hiring him to create fanciful machines to use in their marketing.

As for the sculptures at Air and Space, “The Exploratory Moon-Probe Lunacycle M.A.U.D.” was on loan and eventually went back to Britain. The museum commissioned “S.S. Pussiewillow II” — imagine a wispy dirigible — but removed it from display in 1990 after a motor caught fire, burning a “flying carpet” that was part of the work.

Despite that, “Emett’s machines are remarkably reliable,” said Tim Griffiths, founder of the Rowland Emett Society, a group of enthusiasts. “The motor that failed on the Pussiewillow wasn’t the original and was possibly installed because of the difference in voltages between the U.K. and U.S.”

(12) NOT JONAH. Did this one ask too many questions? “Whale ‘swallows’ sea lion: ‘It was a once-in-a-lifetime event'”.

Chase Dekker believes the photo he took of a humpback whale “swallowing” a sea lion is the first time that happening has ever been caught on camera.

The 27-year-old wildlife photographer and marine biologist had taken a boat of whale watchers out on the water in Monterey Bay, California, on 22 July when the incident happened.

“It wasn’t a huge group, only three humpback whales and about two hundred sea lions,” Chase tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“We’ve seen it all the way up to 100 whales with 3,000 sea lions, so it can get really insane.”

The animals were feeding on a school of anchovies at the water’s surface when the whale ended up with something a little larger in its mouth than it probably expected.

(13) FIRED FROM FIRE. BBC says a video game is recasting a part — “Fire Emblem: Nintendo cuts voice actor over emotional abuse”.

Nintendo is replacing a voice actor in new game Fire Emblem: Three Houses after he admitted emotionally abusing ex-partners and friends.

The role-playing game was only released last week, but an update is already planned to remove Chris Niosi.

He posted an apology and explanation on Tumblr a few days before the game was released.

“I have horribly mistreated and abused friends, colleagues and even my significant others,” he wrote.

(14) EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC CAMEO. At San Diego Comic-Con, it was revealed that Jeri Ryan will reprise her role as Seven of Nine (ST: Voyager) in the new CBS All Access show ST: Picard. Now she may have some company. Trekkie Girls is spreading the word:“Voyager’s Robert Picardo in talks to appear in Star Trek: Picard”.

It’s a cameo that makes perfect sense and at London Film and Comic Con last weekend, Robert Picardo (The EMH and Dr Zimmerman from Star Trek Voyager) confirmed that his agent was in talks with CBS to possibly return in Season 2 of Star Trek Picard.

“I am pleased that they (CBS) have expressed interest in me. They have reached out to my agent about next season. So I’m looking forward to seeing what it is. As you know I play two characters, primarily the Doctor but also Lewis Zimmerman.”

Robert Picardo – Sunday 28th July, LFCC.

A recording of the entire interview is here —

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Alec Nevala-Lee, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of thee stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/19 Cthulhu’s On First?

Editor’s Note: My ISP took the site down for several hours to do database maintenance. I was notified earlier today it would happen and put the info in a comment, however, I doubt many people saw it. We’re back now!

(1) HOW TO SUCCEED AS A PANELIST Delilah S. Dawson’s thread “So You’re On Your First Panel As A Writer” tells participants how to sharpen their skills. Thread starts here.

(2) RINGING THE REGISTER. “How Many Copies Did Famous Books Sell in the First Year?” LitHub says from two to two million. Here’s the number for the first genre work on their list –

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932): 13,000 copies (UK); 15,000 copies (US)

(3) STOP THAT TRAIN. The New York Times says the Justice Department lawsuit is supported by The Authors Guild and PEN America: “2 Big Book and Magazine Printers Face Suit to Block Their Merger”.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Chicago, the Justice Department asked for a halt to Quad/Graphics’s planned $1.4 billion purchase of LSC Communications. Lawyers in the department’s antitrust division argued that the merger would decrease competition and drive up prices.

Quad publishes every Condé Nast title, including The New Yorker and Vogue, most publications from Hearst Magazines, including O: The Oprah Magazine, and Scholastic books. LSC Communications publishes two magazines from AARP that claim to have the largest circulations in the world, Penguin Random House books and more.

