Barkley: DisCon III,
The Fourth Day

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DisCon III – December 19-20, 2021

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY FOUR

(Author’s Note: As of this writing, I misplaced all of my notes for Day Four. The things I write about here may be a bit truncated, so please bear with me with this day’s events…)

I woke up relatively early (for a Worldcon), at around 8:45 a.m. Dapperly dressed in my Chelsea FC pajamas and socks, I decide to go down to the Information Desk for the latest Dis N’ Dat newsletter for the latest news and Programming changes.

Just as I exited the elevator, I encountered Laurie Mann and Dave McCarty in deep conversation. Mr. McCarty told me that he was on his way to the Site Selection Meeting and was particularly vexed because the contest between the Chengdu and Winnipeg bids was, as of this morning, in doubt.

 This was a little peculiar because under normal circumstances, the identity of the winning bid would have been leaked the previous evening by unknown sources and would have been circulating among the parties last night.   

But as I inferred from my earlier conversation with Ms. Mann and Mr. McCarty, this did not happen. By now, most of you may know that the statement from Kevin Standlee a few days earlier cast the election in doubt due to what was perceived by some as an infraction of the rules regarding the lack of valid addresses by those voting for the Chengdu bid. 

To my understanding of the matter, a majority of  the Chengdu voters used as email address because that is how they interpreted the use of that term in China 

Mr. McCarty, who is associated with the Chengdu bid, had no idea whether or not the disputed ballots would be allowed or not this morning.

Quickly realizing that either history, a controversy, or both was about to occur, I bolted to my room, got properly dressed, grabbed a tea and a protein bar and raced down to the Palladian Ballroom for the reveal.

The Site Selection Meeting had been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. but that passed by as the room slowly filled with interested parties.

[The rest of Chris’ report follows the jump.]

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Chengdu Wins 2023 Worldcon Site Selection Vote

The 81st Worldcon will be held in Chengdu, China from August 23-29, 2023. The convention’s guests of honor will be Sergey Lukianenko, the author of the Night Watch series, Robert Sawyer author of Hominids, and Liu Cixin, the author of The Three-Body Problem.

(The spelling of Lukianenko here follows the usage of the author’s official site, although the Wikipedia spells it with a “y”.)

Site selection administrator Tim Szczesuil reported the following vote totals to the DisCon III business meeting this morning:

FIRST BALLOTPRE-CONWEDNESDAYTHURSDAYFRIDAYTOTAL
Chengdu in 20231950719302006
Winnipeg in ‘2333297197181807
Memphis in 2023 (withdrawn)21317
Write-ins837218
Total with preference22921082262142838
Needed to win    1420
No preference6024975
Total valid votes23521102302232915
Invalid ballots20057

He also reported that a further 917 tokens were sold for which no matching ballots were received.

Yesterday’s controversial but non-binding resolution about the application of the WSFS Constitution’s site selection rules did not lead to the exclusion of large numbers of votes. Szczesuil reports that included in the Pre-Con total are 1,591 ballots from China missing a street address, but otherwise valid. These ballots consisted of 1,586 for Chengdu and 5 with no preference. Had the lack of a street address caused these ballots to be shifted to “No preference,” Winnipeg would have won.

After the results were announced, Chengdu’s representative Chen Shi addressed the business meeting and shared information about their guests, dates, and other plans.

“After these days of hard work, I’m happy to give you this speech here. It’s been four years since Chengdu started and this has given hope to countless Chinese fans. For Chengdu fans, this is a once in a decade opportunity. This is a special moment for us all. It is a new adventure for all of us. It will be a different kind of Worldcon, but it will still be a Worldcon. That you will still recognize as part of these traditions that started in 1939, when the world was a very different place. I want to thank the efforts of the team in Winnipeg. It has been a long journey, and you gave some good competition, and I will say that we have learned some things from you as well! Such as how to run a good fan table, how to run a good community, give a good presentation, and so on. I hope that many of you will be ready and willing to join our teams. I hope that we can welcome all of you to Chengdu. In fact, we welcome everyone here to Chengdu. We prefer it if you come in person, but for those who can’t, a stream of virtual programming will be part of the accommodation.”

Their membership rates currently are Attending $100, and Virtual $80. He said, “We know that the virtual convention has expanded our ideas of what the Worldcon can be and has given us a great chance to build a global community of science fiction fans.”

A photo of the flyer distributed at the business meeting (courtesy of Chris Barkley) shows the staff that Chengdu already has in place, and the positions they are looking to fill. Chen Shi invited people to apply.

CHICON 8 REPORT. Once the Site Selection portion of the meeting was finished, Chicon 8’s chair Helen Montgomery provided an update about next year’s Worldcon in Chicago, then took questions. She said, “We will definitely have a virtual component. We don’t entirely know what it’s going to look like.”

Montgomery was asked, “I’ve heard rumors that George RR Martin will not be welcomed on program. Is that true?” Her answer was not yes or no. She said, “At this time, we have not picked anyone to be on program. Program applications and surveys have not gone out. It is the answer to the question. We have not picked anybody to be on program. And as far as — I don’t even know if Mr. Martin has filled in an applicant form. So I can’t actually answer that. Our goal for program, though, is to — and this has always been one of our goals — is we want to make sure that folks who have been historically marginalized have a voice in our convention. But that is not at the expense of other people who have been active in this fandom for a long time. So we’re looking to find a balance. But, you know , if folks are interested in being on program, fill out the program form. That’s the first thing that we can tell you to do. — that’s the best thing that we can tell you to do. From then, we have a vetting process and the whole nine yards.”

Room reservations for Chicon 8 will open early in 2022. Montgomery encouraged folks who need ADA rooms to e-mail access@chicon.org and get on the list as soon as possible. ADA rooms will open mid-January. Reservations for everybody else will open in mid-February.

DisCon III Business Meeting Keeps Lodestar, Best Series; Passes Controversial Resolution About Site Selection

The DisCon III business meeting today voted to retain the Lodestar Award and Best Series Hugo category. Both were up for a re-ratification vote before being permanently added to the WSFS Constitution.

The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book passed by an “easy majority”.  

The Best Series Hugo category passed in a close vote.

 The meeting also passed a controversial resolution advising the Site Selection administrator that he reclassify as “No Preference” votes those ballots lacking any of four pieces of information specified in the motion.

The motion was signed by two leaders of the Winnipeg in 2023 bid, bid chair Terry Fong, and vice-chair Jannie Shea.

Short Title: Required Site Selection Information

Resolved, That it is the sense of the WSFS Business Meeting that any Site Selection ballot that does not contain a Membership Number, Name, Signature, and Address that meets the country of origin’s requirements should be counted as “No Preference.”

