Pixel Scroll 1/10/23 Scrolls Are Here, Scrolls Are Here, Life Is Pixels And Life Is Bheer

(1) SPEAK MEMORY. The Guardian wonders, “Death of the narrator? Apple unveils suite of AI-voiced audiobooks”.

Apple has quietly launched a catalogue of books narrated by artificial intelligence in a move that may mark the beginning of the end for human narrators. The strategy marks an attempt to upend the lucrative and fast-growing audiobook market – but it also promises to intensify scrutiny over allegations of Apple’s anti-competitive behaviour.

The popularity of the audiobook market has exploded in recent years, with technology companies scrambling to gain a foothold. Sales last year jumped 25%, bringing in more than $1.5bn. Industry insiders believe the global market could be worth more than $35bn by 2030.

… Before the launch, one Canadian literary agent told the Guardian she did not see the value from both a literary or customer perspective.

“Companies see the audiobooks market and that there’s money to be made. They want to make content. But that’s all it is. It’s not what customers want to listen to. There’s so much value in the narration and the storytelling,” said Carly Watters….

(2) KELLY LINK Q&A. At Publishers Weekly: “Flights of Fancy: PW Talks with Kelly Link”.

What can contemporary fiction inject into the fairy tale?

Maybe psychological depth. Fairy tales depend on what the reader brings to them. The difference between fairy tales and myth is that Disney hardened our idea of certain stories so that a particular version of them becomes so codified that it replaces other possibilities of how that story could exist. I don’t think it’s great to let those stories exist in one form. People are constantly retelling them, and I think you need the rigid, popular version everyone knows for the weirder versions to have any power….

(3) DEADLINE EXTENDED. L.A. County high school students now have until January 23, 2023 to submit their sff short stories to The Tomorrow Prize & The Green Feather Award.

The Omega Sci-Fi Awards invites Los Angeles County high school students to submit their short science fiction stories to The Tomorrow Prize. The Tomorrow Prize encourages young writers to use sci-fi to explore the diverse issues humanity wrestles with, spark creative solutions, and unite the worlds of art and science.

The Green Feather Award co-presented by the Nature Nexus Institute, highlights an environmentally focused sci-fi story. We are seeking stories that integrate creative solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises.

For more details please see submission guidelines.

Selected finalists will be chosen to have their stories read in their honor by celebrity guests during the May 2023 Culminating Event.

First, Second, and Third place Tomorrow Prize winners will receive $250, $150, and $100 USD cash prizes.

The First place Tomorrow Prize winner will be published in L.A. Parent Magazine.

The Green Feather Award is a special prize for an environmentally focused sci-fi story. The winner will receive $250 USD & online publication by the Nature Nexus Institute.

(4) IN THE BEGINNING? Whatever presents “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress” about the premise to Observer, the novel she’s co-written with Robert Lanza.

…On the one hand, could science support the idea that consciousness creates the universe?  On the other hand, wasn’t this just recycled philosophy 101 according to Irish philosopher George Berkeley, among others?…

(5) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. English-language prozine Interzone is being published in Poland by MYY Press.

(6) A GREEN MAN, BUT NOT A LITTLE ONE. MeTV remembers the time “Ted Cassidy helped Gene Roddenberry play a prank behind the scenes on Star Trek”. Here’s the first part of the story:

The first-season Star Trek episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” has a few memorable things that stand out. It gives us our second evil duplicate Kirk of the series, we get some backstory for Majel Barrett’s nurse Chapel… but arguably what sticks in the minds of fans the most is Ted Cassidy as ominous android Ruk.

At this time, Ted Cassidy was fresh off the ending of The Addams Family where he enjoyed a regular role as Lurch, the family butler. In his book Star Trek Memories, William Shatner talks about how Cassidy was cast as the seven-foot-tall, menacing android. Prior to filming, Star Trek‘s makeup artist, Freddie Phillips asked Cassidy to come in for a makeup test.

“Cassidy sat down in Phillips’ undersized makeup chair and allowed the artist to transform him from a smiling young actor to an evil, hulking monster,” Shatner writes. “First Freddie covered Ted’s head with a latex skinhead wig; then he applied a sort of greyish-green base coat over Cassidy’s entire face. Once all that was done, Phillips darkened the area around each of the actor’s eyes and employed a black grease pencil to sharpen the angles of Ted’s cheekbones, forehead and chin. The end result was quite frightening and really served to drain all the humanity from Cassidy’s face.”…

(7) BOOK KEEPING. “Floods, Fires and Humidity: How Climate Change Affects Book Preservation” in the New York Times.

…Both immediate and long-term strategies are needed to keep books secure in changing environments, experts say, but some threats are more insidious than wildfires or hurricanes.

Shifts in temperature and humidity from climate change can have large consequences. Archivists and conservators in Cincinnati, for example, are worried about big temperature swings in a single day. Humidity is on the rise in Southern California, where the climate is historically dry; most preservation systems in the area aren’t designed to manage precipitation.

“The higher the humidity, the higher the temperature, the quicker they will break down their organic materials,” said Holly Prochaska, the interim head of the Archives and Rare Books Library at the University of Cincinnati. “Leather will wet rot. Collagen fibers in vellum will tighten and shrink.”…

Institutions like U.C.L.A. are developing ways to combat humidity to work in tandem with their climate-controlled stacks and collections rooms. Now, because of climate change, Metzger thinks twice before loaning out materials, which can keep history and knowledge under lock and key.

“Books gain meaning by use — use is exhibit, use is research — and there’s a beauty in use,” Metzger said. “If we just isolate things and keep them in these little, perfectly controlled environments with guards around them, what is their meaning anymore?”

One solution is digitization — scanning pages and storing them online. The process is not only an answer to climate change; it also allows for documents to be easily accessible and shared, broadening a collection’s reach. Adding documents to a server or the cloud, though, presents its own set of obstacles, both practical and environmental.

(8) SYLVIA RUCKER (1943-2023). Sylvia Bogsch Rucker, Rudy Rucker’s wife, died January 6. He pays tribute to her in “Sylvia’s Life”.

…Her curiosity never ended, even in her final days she wanted to know the details of everyone’s lives. This special attention made everyone feel loved. Her loving, warm, beautiful spirit will be deeply missed by all….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1926 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Pooh and food

We shall talk about Pooh and food. Well actually I believe that A.E. Milne only had one food that his round little bear found interesting to the point of obsession and that was honey. Honey, often spelled Hunny by Pooh, is as you know the ever so sweet food made by bees. 

It’s easily the most important food in the Winnie-the-Pooh works, being loved by pooh bears, heffalumps and woozles and also enjoyed by rabbits and piglets. 

Pooh even called it smackerel , which is to say a snack of a small amount of honey. Indeed In the very first chapter, Pooh tells us, “the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it”.

And yes, actual bears do love honey. They’ll break open a tree to get at a wild hive inside a dead trunk eating the honey and bees alike. They particularly like the bee larvae. 

““When you wake up in the morning, Pooh” said piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.”

The illustration is from the 1926 first edition with the art by E.A. Shepherd.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 10, 1904 Ray Bolger. The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, the villainous Barnaby in Babes in Toyland, two appearances on Fantasy Island, andVector In “Greetings from Earth” on the Seventies version of Battlestar Galactica. He made a Dr. Pepper ad which you can see here. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 10, 1937 Elizabeth Anne Hull. She served as the President of the Science Fiction Research Association and editor of its newsletter. She was a member of the panel for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel since 1986. With her husband Frederik Pohl, Hull edited the Tales from the Planet Earth anthology. She was also the editor of the Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl anthology. She has co-authored three short stories with him, “Author Plus”, “The Middle Kingdom” and “Second Best Friend”. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 10, 1944 William Sanderson, 79. I remember him best as J. F. Sebastian, the possibly insane genetic designer working for Tyrell in Blade Runner, but he’s had a career obviously after that film including appearing as Skeets in The Rocketeer, voicing Dr. Karl Rossum on Batman: The Animated Series, playing the character Deuce on Babylon 5 (a series I’ve watched through at least three times), E. B. Farnum on Deadwood (ok, it’s not genre, but it’s Will and Emma’s favorite show so let’s let it slide) and Sheriff Bud Dearborne on True Blood
  • Born January 10, 1944 Jeffrey Catherine JonesShe was an artist providing more than a hundred and fifty covers for many different types of genre books through mid seventies including the Ace paperback editions of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series including Swords Against Death. Among her work was also Flash Gordon for Charlton Comics in the Sixties and the Conan Saga for Marvel Comics in the late Eighties.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born January 10, 1947 George Alec Effinger. I’ve read his Marîd Audran series at least twice as it’s an amazing series in both the characters and the setting. I never read the short stories set in this setting until Golden Gryphon Press sent me Budayeen Nights for Green Man to review.  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered any of his other works. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 10, 1959 Jeff Kaake, 64. He’s on the Birthday Honors list as he was Captain John Boon on the Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. That was a fun show! He was also Thomas Cole on Viper which lasted four seasons. And he showed up in the Stormageddon film (which sounds like the name a Filer would give to a beloved  SJW Cred) as well. 
  • Born January 10, 1959 Fran Walsh, 64. Partner of Peter Jackson, she has contributed to all of his films since the late Eighties when she started out as co-writer of Meet the Feebles, and as producer since The Fellowship of the Ring which won a Hugo. Need I note the next two films won Hugos as well? The Hobbit films did not win Hugos.  The first one was nominated at LoneStarCon 3 but lost out to The Avengers; the other two were not nominated.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TOTOPOTUS. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Miranda Parkin (@mparkinb) did this piece based on Season 2 of the HBO sci-fi comedy television series Avenue 5 (2020-):

(13) LOOK CLOSER. [Item by Jo Van.] Something tonight reminded me of the Deep Space Nine Documentary What We Left Behind, which I helped to crowd-fund back in 2017, and I was thinking, wait a minute, wasn’t there something about a posted acknowledgement of the contributors?

It took a foray into the Wayback Machine, but I found it… and there’s my name, down about where Sisko’s communicator would be.

(14) GAINING CREDENTIALS. Annalisa Barbieri tells the Guardian “What the love of cats taught me about myself”.

I never thought I’d kiss a cat. Or like them, or be in a room with them. Cats, to me, were evil and unpredictable. A classic projection, if ever I saw one, of fear manifesting as dislike. Intense fear. Intense dislike.

But then I became a mother and, as we all know, maternal love makes you do strange, selfless things occasionally. My children started asking for a cat. I said no, of course. My home was my safe place. No cats allowed. For some years they asked for a cat, on and off. Eventually, the “why we should get a cat” lists started getting toilet-roll long and I started thinking, maybe we can get a kitten. Kittens are cute. I started watching videos. Kittens were cute….

(15) BIG SIXTIES FINISH. Victoria Silverwolf wraps up a review of a famous anthology: “[January 10, 1968] Saving the Best For Last (Dangerous Visions, Part Three)” at Galactic Journey.

Welcome to the last of our three discussions about an anthology of original fantasy and science fiction that’s drawing a lot of attention. Love it or hate it, or maybe a little of both, it’s impossible to ignore….

(16) ALAS, POOR UNIVAC. Arturo Serrano brings us “Microreview [book]: Hamlet, Prince of Robots by M. Darusha Wehm” at Nerds of a Feather.

No longer the seat of Danish monarchy, Elsinore is now a corporation, a leading manufacturer of human-like robots. The murdered Hamlet senior was the Humanoid Artificial Mind (Learned Emotive Type), a model that represented a huge leap ahead in robotic innovation. Instead of a queen, Gertrude is a CEO, whose hopes for Elsinore’s bottom line now depend on the success of her latest creation, the Hamlet v.2. If the company doesn’t maintain dominance of the robot market, its (figurative) throne will be snatched by its main competitor, which is aggressively promoting a rival model, the Fortinbras. But one night, a portion of old code from Hamlet v.1 copies itself into the hard drive of Hamlet v.2, and a quest for revenge begins to take shape.

Everything’s better with robots, and a retelling of one of the biggest classics in the Western canon is a sure attention grabber….

(17) ON THE SHELF. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimeralso asked the Hamlet author for recommendations in “Six Books with M. Darusha Wehm”.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’ve had it on my shelf since it came out, but only just started The Book of Flora by Meg Elison. It’s the third and final book in the “Road to Nowhere” series, which starts with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. The whole series is an incredible, post-apocalyptic saga of the struggles of communities in dark times. I’ve loved the two previous books in the series, but while the books offer stories of human resilience, they are also harrowing to read, so I’ve had to space them out in my reading time…. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In case you missed the Sixties we offer “The Complete 14 Batman Window Cameos”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Jo Van, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 8/26/22 A Pixel So Great, It Can Only Be Scrolled For Good Or Evil

(1) THE REALLY FINAL FRONTIER. This is where the ashes of Nichelle Nichols, Gene Roddenberry, and Douglas Trumbull are going: “Enterprise Flight | Memorial Spaceflights” offered by Celestis. For $12,500 you can send your late loved one along. “Remaining space aboard this Voyager Flight is limited. Reservations close on: August 31, 2022.”