…In its attempt to block the deal, the Justice Department had two allies from the community of writers: The Authors Guild and PEN America. “The lack of competition among book printers has already caused a bottleneck and increased publishing costs, and a merger between these two companies could exacerbate this situation by creating a monopoly,” the Authors Guild said in a statement in March.

That same month, the Authors Guild and PEN America joined the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank based in Washington, in sending a letter to the Justice Department recommending that the merger be blocked.

It was imperative that the government act, the letter said, because magazines and books “are fundamental to the ability of citizens to freely express and share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and works of art.”

(4) ROCKET’S RED GLARE. ScienceFiction.com learned “Marvel Monsters REALLY Want Lady Gaga To Voice Rocket Raccoon’s Love Interest In ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 3’” and kicks off its coverage with a referential pun:

Are Marvel fans a “Shallow” lot?  They are lobbying hard for James Gunn to cast Lady Gaga as the voice of Lylla, a sentient otter from the comic books who winds up being the love interest of Rocket Raccoon, who is voiced by Bradley Cooper in the movies.  This is after Film Updates posted a tease on Twitter that Gaga was under consideration, and that Lylla was “set to make an appearance” in Gunn’s upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3’.

(5) DESTROYING THE INTERNET. On reason.com, Mike Godwin of the R Street Institute, in “What If Widespread Disinformation Is the Solution to Fake News?” interviews Neal Stephenson about his idea, expressed in Fall, that the solution to fake news on the Internet is to hire people to perform “libel service,” flooding the Net with so many slanderous articles about a subject that no one could believe anything on the Net about a particular person.

I confess I haven’t yet finished Stephenson’s latest 800-plus-page tome, which so far might be characterized, although not necessarily captured, by the term “near-future dystopia.”  But when I came across Stephenson’s depiction of how automated disinformation could actually remedy the damage that internet-based “doxxing” and fake news inflict on an innocent private individual, I paused my reading and jumped down the rabbit hole of tracing this idea to its 1990s roots. 

…This whole chapter rang many bells for me, not least because it paralleled a discussion I had with a law professor at a conference last year when I pitched the idea of a “libel service.” Basically, you’d hire a “libel service” to randomly defame you on the internet, so that whenever anyone says something bad about you on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments area of some newspaper, you could just say “that’s probably my libel service.” No one would know whether the defamatory statements were true or not, and people would be predisposed to doubt anything too terrible that’s said about you.

(6) MARVEL ONE-ACT PLAYS. Samuel French and Marvel Entertainment have launched Marvel Spotlight, a collection of one-act plays “telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Developed specifically for teenagers, these one-act plays star the iconic Super Heroes Ms. Marvel, Thor, and Squirrel Girl. The scripts are now available for purchase as well as licensing within the educational theatre market at MarvelSpotlightPlays.com.

Here’s the abstract for Mirror of Most Value: A Ms. Marvel Play:

Kamala attempts to boost Ms. Marvel’s fledgling super hero profile by writing her own fan fiction. But when building a fandom becomes an obsession, Kamala’s schoolwork and relationships begin to suffer. To become the Jersey City hero of her dreams, Kamala must learn to accept herself just as she is – imperfections and all.

(7) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Camestros Felapton points out the connections between Bradbury’s fiction and the Elton John biopic: “The Rocket Man versus Rocketman”.

Both the song and story feature a man who pilots an interplanetary rocket as a routine job that takes him away from his family for large stretches of time. However, the song places the perspective with the pilot (the titular rocket man) but the story focuses on the feelings and experiences of the pilot’s son.

Bradbury is such a powerful writer. Even though the sci-fi trappings of the story are of the gee-whiz 1950s style shiny technology, the story itself is focused on emotional connections and that signature Bradbury sense of the past and memory.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster debuted — the one where the guy in the gorilla suit wore a divers helmet with antennae.
  • June 25, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks was released in London. The film featured Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Cushing would do one more film, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. a year later.  Cushing was the First Doctor, so Roberta Tovey was cast as his granddaughter. 
  • June 25, 1975 Rollerball premiered
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner arrived in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 George Orwell. Surprised to learn he only lived to be forty-seven years old. Author obviously of Animal Farm and 1984, both of which I read a long time ago. Best use of the 1984 image goes to Apple in their ad where a female runner smashes the image of Big Brother. (Died 1950.)
  • Born June 25, 1925 June Lockhart, 93. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind,” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro!,  (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 Ian McDonald, 59. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the Everness series are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 Sheridan Smith, 38. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) WHAT A KINDNESS. Actor Michael Sheen answered a request in character as Aziraphale:

(11) STAN LEE NOVEL COMING. Per Entertainment Weekly, “Stan Lee’s posthumous project A Trick of Light to be published as a book”.

