Pixel Scroll 2/9/24 The FTL And The Furriest

(1) TOR ACCUSED OF USING AI ART COVER, AGAIN. [Item by Anne Marble.] People strongly suspect that Tor used yet another AI cover for a release by its Bramble imprint. In this case, the book is their hardcover reprint of Gothikana, a dark academia romance by an anonymous author known as RuNyx– an indie book that is both loved and hated. (Both the writing and the “hero” have been criticized.) Tor published this new edition in hardback with sprayed edges and what looked like a gorgeous new cover. Even people who already had the book bought it for the cool presentation. This is an adult hardcover priced around $30. But now, many people are saying that this new cover is probably AI.

Gabino Iglesias has one of the best posts on this:

This is not a first for Tor. In December 2022, File 770 published the news when Tor was caught using AI elements on the cover of an SF novel by Christopher Paolini – “Pixel Scroll 12/20/22 The Filezentian Gate” item #3.

You can see the Tor cover, the Solaris cover, and the indie covers of Gothikana on Goodreads.

Emma Skies devoted a TikTok video to analyzing the artwork: “I’m So Sick Of This”.

@emmaskies

I’M SO SICK OF THIS I really don’t understand why we keep having to have this conversation in *creative* spaces. Stop ???????? using ???????? AI ???????? art ???????? It doesn’t even look good! Frankly this is beyond embarrassing and I’m incredibly disappointed in Tor. This is lazy and it’s insulting to authors, consumers, and artists who should and historically would be getting hired for these jobs, and this is only going to keep getting worse as the publishing industry is obsessed with pumping out more and more work for less money utilizing fewer employees. We are not heading in a good direction. ???? #torbooks #torpublishinggroup #brambleromance #gothikana #runyx #bookcover #aiart #noaiart #romancebooks #darkromance #fantasyromance #booktok #emmaskiesreads #greenscreen

? original sound – emmaskies

BTW I can’t tell whether a cover is AI or not. But when you look at the mysterious gate closely… Ugh. And I persuaded myself to buy this book because of the cool cover and sprayed edges…

More recent posts on Gothikana include Ed Crocker’s thread on X, started to celebrate covers by humans — which is a great response!

By the way, you can see the Solaris cover, which is complete different, in this post:

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Kaja Foglio had emergency gall bladder surgery last weekend, and had to be readmitted to the hospital on Monday. Phil Foglio posted the news at Bluesky.

(3) UGANDA WORLDCON BID REPLIES TO SENSITIVE QUESTION. Steve Davidson reported on Facebook that Amazing Stories recently asked the Ugandan Worldcon Bid —

“Given the laws of Uganda regarding LGBTQ+ how are you planning on handling this for attendees?”

The “the official committee stand” responded and I wanted to share their response, the first line of which states:

“This law is in courts of law and we can’t comment about it for fear of prejudice.”

The balance of their statement says:

“However, as a country so far, we have hosted and planning to host major global conventions like the Commonwealth Speakers of Parliament and Presiding Officers, NAM summit, the G77 + China in 2024 all have been completed without incidents consequential from this law and later AFCON in 2027 will be hosted here. We also have seen a successful football World cup in Qatar, the Worldcon has been successfully hosted in China in 2023 some of these parts of the world have more harsh laws against homosexuality. These precedents will help inform Kampcon in planning mitigation measures. The experiences of previous hosts with similar legal challenges will be instructive on how Kampcon approaches this issue in terms of its code of conduct to guide all the operations. In the meantime, we are also involving every stakeholder in the planning of this event right from bidding and we are receiving support of a number of forms from the national convention bureau (MICE Bureau) so we are doing all within means not to have any conflict legal or otherwise with the authorities of the land and the host community. The number one commitment for any host is safety first! This is not different for Kampcon. “

Davidson’s post includes quotes from media coverage about the enforcement of laws against homosexuality.

(4) FIVE BOOKS TO ENJOY. Lisa Tuttle’s new Guardian column reviews The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown; Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon by Wole Talabi; Red Side Story by Jasper Fforde; Past Crimes by Jason Pinter; and The City of Stardust by Georgia Summers. “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup”.

(5) BRISTOW Q&A. A lot of sff mentioned in the Shelf Awareness interview with Su Bristow:

Favorite book when you were a child:

There were so many! But I guess the one I returned to over and over again would have to be The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. It’s the origin story of Narnia, and how evil was unintentionally brought in right at the start. It felt important to me, in a way that I couldn’t have articulated at the time.

Your top five authors:

Ursula K. Le Guin. Her Earthsea trilogy had a profound effect on me in my teens. The Taoist philosophy that underpins it, and the idea of equilibrium in nature–and of course in magic–struck me with the force of truth. It still does.

Barbara Kingsolver. Her versatility is extraordinary, and I’ve loved all her books, particularly The Lacuna and Demon Copperhead. I hope there are many more to come.

J.R.R. Tolkien. An obvious choice, maybe, but it’s not the writing so much as the depth and breadth of the world he created. He was aiming to set up a mythology for Britain, and he succeeded; his influence is everywhere.

Alan Garner. A master weaver of language, landscape, and legend. He creates songlines for his corner of the British Isles.

Terry Pratchett. The humanity, humour, and passion in his books is breathtaking, not to mention the immense wealth of detail and unforgettable characters….

(6) LIFE ON THE DEATH STAR? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Mimas is the moon of Saturn that famously looks like the Star Wars Death Star. But his week in Nature research reveals that it yet may be another place in our Solar System that might, just might, harbor life… (though personally I think we will just find some interesting pre-biotic chemistry…). “Mimas’s surprise ocean prompts an update of the rule book for moons”.

The shifting orbit of one of Saturn’s moons indicates that the satellite has a subsurface ocean, contradicting theories that its interior is entirely solid. The finding calls for a fresh take on what constitutes an ocean moon.

The detection of liquid water oceans under the icy surfaces of outer Solar System moons suggests that these moons could provide abodes for life under conditions that differ markedly from those on Earth. However, it can be a challenge to detect subsurface oceans directly, so inferences about candidate ocean moons are typically drawn from comparison to moons known to harbour oceans, such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus. These moons have many similarities in terms of both the conditions that sustain their oceans and the way that their surfaces indicate the existence of an internal ocean. If the criteria were set by these moons, the small Saturnian moon Mimas would easily be ruled out as an ocean moon. It therefore comes as a surprise to learn that Mimas must have an internal ocean, according to results reported in this week’s Nature. Primary research paper here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-06975-9.pdf 

(7) BODYING THE COMPETITION. “’Three Body Problem’ Coming to Peacock Before Rival Netflix Version” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Now Netflix has a two Body problem.

An adaptation of Liu Cixin’s epic sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem is going to land on a major U.S. streaming service just weeks ahead of Netflix launching its own version.

Peacock announced Friday it has acquired Tencent’s Three-Body, the Chinese adaptation that was released internationally last year. The streamer will launch all 30 episodes Feb. 10.

While Tencent pegged the release date choice to the Lunar New Year, the launch is also clearly timed to get ahead of Netflix’s big-budget version, titled 3 Body Problem, coming March 21…

…The two adaptations are very different, however. The Tencent version is considered an ultra-faithful adaptation (to the point that some have criticized it as being a bit tedious) that, like the novels, remains squarely focused on characters from China who grapple with an alien invasion. Netflix’s version expands the story to an international cast and takes liberties to adapt the dense and physics-heavy novel for a mainstream audience. Also, while the Tencent version avoids the book’s brutal portrayal of the Chinese Cultural Revolution — a key sequence in the story — the Netflix version was able to be more faithful in that regard….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. (Died 2008.) I usually can’t remember the cover art for a novel I read nearly fifty years ago but I remember that for Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys. It was the Equinox / Avon edition of 1974 with the cover illustration by William Maughan. I picked up on some newsstand in those days when newsstands still existed and they had SF novels to purchase along with comics and zines as Amazing and If.  I’ll get nostalgic later…

It was the first work I read by him and I remember that it was quite good. I see it was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon, the year A Canticle for Leibowitz won.  It was by no means his first publication as that goes to “The High Purpose” which been printed in Astounding in 1952, the year he started as an editor and manager for such publishers as Gnome Press and Galaxy Science Fiction. 

Algis Budrys. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Between 1965 and 1961, he had two short stories, a novelette and two novels nominated for Hugos. None would win.

I’ve read three of his novels in total, the others being Some Will Not Die and Who?, none of the other novels are ones I recognize at all.  Both of these were well worth my reading time as well. I caution that I’ve not re-read any of these in thirty years so I don’t how well the Suck Fairy would react to them now. 

He was extremely prolific with his writing of short stories, penning well over a hundred. I’ve read enough of them to say he had a deft hand at this story length. So after the early sixties, he wrote far less fiction and worked in publishing, editing, and advertising to make a much better living. 

One was the Tomorrow Speculative Fiction magazine from 1993 to 2000. It was nominated for a Hugo at ConAdian and the next year at Intersection. Alas he did not win.

He’s best known I think for his F&SF book columns that ran for almost forty years starting in 1975. I know that I looked forward to them immensely. They’re collected in Benchmarks Continued, Benchmarks Revisited and Benchmarks Concluded. There’s also Benchmarks: Galaxy Bookshelf which collects his columns there. 

And let’s not overlook A Budrys Miscellany: Occasional Writing 1954-2000 which collects some of his fanzine writings. It’s available at the usual suspects.

(9) COMIC SECTION.

(10) REVIEW OF ‘MACHINE VENDETTA’ BY ALASTAIR REYNOLDS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Machine Vendetta by Alastair Reynolds, his latest novel came out a couple of weeks ago and SF² Concatenation has an advance post review ahead of its summer season edition. It sees a return to ‘Revelation Space’ and a Prefect Tom Drefus Emergency. The full review is here.

A terrorist incident, resulting in a conflagration in a large orbiting habitat, was caused by racism species-ism between uplifted pigs (to human sentience levels) and humans. The habitat was one of thousands that formed the Glitter Band orbiting the planet Yellowstone. Humans had arrived at Yellowstone centuries earlier but the planet has an unbreathable atmosphere, so that while some humans established a colony on its surface, others remained in orbit, hence the hundreds of habitats. Each of the habitats was largely self-policed (usually by local constables) but overall, inter-habitat, peace-keeping and the maintenance of democracy (via strictly controlled computer voting) was undertaken by just a thousand prefects operating from Panapoly – an asteroid hollowed out to provide habitation, space docks etc.

Then a prefect – Ingvar Tench – visits Stadler-Kremeniev orbital habitat. Ingvar Tench thinks she has been ordered there for a routine inspection of its voting mechanisms, but back at the Panapoly, the senior prefects are puzzled as no orders had been given Ingvar: what could she be doing visiting a habitat on the prefects’ watch list? Further, they are perturbed that communications with her have been cut… 

Enter senior prefect Tom Drefus who is sent to Stadler-Kremeniev to find out what Ingvar Tench is doing. Alas, he arrives too late and, long story short, she is dead…. 

(11) READY, WILLING, AND ABLE. RadioTimes quotes“Louise Jameson on Doctor Who return: ‘I’d be back in a nanosecond’”.

Doctor Who legend Louise Jameson has insisted she’s game for a return appearance as classic character Leela.

Jameson recently reprised the role in live-action for Leela vs the Time War, a short film made to promote the Doctor Who – The Collection: Season 15 Blu-ray set.

Speaking at a BFI Southbank screening of 1977 story Horror of Fang Rock held to mark the release, Jameson suggested she wouldn’t hesitate if asked to return to the BBC sci-fi series.

“Let’s see… I’d absolutely love to do one,” she said. “I’d be back in a nanosecond.

“Can you just tell Russell [T Davies, Doctor Who showrunner]? Can somebody ask him to watch it [Leela vs the Time War]?”…

(12) THE DOORS OF HIS MOUTH, THE LAMPS OF HIS WHYS. [Item by Steven French.] Not really genre related but so bizarre I couldn’t resist! An Atlas Obscura post from 2017: “Encryption Lava Lamps – San Francisco, California”.

Why use lava lamps for encryption instead of computer-generated code? Since computer codes are created by machines with relatively predictable patterns, it is entirely possible for hackers to guess their algorithms, posing a security risk. Lava lamps, on the other hand, add to the equation the sheer randomness of the physical world, making it nearly impossible for hackers to break through.


While you might think that such an important place would be kept in secret and locked off from the public, it’s actually possible for visitors to witness these lava lamps in person. Simply enter the lobby of Cloudflare’s San Francisco headquarters and ask to see the lava lamp display. 

It may seem bizarre that Cloudflare would allow average people to affect the video footage, but that’s actually intentional. External disturbances like human movement, static, and changes in lighting from the adjacent windows all work together to make the random code even harder to predict. So, by standing in front of the lava lamp display, you add an additional variable to the code, making it even harder to hack. In a way, by visiting Cloudflare’s wall of lava lamps, you can play a role in making the internet more secure…

(13) IRON MAN COSTS PLENTY OF GOLD. Speculative Fiction Collectors will happily sell you the “Iron Man Mark 2 Life-Size Statue” for a mere $12,399 – stand by to torch your credit card!

Paying homage to Tony Stark’s iconic armor from Iron Man (2008), Queen Studios crafted this piece with the utmost precision. Capturing Iron Man’s signature silver suit, he embodies a powerful stance. At a remarkable height of 214cm tall, the statue boasts a detachable breastplate for a customizable display. Dotted with internal lighting located in various components, it includes: the eyes, arc reactor, and palm repulsors. With fitting illumination around the base, this statue is a stunning addition to any collection.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Kathy Sullivan, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, David Goldfarb, Steve Davidson, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/23 I Gave Them My Haploid Heart But They Wanted My Scroll

(1) BRITISH FANTASY AWARDS TAKING NOMINATIONS. Voting for the British Fantasy Awards is open through May 31.

You can vote for the BFAs if you are any of the following:
– A member of the British Fantasy Society
– An attendee at FantasyCon 2022 (London Heathrow)
– A ticket-holder for FantasyCon 2023 (Birmingham)

In each category the four titles or names with the highest number of recommendations will make the shortlist of nominations.

The BFA also has put out a “Call for BFA jurors” – “ANYONE can apply to become a juror and we would actively encourage non-members to volunteer as jurors.”

(2) BRITISH BOOK AWARDS. R.F. Kuang’s novel has won again – this time a British Book Award. The complete list of winners is at the link.

Fiction, supported by Good Housekeeping

RF Kuang

Babel (HarperCollins / Harper Voyager)

(3) ABSCISSION. “New Leaf Literary & Media Faces Backlash After Dropping Authors”Publishers Weekly monitored authors’ social media and is pursuing the story.

…The controversy unfolded shortly after New Leaf announced a series of changes to its staff structure. Hamessley has not returned requests for comment, and New Leaf emphasized that they cannot speak to any circumstances around her departure.

