Pixel Scroll 7/7/22 What We Scroll In The Pixels

(1) THREE STORIES. Connie Willis is angry “Regarding the Roe V. Wade Decision”, and uses three stories to explain why.

Although in my private life, I’m intensely (some would say obsessively) interested in politics, I try to keep my website focused on writing. There are times, though, when it’s impossible because it’s just too personal. And I’m just too angry. This is one of those times.

In spite of what some on the right are trying to tell us is “just a distraction” and “no big deal,” two weeks ago the Supreme Court consigned every woman in America to living in a brave new world—or a bad old one. It’s one I—and my mother and grandmother—used to live in, and here are three stories to show you what it was like.

The first story is about college. I had four different friends in college (and knew several other girls in high school) who got pregnant and had to drop out of school to get married. Three wanted to be teachers and the other wanted to be a nurse. A couple of them were able to finish school and get their degrees later, but the others weren’t, and who knows if they would have ended up marrying the guys they did if they hadn’t gotten pregnant?

I do know that one spent HOURS running up and down the stairs in our dorm because someone had told her that would cause a miscarriage. She obviously wasn’t too enthused about the marriage she eventually went through with. I also don’t know if they wanted the babies—they didn’t have any choice….

(2) PAST MASTERS. With Tor.com operational again, that means you can read James Davis Nicoll’s assessment of “Five SF Stories About Long-Vanished Forerunners”.

Stories about precursors and forerunners appear frequently in science fiction (and fantasy). Why? For one thing, it’s just way cool to think that ancient civilizations and species might have risen and vanished long before we arrived on the scene. This is true in our real world. Why wouldn’t it be true of galactic civilizations? Also, relics of otherwise extinct civilizations play well in plots….

(3) MORE ABOUT WHAT’S OPERA, DOC?. [Item by Craig Miller.] Back in the ’70s, I met Chuck Jones, the cartoon’s director, and, among other things, we talked about “What’s Opera, Doc?”  During the conversation, I told him I thought Elmer should have sung “Smite da wabbit!!” instead of “Kill da wabbit!!”  Chuck stared at me for a moment, smiled and nodded, and said, “Where were you in 1957?”

 Then he drew this and gave it to me.

(4) LAW WEST OF THE INTERNATIONAL DATELINE. Australia’s Aurealis Awards have put out a “Call for Judges”. See full details and the application form at the link.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2022 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category – good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential….

(5) FRENCH AWARD JURY. Meanwhile, the Prix Utopiales have already picked their judges: “Le jury du Prix Utopiales 2022 est désigné!”

Congratulations to Sébastien Dislair, Benjamin Le Saux, Céline Pohu and Helena Schoefs. And this year the President of the Jury is… Merwan (winner of the Utopiales Prize BD 2020 with “Celestly Mechanic” published in Dargaud editions).

(6) ILM. Disney+ dropped this trailer for a six-part series on Industrial Light and Magic, directed by Lawrence Kasdan.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

2009 [By Cat Eldridge.] This is more an appreciation of Warehouse 13. It first aired this evening on what was then Sci Fi or possibly SyFy. I never could keep track its name. It was created by Jane Espenson, best known for her work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and D. Brent Mote, who other doing creating and writing this series, did nothing other than writing two episodes of Atomic Train, a series I very vaguely remember.

I loved Warehouse 13 fromthe very first opening episode where we meet U.S. Secret Service Agents Myka Bering as played by Joanne Kelly and Pete Lattimer as played by Eddie McClintock when they are assigned as punishment to the virtually unknown Warehouse 13 that holds a near infinity of supernatural artifacts.

The premise, not unlike that of the later Librarians series which also had a lot of strange artefacts, held delicious possibilities which for the most were delivered upon in each story.  And the chemistry was rather stellar between Myra and Pete.

The series would over the course of time add more characters such as the ever delightful Saul Rubinek as Artie Nielsen is the Special Agent in Charge at Warehouse 13 and CCH Pounder as Irene Frederic, one of the Regents who’ve overseen the Warehouses for millennia.

I love the artefacts — be they Lewis Carroll’s looking glass, which contained an evil entity called Alice which possessed Myka, or the fact that all of the artefacts react with electricity and can be neutralized by dunking them  in a never explained  purple goo after being placed inside a reflective bag, both from by Global Dynamics. Yes this series is in the Eureka continium.  Cool, very cool indeed. 

It was allowed a proper wrapping up in which the team deals with the news that Warehouse 13 is moving to a new location, so Mrs. Frederic has them load their greatest memories of their missions into an artefact for future generations.

I will rewatch it at some point as it’s streaming on Peacock. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 7, 1907 — Robert Heinlein. So let’s have Paul Weimer tell about his favorite Heinlein works: “If I had to pick one favorite Heinlein novel, and that’s a tough road to hoe, I am going to go with the novel I’ve re-read the most and it’s probably not going to be the one you think.  It’s Glory Road. Yes, Glory Road. The back matter once the quest is done can be overcooked, but Heinlein had a keen eye for epic fantasy quests, the good and the bad, long before the rise of Tolkien clones. It was an early Heinlein for me, and the novel has stuck with me since, with a number of audio re-reads. I survived a boring drive across the flatness of the Great Plains by listening to the adventures of Oscar Gordon.” // If I had to pick one Heinlein story, I have a strong fondness for All You Zombies, which encapsulates all the potential paradoxes of time travel in a way that has been done at greater length, but not, I’d argue, with better effect. (The movie Predestination with Ethan Hawke is pretty darned good by the way). Oh, and my favorite book ABOUT Heinlein is Farah Mendelsohn’s The Pleasant Profression of Robert Heinlein. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 7, 1919 — Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four-year run there, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his first roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 7, 1931 — David Eddings. Prolific and great. With his wife Leigh, they authored several best-selling epic fantasy series, including The BelgariadThe Malloreon and The Dreamers to name but three of their series. They’ve written but one non-series novel, The Redemption of Althalus. A note of warning: it’s extremely likely that both omnibus editions of his works for The Belgariad and The Malloreon available currently at the usual suspects are pirated. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 7, 1936 — Lisa Seagram. I’m noting her here because she was in the Batman episode “Louie, the Lilac” as Lila in which Milton Berlin played the title character. She also had one-offs in both The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., plus My Favorite Martian and Bewitched. Impressive genre creds indeed! (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 7, 1959 — Billy Campbell, 63. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. (IDW did a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures which Amazon has it for a mere twenty bucks! And the ePub is available from the usual suspects for a mere five dollars and ninety nine cents.) Yes, he did other work of genre interest including the main role of Jordan Collier on The 4400, Quincey Morris on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Captain Thadiun Okona in “The Outrageous Okona” episode of Next Gen, the Maine Dr. Alan Farragut on Helix and he’s currently voicing Okona once again on Prodigy.
  • Born July 7, 1968 — Jeff VanderMeer, 54. Ok I’ll admit that I’m ambivalent about the Southern Reach Trilogy and am not sure if it’s brilliant or not though it is I’ll say quite disturbing. (Haven’t seen the film and have no desire to so.) I will say the pirate anthology he and his wife Anne did, Fast Ships, Black Sails, is quite tasty reading.  Now let’s see what the Hugos would hold for him. At Noreascon 4 for The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases which I truly, madly love, he got a Hugo. He along with his Ann picked up at Anticipation up one for Best Semiprozine: for Weird Tales. It would be nominated the next year at Aussiecon 4 but Clarkesworld would win as it would the Renovation losing out again to ClarkesworldThe Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature which he co-edited with  S. J. Chambers was nominated at Chicon 7, the year The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction won. Another Best Related Work was nominated at Loncon 3, Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, the year Kameron Hurley’s “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” won. Finally the film Annihilation based off the Southern Reach trilogy was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Dublin 2019 it list to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  • Born July 7, 1969 — Cree Summer, 53. Voice performer in myriad series such as as Spider-Man: The New Animated SeriesJustice League UnlimitedStar Wars: The Clone Wars, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s playing a number of the cast in the current Young Justice series including Madame Xanadu and Aquagirl.
  • Born July 7, 1987 — V. E. Schwab, 35. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series which is quite stellar. Highly recommended. Her Cassidy Blake series is also good provided you’re a Potter fan as she makes a lot of references to that series. She’s very well stocked at the usual suspects.

(9) THE END IS NOT AS NEAR. Although Stranger Things is expected to end with Season 5, that will not necessarily be the last encounter with the Upside Down. “’Stranger Things’ Spinoff, Stage Play in the Works at Netflix”Variety has the story.

…Under their overall deal with Netflix, the Duffers — Matt and Ross — have established the production company Upside Down Pictures, bringing on Hilary Leavitt to run the company.

Among the new projects they have in development, the Duffers are officially working on a “Stranger Things” spinoff series, though exact plot details remain under wraps. The show will be based on an original idea by the Duffers with Upside Down Pictures and 21 Laps producing. The Duffers have previously said that the show would not focus on characters like Eleven or Steve Harrington.

In addition, a stage play set within the world and mythology of “Stranger Things” is in the works. It will be produced by Sonia Friedman, Stephen Daldry, and Netflix. Daldry will also direct. Kate Trefry will write. 21 Laps serves as associate producer….

(10) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 61 of the Octothorpe podcast is up! “That Little Voice in Your Head”.

John Coxon has a hat on, Alison Scott is taking the baton, and Liz Batty twirls. We discuss COVID policies a bit, before we get into Olav Rokne’s proposal to scrap the 25% rule in the Hugo Awards and then talk quite a lot about robots.

(11) KNIT PICKING. Electra Hammond on Facebook shared a screenshot of tonight’s Jeopardy! category “The Scarf.” Says Hammond, “They had to have created the category just so they could have *this* clue. I’m sure of it.”

(12) JUST THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW. Well, not quite. Gizmodo watches as “Nanoracks Performs First Test of ISS Waste Disposal Technology”.

…On July 2, a highly-engineered trash bag holding 172 pounds (78 kilograms) of ISS garbage was jettisoned from the space station and sent to its fiery doom in Earth’s atmosphere. It’s one small step for Nanoracks, but a giant leap for the future of celestial waste disposal. The test, conducted in partnership with NASA’s Johnson Space Center, could represent a more efficient way for ISS astronauts to keep their house in order.

“Waste collection in space has been a long standing, yet not as publicly discussed, challenge aboard the ISS,” said Cooper Read, Nanoracks’ Bishop Airlock program manager, in a press release. “This was the first open-close cycle of the Bishop Airlock, our first deployment, and what we hope is the beginning of new, more sustainable ISS disposal operations,” said Nanoracks CEO Amela Wilson.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Of course Superman and Batman have to show up in this How It Should Have Ended video, which dropped today. “How Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Should Have Ended”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Craig Miller, John Coxon, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Tor.com Suffers Unexplained Outages

Tor.com usually has up to a dozen new posts a day. However, even while their social media (Twitter, Facebook) continues to announce new posts on the site, when I click on them all links lead to the Newsletter signup page. Nothing else is accessible. No explanation has been given by Tor.com’s social media outlets.

The situation attracted the attention of Reddit’s r/Fantasy forum (“What happens at tor.com?”), where the response suggests that amid the general interruption service has intermittently resumed.

Beginning last week there were reports that Macmillan, of which Tor.com is a part, was the subject of a cyberattack, interfering with some systems, and causing the company to unilaterally shut down many of its other systems. One such report dated July 1 is “US publisher Macmillan confirms cyberattack forced systems offline” from TechCrunch (reposted by Yahoo!)

Macmillan spokesperson Erin Coffey told TechCrunch that the company recently experienced a “security incident” that “involved the encryption of certain files on our network.” The attack struck the company on June 25, according to reports, and also impacted its U.K. branch, known as Pan Macmillan.

While the company declined to answer further questions on the nature of the incident or how its systems were compromised, the use of encryption by the hackers indicates that it was ransomware. The attack has not yet been claimed by any major ransomware groups, and it remains unclear whether any sensitive data was stolen.

“As a precautionary measure, we immediately took systems offline to prevent further impact to our network,” Coffey added. “We are working diligently with specialists to investigate the source of this issue, understand its impact on our systems, and to restore full functionality to our networks as soon as possible.

“Customers and other third-party partners may notice that certain systems are unavailable while these efforts are underway. Please know that the Macmillan team is working around the clock on this restoration and installation of additional network safeguards.”

Macmillan editor Grace Kendall tweeted on June 27 that the company also closed its virtual and physical offices in New York.

Here are several tweets showing when people have raised questions about Tor.com being interrupted, or being back online.

Pixel Scroll 2/11/22 They’re Creepy And They’re Scrolly, The Pixel Family

(1) EMPOWERING LIBRARIES. “Texas Book Ban Prompts School Librarians to Launch #FReadom Fighters” reports Publishers Weekly.  (The #FReadom website is here.)