Stan Lee’s posthumous creative project A Trick of Light, initially announced as the beginning of a new series for Audible, will be published as a hardcover finished book this fall, EW has learned exclusively. The book will be classified as Lee’s first-ever novel for adult readers, and marks the first foray into his new Alliances universe, which was created in partnership between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, Ryan Silbert’s Origin Story, and Luke Lieberman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is set to publish A Trick of Light, with Kat Rosenfield serving as co-author.

A Trick of Light is a superhero origin story about the unlikely friendship between Cameron, a gifted young man struggling with newfound fame after a freak accident gives him the ability to manipulate technology with his mind, and Nia, a hacker and coding genius with a mysterious past. The two must combine their powers to fight the dangerous physical and online forces threatening to wipe out the human race. Audible’s original launches June 27; it’s narrated by Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi.

… The novel version publishes on Sept. 17, 2019, and is available for pre-order.

(12) THE FLEET. Ethan Mills is finally won over to Chambers’ series, as he explains in “Space Chillwave, Not Space Opera: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers” at Examined Worlds.

The setting was really interesting and philosophically fruitful: a fleet of generation ships dating back to a time before contact with aliens who possess advanced technology that made generation ships useless.  Instead of traversing the inky depths of interstellar space, the Fleet orbits a planet.  Still, the people continue to live there.  Why? It’s complicated.  But it prompts the existential question: What are we, the readers, doing on a rock hurtling through space heading nowhere in particular, destined to die?  It starts off subtle but it all gets pretty deep (we’re talking meaning-of-life type stuff, some of it – damn it – coming from the angsty teen).  This really surprised me considering a lot of the novel feels pretty… light and fluffy.  You could totally read this as a light and fluffy space romp and enjoy it just fine, but there are depths if you’re willing to look into the subtleties.

(13) WILLITS TRIBUTE. Alan White’s Skyliner #7 is a wonderful collection, even if it is “a sad one, being dedicated to the late, great Malcolm Willits, Author, Fannish Mogul, Citizen Kane of Mickey Mouse, and one of the early fen who actually did something worthy of the fannish pantheon.” It includes long autobiographical pieces, such as “Gottfredson and Me” about Willits’ appreciation for the artist who produced Disney’s Mickey Mouse comics.

I have long loved Floyd Gottfredson, even though I did not know his name. But I knew him through his work, through his wonderful Mickey Mouse stories, and especially through his wonderful artwork. I knew it first through the Big Little Books, those miniature jewels that came out during the Depression and reprinted Mickey’s great adventures. I remember them from the ten cent store; whole counters full, all spine out and a dime apiece

A few years later all my Big Little Books disappeared, along with the comic books I had carefully protected from the wartime paper drives, thereby prolonging World War II a microsecond. My father was a YMCA Secretary, and he had given all of them to the children of Japanese-American families being relocated to internment camps. In vain was my protest that the 10¢ war stamp I purchased each week in the 2nd grade was sacrifice enough. Nor was my offer to substitute my school books even considered. I soon found myself in a staging area looking at sad-eyed Japanese-American children being held in wire cages. Dad informed me they were as American as I. It was then I began to suspect his grasp of world affairs. Didn’t he know who Captain America was fighting; had he slept through that Don Winslow serial we had seen a week or two before and neglected to notice who the villains were? But I acted properly contrite and was rewarded with some new comic books on the way home, so the world turned bright again. When my father turned 90, he was honored for his work with the Japanese-Americans during World War II. My contribution remains unheralded.