When it came to the floor, however, Site Selection administrator Tim Szczesuil said he was requesting the meeting’s guidance. He pointed to the relevant part of the WSFS Constitution, rule 4.4.1, and said it was “somewhat ambiguous with respect to what is required of the voter.” The rule reads —

4.4.1: Site-selection ballots shall include name, signature, address, and membership-number spaces to be filled in by the voter. Each site-selection ballot shall list the options “None of the Above” and “No Preference” and provide for write-in votes, after the bidders and with equal prominence. The supporting membership rate shall be listed on all site-selection ballots.

“The way it, to me, it could be read either as the ballot is required to have four items – I think it’s the name, the address, the signature, and the member number. Or it could be that the member has to include that information on the ballot.”

Potentially, the resolution can lead to ballots lacking any of the four items not having their preference for Chengdu or Winnipeg counted toward determining the winner.

Ben Yalow spoke against the resolution, saying he considered the rule “incredibly clear” that it was about the spaces for certain information which must be on the ballot, not what the voter must fill in.

The business meeting chair Don Eastlake turned over the meeting to another officer so he could go to the floor and speak in favor of the resolution, “I do not believe we should allow anonymous or semi-anonymous people who don’t provide enough information or don’t provide a name or haven’t signed [the ballot] to affect site selection…” Dave McCarty’s comment in support of the motion was that address information is needed “to be able to tell if they are real people.”

The site selection validation process doesn’t ever take time to test voters’ residence/mail address information and make a judgment about it. The two critical factors are that the voter must have a membership in the current Worldcon, and that the payment of the site selection voting fee must clear. However, a person could do everything required to become a member of the current Worldcon, DisCon III, and still fail a 2023 site selection voting requirement. For example, Eastlake pointed out a past practice that people who fail to sign their ballots do not get their votes counted, although they still get a supporting membership in the new convention.  

The business meeting passed the resolution 47-30. Because it is a resolution, it is not binding. However, since he requested it, File 770 has asked Site Selection administrator Tim Szczesuil to comment how he will apply the resolution.

OTHER BUSINESS. Kevin Standlee reports on his LiveJournal that the meeting ratified all nine of the constitutional amendments passed on from last year’s Worldcon. “These amendments were initially passed in Ireland, then technically rejected and then re-passed in New Zealand, in order to evade the problem that hardly any WSFS members could actually get to the meeting in Wellington.”

The nine items are E.3 to E.11 in the business meeting Agenda.

Pixel Scroll 12/5/21 Pixelo And Scrolliet, A Play In 3 Acts By Filiam Scollspeare

(1) NO CHANGE ON DISCON III / WECHAT STATUS. DisCon III announced on November 29 they had to remove WeChat as a payment option. “Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time.” Their tech team was trying to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. Today File 770 checked in with Tim Szczesuil, DisCon III’s Site Selection Administrator, and asked if they’d had success. He said no:

Our Tech person has been working with WeChat to resolve the situation, but our WeChat Pay account is still locked. The lockout is on their end, not ours. We haven’t given up hope that this will be resolved, but time is running out.

Many people in China are buying memberships and paying for the voting fee via credit card. Currently, there is nothing much we can do.

(2) AROUND THE BLOCK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik notes that “language development” software GPT-3 has become open source which has led Sudowrite to develop a tool that could help blocked writers complete their articles.  So Zeitchik interviews Gay Talese about his famous article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (which, remember, has an appearance by Harlan Ellison) and film critic Katie Walsh, and has Sudowrite come up with synthetic completions of their articles which he asks Talese and Walsh to grade.  He concludes that software can help writers but not yet replace them. “Sudowrite and GPT-3 imitate Gay Talese in this test of artificial intelligence”.

…I asked Walsh what she made of the fact that a computer program could, with her raw material, come up with something that sounded like a professional review.

She replied: “This is way better than I expected from it! It’s pretty good! I can see this now not as ‘taking my job’ (because the machine can’t watch the movie … yet), but as a tool for a writer/editor to evade writers block.” She continued, “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to take the AI paragraph and rework it, because it did successfully guess where I was going most times.”

Oddly, Gupta hasn’t optimized Sudowrite yet for nonfiction; it’s more for novelists. But he saw GPT-3 as very adaptive to journalism.

“Ultimately, it’s a tool that will move things up the chain,” he said. “As a writer, you may not need to crank out words anymore. You’re more of an editor, choosing the best versions.”

This seemed pretty scary to me, and I spent the rest of the day wondering if it was too late to enroll in trade school….

(3) TRIFFID TALK. A BBC Radio 3 panel discusses John Wyndham’s classic: “Free Thinking, The Day of the Triffids”. Listen at the link.

Killer plants, a blinding meteor shower, the spread of an unknown disease: John Wyndham’s 1951 story explores ideas about the hazards of bioengineering and what happens when society breaks down. Matthew Sweet is joined by writers Amy Binns and Tanvir Bush, broadcaster Peter White and New Generation Thinker Sarah Dillon to look at the novel which spawned film, TV and radio adaptations and discuss what resonance it has today.

Amy Binns has written a biography of John Wyndham – ‘Hidden Wyndham: Love, Life, Letters’. Tanvir Bush is a writer and photographer whose most recent novel is ‘Cull’. Peter White is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent and presents You and Yours on Radio 4.  Sarah Dillon is Professor of English at Cambridge University and a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. Her most recent book is ‘Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning’.

(4) BLINDNESS IN SFF. Meanwhile, you can still hear a Triffid-referencing episode of BBC Radio 4’s program Seriously… about “Sci-Fi Blindness”:

From Victorian novels to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, sci-fi regularly returns to the theme of blindness.

Peter White, who was heavily influenced as a child by one of the classics, sets out to explore the impact of these explorations of sight on blind and visually impaired people.

He believes a scene in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham imbued him with a strange confidence – and he considers the power of science fiction to present an alternative reality for blind readers precisely at a time when lockdown and social distancing has seen visually impaired people marginalised.

He talks to technology producer Dave Williams about Star Trek The Next Generation’s Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen talks about Birdbox and world-building from a blind point of view in James L Cambias’s A Darkling Sea. Professor Hannah Thompson of Royal Holloway University of London takes us back to 1910 to consider The Blue Peril – a novel which in some ways is more forward thinking in its depiction of blindness than Hollywood now.

And Doctor Who actor Ellie Wallwork gives us her take on why blindness is so fascinating to the creators of science fiction.