In an official statement on the matter, the Authors Guild expressed concern that Hamessley’s clients continue to be supported through the transition. “The Authors Guild strongly believes that every agent needs to have a succession plan for their authors in case of disabling ill health or death, and we instruct authors to inquire about such a contingency plan. We have seen far too many authors left in the lurch over the years.”

The statement continued: “New Leaf authors who were impacted by this sudden shakeup can reach out to us, though we can only represent Authors Guild members in legal matters. Authors who are members of the Authors Guild should send in their agency agreements to our legal staff so we can advise them on their rights.”

New Leaf told PW that it has been actively reaching out to Authors Guild representatives to clarify the situation.

In a statement to PW, author Stephanie Lucianovic said: “Undoubtedly, you’ll find out a lot about our reactions to these unceremoniously abrupt, late, Friday-night agency oustings on our socials, but our primary concern for the last 48+ hours has been about gathering our shocked and distraught agent-mate community and taking care of one another as best we can.”

(4) VALENTE Q&A. Catherynne M. Valente talks about Eurovision, Aliens and Mythpunk with Moid Moidelhoff at Media Death Cult.

(5) STARTING EARLIER. [Item by Dann.] What if… …the 1960s were the age of Marvel and DC movies?  This thread reimagines classic actors as classic heroes and villains. Thread starts here.

(6) TUNING UP. WhatsOnStage polled readers: “Top 100 musicals of all time revealed”. Six of the top 20 are sff. Believe it!

Audiences have been voting in their thousands across the month of April to find the top musicals of all time – and the results are now in!

We run down the top 20 below, with the subsequent 80 listed at the bottom. Where did your fave end up?

In terms of figures, leading the way with the highest number of musicals appearing is Stephen Sondheim on nine as composer and lyricist and a further two as lyricist. Andrew Lloyd Webber follows one behind on eight, including second place The Phantom of the Opera….

(7) TOR HIRE. Publishers Lunch reports Stephanie Stein has joined Tor Books as senior editor, acquiring adult science fiction and fantasy. She was previously at Harper Children’s.

(8) STAR WARS PROP GEMS. Paper City profiles the exhibition of a spectacular collection: “Star Wars Exhibit Wows With Galaxy Firsts at Valobra Master Jewelers — The Force Is Strong In Houston”.

In a climate-controlled garage, not so far away, sat one of the world’s most impressive Star Wars memorabilia collections, second only to that of the collection of George Lucas, the Jedi mind behind the science fiction franchise. That is until Franco Valobra, founder and CEO of Valobra Master Jewelers, decided to showcase the rare pieces for a limited engagement in his Houston store. 

Carrie Fisher’s (aka Princess Leia)  personally annotated script for The Empire Strikes Back, a fully functional R2D2 used for Star Wars promotions in the 1970s and a life-size original Darth Vader costume from the first Star Wars movie in 1977 are among the astonishing artifacts that were on display through Saturday, May 13.

Franco Valobra, a renowned luxury car collector, shares a “garage” with a close friend, storing his Ferraris and Maseratis alongside an array of astonishing memorabilia such as a model-size X-Wing Fighter and a Stormtrooper Blaster used in Star Wars: A New Hope. …

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2006[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Some of you I think are likely more familiar with Susanna Clarke by way of her two novels, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and Piranesi, than you are with her short stories.  It turns out that she is most excellent when it comes to this form.

She’s not written a lot of short stories but eight of these were collected in The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, published seventeen years ago by Bloomsbury USA. The cover illustration (there’s no dust jacket) which I not surprisingly really love is by Charles Vess. 

All of them are set in the same alternative history as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Our Beginning is drawn from one of them, “The Ladies of Grace Adieu Above”. And now here it is for you to read…

The Ladies of Grace Adieu Above all remember this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger. 

And if we honour this principle we shall discover that our magic is much greater than all the sum of all the spells that were ever taught. Then magic is to us as flight is to the birds, because then our magic comes from the dark and dreaming heart, just as the flight of a bird comes from the heart. And we will feel the same joy in performing that magic that the bird feels as it casts itself into the void and we will know that magic is part of what a man is, just as flight is part of what a bird is.

This understanding is a gift to us from the Raven King, the dear king of all magicians, who stands between England and the Other Lands, between all wild creatures and the world of men. From The Book of the Lady Catherine of Winchester (1209-67), translated from the Latin by Jane Tobias (1775-1819) 

When Mrs Field died, her grieving widower looked around him and discovered that the world seemed quite as full of pretty, young women as it had been in his youth. It further occurred to him that he was just as rich as ever and that, though his home already contained one pretty, young woman (his niece and ward, Cassandra Parbringer), he did not believe that another would go amiss. He did not think that he was at all changed from what he had been and Cassandra was entirely of his opinion, for (she thought to herself) I am sure, sir, that you were every bit as tedious at twenty-one as you are at forty-nine. So Mr Field married again. The lady was pretty and clever and only a year older than Cassandra, but, in her defence, we may say that she had no money and must either marry Mr Field or go and be a teacher in a school. The second Mrs Field and Cassandra were very pleased with each other and soon became very fond of each other. Indeed the sad truth was that they were a great deal fonder of each other than either was of Mr Field. There was another lady who was their friend (her name was Miss Tobias) and the three were often seen walking together near the village where lived-Grace Adieu in Gloucestershire.

Cassandra Parbringer at twenty was considered an ideal of a certain type of beauty to which some gentlemen are particularly partial. A white skin was agreeably tinged with pink. Light blue eyes harmonized very prettily with silvery-gold curls and the whole was a picture in which womanliness and childishness were sweetly combined. Mr Field, a gentleman not remarkable for his powers of observation, confidently supposed her to have a character childishly naive and full of pleasant, feminine submission in keeping with her face.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 Barry Atwater. Surak in “The Savage Curtain” episode where several reliable sources say he had serious trouble making Vulcan hand gesture. He did a lot of other genre work from Night Stalker where he played the vampire Janos Skorzeny to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Alfred Hitchcock HourVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaNight Gallery, The Wild Wild West and The Outer Limits. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta in “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsSix Million Dollar Man and, err, Mars Needs Women. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 16, 1950 Bruce Coville, 73. He’s won three Golden Duck Awards for Excellence in Children’s Science Fiction. He won first for his My Teacher Glows in the Dark, the second for his I Was a 6th Grade Alien, and the third for producing an audio adaptation of Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones. And NESFA also presented him with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. He was twice nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. 
  • Born May 16, 1953 Pierce Brosnan, 70. Louis XIV in The Moon and the Sun adaptation of Vonda McIntyre’s novel, shot in 2014 then not released til 2022. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of such films. Seriously, what do you remember about his Bond films? Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man, and he was lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones.
  • Born May 16, 1955 Debra Winger, 68. Not I grant you an extensive genre resume but interesting one nonetheless. Her first genre appearance is in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in uncredited turn as, and I kid you, a Halloween Zombie Nurse with a poodle. Really I’m not kidding. And she appeared in three episodes of the Seventies Wonder Woman as Drusilla / Wonder Girl. If you want to stretch it, she was Rebecca in The Red Tent film.
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 54. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. He’s currently Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Jason Hayes on SEAL Team which has migrated to Paramount + which means that the adult language barrier has been shattered so it’s quite amusing to hear a very foul mouthed Boreanaz. 
  • Born May 16, 1977 Lynn Collins, 46. She was an excellent Dejah Thoris in the much underrated John Carter. Her first genre role was Assistant D.A. Jessica Manning on the very short lived horror UPN drama Hauntings, and she showed up in True Blood as Dawn Green. She survived longer on The Walking Dead as Leah Shaw.  Back to films, she was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine as Kayla Silverfox, Rim of The World as Major Collins and Blood Creek as Barb. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books presents the Simultaneous Times podcast Episode 63 with stories by Elad Haber and Brent A. Harris. Stories featured in this episode:

“They Promised Trees” by Elad Haber. Music by Fall Precauxions 

“The Story That Never Was” by Brent A. Harris. Music by Phog Masheeen

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(13) THEY GOT ME. If you disdain clickbait then you won’t click on “Fun Facts About the 1960s ‘Batman’ Series You Probably Didn’t Know” at Sportzbonanza.

Alan Napier

Before getting to the audition for the show, Alan Napier had no clue who Batman was. He never heard of the character, and he didn’t take the casting that seriously. The truth is, when the producers offered him a part of Batman’s butler Alfred, Alan was a skeptic, and he even considered not accepting the part. The story and idea seemed funny and ridiculous to him.

Luckily, after Napier’s agent showed him the income that the role could get him, he immediately changed his mind and said yes.

(14) WOTF 39. Today is the official release of Writers of the Future Volume 39 book, ebook and audiobook.

(15) MORE WATER TRACES ON THE SURFACE OF MARS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] And they are in the low latitudes, away from the poles. In the Science Advances journal article “Modern water at low latitudes on Mars: Potential evidence from dune surfaces” Chinese researchers —

…report crusts, cracks, aggregates, and bright polygonal ridges on the surfaces of hydrated salt-rich dunes of southern Utopia Planitia (~25°N) from in situ exploration by the Zhurong rover. These surface features were inferred to form after 1.4 to 0.4 million years ago. Wind and CO2 frost processes can be ruled out as potential mechanisms. Instead, involvement of saline water from thawed frost/snow is the most likely cause. This discovery sheds light on more humid conditions of the modern Martian climate and provides critical clues to future exploration missions searching for signs of extant life, particularly at low latitudes with comparatively warmer, more amenable surface temperatures.

(16) WORSE THAN KUDZU. Restart the Earth review – Chinese sci-fi is pacy plant-based apocalypse” says the Guardian.

No doubt to Alan Titchmarsh’s great relief, the horticultural arm of the post-apocalypse flick is finally entering the growth phase, with the likes of AnnihilationThe Last of Us and now this lightweight effort from Chinese director Lin Zhenzhao. The hubris here is that mankind has overcompensated for the desertification of the planet with cutting-edge research to promote plant growth, accidentally creating a super-species of sentient flora that has choked the Earth, and whose roving vines hunt down people to snack on….

When a drug to replicate plant cells creates a sentient form of flower, the planet is over taken by flora and humankind is depleted. A Chinese task force, a widowed father and his young daughter fight to survive in a mission to inject an antidote to the core of the plants to reverse their growth.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mike Lynch Cartoons tells who’s who in this 1945 video “John Nesbitt’s Passing Parade: ‘People on Paper'”: H.H. Knerr (Katzenjammer Kids), Bud Fisher (Mutt and Jeff), Fred Lasswell (Barney Google and Snuffy Smith), Frank King (Gasoline Alley), Chester Gould (Dick Tracy), Dick Calkins (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates), Chic Young (Blondie), Raeburn Van Buren (Abbie an’ Slats), Ham Fisher (Joe Palooka), Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie), and Al Capp (Li’l Abner).

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

Pixel Scroll 3/10/23 Those Who Scroll Away From Pixelas

(1) AMAZON BAILS. Amazon notified subscribers they are leaving the digital and print magazine subscriptions business, apparently. Several Filers sent me a copy of their notice regarding digital subscriptions, and I received one myself for a print magazine. Here is an excerpt from the digital notice. 

Thank you for being a valued Amazon Kindle Newsstand subscriber. We are writing to inform you that we have made the decision to stop selling Kindle magazine and newspaper subscriptions on Amazon….

Starting on March 9, 2023, you will no longer be able to purchase new subscriptions or renew your existing subscription(s) through Amazon… You will still be able to read all issues that have already been delivered to you by visiting Your Kindle Library. If you wish to continue receiving content from a publisher directly, please visit their website for alternative subscription options. 

…Select digital magazine subscriptions are also available in Kindle Unlimited. 

(2) WORLD FANTASY NOMINATIONS OPEN. If you were/are a member or World Fantasy Convention in 2021, 2022 or 2023 you can nominate works from 2022 in the World Fantasy Awards: 2023 WFA Nomination Ballot. Voting by email is available. Paper mail ballots must be postmarked by May 31, 2023.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to polish off a Polish meal with Walter Jon Williams in Episode 193 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Walter Jon Williams

I was thrilled to be able to grab lunch with Walter Jon Williams the day Boskone began at Cafe Polonia, which has been serving traditional and gourmet Polish and Eastern European dishes in South Boston for more than 20 years.

Walter’s the author of more than forty volumes of fiction, in addition to works in film, television, comics, and gaming. He began his career by writing historical fiction, the sea-adventure series Privateers & Gentlemen. But after the market for historicals died, he relaunched himself as a science fiction writer.  He’s written cyberpunk (HardwiredVoice of the WhirlwindAngel Station), near-future thrillers (This Is Not a GameThe Rift), classic space opera (Dread Empire’s Fall), “new” space opera (Aristoi), post-cyberpunk epic fantasy new weird (Metropolitan and City on Fire), and the world’s only gothic western science fiction police procedural (Days of Atonement).

He’s been nominated for many literary awards, and for a number of years was science fiction’s “Bull Goose Loser” — that is, the person who had the most award nominations without having actually won anything — a streak which ended when he won a Nebula Award in 2001 for his novelette “Daddy’s World.” His short fiction has appeared in such magazines as OmniFantasy and Science FictionAsimov’s, and others, as well as such anthologies as Alien CrimesThe New Space OperaSongs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance, plus George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards project. He’s also been involved in the gaming industry, having written RPGs based on Privateers & Gentlemen and Hardwired, contributed to the alternate-reality game Last Call Poker, and written the dialog for the Electronic Arts game Spore. In 2017, he was the Guest of Honor at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Helsinki.

We discussed why when he started out he didn’t think he was good enough to make it as a science fiction writer, how if I were to read his first drafts they’d terrify me, the con at which Gordon Dickson wandered around trying to sell one of Walter’s novels to editors, why the ’50s was the Golden Age of historical fiction in America, the way in which his first science fiction novel was an inversion of all the historical fiction he’d written before, which issues of Fantastic Four got him so angry he quit reading comics for 20 years, how deep he was into his career before he finally realized he might actually make a go at this writing thing, the most frequent problem found when teaching Taos Toolbox, what he learned about his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated “Surfacing” by leaving it untouched in a drawer for six months, his motivation for the one time he had to say no to an editorial suggestion, what his extremely rare bouts of writers block — lasting only a few days — were really about, and much more.

(5) TWO ARTICLES ON EEAAO FOR FILERS. Here are a pair of articles about Everything Everywhere All At Once before Oscar night!

… According to IGN’s calculations, the multiversal hit is now the most-awarded film ever with 158 accolades to date from major critics organizations and awards bodies. This spot was previously held by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which earned 101 major awards by IGN’s math.

IGN painstakingly tallied every single accolade Everything Everywhere All at Once has received this awards season, including those from major critics organizations and pre-Oscars awards such as the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Indie Spirits.