…Do artists such as Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson really need their friends? John W. Campbell, legendary editor of astounding science-fiction once said that if all the fans stop buying his magazine he would never know. He meant the fans that filled the letter columns, attended the conventions, published the fanzines, and badgered the authors. They probably compromise 1% of the readership, and 90% of the headaches. By being so vocal they could manage from orbit the general policies of the magazine that were keeping the rest of the readership contented. Yet where would Barks and Gottfredson be today if it were not for the godsend that two fans, Bruce Hamilton, and Russ Cochran, we’re born to collect and publish the works of these two artists? How difficult it would be to place a historical perspective on them without the pioneering works Tom Andrae, Donald Ault, Bill Blackbeard, Geoffrey Blum, Barbara Botner, Mark Evanier, Alan Dean Foster, Bob Foster, Frank & Dana Gabbard, Gottfreid Helnwein, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Leonard Maltin, John Nichols, Tor Odemark, Mark Saarinen, Horst Schroeder, David Smith, Kim Weston, myself, Mark Worden, and many others both here and abroad.

(14) THE HORROR OF IT ALL. Nick Mamatas’ affection for the Lovecraftian storytelling style is manifest in his review of Toy Story 4, a post made public to encourage readers to sign up for his Patreon.

…The uncanny and the unworthy populate the film. Woody, ignored by his new owner, feels valueless and thus assigns himself the task of attempting to keep Forky alive. The antagonists are antique store dolls–there a Chatty Cathylike figure whose voice box was damaged at her creation, so her pull-cord “I love you!” sounds like a twisted dream calling forth from the bottom of a tar pit. She commands a quartet of ventriloquist dummies who cannot speak and who do her bidding while flopping around on their twisted limbs. She desires Woody’s innards for her own….

(15) ASTRONAUT HEIRLOOM. All kinds of things are going under the hammer during The Armstrong Family Collection III Space Exploration Auction (July 16-18) – even “Neil Armstrong’s Childhood Toy Teddy Bear Directly From The Armstrong Family Collection”.

(16) TRANSPORTATION SENTENCES. Felicity McLean explores “Australian Gothic Literature” at CrimeReads.

Of course the Germans have a wonderful word for ‘Gothic novel’. Schauerroman. Literally: “shudder-novel”. A story that makes you shiver with fear. Because Gothic is the literature of the menacing and the macabre.

It’s the stuff of nightmares.

But how does such a dark art translate in sunny Australia? How do you cause your readers to shiver when the temperature sits stubbornly above 80 degrees?

Gothic influence has been loitering creepily in Australian literature ever since European settlement. In 1788, when the British began shipping their convicts to Australia, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Ontranto had recently been published in England and so the British transported the Gothic mode along with their very worst criminals.

(17) DEADLY TROPE. Also at CrimeReads, Caroline Louise Walker analyzes “Why Doctors Make for the Most Terrifying Villains in Fiction”.

SIR WILLIAM GULL in From Hell, by Alan Moore (art by Eddie Campbell)

In Moore’s brilliant graphic novel, we’re asked to bend all we know about a serial killer we all know: Jack the Ripper. The details and research embedded in the conspiracy theory that unfolds are haunting, staggering, and so well done. If the infamously gruesome homicidal maniac was one and the same as a highly respected royal physician, then we must consider who we are trusting with our lives, and why.

(18) ON THE CLOCK. Details on the Falcon Heavy’s key payload: “Nasa puts up deep-space atomic clock”.

Nasa has put a miniaturised atomic clock in orbit that it believes can revolutionise deep-space navigation.

About the size of a toaster, the device is said to have 50 times the stability of existing space clocks, such as those flown in GPS satellites.

If the technology proves itself over the next year, Nasa will install the clock in future planetary probes.

The timepiece was one of 24 separate deployments from a Falcon Heavy rocket that launched from Florida on Tuesday.

The other passengers on the flight were largely also demonstrators. They included a small spacecraft to test a new type of “green” rocket fuel, and another platform that aims to propel itself via the pressure of sunlight caught in a large membrane; what’s often called a “lightsail”.

But it is the mercury-ion atomic clock, developed at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has had most attention.

(19) REMOTE LAB. “‘Jet in a box’ powers remote Halley Antarctic base” – article resonates with discussions about whether we should ever send crews rather than robot labs to other planets.

The UK has managed to get one of its major Antarctic bases operating in an automatic mode for the first time.

Halley base, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, is remotely running experiments that include the monitoring of the ozone layer and of “space weather”.

The station would normally be crewed year-round, even through the permanent darkness of winter.