In response to Texas Rep. Matt Krause’s published list of 850 books on race and sexuality that he targeted for their subject matter —many of which were pulled from school library shelves—a group of Texas school librarians has decided to push back. Last November, they orchestrated #FReadom Fighters, a social media campaign with the goal of supporting authors, teachers, librarians, and students in their pursuit of intellectual freedom. In a matter of months, the organization’s work has amassed thousands of supporters, both at the state level and across the country, and incited other likeminded groups to take action.

… On launch day, November 4, 2021, #FReadom Fighters garnered 13,000 tweets, much to the organizers’ surprise. “We had planned all this in secret, so we were amazed that this was happening even before starting a Twitter account,” Foote said. “We saw ourselves as a guerilla effort, serving as a rapid response team.” The @FReadomFighters Twitter account and website soon followed, updated with weekly and monthly action plans to support fellow librarians in their day-to-day operations. Ideas for #FReadom Fridays varied, from inviting authors to show letters they had received from readers about why their books were so powerful, to asking people to share books that had had an impact on them. A more recent prompt focuses on celebrating wins: sharing success stories of books that have been put back on shelves….

(2) THE BUZZ. Lightyear opens June 17.

“Lightyear” is the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—follows the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure. “Buzz’s world was always something I was excited about,” said director Angus MacLane. “In ‘Toy Story,’ there seemed to be this incredible backstory to him being a Space Ranger that’s only touched upon, and I always wanted to explore that world further. So my ‘Lighytear’ pitch was, ‘What was the movie that Andy saw that made him want a Buzz Lightyear toy?’ I wanted to see that movie. And now I’m lucky enough to get to make it.”

(3) BRADBURY’S SUPER BOWL CONNECTION. A newspaper pitched Ray to contribute to its Super Bowl XXXV (2001) special section. Did he do it?

(4) HORROR THEATER 3000. Ursula Vernon livetweeted her experience watching the horror movie Midsommar. Thread starts here.

(5) THE OFFICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Adela Suliman says Britain’s Science Museum has opened an exhibit called “Stephen Hawking At Work,” which features a preserved doodle-covered blackboard and the case that held his voice synthesizer. “’Stephen Hawking at Work’ exhibition in London displays his blackboard, glasses and other belongings”.

Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, said it was “wonderful to see my father’s working environment recreated.”

“It was such a unique and fascinating environment, and I am delighted his office has been recreated in order to inspire scientists of the future,” she said in a statement.

The blackboard in the exhibit illustrates Hawking’s playful sense of humor and was used during a “Superspace and Supergravity” conference in 1980. Delegates covered it in equations, cartoons and jokes about one another. Hawking had the souvenir framed and hung in his office.

Because even small vibrations could cause the blackboard to lose chalk, Juan-Andres Leon, curator of Stephen Hawking’s Office, said in an email, “the museum applied a starch-based material to stabilise the chalk dust and enclosed it in a frame.”

(6) RIGHTS AND WRONGS. Want to own the rights to The Lord of the Rings? Can you outspend Jeff Bezos? Meanwhile, other legal shenanigans are in progress reports Yahoo! “Lord Of The Rings Mod Hit With Takedown Just As Series’ Rights Are Up For Sale”.

The bigger news first: the Saul Zantz company has owned most of the rights to Tolkien’s works since the 1970s. Almost everything that has been made based on the books in the fields of “film, video games, merchandising, live events and theme parks” has had to be negotiated and paid for accordingly. Variety reported this week though that the company is moving to sell those rights, for a sum that’s expected to be around the $2 billion mark, with Amazon expected to be front of the line to make the purchase, which seems like an absolute worst-case scenario.

So it’s weird, then, that given the timing of that sale, Warner Bros.—who currently licenses the rights to Lord of the Rings video games—have chosen February 2022 to go after a prominent and highly-anticipated mod for the Total War series called Rise of Mordor.

This mod has been around for yearswe wrote about it in 2018!—and has quietly gone about its business with the assumption that, like its popular predecessor Third Age, nobody really cared. Only now somebody clearly does, because Rise of Mordor’s Mod DB page has been hit with a takedown notice (Third Age’s, however, remains)….

(7) MAIL FROM HELL. Yesterday, Brenton Dickieson celebrated “The 80th Anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

… As I discuss it in detail here, it is a shocking beginning for the unprepared. Who is Screwtape? Who is Wormwood? Why is Wormwood being commended for encouraging connections with materialists (atheists? naturalist? worldly people?)? Why is he rebuked for using argument as a foundation for action?

The original Screwtape Letters were an extreme use of in medias res with the potential to leave the reader completely befuddled. We all “get” Screwtape now because the genre of demonic epistolary fiction is something we might expect. It is part of pop culture. Back then, though, it was entirely new. While the editor’s little note may prepare regular readers to expect a Christian academic, readers not expecting a new, satirical genre may well be surprised….

… I don’t know anyone who has catalogued the breadth of influence that Screwtape has had within popular culture as a whole. That Monty Python’s John Cleese narrated a Grammy-nominated audiobook of The Screwtape Letters is some indication of its impact….

(8) TWO DOZEN STORIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A free download of 24 stories is available: “Some of the Best From Tor.com 2021 Is Out Now!” Yes, you could find these one-by-one at Tor.com. This is easier.

This anthology features twenty-four of our favorite original stories published on the site in the past year.

Of course, you can always read these—and all other—Tor.com stories  for free whenever you’d like, but starting today they will be available world-wide as a single, easy-to-read, FREE ebook, available from all your favorite vendors.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1970 [Item by Cat Eldridge]  Fifty-two years ago, Hammer Films’ Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed premiered. It was the fifth Hammer film that featured Baron Frankenstein. It was directed by Terrence Fisher from the screenplay by Bert Batt as taken from the story written by Anthony Nelson and Batt. It starred Peter Cushing, Freddie Jones, Veronica Carlson and Simon Ward. 

Critics say that it is one of the better Hammer films in quite some time with Variety saying that  it had “a minimum of artless dialogue, good lensing by Arthur Grant and a solid all round cast”, and Slant Magazine holding it to be “One of the finest of the seven entries in Hammer’s Frankenstein cycle.”

It holds a sixty-eight percent rating among the nearly three thousand who rated it over at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 11, 1908 Tevis Clyde Smith, Jr. He did several short stories with Robert E. Howard — “Diogenes of today”, “ Eighttoes makes a play” and “Red Blades of Black Cathay”. Donald M. Grant would publish them together in the Red Blades of Black Cathay collection. The title story originally appeared in Oriental Stories, an offshoot of Weird Tales. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.) Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know, the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films, but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 83. Jane Yolen loves not-so-dark chocolate, so I send her some from time to time. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise, in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt which she’s signed a copy for me, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled of Lead’s Antler Dance which Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on.
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are mostly popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 70. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott).
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 69. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on Tolkien that’s been done, including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
  • Born February 11, 1982 Natalie Dormer, 40. Best known as being in Game of Thrones as Margaery Tyrell, though I’m more interested in the fact that she was in Elementary over three seasons as both Jamie Moriarty and Irene Adler. Anyone here watch this series? I’ve not but this sounds fascinating! 

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Thomas Edison was born this day in 1847. Edison’s film company produced the very first known feature adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

(12) A WEBB FIRST. “James Webb Space Telescope captures its first images of a star” and Yahoo! has a copy — see the image at the link.

The James Webb Space Telescope has finally captured its first image of a star — or rather, images. NASA has shared a mosaic of pictures (shown above) of a star taken using the primary mirror’s 18 segments. It looks like a seemingly random collection of blurry dots, but that’s precisely what the mission team was expecting. The imagery will help scientists finish the lengthy mirror alignment process using the telescope’s Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam. The first phase is nearly complete as of this writing.

(13) HEVELIN FANZINES. A couple of years ago, Atlas Obscura signal-boosted a call for help with a fanzine transcription project: “Even More Ways to Help Librarians and Archivists From Home”. What’s their status today? They say they are 100% done!

First the 2020 excerpt:

What better time to zip into a happily unfamiliar realm? The DIY History project at the University of Iowa Library, which invites people to help transcribe digitized objects from the library’s special collections and other holdings, could use your help with its massive trove of science-fiction zines. Some date back to the 1930s; all were collected by the late James L. “Rusty” Hevelin. More than 10,780 pages of the Hevelin Fanzines collection have been transcribed so far, but there are still around 500 left to go. If you need a mental break from this planet and its familiar troubles, pop into this project and spend a little time somewhere else.

David Doering was one of the volunteers, so I checked with him and this is what I learned:

We completed the transcription of Rusty’s collection about two years ago. I don’t see any new additions to that collection. (And the numbers match what this article says: There’s 11285 pages transcribed. Which is 500 more than the articles 10,780.)

Now there are other (non-SF) works to possibly transcribe. You can find the landing page here: https://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/

To be fair, there were pages that were not transcribed because the pages were (almost) unreadable due to mimeo ink fading.  I tried to noodle out the contents and made some progress, but some I just couldn’t get enough of an image to read the text. So if there’s someone out there who has great image restoration skills, there are probably a couple of hundred pages that were skipped due to readability.

Unfortunately, the software the U of Iowa used for this project would count a page as transcribed even if you wrote the obligatory note “Not transcribed due to legibility issues.” So all the zines show 100% transcribed when some were not.

(14) FYI. Behind a paywall, WIRED presents “Ada Palmer and the Weird Hand of Progress”: “The sci-fi author writes about the 25th century and teaches college students about the 15th. The past we think we know is wrong, she says—and so is the future.”

(15) ATTENTION SJW CREDENTAL OWNERS. Andrew Porter witnessed Jeopardy! contestants stumped by a science fictional item on tonight’s episode.

Category: I’m too sexy: a lyrical potpourri

Answer: …for this animal “who walks through walls” in a Robert A. Heinlein title.

No one could answer: What is a cat?

(16) FOURWARD MARCH. DC tells us about the four movies they’re bringing out this coming year: “DC – The World Needs Heroes”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trallers: Tom Clancy’s Ranbow Six Extraction,” Fandom Games notes that this series is sf, because special forces are blasting “alien goo-boys.”  And if the going gets tough, the narrator reminds us that “There may be no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but there is an i in ‘I’m departing from this field immediately.’”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cliff, Hampus Eckerman, David Doering,Bonnie Warford, Daniel Dern, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/21 He Learned Almost Too Late That Man Is A Scrolling Pixel

(1) TOR.COM DEFCON DOWNGRADED. Reddit has updated yesterday’s warning that Tor.com was hacked and spreading malware to say the site is now “safe-ish” to use.

It appears that Tor.com has taken action and cleaned up the file mentioned in this post, meaning the information below is now outdated and Tor.com should currently be safe-ish to use.

Safe-ish, as the vulnerability that allowed the hack to happen may still exist, along with any possible backdoors the hackers left behind. So until Tor.com confirms that the problem is completely resolved, it is possible that malware might re-appear on the site.

(2) IT’S CROSSOVER SEASON. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This season/year’s Flash/Arroverse crossover will span five episodes across several shows, starting with The Flash, on November 16. Gizmodo has the story: “The Flash: Armageddon First Trailer for New Crossover Event”.

Despero first appeared in  Justice League of America #1 (October 1960) (via Despero – I knew he was initially a JLA villain and was early Silver Age, since I’m pretty sure I remember buying (or borrowing) and reading it when it came out, for a dime… and the TV preview/trailer’s brief chess images around the 15-second mark are, I’m sure, an homage to JLA #1’s cover.) Despy has returned many times over the decades; in more recent manifestations, all muscle-bulked out. I also realized that I was briefly conflating him, JLA-comic-villain-appearance-wise, with Kanjar Ro, my bad. Based on the trailer, in this cross-over, he’ll look like a human being, no head-fin, etc.

Here’s File 770’s roundup of two past crossovers.

2019:

2017: The musical one

And here’s CBR’s summary of the Arrowverse cross-overs: “Every Arrowverse Crossover, Ranked”.

(3) HARROW & VALENTE ONLINE. The Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid invites you to joing them for “Tor-rific tales: Alix Harrow and Catherynne M. Valente in conversation with Anna Milon” on Thursday, November 11 at 7:00 p.m. British Summer Time. Free. Register here.

Offering fresh, feminist perspectives and chilling, creepy visions in their reimaginings of beloved stories, the authors will discuss craft, favourite tales, and of course, their latest novellas. So grab a hot drink and a copy of A Spindle Shattered by Alix E. Harrow and Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente.

(4) RAUM AT THE TOP. The next two articles in Cora Buhlert’s episode-by-episode review of the West German science fiction show Space Patrol Orion are live at Galactic Journey.

Here’s episode 2, “Planet Off Course”: “[October 18, 1966] Moral Dilemmas and Earth in Peril: Space Patrol Orion Episode 2: ‘Planet Off Course’”.

… So far, science fiction had had no presence on West German TV, so professional TV critics were mostly baffled, to put it politely. The Berlin tabloid B.Z. called Orion “pseudoscientific nonsense” set in a “brainless utopia”. The magazine Kirche und Fernsehen (Church and Television) lamented that the dialogues were too complicated for the viewers to understand, at least viewers not used to science fiction and gadget speak….