The Celestis Enterprise Flight ™ will launch from planet Earth and travel beyond the Earth-Moon system, beyond the James Webb telescope, and into interplanetary deep space – where it will join the other planets, moons, comets, and asteroids in our solar system on a never-ending journey through the cosmos.

Upon completion of its powered burn and coast phase, the Enterprise Flight will become Enterprise Station™ – the most distant permanent human repository outpost and a pathfinder for the continuing human exploration of space.  

The Enterprise Flight, carrying specially manufactured and inscribed individual flight capsules containing cremated remains, complete human genome individual DNA samples, and names and messages of well-wishers from around the globe will be launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Aboard Enterprise, fittingly, will be the creator and several cast members of the original Star Trek television series, as well as an Apollo-era astronaut, together with people from all walks of life, interests, and vocations.   Enterprise is truly a once-in-a-lifetime, exclusive opportunity for you or your loved ones – or both – to join an incredible mission of purpose alongside the most recognizable personas in space exploration, real or imagined.

The history-making Enterprise Flight is expected to be sold out well in advance. Contact us today to ensure your or your loved one’s participation in this mission!

(2) LABOR INTENSIVE. Kameron Hurley’s latest Get To Work Hurley podcast — a monthly rant about the hustle of making a living as a writer of All of the Things – is Episode 23, in which — 

Ursula Vernon (aka T. Kingfisher) joins us for questions from Twitter and a game of “Name of a Plant OR Name of a Britpop musician.” 

Available from Apple PodcastsStitcher, and Spotify (NOTE: Patreon subscribers get access to the video version of the podcast).

(3) IMAGINARY PAPERS DELIVERED. Issue 11 of Imaginary Papers from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination features an essay by the urban planner and futurist Lafayette Cruise on the 2002 animated film Treasure Planet, and another on the fiction and films of Colombian writer and philosopher René Rebetez, by Azucena Castro. There’s also a writeup on the new Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. If you missed previous issues, read them here.

(4) IN SCANDINAVIA. Rudy Rucker shares photos of a trip he took with his wife to Finland: “Helsinki Math & Art”.

…Sylvia is from Hungary, and the Finnish and Hungarian languages are said to be related. These Finno-Ugric languages are not at all like any of the familiar European languages which are in the Indo-European group, which include the Romance, Slavic, Germanic and other categories. Finnish and Hungarian are total outliers. And, as Sylvia’s expression testifies here, the two are not very much like each other after all. It was fun to see such incomprehensible signs….

(5) TURN UP THAT DIAL. Classical music radio host Dr. Laura Brodian returns to the air August 29 on KMOZART FM-AM in Los Angeles she announced on Facebook today. Her show will run Monday thru Friday between 12 noon and 5pm.

Doctor Laura Brodian Freas was a voiceover artist and classical music personality on radio station KMZT in Los Angeles, and was also the voice of Delta Symphony and Delta Jazz for Delta Airlines. A past President of the Southern California Early Music Society, she earned a doctoral degree in Music, but also attended art classes at Indiana University’s School of Fine Arts and at the California Art Institute. Her cover and interior artwork has been published by, among others, TSR, The Easton Press, Analog Magazine of Science Fiction/Fact, Weird Tales, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Laura was a co-recipient [with Frank Kelly Freas] of The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists [ASFA]’s Chesley Award for Best Cover of the Year. Laura has also served as ASFA’s Western Regional Director. Laura is a Judge in the L. Ron Hubbard “Illustrators of the Future Contest.”

One of her passions is costuming. She is a former Director[1]at-Large of Costumer’s Guild West and a WesterCon Masquerade winner and a WorldCon Masquerade Judge. She also founded the Collinsport Players performing troupe the when she was the MC at the first annual Dark Shadows Festival. Another of her passions is English Regency Dancing, which she also teaches. Laura founded the San Francisco Bay Area English Regency Society and the San Fernando Valley Area English Regency Society. A member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists, Laura is the widow of science fiction’s favorite illustrator, Frank Kelly Freas, with whom she co-edited the fourth volume of his collected works, FRANK KELLY FREAS: AS HE SEES IT in 2000. A new comprehensive Kelly Freas artbook is in development with artist Bob Eggleton. In 2012 she married school teacher Steven Beraha.

(6) FIRST WORLDCON IN LOS ANGELES. In “What Can We Learn From the 1946 Pacificon Program Book?”, First Fandom Experience continues its exploration of fandom in 1946 with a chronicle of the fourth Worldcon, the first held in LA. How much were memberships in those days? One dollar!

(7) WHAT DO FISH, SNEETCHES, AN ELEPHANT, AND A MOUSE HAVE IN COMMON? “Licensing: Netflix Has Five Dr. Seuss Projects in the Works” according to Publishing Perspectives. Descriptions of all five shows are at the link.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Netflix are in development on five Seuss titles, planned for preschool-audience animated series and specials….

The new Dr. Seuss line-up is to anchor Netflix’s expanded focus on preschool, the estate says. “Introducing concepts of foundational learning, this new slate of programming will explore themes of diversity and respect for others,” the company says, clearly looking to counter the less felicitous impressions left when it took those six titles out of circulation.

(8) TAKE A LETTER TO ELROND. Ars Technica explains why “Lord of the Rings mechanical keyboards are perfect for people who speak Elvish”.

Middle-earth has seen more than its share of trials and challenges, but perhaps none more pressing today than a lack of mechanical keyboards that any of its various peoples can actually read. For ages, everyone from elves to dwarves had to make do with keyboards carrying legends of unknown languages. Today, keyboard and audio brand Drop released two prebuilt mechanical keyboards to rule them all—or at least speakers of Elvish and Dwarvish.

The Drop + The Lord of the Rings Dwarvish and Elvish Keyboards ($169) are the first to gain official Lord of the Rings licensing, Drop said in its announcement today. The keyboards build on Drop’s November release of The Lord of the Rings keycap sets, also written in Elvish and Dwarvish, and follow Drop’s Lord of the Rings artisan keycaps made from resin….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s us converse of Djinn, specifically, those G. Willow Wilson wrote of in two vastly different works, Cairo, a graphic novel she did with M.K. Perker for Vertigo and the later Alif the Unseen novel.

G. Willow Wilson is Islamic which she first converted to and practiced in Cairo according to The Butterfly Mosque, her autobiography. So it’s not at all surprising that she has a fascination with the djinn. 

Cairo is set in version of contemporary Cairo, and follows a number of characters, human and really not human, as they are drawn into a complex tale surrounding a stolen hookah of great importance, and a box that looks simple but actually contains something of mythical status. I like the story because the characters are drawn from myth, (Djinn; the Devil Himself; A spirit inhabiting the city’s ruins) all feel very real. See I’ve given nothing away, have I? 

The artwork by Perker is stellar. His full name is Mustafa Kutlukhan Perker and he’s from Istanbul. He would later do the absolutely impressive Air series with her.

Dealing with the djinn once was not enough, so six years after Cairo, her first novel Alif the Unseen was released in 2007. It was, I think, a much more intimate novel. It is also a very political novel that likely caused many a leader in the Middle East not to be very happy. 

SPOILERS

Alif the hacker discovers that his love interest Intisar is entering an arranged marriage with another man. That man is head of the State in a repressive government in an unnamed Middle Eastern state. Alif gets in deep crap with said Bad Person person but, this being a fantasy, is along with his neighbor rescued by two djinn: Vikram and his sister Azalel. 

(Ok, she likes djinn a lot. And she treats them as just existing within the framework of everyday life. Now she needs to do an opera with them as the central characters.)

Eventually the Very Bad Person is assassinated, and all is well. Some really odd science involving djinn coding and quantum tech ensues before that.)

END OF SPOILERS

It won a much-deserved World Fantasy Award. 

I’m going to quote but one review and you’ll see why I’m quoting that review. Salon led off its review this way: “Arthur C. Clarke famously said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” which may explain why fantasy narratives have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in this age of wondrous gadgets. In G. Willow Wilson’s equally wondrous ‘Alif the Unseen,’ the connection between the two is more than just metaphor, although as far as this book is concerned, metaphor itself is a kind of technology.”

Everything I’ve read by her is stellar from these books to her run on the Vixen series — not to overlook the Ms. Marvel work. May she continue to write for a very long time. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of a series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 26, 1912 Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Harlan Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 26, 1938 Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of it? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Or were before the lawyers at Paramount and their Hell Hounds descended upon them and ate their ability to create anything. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer SpaceSpace Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 73. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received at MidAmeriCon II and Worldcon 76, Hugo Awards for Best Professional Editor — Long Form. 
  • Born August 26, 1950 Annette Badland, 72. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”. 
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 52. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she plays a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise except a lot darker.  (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders. Really we are not.)
  • Born August 26, 1980 Chris Pine, 42. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which won a Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit has a strange idea about the relationship between books and bookshelves.

(12) CREATING TOGETHER. Tim Griffin shared a photo on Facebook of Steven Barnes, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle from the Seventies demonstrating their collaborative writing process. Guess which one is wielding the ax?

(13) KOREAN SF MOVIE. “‘Alienoid’ Review: Sorcerers, Alien Prisoners and Much, Much More” says the New York Times.

This Korean film starts in the 14th century with an alien creature trying to escape from the human body inside which it has been imprisoned. Thankfully, a hole in the sky opens and an SUV materializes, carrying the interstellar lawman Guard (Kim Woo-bin) and his robot sidekick.

And that’s just the first five minutes: The rest of Choi Dong-hoon’s movie then escalates into even more bananas territory.

Hopscotching between the present day and 1391, “Alienoid” somehow works a crystal thingumajig called the Divine Blade into its narrative, as well as car chases, aerial wire-aided fights, medieval gunslinging, time travel, magic battles and Transformers-like mayhem, with dashes of comedy and romance for good measure. 

(14) CRICKETS. A trailer for the Walt Disney Studios version of Pinocchio coming to Disney+ on September 8.

Academy Award® winner Robert Zemeckis directs this live action retelling of the beloved tale of a wooden puppet who embarks on a thrilling adventure to become a real boy. Tom Hanks stars as Geppetto, the wood carver who builds and treats Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) as if he were his own son.

(15) SPLISH-SPLASH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Paging Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Paging Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Please report to TOI-1452 b. Bring your bathing suits. “Scientists discovered a beautiful ocean world 100 light-years from Earth” at BGR.

Scientists have discovered a beautiful ocean world that looks like it was ripped out of the Star Wars prequels. The exoplanet TOI-1452 b was discovered just 100 light-years from Earth. A new paper on the discovery says that the entire planet is covered by a thick layer of water and that it’s located far enough from its star to possibly support life.

The ocean world was discovered by a team of researchers at the Université de Montréal. Charles Cadieux, the team leader, announced the discovery this week. Cadieux is also a member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx)….

(16) JWST SCOPES OUT JUPITER. “’Never seen Jupiter like this’: James Webb telescope shows incredible view of planet” in the Guardian. Photos at the link.

The world’s newest and biggest space telescope is showing Jupiter as never before, auroras and all.

Scientists released the shots on Monday of the solar system’s biggest planet.

The James Webb space telescope took the photos in July, capturing unprecedented views of Jupiter’s northern and southern lights, and swirling polar haze.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a storm big enough to swallow Earth, stands out brightly alongside countless smaller storms. One wide-field picture is particularly dramatic, showing the faint rings around the planet, as well as two tiny moons against a glittering background of galaxies….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: The Mortuary Assistant,” Fandom Games says you shouldn’t be hired by this mortuary because “You come in for an interview–and come out a demon” and the game is the fictional equivalent of “having a mindless job so you can keep your crappy apartment.”  No matter how bad your job is, it has to be better than purging demons form corpses with “demon Drano.” Content warning for suicide or self-harm. Click the link to view on YouTube.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Jeffrey Smith, Joey Eschrich, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/21 This Pixel Will Self-Destruct In Five Parsecs

(1) SUMMER READING. In “Meet the Authors of Summer’s Biggest Sci-Fi and Fantasy Adventures” Goodreads features Q&As with Shelley Parker-Chan, Nghi Vo, Matt Bell, Tasha Suri, Becky Chambers, Cassandra Khaw, T.J. Klune, and Cadwell Turnbull.