But staff have had to be withdrawn because of uncertainty over the stability of nearby ice.

A giant berg the size of Greater London is about to break away from the Brunt, and officials from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) consider it prudent to keep people away from the area, at least until the light and warmth of summer returns.

That’s prompted the UK’s polar research agency to develop an innovative set-up that can continue the station’s priority science activities in what is now the third winter shutdown on the trot.

(20) TOOL FOR SF WRITERS? BBC unpacks “The simple rule that can help you predict the future”. Note Le Guin quote near end, and signup for Forecast Challenge at the top.

What will remain in 100 years’ time of the city or town where you were born: which landmarks or buildings? What about in 500 years? The controversial author Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a counter-intuitive rule-of-thumb for answering questions like this. If you want to know how long something non-perishable will endure – that is, something not subject to the limits of a natural lifespan – then the first question you should ask is how long it has already existed. The older it is, the more likely it is to go on surviving.

…The logic of Taleb’s argument is simple. Because the only judge that matters when it comes to the future is time, our only genuinely reliable technique for looking ahead is to ask what has already proved enduring: what has shown fitness and resilience in the face of time itself, surviving its shocks and assaults across decades, centuries or millennia. The Tower of London may seem modest in comparison to the Shard skyscraper – which sits across the Thames at 11 times the height – but it has also proved its staying power across 94 times as many years. The Shard may be iconic and imposing, but its place in history is far from assured. When it comes to time, the older building looms larger.

(21) MUPPET HISTORY. DefunctTV: Jim Henson is a six-part series chronicling the life and works of the man behind the Muppet mayhem. Here’s the first of four installments.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/29/19 Los Scrollitos Dicen Pixelo Pixelo Pixelo

(1) SURVEY SAYS. The Stephen Follows Film Data and Education blog asks “Are video game movies the worst type of adaptations?”

The recent release of Pokémon Detective Pikachu has prompted some readers to get in touch and ask about the quality of movies based on video games.

Most of the questions were variations of: “Are video game movies the worst type of movie adaptations?

To answer this, I looked at all movies released in US cinemas between 1993 and 2018, inclusive. (See the Note section for a more detailed explanation of the dataset and sources).

I’m going to use the Metacritic score and IMDb rating to serve as measures of quality from the perspective of film critics and film audiences, respectively.

The answer, supported by all kinds of statistics and graphs is — yes! 

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Elizabeth Bear’s “No Moon and Flat Calm” is the latest installment in the Future Tense Fiction series. In it, author Elizabeth Bear imagines a crew of safety engineers on a routine trip to a space that are thrown into sudden disaster onboard the station. How will real future humans react to calamity when we’re millions of miles away from home? And how much can training for such potential crises override our natural instincts?

…It was a tiny, artificial world called Waystation Hab, and my four classmates and I were approaching it in a shuttle we’d been crammed into for four months. My classmates and I were all postgraduate apprentices in the safety engineering internship program….

In a response essay, “How Will People Behave in Deep Space Disasters?”, Amanda Ripley, journalist and author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why, tackles these questions—and what they might mean for those striving to send humans to Mars and beyond.

(3) DEFYING DOOMSDAY AWARD. Nominations for the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award are being taken until July 31. The award grants one winner per year a cash prize of $200 in recognition of their work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

This award is possible thanks to D Franklin, our wonderful Patron of Diversity who pledged the top pledge in our Pozible campaign, back in 2015. This allowed the funding of the award for three years, meaning that this will be the last year the award is given, although we hope the recognition helps those awarded in some small way.

The 2016 winner was Disability in Kidlit, a website and resource for discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature.

The 2017 winner was the Kickstarter campaign for Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, a special issue of Uncanny Magazine.

The Defying Doomsday Award jury comprises Twelfth Planet Press publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Defying Doomsday editors, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench.

Eligible works include non-fiction or related media exploring the subject of disability in SFF literature. Works must have been published in 2018. Use this form to submit nominations.The winner will be announced in September 2019.

(4) SATIRE STORYBUNDLE. You have three weeks left to purchase The Science Fiction and Fantasy Satire Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas.

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

  • Jesus and the Eightfold Path by Lavie Tidhar
  • A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer
  • The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas
  • TVA Baby by Terry Bisson

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus EIGHT more!