(5) HOT WINGS. The Penguin will celebrate 80 years as a Batman villain in an uncharacteristic way: “Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story” in the Guardian.

Batman’s least intimidating foe the Penguin, usually seen plotting the heist of Gotham City’s priciest jewels, has a somewhat less dastardly plan up his sleeve in his latest outing: he’s out to vaccinate the world.

The feathered supervillain’s latest storyline was dreamed up by the actor Danny DeVito, who played the character in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Working with artist Dan Mora, DeVito has written the story Bird Cat Love for an anthology celebrating Batman’s enemies, Gotham City Villains, published on Tuesday by DC Comics to celebrate the 80th anniversary year of the character’s creation.

Rather than depicting the Penguin up to his usual tricks, however, DeVito has him stealing all the world’s vaccines from the pharmaceutical companies who are hoarding them, according to an early report from comics site Bleeding Cool News – and then forcibly vaccinating everyone on the planet.

(6) A STAKE IN FUTURE WHO. “Sony officially acquires Doctor Who series 14 producer Bad Wolf” reports Radio Times.

Sony Pictures Television has officially bought Bad Wolf, the company set to produce Doctor Who series 14.

Sony purchased a majority stake in the indie production company, which is behind shows such as His Dark Materials and I Hate Suzie, while the deal also includes the Wolf Studios Wales facility in Cardiff and a minority stake in Bad Wolf America.

Russell T Davies, who will return as showrunner for Doctor Who’s 60th year, will be enlisting the help of Bad Wolf to produce the next season, set to air on BBC One in 2023 with a brand new Doctor.

The company was founded by former BBC executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter back in 2015 and while Sky, HBO and Access Entertainment did hold stakes in it, Sony has now taken them over….

(7) NOT OF THIS MIDDLE-EARTH. Yahoo! says “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Show Will (Majorly) Break From Tolkien’s Canon”. Well, how could it not, when did showrunners ever follow the books? But if you’re interested in speculations about the exact departures from the books, read on. Here are two short excerpts:

What’s young Aragorn got to do with anything?

Turns out, nothing. Early reports about the series speculated that it would follow the adventures of young Aragorn, whose path prior to his introduction in The Fellowship of the Ring was long and winding. However, when Amazon tweeted, “Welcome to the Second Age,” which took place thousands of years before Aragorn’s birth, speculation was debunked….

Who’s attached to the series?

Three lead actors have been announced: Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones) will star as Beldor, an “experienced fighter”; Markella Kavengeh (Picnic at Hanging Rock) will play Tyra, an “empathetic” individual who’s likely an elf; and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones‘ Uncle Benjen) will star as Oren, the lead villain. It’s worth noting that none of these characters are Tolkien characters—all are new, original characters. Moryfdd Clark will follow in Cate Blanchett’s footsteps as Galadriel, suggesting that other familiar roles, like Elrond, may be recast….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-four years ago on CBC, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas first aired. It would premiere a year later in the States on HBO.  It was based off of the children’s book of the same name by Russell Hoban and his wife Lillian Hoban. Russell Hoban you’ll no doubt recognize as the author of Riddley Walker which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It was directed and produced by Jim Henson off the script by Jerry Juhl who was known for his work on The Muppet ShowFraggle Rock and Sesame Street.

The Muppets voice cast was Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Marilyn Sokol and Eren Ozker. Paul Williams, who I was surprised to learn wrote Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” among quite a few other songs, composed the music and several songs here. This would not be his last such Muppets work as he would be involved in The Muppet Movie several years later among other of his Muppets projects. 

Reception was very positive with the New York Times comparing it to The Wind in The Willows saying and “These really are the nicest folk on the river.” And AV Critic said that “it was “The kind of Christmas special you could wrap in tissue when the season’s over and store carefully in a box in the attic.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-four percent rating. 

Oh, and Bret McKenzie is writing the script and songs for a film adaptation of it which will be produced by The Jim Henson Company. You fans of The Hobbit films might recognize him. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. It’s most excellent I think. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchioFantasiaDumbo, and BambiCinderella and Mary Poppins, the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT).  I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And of course there’s “The Three Little Pigs” with the weird note about the father of the little pigs. (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones, A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 70. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  at Chicon 7 for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers.
  • Born December 5, 1961 Nicholas Jainschigg, 60. Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 48. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries of such things of cringe-causing violence. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures

(10) SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT BANKS. Grimes, a female pop musician who had a two-year relationship and a son with Elon Musk, Tesla baron and Iain M. Banks fan, has released the song “Player of Games” off of her new album Book 1. Observers guess that she is punning off the Banks book of the same name. “What Does Grimes New Song Mean, Player Of Games & Elon Musk” at Kotaku.

Apparently, Musk really loves the game and is the greatest gamer, but not much of a lover or boyfriend, assuming the song is indeed about him. (Which it super, probably is.)

(11) READING RED. Mike Thorpe, a sedimentary geochemist contracted to NASA and a Towson University grad, is interviewed about the analysis of samples gathered by the Mars rovers: “Reading the Story in Red Soil” in Towson University Magazine.

Just because it will take years for the samples taken by Perseverance to return to Earth doesn’t mean Thorpe is idle.

“Right now, I’m busy collecting and curating reference materials from the Mars 2020 rover with the team here at NASA JSC as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ultimately helping build a history of sample collection through the course of the mission,” he says.

“All this work leading up to Mars sample return is to make sure we know that what’s in these samples is truly Martian. Perseverance was made here on Earth and we want to keep Earth, Earth and Mars, Mars. We need to analyze every step of the way, including every part of making the rover, to understand what sources of contamination there might be.”

Another of his responsibilities requires him to consider things that may not exist yet: what tools are going to be used to analyze the samples when they come back.

“Some of the instruments that we may be analyzing these samples with haven’t even been built yet,” he says. “We may have some newer technology with capabilities that we aren’t even familiar with yet. So it’s understanding what is state of the art now and also projecting what it is going to be in the future and how we can improve that to handle some of the most precious geological samples we’ll ever have in our lifetime.”

But to have materials to handle, they have to be extracted from the surface of Mars first….

(12) FEELINGS. The goal of this technology is to create the sensation of touch for VR users. “Meta haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets” at The Verge.

You cannot pet a dog in Meta’s new, high-tech virtual reality gloves. But researchers are getting closer.

Meta (formerly Facebook) is known for its high-profile moves into virtual and augmented reality. For seven years, though, it’s been quietly working on one of its most ambitious projects yet: a haptic glove that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. While Meta’s not letting the glove out of its Reality Labs research division, the company is showing it off for the first time today, and it sees the device — alongside other wearable tech — as the future of VR and AR interaction….