Cadwell Turnbull, author of No Gods, No Monsters

GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

CT:  Balancing all the narrative elements. I’m very interested in narratives where individuals and groups of people converge around significant events for very different reasons. I wanted the novel to honor individual and collective action where each person is important. That was hard to do. The other challenge was the cosmology underpinning the story, which requires a few conceptual leaps to make sense. I didn’t want to do too much too fast and undercut the emotional weight of those leaps. I also didn’t want to undermine the very real and very important personal conflicts of the characters with god-level madness. Add to that my love of subtlety and subtext and the writing process became a tug-of-war between all these disparate goals. But I did my very best. Luckily I have two more books in the series to tease out every layer.

(2) BARBARA NEELY REMEMBERED. Mystery Writers of America has established the Barbara Neely Scholarship in honor of the late author, a trailblazing Black crime novelist who was named a Grand Master by MWA in late 2019. “She was named a Grand Master not only for the high quality of the work she produced during her career, but also for being an inspiration to an entire generation of crime writers of color.”

Two scholarships of $2000 each per year will be awarded: “One for an aspiring Black writer who has yet to publish in the crime or mystery field, and another for Black authors who have already published in crime or mystery.”

Applications are being taken from July 1 through September 30. The applications will be reviewed by the Barbara Neely Scholarship committee, including Black crime writers, and the winner will be announced in the late fall. The application form is here

Applicants must be Black, American citizens, and age 18 or older. They must submit a brief biography, competed application form, and 300-500-word statement on their interest in the mystery genre and in general terms (class, conference, equipment, etc.) how they would use the scholarship funds. Prior membership in MWA is not required.

The Barbara Neely Scholarship will be awarded on the basis of writing ability, interest in the crime/mystery genre, and likely benefit from the scholarship funds and MWA membership. 

(3) JUICY IS BETTER. There’s a Kickstarter to fund Juicy Ghosts by Rudy Rucker, the author’s twenty-fourth novel. People have contributed $5,302 of its $7,000 goal with 27 days to go. Rucker tells how the project began:

 Juicy Ghosts is about politics, telepathy, and immortality. I started it in 2019, as a reaction to Donald Trump’s repeated remarks that he planned to be a three-term president. That pushed me over the edge.

I started with a short story called “Juicy Ghosts.” Rebels bring down an insane, evil President who’s stolen an election. They sting him with a lethally tweaked wasp, erase the online backup of his mind, and explode his clone. Too much? It’s hard to stop, when you’re having this much fun! Over the next two years, my story grew into a novel. I had to write it. I had to stand and be counted.

So, yes, Juicy Ghosts is a tale of political struggle—but it’s more than that. It’s hip and literary, with romance and tragedy. Plus gnarly science, and lots of funny scenes. I used a loose, say-anything style. The point-of-view characters are outsiders and slackers. The majority of them are women, and they give the tale a grounded tone.

We’ll see commercial telepathy, or teep, before long. And we’ll want a channel that’s richer than text and images. Users might transmit templates for the neurochemicals that are affecting their current mood. Your friends feel your pheromones! In Juicy Ghosts, people do this with gossip molecules, which are nano-assemblers  with tiny antennas.

I’ve been writing about digital immortality since my early cyberpunk novel Software. The idea is to represent a soul by a digital program and a data-base, calling the construct a lifebox. But in Juicy Ghosts  a lifebox needs to be linked to a physical body.  It’s not enough to be a ghost—you want to be a juicy ghost. The linked body might be an insect or an animal or a biotweaked bot—but high-end users will have tank-grown clones.

Lifeboxes and clones will be expensive, so most people will settle for free lifebox storage provided by tech giants. The catch is that if you accept this free service, you’re obligated to do gig-work for the company—as a bodyguard, a chauffeur, a maid, of a factory worker. Typical of our times!

I like happy endings. I’d rather laugh than cry.  My characters destroy the evil President’s political party, topple the pay-to-play immortality racket, and provide everyone with free lifeboxes and physical bodies. Ta-da!

(4) LET IT GO. Lightspeed Magazine shines its “Author Spotlight” on Rachel Swirsky whose story “Innocent Bird” is in the magazine’s July issue.

[Swirsky:] … I actually initially went into submission with a version of this that was 1,000 words shorter. After getting a couple of very kind rejections, I let it lie for a while, and the next time I looked at it, I felt like the story had a reserved quality to it that didn’t seem appropriate. My graduate training—along with a lot of other aspects of contemporary aesthetics—strongly veers toward keeping emotions subtextual in this very discreet fashion. I went back into the story to let the heartbreak go straight onto the page. Shoko is a teenager; she’s full of these big emotions. She doesn’t express them to other people which only means she’s constantly inflated with love and distress and confusion and uncertainty about her future that she has no escape valve from. I think she tries to distance herself from that internally to some extent—there are moments when she underplays what she’s feeling—but she shouldn’t be written like a middle-aged literary professor wrestling with a midlife crisis….

(5) ROBOCREATORS. “Automated art: threat or menace?” asks James Davis Nicoll. SFF authors’ answer the question in these “Five SF Stories About Automated Art” at Tor.com.

“The Darfsteller” by Walter M. Miller (1955)

Thanks to advances in the field of robotic acting, Ryan Thornier, former star, is now Ryan Thornier, underpaid theatre janitor. True, there are many occupations not yet automated to which the old man could apply his thespian talents—salesman, politician, general—but these are beneath the former star. Only stage acting will do. But his desire to shine onstage cannot erase the fact that robotic mannikins programmed with recorded personality matrices deliver the same services as living actors, but are much cheaper and more reliable.

Ryan is very stubborn. Given even the smallest hope of reclaiming his lost place on stage, he will leap to take advantage of the opportunity…regardless of consequences.

(6) PERFORMATIVE REFORM. Radio Times, not surprisingly given their heavy coverage of The Doctor, favors the Doctor/Missy/Master arcs in this analysis: “What Loki got wrong – and Doctor Who got right”.

… A few times over the course of Loki, viewers had compared it to Doctor Who, mainly because of its general time-travel premise (what are the officious TVA except Time Lords with a dental plan?) and especially after episode three saw Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) trapped on a dying world. In fact, many commented that Loki did ‘Doctor Who’ better than Doctor Who itself, thanks to a higher budget and bigger stars. (Though did Loki have a sonic screwdriver? I think not. Case closed.)

And I actually think Loki could learn something from Doctor Who, more specifically, from a storyline that saw an iconic villain try to change their ways with mixed success….

(7) CLEAR CHANNEL. Here’s a post about the new book its author was trying to draw attention to in that sabotaged Reddit AMA: “The Big Idea: Nicole Kornher-Stace” at Whatever.

NICOLE KORNHER-STACE:

Since approximately five minutes after I started publishing, my mom has been telling me I should write a kids’ book. For a while I was…skeptical. Many of the kind things people have said about my work involve it being dark but ultimately hopeful but before that just. so dark. And many of my rejections have been for being “too dark.” None of which really felt super compatible with, y’know, a children’s book.

It’s not that I thought it was a bad idea, it just felt like an idea that was beyond my skillset or ability to even really conceptualize. So on the back burner it sat for a long time, along with a whole bunch of other stuff I’d talked myself out of writing for various reasons. (Thanks, impostor syndrome. You’re the best.)

And then I had a baby. And then my baby grew up into a kid. And just like that I had an audience to write a kids’ book for. And everything kind of came together from there….

(8) DISABLED PARTICIPANTS SOUGHT. Mission: AstroAccess has put out “A Call For Disabled Explorers to Experience Zero Gravity.” Any disabled adult living in the U.S. can apply – see full guidelines and view the application here. The deadline to apply is August 15.

Outer space is not just humanity’s future: it’s a call to rethink life on Earth right now.

In zero gravity, what is standing up? What is lying down? What does it mean to be unable to walk if no one there is walking? How does that shift our understanding of disability?

We are excited to announce the launch of Mission: AstroAccess, a program bringing a diverse group of disabled space enthusiasts on a historic ZERO-G parabolic flight! Participants will complete targeted tasks during the program’s flight to help answer basic questions about how disabled people can live and work in outer space. Mission: AstroAccess’ crew of disabled volunteers will take flight on October 17th, 2021, as the first step in a progression towards increasing diversity in space and the greater STEM field. 

…Mission: AstroAccess serves an additional purpose—while traditional physical barriers are lifted in space, accidents resulting in some form of disability are inevitable during extended missions in space’s dangerous environment. We are dedicated to advancing disability inclusion in space exploration, not just for the benefit of marginalized communities, but for the benefit of all humankind. The tasks conducted during this program will help inform accessible design to make extended space travel safer for everyone.

(9) A GENRE SUCCESS STORY. “Print Book Sales Soar in Year’s First Half”Publishers Weekly ran the numbers, which show graphic novel sales blew up.

…The big story in adult fiction was the strength of the graphic novel format. Unit sales soared 178.5% in the first half of the year, rising to 16.2 million copies sold, making graphic novels the second-largest adult fiction subcategory. Graphic novels made up nearly 20% of adult fiction unit sales in the first six months of 2021, compared to 9.3% last year.

Viz Media was one of the big beneficiaries of the graphic novel boom. Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, Vol. 26 was the top adult graphic novel in the first half of the year, selling more than 90,000 copies. Other volumes in the Academia line also sold well, including volume two (about 82,000 copies sold) and volume one (81,000 copies). Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Taiba, Vol. 1 by Koyoharu Gotouge, also published by Viz, sold more than 82,000 copies. A title published by a company other than Viz, Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 by Hajime Isayama, published by Kodansha, sold nearly 88,000 copies….

(10) SID ALTUS (1949-2021). Detroit fan Sid Altus died July 13, his daughter Shana announced on Facebook. Sid was a member of the Detroit in ’82 Worldcon bid. He worked on AutoClave and ConFusion. He and Alex Berman co-founded a small press, Phantasia Press, which published high-end limited editions of hardcover sf aimed at the collectors’ market. Fancyclopedia 3 has more about his history.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1997 – Twenty-four years ago this week, the Roar series premiered on Fox. It would last but thirteen episodes, five of which initially would go unaired. This sort of Celtic fantasy had Heath Ledger in the lead role, his first genre undertaking. The series also starred Vera Farmiga, Lisa Zane, John Saint Ryan, and Sebastian Roché. The show was created by Shaun Cassidy after the success of of  Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess but it truly bombed. It certainly didn’t help that the series was in the same time slot as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two novels, Roar: A Novel, a prequel, and Roar: The Cauldron, would later be written.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author with definite genre leanings. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titantic, possibly also Vixen 03. His National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group, has found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the Civil War. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes, this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women.  As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1947 T. E. D. Klein, 74. Horror writer with two awards to his name, one a BFA for The Ceremonies novel, another a World Fantasy Award for his “Nadelman’s God” novella. He was editor of the Twilight Zone Magazine in the mid Eighties and the Night Cry zine for several around that time.
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 64. His best known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was Host of Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 58. Red Sonja! What’d a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 54. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. His short stories are most excellent thus it’s most fitting his recent The Twisted Book of Shadows collection won a Shirley Jackson Award. 
  • Born July 15, 1951 Jesse Ventura, 70. He’s actually been in far more genre films that I thought. His first film was Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe which audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a rating of nineteen percent. After that, he’s been in PredatorRunning ManDemolition Man and Batman & Robin

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a strange Martian/Wizard of Oz mashup. At least that’s what I think it is.
  • Frank and Ernest meet some innovative cave people.

(14) HIS CUP RUNNETH OVER. At Black Gate, Aaron Starr’s “Long and Winding” is the amusing saga about writing a doorstop-sized novel.

January 12th

Dear Diary,
After Justine’s third encounter with the forces pursuing her, I realized that what this sword-and-sorcery novel needs is some more swords! But Justine has given no hint of any sort of background with weapons. I’ll need to introduce a wise mentor, to teach her the ways of cold steel. Someone grizzled and worldly, cynical and a touch sarcastic.

That’s it! Dear diary, you’re a genius! Her mentor will be her spirit animal! This will kill two birds with one stone, which, I might point out, rules out a bird as her spirit animal, doesn’t it? Tee-hee! Seriously, what sort of animal embodies these qualities? A raccoon springs to mind. They seem sufficiently grizzled and worldly, and are no doubt cynical. But might I be playing into harmful stereotypes? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Later: I have visited the cafe next door, to allow myself a fresh perspective. As I drank a fortifying mug of pressed-almond choco-caf with double-frothed soy, I struck up a conversation with a man who just happens to be a city planner. He confirmed my instincts regarding raccoon-kind, and assured me that, if any urban mammals were to take up arms, they would certainly be among the first to do so….

(15) REINCARNATED IN FANTASYLAND. The tropes come thick and fast in Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 7/15/2021: Work in Progress” at Amazing Stories.

In this week’s viewing: More summer premieres! More terrible light-novel-based summer premieres! Also a couple of fighting shows….

(16) YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES. The Criterion Collection will bring out The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) on October 19.