  • Koontown Killing Kaper by Bill Campbell
  • The Good Humor Man by Andrew Fox
  • Scorch by A.D. Nauman
  • The Anarchist Kosher Cookbook by Maxwell Bauman
  • Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown
  • Broken Piano for President by Patrick Wensink
  • Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool
  • The Word of God by Thomas M. Disch

(5) THE BRIGHT SIDE. James Davis Nicoll bucks the trend of fans who gripe about incomplete series — “Hope Springs Eternal: Five Unfinished Series That Remain a Joy to Read” at Tor.com. Being “of a certain vintage,” as soon as I saw James’ title this very series did, in fact, spring to my mind –

Of course, if one is of a certain vintage, one will have lived through Alexei Panshin’s annus mirabilis. In 1968, Panshin published three novels, two of which (Star Well and The Thurb Revolution) focused on wandering interstellar remittance man Anthony Villiers, who righted wrongs with wit and panache. 1969 saw the release of the third volume, Masque World, which raised what seemed at the time reasonable expectation of a new Villiers book every year or so. As it turns out, it has been (counts on fingers) half a century since the third book was published. Hope springs eternal.

There are footnotes at the end of the article, in which the final line is –

Ditto Pratchett’s Discworld. I’d like more, but I’m not dissatisfied.

Well said.

(6) GOOD OMENS GETS THEATRICAL DEBUT. BBC has the story — “Good Omens: Seat reserved for Terry Pratchett at world premiere”.

There was an empty seat in the front row when Good Omens had its world premiere in London on Tuesday.

But that’s not because organisers had trouble filling the gigantic (and newly reopened) Odeon in Leicester Square – quite the opposite, the event was packed out.

In fact, a seat was deliberately kept vacant for Terry Pratchett, the co-writer of the original novel, who died in 2015.

As a tribute, his trademark hat was placed in the front row as the premiere got under way.

As Peter White noted in Deadline, it’s highly unusual for a TV series such as Good Omens to “receive a glitzy world premiere in Leicester Square” as that’s “a feat usually reserved for big-budget superhero movies”.

Refresher for anyone not familiar with the long history: “Good Omens: How Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote a book” by Neil Gaiman.

(7) LEM DISCOVERY. Read “’The Hunt’: Stanislaw Lem’s Unknown Story”, translated into English, at “Przekrój” Quarterly.

A previously unknown yet print-worthy work by Stanis?aw Lem (unearthed from his immense archives; combed through by his son Tomasz and the author’s personal secretary Wojciech Zemek for the last 16 years) is truly a rare find. This is because the author of The Cyberiad unceremoniously burnt any and all of his own writings that he was not pleased with, in a bonfire at his home in the Kraków suburb of Kliny. He cast quite a lot of texts into the flames there, given that he wrote with such great ease. By what miracle did “The Hunt” manage to avoid the fate of other works that went up in smoke?

(8) ETCHISON OBIT. Horror author Dennis Etchison (1943-2019) died during the night on May 29 reports his Facebook page. File 770 obituary here. Andrew Porter has two photos of him taken earlier in his career, at the Nebulas in New York City, and at a British Fantasy Convention, holding an award.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s ReposeThe Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. Early pulp writer who some claim coined the word “ astronaut” which appeared in his first story, “The Death’s Head Meteor”, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930. His stories taken together fit within the idea of a future history like those of Smith and Heinlein. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 29, 1930 Richard Clifton-Dey. Illustrator of many SF book covers including The Wizard of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He did not sign many of his originals so his widow has the final say what is an original and what is not. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 29, 1952 Louise Cooper. She wrote more than eight works of fantasy and was best known for her Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 29, 1953 Danny Elfman, 66. Ok, pop quiz time. How many genre films can you name that he composed the music for? I came up with BeetlejuicePee-wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Mars Attacks!Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns and the Men in Black films. And I’d forgotten he was in Oingo Boingo, a truly great pop band. 
  • Born May 29, 1958 Annette Bening, 61. Barbara Land in Mars Attacks!, Susan Anderson in What Planet Are You From?, and the Supreme Intelligence / Dr. Wendy Lawson in Captain Marvel
  • Born May 29, 1960 Adrian Paul, 59. Duncan MacLeod on Highlander. And yes, I watched the whole bloody series. His first appearance in genre circles was as Dmitri Benko in the “Ashes, Ashes” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series. He shows up next as Prospero in Masque of the Red Death. He’s got several series before Highlander, War of the Worlds (not bad at all) where he was John Kincaid, a short-lived role as Jeremiah Collins on Dark Shadows and an even shorter-lived rolled on Tarzán as Jack Traverse. His first post- Highlander Sf series is Tracker where he plays alien shapeshifter Cole / Daggon.  A decade ago, he returned to a familiar role in Highlander: The Source. His last series role was playing Dante on Arrow.  Note: this is not a complete list. 
  • Born May 29, 1987 Pearl Mackie, 32. Bill Potts, the companion to the Twelfth Doctor. The first openly gay companion in the history of the series. She’s got a podcast called Forest 404 which the BBC calls an “immersive sci-fi drama”.  And finally she’s in the BBC Radio’s The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James as Mika Chantry. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds Gaiman fans in the most unexpected places.