(13) KUDOS. A customer who bought LEGO’s Mos Eisley Cantina set, which has over 3,000 pieces and costs $350, was halfway through building it when he realized the box was missing a bag of pieces. Fast Company praises the company’s response email (which you can read at the link): “A Customer Discovered Their $350 Lego Set Was Missing Pieces”.

… I mean, if you’re not a Star Wars fan, the email doesn’t really seem like much, but that’s the point. The person who wrote the email clearly understood that anyone who buys this set isn’t just a loyal LEGO fan, they’re a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Whoever wrote the email clearly knows their audience and took the time to make it fun. With what is arguably very little effort, they turned a disappointing situation into something delightful….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you’re a rat, strange things happen to you in the alchemist’s lab!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Jeffrey Smith, 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 Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 6/19/21 Oilcan — Did You Say Something? – Oilcan — He Said, “Pixel Scroll!”

(1) JUNETEENTH PSA FROM HWA. Today’s holiday is explained by members of the Horror Writers Association in this video. (See transcript below.) — “Juneteenth: An Emancipation Celebration”.

Linda Addison, the Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant Chair, and authors Michelle Renee Lanei, Steven Van Patten, L Marie Wood, Marc Abbott, and Sumiko Saulson, on the Social Media Team for the Horror Writers Association.

(Linda Addison) On behalf of the Horror Writers Association we’d like to congratulate all African Americans on the progress recently made towards making Juneteenth a federally recognized Black Liberation Holiday.

(Nikki Woolfolk) On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth, a National Black Independence Day, a US holiday. The House voted 415-14 to make Juneteenth a national holiday commemorating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery in the United States.

(Sumiko Saulson) After this it was sent before President Joe Biden, who approved it on June 17, 2021 making it the first new National Holiday in the United States of America since Martin Luther King Day was established as a Federal Holiday in 1983.

(Steven Van Patten) Juneteenth, an abbreviation of the words June and Nineteenth, commemorates the anniversary of June 19, 1865. That day, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed African Americans there that the Civil War had ended and they were free at last.

(Ace Antonio Hall) Because the United States was still in the middle of the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, many of those it intended to free remained enslaved for another two and a half years.

(L Marie Wood) For this reason, Juneteenth has long been recognized as Black Independence Day across the nation. It was first celebrated the following year as Jubilee Day in the State of Texas, where it has been a state holiday since 1979.

(Nicole Givens Kurtz) From Toni Morrison’s Beloved to Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation, the phantoms of our shared history under slavery and its legacy haunt many African American ghost stories and tales of terror.

(Michelle Renee Lane) Slavery has left its mark on our psyche as a people. We write scary stories about it because vampires, ghosts, werewolves and skeletons are never quite as horrifying as the lived experiences of African Americans under slavery.

(Marc Abbott) Commemorating Juneteenth as a national holiday is a step towards ensuring that we never forget those dark days, never repeat them, and that we as a people, and as a nation can truly heal.

Written/Edited by Sumiko Saulson (6/18/2021) for the Horror Writers Association

(2) AFRICAN SCI-FI. “Animated Anthology ‘Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire’ Brings African Sci-Fi to Disney+”/Film has the story.

Filmmakers from Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Egypt bring unique animation to Disney+ with Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, a 10-part collection of original films that will premiere on the streaming service next year. Peter Ramsey, co-director of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, serves as executive producer for the anthology, which is comprised of sci-fi and fantasy stories set in a futuristic Africa.

Disney has announced full details for Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, a 10-part series of animated films that hope to take viewers “on a wildly entertaining ride into Africa’s future.” The films are inspired by Africa’s histories and cultures, and promise “action-packed sci-fi and fantasy stories present bold visions of advanced technology, aliens, spirits and monsters imagined from uniquely African perspectives.” 

(3) PASSING ALONG WISDOM. The autobiography of Hidden Figures’ Katherine Johnson – My Remarkable Journey: A Memoir – was released May 25, and is reviewed by Ainissa Ramirez in Nature: “Katherine Johnson’s Bold Trajectory”.

When Star Trek first aired in the 1960s, communications officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) seemed to be the only Black woman affiliated with space travel. Little did society know that, as mathematicians, Black women such as Katherine Johnson actually made space flight possible. Johnson, who was highlighted in the 2016 Hugo Award winning movie Hidden Figures, died last year, aged 101. She left readers a gift – her autobiography…  

She entitles her chapters with life lessons — ‘Education Matters’, ‘Ask Brave Questions’, ‘Shoot for the Moon’. Johnson recognizes that she is a role model, and that few women and people of colour see their reflections in the sciences. I felt like I was sitting at the knee of a griot — a historian and storyteller — gaining years of insight into how to use idle times to prepare, to keep moving forwards when life hurts…

(4) FUN VS. CREATING INVENTORY. Dean Wesley Smith says avoid these “Deadly Problems For Writers…”

…Sitting alone in a room and making stuff up should be fun. What else would it be? No one is going to come and hurt you if you write something that doesn’t work for every reader on the planet (a silly goal on its face.) No one is going to die at your hands (besides characters) if you mess something up.

And best of all, no one cares. You are free to sit in that room and make up whatever you want. No one cares.

When you should start thinking about the product is after your write the last line of the story or book AND NOT ONE MOMENT BEFORE.

But if you start caring too much about the product WHILE WRITING, or even thinking about the product, your process becomes no fun and just stops.

SO HOW DOES A WRITER SLIP INTO PRODUCT FOCUSED WHILE WRITING?

Let me list a bunch of ways, and I know I will miss a bunch of major ways. Add them in the comments if you want.

1… Need to make money quickly. It is the “quickly” that is the killer. Your writing, over time, will make you more money than you can imagine if you keep it fun and keep learning. But if you focus on the writing needing to make a lot of money quickly, it will not. If you need extra money, get a part-time day job and take the pressure off the writing.

2… Writing for other people. Setting deadlines for others puts all the focus on the end product. Deadlines for some can be a motivating thing. They often are for me, but I never attach people to that deadline, or do I ever care what any reader, fan, or critic will think. (Anyone who has watched this blog over time knows how often I have failed on deadlines. If the motivation works for a project, great, if not, great….

And Smith supplements the list with a long story about taking his own advice in “Following Up on Yesterday’s Post…”

THANK HEAVENS I never paid attention or cared about how a book or a series was selling. I never cared that the books weren’t selling for years. My measuring stick was the fun in the writing. And if WMG had done that promotion on book three instead of book #9, it would have failed. The fact that I had nine books in the series done gave readers who liked the book something to buy next.  (You know, magic bakery thinking.)