And here’s episode 3, “Guardians of the Law”: “[October 19, 1966] Routine Missions and Asimovian Robots: Space Patrol Orion Episode 3: ‘Guardians of the Law’”

After pulling out all the stops in episode 2, what would Raumpatrouille Orion do for an encore? Well, instead of threatening the entire solar system this time around, writer Rolf Honold and W.G. Larsen have opted for a more low-key adventure for the Orion 8 and her brave crew.

And so episode 3 “Hüter des Gesetzes” (Guardians of the Law) opens with that most routine of situations, namely a robotics training course for Space Fleet personnel, including the Orion crew. The Orion crew seems bored, but my interest perked up once robotics specialist Rott (Alfons Höckmann) mentioned the Three Laws of Robotics. Yes, Isaac Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics exist in the Space Patrol Orion universe….

(5) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Great little twitter thread from Farscape star Claudia Black about her encounter with a young James McAvoy. Bit of a long read (best to see the quote about her in the linked article first, to give context), but it’s just heartwarming. (“James McAvoy, Son Of Dune, Has Advice For His Father, Dune Star Timothée Chalamet” at Slashfilm.) Twitter thread starts here.

(6) HEROIC NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA. [Item by Andrew Porter.] After over a year’s worth of work, Jess Nevins completed the expansion and conversion of his Encyclopedia of Print Heroes (2017) to an online edition. Table of Contents here. Introduction here:

The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes is intended to be a kind of sequel to my Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: an attempt at providing a panoptical view of the characters of genre culture from across media and around the world, spanning the years from 1902 to 1945. But as was the case with Fantastic Victoriana the title of Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes is likely to be misleading, and some explanation of what the book is and what it is not is necessary. 

Pulp Heroes is an encyclopedia. However, any book with the word “encyclopedia” in the title is at least implicitly laying claim to both authority and exhaustiveness. I’ve made a reasonable attempt at the former, but the latter was beyond my capabilities, and perhaps beyond anyone’s. As I documented in my Pulp Magazine Holdings Directory, time has been cruel to the American pulps. 38% of all American pulps no longer exist (at least in libraries), and 14% of all American pulps survive in only scattered (less than five total) copies. It’s theoretically possible that pulp collectors own large numbers of these missing pulps, but collectors are hard to locate and many are uncooperative when it comes to letting outsiders view their collections (or even to sharing information). [1] Only a handful of academic libraries have more than one or two issues of the longer-lasting and better-known pulps, and more obscure pulps, like Spicy Screen StoriesThrilling Mysteries, and Zeppelin Stories, are completely unavailable. And the rarest pulps of all, Spicy Gorilla StoriesHobo Romance, and Two-Fisted Quaker Mysteries, are not mentioned in even the most in-depth reference works.…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1954 – Sixty-eight years on this date, Ballantine Books first published Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. It would be awarded a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4.  It would also be voted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Though most reception at the time of publication was extremely favorable with the Galaxy reviewer Groff Conklin saying the novel was “among the great works of the imagination written in English in the last decade or more”, some were not at all pleased with the P. Schuyler Miller review for Astounding saying that it was “one of Bradbury’s bitter, almost hysterical diatribes”. It would later be made into a well-received François Truffaut film which has a strong rating of seventy-two percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. A remake which was made three years ago fares much worse garnering a rating of just thirty- three percent. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 19, 1934 Peter Weston. He made innumerable contributions  in fan writing and editing, conrunning, and in local clubs. He was nominated for a number of Hugo awards but never won, including a nomination for his autobiography Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom. Since 1984, those awards have been cast by the car-parts factory which Weston owned and managed until he retired. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 81. Actor of Stage and Screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films). He also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. 
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 76. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! He of course is Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun.  And for true genre creds, he voiced the character of Yoda in the  NPR adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 78. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. He won a Neffy for his Endgames novel, and a Utah Speculative Fiction Award for his Archform: Beauty novel. 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 75. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billy Piper-led series, far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North as the shortness of them works in their favor.
  • Born October 19, 1955 Jon Favreau, 66. I can’t possibly list everything he’s done so I’ll just singly my favorite things he’s done or will do. He’s the creator of The Mandalorian, and he’s serving as a director and executive producer for its spin-off series, The Book of Boba Fett. He was executive producer of The Avengers and the first and only great Iron Man film where he made his appearance as Happy Hogan, a role he’s reprised several times. 
  • Born October 19, 1990 Ciana Renee, 31. Her most known genre role is as Kendra Saunders / Hawkgirl  on Legends of Tomorrow and related Arrowverse series. She also showed up on The Big Bang Theory as Sunny Morrow in “The Conjugal Configuration”, and she played The Witch in the theaterical production of Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.  She was also Elsa in the theaterical production of Frozen.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE PRICE FOR CHALLENGING SCIENCE CLAIMS. [Item by Brown Robin.] Is there (scientific) method to this madness? “Bik And Raoult Hydroxychloroquine Feud Exposes Tensions” at Buzzfeed.

Days after a mysterious new illness was declared a pandemic in March of last year, a prominent scientist in France announced that he had already found a cure.

Based on a small clinical trial, microbiologist Didier Raoult claimed that hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old antimalarial drug, was part of a 100% effective treatment against COVID-19. Then–US president Donald Trump promptly proclaimed that the finding could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”

But the study seemed off to Elisabeth Bik, a scientist turned science detective living in Silicon Valley. Bik has a sharp eye for spotting errors buried in arcane scientific papers, particularly when it comes to duplicated images. And much about Raoult’s paper looked fishy, as she later noted on her blog. Unfavorable data was left out, and the trial’s timeline was mathematically impossible. “Something does not seem quite right,” she wrote.

Before long, Bik would learn the price of raising such concerns. Raoult and a coauthor went on to call her a “witch hunter,” a “mercenary,” and a “crazy woman” on Twitter and in the press. Then, in April 2021, Raoult’s collaborator announced that they had filed a criminal complaint against Bik and a spokesperson for PubPeer, a website where she and others post scientific criticism, accusing them of blackmail, extortion, and harassment. He tweeted out a screenshot of the complaint, revealing her home address to the world….

(11) TOURING IMAGINARY WORLDS. [Item by David K.M. Klaus.] Rick Steves is / was my / Nila’s favorite travel writer and PBS travel program TV host, and we wished we could have gone on one of his marvelous European tours. I never saw anything specific until this very article, but he always set off my fannish radar. “Rick Steves Casually Reviews Dangerous Fantasy Locations” by Kurt Zemaitaitis at McSweeney’s.

… The Shire used to be the best-kept secret of Middle Earth, but tourists have been flocking there lately because of their famous “second breakfasts.”…

(12) AMBIVALENT OPTION. Kotaku says “Classic Doom Is Now Playable Via A New Twitter Account”. Yeah, I don’t know – I’m still traumatized from playing it on the network in the Loscon game room years ago and being repeated killed by the same teenager before I’m 30 seconds into the game…

Are you bored, sitting in some waiting room? Maybe, instead of just doing nothing you want to play some Doom? Well you could download the fantastic mobile ports of Doom or play it on Switch. Or, why not play Doom using Twitter via short commands and videos?…

(13) CONFLATION. Yeah, I can sort of see how this might cross someone’s mind. This Dune meme is a callback to the poster for the 2000 stoner comedy Dude, Where’s My Car?

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Every Sean Connery Bond” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the six Sean Connery Bond movies (Never Say Never Again doesn’t count).  They note that Connery is “England’s best Scottish spy” and Connery fights “like a drunk stepdad.”  But he’s up against SPECTRE, whose limited range of evil plans results from all the henchmen who keep getting killed off.  Also, for “peak evil performance” you need “the physique of an egg.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Eric Franklin, David K.M. Klaus, Brown Robin, Ben Bird Person, Cora Buhlert, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day m.c. simon milligan.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/21 Buy Me Some Pixels And Shadowjack, I Don’t Care If I Never Loop Back

(1) BLACK PANTHER. Today marks the end of an era for one of Marvel’s most acclaimed series: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther. View never-before-seen artwork from Coates’ final issue and revisit some of the best moments of this iconic run in the all-new Black Panther #25 trailer.

Alongside artists Daniel Acuña and Brian Stelfreeze, the National Book Award winner and New York Times Best-selling author closes out his game-changing run with a special giant-sized finale issue. Since taking over the title in 2016, Coates has transformed the Black Panther mythos. Now five years later, he departs, leaving the world of Wakanda and the Marvel Universe as a whole forever changed and laying the groundwork for the next bold era of one of Marvel’s most celebrated heroes.

(2) BOSEMAN REMEMBERED. “Howard University names fine arts college after Chadwick Boseman” – the Washington Post has the story.

Howard University is renaming its College of Fine Arts after one of its most acclaimed alums: actor Chadwick Boseman.

On Wednesday, Howard renamed its performing and visual arts school after the “Black Panther” star, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in last year’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Boseman, who graduated from Howard in 2000 with a bachelor of arts degree in directing, died in August at the age of 43 from colon cancer.The renaming unites Howard and Walt Disney Co.’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, who will spearhead fundraising for an endowment named after Boseman, as well as help raise money for the construction of a state-of-the-art building on the campus. The new building will house the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, its TV station, WHUT, and its radio station, WHUR 96.3 FM.

(3) SFF FROM AFRICAN WRITERS. Omenana Issue 17 is out, the latest issue of a tri-monthly magazine that publishes speculative fiction by writers from across Africa and the African Diaspora. The magazine is credted by Mazi Nwonwu, Co-founder/Managing Editor; Chinelo Onwualu, Co-founder; Iquo DianaAbasi, Contributing Editor; and Godson ChukwuEmeka Okeiyi, Graphic Designer.

Omenana is the Igbo word for divinity – it also loosely translates as “culture” – and embodies our attempt to recover our wildest stories. We are looking for well-written speculative fiction that bridges the gap between past, present and future through imagination and shakes us out of the corner we have pushed ourselves into.

(4) TORCON 2021. Tor.com is running another virtual convention in June. The full schedule is at the link: “Stay Home. Geek Out. Again. Announcing the TorCon 2021 Schedule of Events”.

We’re thrilled to share that TorCon is back! Taking place from June 10 through June 13, 2021, TorCon is a virtual convention that was launched in 2020 with a simple goal: to bring the entertainment and excitement of live book conventions into the virtual space. From Thursday, June 10 through Sunday, June 13, Tor Books, Forge Books, Tordotcom Publishing, Tor Teen, and Nightfire are presenting ten panels featuring more than 30 of your favorite authors, in conversation with each other—and with you!

Join authors, including James Rollins, Charlie Jane Anders, Joe Pera, Catriona Ward, Gillian Flynn, TJ Klune, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Nghi Vo, and many others for four days of pure geekery, exclusive reveals, content drops, giveaways, and more…all from the comfort of your own home!

(5) REPRESENTING MEDIA TIE-IN AUTHORS. Here is Max Alan Collins’ history of how the organization began: “A Blast from the Past – the Origins of the IAMTW – International Association of Media Tie-In Writers”.

I got involved with tie-in writing when, as the then-scripter of the Dick Tracy comic strip, I was enlisted to write the novel of the Warren Beatty film. That was, happily, a successful book that led to my writing novels for In the Line of Fire, Air Force One, Saving Private Ryan, and many others, including Maverick, that favorite of my childhood. Eventually I wrote TV tie-ins as well, in particular CSI and its spin-offs. Finally I got the opportunity to work with the Mickey Spillane estate to write Mike Hammer novels – a dream job, since Spillane had been my favorite writer growing up and Hammer my favorite character.

The founding of the IAMTW came out of a series of panels about tie-ins at San Diego Comic Con. Lee Goldberg, a rare example of a TV writer/producer who also wrote tie-in novels, was an especially knowledgeable and entertaining participant on those panels. He and I shared a frustration that the best work in the tie-in field was ignored by the various writing organizations that gave awards in assorted genres, including mystery, horror, and science-fiction.

Individually, we began poking around, talking to our peers, wondering if maybe an organization for media tie-in writers wouldn’t be a way to give annual awards and to grow this disparate group of creative folk into a community. I don’t remember whether Lee called me or I called Lee, but we decided to combine our efforts. What came out of that was the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers and our annual Scribe Awards, as well as the Faust, our Life Achievement Award.

(6) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL OUTLAW.

(7) HOW MANY HAVE YOU READ? AbeBooks has come up with their own list of “100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime”, and some genre books are on it. I’ve read 29. (My midlife decision to read Moby Dick is constantly rewarded by raising my score on these things.)

We’ve seen these lists before – from Amazon to the Telegraph to Time Magazine and beyond. Plenty of folks have lists of the 100 best books of all time, the 100 books you should read, and on. And beautifully, despite overlap, they are all different. The glorious subjectivity of art means that no two of these lists should ever be exactly alike. So this is ours, our special snowflake of a list, born out of our passion for books. We kept it to fiction this time. Some of the expected classics are there, alongside some more contemporary fare. There is some science fiction, some YA, and above all else, some unforgettable stories.