…Existentialism goes pop in this benchmark of atomic-age science fiction, a superlative adaptation of a novel by the legendary Richard Matheson that has awed and unnerved generations of viewers with the question, What is humanity’s place amid the infinity of the universe? Six months after being exposed to a mysterious radiation cloud, suburban everyman Scott Carey (Grant Williams) finds himself becoming smaller . . . and smaller . . . and smaller—until he’s left to fend for himself in a world in which ordinary cats, mousetraps, and spiders pose a mortal threat, all while grappling with a diminishing sense of himself…. 

(17) CONSISTENCY. Nothing hits the spot in Schmigadoon like a big bowl of good old corn pudding! Here’s another introductory clip from the forthcoming musical series. Available tomorrow on AppleTV+. View on YouTube. (The stinkers won’t let it be embedded here!)

The six-part series follows a couple (Strong, Key) who stumble on a magical town that lives in a 1940s musical. From there, the pair have to try and find true love.

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter found another show in touch with Broadway – tonight’s episode of Jeopardy. A contestant had trouble with this. Though they really shouldn’t have.

Category: Broadway Musicals by Setting

Answer: Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists

Wrong question: What is ‘The Little Barber Shop of Horrors?”

Right question: What is ‘Little Shop of Horrors?”

(19) DICK GRAYSON & CO. Titans Season 3 begins airing on HBO Max on August 12.

Titans follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find where they belong. In season three, circumstances draw our heroes to Gotham City, where they will reunite with old friends and face new threats.

(20) BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. Experience the world in Vampire Reality. What We Do in the Shadows returns Sept 2 on FX.

A look into the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of four vampires who have “lived” together for hundreds and hundreds of years in Staten Island.

(21) HOOKED UP. “Tapping Into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak” reports The New York Times.

He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash.

Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen.

His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, “My family is outside.”

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk.

“This is farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go,” said Melanie Fried-Oken, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the project.

Three years ago, when Pancho, now 38, agreed to work with neuroscience researchers, they were unsure if his brain had even retained the mechanisms for speech.

“That part of his brain might have been dormant, and we just didn’t know if it would ever really wake up in order for him to speak again,” said Dr. Edward Chang, chairman of neurological surgery at University of California, San Francisco, who led the research.

The team implanted a rectangular sheet of 128 electrodes, designed to detect signals from speech-related sensory and motor processes linked to the mouth, lips, jaw, tongue and larynx. In 50 sessions over 81 weeks, they connected the implant to a computer by a cable attached to a port in Pancho’s head, and asked him to try to say words from a list of 50 common ones he helped suggest, including “hungry,” “music” and “computer.”…

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night’s The Late Show: “Welcome back to the cool green hills of Earth,” he said to Sir Richard Branson.

Sir Richard Branson sits down with Stephen after returning from his historic trip to the edge of space, and has some advice for the next billionaire headed to orbit.

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

2019 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / pjgon71

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/22/20 Keep Scrolling And Pixel On

(1) THE APPETIZER COMES LAST. “Hunger Games prequel will reveal villain’s origins” – BBC has the story,

A new Hunger Games novel is to be published in May, focusing on the back story of the villainous President Snow.

…The new book is set 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games and details the “Dark Days” that led to the failed rebellion in Panem.

A first excerpt, available on the Entertainment Weekly website, depicts Coriolanus Snow as a charming university student who was born into privilege.

Here is the Entertainment Weekly link: “Excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins”.

The world still thought Coriolanus rich, but his only real currency was charm, which he spread liberally as he made his way through the crowd. Faces lit up as he gave friendly hellos to students and teachers alike, asking about family members, dropping compliments here and there. “Your lecture on district retaliation haunts me.” “Love the bangs!” “How did your mother’s back surgery go? Well, tell her she’s my hero.”

(2) HELP NAME THE ROVER. NASA’s Name the Rover contest—for their next Mars rover—has published its list of nine finalists. Students around the country sent in over 28,000 essays supporting their suggested names.

Now the public is invited to chime in — “You Can Help Name the Mars 2020 Rover!” The polls are open for another five days. Each finalist comes with a link to the essay describing why the nominators think it should win.

(3) NEW EDITOR. Galaxy’s Edge publisher, Shahid Mahmud, has announced Lezli Robyn will take over as editor.

As many of you know, Mike Resnick passed away recently.

He pretty much single handedly created this magazine with the aim to give writers, particularly newer writers, a new venue for their stories. He was known in the industry as someone who loved helping younger aspiring authors and there is a large group of writers out there who proudly call themselves Mike’s Writer Children.

One of his writer children was Lezli Robyn, who also works for me as my assistant publisher. During the last year she also helped Mike with the magazine, particularly as his illness started taking a greater toll on his health.

Lezli is an award-winning writer in her own right and has also collaborated with Mike on a number of stories. She will now be taking over as editor of the magazine. I know Mike was very pleased with that decision…to have someone who was very close to him take over something he put so much of his heart into.

Since the two of them were working together on the magazine for the last few months, the transition should be smooth and we expect issue 43 to be available on time, on March 1, 2020.

(4) GALLERY OF HUGO ELIGIBLE ARTISTS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual gallery of pro artists who are eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2020 Professional Artists”.

It has 300+ images from 100+ pro artists whose art was used for short fiction, magazine covers, and novel covers.

However, there is this note –

Thumbnail images with a highlighted link are professional works done in 2019. Thumbnails without a highlighted link were done earlier (shown in last year’s list), later (show in next year’s list) or fan art (published in a semi-prozine) and included to give more examples of the artist’s style.

(5) STET, I REPEAT, STET. Ursula Vernon fights back against the Copyedits of Doom. Thread starts here.

(6) FREE AGENCY. Rudy Rucker shared his experience “Discussing ‘Agency’ with William Gibson”.

RR===

It’s fine with me if the thriller pace slows down. I like your meditative stuff. so nice to have you doing real SF again! “Slash is electric once more.”

I love how Netherton is expecting to be in a superhero iron man peripheral, and then it’s squat and small, like part of an oil filled radiator. He’s a good anti hero, and you have fun tormenting him. He still works as a character being sober, still has the same outside attitude. When I had my character Sta-Hi be sober in Realware, some of my older fans were mad about it, grumbled that “Rucker has gone religious, he’s no fun anymore, etc.” But if they’d notice, Sta-Hi stays exactly as crazy as before, as does Netherton.

WG===

For me, what took over for Netherton in this book was his co-parenting! My first POV character with a baby to take care of! When I discovered how different that felt to write, I guess I decided to roll with it, getting some perverse satisfaction out of imagining poor fuckers who bought the book in an airport, just before jumping on an 8-hour flight, expecting to get the generic thriller hand-job, and bang, they’re parenting!

(7) VOTING AGAINST THE MUTANT REGISTRATION ACT. The National Post’s “Rookies of Parliament Hill” spotlights a new Canadian legislator with a link to X-Men.

Lenore Zann, best known to the SFF community as the voice of Rogue in the classic X-Men cartoon series of the 1990s has a new role: as a legislator in the Canadian parliament. The 61-year-old actress was elected last autumn as part of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. 

“X-Men is a deep show about deep themes that are universal. They’re almost like our Greek gods and goddesses — they’re like mythology for young people,” said Zann. “I sit on a plane watching what people are looking at on their TV screens in front of them. Most of them are watching stuff like that.”

(8) JONES OBIT. Terry Jones of Monty Python’s Flying Circus died January 22. He had been suffering from dementia for years, says The Hollywood Reporter: “Terry Jones, ‘Monty Python’ Co-Founder and British Comedy Icon, Dies at 77”.

Born in North Wales, Jones read English at Oxford University, where he met his long-term collaborator and friend, Michael Palin. The two would star together in the college’s comedy troupe The Oxford Revue, and after graduation, they appeared in the 1967 TV sketch comedy Twice a Fortnight.

Two years later, they created The Complete and Utter History of Britain, which featured comedy sketches from history as if TV had been around at the time. It was on the show Do Not Adjust Your Set where they would be introduced to fellow comic Eric Idle, who had starred alongside John Cleese and Graham Chapman in productions mounted by the Cambridge University theatrical club the Footlights.  

The five — together with Terry Gilliam, whom Cleese had met in New York — would quickly pool their talents for a new show. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born and ran on the BBC for four seasons between 1969 and 1974, with Jones driving much of the show’s early innovation.

Vanity Fair’s 1999 profile of the troupe, “The Dead Parrot Society”, includes this intro of Terry:

Jones is a noted history buff who has written on Chaucer and hosted a number of documentaries, including one on the Crusades. He directed Life of Brian and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life; apart from Monty Python he has directed the films Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows and written several children’s books. The son of a bank clerk, he was born in North Wales and attended Oxford University. He and his wife, a biochemist, live in London and have a son and a daughter. Jones regularly appeared nude (playing the organ) in the opening credits of the Monty Python television series; he also played the obscenely fat, vomit-spewing Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 
  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf would premiere on CBS where it would run for three seasons before ending its run on USA with a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who was also behind Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other SFF series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1858 Charles H. M. Kerr. He’s best remembered for illustrating  the pulp novels of H. Rider Haggard. Some of his other genre-specific work includes the Andrew Lang-edited The True Story Book, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrong Box and Arthur Conan Doyle‘s  “The Sign of the Four”. You can see the one of the H. Rider Haggard novels he did here. (Died 1907.)
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the ebook publishers are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella originally published in Analog, March of 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, as I’ve not read them. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really stung. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down as General Woundwort and in The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Tyrone Power Jr., 61. Yes, son of that actor. He is the fourth actor to bear the name Tyrone Power. If you remember him at all, it’s as Pillsbury, one of the aliens, in the Cocoon films. Other than Soulmates, a horrid sounding sort of personal zombie film, in which he had a role, that’s it for his SFF creds. 
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 61. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. (I saw the first, I had no desire to see the second film.)  Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film), GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream to name a few of these films. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1969 Olivia d’Abo, 51. She makes the Birthday Honors list for being Amanda Rogers, a female Q, in the “True Q” episode on Next Generation. Setting that gig aside, she’s got a long and extensive SFF series history. Conan the Destroyer, Beyond the Stars, Asterix Conquers America, Tarzan & Jane and Justice League Doom are some of her film work, while her series work includes Fantasy Island, Batman Beyond, Twilight Zone, Eureka and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • Born January 22, 1996 Blanca Blanco, 24. She’s here today because she’s on one of those Trek video fanfics that seem to have proliferated a few years back. This one had her planning on playing someone on Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time but the funding never materialized. I’m fascinated by this one as a certain actor was reprising his Gary Mitchell role here.  If it was decided that  an audio series would be made instead but I can’t find any sign of that being done either. Any of you spotted it? 

(11) WHEN THE GALAXY IS OUT OF ORDER YOU CALL… Guardians of the Galaxy!

Someone has to guard the galaxy – but who will accept the mission? And will they survive it? See who answers the call in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 trailer featuring writer Al Ewing, Editor in Chief CB Cebulski, and Editor Darren Shan! 

Cosmic peace is hanging by a thread as the major galactic empires bristle against each other. Amidst the chaos, the Gods of Olympus have returned — harbingers of a new age of war, reborn to burn their mark on the stars themselves! The legendary Star-Lord leads Rocket Raccoon, Nova, Marvel Boy, Phyla-Vell, and Moondragon on a mission to restore order to the stars!

“The galaxy is just one bad day away from complete and total collapse, and that day is here,” teases Shan.

“Guardians of the Galaxy is where the Marvel cosmic universe, as we know it, comes alive. Marvel space is about to come crashing into the Marvel Universe in a big way,” says Ewing. 

(12) SO MUCH FOR THOSE GOLDEN MEMORIES. The Guardian’s Luke Holland is a little grumpy: “Rise of the ‘bleakquel’: your favourite heroes are back – and more miserable than ever”

… Take the recent Star Wars trilogy, whose entire existence is predicated on the revelation that Han, Leia and Luke all had a miserable old time of it after the events of Return of the Jedi. Before, any fan with R2-D2 on their jim-jams could envisage the three of them growing old together, with a grey-muzzled Chewbacca snoozing contentedly by a crackling hearth. The new films suddenly forced them to confront a new reality in which Han and Leia are estranged because their son became a mass-murderer, and a PTSD-ravaged Luke lives a life of solitude on a remote skerry somewhere uncannily reminiscent of Ireland. And what happens next? Oh, they all die. Miserably. Great. Thanks.

(13) FISTS OF FURRIES. On TV news — “Furries to the rescue: Costumed conventioneers save woman from assault in San Jose”. This is KABC’s caption:

A trio of costumed furries – people who like to dress as animals – came to the rescue of a woman who was being assaulted in a car in San Jose.