So that is a personal story of me practicing what I preached in last night’s blog.

(5) VORKOSIGAN COVER POSTER. Lois McMaster Bujold told her Goodreads followers about a “Vorkosigan e-covers poster still for sale”.

A tidy display of all of artist Ron Miller’s Vorkosigan e-covers, as seen in the background of my new PR photo. Because it’s not like you can place ebooks face-out on your bookshelves…

May still be purchased here:

https://society6.com/product/the-vork…

Sizes available in x-small to x-large, and I see they are even on sale today (6/18).

(6) SPACE: THE FINAL FRONTIER. Best Fan Writer Hugo nominee Alasdair Stuart opines:

But what prompted him to say so today? It was Adri Joy’s tweet objecting to DisCon III’s efforts to manage space limitations at the Hugo finalist reception and of near-the-stage seating for the ceremony, as documented in this excerpt from the committee’s message:   

(7) PANDEMIC HELPS NESFA PRESS SALES. Tim Szczesuil told the May 9 meeting of the New England Science Fiction Association that their book firm’s sales “have been up substantially over the last year; from the beginning of the pandemic. This is probably due to people having more time to read.” Not including ebooks, here are NESFA Press’ total books sold for recent years:

  • 2017 — 2948
  • 2018 — 3282
  • 2019 — 2595
  • 2020 — 3599
  • 2021 — 1486

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 19, 2013 — On this date in 2013, Dark Horse Comics published the hardcover of Star Wars: Legacy, John Ostrander’s look into the future of the Skywalker family about 100 years after the time of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. I’m not sure it’s considered canon, but it’s awesome none-the-less. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 19, 1911 — Jesse Francis McComas. He was the co-founding editor, with Anthony Boucher, of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. With Boucher, he edited a series of Best from F&SF anthologies.  He wrote several stories on his own in the Fifties using both his own name and the pen name Webb Marlowe. He was nominated for Retro Hugo for Best Editor. (Died 1978.)
  • Born June 19, 1915 — Julius Schwartz. He’s best known as a longtime editor at DC Comics, where at various times he was primary editor for the Superman and Batman lines. Just as interestingly, he founded the Solar Sales Service literary agency (1934–1944) where Schwartz represented such writers as  Bradbury, Bester,  Bloch, Weinbaum, and Lovecraft which including some of Bradbury’s very first published work and Lovecraft’s last such work. He also published Time Traveller, one of the first fanzines along with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2004.)
  • Born June 19, 1921 — Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh, and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 19, 1926 — Josef Nesvadba. A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available from the usual suspects though Cora can read him in German. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 19, 1947 — Salman Rushdie, 74. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well.
  • Born June 19, 1953 — Virginia Hey, 68. Best remembered for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fantastic Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it.
  • Born June 19, 1957 — Jean Rabe, 64. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. 
  • Born June 19, 1978 — Zoe Saldana, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario, age 43. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the new Trek series, and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film though I’m far less impressed with the second film by far.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share sushi with Philip K. Dick Award-winning writer Meg Elison on episode 147 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Meg Elison

Even though we’re on opposite coasts of the United States, we ordered takeout sushi to nibble as we pretended we lived in a timeline of our own choosing.

Meg Elison is the author of The Road to Nowhere trilogy, which consists of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (which won the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award), The Book of Etta (nominated for both the Philip K. Dick and James Tiptree awards ), and The Book of Flora. Her novelette “The Pill” made the final ballots this year of both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. She’s been published in McSweeney’sShimmerFantasy and Science FictionCatapultTerraform, and many other venues. PM Press recently published the book Big Girl — where “The Pill” first appeared — as a volume in its famed Outspoken Authors series.

We discussed her pre-pandemic prediction for the kind of year 2020 was then shaping up to be, how reading Terry Bisson’s “They’re Made Out of Meat” changed her life, using tabletop RPGs to deal with the powerlessness felt during recent times, the way rereading taught her to be a writer, our dual fascination with diaries, when she realized her first novel was actually the start of a trilogy (and the songs which helped her better understand each installment), why she followed that post-apocalyptic trilogy with a contemporary YA novel, and much more.

(12) HORROR WEBINAR SERIES. Skeleton Hour is a new monthly horror literature webinar series presented as a Horror Writers Association event in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. Each panel is an hour long and brings together 3-5 authors to discuss a specific topic in horror with a moderator guiding the discussion. Panels will take place on Zoom, with the audience able to ask questions in the chat window. 

The last Skeleton Hour “Writing Horror in a Post Covid World” — featured Richard Thomas (moderator), Sarah Langan, Usman T. Malik, Josh Malerman, A.C. Wise, and Lucy A. Snyder.  

(13) COZY SFF? “A Book Like A Warm Hug: T.J. Klune – The House In The Cerulean Sea – a review by Dina at SFF Book Review.

…Starting with the writing style which I immediately fell into and just soaked up because it was everything I wanted, over the characters who not only show Linus that they are deserving of love, no matter how monstrous they may look, but who also totally carved out a spot in my heart, over the world building which reveals itself more and more over the course of the book, to the absolute delight of the found family and the real connections between them. I honestly can’t think of any comparison that would do this book justice. A warm blanket, a much-needed hug, someone holding your hand when you thought you were all alone – it’s kind of like all of those but none of them tell you all that the book is….

(14) EXCESSIVE TWINKLING? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Betelgeuse’s recent behavior has puzzled astronomers. But, as reported in this week’s Nature, they now think there is an explanation.

The red supergiant star is very noticeable in our night sky. For starters, it’s a BIG star 900 times the size of the Sun and if it were our Sun its surface would almost touch Jupiter and it would certainly encompass all the inner Solar system planets. It is also only 724 light years away. As such it is one of the few stars discernible through a telescope as a disc.

The puzzling mystery was that back early in 2020 it began dimming and by mid-February it had become just 35% of its normal brightness. Its southern half was especially dim.

Two theories abounded as to why this happened. First, red giants do see some variation in temperature. Could it be that convection cell change in its southern half could the star to cool?

Secondly, could there have been a cloud of dust temporarily obscuring our view of the star?

Now an international collaboration, led by European astronomers think they have the answer and that this involves both theories in a connected way.

They think the change in convection not only resulted in cooling but also allowed the star to eject a small amount of mass. As this drifted away – towards us in the line of sight – it cooled and condensed out as dust obscuring the star. Mystery solved.

  • Review article at Nature.
  • Primary research paper here.

[Note: We looked at this topic a few days ago, but Jonathan’s write-up is so much better!]