Do any of the included titles shock you? Are you outraged by any omissions? Let us know what makes the cut for your top 100 novels.

(8) JMS’ B5 EPISODE COMMENTARY NOW ON YOUTUBE. For nearly a year J. Michael Straczynski has been providing his Patreon supporters full-length on-camera Babylon 5 commentaries. He’s now going to make some of them available to the public. Up first: “The Parliament of Dreams.” For this to work, you need to get access to a recording of the episode. Like JMS says —

For those who would like to sync up with the commentary on this video (since full-length TV episodes are not allowed here), fire up the episode and be ready to hit Play at the appropriate (or inappropriate) moment.

(9) CARLE OBIT. Eric Carle, who illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote, died May 23 reports NPR: “Eric Carle, Creator Of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ Dies At 91”.

…Carle headed straight back to the U.S. after graduating from art school at age 23 and was immediately hired by The New York Times. He fell in love with the impressionists (“color, color, color!”), served in the U.S. military during the Korean War, and, upon his return, moved into advertising.

Perhaps that career helped him prepare for using the simple, resonant language of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For the book’s 50th anniversary in 2019, professor Michelle H. Martin told NPR that The Very Hungry Caterpillar‘s writing helps little kids grasp concepts such as numbers and the days of the week. (“On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry. On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry.”)

Martin, the Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington, told NPR the book builds literacy by gently guiding toddlers toward unfamiliar words. For example, when Saturday comes around and the hungry caterpillar binges on “one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon,” words such as salami and Swiss cheese might be new to 3-year-olds already familiar with ice cream and lollipops….

Jane Yolen mourned his death in a public Facebook post:

…I am devastated. One of my oldest friends in the business. Our whole family loved him. HE and Bobbie lived for years about twenty five minutes from our house, and then in Northampton for some time before moving down South.

He was funny, dear, a favorite “uncle” to my kids.And his museum is twenty minutes from my house. I have been sobbing since I heard about two hours ago from a notice sent out by the family….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 26, 1995 — On this day in 1995, Johnny Mnemonic premiered. Based on the William Gibson short story of the same name, it was directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. It starred Keanu Reeves, Takeshi Kitan,  Henry Rollins, Ice-T, Dina Meyer and Dolph Lundgren. Despite the story itself being well received and even being nominated for a Nebula Award, the response among critics to the film was overwhelmingly negative. It currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. It is available to watch here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 — Robert Chambers. His most remembered work was The King in Yellow short stories. Though he would turn away from these supernatural tellings, Lovecraft’s included some of them in his Supernatural Horror in Literature critical study. Critics thought his work wasn’t as great as could have been. That said, Stross, Wagner, Carter and even Blish are said to have been influenced by him. (Died 1933.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1903 — Harry Steeger. He  co-founded Popular Publications in 1930, one of the major publishers of pulp magazines, with former classmate Harold S. Goldsmith. They published The Spider which he created, and with Horror Stories and Terror Tales, he started the “Shudder Pulp” genre. So lacking in taste were these pulps that even a jaded public eventually rejected them. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1913 — Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. A CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin was used for his likeness in Rogue One. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 – Joan Jefferson Farjeon.  Scenic designer, illustrated published versions of plays she’d done, also fairy tales.  See here (a frog footman), here (a tiger lily), here.  From a 1951 stage production, here is a moment in Beauty and the Beast.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1923 — James Arness. He appeared in three Fifties SF films, Two Lost WorldsThem! and The Thing from Another World. The latter is based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell (writing under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart). The novella would be the basis of John Carpenter’s The Thing thirty years later. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1923 — Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing “Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer” in  “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the GoT audiobooks. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1925 – Howard DeVore.  Began collecting, 1936.  Michigan Science Fantasy Society, 1948 (Hal Shapiro said it was the Michigan Instigators of Science Fantasy for Intellectual Thinkers Society, i.e. MISFITS).  Leading dealer in SF books, paraphernalia; known as Big-Hearted Howard, a compliment-complaint-compliment; called himself “a huckster, 1st class”.  Active in N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n); Neffy Award.  Also FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n), SAPS (Spectator Am. Pr. Society).  Said a Worldcon would be in Detroit over his dead body; was dragged across the stage; became Publicity head for Detention the 17th Worldcon.  With Donald Franson The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (through 3rd ed’n 1998).  Named Fan Guest of Honor for 64th Worldcon, but died before the con.  His beanie had a full-size airplane propeller.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1933 – Yôji Kondô, Ph.D.  Black belt in Aikido (7th degree) and judo (6th degree).  Senior positions at NASA, Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement; two hundred scientific papers, see here.  SF as Eric Kotani; six novels, most with J.M. Roberts; two shorter stories; edited Requiem tribute to Heinlein; non-fiction Interstellar Travel & Multi-Generation Space Ships with F. Bruhweiler, J. Moore, C. Sheffield; essays, mostly co-authored, in SF Age and Analog.  Heinlein Award.  Writers of the Future judge.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1938 – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, age 83.  Author (including plays and screenwriting), singer, painter, animator.  Russian Booker Prize, Pushkin Prize, World Fantasy Award.  Twenty short stories for us.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1954 – Lisbeth Zwerger, age 67.  Children’s-book illustrator.  Hans Christian Andersen and Silver Brush awards; Grand Prize from German Academy for Children’s & Youth Literature.  Thirty books, most of them fantasy; see here (Swan Lake), here (the Mad Tea Party), here.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1964 — Caitlín R. Kiernan, 57. She’s an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards. As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir as being particularly worth reading. She also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Neil Gaiman’s character, Delirium. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ZOOMING WITH THE TRIMBLES. Fanac.org has posted a videos of “Bjo and John Trimble – A Fan History Zoom Session with Joe Siclari (Parts 1 and 2)”.

Bjo and John Trimble sit with Joe Siclari (May 2021) to tell us about their fannish histories. In part 1 of this interview, they talk about how they each found fandom, their ultimate meet-cute under Forry Ackerman’s grand piano, Burbee’s “Golden Treachery” and more serious topics. The Trimbles changed their part of fandom. Bjo talks about how she revitalized LASFS in the 1950s, and about the beginnings of the convention art show as we know it today (and Seth Johnson’s surprising part in that). Fandom is not without its controversies, and the Trimbles also speak about the Breendoggle and Coventry. Part 1 finishes up with anecdotes about Tony Boucher’s poker games. In Part 2, the interview will continue with the Trimbles’ roles in the Save Star Trek campaign. For more fan history, go to <FANAC.org> and <Fancyclopedia.org>. If you enjoyed this video, please subscribe to our channel.

In part 2 of Bjo and John Trimble’s interview with Joe Siclari (May 2021), they tell the remarkable story of how they met Gene Roddenberry and became involved in Star Trek. Learn the story of how they started, orchestrated and managed the “Save Star Trek” campaign which resulted in the third year of Star Trek, the original series. Hint: it all started in Clelveland. There’s much more in this interview. There are stories of the early days of the SCA, including how it got the name “Society for Creative Anachronism”, the day that a Knight of St. Fantony appeared at an SCA event, and the unlikely story of the first coronation of an SCA king. Additionally, you’ll hear about costuming, Takumi Shibano and how Gene Roddenberry helped get him to Worldcon (and how Bjo helped Shibano-san learn that his wife spoke English), and Q&A from the attendees.

(14) HERE KITTY. The lion is moving. “James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM” – the New York Times is there when they’re introduced.

In the ultimate symbol of one Hollywood era ending and another beginning, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home to James Bond and Rocky, finally found a buyer willing to pay retail: Amazon.

The e-commerce giant said on Wednesday that it would acquire the 97-year-old film and television studio for $8.45 billion — or about 40 percent more than other prospective buyers, including Apple and Comcast, thought MGM was worth….

So why did Amazon pay such a startling premium?

For starters, it can. The company has $71 billion in cash and a market capitalization of $1.64 trillion….

 Amazon most likely paid more than others thought MGM was worth because of its all-important Prime membership program.

In addition to paying Amazon $119 a year or $13 a month for free shipping and other perks — notably access to the Prime Video streaming service — households with Prime memberships typically spend $3,000 a year on Amazon. That is more than twice what households without the membership spend, according to Morgan Stanley. About 200 million people pay for Prime memberships.

“More and more Prime members are using video more often, spending more hours on there, so I think this is a way to add more content and more talent around movies,” said Brian Yarbrough, a senior analyst at Edward Jones.

“This isn’t one studio buying another,” he added. “If you’re Amazon, the perspective is what’s the potential for Prime membership, what is the potential for advertising.”…

(15) SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-CHANNEL. Galactic Journey’s Erica Frank is tuning in to 1966 where Adam West’s Batman on the air: “[May 26, 1966] Batman: So Bad It’s Good?”.

I have been greatly enjoying the new Batman tv series. Campy costumes, over-the-top acting, wacky super-science gizmos, silly plots, the chance to see several of my favorite comic book characters on a screen; it’s all good fun….

The Batman Drinking Game

The best way to watch this show: Before it starts, get yourself a beer, glass of wine, or couple of shots of something harder. Every time you see a gizmo that can’t actually work as shown, take a sip. Every time Robin says, “Holy [something]!,” take a sip. When either of the Dynamic Duo is trapped, take a sip; if they’re both trapped, take two. Every time a supposedly valuable item, like a museum statue, is destroyed during the obligatory heroes-vs-thugs slugfest, take another sip. By the time the show is over, you’ll be pleasantly relaxed—unless you actually know much about science and technology, in which case, you’ll have left “relaxed” in the dust and be on your way to “blitzed.”…

(16) HUGO READING. Camestros Felapton reviews a finalist: “Hugo 2021: Black Sun (Between Earth & Sky 1) by Rebecca Roanhorse”.

…I thoroughly enjoyed this and despite the scale of the world-building, I found myself immersed into the setting very quickly. It is a book with a sense of bigness to it with quite different magical elements to it distinct to the individual characters. The growing tension as chapter by chapter we get closer to what will clearly be a very bad day for all concerned, is well executed and if I hadn’t been using the audiobook version I would probably have rushed through the final chapters.

I’ve enjoyed other works by Roanhorse but this is definitely a more skilful and mature work from a writer who started with a lot of promise. It sits in that sweet spot of delivering the vibe of the big magical saga but with enough innovation in setting and magic to feel fresh and original….

(17) AROUND THE BIG TOP. The latest sf review column in the Washington Post by Lavie Tidhar and Silvia Moreno-Garcia includes praise for Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man. “Clowns are creepy. Let’s talk about horror, science-fiction and fantasy books that make the most of circus settings.”

The circus, with its built-in otherworldliness, is an ideal setting for fantasy, horror and science-fiction novels. Authors have been capitalizing on it for years. Stephen King terrified a whole generation with Pennywise the clown in 1986’s “It,” then tackled a carnival setting 27 years later in “Joyland.” In 2011, Erin Morgenstern charmed readers and scored a big hit with “The Night Circus.” So what other great fiction hides under the big top?…

(18) INVISIBLE INKED. “Inquisitor 1699 An Alternative Guide to Wonderland by Phi” at Fifteensquared analyzes all the answers to a fantasy-themed crossword, with the added bonus of a David Langford comment.

…By now, I was starting to see that the shaded letters would be forming some sort of figure, a pooka indeed and it seemed to be symmetrical. Also, I had enough of the early across answers to start to see the quotation forming. With “Years ago my mother say this world”. An internet search revealed, “Years ago my mother [used to say to me,] she’d say, [“In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood] – “In this world, Elwood, you must be [oh so] smart or [oh so] pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me. ”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: The DCEU (400th episode), the Screen Junkies, for their 400th episode, portray the entire DC Extended Universe, a world where “Superman doesn’t want to save people, Batman’s a murderer, Wonder Woman’s an incel, and Harley Quinn takes three movies to break up with Joker, who looks like my coke dealer.”  And given a choice between all the quips in Marvel movies, and DC films where “everyone talks like a 14-year-old boy trying to sound badass while they’re reading a Wiki page,” wouldn’t you rather see an Air Bud movie?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, David Langford, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/7/21 There Is No Pixel – Only Scruul

(1) HOW TO KEEP GOING THE DAY AFTER. Sarah Gailey’s “Coup Self-Care” at Here’s the Thing has a long list of ideas for taking care of yourself (that begins after the following excerpt.)

…This kind of stress — the stress of a fucking coup happening in a big country that tends to be irresponsible with its feelings — is hard to weather. I’d wager I’m not the only one struggling with work today. Yesterday I didn’t struggle with work, because I have the luxury of being able to say “nothing is getting done today” when there’s a coup happening. So I didn’t struggle with work, because I didn’t even try to work — instead I watched what was happening, had phone calls with friends and family to process the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol, and reached out to loved ones in an effort to remind all of us that we are not alone.

…What’s happening in America right now, for most of us, doesn’t feel quite so navigable as that. The coup isn’t something we can reach out and touch and change and solve. There are a ton of possible consequences and outcomes, some which we can predict and some which we can’t, and all of them will affect us, and none of them feel like things we can control. This shit is scary and destabilizing. It’s okay to feel scared and destabilized about the things we can’t control.