Now, some caveats, and why our math may look different from yours: not every single critics’ organization made the cut, and neither did things like IGN’s own year-end best-of list….

… The Oscars and science fiction have a weird history. In recent years, sci-fi(ish) films like The Shape of Water and Gravity have racked up wins. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King made inroads for the fantasy genre back in 2003. But never has a movie about a woman (Yeoh) who skips through several alternate versions of her life to try to save the multiverse ever taken the top prize—or even been considered for it.

The Daniels’ movie is so bizarre—with its hot-dog fingers and philosophical everything bagels—that there has obviously never been a movie like it, period. Let alone one that got nominated for a staggering 11 Oscars (seriously, those are James Cameron numbers)….

(6) CHANGES AT TOR PUBLISHING GROUP. Via Shelf Awareness.

  • Michelle Foytek has been promoted to associate director of publishing operations.
  • Alex Cameron has been promoted to associate director of publishing strategy.
  • Isa Caban has been promoted to assistant director of marketing.
  • Andrew King has been promoted to assistant marketing manager.
  • Yvonne Ye has been promoted to ad/promo coordinator.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1968[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I know I’ve said before that, for most the part, I prefer Larry Niven’s short fiction to his longer works. In fact, there’s only a handful of his novels that I like, but all of his short stories are, in my estimation, well worth reading multiple times which indeed I have.

Tonight’s Beginning is that of “All the Myriad Ways” which was first published in the October 1968 issue of Galaxy. It was nominated at St. Louiscon for a Hugo. It’s at the very top of my best liked stories by him. 

If you’ve not read it, or want to read it again, it’s in the All the Myriad Ways collection which is available from the usual suspects. It’s a splendid collection that also has other favorite stories of mine including “ For a Foggy Night”, “Passerby” and “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?”. 

There’s a splendid Audible exclusive with narration by Bronson Pinchot. 

And here’s the Beginning…

 There were timelines branching and branching, a megauniverse of universes, millions more every minute. Billions? Trillions? Trimble didn’t understand the theory, though God knows he’d tried. The universe split every time someone made a decision. Split, so that every decision ever made could go both ways. Every choice made by every man, woman and child on Earth was reversed in the universe next door. It was enough to confuse any citizen, let alone Detective-Lieutenant Gene Trimble, who had other problems.

Senseless suicides, senseless, crimes. A city-wide epidemic. It had hit other cities too. Trimble suspected that it was world wide, that other nations were simply keeping it quiet.

Trimble’s sad eyes focussed on the clock. Quitting time. He stood up to go home, and slowly sat down again. For he had his teeth in the problem, and he couldn’t let go.

Not that he was really accomplishing anything.

But if he left now, he’d only have to take it up again tomorrow.

Go, or stay?

And the branchings began again. Gene Trimble thought of other universes parallel to this one, and a parallel Gene Trimble in each one. Some had left early. Many “had left on time, and were now halfway home to dinner, out to a movie, watching a strip show, racing to the scene of another death. Streaming out of police headquarters in all their multitudes, leaving a multitude of Trimbles behind them. Each of these trying to deal, alone, with the city’s endless, inexplicable parade of suicides.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script of the latter. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed their and each other’s works.  A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M. Miller”. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Ken Sobol. I will single him out for having personally received Astrid Lindgren’s personal blessing to write the Pippi Longstocking series which he worked on with puppeteer Noreen Young. He also contributed scripts to BatmanCurious GeorgeG.I. JoeGeorge of the JungleHardy BoysHighlanderSuperman, and Wizard of Id, and that’s hardly a complete listing.  He also wrote one of the best works done on baseball, Babe Ruth and the American Dream. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye. He was the editor of Weird Tales; he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 10, 1951 Christopher Hinz, 72. His Liege Killer novel, the first in his most excellent Paratwa Saga, won the Compton Crook Award, the BSFS Award for the Best First Novel. (And yes, there is a prequel, Binary Storm, which was written much later.) He was nominated for an Astounding Award for Best New Writer. 
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 46. She’s best known for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly.
  • Born March 10, 1979 Fonda Lee, 44. Her Jade City novel was a finalist for a Nebula Award for Best Novel and won a World Fantasy Award. It has a sequel. Jade War. And her Cross Fire novel was named Best YA Novel at the 2019 Aurora Awards for best Canadian speculative fiction. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Amazing Spider-man has a little in-joke.

(10) WILL BE BURIED ALIVE. “Over $30 Million Worth Of Funkos Are Headed To The Landfill” reports Kotaku. “Ouch,” says Cat Eldridge. “That said, I’m not surprised. When I was still out and about prior to the knee injury, some three years ago now, Newberry Comics, the pop culture shop at the Mall, carried every single Funko. That’s in the mid hundreds. Name a pop cultural series, a graphic novel and it’s likely that did Funko pop figures for it. And yes, I do have some here including a great Lady Thor. One of the staff there said they were getting a dozen new ones every month.”

The company that makes Funko Pop! collectibles is in so much trouble it’s preparing to throw hundreds of thousands of its pop culture-inspired figurines into the garbage. Funko revealed the plans in a recent earnings call filled with so much bad news its stock price fell off a cliff the next day.

“Inventory at year-end totaled $246.4 million, an increase of 48% compared to a year ago,” the company wrote in a press release on Wednesday, (via ICv2). “This includes inventory that the Company intends to eliminate in the first half of 2023 to reduce fulfillment costs by managing inventory levels to align with the operating capacity of our distribution center. This is expected to result in a write down in the first half of 2023 of approximately $30 to $36 million.”

Translation: Funko’s warehouses are overflowing with five inch chibi replicas of Machine Gun Kelly, Spider-Man, Pikachu, and every other vaguely famous cultural icon, and throwing them out will be cheaper than trying to sell them. During a call with investors, CEO Brian Mariotti said a new distribution center in Arizona was so full that the company has been bleeding cash renting shipping containers to hold all of the excess inventory….

(11) ZAP! “Scientists Discover Enzyme That Turns Air Into Electricity”Slashdot has the links to the story. “Gives new meaning to ‘A Pail Of Air’,” says Daniel Dern.

…Australian scientists have discovered an enzyme that converts air into energy. The finding, published in the journal Nature, reveals that this enzyme uses the low amounts of the hydrogen in the atmosphere to create an electrical current. This finding opens the way to create devices that literally make energy from thin air….

(12) SOLAR DOESN’T MEAN SOLO. The Sun’s ‘birth cluster’ could have contained as many as 20,000 stars. “How many siblings did the Sun have? Ancient dust holds clues” at Nature.

The Sun was born within a cluster of stars. Seeking to determine the number of stars in that birth cluster, researchers focused on aluminium-rich minerals found in some of the oldest dust particles in the Solar System. According to one theory, the isotope aluminium-26 was injected into the Solar System by a supernova — an exploding star. The authors suggest that this injection must have occurred during the first 100,000 years of the Solar System’s history.

The scientists used modelling to determine the probability of a supernova occurring in a given period of time. This allowed them to calculate how many stars must have been in the cluster to make it reasonably likely that one exploded at the appropriate time to supply the aluminium in the dust. The answer: 2,000–20,000 stars, depending on how long it took the Solar System to form….

Primary research paper https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/pdf/2023/02/aa44743-22.pdf

(13) ASTEROID DIET PLAN. Studies reveal final moments before NASA probe crashed into an asteroid: “Asteroid lost 1 million kilograms after collision with DART spacecraft” at Nature.

Last September, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft smashed into an asteroid, deliberately altering the rock’s trajectory through space in a first test of planetary defence. Now scientists have deconstructed the collision and its aftermath — and learnt just how successful humanity’s punch at the cosmos really was.

…DART’s success has been reported before; now, five studies in Nature describe the final moments of the crash and how it affected the asteroid. …

The impact ejected at least one million kilograms of rock from Dimorphos’s 4.3-billion-kilogram mass. The debris formed a tail that stretched for tens of thousands of kilometres behind the asteroid.

Primary research papers here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-05805-2_reference.pdf; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-05810-5_reference.pdf; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-05811-4_reference.pdf; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-05852-9; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-05878-z_reference.pdf.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/22 The Filezentian Gate

(1) PRESIDENT’S DAY WEEKEND.  Get ready for Boskone 60, coming February 17-19, 2023 in Boston – and via the internet. The convention’s guests are Nalo Hopkinson – Guest of Honor; Victo Ngai – Official Artist; Tui T. Sutherland – Special Guest; and Dave Clement – Musical Guest. Full information at the link.

Boskone 60 will be held in person at The Westin Boston Seaport District hotel, 425 Summer Street, Boston, MA. You can also attend in person at our incredible 3-day convention, starting in the afternoon on Friday, February 17, 2023, at 2:00 pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and running through Sunday, February 19. We are also planning to make a portion of our programming available for virtual members and virtual program participants.

You can experience Boskone virtually for only $24.60!

(2) MEDICAL STRUGGLE. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Kelly Barnhill, winner of the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, is marking one year since she missed a step, hit her head, fell down a flight of stairs, and was unconscious for 15 minutes.Recovery from concussion is slow; as a result, she says, writing fiction is not currently possible. Thread starts here. Some excerpts:

(3) AI YI YI. Alyssa Shotwell brings readers up to date about why “Tor Faces Major Backlash for AI Art for Upcoming Novel From Bestselling Author” in The Mary Sue.

…The comments accusing Tor of using AI art in Christopher Paolini‘s follow-up to To Sleep in a Sea of StarsFractal Noise, came as early as November (when the cover was revealed), but it wasn’t until December when more people realized what happened. Around December 9, pressure had built up, and those concerned demanded an answer from Tor and Paolini. On December 15, Tor released this statement on their social media:

“Tor Books designed the cover for Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini. During the process of creating this cover, we licensed an image from a reputable stock house. We were not aware that the image may have been created by AI. Our in-house designer used the licensed image to create the cover, which was presented to Christopher for approval. Due to production constraints, we have decided to move ahead with our current cover. Tor Publishing Group has championed creators in the SFF community since our founding and will continue to do so.”

At first glance, it’s easy to take at least the first part of this as truth. As far back as September, stock websites and individuals began to host AI art for licensing purposes. Since then, it’s only grown, with Adobe Stock and the portfolio site Artstation catering to AI art. Shutterstock even inked a deal with AI generators in October. Between the sites hosting the images and the companies (like Tor) using them, there are no guidelines for even labeling AI art. It’s being mixed in with human-made art. The AI image created (from stolen images) for the base of Fractal Noise is not even labeled as AI created on Shutterstock.

… Tor knew they would continue to get backlash because, in that tweet, they turned off replies. Most of the people talking about it are retweets, and the conversation continues in those replies….

… Paolini has given mixed responses to the whole situation and has been tweeting (and replying) a lot. He spoke about the value of an artist in the book illustration process and how he’s always shared fan art of his works. Paolini commissioned work from artists and illustrated many elements of his Inheritance Saga (Eragon, etc.), including the map of Alagaësia. He also stated that this AI art situation is not ideal. Most other comments from the author remain neutral.

This is disappointing, as a reader of his books and as an artist, not to see him take a stronger stance on this, at least in a professional setting….

(4) CRICHTON, POURNELLE, AND BENFORD IN 2005. Camestros Felapton resumes following strands of right-wing and reactionary thought within science fiction in a new series “Contrarian Cli-Fi” about sff writers who took a contrarian view of climate change. The latest chapter, “Contrarian Cli-Fi 0.07: Aftermath 2005”, makes a real effort at fairness, it seemed to me, at a time when the internet gives no cookies for such efforts.  

…A great deal about science communication had changed over the intervening time between Fallen Angels and State of Fear. Whereas in past decades science magazines and hybrid sci-fi/science magazines like Analog or OMNI were a key part of science communication to a broader audience of people interested but not experts in science, in the 2000s science blogging was a growing channel between actual scientists and the public.

Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear also helped spur actual climate scientists to counter Crichton’s views (and doubts about global warming more generally) directly on the web. One of the most interesting exchanges in the wake of State of Fear was, unsurprisingly, on Pournelle’s own blog in 2005.

I’ve cast Pournelle as a right-wing ideologue pushing the contrarian view on climate change but he also manifestly had a genuine interest in climate science. He absolutely wanted to understand the scientific debate if only to refute it on its own terms. In the wake of the State of Fear discussion about global warming and global cooling would be a major topic on his blog. In part that debate was fuelled by reactions to Crichton’s novel in science and science fiction communities.

One obvious overlap between State of Fear, scientists and science fiction writers was author and physicist Gregory Benford. In a 2003 speech by Crichton that presaged the sceptical position of his novel, Crichton had quoted a paper by a panel that included Benford published in Science[1]: …

…Benford responded in a column in the San Diego Tribune published in 2005 taking apart many of Crichton’s claims and misleading statements. Benford unequivocally stated that Crichton was getting his science wrong, relying on secondary sources and misunderstanding those sources….

(5) TRYING TO PREDICT THE PRESENT. “Bezos appears to lose interest in the Washington Post as its tech ambitions wither” reports Semafor.

THE SCOOP

Earlier this month, Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan and a handful of executives traveled to Seattle for a budget meeting with owner Jeff Bezos. The paper’s executive editor Sally Buzbee was not in attendance, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

Turmoil back in Washington, DC has followed. Ryan abruptly announced a round of layoffs. Buzbee appeared to distance herself from her publisher. The Post and Buzbee did not respond to requests for comment.

And employees and observers of the Post alike were left wondering what Bezos is doing with the publication….

(6) AMAZON CURBED IN EU ACTION. A European Union press release announced the final “commitments” made by Amazon to avoid further enforcement action, including fines. “Antitrust: Commission accepts commitments by Amazon barring it from using marketplace seller data, and ensuring equal access to Buy Box and Prime”.

To address the Commission’s competition concerns in relation to both investigations, Amazon initially offered the following commitments:

– To address the data use concern, Amazon proposed to commit:

      • not to use non-public data relating to, or derived from, the independent sellers’ activities on its marketplace, for its retail business. This applies to both Amazon’s automated tools and employees that could cross-use the data from Amazon Marketplace, for retail decisions;
      • not to use such data for the purposes of selling branded goods as well as its private label products.

– To address the Buy Box concern, Amazon proposed to commit to:

      • treat all sellers equally when ranking the offers for the purposes of the selection of the Buy Box winner;
      • display a second competing offer to the Buy Box winner if there is a second offer from a different seller that is sufficiently differentiated from the first one on price and/or delivery. Both offers will display the same descriptive information and provide the same purchasing experience.

– To address the Prime concerns Amazon proposed to commit to:

      • set non-discriminatory conditions and criteria for the qualification of marketplace sellers and offers to Prime;
      • allow Prime sellers to freely choose any carrier for their logistics and delivery services and negotiate terms directly with the carrier of their choice;
      • not use any information obtained through Prime about the terms and performance of third-party carriers, for its own logistics services.