(14) CLOSING THE UNDERWATER BARN DOOR. A bit late for this, isn’t it? “Titanic Wreckage Now Protected Under U.S.-U.K. Deal That Was Nearly Sunk”.

More than a century after the RMS Titanic sank to bottom of the sea — and nearly a quarter-century after its memory was dredged up for a Hollywood blockbuster — the U.S. and U.K. have implemented a formal agreement on how to safeguard and manage the ill-fated steamship’s remains.

British Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani confirmed the news Tuesday during a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship was built before setting off from the English port city of Southampton in 1912.

…”This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” Ghani said in remarks released Tuesday by the Maritime Ministry.

Ghani’s comments cap a long and winding journey for the deal, which representatives from the U.K., the U.S., Canada and France officially agreed to as part of a 2003 treaty. The Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic sought to sort out and regulate public access, artifact conservation and salvage rights within 1 kilometer of the wreck site, situated hundreds of miles off the coast of Canada in the North Atlantic.

But since the countries negotiated the treaty, the document has largely languished. It requires the ratification of at least two of the four countries to enter into force, and while the U.K. quickly ratified the agreement, both Canada and France have yet to do so. The formal approval of the U.S. government looked long in doubt, as well.

(15) DEAD LETTERS. BBC warns about “The alphabets at risk of extinction”.

It isn’t just languages that are endangered: dozens of alphabets around the world are at risk. And they could have even more to tell us.

On his first two days of school, in a village above the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong, Maung Nyeu was hit with a cane. This was not because he was naughty. It was simply that Nyeu could not understand what the teacher was saying, or what was written in his textbooks. Although 98% of Bangladeshis speak Bengali as a first language, Nyeu grew up with Marma, one of several minority tongues in the region. Written, it is all curls, like messy locks of hair.

Eventually Nyeu managed to escape this cycle of bewilderment and beatings. After learning Bengali at home, he returned to school and went to university. Now he is pursuing a doctorate at Harvard. Yet Nyeu never forgot his early schooldays. He spends much of his time in the hills where he grew up, where he founded Our Golden Hour – a nonprofit fighting to keep Marma and a flurry of other scripts alive.

There are between 6,000 to 7,000 languages in the world. Yet 96% are spoken by just 3% of the global population. And 85% are endangered, like Marma.

Along with the spoken words, something else is also at risk: each language’s individual script. When we talk about “endangered languages”, most of us think of the spoken versions first. But our alphabets can tell us huge amounts about the cultures they came from. Just as impressive is the length people will go to save their scripts – or invent whole new alphabets and spread them to the world.

(16) LET THERE BE LIGHT MEASUREMENT. And it was good. “Space mission to reveal ‘Truths’ about climate change”.

The UK is going to lead a space mission to get an absolute measurement of the light reflected off Earth’s surface.

The information will be used to calibrate the observations of other satellites, allowing their data to be compared more easily.

Called Truths, the new spacecraft was approved for development by European Space Agency member states in November.

Proponents of the mission expect its data to help reduce the uncertainty in projections of future climate change.

Scientists and engineers met on Tuesday to begin planning the project. Industry representatives from Britain, Switzerland, Greece, the Czech Republic and Romania gathered at Esa’s technical centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

(17) POCKET WATCH. “Australia fires: ‘Incredible’ signs of life return to burned bush” – BBC video, including incredibly cute joey.

Australia’s bushfires have burnt through 10 million hectares of land, and it is feared some habitats may never recover.

But in some worst-affected areas, the sight of plants growing back and animals returning to habitats is raising spirits.

(18) CALLING CHARLES FORT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Things are not so cute in Florida. NPR aired this story today: “Florida Weather Forecasters Warn Of Falling Iguanas”.

Last night, the National Weather Service called for lows in the 30s and 40s with a chance of falling iguanas. Apparently, the lizards can fall into a deeper slumber in the cold, and it is not uncommon for them to tumble from trees. The advice for you is watch your heads, and don’t bug the iguanas after they land. I mean, do you like being bothered when you’re just getting up?

Related older stories: “What To Do If You Come Across A Frozen Iguana” (2018) – “Bottom line: don’t touch them. They are not dead. They may thaw out and attack.”

For perspective: “Florida Has An Iguana Problem” (2019).

Biologists say invasive green iguanas have been spreading in Florida, and they’re a major nuisance. The state encourages homeowners to kill iguanas on their property.

And for “historical context.” Bob & Ray “The Komodo Dragon” (Live at Carnegie Hall, 1984)

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, Cliff Ramshaw, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]

Pixel Scroll 10/26/19 A Møøse Once Bit My Pixel

(1) MORE MCU DEFENDERS, ER, AVENGERS SPEAK OUT. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “The Avengers Respond To Marvel Movie Critics.”

You’re right, Hulk. The “Godfather” films do glorify violence.

(2) HELP IS ON THE WAY. S.L. Huang’s Ask an Author post “Cancelling Contracts and Norms in Publishing” does a full-spectrum post about contract cancellation – its infrequency, significance, how it can be handled badly, how a publisher ought to handle it, and what an author can do.

What makes cancellations worse:

There are two interrelated problems when a publisher has to suddenly cancel multiple contracts. The first is biting off more than they could chew as a press, which obviously isn’t ideal and can be a worrying comment on the state of their business, but it can happen without ill intent. But the second is how the publisher handles it.

Here are some things that can escalate a cancellation from unfortunate to disturbingly unprofessional: …

What a publisher should do in a situation like this:

Clarity. Communication. Transparency. Exploring any possible avenues before taking a route so extreme. If there are no other options, then: Apology, honest dialogue, taking responsibility, an immediate reversion of rights, an admission of the disservice they’ve done to the authors.

Ideally, a kill fee would be offered.

S&%t happens in publishing. How we treat people when it does is important. And yes, this is a business — but businesses have ethics, and norms, and professionalism. Contracts should be treated as if they mean something.

(3) TRICK OR TRICK. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton clues in the Washington Post about “The frightening history of Halloween haunted houses”.

It is unclear why exactly the pranks got so bad. Irish immigrants had carried over the Halloween tradition of pranking to the United States, but they had been pretty innocent. One of the most popular was to disassemble a neighbor’s front gate and reassemble it on top of a building. That one was so common that some people called Halloween “Gate Night.”But by the 1920s and ?30s, teenage boys had co-opted the pranking tradition, and they were on a Halloween warpath. They broke streetlights. They started fires. They tied wires across sidewalks to trip people….

“They were costing cities millions of dollars even in the early ’30s,” said Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” in an interview with The Post. “There were a lot of cities that were really considering banning the holiday at that point. It was really, really intense.”

Parents and civil groups needed a solution. A distraction. Or a bribe.

And from this cauldron of parental panic, they pulled out an idea that, to this day, is part of what defines American Halloween.

They thought to throw the kids a party, but “because this was the Great Depression, a lot of people didn’t have the money … so one of the first things they did was called ‘house-to-house parties.’”

And the Guardian’s PD Smith devotes an article to Morton’s book in “Trick or Treat by Lisa Morton review – a history of Halloween”.  

(4) ALL OF HISTORY AND MORE Rudy Rucker’s book review “Two Dimensional Time and Annalee Newitz’s 2nd Novel” incorporates a detailed study of the genre’s different approaches to time travel – a virtual candy store of ideas.

The Newitz Option: Two Dimensional Time

Newitz takes an approach to the time paradoxes that’s kind of strange. She allows time travel and timeline editing. But she insists that there’s only one timeline. No parallel timelines, no branching timelines. Just our one timeline: “Our only timeline, whose natural stability emerged from perpetual revision.”

So, somehow, when you travel back in time, you alter the timeline..for everyone. But you yourself remember how it was before the change. This might be viewed as hopping to a different timestream, but Newitz doesn’t want that. She wants to have just one timestream. But the timestream is changing.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s latest Future Tense story is Cory Doctorow’s “Affordances”, about how technical restrictions start with powerless people before coming for us all.

…Ninety-Two’s work in Building 34 was as an exceptions—catcher for a Re-Cog facial recognition product. All around the world, millions of people stepped in front of cameras and made a neutral face and waited: for their office door to unlock, for the lift to be summoned, for the gates at the airport to swing open. When the camera couldn’t figure out their face, it asked them to try again, and again, and again. Then it threw an exception, and 92, or someone else in Building 34, got a live view of the feed and tapped an icon: NO-FACE (for anything that wasn’t a face, like a picture of a face, or a balloon, or, one time, a pigeon); BAD SCENE (poor lighting, dirt on the lens); CRIME (once, a decapitated man’s head; once, an unconscious woman; once, a woman in terror, a hand in her hair); and OTHER (for suspected malfunctions).

Nettrice Gaskins, an artist-educator who collaborates with A.I., wrote the response essay “Not Just a Number”.

In “Affordances,” we see various forms of intelligence agents erase people’s names and identities, particularly those who are held back by and are fighting societal barriers. These people are reduced to numbers, to maps of their faces, to their risk scores. Facial recognition software identifies protesters and otherwise serves as a technological gatekeeper. Online filters flag or block video footage of migrants, and racially biased algorithms determine whether alleged perpetrators are taken into custody or released. In our world, the power of Facebook, Google, and other technology companies is so immense that it can feel futile to push back against them, especially for marginalized groups. But that sense of helplessness can also enable a dangerous complacency. It is exactly because these companies are so powerful that we need people to interrogate their work and challenge it….

(6) A BIG SQUEEZE FOR MAKING LEMONADE. James Davis Nicoll shows Tor.com readers “Five Ways To Benefit If Planet 9 Turns Out To Be a Black Hole”.

Finding a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin object somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System should be easy—I’m sure that some grad student or professor angling for tenure is hard at work right now! But what would be the use to the rest of us of a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin primordial black hole (PBH) orbiting somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System?

OK, sure: if it’s there, it offers us the chance to do some wonderful science; we’d be able to run experiments in regions of intense gravity. But people in general don’t seem to care all that much about pure science. So, what applied applications are there?

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Ray Bradbury did not like the ending of It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! because the Great Pumpkin did not appear.  Chuck Jones was a friend of Ray’s and he did not like the ending either.  Together they wrote a script about Halloween.  They could not sell it to any studio.  So, Ray turned the script into his book, The Halloween Tree.  The book was successful enough, it has never gone out of print, and it was finally sold as a half-hour animation special, which won an Emmy in 1994.  The lead character was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 26, 1984 — Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron’s The Terminator premiered. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, it was received well by reviewers and audience alike with the notable exception of Ellison who noted successfully that the screenplay was based on a short story and the “Soldier” episode of The Outer Limits he had written. 
  • October 26, 1984  — V finally premiered as a regular weekly series  with “Liberation Day”. There were two previous miniseries.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 74.Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 65. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 59. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in The Princess Bride as as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw film franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things.
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 56. Some of the best Who stories aren’t televised but written. The Hollow Men, his Seventh Doctor novel, is damn good and riffs off a Fifth Doctor story. He’s also written guides to that show plus The Avengers, Trek, Buffy and the X-Files.
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 48. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 48. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on Discovery. His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 46. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? Having it described as trying to be a better Trek I admit ain’t helping.

(10) GO AWAY OR I SHALL TAUNT YOU SOME MORE. Myke Cole and Sam Sykes got into it again.  Thread starts here (I hope).

And on the sidelines…

(11) THE FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart previews The Full Lid 25th October 2019.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the entry about Clipping.

Clipping are one of the most interesting musical acts on the planet right now. Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson and Daveed Diggs don’t so much embody modern hiphop as surround it. Diggs, best known of course as everybody’s favorite fighting Frenchman, is the crispest MC on Earth, No syllable escapes his sight, no word or metaphor gets free from the specific gravity of his boundless, graceful flow. This is a man who dances with the words, building structures and meaning, narrative and plot out of them and demolishing it just as easily. Snipes and Hutson in the meantime, excel at building audio landscapes for Diggs to bound across and occasionally be pursued through.Vast walls of noise, found audio, field recordings, structural jokes and aural wit. It’s all here and all at the control of these three flat out musical geniuses. And, in There Existed An Addiction to Blood, they’ve produced another genre adjacent work which is both completely in line with their previous work and sees them evolve once again.

(12) GREAT LEAP FORWARD. According to Forbes, “The UK’s First Moon Rover Will Be A Tiny Jumping Spider In 2021”.

Spacebit, a U.K.-based startup, has announced details of its planned lunar mission in 2021 – revealing a spider-shaped rover that will scuttle across the lunar surface.

As we first revealed last month, Spacebit has a contract with U.S. firm Astrobotic to hitch a ride on their Peregrine lunar lander. Originally part of the canceled Google Lunar XPRIZE, this private endeavor will now attempt to reach the Moon after launching on a Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in late 2021.