It’s also important to remember that the things we can’t control don’t take up the entire horizon. It’s easy to feel swallowed up by that sense of helplessness — but we aren’t helpless. There are things we can’t control, and there are things we can.

Let’s take a look at some things we can control. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen some of this before, but look through anyway to remind yourself of the places you can stabilize. These might not all apply to you. This is intended to be a broad assortment of options, not a definitive list! Take what works and throw the rest in the trash….

(2) MARK HIM PRESENT.  John C. Wright says he and his family were in Washington DC yesterday “to show our support for Trump, but, more to the point, our support for curtailing election fraud.”“Regarding the Events of Jan 6”. Short post followed by a lot of comments from Trump supporters.

(3) DAVID WEBER UPDATE. Today on David Weber’s author page at Facebook:

Latest from Mr. Weber:

BP is under control pretty much completely now. Still watching for possible clotting issues, but that’s only a general precaution at this point. We’re doing fairly gentle in-room therapy, and the lungs are mostly clear now, but O2 absorption is still lagging. Got me up to the level where they want me, but it’s still taking 6 liters of pressure to keep it there. So we work to bring that down on a day by day basis.

(4) HOW WRITERS DON’T GET PAID. Renowned sf critic Paul Kincaid posted on Facebook about the exploitation of nonfiction writers:

…Ten years ago I found myself inadvertently reviewing for the Los Angeles Review of Books (a review I had submitted to SF Studies was passed on to the LARB instead). At the time LARB was a start-up, a new kid on the block, and when you wrote for them you got a screed about how they were a professional publication and how much they appreciated their contributors but how they were operating on a shoestring so if we would consider not taking money for the review it would help. And yes, I was happy to help on those terms, so I did review after review for them for free. Until I was made redundant and I needed some income. So on my next review I asked to be paid. And they coughed up, no problem, money came through without a hiccup. Then they stopped asking me to review. Critics are valued only so long as you don’t have to pay them….

(5) TOMORROW PRIZE. Still time to enter The Tomorrow Prize contest for short science fiction by an L.A. County high school student – the deadline is February 1, 2021. For further information visit the contest webpage.

The Tomorrow Prize showcases the best in creative, critical thinking, as well as great storytelling, by students from throughout Los Angeles. 

The Tomorrow Prize is free for students to submit up to two original short stories of 1,500 words or less. Prizes include cash prizes for First, Second, and Third, as well as a special prize for the best environmental conservation themed story! 

This prize, The Green Feather Award is co-sponsored by the LA Audubon Society. The winner will receive a small cash prize and will be published in the LA Audubon newsletter.

(5A) THIS SHOULD TIDE YOU OVER. Fanac.org now has available for free download two of the biggest fanzines ever published.

Bergeron’s Willis issue of Warhoon came out in 1978. In those mimeo days File 770 was brand new, and I helped Bergeron promote his project with a rider attached to issue #5.

(6) FREE READ. Some of the Best from Tor.com 2020 is available free, featuring twenty-four original stories published on the site in the past year. It’s convenient if you haven’t already read them on the Tor.com site. Download from your favorite vendors.

(7) KNIT UP THE RAVELED SLEAVE. Here’s another entry in the Future Tense Fiction series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.  “Dream Soft, Dream Big” by Hal Y. Zhang, “A new short story about science, startups, and a cultish online community.”

BECKER NGUYEN (NARRATION): Complete the sequence—the wheel, the printing press, the transistor … what’s next? What if I tell you the next revolutionary invention may already exist, but instead of being powered by coal or electricity, it’s powered purely by the most nebulous parts of our minds?

I’m Becker Nguyen. On today’s episode of Static Shock: how one man discovered something extraordinary about our dreams that could save the world, and what happened next that made it all seem like a nightmare.

It’s accompanied by a response essay by sleep researcher Kristin E.G. Sanders: “Can we convince the sleeping brain to process our problems?”

…In a recent study, my collaborators and I asked whether targeted memory reactivation could improve problem-solving. In evening sessions, participants attempted to solve brain teasers, each paired with a different music clip. Then, we presented some of the music clips while participants slept. In the morning, participants reattempted the same brain teasers they failed to solve the prior night. We were excited to find that participants solved more of the brain teasers that were cued overnight. Interestingly, unlike for Katia, the solutions did not come to them in a dream. And unlike Loewi, they did not awaken with the solution in the middle of the night. Instead, participants solved the brain teasers when they actively worked on them again.

(8) YOUR MIND’S EAR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A message I just read on LinkedIn gave the person’s location as Dunedin, <State>.

My <brain or whatever> initially parsed (internally pronounced) it as:

Duned-in

at which point some other part of my brain went, “Wait, that’s not right,” called up the Tolkein reference cells, and burped up, “Du-ne-din”

Yeah, it’s likely the real pronunciation-influencer was my being on LinkedIn (which I pronouce/see as two syllables).

Can anybody think of other words with different pronounciations based on sf-or-fantasy PoV?

(9) A TREAT FOR THE EYE. Dreams of Space – Books and Ephemera has numerous scans of the excellent art in the Russian book Hour of Space (1962).

This book is a soviet history of spaceflight and text heavy. What is notable about it are the color plates and some of the chapter header illustrations…. 

Vladimir Lvov. Illustrated by V. Noskov. Hour of Space. Moscow: Publishing House of the Central Committee if the Komsomol. 206 p. 20 cm. 1962.

(10) ELLISON AT IGUANACON. Fanac.org has posted the first segment of a recording of “Harlan Ellison: Burning the Phoenix” from 1978.

IguanCon II, the 36th Worldcon, was held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison held forth for hours in “Burning the Phoenix: Remarks, Dark & Light.” This audio recording, illustrated with images, is the first 40 minutes of that talk. Harlan tells a great story about Avon, talks about The Tonight Show, his script for Asimov’s “I, Robot” and about his plans for “The Last Dangerous Visions”. Harlan was a charismatic, funny, witty speaker, and at this event, he is talking to a large audience of his appreciative and enthusiastic fans.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 7, 1934 — The first Flash Gordon comic strips of Alex Raymond were published by King Features Syndicate. The strip was subsequently adapted into many other media, from three Universal movie serials (Thirties Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, and Forties Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe) to a 1970s television series and a 1980 feature film, Flash Gordon

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz]

  • Born January 7, 1899 – Orlin Tremaine.  Noteworthy to us for years as editor of Astounding.  His editorial “Thought Variants” struck a spark.  At one point headed half a dozen Street & Smith magazines e.g. Air TrailsCowboy StoriesDynamic AdventuresRomance Range.  Published half a dozen stories of his own.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1891 – Page Cooper.  World War II reporter.  Wrote books about horses and dogs including the fine Man o’ War.  For us she put eight poems in Weird Tales; two are quoted, more about her is told here.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. Illustrator best known for the Addams Family which he first drew in 1932 and kept drawing until his death. Needless to say there have been a number of films using these characters of which The Addams Family is my favorite. Linda H. Davis’ Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life is well worth seeking out and reading. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1924 – Col. Christine Haycock, M.D.  Nurse in World War II, first woman intern at Walter Reed Hospital, professor, graduate of U.S. Army War College, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.  Olympic fencer, amateur radio, photography.  Married Sam Moskowitz; both were Guests of Honor at Disclave 9.  Treasurer of the Lunarians.  After SaM died, won the Moskowitz Archive Award.  American Medical Women’s Ass’n appreciation here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1926 – Graham Stone.  Leading Australian fan, being also, as is often included, a bibliographer, collector, small-press publisher.  Notes on Australian SFAustralian SF Bibliography 1948-1999 (rev. 2010), Vol Molesworth’s History of Australian SF Fandom 1935-1963.  Correspondent of Riverside QuarterlySF ChronicleSF Commentary.  Bertram Chandler Award.  See here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1948 – Jeannie DiModica, age 73.  Immortalized in Ginjer Buchanan’s “I’ve Had No Sleep and I Must Giggle”.  [JH]
  • Born January 7, 1950 Erin Gray, 71. She’s best known as Colonel Wilma Deering Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series. Would it surprise you that she shows up in as Commander Grey in Star Trek Continues, one of those video Trek fanfic? Well it certainly doesn’t surprise me at all. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1955 Karen Haber, 66. I fondly remember reading her Hugo nominated  Meditations on Middle Earth anthology, not to mention the three Universe anthologies she did with her husband Robert Silverberg which are most excellent. I don’t remember reading any of her novels but that’s hardly a certainty that I didn’t as even when my memory was a lot better than is now,  I hardly remembered all the genre fiction I’ve read. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1957 Nicholson Baker, 64. Ok ISFDB lists him as having two SFF novels, The Fermata and House of Holes. The Wiki page him lists those as being two out of the three erotic novels that he’s written. Not having read them, are they indeed erotic SFF? I see that ESF say they’re indeed SFF and yes are erotic. H’h. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1961 Mark Allen Shepherd, 60.  Morn, the bar patron on Deep Space Nine. Amazingly he was in Quark’s bar a total of ninety three episodes plus one episode each on Next Gen and Voyager. Technically he’s uncredited in almost all of those appearances. That’s pretty much his entire acting career. I’m trying to remember if he has any lines. He’s also an abstract painter whose work was used frequently on DS9 sets. (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1966 Heidi Elizabeth Yolen Stemple, 55. Daughter of Jane Yolen, sister of Adam Stemple who was the vocalist of Boiled in Lead which mother wrote lyrics for. She and mother co-wrote the Mirror, Mirror: Forty Folktales for Mothers and Daughters to Share anthology which I highly recommend for your reading pleasureISFDBsays they did two chapbooks as well, A Kite for Moon and Monster Academy.  (CE) 
  • Born January 7, 1968 – Georgi Gospodinov, age 53.  A novel and a shorter story for us; other short stories, plays, screenplays, four books of poetry.  Angelus Award, Jan Michalski Prize, six Bulgarian awards.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Herman has an alien encounter with a short order cook.
  • Bizarro shows one step in a witch’s purchase of a new home.
  • Get Fuzzy has a disturbing example of cat litigation….

(14) ARG! Rabbit Rabbit provides “A Game Designer’s Analysis Of QAnon” on Medium.

I am a game designer with experience in a very small niche. I create and research games designed to be played in reality. I’ve worked in Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), LARPsexperience fictioninteractive theater, and “serious games”. Stories and games that can start on a computer, and finish in the real world. Fictions designed to feel as real as possible. Games that teach you. Puzzles that come to life all around the players. Games where the deeper you dig, the more you find. Games with rabbit holes that invite you into wonderland and entice you through the looking glass.

When I saw QAnon, I knew exactly what it was and what it was doing. I had seen it before. I had almost built it before. It was gaming’s evil twin. A game that plays people. (cue ominous music)

QAnon has often been compared to ARGs and LARPs and rightly so. It uses many of the same gaming mechanisms and rewards. It has a game-like feel to it that is evident to anyone who has ever played an ARG, online role-play (RP) or LARP before. The similarities are so striking that it has often been referred to as a LARP or ARG. However this beast is very very different from a game.

It is the differences that shed the light on how QAnon works and many of them are hard to see if you’re not involved in game development. QAnon is like the reflection of a game in a mirror, it looks just like one, but it is inverted.

First characteristic on the list:

Guided Apophenia

(15) KARMA CHAMELEON. “Rutgers engineers have created a new type of light-reacting hydrogel”SYFY Wire has the story.

Blending in with one’s immediate environment like the active camouflage technology used by the alien hunter in Predator would certainly have alarming applications in the real world, making the procurement of a free windmill cookie from the bulk food bin at grocery stores nearly undetectable.

But clever scientists and engineers at Rutgers University are eager to replicate that amazing invisibility ability by inventing a new type of 3D-printed stretchable material with the power to change color on demand. While the potentials for such shifting smart gels are limitless, the immediate goal is targeting an advanced method of military camouflage.

(16) SCREAMING HEADLINES. Here a high-definition re-upload of the late MF Doom’s supervillain-themed “All Caps” music video

(17) LOST WORLD, FOUND SFF. In “Revisiting The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Rollicking Adventure Novel” on CrimeReads, Jon Lellenberg discusses why Doyle wrote The Lost World and explains his interest in sf. (Note: CrimeReads misspelled the author’s name which is Jon and not John.)

… In the end, Conan Doyle went in another direction, but did not lose his desire to write a “Rider Haggardy” novel. While he admired authors like George Meredith and Charles Reade and his own contemporary, Thomas Hardy, he preferred to write Romances and Adventures. Even being a doctor was a Romance to him, embraced in his “The Romance of Medicine” talk in 1910 at St. Mary’s Hospital, London, where his son Kingsley was a medical student. And the scientific consulting detective Sherlock Holmes’s investigations were Adventures as far as Conan Doyle was concerned, rather than Cases, or Mysteries.