Between 14 July 2022 and 9 September 2022, the Commission market tested Amazon’s commitments and consulted all interested third parties to verify whether they would remove its competition concerns. In light of the outcome of this market test, Amazon amended the initial proposal and committed to:

      • Improve the presentation of the second competing Buy Box offer by making it more prominent and to include a review mechanism in case the presentation is not attracting adequate consumer attention;
      • Increase the transparency and early information flows to sellers and carriers about the commitments and their newly acquired rights, enabling, amongst others, early switching of sellers to independent carriers;
      • Lay out the means for independent carriers to directly contact their Amazon customers, in line with data-protection rules, enabling them to provide equivalent delivery services to those offered by Amazon;
      • Improve carrier data protection from use by Amazon’s competing logistics services, in particular concerning cargo profile information;
      • Increase the powers of the monitoring trustee by introducing further notification obligations;
      • Introduce a centralised complaint mechanism, open to all sellers and carriers in case of suspected non-compliance with the commitments.
      • Increase to seven years, instead of the initially proposed five years, the duration of the commitments relating to Prime and the second competing Buy Box offer.

The Commission found that Amazon’s final commitments will ensure that Amazon does not use marketplace seller data for its own retail operations and that it grants non-discriminatory access to Buy Box and Prime. 

(7) HENRY MORRISON OBIT. Literary agent Henry Morrison died November 2 at the age of 86. The Publishers Weekly noted his sff connections.

…Morrison struck out on his own before he turned 30.

For the next 55 years, characters and storylines in the books and films whose rights Morrison sold became household American names, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and David Morrell’s Rambo among them. A particularly prolific agent in the crime and thriller genres, other authors in the space Morrison represented included Brian Garfield, Dean Koontz, Eric van Lustbader, Matt Scudder, and Donald E. Westlake. He also represented the science fiction writers Samuel R. Delany (one of his earliest clients) and Roger Zelazny. His well-rewarded midlist writers won multiple Edgars and served as Mystery Writers of America presidents, Grandmasters, and International ThrillerMasters….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2014 [By Cat Eldridge.] Frankenstein in Geneva 

Tonight’s creature is one that y’all will now very well, that of  Frankenstein’s monster, though almost everyone now calls it Frankenstein. Philistines. 

While the writer was English, the story was written and takes place in Geneva, Switzerland where this statue is placed in the spot where it goes on a rampage and kills his creator’s brother. 

KLAT, a Geneva artist collective, so there was no individual sculptor listed for this work, created this nearly eight-foot-tall cast bronze sculpture. “Franc” as they call him,  is dressed in ragged clothes, which represents not the character from the novel, but “the figure of the vagrant or the marginal”. With his hunchback, his scars including those of face and hooded sweatshirt and old jeans cut at the knees, it is not at all in keeping with Shelley’s original description of the monster in her novel, but more in line with the modern interpretation of a zombie-like creature. 

The statue was unveiled in May 2014, and is part of the collection of the Contemporary Art Fund of the City of Geneva. That unveiling was — shall we say? — quite electrifying?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maurey. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can’t find proof anywhere else that it is… (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger ManThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1951 Kate Atkinson, 71. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on usual suspects.
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 70. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fave films which is Darkman and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 62. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out the Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. 
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 52. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine, and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. Well maybe not the latter I’ll admit. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond RealityForever KnightTekWarOuter LimitsPoltergeist: The LegacyPsi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian?
  • Born December 20, 1984 Ilean Almaguer, 38. Here for her role as Illa on the most excellent Counterpart series. If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it. To my knowledge, none of many the Spanish-language Mexican telenovelas she appeared in had the slightest genre element. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) TUNE IN. The BBC World Service is airing a production of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising”.

A young boy’s time-travelling fight against ancient evil. When the Dark comes rising, who will hold it back? This dramatisation of Susan Cooper’s cult novel is a magical journey into the supernatural.

There currently are three episodes available with 26 to come.

(12) IRON MAN BACK TO THE PRESS. Gene Wolfe said in his 1985 Worldcon guest of honor speech that the difference between a professional publisher and a fanzine publisher is that if a fanzine sells out, the editor will print more. So what are we to make of Marvel’s enthusiastic announcement that Iron Man #1 is getting a second printing?

This past Wednesday, fans witnessed the beginning of an all-new era for Tony Stark in Invincible Iron Man #1! Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Juan Frigeri have taken over the armored Avenger’s adventures and didn’t pull any punches in their explosive first issue, which sold out and will return in February with a second printing!

 Invincible Iron #1 will receive two new second printing covers, both of which celebrate the character’s iconic legacy by showcasing the many armors Tony has suited up in over the years: A brand-new piece by superstar artist Mark Bagley and definitive Iron Man artist Bob Layton’s showstopping connecting piece in all its glory.

 Invincible Iron Man #1 ended with Tony Stark hitting rock bottom, having lost it all: his wealth…his fame…his friends. But don’t count Stark out just yet. In upcoming issues, Stark will navigate his new status in the Marvel Universe in surprising ways. Readers will see Iron Man court new allies, embrace bold solutions, and make startling moves that will affect his relationships with the Avengers and mutantkind. Is he building towards a brighter future or will he be the architect of further destruction? 

 (13) OH SNAP! SNAP! [Item by Daniel Dern.] If (movie version) Thanos sang or hummed along to the Addams Family theme song, would that quantumize 2x 50% or 50% of 50%?

(14) SOMETHING TO READ. Ted Gioia posted his picks for “The Best Online Essays & Articles of 2022”.

…Most of these are longform essays on music, arts, and culture—because those are matters I think about (and worry about) every day. But I don’t impose any arbitrary limits here. If the article is good enough, I include it, no matter what the subject….

First on the list – “A few things to know before stealing my 914” by Norman Garrett,

Dear Thief,

Welcome to my Porsche 914. I imagine that at this point (having found the door unlocked) your intention is to steal my car. Don’t be encouraged by this; the tumblers sheared off in 1978. I would have locked it up if I could, so don’t think you’re too clever or that I’m too lazy. However, now that you’re in the car, there are a few things you’re going to need to know. First, the battery is disconnected, so slide-hammering my ignition switch is not your first step. I leave the battery disconnected, not to foil hoodlums such as yourself, but because there is a mysterious current drain from the 40-year-old German wiring harness that I can’t locate and/or fix….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Honest Game Trailers: The Game Awards” sends up an awards show which finds it impossible to live up to its pretentions, saying it’s “an award show that wants to be taken as seriously as the Oscars except that every single year something absolutely ridiculous happens.” Mistakes were made, birds were flipped.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Todd Mason, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Devi Pillai Moves Up To Become President and Publisher, Tom Doherty Associates

Devi Pillai’s photo on Twitter.

President of Macmillan Trade Publishing Jon Yaged today announced that Devi Pillai will become President and Publisher, Tom Doherty Associates. Pillai steps into the position vacated by Fritz Foy, whose retirement was also announced today by Macmillan Publishers CEO Don Weisberg.

Devi joined Macmillan in 2016 as Associate Publisher, Tor/Forge Books. She quickly made an impact. From her approach to author care and development of the editorial team, to the efficiencies and best practices that she helped build into TDA editorial processes, Devi has made TDA better. She was promoted to Publisher, VP, Tor/Forge Books in 2018, and assumed responsibility for the Tor Teen and Starscape imprints in 2020.

Yaged added, “Devi impressed me the moment we met. She is incisive, passionate, and decisive — perfect qualities to lead TDA into the future and sustain its status as the preeminent science fiction and fantasy publisher.”

Newly reporting to Devi will be Irene Gallo, VP, Publisher, Tordotcom Publishing and Tor.com; Linda Quinton, VP, Publisher, Forge Books; Lucille Rettino, VP, Associate Publisher, Director of Marketing & Publicity; Patrick Nielsen Hayden, VP, Editor in Chief; Peter Lutjen, Director, Art TDA; and Molly McGhee Assistant, Editorial.

Pixel Scroll 6/3/20 Listen To The Pixel Sing Sweet Songs To Rock My Scroll

(1) STILL OVERCOMING. Tananarive Due expresses decades of experience in “Can We Live?” in Vanity Fair. Tagline: “The daughter of civil rights activists on the question that’s haunted her for decades.”

… . I was only a little older than Bryant, and sitting in my junior high school cafeteria, when I wrote a poem inspired by police brutality called “I Want to Live.”

I was 14, and neighborhoods in my home city of Miami were burning.

The memory returns, raw and visceral, as I watch footage from the uprisings in Minneapolis and nationwide protesting Floyd’s killing….

… When I was finished, I had tears in my eyes, but the despair in my chest felt soothed. I showed the poem to my mother, and she told me how lucky I was to have writing as an outlet for my emotions. “The people setting those fires feel hopeless,” she said. I’d wanted to be a writer since I was four, but that was the first time I understood that writing might save my life.

Now a new generation is discovering just how devalued their lives are in U.S. society, risking a pandemic and possible police violence to protest in the name of a better society. In their cities they are facing their own baptisms by fire.

But it comes with a cost. After my mother was teargassed at a peaceful march in Tallahassee in 1960, she wore dark glasses even indoors for the rest of her life, complaining about lingering sensitivity to light. “I went to jail so you won’t have to,” she once told me.

If only it were that simple. If only one generation’s sacrifices could have fixed it all….

(2) THAT’S CAT. Camestros Felapton’s latest “Missing moments from movie history” illustrates “George Lucas’s original plans for the Death Star 2…”

(3) PUBLISHERS SUE INTERNET ARCHIVE. Member companies of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Internet Archive (“IA”) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.“Publishers File Suit Against Internet Archive for Systematic Mass Scanning and Distribution of Literary Works”.

…The suit asks the Court to enjoin IA’s mass scanning, public display, and distribution of entire literary works, which it offers to the public at large through global-facing businesses coined “Open Library” and “National Emergency Library,” accessible at both openlibrary.org and archive.org. IA has brazenly reproduced some 1.3 million bootleg scans of print books, including recent works, commercial fiction and non-fiction, thrillers, and children’s books. 

The plaintiffs—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons and Penguin Random House—publish many of the world’s preeminent authors, including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Newbery Medal, Man Booker Prize, Caldecott Medal and Nobel Prize.

Despite the self-serving library branding of its operations, IA’s conduct bears little resemblance to the trusted role that thousands of American libraries play within their communities and as participants in the lawful copyright marketplace. IA scans books from cover to cover, posts complete digital files to its website, and solicits users to access them for free by signing up for Internet Archive Accounts. The sheer scale of IA’s infringement described in the complaint—and its stated objective to enlarge its illegal trove with abandon—appear to make it one of the largest known book pirate sites in the world. IA publicly reports millions of dollars in revenue each year, including financial schemes that support its infringement design….

The press release follows with more details about the AAP’s side of the argument.

(4) HOP TO IT. “Watership Down Enterprises Wins Case Against Film Producer”: Shelf Awareness has the story.

A court in England has ruled in favor of Watership Down Enterprises, the estate and family of author Richard Adams, in an action brought against producer Martin Rosen, who wrote and directed a 1978 animated film based on the classic novel, Variety reported.

The judgment ordered Rosen and companies controlled by him to pay the estate court costs and an initial payment for damages totaling approximately $95,000 within 28 days for infringing copyright, agreeing to “unauthorized license deals and denying royalty payments,” Variety wrote, adding that additional damages will be assessed at a future hearing.

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court also terminated the original contract in which motion picture rights for Watership Down were originally granted to Rosen in 1976. In addition, IPEC granted an injunction preventing Rosen and his companies from continuing to license rights to Watership Down, and directed them to give further disclosures of their activities and to destroy infringing materials.

(5) JEAN-LUC OUT FRONT. At TechRepublic, Matthew Heusser extracts “4 leadership lessons from Star Trek: Picard”.

It’s an open secret among Star Trek fans that the Picard character changes. Between the television show, the movies, and now the show that bears his name, Picard changes from  peacemaking collaborative leader to warrior to now something more like a Sherlock Holmes of the 24th century. Instead of a noble hero leading a team, the Picard of the new series, along with the audience at home, is trying to answer some questions, including “What the heck is happening here and what is the next move?”

He doesn’t always make the right one.

Seeing those mistakes, in seeing Picard as a human, allows us to grapple with our own humanity. It’s a different side of Picard from what we saw in the series; instead of perfection, we see a man trying to stay in the game at an age that many would go off to the retirement home. Let’s learn from it, with minimal minor spoilers….

(6) TRACING EARLIEST USE OF SFF IDEAS. The “Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions”, sorted by publication date, reaches back to 1634. Here’s the beginning of the list:

DateDevice Name (Novel Author)
1634Weightlessness (Kepler) (from Somnium (The Dream) by Johannes Kepler)
1638Weightlessness in Space (from The Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin)
1638Gansas (from The Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin)
1657Moon Machine – very early description (from A Voyage to the Moon by Cyrano de Bergerac)
1705Cogitator (The Chair of Reflection) (from The Consolidator by Daniel Defoe)
1726Knowledge Engine – machine-made expertise (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)
1726Geometric Modeling – eighteenth century NURBS (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)
1726Bio-Energy – produce electricity from organic material (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)

(7) IN CRIMES TO COME. CrimeReads’ Drew Murray, in “Scifi Tech Is Here—And Criminals Can (And Will) Use It”, looks at autonomous vehicles and augmented reality and how they will be used in near-future sf novels.

…It [augmented reality] could also be the ultimate tool for a con man. How many times have you run into someone familiar, but you can’t quite place where you know them from? They seem to know you and, not wanting to offend them, you keep talking, hoping it will come to you. What if you’ve never actually seen this person before in your life? What if they’re a hustler, reading everything about you from text floating in the air next to your head, projected in their vision by glasses, or even contact lenses? All that real-time information to establish trust, the primary currency of any con.

(8) ROBERT J. SAWYER. He’s has a successful day drawing attention to his new novel The Oppenheimer Alternative.

… And I didn’t want to tell an alternate history. That is, I didn’t want to say, well, sure, you can gainsay me until this page—the point of divergence—but after that, anything goes. Rather, I decided to tell a secret history: a series of plausible events that were, in themselves, authentic big-ideas hard SF, and have them occur in the lacunae in the public record. I wanted no one to be able to say, “Okay, that was fun, but of course it never happened.”

  • He appeared on Michael Shinabery’s show on KRSY-AM in Alamogordo, New Mexico, yesterday for han hour-long chat [MP3].

The show starts at the 1-minute mark with Benny Goodman’s “The Glory of Love,” which figures in my novel; the outro is the great Tom Lehrer singing his atomic-bomb song, “We’ll All Go Together When We Go.”