(11) THESE ARE THE TOURISTS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. Mashable thinks it’s going to work this way: “Stormtroopers will enforce four-hour time limit at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the $1-billion Disneyland attraction set to open May 31, will employ Stormtroopers to enforce a strict time limit on visitors. The Los Angeles Times reports that the four-hour rule is only one part of the park’s efforts to avoid overcrowding and a situation that feels as claustrophobic as being stuck in an Imperial trash compactor with a wookiee. 

During the first three weeks after opening, guests will be required to make reservations and wear colored wristbands that designate their time slot. Once that four hours expires, the Galactic Empire forces will escort visitors out in a way likely more polite than normal Stormtrooper protocol.

(12) AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON AMAZON STREET. ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman sent the link because he doesn’t want Filers to miss a new literary work that navigates the space created by his legal victory over Doctor Seuss Enterprises: “Oh, That Book Of Chuck’s, Though!”

There’s really no way not to feel pioneering
when Chuck Tingle‘s collection makes us feel like cheering.
We hope DSE will not try now to state
that this was a market they could– penetrate.
Perhaps they have learned to keep their case shut.
You limit fair use… you’ll get slammed in the butt.

More details on Tingle’s website:

Have you ever considered how handsome a sentient, physically manifested state was? Or dreamed about traveling abroad and having a fling with some charismatic living continent? This love of locations is an erotic fantasy as old as time, and who better to bring it to life than the world’s greatest author, two-time Hugo Award finalist Dr. Chuck Tingle. 

(13) TECH TESTIMONY. Fast Company has assembled “An oral history of USB, the port that changed everything”: “Ajay Bhatt was struggling to upgrade his computer when he began to see the need for one plug to rule them all.”

AB: I didn’t get any positive response, so I decided to make a lateral move within the company to a sister group, and that’s when I started working for a gentleman named Fred Pollock. At that time, there were a handful of Intel Fellows in the company. These are the topmost technical folks at Intel. He’s an incredibly smart person and one of the top computer scientists. I spoke to him, and his view was, “I don’t know. You know what? Go convince yourself.” That’s all I needed. I needed somebody who would be open-minded enough to allow me to take this risk.

I didn’t just rely on him. I started socializing this idea with other groups at Intel. I talked to business guys, and I talked to other technologists, and eventually, I even went out and talked to Microsoft. And we spoke to other people who ultimately became our partners, like Compaq, DEC, IBM, NEC, and others.

Basically, I had to not only build a life inside the company, but we had to ally with people outside, and obviously, each company or each person that I spoke to had their own perspective on what it ought to be. One thing that was common was that everybody agreed that PCs were too hard to use and even hard to design around. Something had to be done, and that’s where it all began.

(14) MANHATTANHENGE. Wow, this is news to me! From the New York Times: “Manhattanhenge 2019: When and Where to Watch, If It’s Not Too Stormy”.

New Yorkers, get ready for another chance to marvel at Manhattanhenge.

For two days every spring and summer, the sunset lines up with Manhattan’s street grid, creating a gorgeous celestial spectacle. For a brief moment, the sun’s golden rays illuminate the city’s buildings and traffic with a breathtaking glow.