By 1911, these tendencies collided with a regret over diminishing “blank spaces” on the world’s map. When a Lost World character remarks that “The big blank spaces in the map are all being filled up, and there’s no room for romance anywhere,” Conan Doyle was quoting himself anonymously, from a talk he’d given the year before at a luncheon honoring the Arctic explorer Robert Peary….

(18) WIRED FOR SOUND. Literary Hub introduces “Charlie Jane Anders Reads from Victories Greater Than Death” in the Storybound podcast. (“S3. Ep. 4: Charlie Jane Anders reads an excerpt from “Victories Greater Than Death”.)

Storybound is a radio theater program designed for the podcast age. Hosted by Jude Brewer and with original music composed for each episode, the podcast features the voices of today’s literary icons reading their essays, poems, and fiction.

On the fourth episode of the third season, Charlie Jane Anders reads an excerpt from Victories Greater Than Death, with sound design and music composition from Oginalii.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Spock’s Surprise Visit To The Carol Burnett Show” on YouTube shows a cameo that Leonard Nimoy made as Spock on the show in 1967.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/20 Rotating PixelScrolls And The Possibility Of Global File Violation

(1) CON CANCELLED. MediaWest*Con 40 will not be held – the pioneering sf/media con in Lansing, MI declares it’s the “End of an Era”. The con had been scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend in May.

…Sadly, despite our best efforts to increase membership to a sustainable level, advance memberships are at an all-time low and show no sign of improving. Even with repeating the function space downsizing we instituted last year, this year it does not appear we would make the minimum number of hotel reservations needed to avoid thousands in hotel penalties. Therefore, we have no choice but to cancel MW*C 40 and notify attendees so that they can cancel their travel and hotel reservations in a timely fashion.

We hope people will understand that this is not an easy decision for us, and that it does NOT mean MediaWest*Con is dead. Rather, it gives us time to consider how MW*C may continue in some form.

Obviously, the myriad causes are nothing new — the graying of fandom, dwindling interest in fanzine culture, technology that makes face-to-face meetings seem superfluous, ever increasing travel expense and inconvenience, and SF/Media going mainstream, to name but a few. All have contributed to declining membership and participation in suggesting panel topics, Fan Q nominations, etc.. Nor are many of these issues unique to us, as other cons have suffered as well with no solution in sight.

(2) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 1632. Eric Flint posted a 20-year retrospective of 1632 and the book series it proved to be a launching point for: “Tempus Fugit”.

…I’ve lost track of how many authors have been involved in the Ring of Fire universe, and how many words have been written in the series. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 authors, and we’re now well beyond 10,000,000 words—of which at least 5,000,000 have been produced in paper as well as electronic format. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twenty times as long as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and sixteen times as long as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And—wait for it! wait for it!—it’s now much longer than the Bible. (Which comes in at 783,137 words, in the King James edition.)

There are now at least two million copies of the 1632 series books in print. And—this is where grubby scribblers chortle with glee—the royalties earned by the authors have just gone over the $2,000,000 mark. Yay for us!

(3) FOR YOUNG WOMEN COLLECTORS. “Announcing the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize”Literary Hub is taking submissions.

Literary Hub is pleased to announce that submissions are now open for the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1,000 to an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman, aged 30 or younger, who lives in the United States.

According to the guidelines, “the winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by her. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, publisher, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. The winning collection will be more than a reading list of favorite texts: it will be a coherent group of printed or manuscript items, creatively put together. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects.”

…The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2020. You can see the full requirements and apply here. The winner will be announced in September. The prize is sponsored this year by BiblioSwann Galleries, and Ellen A. Michelson.

(4) NEBULA ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert delivers “Some Comments on the 2019 Nebula Award Finalists”.

Best novelette:

Again, we have a strong ballot in this category. G.V. Anderson is certainly one of the best short fiction writers to have emerged in recent years. Her novelette “A Strange Uncertain Light” is also the only Nebula finalist to have originated in the print magazines. “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a lovely little story and I’m happy that it made the ballot. Sarah Pinsker and Caroline M. Yoachim are both excellent writers of short fiction, though I haven’t read these particular stories. I also must have missed “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal, even though I usually read the Tor.com stories. However, I have enjoyed other stories by Mimi Mondal that I read. Finally, I’m very happy to see Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo on the Nebula ballot and not just because we featured it at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year. This is the first Nebula finalist we’ve featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, by the way, though we have featured finalists and even winners of the Bram Stoker and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Diversity count: Six women, two international writers, two writers of colour

(5) SEE THE FRONT OF A BOOK YOU’LL WANT TO READ. Tor.com has done a cover reveal for The Hollow Places, Oor Wombat’s follow-up to The Twisted Ones: “Check Out the Cover for The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher’s Folk Horror Follow-up to The Twisted Ones.

(6) SHRINKING FANDOM. And I don’t mean it’s getting smaller: Gavin Miller opines at The Conversation: “Fan of sci-fi? Psychologists have you in their sights”.

Science fiction has struggled to achieve the same credibility as highbrow literature. In 2019, the celebrated author Ian McEwan dismissed science fiction as the stuff of “anti-gravity boots” rather than “human dilemmas”. According to McEwan, his own book about intelligent robots, Machines Like Me, provided the latter by examining the ethics of artificial life – as if this were not a staple of science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and 1950s to TV series such as Humans (2015-2018).

Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.

The authors of a 2015 study stress that, while they have found evidence to confirm this hypothesis, such psychological profiling of “geeks” is not intended to be stigmatizing. Fantasy migration is “adaptive” – dressing up as Princess Leia or Darth Vader makes science fiction fans happy and keeps them out of trouble.

But, while psychology may not exactly diagnose fans as mentally ill, the insinuation remains – science fiction evades, rather than confronts, disappointment with the real world….

(7) TRACING A SUBGENRE WITH AN ASSIST FROM SFF. In “The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs” at CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is about to publish her first crime novel, cites Joanna Russ and Terry Carr as she explains how the Gothic romance evolved into today’s domestic noir novel.

Whatever happened to that girl? You know the one I mean: long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face. She’s most often running from said dark house.

The girl from the Gothic novels.

I’m talking about the mid-20th century Gothic novels, not the original crop of Gothic books, like The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho. No, it’s that second wave of Gothics—termed Gothic romances—that were released in the 1960s in paperback form that I’m referring to. This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1955 Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based of a member of the French Foreign Legion, and was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contains four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full blown horror film. And, of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana  Paxson, 77. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 66. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 56. His best remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film that frankly sounds horrid. He’s got one-offs in X-Files, Welcome to Paradox, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Angel, Charmed and Twin Peaks.
  • Born February 20, 1967 Lili Taylor, 53. Her most recent role was as Captain Sandra Maldonado in the short lived Almost Human series, with her first genre role being in The Haunting off Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(11) ARE WE STILL ALLOWED TO LAUGH? Art Spiegelman reviews SCREWBALL!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Paul C. Tumey, and a museum exhibition of Rube Goldberg’s art, in  “Foolish Questions” at the New York Review of Books.

…Now that comics have put on long pants and started to strut around with the grownups by calling themselves graphic novels, it’s important to remember that comics have their roots in subversive joy and nonsense. For the first time in the history of the form, comics are beginning to have a history. Attractively designed collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts, and so many more—all with intelligent historical appreciations—are finding their way into libraries.

Paul Tumey, the comics historian who co-edited The Art of Rube Goldberg book seven years ago, has recently put together a fascinating and eccentric addition to the expanding shelves of comics history.3 The future of comics is in the past, and Tumey does a heroic job of casting a fresh light on the hidden corners of that past in Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. It’s a lavish picture book with over six hundred comics, drawings, and photos, many of which haven’t been seen since their twenty-four-hour life-spans in newspapers around a century ago. The book is a collection of well-researched short biographies of fifteen artists from the first half of the twentieth century, accompanied by generous helpings of their idiosyncratic cartoons. Goldberg—whose name schoolchildren learn when their STEM studies bump into chain reactions—is the perfect front man to beckon you toward the other less celebrated newspaper cartoonists who worked in the screwball vein that Tumey explores.

(12) TICKLE-ME YODA? CBR.com scopes out the product: “The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Comes to Life in Actual-Size Animatronic Toy”. (And, good lord, the photo at Lyle Movie Files shows a version that comes complete with Baby Yoda’s lunchpail – and a frog! Can that be legit?)

The Force is strong with Hasbro’s new animatronic Baby Yoda toy.

The actual-sized figure of The Mandalorian‘s The Child comes to life with animatronic motions and sounds taken directly from the hit Disney+ series. Arriving in Fall 2020, this lifelike recreation of The Asset will retail for $59.99 and is intended for ages four and up. He also comes with the Mandalorian’s pendant, as given to him by his mentor Din Djarin.

(13) NEEDED IN DC? BBC reports “Human brain seized in mail truck on US-Canada border”.

US customs officers made an unusual discovery when they carried out a spot check on a Canadian mail truck – a human brain inside a jar.

The brain was found at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, on 14 February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

It was inside a shipment labelled “Antique Teaching Specimen”.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was destined for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Upon opening the shipment, CBP officers found the package to contain a human brain specimen inside of a clear glass mason jar without any paperwork or documentation in support of its lawful entry into the United States,” the agency said in a statement.

(14) CLIFFHANGERS. This week’s Nature includes a review of some key end-of-society books of recent years. “Panicking about societal collapse? Plunder the bookshelves”.

In case you missed it, the end is nigh. Ever since Jared Diamond published his hugely popular 2005 work Collapse, books on the same theme have been arriving with the frequency of palace coups in the late Roman Empire. Clearly, their authors are responding to a universal preoccupation with climate change, as well as to growing financial and political instability and a sense that civilization is lurching towards a cliff edge. Mention is also made of how big-data tools are shedding new light on historical questions. But do these books have anything useful to share?

The upside of societal collapse is that while it may be the end of the world for them, it can help with innovation and renewal, if not there then elsewhere.  Also, even if the end of the world cannot be prevented, learning from past societal collapses may help us soften the blow. 

(15) BE A SCIENCE REPORTER. Andrew Porter advises “Print it out, put it in your wallet! (Put your own name over the one that’s there.)” Was this what he used to get in and cover events for SF Chronicle?

(16) NOT TOYS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite the scale of the rocket built at LoneStarCon 3, but more practical: “Woman solves wheelchair access problem – with Lego” – video.

Rita Ebel, 62, has come up with a novel way of helping wheelchair users like herself enjoy their shopping experiences in the western German town of Hanau.

Rita, who has been using a wheelchair since a serious car accident 25 years ago, has been building ramps from Lego and distributing them around town.

(17) SCIENTISTS GRASP THE OBVIOUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Horror films make you scared.  It’s official. Shock, horror, drama, probe!!!! Psychologists in Finland used functional magnetic resonance imaging on 37 subjects watching horror films to see their ‘hemodynamic brain activity’, which is a psychologist’s poncy way of what we biologists call ‘blood flow’. (Why use two words when you can use three longer ones).  Different parts of the brain were stimulated when another group was shown non-horror films.  Or in the psychologists’ words: “[Their] main finding was that acute fear elicited consistent activity in a distributed set of cortical, limbic, and cerebellar regions, most notably the prefrontal cortex, paracentral lobule, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, PAG, parrahippocampus, and thalamus.”

Their work is published in the journal Neurolmage: “Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear”

…Here we studied the brain basis of sustained and acute fear using naturalistic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enabling analysis of different time-scales of fear responses. Subjects (N ?= ?37) watched feature-length horror movies while their hemodynamic brain activity was measured with fMRI….

(18) JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, PART N: “It’s ‘game over’ for Sony at PAX East 2020” — note, the Boston Globe story may be paywalled.

…Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”

(19) FAKE VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Verge quivers and quails as “This disturbingly realistic deepfake puts Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a Star Trek episode”.

A new deepfake puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cage” — and I kind of love it. In this particular AI-powered face swap, Bezos plays a Talosian alien with a huge bald head, while Musk plays Captain Christopher Pike (who is the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Karl-Johan Norén, Bill Wagner, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/19/20 It’s Just A Scroll To The Left, A Little Click To The Right

(1) ANTI-TROLL SPRAY. Mary Robinette Kowal, President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, issued a “SFWA Statement from the President on Goodreads” at the SFWA Blog.

…As some of you may be aware, over the course of several weeks, trolls created dozens of false accounts as part of a harassment campaign against some writers. We reached out to Goodreads to ask for assistance in stopping those attacks and they were, thankfully, responsive. Goodreads was as committed to solving this as SFWA was. If readers lose their faith with the site because of false reviews, that’s a problem for all of us.

During the course of the conversation, we shared with them some ideas that they might use to block this form of targetting. They are working on implementing some of those, although I hope you’ll understand that we won’t be able to share the details of those particular efforts….

There are also some existing tools on Goodreads that were not immediately apparent. We offered to highlight those to our members while Goodreads puts the other measures into place.

Flagging reviews – Goodreads does not allow Ad Hominem reviews or attacks on an author. They made it clear to us that when reviews become about the author, not about the book, authors are able to flag uses of harmful language or when the intent is to harm the person, not to review the book. If an author is receiving an avalanche of those, they may send a link to support@goodreads.com or send a link via Goodreads’ contact form.