  • And he was on CTV Calgary:

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 3, 1950 Dimension X’s “The Embassy” was broadcast. Written by Donald A. Wollheim, this story was first published in Astounding Science Fiction in the March 1942 issue. (Aussiecon One would later give him a Special Hugo for The Fan Who Has Done Everything.)  It was adapted by George Lefferts. The cast was Daniel Ocko, Bryna Raeburn and Norman Rose.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 3, 1905 Norman A. Daniels. Creator of  the Black Bat, a pulp character who debuted the same time as Batman which led to lawsuits over similarities to the latter, and wrote for such series as The Phantom Detective, Doc Savage and The Shadow. He also created the Crimson Mask. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1905 Malcolm Reiss. It’s uncertain if he ever published any genre fiction but he’s an important figure in the history of our community as he edited in the Thirties through the Fifties, Jungle StoriesPlanet StoriesTops in Science Fiction and Two Complete Science-Adventure Books. Fletcher Pratt, Ross Rocklynne, Leigh Brackett and Fredric Brown are but a few of the writers published in those magazines. (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1929 – Brian Lewis.  Ninety covers for New Worlds (here’s one), Science Fantasy (here’s one), Science Fiction Adventures (here’s one), for a few books; sometimes realistic, sometimes surrealistic; fifty interiors; also comics. (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1946 Penelope Wilton, 74. She played the recurring role of Harriet Jones in Doctor Who wherethey actually developed a story for the character. She was also played Homily in The Borrowers, Barbara in Shaun of the Dead, The Queen in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, Beatrix Potter in The Tale of Beatrix Potter, The White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass and Gertrude in in Hamlet at the Menier Chocolate Factory. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1949 Michael McQuay. He wrote two novels in Asimov’s Robot City series, Suspicion and Isaac Asimov’s Robot City (with Michael P. Kube-McDowell) and Richter 10 with Arthur C. Clarke. The Mathew Swain sequence neatly blends SF and noir detective tropes – very good popcorn reading. His novelization of Escape from New York is superb. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born June 3, 1950 – Owen Laurion.  Long active in the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation (“N3F”).  Edited The Nat’l Fantasy Fan and later Tightbeam.  Kaymar Award. “The Way It Was” in M. Bastraw ed., Fifty Extremely SF* Stories (none over 50 words).  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1950 Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg credits the line “E.T. phone home” line to her. (She’s Eliot’s school nurse in the film.) She also wrote the screenplays for The Indian in the Cupboard and BFG with the latter being dedicated in her memory. And she wrote the “Kick the Can” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born June 3, 1958 Suzie Plakson, 62. She played four characters on Trek series: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man” (Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1964 James Purefoy, 56. His most recent genre performance was in the recurring role of Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive role was I think as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1966 – Kate Forsyth.  Thirty fantasy novels, a dozen shorter stories; collections of fairy tales, of her own poetry; sold a million books.  Bitter Greens interweaves Rapunzel with the 17th- century Frenchwoman who first told the tale, won American Library Association award for historical fiction; doctoral exegesis The Rebirth of Rapunzel won the Atheling Award for criticism.  Five Aurealis Awards.  Her Website is here.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1973 – Patrick Rothfuss.  The Wise Man’s Fear N.Y. Times Best-Seller.  Half a dozen shorter stories.  Games, e.g. Acquisitions, Inc. (Penny Arcade).  Charity, Worldbuilders.  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Something’s interfering with TV reception at The Far Side. (A reprint from back when they had antennae.)
  • Bizarro shows it’s hard to escape those family traits.
  • Mother Goose and Grimm warns you to know your car’s features.
  • Frazz shows an unsuccessful example of genre homework.
  • The Argyle Sweater sympathizes with folks who can’t tune out the neighbors.

(12) A DIFFERENT TORCON. Tor Books and Den of Geek have posted the schedule for “TorCon 2020: Stay Home, Geek Out”. Register for items at the link.  

In partnership with Den of Geek, we are proud to announce the launch of TorCon, an all-new virtual convention that brings all the fun of panels directly to the fans. From Thursday, June 11th through Sunday, June 14th, Tor and Tor.com Publishing are presenting eight panels featuring over twenty of your favorite authors across different platforms, in conversation with each other—and with you!

Join authors including Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Okorafor, Christopher Paolini, Brandon Sanderson, V. E. Schwab, and many more for four days of pure geekery, exclusive content, sneak peeks, and more…all from the comfort of your own home!

(13) SIGNPOSTS. James Davis Nicoll reaches into his reviews archive for choice titles by black authors. Thread starts here.

(14) INTERSECTION OF SFF AND RELIGION. Since Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light was discussed here recently, Filers may be interested in Victor Gijsbers’ comments on the book. Thread starts here.

(15) NOT THAT FUNNY. This is fromThe Week:

“A man dressed as a medieval knight and carrying a 3-foot-long sword created some concern at a aprk in the U.K., bringing police armed with guns. Lennon Thomas, 20, was confronted by police in Cardiff and ordered to put the weapon down, before he explained that he was simply trying out a costume he uses for his hobby of fantasy roleplaying.  Thomas apologized for a ‘lapse in judgment,’ conceding, ‘Perhaps it was a little stupid of me to bring the sword, as from a distance it does look realistic.’  He added, ‘Life is a lot more fun when you don’t care how weird you are.'”

(16) MOVIN’ OUT. The Harvard Gazette is “Filling gaps in our understanding of how cities began to rise”.

New genetic research from around one of the ancient world’s most important trading hubs offers fresh insights into the movement and interactions of inhabitants of different areas of Western Asia between two major events in human history: the origins of agriculture and the rise of some of the world’s first cities.

The evidence reveals that a high level of mobility led to the spread of ideas and material culture as well as intermingling of peoples in the period before the rise of cities, not the other way around, as previously thought. The findings add to our understanding of exactly how the shift to urbanism took place.

The researchers, made up of an international team of scientists including Harvard Professor Christina Warinner, looked at DNA data from 110 skeletal remains in West Asia from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age, 3,000 to 7,500 years ago. The remains came from archaeological sites in the Anatolia (present-day Turkey); the Northern Levant, which includes countries on the Mediterranean coast such as Israel and Jordan; and countries in the Southern Caucasus, which include present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Based on their analysis, the scientists describe two events, one around 8,500 years ago and the other 4,000 years ago, that point to long-term genetic mixing and gradual population movements in the region.

“Within this geographic scope, you have a number of distinct populations, distinct ideological groups that are interacting quite a lot, and it hasn’t really been clear to what degree people are actually moving or if this is simply just a high-contact area from trade,” said Warinner, assistant professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. “Rather than this period being characterized by dramatic migrations or conquest, what we see is the slow mixing of different populations, the slow mixing of ideas, and it’s percolating out of this melting pot that we see the rise of urbanism — the rise of cities.”

(17) LOCKDOWN DEBATE. “Coronavirus: Sweden’s Tegnell admits too many died” – a BBC story.

Sweden’s controversial decision not to impose a strict lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic led to too many deaths, the man behind the policy, Anders Tegnell, has acknowledged.

Sweden has seen a far higher mortality rate than its nearest neighbours and its nationals are being barred from crossing their borders.

Dr Tegnell told Swedish radio more should have been done early on.

“There is quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done.”

Sweden has counted 4,542 deaths and 40,803 infections in a population of 10 million, while Denmark, Norway and Finland have imposed lockdowns and seen far lower rates.

Denmark has seen 580 deaths, Norway has had 237 deaths and Finland 321. Sweden reported a further 74 deaths on Wednesday.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  You could have bought this Thunderbird replica last year.

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Scott Edelman, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 11/16/19 It Must Be Pixels, ‘Cause Ink Don’t Scroll Like That

(1) NEBULA ACTIVITY. SFWA is now selling tickets to the 2020 Nebula Conference taking place May 28-31, 2020 in Woodland Hills, CA (part of Los Angeles)

SFWA members and other individuals who are interested in the field of science fiction and fantasy are welcome to attend SFWA’s Nebula Conference. Attendees may participate in workshops, programming and special events throughout the weekend.

You do not need to be a member of SFWA to attend. We encourage anyone with a connection to the field to join us.

And SFWA members can now cast nominating ballots for the Nebulas.

(2) HORN TOOTING. A.C. Wise is collecting links to eligibility posts, and already has a great many here – “What Have You Done, What Have You Loved? 2019”.

It’s that time of year again! Editors, publishers, and authors’ minds turn toward Year’s Best list, and awards. Which also means it’s time for said authors, editors, and publishers to get out there and self-promote. It can feel icky or uncomfortable, but it’s a valuable service to those who nominate for awards, and those who just want to catch up reading what they might have missed during the year. So step forward, take a deep breath, and shout about what you wrote this year. While you’re at it, shout about the things you loved too! No one can read everything that comes out in a given year, but together we can help each other find excellent things to read, and perhaps even nominate.

(3) WORDS & MUSIC. The lyric video of Taylor Swift singing “Beautiful Ghosts” from the motion picture Cats is online.

(4) UPON REFLECTION. Some who commented about a new YA Twitter donnybrook linked in yesterday’s Scroll (item #16) have adopted a new perspective, including N.K. Jemisin whose thread starts here.

(5) RAPID CONTRACTION. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog reportedly has severed ties with all its freelancers:

(6) FORD RIGHTS. Will Shetterly’s comment on Slate’s article “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” (linked here yesterday with news that Ford’s books are coming back into print) shed additional light:

I was one of Mike Ford’s friends and editors, and I want to go on record with this: Martha Fry was extremely helpful when we wanted to keep his Liavek stories in print. The breakdown in communication between his original family, his fannish family, and his agent has many reasons, but there are no villains in that story. There are only gossips who love drama, as there are in any community. If anyone claims his first family tried to make his work unavailable, I will point to the Liavek anthologies as evidence that’s not true.

(7) KSR STUDY. The University of Illinois Press has released Kim Stanley Robinson by Robert Markley, the Trowbridge Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Award-winning epics like the Mars trilogy and groundbreaking alternative histories like The Days of Rice and Salt have brought Kim Stanley Robinson to the forefront of contemporary science fiction. Mixing subject matter from a dizzying number of fields with his own complex ecological and philosophical concerns, Robinson explores how humanity might pursue utopian social action as a strategy for its own survival.

Robert Markley examines the works of an author engaged with the fundamental question of how we—as individuals, as a civilization, and as a species—might go forward. By building stories on huge time scales, Robinson lays out the scientific and human processes that fuel humanity’s struggle toward a more just and environmentally stable world or system of worlds. His works invite readers to contemplate how to achieve, and live in, these numerous possible futures. They also challenge us to see that SF’s literary, cultural, and philosophical significance have made it the preeminent literary genre for examining where we stand today in human and planetary history.

(8) DISNEY+. “Disney+ Warns Users About ‘Outdated Cultural Depictions’ in Titles”The Hollywood Reporter works to discern how the policy is applied.

At the bottom of the description for Disney’s 1940 classic animation Fantasia on the studio’s newly minted Disney+ service, there is a line that is garnering attention from viewers: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

The disclaimer can be found in the streaming platform’s synopsis of many of Disney’s classic animated titles, including 1941’s Dumbo, 1967’s The Jungle Book, 1953’s Peter Pan and 1955’s Lady and the Tramp, as well as other offerings like 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson and 1955’s Davy Crockett. 

Disney+ features the studio’s massive library that dates back over eight decades, and the verbiage serves as a caution against some racist and culturally insensitive depictions and references in Disney’s older offerings.

While Lady and the Tramp features Siamese cats depicted as East Asian stereotypes and Peter Pan includes a song titled “What Makes the Red Man Red?,” it is unclear what the criterion is for Disney titles to receive the “outdated cultural depictions” disclaimer. Aladdin, which has been critiqued for its racist depictions of Middle Eastern and Arab culture, does not feature the disclaimer in its synopsis.

Disney has not returned The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment.

One feature entirely absent from the streaming platform is the 1946 live-action animation hybrid Song of the South. The movie, which inspired the Disneyland ride Splash Mountain, has been widely criticized for its portrayal of African-Americans and apparent glorification of plantation life. It has been the studio’s policy to keep the film from theatrical and home entertainment rerelease. 

The new streaming service is also making news for another decision: “‘Simpsons’ Episode Featuring Michael Jackson Kept Off Disney+”.

Disney did not respond to multiple requests for comment as to why the episode is missing and who made the call. 

It is assumed “Stark Raving Dad” is off Disney+ because Michael Jackson (not officially credited) was the guest star. Jackson voiced Leon Kompowsky, a man Homer meets while in a mental institution who sounds like Jackson. The episode was a favorite among fans for several years. 

In March of this year, “Stark Raving Dad” was pulled from broadcast circulation following the release of the HBO documentary film Leaving Neverland, in which the late pop star was accused by multiple men of molestation when they were boys. 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 16, 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon and François Truffaut, the film is both a financial and critical success. It currently has a hundred percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 16, 1907 Burgess Meredith. Brief though his visit to genre be, he had two significant roles. The first was in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Narrator although initially he was uncredited. One of his other genre role was a delightful take as The Penguin in original Batman series. He also shows up in Tales of Tomorrow, an anthology sf series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953, and on The Invaders, The Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre: Thumbelina (with Carrie Fisher!) and The Wild Wild West. Did I mention he voiced Puff the Magic Dragon in a series of the same name? Well he did. Ok, so his visit to genre wasn’t so brief after all…  (Died 1997.)
  • Born November 16, 1952 Shigeru Miyamoto, 67. Video game designer and producer at Nintendo. He is the creator of some of the best-selling game franchises of the company, such as Mario, Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda.
  • Born November 16, 1952 Robin McKinley, 67. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are Sunshine, Chalice and Dragonhaven. Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015, they lived together in Hampshire,UK. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed! 
  • Born November 16, 1958 Marg Helgenberger, 61. She was Hera in Wonder Woman, and also appeared in Conan: Red Nail, Species and Species II, not to mention Tales from the Crypt. Oh, and two Stephen King series as well, The Tommyknockers and Under the Dome.
  • Born November 16, 1967 Lisa Bonet, 52. First genre work was isEpiphany Proudfoot in Angel Heart, a decidedly strange horror film. More germane was that she was Heather Lelache in the 2002 A&E adaptation of Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven. She later played Maya Daniels in the Life on Mars series as well. 
  • Born November 16, 1967 Eva Pope, 52. Genre is a slippery thing to define. She was a one-off in Adventure Inc. (might be genre) as well the Splinter film (horror with SF pretensions), Life on Mars (SF maybe) and Spooks: Code 9 (alternate UK history). Is she genre? 
  • Born November 16, 1972 Missi Pyle, 47. Laliari in Galaxy Quest which is one of my fave SF films of all time. Also has been in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, A Haunted House 2, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Trek: The Next Generation,  Roswell, The Tick, Pushing Daisies and Z Nation.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Gigi Edgley, 42. Though her genre experiences are varied, I think she’ll be best remembered for her role as a Nebari who was a member of the crew on Moya on the Farscape series. Other genre appearances include Beastmaster, The Lost World, Quantum Apocalypse and she has a role in the web series Star Trek Continues in the “Come Not Between the Dragons” episode.
  • Born November 16, 1977 Maggie Gyllenhaal, 42. She’s had some impressive genre appearances in such works as Donnie DarkoThe Dark Knight, voice work in the superb Monster House and the equally superb Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.