(13) WORTHY OF A MUSEUM. Behind a paywall In the October 21 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles Jenova Chen, whose moody and artistic games have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Chen studied computer programming before moving to California to enrol at the University of Southern California.  It was there that he made Cloud, a game inspired by periods he spent hospitalised as an asthmatic child. Players are cast as a boy who daydreams about flying out of his hospital window and manoeuvering clouds to combat pollution.  For Chen it was wish-fulfillment.  In Shanghai there’s a lot of pollution, but during my childhood everyone said it was mist,’ he says.  ‘I think making the game I was subconsciously trying to clean the city and the air.’

It was an unusual game, with no scores, violence or competition. Still, it went viral, crashing the university servers with more than 600,000 downloads.  Chen received messages from fans all over the world.  ‘They told me they cried while playing, I think because of the deep desire to feel free.  People need to know gaming is not just about guns, soccer, and competition,’ he says.  ‘It can be something healing and positive.’

(14) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. The South China Morning Post tells readers “What cosplay is like in China, where home-grown heroes thrive, ‘play’ is emphasised and it’s not all about copying”

…Having characters that look Chinese matters, especially when the cosplay industry is obsessed with exactly replicating fictional characters, but the irony of cosplay in China is that it is less about copying and more about interpretation. According to Wang Kanzhi’s research for a master’s programme in East Asian Studies at Lund University in Sweden, cosplay in China is more open to interpretation because the “Great Firewall” has isolated the community from not only other cosers but also original source materials.

“Due to the different understanding of the original pieces, local cosplayers tend to add their own ideas and points of view into the activity, which obviously changes the original characters,” Wang says. “In other words, the local cosplayers do not only duplicate fictional characters, but add their own creative points to the original form and content.”

(15) LIGHTEN UP. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reports that “‘The Current War: Director’s Cut’ Shines At Low But Steady Wattage”.

Electricity’s domestication is a triumph of American ingenuity. But The Current War, despite depicting the likes of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, doesn’t feel very American at all. That’s probably one of the reasons the movie was received with so little enthusiasm when it debuted at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. (Another problem is that the film was then a product of the Weinstein Co., which collapsed soon after.)

As its subtitle announces, The Current War: Director’s Cut is the not the same movie that nearly succumbed to critical disdain more than two years ago. For those of us who didn’t see the original, ascertaining any improvement is impossible. But the latest version is not bad at all. It’s just sort of odd.

Of the three central characters, only Westinghouse is played by an American, Michael Shannon. As Edison, Benedict Cumberbatch employs an accent that is, well, not British. Nicholas Hoult’s Nikola Tesla speaks in an indeterminate Eastern European mode that can be heard, symbolically at least, as true to his Austro-Serbian-Croatian origins.

The movie doesn’t mention that Tesla had worked for an Edison-affiliated company in Paris before was he encouraged to move to the U.S. In this telling, he’s hired on a whim by the Wizard of Menlo Park, who’s eager to light American cities with his newly perfected bulbs, powered by direct current.

Edison’s nemesis is Westinghouse, who promotes alternating current — cheaper and more versatile but potentially deadly. The two men are competing for the same prize: a contract to illuminate Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a full 13 years after the film’s event-packed story begins. Edison wants to win so badly that he’s prepared to electrocute large animals to demonstrate AC’s dangers.

(16) GAMER STRIKES BACK. Not exactly man bites dog: “Gamer buys Fallout 76 add-on domain to criticise Bethesda”.

What would you do if a company did something you didn’t like?

Some people would take to social media to voice their frustrations. Others might consider writing a letter to the business.

But when game developer Bethesda introduced a new subscription to their online game Fallout 76, David Chapman felt he had to do something with more impact.

He made a website.

And not just any website – he pinched the domain from right under the developer’s nose, so anyone looking for information about the subscription would instead be greeted with his critique.

“My motivation stems from a frustration with Bethesda,” he told the BBC. “And in general the current trend of the gaming industry.”

He added: “They said players had been asking for this – players never asked to pay a subscription for features hidden behind a pay wall.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me make this website.”

Wait, what did Bethesda do?

Bethesda Softworks developed and published post-apocalyptic game Fallout 76.

It is an online-only game, meaning that gamers must be connected to the internet to play, and will see other people they don’t know while they’re playing.

There is no monthly cost to play online, but in a sense this is about to change.

Now players will be offered additional features which affect the gameplay, such as the ability to play without strangers or store as many items as they like, for the annual price of £99.99.

The new service, called Fallout 1st, has angered gamers who point out Bethesda promised not to charge for additional features in the past.

(17) THE ADLER SANCTION. “Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges”.

Russian scientists tracking migrating eagles ran out of money after some of the birds flew to Iran and Pakistan and their SMS transmitters drew huge data roaming charges.

After learning of the team’s dilemma, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon offered to cancel the debt and put the project on a special, cheaper tariff.

The team had started crowdfunding on social media to pay off the bills.

The birds left from southern Russia and Kazakhstan.

The journey of one steppe eagle, called Min, was particularly expensive, as it flew to Iran from Kazakhstan.

Min accumulated SMS messages to send during the summer in Kazakhstan, but it was out of range of the mobile network. Unexpectedly the eagle flew straight to Iran, where it sent the huge backlog of messages.

The price per SMS in Kazakhstan was about 15 roubles (18p; 30 US cents), but each SMS from Iran cost 49 roubles. Min used up the entire tracking budget meant for all the eagles.

…The SMS messages deliver the birds’ coordinates as they migrate, and the team then use satellite photos to see if the birds have reached safe locations. Power lines are a particular threat for the steppe eagles, which are endangered in Russia and Central Asia.

(18) TASTES LIKE CHICKEN. All That’s Interesting invites you to “Be One Of The First In History To Witness A Supermassive Black Hole Destroy A Star”.

Have you ever wondered what a star looks like as it’s ripped apart by a supermassive black hole? Probably not. But thanks to the diligent eyes at NASA and Ohio State University, you don’t have to wonder, you can see it for yourself.

According to local Ohio radio station WOSU, a NASA satellite and a network of robotic telescopes known as the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae — or ASAS-SN for short — located at the university captured the cosmic battle for the first time on film.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/19 There Have Always Been Starpixelers At Scrolled Comfort Farm

(1) EUROVISION. In “Eurovision 2019 Is Here: Science Fiction Fans, Rejoice!”, Tor.com’s James Davis Nicoll supplies plenty of examples to show that “Although Eurovision itself may not be exactly SF, some of the pieces are definitely science fiction-adjacent. The visuals are often glorious, and the show as a whole is well worth viewing.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. The Bounding Into Comics Facebook group was restored on May 9. Supposedly they still don’t know why it was shuttered, apart from a notice that they had violated “the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

…As you can see the last post was our Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer article, which was posted on May 6th.

When we asked for further clarification on why the page was taken down. We did not receive a response.

While it’s still unclear exactly why Facebook took down our page, we are glad that it has been restored. And we are extremely grateful and truly humbled by the fan support we received after the page was taken down.

While we are happy to continue publishing to our Facebook audience. We do plan on continuing to grow our presence on other social media platforms including MeWe and Gab.

(3) LOCUS COLLECTION PRESERVED. Duke University Libraries announced a prized acquisition — “Locus Collection Tracks the Stars and Universe of Sci-Fi”.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired the archives of the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, publisher of Locus, the preeminent trade magazine for the science fiction and fantasy publishing field.

The massive collection—which arrived in almost a thousand boxes—includes first editions of numerous landmarks of science fiction and fantasy, along with correspondence from some of the genre’s best-known practitioners, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Dean Koontz, Robert A. Heinlein, and hundreds more.

…A tireless advocate for speculative fiction, [founder Charles N.] Brown was also a voluminous correspondent and friend to many of the writers featured in the magazine. Many of them wrote to him over the years to share personal and professional news, or to quibble about inaccuracies and suggest corrections. The letters are often friendly, personal, humorous, and occasionally sassy.

Reacting to a recent issue of Locus that featured one of her short stories, the science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler wrote, “I am Octavia E. Butler in all my stories, novels, and letters. How is it that I’ve lost my E in three places in Locus #292? Three places! You owe me three E’s. That’s a scream, isn’t it?”…

(4) ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM. The New York Times’ Glenn Kenny works hard to resist the movie’s charms in “‘Tolkien’ Review: A Fellowship That Rings Obvious”.

Directed by Dome Karukoski from a script by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford, this picture about the pre-fame days of the author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” teems with many on-the-nose moments. And it does so while hewing so strongly to the Distinguished British Biopic ethos (including the “England: Land of Magnificent Sunsets” trope) that it teeters on the edge of genuine obnoxiousness. Surprisingly, the emphatic score by the customarily more nuanced Thomas Newman is one of the prime offenders.

Nevertheless, “Tolkien” manages several scenes of credible emotional delicacy. And it doesn’t shy away from the conspicuously literary, treating the writer’s explorations of Wagner (sparked by his love interest and future wife Edith, played by Lily Collins) and passion for philology (sparked by chats with the intimidating professor Joseph Wright, played by Derek Jacobi) with a commendable amount of detail.

(5) SOMETHING FOR YOUR BRAIN’S POKÉMON CENTER. NPR’s Vincent Acovino calls “‘Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ — Go!”

Have you ever questioned the moral fabric of the Pokémon universe?

Sure you have. For starters: In what kind of world would “Pokémon battles” — in which two humans force two excessively cute creatures to a fight until one of the beasts faints — constitute an acceptable social convention? And isn’t the whole Trainer/Pokémon relationship more than a little … problematic? Who decided that wild Pokémon, who demonstrate a level of intelligence several degrees above that of other animals, should live out their lives under the constant fear of capture and exploitation by humans?

Your enjoyment of Pokémon Detective Pikachu will likely depend on your degree of investment in these sorts of existential questions.The strength of the film lies in the way it playfully undermines the Poké-verse, poking holes in a thing that, when reduced to its essentials, seems just real silly. Much like last year’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, Pokémon Detective Pikachu looks itself in the mirror and remarks on what it sees there. And while it doesn’t pull off the trick nearly as well, there’s something admirable about a film that isn’t afraid to have some fun with a property so established — and beloved — by its core audience.

(6) ALL THE BEST: Following Paula Guran’s announcement of the contents of The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2019, Jason has completed his “Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links)” over at Featured Futures.

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals have been announced, they have been combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. (The only one not yet integrated is the BASFF, which will likely be announced late in the year.) Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(7) VAMPIRELLA’S PRIEST. Christopher Priest is writing Vampirella comics now. ComicsBeat questioned him about it — “Why Priest Added Vampirella to His Iconic List”

Deanna Destito: Before jumping into this, were you a Vampirella fan? What appealed to you about this project?

Christopher Priest: No, I wouldn’t call myself a Vampirella fan (which is sure to annoy Vampirella fans!), although I was certainly aware of the character. But I’d guess I viewed the property nostalgically. Fondly, for sure, but if I thought of Vampirella at all I thought of her in a kindly past-tense, as an artifact of the 1970s and my misspent youth….

(8) BEHIND THE SCENARIOS. I learned from this interview there’s a book of notes, too! “Getting Transreal: An Interview with Rudy Rucker” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Your companion book, Notes for Million Mile Road Trip, is actually longer than the novel! The idea of following up reading a novel with that kind of metadata is fascinating; can you tell us more about it?

It’s hard to write a novel. It takes a year or maybe two years of tickling the keyboard at your desk or using a laptop in a cafe, and doing that pretty much every day, even on the days when you don’t know what comes next. This is where writing a volume of notes comes in. When I don’t have anything to put into the novel, I write something in the notes. I might analyze the possibilities for the next few scenes. Or craft journal entries about things I saw [that day]. Or describe some the people sitting around me, being careful not to stare at them too hard. Or think about how hopeless it is to try to write another novel, and how I’ve been faking it all along anyhow. The more I complain in my notes, the better I feel. I publish the finished Notes in parallel with with the novel, not that I sell many copies of the notes. Long-term, the notes will be fodder for the locust swarm of devoted Rucker scholars who are due to emerge any time now from their curiously long gestation in the soil.

(9) LORD WINSTON OBIT. Zombie Squad, an international network of dogs and other pets dedicated to protecting society from the walking dead, paid its respects on Saturday to Lord Winston, the indefatigable West Highland terrier who inspired the group’s creation in 2013 and had served as its official leader until his death on 21 April, aged nearly 15. Despite losing the use of his back legs following a series of operations, Lord Winston – via his British owner – posted daily messages and regular videos on Twitter, where prospective new members continue to be welcomed at @ZombieSquadHQ.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As the authors of SFE put it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ‘mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive. 
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Star Maker contains the first known description of what are now called Dyson spheres. (Neal Asher currently is making the best use of these in his Polity series.) He wrote about a baker’s dozen novels of which iBooks has pretty much everything available at quite reasonable prices. I know I read and enjoyed Star Maker many years ago but don’t recall what else I read. (Died 1950.)
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film where the SJW credential was the defendant in a Perry Mason murder case, The Case of Black Cat. (Died 1940)
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles he did. (Died 1987.)
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks, 84. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelisation of more than 60 of the Doctor Who shows. Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. 
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 56. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. Might be stretching the definition of genre (or possibly not), but he did the animation for “Spy vs. Spy” for MADtv. You can see the first one here:
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 50. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokey.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MARVEL 1000. Marvel’s celebration of its 80th Anniversary will include a new epic comic book issue to celebrate the legacy of the Marvel Universe: Marvel Comics #1000.