Reporting entire accounts – Sometimes, a single actor will create negative reviews of an author’s entire body of work. In those cases, any author may send a link to support@goodreads.com.

(2) RIPPED BODICE. Since Courtney Milan is one of them, the Scroll will report all the winners of the inaugural Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romantic Fiction. The award was launched last year by Leah and Bea Koch, co-owners of the Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City, Calif., and is sponsored by Sony Pictures Television. Chosen by a panel of industry experts, each honoree receives $1,000 plus a $100 donation to the charity of their choice.

The winning titles are:

  • Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
  • Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  • A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
  • One Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
  • An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole
  • American Love Story by Adriana Herrera
  • Trashed by Mia Hopkins
  • The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

(3) PRACTICE OR MALPRACTICE? The Guardian ponders “The diehards of doom! Why Doctor Who is the show fans love to hate “  

If Doctor Who seems like a show that has been disappointing its devotees for 56 years and counting, perhaps that is to be expected. After all, no other TV series in history has shown such a wilful disregard for anything approaching a house style, happily pressing the re-set button every week and leaping between planets and time zones, comedy and tragedy, psychodrama and space opera.

(4) FREE READ. Tor.com has published one of the stories that will be included in Ken Liu’s upcoming collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories: “Read Ken Liu’s ‘Staying Behind’ From the New Collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories”. It’s not a new story, but it may not have been freely available before.

(5) BOOT TO THE FUTURE. BBC discovers Back To The Future is being rebooted – on stage, not on screen”.

More people want a new Back to the Future film than want a new instalment in any other franchise. But one of its creators says doing another movie would be like “selling your kids into prostitution” – so it’s been rebooted as a stage musical instead.

Walking though the Manchester Opera House foyer a week before the first performance of Back to the Future: The Musical means picking your way through piles of props and kit that are waiting to be slotted into place before opening night.

A skateboard and some of the Doc’s scientific equipment are lying around, and a crew member walks past carrying what look like dancers’ 1950s dresses. The components of the Doc’s nuclear-powered flux capacitor are probably spread around somewhere.

…Thursday’s first performance will mark the end of a 12-year journey to bring one of the best-loved films to the stage. Another journey will start – the show is set to go to the West End after Manchester, and then perhaps Broadway.

“It’s the same story of the movie,” says Bob Gale, who has scripted the stage show and co-wrote the movies. “But there are things that you can do and can’t do on stage that differ from cinema.”

So in the show, Marty plays more music, and new songs take us deeper into the characters’ emotions and back stories. But some of the action (like the skateboard chase and the gun-toting Libyan terrorists) has been changed. And, sadly, there’s no Einstein the dog.

“Lots of people were clamouring, ‘Why don’t you guys do Back to the Future part 4? Why don’t you do a reboot of Back to the Future?'” Gale says.

‘The wrong thing to do’

But he and Robert Zemeckis, director and co-writer of the three films, had it written into their contracts with Universal that no new film could be made without their say so. Studio bosses have tried their best to persuade them.

…”We don’t want to ruin anybody’s childhood, and doing a musical was the perfect way to give the public more Back to the Future without messing up what has gone before.”

(6) DUNCANN OBIT. Geraldine Duncann died February 2 at the age of 82, her daughter Leilehua reported on Facebook. Duncann announced to FB readers in January that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  Astrid Bear described Duncann in these terms:

As Mistress Geraldine of Toad Hall, she was a major force in the Society for Creative Anachronism from its very early days, excelling in all she tried, whether cooking, sewing, embroidery, pottery, singing, writing, or anything else. Her generosity, wit, intelligence, and zest for life were wonderful.

Her memorial/celebration of life will be on her birthdate, May 9, at the Golden Gate Bridge and include a Bridge Walk. Details will be posted on her FaceBook page and her Questing Feast Patreon blog.

(7) SHRAPNEL OBIT. [Item by Steve Green.] John Shrapnel (1942-2020): British actor, died February 14, aged 77. Genre appearances include Space: 1999 (one episode, 1975), Fatherland (1994), Invasion: Earth (three episodes, 1998), Spine Chillers (one episode, 2003), Alien Autopsy (2006), Apparitions (five episodes, 2008), Mirrors (2008), The Awakening (2011), Merlin (one episode, 2012), Macbeth (2013), Hamlet (2015).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 15, 1955  — Captain Midnight aired “Saboteurs Of The Sky”. Captain Midnight began September 9, 1954, on CBS, continuing for thirty-nine episodes until January 21, 1956. This was the twenty-fifth episode of the program’s first season. Captain Midnight itself started as a serial film, became this show, and later was both a syndicated newspaper strip and a radio show. The series starred Richard Webb who was not the actor of the Captain Midnight role , Robert O’Brien, from the film serial. (Two actors, Sid Melton and Olan Soule, were retained from the serial.) When the TV series went into syndication in 1958 via Telescreen Advertising, several changes happened. First a change in advertisers happened as Ovaltine was no longer involved. More importantly Wander Company owned all rights to use of Captain Midnight which meant that Screen Gems had to change Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, and all references in the episodes to Captain Midnight to Jet Jackson, Flying Commando, both text and sound wise. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 19, 1978 — The Project U.F.O. pilot: “Sighting 4001: The Washington D.C. Incident” first aired on NBC.  It was created. by that Jack Webb Harold Jack Bloom, was based rather loosely on the real-life Project Blue Book. It starred William Jordan, Caskey Swaim and Edward Winter. Most of the UFOs were by Brick Price Movie Miniatures that were cobbled together from the usual model kits. You can see the pilot here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 19, 1893 Sir Cedric Webster Hardwicke. His first SFF role was a plum one — in 1937‘s Solomon’s Mines as Allan Quatermain. He’s been in a lot of genre films: On Borrowed Time, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Invisible Man Returns, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Invisible Agent, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The War of the Worlds (the voice doing providing commentary). (Died 1964.)
  • Born February 19, 1912 Walter Gillings. UK fan. He edited Scientifiction, a short lived but historic fanzine. Shortly thereafter he edited Tales of Wonder, regarded as the first UK SF zine. Clarke made his pro debut here. He’d edited a number of other genre zines later on, and ISFDB lists him as having two genre stories to his credit whereas Wiki claims he has three. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 19, 1930 John Frankenheimer. Depending on how widely you stretch the definition of genre, you can consider his first SFF film as director to be Seven Days in May. Certainly, The Island of Dr. Moreau is genre as is Prophecy and Seconds. He also directed an episode of Tales from The Crypt, “Maniac at Large”, and directed Startime’s “Turn of The Screw” with Ingrid Bergman in the lead role off the Henry James ghost story of that name. (Died 2002.)
  • Born February 19, 1937 Lee Harding, 83. He was among the founding members of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club along with Bertram Chandler. He won Ditmar Awards for Dancing Gerontius and Fallen Spaceman. In the Oughts, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation would give him the Chandler Award in gratitude for his life’s work. It does not appear that any of his work is available fir the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 19, 1937 Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds to his widow. (Died 1987.)
  • Born February 19, 1944 Donald F. Glut, 76. He’s best known for writing the novelization of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. I’m more fascinated that from the early Fifties to the late Sixties, he made a total of forty-one amateur films including a number of unauthorized adaptations of such characters as Superman, The Spirit and Spider-Man. Epoch Cinema released a two-DVD set of all of his amateur films titled I Was A Teenage Moviemaker. 
  • Born February 19, 1963 Laurell K. Hamilton, 57. She is best known as the author of two series of stories. One is the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter of which I’ll confess I’ve read but one or two novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive. 
  • Born February 19, 1964 Jonathan Lethem 56. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail briefly here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel, so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work particularly his latest, The Feral Detective. 
  • Born February 19, 1966 Claude Lalumière, 54. I met him once here in Portland at a used bookstore in the SFF section. Author, book reviewer and editor who has edited numerous anthologies.  Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of WorshipThe Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains

(10) FIRST NEWBERY WON BY A GRAPHIC NOVEL. Publishers Weekly opines, “Jerry Craft’s Newbery Win Was an Unforeseeable Dream” – but it came true.

…But his reverie was broken by the phone 12 minutes later. “I picked it up and thought, ‘Please don’t let this be a credit card offer.’ Can you imagine? I would have just burst into tears.”

On the other end of the line, Newbery committee chair Krishna Grady told Craft that his graphic novel New Kid (HarperCollins) had been chosen as winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal. “Then the people in the background started screaming and then I started screaming, then I screamed more and they screamed more,” Craft said. “It was pretty amazing.” It is also historic, as New Kid is the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal.

New Kid introduces African-American seventh grader Jordan Banks, an aspiring artist who leaves his home in Washington Heights each morning and takes the bus to his new, private, mostly white school in the Bronx. In his sketchbook, he chronicles what it’s like for him to navigate his two different worlds, the ups and downs of middle school, and the various micro-aggressions he faces each day. The book was inspired by Craft’s own school experiences, as well as those of his two sons, and has been a hit since its release last February. Prior to ALA Midwinter, New Kid had already earned starred reviews in the major review journals, landed on numerous best-of lists for 2019, became a New York Times bestseller, and won the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature.

Craft was still riding high from the Newbery call when his phone rang again at 7:07 a.m. “I thought, ‘OK, that’s weird,’” Craft said. “I saw area code 215, which is Philadelphia [where ALA Midwinter was being held], and I thought, if they’re calling me up to say, ‘Hi, we thought you were Jerry Pinkney when we called earlier. Sorry about that—we hope you didn’t tell anyone,’ that would have made me cry even more.” But, of course, there was no such mix-up. The second call alerted Craft to the fact that he had also won the Coretta Scott King Author Award. “I was stunned,” he recalled, noting that he hadn’t heard any buzz, or seen anything like a mock Coretta Scott King Award poll.

(11) WHEN I’M ‘65. AGalactic Journey understandably covers a lot of space — “[February 18, 1965] OSO Exciting!  (February 1965 Space Roundup)”.

Requiem for a Vanguard

Hands over hearts, folks.  On February 12, NASA announced that Vanguard 1 had gone silent, and the agency was finally turning off its 108 Mhz ground transceivers, set up during the International Geophysical Year.  The grapefruit-sized satellite, launched March 17, 1958, was the fourth satellite to be orbited.  It had been designed as a minimum space probe and, had its rocket worked in December 1957, would have been America’s first satellite rather than its second.  Nevertheless, rugged little Vanguard 1 beat all of its successors for lifespan.  Sputniks and Explorers came and went.  Vanguards 2 and 3 shut off long ago.  Yet the grapefruit that the Naval Research Laboratory made kept going beep-beep, helping scientists on the ground measure the shape of the Earth from the wiggle and decay of Vanguard’s orbit.

(12) THE TINGLE WAY. Now that you’ve explained it, I understand!

(13) POUNDED BY YOUR CREDIT CARD. But wait! There’s all kinds of Chuck Tingle merchandise available. Like this hoodie, or this towel.

(14) FADING SCREAM. “‘The Scream’ Is Fading. New Research Reveals Why.” – the New York Times squints harder.

“The Scream” is fading. And tiny samples of paint from the 1910 version of Edvard Munch’s famous image of angst have been under the X-ray, the laser beam and even a high-powered electron microscope, as scientists have used cutting-edge technology to try to figure out why portions of the canvas that were a brilliant orangeish-yellow are now an ivory white.

Since 2012, scientists based in New York and experts at the Munch Museum in Oslo have been working on this canvas — which was stolen in 2004 and recovered two years later — to tell a story of color. But the research also provides insight into Munch and how he worked, laying out a map for conservators to prevent further change, and helping viewers and art historians understand how one of the world’s most widely recognized paintings might have originally looked….

(15) SPORTS GEEK. Expanding a writer’s horizons: “Taking on Celtics rookie Grant Williams at his favorite board game” in the Boston Globe.

If you’ve never heard of the board game Settlers of Catan, you aren’t alone.

Marcus Smart hadn’t. Neither had Kemba Walker. Nor Brad Stevens.

If you have heard of it, you’re in good company, too.

The game is a favorite of Celtics rookie Grant Williams.

Williams was introduced to Settlers of Catan — Catan, for short — when he was a sophomore on the basketball team at Tennessee. He walked in on Riley Davis, the team’s video coordinator, playing the classic strategy game with players Lucas Campbell, Brad Woodson, and Yves Pons. A self-proclaimed nerd, Williams wanted to learn.

“They’re like, ‘Oh dear, we have to teach Grant now,’ ” Williams recalled. “Next thing you know, we played and I won my first game.”

Williams was hooked. The group kept a board at the training facility, where they would play at least twice a week, as well as one in each of their dorm rooms. There also was a “road-trip board” that would travel with the team.

…The objective of the game sounds simple: Collect resources to build roads, settlements, and cities on the island of Catan. The implementation is a bit more complicated.

Bear with me as I try to explain.

(16) PUCKER UP. SYFY Wire oozes enthusiasm about “Krispy Kreme’s Rick and Morty sweets”.