(11) ELLISON REMEMBERED. Fanac.org has uploaded an audio recording of the Worldcon 76 (2018) “In Memoriam: Harlan Ellison” panel.

Worldcon 76 was held in San Jose, CA in 2018. This Memoriam panel (audio, with pictures) features memories and anecdotes from Tom Whitmore, Robert Silverberg (who was a friend of Harlan’s for 65 years), Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada and Nat Segaloff (Harlan’s biographer). Each of the panelists had a close relationship with Harlan, and these loving but clear-eyed reminiscences are a comfort to those that miss him, and hopefully to those readers who never had a chance to meet him. Harlan was an enormous presence in science fiction. His stories, his scripts, his kindnesses and his sometimes unbelievable missteps will be long remembered. Recording provided by Karen G. Anderson and Richard Lynch.

(12) ABOUT LEWIS. Publishers Weekly is right to hedge its bet in the title — “10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About C.S. Lewis “ because I knew three of these, and a few of you probably know them all!

9. Lewis’s first book was a collection of poetry he wrote as a teenager. Before he planned to be a philosopher, the teenage Lewis hoped to become a great poet. He wrote poetry with the hope of publishing his work and gaining fame. He returned to England after being injured in France during World War I and published his collection as Spirits in Bondage under the pen name of Clive Hamilton.

(13) A MEMORY REVERED. “Wales’ Tecwyn Roberts hailed as ‘hero of the space age'” – BBC has the story.

Tributes are being paid to “one of the great unsung heroes of the space age”.

Tecwyn Roberts, from Anglesey, helped set up mission control rooms and enabled astronaut Neil Armstrong to communicate with Earth from the Moon.

Experts have hailed Roberts’ expertise as events are held to mark the 50 years since Nasa’s second lunar landing.

A flag will be placed on his grave during the anniversary of Apollo 12 which flew from 14-24 November 1969.

“Without Tec[wyn], Nasa and mission control as it exists today would probably not have happened,” said Nick Howes, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Tecwyn Roberts could rightly be labelled as one of the great unsung heroes of the space age.”

Mr Howes was speaking in an interview published by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which has also hailed Roberts as a “pioneer”.

He was chief of the network engineering division by the time of the first landing on the Moon and helped to ensure there was communication with astronauts.

…Gary Morse, a former Nasa space shuttle network director, said Roberts “essentially invented” the flight director position.

“He didn’t say much but when he did it was very important,” he said.

(14) MORE TOR BUCKS. Here’s a number most writers would be happy to sign for – “James Rollins lands huge 7-figure deal for epic fantasy series”. Entertainment Weekly is there when the cash register rings.

The No. 1 New York Times best-selling author best known for his blockbuster thrillers has signed a major seven-figure deal with Tor Books for Moon Fall, a fantasy series that’s been eight years in the making.

Moon Fall opens a riven world trapped between fire and ice, merging his fascination with the natural world, his love of adventure, and his knowledge of the wonders found at the evolutionary fringes of scientific exploration. It centers on a young girl who foretells a new apocalypse approaching, one that will end all life for all time. Her reward is a charge of grave heresy, punishable by death. As she flees, she gathers an unlikely alliance of outcasts to join her cause to save their world. The journey will take them into lands both burning bright and eternally frozen, to face creatures unimaginable and enemies beyond reason. All the while, hostile forces will hunt them. Armies will wage war around them.

(15) R-RATED B.O. Joker is still bringing people through the turnstiles: “The Joker Hits $1 Billion at Box Office — Making It the First R-Rated Movie to Reach the Milestone”.

The movie, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, has surpassed $1 billion in gross sales at box offices world wide, Entertainment Weekly reports. The milestone makes the blockbuster the first R-rated movie to hit the $1 billion mark, according to the outlet.

It also means that the movie, which tells the tale of the rise of Batman’s arch-nemesis, has now officially beat out Deadpool as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. The Ryan Reynolds-stared film made $783 million.

(16) WELL-KNOWN BRAND. Martin Morse Wooster assures us, “I normally wouldn’t write about Tanya Edwards’s Yahoo! Lifetstyle story ’10 Gifts That Will Impress The Ultimate Star Wars fan’ because it is an Ebay infomercial.  BUT the Darth Vader Helmet 2-Slice Toaster is definitely worth a photo!”

(17) PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF. Starlux Airlines is an actual company that begins operations in Taiwan in 2020, with all new Airbus planes. They just launched their safety video:

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/19 Looks Like The Time Machine’s Getting Stuck Between Floors. There’s Just A Blank Where The Chronograph Should Be

(1) JOHN M. FORD RETURNING TO PRINT. Isaac Butler’s research for “The Disappearance of John M. Ford” at Slate led to an unexpected benefit: “I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn’t expect that I would help bring his books back to life.”

It would take me 18 months to answer my questions. My quest would bring me to the vast treasure trove of Ford’s uncollected and unpublished writing. It would introduce me to friends and relatives of Ford who hadn’t spoken to each other since his death in 2006. And, in an improbable ending worthy of a John M. Ford novel, my quest would in fact set in motion the long-delayed republication of his work, starting in the fall of 2020. How did this happen? More importantly, why was he forgotten in the first place? More importantly than that: How did he write those amazing books?

…And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford’s horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family’s perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.)

But I reconnected Ford’s family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish—at long last—the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

(2) A LOOK AT CHIZINE CONTRACTS. Victoria Strauss’ roundup “Scandal Engulfs Independent Publisher ChiZine Publications “ at Writer Beware includes this analysis of CZP’s exploitative hold on royalty payments:

CZP’s contract boilerplate empowers the publisher to set a “reasonable” reserve against returns. There are no specifics, so it’s basically up to the publisher to decide what “reasonable” is.

For CZP, “reasonable” seems to mean 50%. This seemed high to me, so I did a mini-canvass of literary agents on Twitter. Most agreed that smaller is better–maybe 25-30%, though some felt that 50% was justifiable depending on the circumstances. They also pointed out that the reserve percentage should fall in subsequent reporting periods (CZP’s remains at 50%, unless boilerplate has been negotiated otherwise), and that publishers should not hold reserves beyond two or three years, or four or five accounting periods (CZP has held reserves for some authors for much longer).

(If you’re unclear on what a reserve against returns is, here’s an explanation.)

– Per CZP’s contract, royalties are paid “by the first royalty period falling one year after publication.” What this means in practice (based on the royalty statements I saw) is that if your pub date is (hypothetically) April of 2016, you are not eligible for payment until the first royalty period that follows your one-year anniversary–which, since CZP pays royalties just once a year on a January-December schedule, would be the royalty period ending December 2017. Since publishers often take months to issue royalty statements and payments following the end of a royalty period, you’d get no royalty check until sometime in 2018–close to, or possibly more than, two full years after publication.

In effect, CZP is setting a 100% reserve against returns for at least a year following publication, and often much more. This gives it the use of the author’s money for far too long, not to mention a financial cushion that lets it write smaller checks, since it doesn’t have to pay anything out until after returns have come in (most sales and most returns occur during the first year of release).

I shouldn’t need to say that this is non-standard. It’s also, in my opinion, seriously exploitative.

– And…about that annual payment. It too is non-standard–even the big houses pay twice a year, and most small publishers pay quarterly or even more often. It’s also extra-contractual–at least for the contracts I saw. According to CZP’s boilerplate, payments are supposed to be bi-annual after that initial year-or-more embargo. The switch to annual payment appears to have been a unilateral decision by CZP owners for logistical and cost reasons, actual contract language be damned (I’ve seen documentation of this).

(3) ANIMATED TREK. Tor.com has assembled a wealth of “New Details and Trailers Out for Star Trek‘s Animated ‘Short Treks’”.

Before the end of 2019, Star Trek will boldly do something it has never done in the 21st century before: Tell stand-alone stories in an animated format. It’s been known for a while that the final two Short Treks of 2019 would be animated, but we didn’t know what they’ d be about, or how they would even look…until now!

(4) TRANSCRIPTS FROM THE UNDERGROUND. Ursula V’s dungeon party reports in. Thread starts here.

(5) CAPTAIN FUTURE. Amazing Selects™ will launch with the release of Allen Steele’s Captain Future in Love, a novella originally serialized in Amazing Stories magazine that “continues the adventures of Edmond Hamilton’s pulp adventure hero Curt Newton, aka Captain Future, rebooted and updated in Allen Steele’s inimitable Neo Pulp style.”

Amazing Selects ™ is a new imprint from Experimenter Publishing Company LLC that will feature stand-alone novella-length works, in both print and electronic formats.

The new Captain Future, originally introduced in Steele’s Avengers of the Moon (Tor, 2017),  “brings golden age science fiction into the modern era presenting classic space opera adventure with modern sensibilities.”

The edition features concept art by Rob Caswell, interior illustrations by Nizar Ilman and non-fiction features by Allen Steele.

Captain Future in Love is available through Amazon in paperback and ebook and through the Amazing Stories store.

(6) NOBODY’S KEEPING SCORE. The new edition of the BBC Radio 4 Film Programme “Emma Thompson” is mainly about the Last Christmas film, but includes two other segments of genre interest. Hear it online for the next four weeks.

Emma Thompson has written 6 films in which she also stars. Last Christmas is the latest. She explains why she sometimes has to bite her tongue when actors deliver her lines in ways that she hadn’t quite imagined.

Neil Brand reveals how the ground-breaking score to cult classic Forbidden Planet was a last minute replacement and why the original composer decided to destroy his rejected score.

“Apocalypse Now meets Pygmalion”. Matthew Sweet pitches a long forgotten science fiction novel to film industry experts Lizzie Francke, Rowan Woods and Clare Binns.

(7) TUNE IN AGAIN. Also on BBC Radio 4 is a production of Doris Lessing’s The Good Terrorist. Available for the next 11 days.

First-ever dramatisation of Doris Lessing’s 1985 satire of incompetent revolutionaries in a London squat. Starring Olivia Vinall and Joe Armstrong, dramatised by Sarah Daniels.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to nibble naan with artist Paul Kirchner in Episode 109 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Paul Kirchner.

I’ve been attending the Maryland-based indie comics convention SPX — that is, the Small Press Expo — for 15 or so of its 36 years, and this time around took the opportunity to dine with artist Paul Kirchner, who breathed the same comic industry air I did during the ’70s.

Paul broke into comics in the early ‘70s through a fortuitous series of events which had him meeting the legendary comics artist Neal Adams, who introduced him to DC Comics editor Joe Orlando, and within the week getting a gig as assistant to Tex Blaisdell helping him out on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip and stories for DC’s mystery books. He also worked for awhile as assistant to the great EC Comics artist and Daredevil innovator Wally Wood. He moved on from mainstream comics to draw two wonderfully surrealistic strips — “Dope Rider” for High Times and “the bus” for Heavy Metal. His wide-ranging creative resume also includes a graphic novel collaboration with the great writer of detective novels Janwillem van de Wetering, designs for such toy lines as Dino-Riders and Spy-Tech, and much more.

(9) RAINBOW OVER AND UNDER. Will this Andy Weir collaboration make it to the screen? The Hollywood Reporter covers the deal: “Amblin, Michael De Luca Tackling ‘Martian’ Author’s Fantasy Graphic Novel ‘Cheshire Crossing'”.

…The fantasy mashup tells the story of Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan‘s Wendy, who meet in boarding school for troubled young ladies. They each believe they’ve traveled to a fantastical world but no one else does. When their world-hopping sees Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch of the West team up to combine their magical villainy, the trio must band together to thwart them.

The graphic novel began life as a piece of fan fiction that Weir wrote prior to finding best-selling and Hollywood success with Martian…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 15, 1968 Star Trek’s “The Tholian Web” premiered on NBC.  In a two-part episode of Enterprise titled “In a Mirror, Darkly”, the Tholians will be back with a story continuing this story.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner, 90. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Shelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & Legends, Batman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while.
  • Born November 15, 1930 J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. (Died 2009.)
  • Born November 15, 1933 Theodore Roszak. Winner of the Tiptree Award for The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and the rather excellent Flicker which is superb. Flicker is available at Apple Books and Kindle though no other fiction by him is. Odd. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 15, 1934 Joanna Barnes, 85. She’s Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man with Danny Miller in the title role. It’s not until she’s Carsia in the “Up Above the World So High” episode of The Planet of The Apes series that she does anything so genre again. And a one-off on classic Fantasy Island wraps up her SFF acting.
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto, 80. Assuming we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and a horrid film, and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV.
  • Born November 15, 1942 Ruth Berman, 77. She’s a writer mostly of speculative poetry. In 2003, she won the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening“.  She was also the winner of the 2006 Dwarf Stars Award for her poem “Knowledge Of”.  She’s also written one YA fantasy novel, Bradamant’s quest. And 1973, she was a finalist for the first Campbell Award for Best New Writer. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets laughs from the thought-life of Batman’s sidekick.

(13) PALEO POSTAGE. I think I missed the news when these T.Rex stamps were issued in August. Fortunately, they are Forever stamps….

The four distinct stamps depict the long-extinct beast in various forms of its life from a hatchling to a skeleton in a museum.

In two of the stamps, the young adult depicted in skeletal form with a young Triceratops and in the flesh emerging through a forest clearing is the “Nation’s T. Rex,” whose remains were discovered on federal land in Montana and is considered one of the most important specimens of the species ever found, it said.

The four stamps were designed by art director Greg Breeding from original artwork by scientist and paleoartist Julius T. Csotonyi.

Here’s the USPS link to T.Rex products.

(14) NYCON 3. Andrew Porter shared three photos from the 1967 Worldcon, NyCon 3, you aren’t likely to have seen before.

Ted White, Dave Van Arnam, chairs of NYCon 3, at the convention. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Ted White pastes up display about NyCon 3, as Robin White looks on: Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Sam Moskowitz, Norm Metcalf (foreground), Ed Wood at NyCon 3. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

(15) DRONING AWAY. “DJI makes app to identify drones and find pilots” – but only if the drone self-identifies…

Drone maker DJI has demonstrated a way to quickly identify a nearby drone, and pinpoint the location of its pilot, via a smartphone.

The technique makes use of a protocol called “Wi-Fi Aware”, with which the drone essentially broadcasts information about itself.

The company said it would help prevent security threats and disruption, and give members of the public peace of mind.

But experts believe sophisticated criminals would still be able to circumvent detection.

“It’s going to be very useful against rogue drones,” said Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who studies the impacts of the drone industry.

“But it’s not going to be enough to fight people with real bad intentions, because these are going to be the first people to hack this system.”

DJI told the BBC it could add the functionality to drones already on the market via a software update.