Featuring 80 creative teams with luminaries from both classic and current comic books (and beyond!), this oversized one-shot will be packed with pages spanning across generations of Marvel’s iconic Super Heroes – with cover art from legendary artist Alex Ross!

Among those individuals, some of whom teased the project on social media this week, are long-time Marvel veterans — including Roy Thomas, Peter David, Gerry Conway, and Adam Kubert — and current creators — including Saladin Ahmed, Gail Simone, Chip Zdarsky, and Kris Anka — as well as talents outside of comics, like filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(13) THE WORD FROM PORTALES. Locus Online’s “2019 Williamson Lectureship Report” quotes GoH Alex Rivera, criminalist Cordelia Willis (daughter of Connie) and others —

“We’re living in a time of walls,” said filmmaker Alex Rivera when introducing Sleep Dealer at the start of the 43rd Williamson Lectureship April 4-6, 2019 in Portales NM. “It’s a global obsession. How do we tell stories in such a world? In my film, I try to cross the consciousness of walls by looking at them, through them, and beyond them.”

(14) 124C41. Hephzibah Anderson’s profile of John Brunner focuses on his novel Stand on Zanzibar (taking the typical “sci-fi predicted it, gosh!” angle) in today’s BBC Culture post “The 1969 sci-fi that spookily predicted today”.

…Though it divided critics on publication, Zanzibar has come to be regarded as a classic of New Wave sci-fi, better known for its style than its content. This seems a pity. When an excerpt appeared in New Worlds magazine in November 1967, an editorial claimed that it was the first novel in its field to create, in every detail, “a possible society of the future”.

There’s irony in some of what Brunner got wrong. He assumed, for instance, that the US would have at last figured out how to provide adequate, inexpensive medical care for all by 2010. Other inaccuracies are sci-fi staples – guns that fire lightning bolts; deep-sea mining camps; a Moon base. And yet, in ways minor and major, that ‘future society’ nevertheless seems rather familiar today. For example, it features an organisation very similar to the European Union; it casts China as America’s greatest rival; its phones have connections to a Wikipedia-style encyclopaedia; people casually pop Xanax-style ‘tranks’; documents are run off on laser printers; and Detroit has become a shuttered ghost town and incubator of a new kind of music oddly similar to the actual Detroit techno movement of the 1990s.

(15) NEBULA REVIEWS. A full rundown of all the nominees for “The 2018 Nebula Awards” is preceded by an analysis of this year’s kerfuffle at Ohio Needs A Train.

The accusations of slate-building, especially as it’s so close to the Hugos being basically completely turned aside for a couple of years there by slating antics 4, led to tensions running fairly high and people running fairly hot on the issue. The SFWA, for its part, says that it wants to take this sort of thing seriously and is looking into ways to try to keep stuff like this from taking over, without (as of the time of this writing) mentioning what steps it may be taking. I suppose that’s fine, but it’ll be interesting to see if anything is different about the nomination process next year.

(16) LODESTAR REVIEWS. Lodestar Award Finalist Reviews by Sarah Waites at The Illustrated Page.

(17) FANTASY LITERATURE’S NOVELLA HUGO REVIEWS. Despite the name, the Fantasy Literature site reviews science fiction, fantasy, and speculative horror, as well as comics and graphic novels.

Best Novella

(18) WRIGHT OF WAY. Steve J. Wright has completed his Best Novelette Hugo Finalist reviews

Novelette

(19) SPACE PASTA. SYFY Wire reveals “Saturn’s rings are hiding moons shaped like frozen ravioli. Here’s why.”

Even from beyond its cosmic grave, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft continues to amaze us with the things it unearthed during its Saturn flybys — like the moons that have been lurking in its rings for billions of years.

When Cassini ventured as close as it would ever get to Saturn, it imaged the moons (which look like space ravioli) in enough detail to reveal that they were covered in the same stuff as its iconic rings. Some of them were even blasted with icy particles from nearby Enceladus. The posthumous images from Cassini’s flyby have given scientists unprecedented close-ups of these really weird satellites.

(20) CRIMESTOPPER. Keith R.A. DeCandido’s Great Superhero Movie Rewatch reaches the films inspired by Chester Gould’s iconic cop — “’Contact Dick Tracy at once’ — RKO’s Dick Tracy Features” at Tor.com.

While he’s pretty much a pop-culture footnote in the 21st century, Dick Tracy was a household name in the 20th. Created by Chester Gould for the eponymous comic strip in 1931, Dick Tracy saw the hard-boiled detective stop a bunch of over-the-top criminals with cutting-edge technology. Gould foresaw the advent of smart-watches with Tracy’s “two-way wrist radio,” and the character was hugely popular.

It wasn’t long before Tracy was adapted to the big screen, first with movie serials in the 1930s and then four one-hour feature films in the 1940s….

[Thanks to Steve Green, Jason, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, mlex, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/7/19 What The Pixel Saw, It Was Against The Law

(1) IT’S GONE, MAN. Those who view the episode on streaming services won’t be seeing it — “HBO Edits ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode to Remove Errant Coffee Cup” reports Variety.

HBO has quietly scrubbed the misplaced coffee cup out of the “Game of Thrones” episode that aired Sunday night.

The premium cabler acknowledged the gaffe Monday after fans spotted the takeout cup on a table in front of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in a scene in episode 4 of season 8 just before the 17:40 mark. It resembled a Starbucks cup but in fact came from the production’s craft services — and where someone left it behind in Winterfell.

“The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea,” HBO said in a statement.

As of Tuesday morning, the streaming version of the “GOT” episode available on HBO Now and HBO Go had removed the offending cup from the scene. A rep for HBO confirmed the coffee cup was deleted and that future airings of the episode, “The Last of the Starks,” would be of the updated version

(2) CHIANG COLLECTION. Joyce Carol Oates says “Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian” in a brilliant review of Ted Chiang’s new collection Exhalation for The New Yorker.

…Indeed, irony is sparse in Ted Chiang’s cosmology. It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with something of the ardor and earnestness of much young-adult fiction, asking anew philosophical questions that have been posed repeatedly through millennia to no avail. Chiang’s materialist universe is a secular place, in which God, if there is one, belongs to the phenomenal realm of scientific investigation and usually has no particular interest in humankind. But it is also a place in which the natural inquisitiveness of our species leads us to ever more astonishing truths, and an alliance with technological advances is likely to enhance us, not diminish us. Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress….

(3) MILES TO GO. Rudy Rucker’s entry for Whatever’s The Big Idea is really big!

Real-life road trips end before you want them to. You run into a coastline. The road stops. I wanted a road trip that goes on and on, with ever new adventures, and with opportunities to reach terrain never tread upon before. But how to do that in a car?

I peeled Earth like a grape, snipped out the oceans, shaped the flattened skin into a disk, and put a mountain range around it. Then I laid down a bunch more of these planetary rinds, arranging them like hexagonal tiles on a very wide-ranging floor. All set for a Million Mile Road Trip.

(4) CURRENCY EVENTS. The New York Times tells about an unexpected comics publisher in “Splat! Bam! It’s the Federal Reserve to the Rescue”.  The basic info is that the New York Federal Reserve bank produces comics as teaching tools, and all three have a scifi bent.

…In one scene, a group of itinerant monetary experts lands on Alpha-Numerica (“voted 3,675,927th best place to live”), where a severe recession is underway. Residents of the planet look like pencil erasers, gumdrops and other forms of geometrically sculpted goop. Unemployment is soaring, businesses are failing, and retirees are struggling to survive.

“This is not where I wanted to be at this point in my life,” says one resident, an old purple jelly bean who is sweeping a public square. “Tell me about it,” a younger resident says to itself. This individual, a green egg, wears a cap and gown. In one hand, it holds a diploma; in the other, a sign saying, “HIRE ME?”

The situation is dire but can be solved. What is needed is “expansionary monetary policy,” declares Glix, a green, lizardlike creature who likes to sing and wear capes.

Here is a link to the New York Fed’s download site for its comic books. 

The New York Fed’s Educational Comic Book Series teaches students about basic economic principles and the Federal Reserve’s role in the financial system.

Created for students at the middle school, high school, and introductory college levels, the series can help stimulate their curiosity and raise their awareness of careers in economics and finance. In addition, lesson plans created for each comic book meet national and state standards for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The New York Fed has published comic books since the 1950s and is reintroducing this popular series with a modern spin. While the comic books are intended for a student audience, they are also available to the public.

(5) AGAINST THE HOUSE. ScienceFiction.com brings word that “Maisie Williams Is Currently Shooting Comic-Based Thriller ‘The Owners’”.

Filming of a new comic book adaptation, ‘The Owners’ has begun outside of London, in an isolated Victorian mansion in Kent.  Based on a Belgian comic book by award-winning artist Hermann (last name Huppen), and written by his son Yves H. ‘The Owners’ is being directed by Julius Berg (‘La forêt’), with a screenplay by Berg and Mathieu Gompel (‘The Dream Kids’).  The film’s producers, XYZ Films, are currently shopping the picture around at the Cannes Film Festival.

Heading up the cast is ‘Game of Thrones’ alum Maisie Williams.  Joining her are Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Ian Kenny, Jake Curran, Andrew Ellis, and Stacha Hicks….

(6) HELP IS ON THE WAY. I bet readers of the Scroll can’t wait til I get this — “Microsoft Word AI ‘to improve writing'”. On the other hand, Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a skeptical comment, “I’ll believe it when the spellchecker starts handling context well enough to not make dumb corrections.”

A new feature in Microsoft’s Word aims to help improve writing beyond the usual grammar fixes.

Using artificial intelligence, Ideas will suggest rewrites for clunky sentences as well as changes to make sure language is gender inclusive.

It will help users lay out different parts of a document, including tables, and suggest synonyms and alternative phrases to make writing more concise.

It will be cloud-based and initially available to users of Word Online only.

A test version of Ideas will go live in June, becoming more widely available in the autumn.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s often said to be best known for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room as contains her original screenplays for the films The Company of Wolves and The Magic Toyshop, both of which were based on her own original stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 68. SF reviewer for the LA Times, Internet Review of Science Fiction and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
  • Born May 7, 1968 Traci Lords, 51. Yes, she did a number of reasonably legit genre appearances after her, errr, long adult acting career. She was for example in The Tommyknockers series along with the first Blade film. She’s also in the SF comedy Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (I know, weird title that.) And finally, I should note she was Dejah Thoris in Princess of Mars which later re-released as John Carter of Mars. But the way her first post-adult film was a genre undertaking and that was Not of This Earth. Yes, it is a remake of Roger Corman’s 1957 film of the same name.
  • Born May 7, 1972 Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 46. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The Darkest Minds is a dystopian SF film which RT gives a rating of 17% to. Ouch. 

(8) DRAGON AWARDS SEASON. Vox Day kicks off a “Dragon Awards discussion” [Internet Archive link] with his ideas about what comics published by his Arkhaven imprint ought to win Best Comic and Best Graphic Novel. Declan Finn jumps in to tell people which of his and his friends’ books should win the other categories, but meets resistance from a commenter who says he’d rather vote for Brian Neimeier (another Sad Puppy). There might not be enough kibble to go around!

(9) POP CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. “Viggo Mortensen: Vox ‘ridiculous’ to use Aragorn image” – BBC has the story.

Viggo Mortensen has denounced far right Spanish political party Vox after it tweeted a meme featuring the actor playing Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

The meme, shared by the nationalist party’s official Twitter account in April, showed Aragorn lining up to face off against the assembled hordes of Vox’s apparent enemies, including the media, Catalan separatists and a small ghost wearing the colours of the rainbow flag typically used to represent LGBT pride.

“Let the battle begin,” the party tweeted.

In a letter to the editor of Spanish newspaper El Pais, published on Tuesday, Mortensen said Vox’s use of his image was “absurd”.

“Not only is it absurd that I, the actor who embodied this character for [Lord of the Rings director] Peter Jackson, and a person interested in the rich variety of cultures and languages that exist in Spain and the world, is linked to an ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist political party,” the actor wrote, “it is even more ridiculous to use the character of Aragorn, a polyglot statesman who advocates knowledge and inclusion of the diverse races, customs and languages of Middle Earth, to legitimise an anti-immigrant, anti-feminist and Islamophobic political group.”