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Drum spotlights a video in which “Orlando Bloom & Katy Perry caution against voter suppression in transmission from future”.

…In the new spot, ‘Transmission from the future’, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom are reimagined as elderly folks in a post-apocalyptic setting where they are in hiding from a surveillance state. From the belly of a bunker in the year 2055, they transmit a PSA into the past – Americans’ screens in 2021 are interrupted by the bedraggled couple, who urge viewers to take action to protect democracy. “You are our only hope,” the elderly Bloom rasps. “The America you know doesn’t exist in our future. Democracy is dead.” Perry interjects, saying, “It started when voter suppression ran wild all over America. The voting rights bills died in the Senate. Polling places closed. We lost our right to vote.” The stars implore Americans to call their senators and voice their support for the For the People Act….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/10/19 Mean Old Pixels, Taught Me To Weep And Scroll

(1) BUILDING WITH STEEL. Juliette Wade brings “Paul Krueger and Steel Crow Saga” to Dive into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis watch the video, or do both!

We had a great time talking with guest author Paul Krueger about his novel, Steel Crow Saga. Paul describes it as a love letter to Pokémon, and also as what would happen if Pokémon and Full Metal Alchemist had an anti-colonialist baby. He said he went way out on a limb with the book, using a different world with situations in it that are not average, and that it meant he had to draw on a lot more personal things in order to make it real and relatable.

… Paul told us that what really brought the book together was when he realized he was interested in the idea of forgiveness. Can you do the unforgiveable? Can you then forgive yourself afterwards? Returning to these questions kept him going.

He also said he believes in the forensic principle that all things that come in contact with each other leave traces behind. He applies this to characters. Watch what happens when two pairs of characters come in close proximity to each other. What happens if they switch “dance partners” for a while?

… I asked Paul about something he’d said online about fan art. Paul told us that his first book, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, didn’t have any fan art. When he whined about it, he was told he’d only vaguely described the characters. In Steel Crow Saga, therefore, he made sure that each character had colors and symbols, their own animal, and distinct physical traits. Paul said, “I went really overboard with visual cues.” The good news is, he’s gotten lots of fan art this time! Paul says being friends with artists has made him a better writer. He listed Victoria Schwab and Erin Morganstern as writers with great visuals.

(2) SOUND OF SKYWALKER. Disney has created an entire ”for your consideration” website to recommend six films for awards – all of which happen to be genre-related.

As part of it, they have publicly shared 23 tracks of John Williams’ score for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

(3) LOCKED AND LOADED. There’s a vein of alternate history stories that dates back even farther than I was aware. Library of America’s story of the week, “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” by James Thurber, is part of it —

At the end of 1930 Scribner’s Magazine began publishing what would prove to be a short-lived series of “alternative history” pieces. The first installment, in the November issue, was “If Booth Had Missed Lincoln.” This was followed by a contribution from none other than Winston Churchill, who turned the concept on its head. It was bafflingly titled “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg”—but, as we all know, Lee didn’t win the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead, Churchill’s essay purported to be written by a historian in a world in which Lee had won not only the battle but also the entire war. This fictional historian, in turn, speculates what might have happened if Lee had not won the battle. This type of dizzying zaniness brought out the parodist in Thurber, who published “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” in The New Yorker in December. The next month Scribner’s published a third essay (“If Napoleon Had Escaped to America”) before bring the series to an end. All three pieces were soon forgotten, but Thurber’s parody became one of his most famous and beloved works.

The story can be read free at the link,

 (4) FATE OF FAN NEWS SITE TO BE DETERMINED. The editor of EUROPA SF (The Pan-European Speculative Fiction Portal) went on Facebook today intending to announce that it is “TIME TO SAY GOODBYE!”

Dear friends, after 7 years dedicated to the European Speculative Fiction, it’s time to say goodbye.

www.scifiportal.eu) will close on the 20th of December 2019.

If someone is interested to take over the portal and the domain’s name, kindly let us know. Thank you all of you !

Ukranian fan Borys Sydiuk immediately raised his hand – so perhaps the site will be kept online after all. Stay tuned.

(5) LAST CHANCE. Tim Szczesuil of the NESFA Press says they’re about to run out of two titles by popular sff writers:

This is an informative notice that we are getting low on The Halycon Fairy Book by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). At the rate it’s selling I expect to be out by the end of the month. If you’ve delayed getting a copy, this may be your last chance, since there are no plans to reprint.

On a similar note, we’re also getting low on Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots by Seanan McGuire. In this case, we do not have the rights to reprint, and Seanan is not disposed to grant anyone these rights. So, when they’re gone, that’s it.

You can order here.

(6) NO SPEAK WITHOUT NEWSPEAK. K.W. Colyard’s post “Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka and the Use of Language in Dystopian Science Fiction” for Tor.com shows the application of a linguistic claim to the field of science fiction.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is the most prominent example of this, by far, but the strict, legal regulation of language pops up in various science fiction novels and stories that follow Orwell’s. Inhabitants of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Green-sky have no means of expressing the negative emotions they feel, and are treated as social pariahs for being “unjoyful.” Ascians in Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun do not understand any sentence constructions that do not appear in their government-issued manuals on “Correct Thought.” Lois Lowry’s The Giver portrays a society whose emotional range has been stunted by its insistence on “precise speech.”

First published in Sweden in 2012, Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka offers up a new, much more material take on language restriction—a world in which every object, from a chair to a pot of face cream, must be verbally told what it is and visibly labeled as such….

(7) IT NEVER ENDS. Paste Magazine came up with another list — “The 25 Best TV Episodes of 2019” – but this one has a solid genre showing. In the order Paste ranked them, here they are from lowest to highest.

  • “Adriadne,” Russian Doll
  • “Hard Times,” Good Omens
  • “Episode 4,” Years and Years
  • “Séance & Sensibility” Legends of Tomorrow
  • “Twin Cities,” Counterpart
  • “Pandemonium,” The Good Place
  • “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows
  • “Time to Make … My Move,” The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
  • “Vichnaya Pamyat,” Chernobyl

20. “Hard Times,” Good Omens

Good Omens is a series that tackles more than its fair share of deep philosophical issues, telling a story about hope, love and faith in one another during the literal end of the world. But despite the somewhat pressing nature of the impending Apocalypse, Good Omens spends most of its third episode exploring the complicated pair at the heart of story: prissy angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and snarky demon Crowley (David Tennant).

…Not bad for a sequence that, technically shouldn’t exist. None of these flashbacks appear in the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel on which the show is based and were specially written for the Amazon series. God—or Gaiman himself in this case— does indeed work in mysterious ways. —Lacy Baugher

(8) SQUIRRELED AWAY? Jason Kottke figured out why he didn’t immediately burn through the entire catalog of works by writers he loves: “My Strategic Book Reserve – Banking Unread Books from Favorite Authors”.