“It’s the best sunset picture of the year that you will have in this beautiful city,” Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History said to The Times in a 2017 interview. “Sometimes they call it the Instagram holiday.”

Manhattanhenge’s name is a homage to Stonehenge, the monument in England believed to have been constructed by prehistoric people and used in rituals related to the sun. During the summer solstice, the sunrise there is perfectly framed by its stone slabs.

… Some 200 years ago, the architects who created the plan for modern Manhattan decided to build it using a grid system with avenues that run north and south and streets east and west. That choice inadvertently set the stage for Manhattanhenge, according to Dr. Faherty.

(15) ONLY YOU CAN OUTRUN FOREST FIRES. Science Alert reports “Wild New Study Links Humans Walking Upright to Exploding Stars Millions of Years Ago “

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. According to a hypothesis astronomers have laid out in a new paper, the exploding stars at the end of their lives – supernovae – could have bathed Earth in cosmic radiation, beginning around 8 million years ago, and peaking around 2.6 million years ago.

This radiation would have ionised the lower atmosphere, likely resulting in an increase in cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. This, in turn, could have increased forest fires – eradicating the forests of Africa, where early humans are thought to have originated, and allowing the savannah to take their place.

You see, bipedal locomotion confers a number of advantages to human species, especially in the African savannah where height increases visibility.…

“Not as crazy as it sounds” – but maybe “not as convincing as you’d like,” too.

(16) HUGO FINALISTS. Garik16 continues with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Novelette”.

In this post, I’ll be going over the nominees for Best Novelette.  Novellettes are defined by the Hugos as works between 7,500 and 17,500 words, so these are stories that can be read in a single sitting, although, they still require a little bit of time to do that (for the longer end stories).  I’m generally not the biggest reader of shorter fiction, so most of the nominees here were new to me (I’d only read 2 of the 6 nominated stories prior to the packet being released).  Still, I really enjoyed pretty much all of the nominees – so I think all of these six are award worthy, and choosing how to rank them was not particularly easy….

(17) BOOKSTORE BLUES. “WH Smith ‘worst’ retailer in UK, says Which? survey”.

WH Smith has been ranked the UK’s worst High Street retailer for the second year in a row, according to a Which? survey of 7,700 shoppers.

…The poll, which covered 100 retailers, rated the chain “very poor” for value for money and in-store experience.

Last week, outgoing boss Steve Clarke admitted it was an issue, telling the BBC it was the “most painful aspect of my job”.

He said for some stores, there was a trade-off between being profitable or redecorating.

(18) NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD. BBC investigates “Why you shouldn’t trust your food cravings”.

…Most of us know what it feels like to experience food cravings. We usually crave higher calorie foods, which is why cravings are associated with weight gain and increased body mass index (BMI). But the story we tell ourselves about where these cravings come from could determine how easily we give into them.

It’s widely believed that cravings are our body’s way of signalling to us that we’re deficient in a certain nutrient – and for pregnant women, their cravings signal what their baby needs. But is this really true?

Much of the research into cravings has instead found that there are probably several causes for cravings – and they’re mostly psychological.

…There is evidence suggesting that the trillions of bacteria in our guts can manipulate us to crave, and eat, what they need – which isn’t always what our body needs.

This is because microbes are looking out for their own interests, says Athena Aktipis, assistant professor at Arizona State University’s department of psychology. And they’re good at doing this.

“The gut microbes that are best at surviving inside us end up being more frequent in the next generation. They have the evolutionary advantage of being better at affecting us in ways that get us to preferentially feed them,” she says.

(19) MOOD RING FOR MILLENNIALS? BGR: “Amazon reportedly developing a wearable that recognizes human emotions”. Mike Kennedy says, “I don’t think anything needs to be said past, ‘Gee, what could go wrong with that?’”

In its latest effort to be involved in every aspect of our lives, Amazon is reportedly working on a new voice-activated wearable device that is capable of recognizing human emotions. According to Bloomberg, the wearable will be worn on the wrist, like a watch, and is described as a health and wellness product in internal documents. Lab126, the team behind the Echo and Fire Phone, is working on the device alongside the Alexa voice team…

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In The Quintet of the Sunset on Vimeo, Jie Weng looks at how five cats, including Business Cat, Workout Cat, and Race Car Cat, view their owner.

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