(10) GO OUT, YOUNG HUMAN! The Washington Post: “Buzz Aldrin: It’s time to focus on the great migration of humankind to Mars”. In a WaPo oped, Buzz Aldrin advocates for not just returning to the Moon, but going to Mars. And sooner rather than later. He also calls for international cooperation with other countries to make it happen.

Last month, Vice President Pence announced that we are headed back to the moon. I am with him, in spirit and aspiration. Having been there, I can say it is high time we returned. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and I went to the moon 50 years ago this July, we did so with a mission. Apollo 11 aimed to prove America’s can-do commitment to space exploration, as well as its national security and technological superiority. We did all that. We also “Came in Peace for all Mankind.” More of that is needed now.

Today, many nations have eyes for the moon, from China and Russia to friends in Europe and Middle East. That is all good. The United States should cooperate — and offer itself as a willing team leader — in exploring every aspect of the moon, from its geology and topography to its hydrology and cosmic history. In doing so, we can take “low-Earth orbit” cooperation to the moon, openly, eagerly and collegially.

[…] As matter of orbital mechanics, missions from Earth to Mars for migration are complex. That said, human nature — and potentially the ultimate survival of our species — demands humanity’s continued outward reach into the universe. Call it curiosity or calculation, strategic planning or destiny. Put simply: We explore, or we expire. That is why we must get on with it.

In a world of division and distraction, this mission is unifying — for all Americans and for all humankind. So, I am personally glad we are headed back to the moon — and I thank President Trump and the vice p

(11) DECOROUS THEATERS. According to The Week:

The Roxy 8 multiplex in Dickson, Tennessee, is defending its decision to call the new HELLBOY movie HECKBOY in signs outside the theater.  Manager Belinda Daniel explained that the theater does not use ‘profanity’ on signs.  ‘We are located next to an elementary school and across from a church,’ she said.

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF GOOD TASTE. BBC introduces you to“The man who discovered umami”, long before it made news in the West.

For centuries, humanity lived with the concept of sweet, salty, bitter and sour – but another flavour was hiding on the sidelines

Kikunae Ikeda had been thinking a lot about soup.

The Japanese chemist had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes, called dashi. Dashi has a very specific flavour – warm, tasty, savoury – and through laborious, lengthy separations in a chemistry lab, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. He felt sure that there was some connection between a molecule’s shape and the flavor perception it produced in humans.

But as it was just a few years past the turn of the 19th Century, there was not yet a great deal of evidence to support the idea.

Eventually, Ikeda did manage to isolate an important taste molecule from the seaweed in dashi: the amino acid glutamate, a key building block of proteins. In a 1909 paper, the Tokyo Imperial University professor suggested that the savoury sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavour, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.

(13) LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR KIWI TOUR. Good news! Natural heated swimming hole available to visit on your CoNZealand2020 trip!

Bad News! May contain a staple of SciFi — The Brain-Eating Amoebas of Kerosene Creek

Kerosene Creek is a natural hot spring near Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand. And there have been official warnings for years: don’t put your head under water. It turns out that “brain-eating amoebas”, naegleria fowleri, are a real, if rare, thing.

[Thanks to Chris M. Barkley, JJ, Errolwi, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Tom Boswell, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 4/16/19 I Have No Clicks And I Must Swear Mightily Underneath My Breath

(1) ORIGIN STORY. Rudy Rucker posted drafts of two presentations he’s giving at the IOHK Summit in Miami Beach on April 18. The first is — “Cyberpunk Use Cases”.

…My best-known novel is Software, written in 1980. It was one of the earliest cyberpunk novels. The idea behind Software seems simple now.

  • It should be possible to extract the patterns stored in a person’s brain,
    and transfer these onto a computer or a robot.

You’ve seen this scenario hundred movies and TV shows, right? But I was the first one to write about it. In 1980, “soul as software” was an unheard of thought. Hardly anyone even knew the word “software.”

To make my Software especially punk, I made the brain-to-software transfer very gnarly. A gang of scary-funny hillbillies extracted people’s mental software by slicing off the tops of their skulls and eating their brains with cheap steel spoons. One of the hillbillies was a robot in disguise, and his stomach analyzed the brain tissue. Did I mention that I grew up in Kentucky?

(2) BAG ORDINANCE. The Anime News Network posted a wise suggestion “Anime Boston Attendees Remember to BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags”. (Via Petréa Mitchell.)

If you’re heading out to the Anime Boston convention this weekend with the intention of picking up merchandise and art prints from the Dealer’s Hall and Artist Alley, you could run into some trouble if you don’t have reusable bags handy.

Artist Alley and Dealer’s Hall merchants were caught off guard on Monday after convention staff alerted them that the only permissible types of bags must be reusable, recyclable, or compostable with handles. The restriction is due to an ordinance that went in effect in Boston on December 14, 2018. Plastic bags with handles are not allowed and retailers are required to charge customers an additional US$.05 per bag unless the customer brings their own.

(3) HISTORIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Eugene Grant reminds people of Judy-Lynn Del Rey’s impact on the field of sff. Thread starts here.

(4) EVERMORE PARK. The summer opening of the “Mythos” theme adventure at Evermore Park in Utah is tentatively scheduled for May 29, says David Doering, “though this could slip.”

MYTHOS

An enchanted festival of fantasy and magic, celebrating the wondrous grace of dragons. Coming Summer 2019.

(5) WOLFE’S BEGINNINGS. The Guardian’s Alison Flood added her tribute to the late author: “Gene Wolfe, ‘magnificent’ giant of science fiction, dies aged 87”.

…When he was named a grand master of science fiction and fantasy by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) in 2012, Wolfe recalled living “paycheck to paycheck” with his wife Rosemary and children, and getting three “not terribly good” stories published in a college magazine.

“Then it was time for school to start again, and Rosemary began badgering me for money for school clothes,” he said. “Another story, Car Sinister, sold, and instead of depositing the check I got the manager of the hardware store to cash it for me. I took it to Rosemary: ‘Here’s every dime I got for that story. That’s how much you have for school clothes.’ A few days passed, and I was sitting on the kitchen floor trying to mend a chair. Rosemary came up behind me and said, ‘Shouldn’t you be writing?’ That’s when I knew I was a writer.”

(6) COLE OBIT. Noted sff writer Allan Cole died March 29 reports the SFWA Blog.

Allan Cole, international best-selling author, screenwriter and former prize-winning newsman, died March 29, 2019, of cancer in Boca Raton, FL. He was 75.

Cole was probably best known for the Sten science fiction series, which he co-authored with his late partner Chris Bunch, as well as the critically acclaimed Vietnam novel “A Reckoning for Kings” about the Tet Offensive of 1968.

(7) GARRIOTT OBIT. “My home town astronaut died,” wrote John A Arkansawyer. “My first job was at an all-night gas station on Owen K. Garriott Road (formerly Market). I never met him, but I benefited from his presence in our small city. My kid and my kid’s mom and I went back for a visit the summer after my dad died and spent a great day here: Leonardo’s – Interactive Children’s Museum in Enid, OK. He and his former wife founded it and it’s still going strong.

Dr. Owen K. Garriott, scientist/astronaut, died April 15: “Enid-born astronaut Owen K. Garriott dies at age 88”.

Garriott’s initial space flight on Skylab 3 was from July 28 to Sept. 25, 1973, according to OHS. On this mission, he and his two crewmates conducted major experiments in science and medicine for a total of 1,427 hours in space. In three separate space walks outside the Skylab, Garriott spent 13 hours and 43 minutes.

Helen Walker Garriott, co-founder of Leonardo’s Children’s Museum, died in 2017.

His son, Richard Garriott, was also an astronaut (he made a pot of money on video games and bought a ticket), and they were the only father-son pair to fly to space (so far).

(8) REED OBIT. Les Reed wrote several Top-40 hits. And at least one genre tune —

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 16, 1917 William “Billy” Benedict. Singled out for Birthday Honours as he was Whitey Murphy in Adventures of Captain Marvel. Yes, that Captain Marvel.  Back in 1942, it was a 12-chapter black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures based off the Fawcett Comics strip.  (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter  Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both a radio and television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley  Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that everything including the hauntings were in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work but he did write Colonel Sun: a James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction published in the late Fifties, he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 16, 1954 Ellen Barkin, 65. She played Penny Priddy in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film that should neither get remade nor get sequels, both of which have been proposed. And to my knowledge, her only genre credits are Into the West as Kathleen, and in The Cobbler as Elaine Greenawalt. 
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 57. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through thirteen with as well. 
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 44. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of animated DAC films, to wit Son of BatmanBatman vs. Robin, Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THE ROLLING STONES. Not just the stones, the builders also traveled — “Stonehenge: DNA reveals origin of builders”. Yes, technically everyone traveled over long-enough time — but they’ve found that Stonehenge was built by relatively recent arrivals.

The ancestors of the people who built Stonehenge travelled west across the Mediterranean before reaching Britain, a study has shown.

Researchers compared DNA extracted from Neolithic human remains found across Britain with that of people alive at the same time in Europe.

The Neolithic inhabitants appear to have travelled from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to Iberia before winding their way north.

They reached Britain in about 4,000BC.

Details have been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The migration to Britain was just one part of a general, massive expansion of people out of Anatolia in 6,000BC that introduced farming to Europe.

Before that, Europe was populated by small, travelling groups which hunted animals and gathered wild plants and shellfish.

Here a link to the original paper in Nature.

The roles of migration, admixture and acculturation in the European transition to farming have been debated for over 100?years. Genome-wide ancient DNA studies indicate predominantly Aegean ancestry for continental Neolithic farmers, but also variable admixture with local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Neolithic cultures first appear in Britain circa 4000?bc, a millennium after they appeared in adjacent areas of continental Europe….

(12) UNDER THE HAMMER. Here are a couple of the interesting lots in Heritage Auctions’ April 23 Illustration Art Signature Auction.

(13) SFF MOVIE COLLECTIBLES. And Bonhams is running the “TCM Presents … Wonders of the Galaxy: Science Fiction and Fantasy in Film” auction on May 14 in Los Angeles. The catalog is here.

They expect this poster from the 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame movie to go for $150,000-$200,000.

(14) CATTY REMARKS. Timothy the Talking Cat resumes his autobiography in “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 2”.

Chapter 2: Tim Cat’s Schooldays

Bortsworth Grammar School for the Boys With Fathers Off in the Colonies was an august institution but was also open in other months. For two hundred years it had taught the male offspring of the British Empire’s far flung civil servants. The school specialised in latin, bullying, it’s own idiosyncratic form of Rugby football and petty tyranny and often all four at the same time.

I boarded the school train at Bortsworth Station and immediately got off again as it had reached its destination….

(15) FLAVOR LOST IN SPACE. From Behind a paywall at The Week comes this item:

An Englishman launched a Big Mac hamburger into the stratosphere using a weather balloon–then ate the ‘spaceburger’ upon its return to the ground.  Thomas Stanniland said he accomplished the feat with the aid of four canisters of helium, a GoPro camera, a GPS tracker, a polystyrene box, and superglue.  After the balloon popped and the burger floated back,he recovered it.  ‘It’s been outside, so it’s been a bit crumbly,’ he said after taking a bite.  Overall, he described the taste as ‘not nice.'”

(16) THE PROBLEM OF PAIN. That’s a reference I thought of when someone told me the next episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is titled “The Eggplant, The Witch & The Wardrobe Trailer.”

(17) HUSKY ROBOTS. Boston Dynamics puts a bunch of their “SpotMini” robot “dogs” together in harness to pull a BD truck… Gizmodo has the story: “These Robodogs Are Even Scarier When They Start Working In a Pack”.

That sound, that sound, as they come marching.

When it’s not frightening the world with videos of back-flipping cyborg supersoldiers, Boston Dynamics likes to have a bit of fun with their robotic creations. Presumably inspired by last month’s Iditarod, the company strapped ten of its SpotMini robots together but instead of pulling a sled, these robo-pups have enough strength to pull a massive diesel truck. Did I say fun? I meant terror-inducing.

That last linked phrase is to a YouTube video:

It only takes 10 Spotpower (SP) to haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot (~1 degree uphill, truck in neutral). These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon. For more information visit us at www.BostonDynamics.com/Spot.

[Thanks to David Doering, Avilyn, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John A Arkansawyer, Bill, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Scott Edelman, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

2018 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015, 35 of the novellas published in 2016, and 46 of the novellas published in 2017 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

The result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza and the 2017 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 4 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Tor.com, Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, Book Smugglers, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tachyon bringing out a multitude of works, along with the traditional magazines Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low. Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2018 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Read more…