… Part of it is that I’m a restless and then forgetful reader. Even after finishing an amazing book, I often want to switch gears to something different and then I fail to return to something else by the amazing book’s author. But mainly I do this on purpose. I like the feeling of looking forward to a sure thing, the comfort of a story I haven’t heard but I know will be good.

(9) BREAKFAST WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. Melinda Snodgrass posted a photo on Facebook of the Death Star toaster she got for her birthday in November. It’s supposed to brand little Tie fighters on the bread.

(10) THE WITCHER CHARACTER INTRODUCTIONS. You can’t outrun destiny just because you’re terrified of it. The Witcher arrives December 20.

  • Henry Cavill is Geralt of Rivia.
  • Freya Allan is Princess Cirilla.
  • Anya Chalotra is Yennefer of Vengerberg.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 10, 1815 Ada Lovelace. Lovelace was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. She was an English mathematician and writer, principally known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Genre usage includes Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine, Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers and Crowley’s Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land. (Died 1852.)
  • Born December 10, 1824 George MacDonald. His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors Including Tolkien and Lewis, Gaiman and L’Engle, Beagle and Twain to name but a few. I’d single out. The Princess and The Goblin and Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women as particularly fine reading. (Died 1905.)
  • Born December 10, 1918 Anne Gwynne. One of the first scream queens because of her numerous appearances in horror films such as The Strange Case of Doctor Rx, Weird Women (with Lou Chaney) and The House of Frankenstein (Chaney and Karloff).  And she also was one of the most popular pin-ups of World War II. She’s Chris Pine’s grandmother. (Died 2003.) Photo is from a set of twenty four trading cards. 
  • Born December 10, 1927 Anthony Coburn. Australian writer and producer who spent most of his career living and working in the U.K.  He was closely involved in the earliest days of Who to the extent that it’s believed it was his idea for the Doctor’s travelling companion, Susan, to be The Doctor’s granddaughter.  He wrote four scripts for the show, of which only An Unearthly Child was used. (Died 1977.)
  • Born December 10, 1928 John Colicos. You’ll recognize him as being the first Klingon ever seen on classic Trek, Commander Kor in “Errand of Mercy” episode. (He’d reprise that role as the 140-year-old Kor in three episodes of Deep Space Nine.) He’ll next show up as Count Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica continuity throughout the series and film. He’ll even show up as the governor of Umakran in the Starlost episode “The Goddess Calabra”. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 10, 1933 Mako. It’s sounds weird but I mostly remember him in Robocop 3 as Kanemitsu and in a role on the Lovejoy series that only lasted two episodes. He’s had one-offs on I-Spy, I Dream of Jeannie, Green Hornet, Time Tunnel, Fantasy Island and quite a bit more. Among his genre film appearances, I think I’ll just single out Conan the Destroyer in which he plays Akiro the Wizard. (Died 2006.)
  • Born December 10, 1946 Douglas Kenney. He co-founded National Lampoon in 1970 along with Henry Beard and Robert Hoffman. With Beard alone in 1969, he wrote Bored of the Rings. (Died 1980.)
  • Born December 10, 1960 Kenneth Branagh, 59. Oh, Branagh, I feel obligated to start with your worst film, Wild Wild West, which, well, had you no shame? Fortunately, there’s much better genre work from you as an actor including as Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As a Director, I’m only seeing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Thor — Anyone know of anything else genre related? Is Hercule Poirot genre adjacent?
  • Born December 10, 1984 Helen Oyeyemi, 35. I like it when a Birthday results in my adding to my audiobook listening list. She’s resident in Prague now and her take on European folktales that surround her there is particularly sharp in her latest, Mr. Fox, off of that well known tale. And White is for Witching has all the makings of a damn fine haunted house story.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest indirectly prove the benefits of being young – because with luck you may not be old enough to remember the commercial that sets up this pun.

(13) CONNIE WILLIS AT CHRISTMAS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] For a few years, I’ve been invited onto a podcast to speak about Christmas movies. This year, I took the opportunity to talk about how great Connie Willis is by suggesting the (*very bad*) Christmas movie Snow Wonder which was based on Willis’ (*very good*) novella Just Like The Ones We Used To Know. Even though the movie’s a relatively faithful adaptation, it’s shocking how much life they manage to drain from Willis’ work. The Movie Jerks — Episode 372 – Olav Rokne, The Christmas Prince Royal Baby and Snow Wonder

Olav Rokne is back to talk about for his yearly Christmas film review. This time we may have broke our guest, as we discuss the television film “Snow Wonder” and the third installment in the “Christmas Prince” series. 

(14) VARIABLE PRICING TEST. The Hollywood Reporter’s article “‘Playmobil’: Anatomy of an Epic Box Office Bomb” is more of an autopsy than an anatomy.

Not even $5 tickets could save STXfilms’ animated pic, which is being called the biggest test to date of variable pricing by U.S. movie theaters.

… STXfilms is hardly alone in urging exhibitors to consider variable pricing as a means of supporting titles that aren’t major event pics.

However, box office analysts say Playmobil isn’t an accurate barometer, noting that only a minimal $3 million was spent on marketing the movie, far from enough to ignite widespread awareness.

(15) DNA CHAOS. It’s in the New York Times, but it’s not “Dear Abby” — “When a DNA Test Says You’re a Younger Man, Who Lives 5,000 Miles Away”.

Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with.

He’d been encouraged to test his blood by a colleague at the Sheriff’s Office, where he worked. She had an inkling this might happen. It’s the goal of the procedure, after all: Weak blood is replaced by healthy blood, and with it, the DNA it contains.

…The implications of Mr. Long’s case, which was presented at an international forensic science conference in September, have now captured the interest of DNA analysts far beyond Nevada.

The average doctor does not need to know where a donor’s DNA will present itself within a patient. That’s because this type of chimerism is not likely to be harmful. Nor should it change a person. “Their brain and their personality should remain the same,” said Andrew Rezvani, the medical director of the inpatient Blood & Marrow Transplant Unit at Stanford University Medical Center.

He added that patients also sometimes ask him what it means for a man to have a woman’s chromosomes in their bloodstream or vice versa. “It doesn’t matter,” he said….