…“If Gatwick staff had a smartphone enabled with this capability in their pockets,” explained Adam Lisberg, from DJI, “they could have taken it out, seen a registration number for the drone, seen the flight path, and the location of the operator.

(16) YA TWITTER. Vulture will fill you in about a new YA Twitter kerfuffle: “Famous Authors Drag Student in Surreal YA Twitter Controversy”. They include gene authors.

Young-adult book Twitter took an especially surreal turn this week when the best-selling novelist Sarah Dessen took offense at a brief critique of her work, inciting a minor Twitter riot, with some of the most famous writers in the world jumping into the fray to defend her.

(17) HOW DID THEY KNOW? I couldn’t help laughing when I read this line in Jon Del Arroz’ blog:

(18) ANOTHER OUTBREAK. USA Today’s Don Oldenburg has kind things to say about Daniel H. Wilson’s novel: “‘The Andromeda Evolution’ an infectious sequel to Michael Crichton’s classic best-seller” – although the reviewer sounds reluctant to admit the book isn’t by Chrichton, who died in 2008.

A new team of four Project Wildfire scientists is sent to the Amazon to investigate how to stop the unexplainable anomaly. A fifth scientist is tracking the crisis from the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. Meanwhile, a deadly, self-replicating, microparticle structure is growing exponentially, eating the jungle and killing nearby tribal habitants.

(19) NOOO! Those who fail to learn from Jedi history… “Jon Favreau Already Has a Star Picked for His ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special”.

… “Oh I would definitely be interested in doing a holiday special,” Favreau told Variety at “The Mandalorian” fan event. “And I’m not going to say who I would be interested in. But one of the people is the member of the cast in an upcoming episode of the show. So we’ll leave it at that for now.”

When pressed to see if he was serious, the director doubled down. “I’ve been thinking about it. It’s ready, the ideas are ready. I think it could be really fun. Not as part of this, but there’s an excitement around it because it was so fun and weird, and off and not connected to what ‘Star Wars’ was in the theater. ‘The Mandalorian’ cartoon, the Boba Fett cartoon, from the holiday special was definitely a point of inspiration for what we did in the show.”

(20) WALLACE & GROMIT. The Drum finds a seasonal commercial featuring two popular characters is at the top of the charts: “A week in Christmas ads: big retailers lose out as Wallace & Gromit gives Joules a boost”.

Joules’ heavily-branded Wallce & Gromit-fronted spot from Aardman topped the rankings this week with a star score of 5.4 and a spike rating of 1.51 – indicating sales will follow.

The film shows Wallace, in his typically inventive style, bringing Christmas to West Wallaby Street all at ‘the click of a button’.

Joules’ festive products decorate the living room and there’s no escape for Wallace’s loyal side-kick, Gromit, who becomes the pièce de résistance as the fairy crowning the top of the Christmas tree.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/19 Baby Is 3, Jeffty Is 5, Now We Are Number 6, Who Is Number One?

(1) MACMILLAN APPLIES LIBRARY EMBARGO ACROSS THE BOARD. Publishers Weekly outlines the expanded policy — “After Tor Experiment, Macmillan Expands Embargo on Library E-books”.

More than a year after imposing a controversial four month “test” embargo on new release e-books in libraries from it’s Tor imprint, Macmillan announced today that it will now impose a two month embargo on library e-books across all of the company’s imprints. The terms take effect November 1.

Under the publisher’s new digital terms of sale for libraries, “library systems” will be now be allowed to purchase a single—that is, one—perpetual access e-book during the first eight weeks of publication for each new Macmillan release, at half price ($30). Additional copies will then be available at full price (generally $60 for new releases) after the eight-week window has passed. All other terms remain the same: e-book licenses will continue to be metered for two years or 52 lends, whichever comes first, on a one copy/one user model. A Macmillan spokesperson confirmed to PW that the single perpetual access copy will be available only for new release titles in the first eight weeks after publication—the option to buy a single perpetual access copy expires after that eight week window, and the offer is not available for backlist titles.

And the American Library Association goes on the warpath: “ALA denounces new Macmillan library lending model, urges library customers to voice objections”.

The American Library Association (ALA) denounces the new library ebook lending model announced today by Macmillan Publishers. Under the new model, a library may purchase one copy upon release of a new title in ebook format, after which the publisher will impose an eight-week embargo on additional copies of that title sold to libraries.

“Macmillan Publishers’ new model for library ebook lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission: ensuring access to information for all,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for patrons most dependent on libraries.

“When a library serving many thousands has only a single copy of a new title in ebook format, it’s the library – not the publisher – that feels the heat. It’s the local library that’s perceived as being unresponsive to community needs.

“Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable,” said Brown. “ALA urges Macmillan to cancel the embargo.”

The new Macmillan ebook lending model is an expansion of an existing policy that went into effect in July 2018, when the company, without warning, issued a four-month embargo applying solely to titles from the company’s Tor imprint. At the time ALA stated that the delay would hurt readers, authors and libraries.

Since last fall, Hachette Book Group (HBG) and Penguin Random House (PRH) have eliminated “perpetual access” for libraries and replaced it with a two-year access model. Simon & Schuster changed from a one-year to two-year access model. While re-evaluating their business models, none of these firms implemented an embargo—deciding that equitable access to information through libraries is also in their business interest. HarperCollins continues with its 26-loan model. Macmillan now stands alone in its embargo policy among the largest (Big 5) publishers….

(2) FOOD OF THE GODZILLA. SYFY Wire browses the latest from Sideshow Collectibles and other toymakers in “Important Toy News: This ramen-eating Godzilla is priceless, Charlie Brown feels shame”.

But all of this money-spending is making us hungry. And what do you do when you’re hungry? That’s right: you eat. You eat ramen, and just like Godzilla, you look so unbelievably adorable when you do it that it makes your face explode and you cry tears of unyielding madness.

(3) BEST RELATED WORK. A writer who goes by “Building Worlds” has written an appeal to voters: “AO3, the Hugos, and Fandom” on Medium.

I’ve seen an argument online that a distinction voters are struggling with regarding AO3 is that they believe it is not noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text (all the fan fiction).

I’d argue that the most noteworthy thing about AO3, /r/Fantasy, and other online fan forums, is that they are venues for users to come together and discuss the speculative fiction they love, run by volunteers. To me, the Hugo Awards and WorldCon itself are about bringing fans together around the work we all love. Ultimately, that’s about the purest reason to vote for a Hugo as any I can think of.

(4) SFF ART GOES UNDER THE HAMMER. Bids are being taken by Heritage Auctions for the August 13 – 14 Glynn and Suzanne Crain Science Fiction Collection Signature Auction. Robert Emil Schulz’ cover for PKD’s The World Jones Made 1956 paperback is the poster for the event.

(5) COLLECTIVE NOUN. New Voices in Orbit #19 asks writers: “What do you call a group of dragons?” Kendall says, “And yes, I’m thinking of Meredith when I send you this. But also everyone.”

(6) SNAPS COURTESY OF THE HUT. Esquire has posted “133 Photos of Comic-Con 2019’s Biggest Celebrities”.

Jay and Silent Bob, Elizabeth Henstridge, Chloe Bennet and more stopped by the Getty Images Portrait Studio delivered by Pizza Hut.

Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams, Dominique Tipper, (Bottom L-R) Steven Strait, Wes Chatham, and Cas Anvar of ‘The Expanse’ pose for a portrait during the Pizza Hut Lounge at 2019 Comic-Con International: San Diego on July 19, 2019 in San Diego, California.

 (7) WHEN E.T. COMES TO STAY. Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur episode 196 discusses “Invasive Aliens.”

Alien Invasions have been a staple of science fiction for years, with motherships and UFOs assaulting Earth, but how realistic is such a thing? We’ll take a look at what might motivate an attack, how it might happen, what alternatives might make more sense, and what might prevent extraterrestrials from trying.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 27, 1940 — Bugs Bunny made his cartoon debut.
  • July 27, 1994 Test Tube Teens From The Year 2000 went direct to video.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1874 Frank Shannon. He’s best remembered now as the scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940.  The serials themselves were Flash GordonFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1939 Sydney J. van Scyoc, 80. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. For all practice purposes, she’s not available in digital format. 
  • Born July 27, 1948 Juliet Marillier, 71. She’s a New Zealand-born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She’s a regular contributor to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1949 Robert Rankin, 70. Writer of what I’d call serious comic genre fiction. Best book by him? I’d single out The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse as the best work he ever did bar none. Hell, even the name is absolutely great. 
  • Born July 27, 1950 Simon Jones, 69. He’s well known for his portrayals of Arthur Dent, protagonist of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He first portrayed the character on radio for the BBC and again on television for BBC Two. Jones also featured in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film in a cameo role. He’s in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, Brazil and 12 Monkeys as well. 
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 51. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein which I’m reading now, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein. Her work on Diana Wynne Jones, Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition, is a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. 
  • Born July 27, 1973 Cassandra Clare, 46. I read at least the first three or four volumes of her Mortal Instruments series which I see means I’ve almost completed it. Damn good series. Anyone read her Magnus Bane series? 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest encounter a vending machine that’s too intelligent.
  • When was the last time a B.C. strip made me laugh out loud? July 27….

(11) HE’S THE REASON FOR THE “GOOGLE 15”. Fast Company claims “This snack curator for Google is one of the most powerful people in food”.

…As urban legend has it, Google cofounder Sergey Brin once instructed office architects that “no one should be more than 200 feet away from food.” And so they rarely are. On any given day, the 1,300 “microkitchens” located within Google’s 70 or so offices around the world, from Pittsburgh to Istanbul, brim with dried seaweed, turkey jerky, kombucha, and other eclectic treats that rotate according to season, popularity with employees, local tastes, and food trends.

Google takes its snacking very seriously. That’s why it has a dedicated team overseeing it and a chef named Matt Colgan at the helm at many of its western campuses, where he (along with menu architects, wellness managers, and nutrition specialists at Google Food) has quietly emerged as one of the most powerful gatekeepers in the packaged-food world.

“When you’re feeding this many people,” says Colgan, culinary director for Google’s food operations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado, “you encounter every diet imaginable, every request.” You also get bombarded by sales reps at food companies, who are hungering after snackers—and these snackers in particular. They see Google employees, the drivers of Silicon Valley tech innovation, as having the clout, and appetite, to set snack trends.

(12) RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. Michael Cassutt was interviewed by the Washington Post’s Eryn Brown for the obituary of long-time Mission Control director Christoper C. Kraft, Jr., who died on July 22 at age 95.

When Gemini 4 astronaut Ed White lingered during the first U.S. spacewalk in 1965, enjoying the scenery, Mr. Kraft commandeered the communications system and ordered him, “Get back in!” the ship.

“This is the saddest day of my life,” White said, before heading back into the cockpit.

The incident was indicative of the culture that Mr. Kraft set.

“It was, ‘I, the flight director, am in charge. Not you the astronaut, and not the head of NASA. You come to me,’?” said author Michael Cassutt, who writes about the space program. “Much of the NASA culture as we envision it really derives from Chris Kraft.”

(13) BEHIND THE PAYWALL. An article in the July 20 Financial Times by David Cheal tells how musicians are inspired by space and space travel.

“In 2015 the British band Public Service Broadcasting released an album that celebrated the golden era of space travel.  The Race for Space knitted together propulsive, often funky music  with spoken-word clips (Kennedy:  ‘We go to the moon because it is hard’) to recapture the sheer excitement of Sputnik, the Moon landing–and also tragedies such as the deaths of three Apollo 1 astronauts in 1967.  The music was refreshing because it eschewed the notion that spsce has to be electronic, using a range of often acoustic instruments.  In 2018  the Northern Irish composer and artist Hannah Peel released Mary Casio; Journey to Casiopeia, which follows the dream of a fictional stargazer to travel from her home in Barnsley to the constellation of Cassiopeia.  Peel’s music combines synthesizers with brass.

But one band have gone further and faster than any other in their exploration of the possibilities of space and music:  Muse.  The British trio’s interstellar adventures show how far space-themed pop music has travelled since the early days of Joe Meek:  bass and synths that thrum and pulse like gravitational waves, guitars that shriek and howl like the geysers of Enceladus, wailing, otherworldly voices that sing of “Space Dementia,’ ‘Starlight’ and, most epically of all, a ‘Supermassive Black Hole.'”

(14) WHERE ARE YOU IN TIME? Doc Brown drove a DeLorean to his future – now your past! Today they’d like to sell you a watch whose look is inspired by the car — “DeLorean, the Eternal Design”.

(15) KEEPING TRACK OF YOU. Wired points out how “Netflix’s The Great Hack Brings Our Data Nightmare to Life”.

The new documentary about Cambridge Analytica uses thoughtful narration and compelling visuals to create a dystopian horror movie for our times.

If you’d rather not think about how your life is locked in a dystopian web of your own data, don’t watch the new Netflix documentary The Great Hack.

But if you want to see, really see, the way data tracking, harvesting, and targeting takes the strands of information we generate and ties them around us until we are being suffocated by governments and companies, don’t miss the film, which premieres today on the streaming platform and in theaters. […]

(16) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Where do you land in this grid of Writing Style Alignments?

(17) ACTING CREDENTIALS. Kittens recreate horror movies. (From 2015.)

You won’t believe how adorable these kitties are as they star in ‘The Purring’ (1980), ‘The Texas Chainpaw Meowsacre’ (1974), ‘Psycat’ (1960), and ‘Cattie’ (1976).

(18) THE POINT. Finland was a magnet for competitors in the inaugural Heavy Metal Knitting Championship.

The AP story: “Purl jam: Finland hosts heavy metal knitting championship”

Armed with needles and a yarn of wool, teams of avid knitters danced Thursday to the deafening sounds of drums beating and guitars slashing at the first-ever Heavy Metal Knitting World Championship in eastern Finland.

With stage names such as Woolfumes, Bunny Bandit and 9? Needles, the participants shared a simple goal: to showcase their knitting skills while dancing to heavy metal music in the most outlandish way possible.

“Heavy Metal Knitting World Champion 2019” was won by “Giga Body Metal” from Japan.

Finland is the promised land of heavy metal music. There are 50 heavy metal bands per 100 000 Finnish citizens, which is astonishingly many and actually more than anywhere else in the whole world. The number of needlework enthusiasts is equally high, as according to even the most modest estimates there are hundreds of thousands of people in Finland who are immersed various kinds of needlework crafts, knitting included. What combines them both is the great joy of creativity. When playing guitar as well as knitting stitches it is all about the pleasure of creating something cool with your hands. And – it’s all about the attitude!

(19) DOUBLE DOWN. Gemini Man Official Trailer 2 has dropped:

Who will save you from yourself? From visionary director Ang Lee, watch the official trailer for Gemini Man, starring Will Smith. In theatres October 11. Gemini Man (#GeminiMan) is an innovative action-thriller starring Will Smith (#WillSmith) as Henry Brogan, an elite assassin, who is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young operative that seemingly can predict his every move.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Kendall, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/5/19 En Pixel Cerrado, No Entran Scrolls.