But for a forensic scientist, it’s a different story. The assumption among criminal investigators as they gather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two, including that of a fellow who is 10 years younger and lives thousands of miles away. And so Renee Romero, who ran the crime lab at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, saw an opportunity when her friend and colleague told her that his doctor had found a suitable match on a donor website and he would be undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

(16) COLLECTING BUSINESS. One thing’s for sure – I don’t own any of these valuable editions: “Signed Harry Potter book bought for 1p ‘could fetch thousands'”.

A collector with more than 1,000 Harry Potter books is hoping to fetch thousands of pounds by auctioning off some of his rarest items.

Mark Cavoto began trading books from the series after noticing how well they sold on online auction site eBay.

Among the books being sold by Mr Cavoto is a first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets signed by author JK Rowling, bought for 1p plus postage.

The auction takes place at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire on Thursday.

The signed book is expected to fetch from £1,800 to £2,500, with other first editions expected to collect hundreds of pounds each.

Mr Cavoto, 51, from Buxton in Derbyshire, said he saw a “business opportunity” when he sold some of his daughter’s old Harry Potter books on eBay.

“I checked the ISBN numbers and sourced the same three books second-hand on Amazon, bought them for a penny each plus postage and sold them in minutes for £9.99 each on eBay,” he said.

Mr Cavoto began buying books from the series “for next to nothing at charity shops and online”, which led him to discovering signed copies and first editions.

(17) BOOK BURNING. According to Quartz, “A Chinese library’s book-burning orgy echoes dark chapters in the country’s history”.  

In a photo that circulated on Chinese social media on the weekend, workers at a library located in Zhenyuan county in north-central Gansu province were shown burning books in an act the library described (link in Chinese) as a “quick and comprehensive” filtering and destruction of “illegal” publications, including books related to religion. The library said it wanted to enhance its function as a major propaganda tool in terms of promoting mainstream Chinese values. The post, which was originally published on Oct. 22, has since been deleted.

In total, the library destroyed 65 books under the supervision of officials from the Zhenyuan culture affairs bureau, according to the post. Zhenyuan’s propaganda department told a local Chinese publication (link in Chinese) that it was looking into the incident.

Under Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s tightening grip on the freedom of speech, religion, and ideas, authorities have been conducting a large scale clean-up of books in libraries in elementary and middle schools since October, according to a notice (link in Chinese) published by the Ministry of Education. The ministry ordered schools to remove books deemed “illegal” or “inappropriate,” including those that are “against the ideologies of the party,” “describe the party, the nation, or the military’s history in a mocking way,” or “promote religious doctrine, theory, and rules.”

The episode stirred an unusual backlash on Chinese social media, with many saying that it reminded them of the country’s painful history of repressing intellectuals and academic freedom. Many cited the example of the tyrannical emperor Qin Shihuang, who unified China more than 2,000 years ago and directed the “burning the books and burying the scholars” …movement which led to some 460 Confucian scholars being buried alive for their opposition against imperial policies.

(18) WOUND. “Seafloor scar of Bikini A-bomb test still visible”.

The date was 25 July 1946. The location – Bikini Atoll. The event – only the fifth A-bomb explosion and the first-ever detonation under water.

The pictures we’ve all seen: A giant mushroom cloud climbing out of the Pacific, sweeping up ships that had been deliberately left in harm’s way to see what nuclear war was capable of.

Now, 73 years later, scientists have been back to map the seafloor.

A crater is still present; so too the twisted remains of all those vessels.

“Bikini was chosen because of its idyllic remoteness and its large, easily accessible lagoon,” explains survey team-leader Art Trembanis from the University of Delaware.

“At the time, [the famous American comedian] Bob Hope quipped, ‘as soon as the war ended, we found the one spot on Earth that had been untouched by the war and blew it to hell’.”

(19) FAMILY AFFAIR. “Grandmother killer whales boost survival of calves” – BBC has the story.

Grandmother killer whales boost the survival rates of their grandchildren, a new study has said.

The survival rates were even higher if the grandmother had already gone through the menopause.

The findings shed valuable light on the mystery of the menopause, or why females of some species live long after they lose the ability to reproduce.

Only five known animals experience it: killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, belugas, narwhals and humans.

With humans, there is some evidence that human grandmothers aid in the survival of their children and grandchildren, a hypothesis called the “grandmother effect”.

These findings suggest the same effect occurs in orcas.

(20) THE LONG AND WINDING FILM. The Criterion Collection has available Wim Wenders’ director’s cut of Until the End of the World, the 1991 French-German science fiction drama film.

Conceived as the ultimate road movie, this decades-in-the-making science-fiction epic from Wim Wenders follows the restless Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) across continents as she pursues a mysterious stranger (William Hurt) in possession of a device that can make the blind see and bring dream images to waking life. With an eclectic soundtrack that gathers a host of the director’s favorite musicians, along with gorgeous cinematography by Robby Müller, this breathless adventure in the shadow of Armageddon takes its heroes to the ends of the earth and into the oneiric depths of their own souls. Presented here in its triumphant 287-minute director’s cut, Until the End of the World assumes its rightful place as Wenders’ magnum opus, a cosmic ode to the pleasures and perils of the image and a prescient meditation on cinema’s digital future.

(21) FREE DOWNLOAD. “New NASA eBook Reveals Insights of Earth Seen at Night from Space”.

Earth has many stories to tell, even in the dark of night. Earth at Night, NASA’s new 200-page ebook, is now available online and includes more than 150 images of our planet in darkness as captured from space by Earth-observing satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station over the past 25 years.

The images reveal how human activity and natural phenomena light up the darkness around the world, depicting the intricate structure of cities, wildfires and volcanoes raging, auroras dancing across the polar skies, moonlight reflecting off snow and deserts, and other dramatic earthly scenes.

…In addition to the images, the book tells how scientists use these observations to study our changing planet and aid decision makers in such areas as sustainable energy use and disaster response.

  • Kindle readers: MOBI [42 MB]
  • All other eBook readers: EPUB [45 MB]
  • PDF readers: PDF [39 MB]

(22) FORMATION FLYING. Amazon is going all-out to advertise The Expanse Season 4.

The Expanse drone space opera lit up the sky at the 2019 Intersect Festival in Las Vegas.

There’s also a 6-minute version shot at ground level here.

(23) DIY AT HOME. Jimmy Kimmel Live showed everyone the way to “Make Your Own Baby Yoda.” (He’s kidding, okay? Just kidding!!)

Baby Yoda is a very cute and popular character from “The Mandalorian,” but according to Disney, which owns Star Wars, Baby Yoda toys will not be available for Christmas. However, if you want a Baby Yoda for your kid or your adult nerd help is on the way. Guillermo demonstrates a simple way for anyone to make their own little Yoda at home.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, N., Bill, Juliette Wade, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]