(1) THE LAST DAY. Macmillan Publishers is moving from the Flatiron to the Equitable Building and taking Tor.com with it. Seanan McGuire commemorates the departure in her story “Any Way the Wind Blows”.

“Captain?”

I turn. Our navigator is looking over his shoulder at me. Well. One of his heads is. The other is still watching the curved window that makes up the front of our airship, crystal clear and apparently fragile. Most people who attack us aim for that window first, not asking themselves how many protections we’d put on a sheet of glass that size. The fact that it’s not a solid mass of bugs doesn’t seem to be the clue it should.

“What is it?”

He smiles uncertainly. “I think I see the Flatiron.”

Tor Books also posted a group shot taken outside the building here.

(2) PITT THE YOUNGER SEEKS PITT THE ELDER. Ad Astra comes to theaters in September 2019.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system when he finds his missing father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, has been doing threatening experiments in space. He must unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(3) FROM DEEP IN THE FILES. Baen Ebooks is distributing the English translation of a nonfiction work Judgment in Moscow by Vladimir Bukovsky on its retail ebook site, as well as offering a selection of other ebooks from Judgment in Moscow publisher, Ninth of November Press.

Bukovsky spent years in the Soviet gulag, finally being released to the West in 1976. In 1991, Boris Yeltsin’s government asked Bukovsky to serve as an expert witness at a possible trial of the Communist Party. Bukovsky combed through the archives, scanning and copying much of the material there, and, after the trial became a dud, smuggled the material out of Russia. Judgment in Moscow is a behind the scenes look at these original documents which detail how the Soviet leadership and the Communist Party kept the Russian nation enslaved, accompanied by Bukovsky’s commentary elucidating the extent of the evil recorded therein.

Judgment in Moscow is based on the trove of Communist Party archives that Bukovsky spirited away before access was shut down. These contain elaborate details of Soviet meddling in Western politics, and it also details Western complicity in Soviet Russia’s program of totalitarian oppression. Originally written in Russian, Judgment in Moscow was seen as a major indictment of political treachery both inside and outside the USSR.

Baen’s press release says:

Western publishers, including Random House in America, backed down from publishing an English translation out of what appears in hindsight cowardice and fear of offending the emerging new Russian oligarchy. Now after years with no translation available, a new English version has finally been created with Bukovsky’s wholehearted participation.

(4) THE HITS OF SIXTY-FOUR. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert details the unexpected popularity in West Germany of movies adapted from the crime novels of Edgar Wallace – someone better remembered in America as the creator of King Kong. [June 4, 1964] Weird Menace and Villainy in the London Fog: The West German Edgar Wallace Movies.

…Wallace villains are never just ordinary criminals, but run improbably large and secretive organisations with dozens of henchmen. At least one of the henchmen is deformed or flat out insane, played either by former wrestler Ady Berber or a charismatic young actor named Klaus Kinski, who gave the performance of his life as a mute and insane animal handler in last year’s The Squeaker.

The crimes are extremely convoluted, usually involve robberies, blackmail or inheritance schemes and are always motivated by greed. Murder methods are never ordinary and victims are dispatched via harpoons, poison blow guns, guillotines or wild animals. The villains inevitably have strange monikers such as the Frog, the Shark, the Squeaker, the Avenger, the Green Archer or the Black Abbot and often wear a costume to match. Their identity is always a mystery and pretty much every character comes under suspicion until the big reveal at the end. And once the mask comes off, the villain is inevitably revealed to be a staunch pillar of society and often a member of Sir John’s club.

(5) GLORIOUS COVER. Alex Shvartsman posted a cover reveal for his debut novel, Eridani’s Crown. It’s a beauty.

The full wraparound cover was drawn and designed by Tomasz Maronski.

(6) HE’S IN THE HALL. SYFY Wire reveals “Batman first inductee to Comic-Con HOF”.

Holy Hall of Fame, Batman! The Caped Crusader is robbin’ all the other comic book superheroes to seize the illustrious distinction of becoming the very first inductee into the new Comic-Con Museum’s inaugural class of honored comics characters.

The Dark Knight will hold the door for all the rest of the museum’s first, still-unannounced heroic batch, DC revealed in a press release announcing “The Gathering,” a July fundraising event for the new museum. Located near the site of San Diego Comic-Con in the city’s Balboa Park, the Comic-Con Museum (or CCM) will be a 68,000-square-foot shrine to all things heroic and villainous, drawing on decades of rich history from the pages of comics, graphic novels, and more.

“On the occasion of Batman’s 80th anniversary, a ceremony honoring DC’s most popular super hero will be the centerpiece” of the July 17 event, which is timed to help kick off this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

(7) DARK PHOENIX. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Nicholas Hoult and Tye Sheridan talk about making Dark Phoenix together and reveal some of their on-set antics.

(8) FINANCIAL OMENS. Our Designated Financial Times Reader Martin Morse Wooster peered behind the paywall at Dan Einav’s interview with Michael Sheen and David Tennant about Good Omens.

Stars are usually personally held accountable when a series fails to meet the expectations of the fans–and lovers of fantasy and sci-fi are often notoriously implacable,  To say that a screen adaptation of “Good Omens” has been hotly anticipated is to understate the extent of the fervour Gaiman’s devotees have for his work.

Do the actors feel anxious about a potential backlash?  ‘I read the book when it first came outm so I’m one of those fans and I’ve felt the weight of expectation,’ says Sheen.  “But Neil has said all the way through that he’s not making it for the fans, he’s making it for Terry.”

Tennant, who is no stranger to opinionated fans from his days as Doctor Who, is a little more blunt,  ‘You can’t make TV which pleases what people’s preconceived notions might be.  You just have to make something you feel proud of and works for people who haven’t read the book.

(9) WHERE IS EVERYBODY? Likewise behind a paywall, at Commentary, astrophysicist Ethan Siegel argues in “Are We Alone In The Universe?” that the likelihood there is life elsewhere in the universe is vanishingly small.

When we ask the big question–where is everybody?–it’s worth keeping a great many possibilities in mind.  Aliens might be plentiful, but perhaps we’re not listening properly.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they might self-destruct too quickly to maintain a technologically advanced state.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they may choose to remain isolated.  Aliens might be plentiful, but they might purposely choose to exclude Earth and their inhabitants from their communications.  Aliens might be plentiful, but the problems of interstellar travel might be too difficult to overcome.

But there’s another valid possibility that we must keep in mind, as well:  Aliens may not be there at all.  The probability of the three vital leaps, as described above, is enormously uncertain.  If even one of these three steps is too cosmically impossible, it may well be that in all the universe, there’s only us.

(10) BRADBURY REMEMBERED. [Item by Robert Kerr.] “Ray died 7 years ago today. I know he’d like to be remembered, but he’d like to be remembered with joy. Among Ray’s many accomplishments was writing the script for the Epcot attraction Spaceship Earth. This picture was taken in 1982 at the opening of Epcot. Ray took a bus or train to get to Florida, but he had to get back to L.A. faster than a bus or train could get there. Ray was a self-proclaimed coward who didn’t conquer fears very well. He never drove a car his entire life, and at 62 he was going to get on a plane for the first time. He said they put a bunch of martinis in him and loaded him onto the plane. To commemorate the occasion of Ray’s first time on a plane, some Disney animators drew a piece showing Ray on a plane, martini in hand, with Mickey Mouse sitting next to him. Ray kept that piece on display in his study for the rest of his life.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 5, 1908 John Russell Fearn. British author and one of the first British writers to appear in American pulp magazines. A prolific author, he also published novels as Vargo Statten and with various pseudonyms such as Thornton Ayre, Polton Cross, Geoffrey Armstrong  and others. As himself, I see his first story as being The Intelligence Gigantic published in Amazing Stories in 1933. His Golden Amazon series of novels ran to over to two dozen titles, and the Clayton Drew Mars Adventure series that only ran to four novels. (Died 1960.)
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” on Star Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a series that would have starred Lansing and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as The Twilight ZoneJourney to the Unknown, Thriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.)
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 73. Einstein on Farscape, the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Also a British body guard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting for Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series
  • Born June 5, 1960 Margo Lanagan, 59. Tender Morsels won a World Fantasy Award for best novel, and Sea-Hearts won the same for Best Novella. She’s an alumna of the Clarion West Writers Workshop In 1999 and returned as a teacher in 2011 and 2013.
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 43. South African writer who’s the author of a number of SF novels. Zoo City won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award, The Shining City, about a time travel serial killer and the woman who catches him, is being adapted as a series in South Africa, and Moxyland is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Very impressive! 

(12) WHO WRITER OUSTED FROM ANTHOLOGY. Gareth Roberts has been “dropped from an upcoming Doctor Who anthology over ‘offensive’ transphobic tweets” BBC Books has confirmed.

Parent company Ebury confirmed that Roberts’ contribution to Doctor Who: The Target Storybook, will not feature….

Ebury’s decision to drop Roberts over his tweets, which it says conflicts with its “values as a publisher”, has sparked debate on social media.

Gareth Roberts defends and explains himself and the terminology he used in a “Statement on BBC Books and Transgenderism” on Medium.

(13) CURRENCY EVENTS. In “If We Told You Neal Stephenson Invented Bitcoin, Would You Be Surprised?” on Reason.com, Peter Suderman says, in a survey of Stephenson’s novels, says that in The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon, Stephenson “described the core concepts of cryptocurrency years before Bitcoin became a technical reality.”

For nearly three decades, Stephenson’s novels have displayed an obsessive, technically astute fascination with cryptography, digital currency, the social and technological infrastructure of a post-government world, and Asian culture. His novel Anathem is, among other things, an elaborate investigation into the philosophy of knowledge. His new book, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, pursues these themes literally beyond the grave, into the complications of estate planning and cryogenics.

(14) CALLING LONG DISTANCE. Drop by the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum between now and January 12, 2020 to see the phone he used to call the Moon in the interactive exhibit Apollo 11: One Giant Leap for Mankind.

Artifacts and objects featured in the exhibit include:

  • Buzz Aldrin’s penlight used in the Lunar Module and Apollo 11 patch worn on the surface of the moon
  • NASA X-15 silver-gleaming pressure suit used to train Neil Armstrong and America’s first astronauts in the 1950s
  • Moon rocks from the lunar surface, acquired during the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 missions
  • Oval Office telephone that President Nixon used to call Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they explored on the lunar surface
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom Award presented to astronaut Michael Collins by President Nixon
  • Original of President Nixon’s draft speech prepared in the event of a “moon disaster”
  • A 3-D printed, life-sized statue of Neil Armstrong in his space suit, as he climbed down the ladder of the Lunar Module on the moon
  • A giant, exact recreation of an Apollo mission command module

(15) HUGO CONTENDERS. Garik16 progresses with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Short Story “.

6th Place On My Ballot:.  “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)

This Story can be found HERE.

Thoughts:  This story won the Nebula Award, and I don’t think it’s a bad pick for the award, which is a testament to the strength of this ballot.  It’s a fantasy story about nine slaves’ lives and hopes, with the teeth taken from them as the gateway to their stories (and the effects of those teeth on George Washington) – with those slaves’ lives having various degrees of fantasy elements, all fitting the themes of those realistic slave-lives.  Still, I think it probably works the least of these six as a cohesive whole, even if the individual parts of this story are excellently done (with the final part reclaiming the supposedly noble action of Washington to free his slaves on his deathbed, in a really nice touch).

(16) NOT EXACTLY THE BURNING BUSH. NPR discusses the means of “Getting Fire From A Tree Without Burning The Wood”.

A scientist walks up to a cottonwood tree, sticks a hollow tube in the middle and then takes a lighter and flicks it. A jet of flame shoots out from the tube.

It seems like a magician’s trick. Turns out, there’s methane trapped in certain cottonwood trees. Methane is the gas in natural gas. It’s also a powerful greenhouse gas.

So how does it get inside towering trees like the ones on the campus of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee?

“The wood in this particular species naturally has this condition called wetwood, where it’s saturated within the trunk of the tree,” says the lighter-flicking scientist, Oak Ridge environmental microbiologist Christopher Schadt.

This wetwood makes for a welcoming home for all sorts of microorganisms.

…Some of those organisms turned out to be species of archaea that are known methane producers. So it’s not the trees themselves that are making the methane, it’s the microbes living in the trees.

…Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas, Cregger says, it’s important to see how much of it the trees are actually producing.

This raises the surprising notion that trees could actually be contributing to global warming. Yes, these trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but could the methane be making things worse?

(17) CLARKE’S FOURTH LAW? BBC wonders “Does pornography still drive the internet?”.

Consider the opening lines of The Internet is for Porn, a song from the Broadway musical Avenue Q.

Kate Monster: “The internet is really, really great.”

Trekkie Monster: “For porn!”

…Credible-seeming statistics suggest that about one in seven web searches is for porn. This is not trivial – but of course it means that six in seven web searches are not.

The most-visited porn website – Pornhub – is roughly as popular as the likes of Netflix and LinkedIn. That’s pretty popular but still only enough to rank 28th in the world when I checked.

But Avenue Q was first performed in 2003, an age ago in internet terms, and Trekkie Monster might have been more correct back then.

New technologies often tend to be expensive and unreliable. They need to find a niche market of early adopters, whose custom helps the technology to develop.

Once it is cheaper and more reliable, it finds a bigger market, and a much broader range of uses.

There is a theory that pornography played this role in the development of the internet, and a whole range of other technologies. Does it stack up?

(18) GIMME THAT REAL OLD-TIME RELIGION. Beer helps: “How Iceland recreated a Viking-age religion”.

The Ásatrú faith, one of Iceland’s fastest growing religions, combines Norse mythology with ecological awareness – and it’s open to all.

…The ‘blót’, as the changing-of-the-season ceremony is known, began with the lighting of a small fire, which flickered in the breeze as the congregation listened to Old Norse poetry and raised the beer-filled horn to honour the Norse gods. Elsewhere on the island, similar ceremonies, I was told, were taking place.

The blót had been organised by the Ásatrú Association of Iceland, a pagan faith group that is currently one of the country’s fastest growing religions, having almost quadrupled its membership in a decade, albeit from a low base of 1,275 people in 2009 to 4,473 in 2018.

The congregation, which comprised a few dozen souls, including a Buddhist and a Hindu guest, had gathered near a sandy beach on the outskirts of Reykjavik, next to the city’s domestic airport, to celebrate the first day of the Icelandic summer. It was 25 April, slightly chilly and mostly overcast. Rain looked likely….

(19) WITH WINTER COMES ICE. The whole Game of Thrones cast raps in A Song of Vanilla Ice and Fire – Game of Thrones x Ice Ice Baby.

[Thanks to Lenore Jean Jones, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]