Krispy Kreme and Adult Swim have teamed up for a limited line of sweet R &M-inspired products, including a donut modeled after Pickle Rick. Don’t worry, though, the green pastry isn’t salty and sour like a brined cucumber. That would be nasty. Instead, it’s filled with “mouth-watering lemon crème, dipped in white choc truffle, with a white choc ‘Pickle Rick.'”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Nina Shepardson, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer, plus a crowdsourced aspostrophe.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/19 It’s Not Easy Being Soylent Green

(1) MAKE IT SO AGAIN. Although showrunner Michael Chabon is moving on, Picard is not a one-and-done series judging by this item of state tax news. (However, CBS declined comment). “‘Star Trek: Picard’ Renewed For Season 2 Ahead Of Series Debut On CBS All Access Next Month” at Deadline.

… Like the first season that will premiere on CBS All Access on January 23, Season 2 of the Patrick Stewart-led Picard looks to be a 10-episode order for the streamer. As a part of that second season, the latest venture in the Alex Kurtzman marshaled Trekverse has been allocated over $20.4 million in California tax incentives….

Certainly, the huge reaction that Picard received when the resurrection of the philosopher-captain was first announced in Las Vegas last year and the tax credits made public today were a cold hard cash indication that the CBS Television Studios, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment produced series was going to engage further, to paraphrase Jean-Luc himself.

(2) WELL-INFORMED. Joe Haldeman explained to his Facebook readers why he signed a petition to ban assault weapons – and how he became familiar with them.

We got this interesting petition, which Gay asked me to sign, from an outfit called Ban Assault Weapons Now.

I did sign it, but not reflexively. I do know assault weapons.

Unlike most people — unlike almost every American — I have been shot, both as a soldier and as a civilian. But I did carry a gun for most of a year “in country,” in Vietnam, sometimes two guns, and was conventionally glad to be armed.

Because of odd timing, I was never issued an M-16. They were not ubiquitous in Vietnam in 1968. I carried — and preferred, most of the time — the M-14 automatic rifle. We also had a Colt .45 automatic, sealed in a plastic bag, and traded around a Chinese AK-47, which my squad carried on convoy….

(3) ENJOYING THE WRONG FUTURE. In another article that takes off from Gary K. Wolfe’s Sixties sff novel collection for Library of America, Scott Bradfield holds forth on “Science Fiction’s Wonderful Mistakes” in The New Republic. Tagline: “The great novels of the 1960s remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong.”

…The science fiction novels of the 1960s—as this two-volume collection of eight very different sci-fi novels testifies—remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong. They didn’t accurately predict the future of space travel, or what a postnuclear landscape would look like, or how to end intergalactic fascism. They didn’t warn us against the roads we shouldn’t travel, since they probably suspected we were going to take those roads anyway. And they definitely didn’t teach us what a neutrino is. But what ’60s science fiction did do was establish one of the wildest, widest, most stylistically and conceptually various commercial spaces for writing (and reading) fiction in the history of fictional genres. Each book is unpredictable in so many ways as to almost constitute its own genre.

Take, for example, Samuel R. Delany’s influential space opera, Nova (presented here in a newly corrected, author-approved text), which takes the concept of the “cybernetic” fusion of human and machine and runs with it. Nova envisions a universe boiling over with star-hopping spaceships, spine-socketed crew members, weirdly mutated sexual and familial relationships, synesthetic video-art instruments, and at least one character raised on another planet who speaks in a verb-delaying syntax several years before Yoda was a gleam in George Lucas’s eye. (“Not too good going to be is. Out of practice am.”) Delany’s prose was stylistically bright, fizzing with ambitious energy (he began publishing novels in his late teens and won several major awards early) and relentlessly inventive, with flashy new visions of the future in one paragraph after another….

(4) WILL YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?  Alastair Reynolds tells how he admired Niven’s “Tales of Known Space” and that despite recent discoveries a writer can still do wildly creative worldbuilding. Then the question is – how do your space-faring characters navigate your stellar neighborhood?

…In some instances, our observations have begun to put limits on the numbers and properties of planets around familiar, SF-friendly stars such as Epsilon Eridani. It may well turn out that what was perfectly reasonable speculation thirty years ago is now ruled out by current data.

Still, let’s assume for now that our real stars and imagined planets remain viable locations, and we wish to use them in new stories. That’s where an additional wrinkle comes in: it’s very easy to look up how far away these stars are, and on that basis, work out (depending on the mechanics of your imagined space technology) how long it would take to get there from Earth. But sooner or later your story may depend on getting from star A to star B, without stopping off at Earth en-route. How do we work out how far these stars are from each other?

All the information we need is present: for any given star, all we need are its coordinates in the night sky, and a figure for its distance….

(5) KEYS TO THEIR PERSONALITIES. In the Washington Post, Frank Lehman, a music professor at Tufts University, analyzes John Williams’s scores to the Star Wars films and argues the music Williams composed for evil characters such as Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader gives many clues to how we view these characters: “How John Williams’s Star Wars score pulls us to the dark side”.

…It’s said that the Devil gets the best tunes, but Williams has long proved that that maxim applies to Sith lords, too. Within Star Wars’ ever-expanding library of leitmotifs — recurring, malleable musical symbols — much of the most insinuating material belongs to the villains, from Darth Maul to Jabba the Hutt to Supreme Leader Snoke. Listening to these nefarious themes with the ear of a music scholar offers a lesson in the real power of the dark side, showing us how music can repel, deceive and, with the right compositional tricks, even charm.

(6) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COPIER. Daniel Dern’s GrabCAD article unexpectedly predicts “3D Printers Could Be Coming to a Library Near You”.

Public libraries have always been the place where you can go to borrow books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. And in recent years, it’s now where you can go for 3D printing services.

“Libraries represent the public on-ramp to the world of 3D printing and design,” said Dan Lee, chair of the Advisory Committee for the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP).

According to a report from ALA, there are over 428 public library branches in the United States that offer 3D printers to the public….

… Using 3D printers requires education. The Medway library, for example, offers weekly walk-in 3D printer certification sessions.

How libraries charge for use of their 3D printers varies. Some charge per hour of printing time (probably around a dollar), while others will charge based on the amount of printing materials that will be required — typically nickel to a quarter per gram of filament.

(7) KERFUFFLE IS COMING. According to Vanity Fair, “David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s Lovecraft Movie Has a Massive Problem: H.P. Lovecraft”. Laura Bradley’s question is: “The renowned horror writer was also a known racist and anti-Semite. Are the Game of Thrones creators the right people to handle that history?”

… What is known, however, is that Lovecraft, for all his pop-culture influence, was also terribly racist. His letters and literary work overflow with these sentiments, and in some cases it’s not even subtext. In 1912 he penned a poem titled “On the Creation of N—–s,” in which, as Lithub explained in its thorough exploration of Lovecraft’s white supremacy, Gods create black people as a semi-human species somewhere between man and beasts.

Benioff and Weiss, no strangers to online controversy, are seeing some of the same pushback that happened when they first announced the now-defunct series Confederate for HBO: namely, why this story, and why them?

(8) LEFT BRAINED ALIENS. NPR invites us to “‘Imagine Pleasant Nonsense’ With ‘Strange Planet’ Creator Nathan Pyle”.

Nathan Pyle fills the pages of his new book Strange Planet with big eyed, bright blue aliens from a planet that shares a lot in common with Earth. These aliens sunbathe, sneeze and even wish each other sweet dreams like us, but they describe these practices with deadpan technical terminology like “sun damage” and “face fluid explosions.” The lifegiver aliens even implore their offspring to “imagine pleasant nonsense” as they tuck them in for the night.

“One of the points of Strange Planet is that this is all (gestures in every direction) delightfully odd. It’s wonderful how much complexity we [humans] have created,” Pyle tells me in an email conversation — and yes, those parentheticals are his.

Pyle was inspired to create the series one day as he and his wife were preparing to have guests over — and they began hiding their possessions to make their small New York City apartment appear as clean as possible. “I realized this would make an excellent comic. I drew this one based on the experience, and the series was born,” he says. He began posting the comics on social media in February, and in less than a year, the series has amassed over 4.7 million followers on Instagram.

(9) KARINA OBIT. Actress Anna Karina died December 15 at the age of 79. Her work has been saluted by many culture blogs, including Lawyers, Guns and Money. Alphaville is the only SF she did, “a science-fiction tale set in a loveless dystopian future…”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 16, 2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiered. It was directed by Gareth Edwards with the  screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. It is from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta. The cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. The film was a box office success, the critics loved it and it’s got an eighty eight percent rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The Fan Boys…? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome. I never saw him, but he was well-known among the small British community there.   I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long-form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won an John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley. He had a number of truly  great works, both genre and not genre, including Eva, The Tears of the Salamander and  The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 62. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the Buffyverse, Outlanders, Time Police, Rogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 52. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an an amazing cast even if the Tomatometer gives it’s 5% rating. 
  • Born December 16, Krysten Ritter, 38. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I grokked. 
  • Born December 16, 1988 Anna Popplewell, 31. She was Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia film franchise, Chyler Silva in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (I saw this — it’s quite well done), she was (at twelve) Anna Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and she’s Frankie in the forthcoming  Fairytale which may be genre or genre adjacent. It might even be titled Fairytale of New York. Or not. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SOUND AND THE FURY. ScienceFiction.com is excited because “Your Alexa Device Can Now Curse You Out With The Samuel L. Jackson Voice Package!”.

To get started, just say, “Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson.” Then, choose whether you’d like Sam to use explicit language or not. If you change your mind later, simply go to the settings menu of the Alexa app to toggle between clean and explicit content.

The Bloomberg video is a bit calmer: “Amazon Alexa Now Lets You Make Samuel L. Jackson’s Your Personal Assistant.”

Amazon company kicked off its celebrity voice program for Alexa, giving customers the option to hear some familiar voices—and it’s starting with Samuel L. Jackson. Users can pay $0.99 and have Jackson respond to your Alexa requests for music, the weather forecast, and more. You can also ask questions that are specific to Jackson, including queries about his career, specific roles, or his interests outside Hollywood.

(14) STEPHENSON BOOK TO SMALL SCREEN. The A.V. Club reports that “HBO is taking a crack at adapting Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash for TV”.

Hollywood’s ongoing efforts to adapt every single book that some guy spent way too much time and energy recommending at you at a party in college continues apace today, with Deadline reporting that HBO has put a TV version of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash into development. The series comes courtesy of The Kid Who Would Be King and Attack The Block director Joe Cornish, with 21 Jump Street’s Michael Bacall set to write the script…[Snow Crash] is satirical, fast-paced, and with one of the most kinetic opening sequences ever committed to print, it’s also one of Stephenson’s most readily accessible books. (Which is to say, he keeps the parables about computer programming, cryptography, and 17th century economics to a minimum.)

(15) FREE DOWNLOAD. Free anthology of Tor.com fiction from 3rd quarter — “Download the Fall 2019 Tor.com Short Fiction Newsletter”.

(16) TAKEN TO THEIR LEADER. Lou Antonelli has posted the latest free story at his Sirius Science Fiction site: “’Trump Asks a Feminist Extraterrestrial Leader for a Favor’ by Marleen S. Barr”.

It’s satirical. Whether it’s satirical enough for you remains the question.

(17) RAMBO UNLIMITED. And to complete our free fiction trifecta, Cat Rambo has released a bunch of titles on KU: “Free Fiction: Stories Newly Enrolled in Kindle Unlimited”. Here are a few of them —

Tabat stories include:

  • §  Narrative of a Beast’s Life: Taken from his home village, the centaur Fino is enslaved and shipped to a new land, where he must learn to cope with the trainer determined to break him. This short story originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy.
  • Events at Fort Plentitude: An exiled soldier tries to wait out a winter in a fort beleaguered by fox-spirits and winter demons. Originally appeared in Weird Tales under editor Ann VanderMeer.
  • How Dogs Came to the New Continent is a short story pulled from the events of the novel Hearts of Tabat, told in the form of a meandering historical paper that teases out more behind the oppression of Beasts and their emerging political struggle.

(18) PLUS ONE. ComicBook.com reports “Guardians of the Galaxy Star Karen Gillan Has Completed Her Role on Marvel’s What If…?”

Marvel’s What If…? may be one of the most anticipated offerings coming to Disney+. The animated series, based on the comics of the same name, will explore many significant moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe but from the angle of what would have happened had just one thing gone a little differently. It’s a premise that is set to offer Peggy Carter as Captain Carter instead of Steve Rogers as Captain America among other interesting twists, but while it’s an exciting premise it’s one that fans have to wait for as the series isn’t set to debut until summer 2021. But while we don’t yet have a release date, fans can at least take some comfort in knowing that work is underway and that when it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan, she’s already completed her voice work on the series….

(19) THE FUTURE OF A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY. Los Angeles Times: “After ‘Rise of Skywalker’ and Baby Yoda, Kathleen Kennedy’s plan for ‘Star Wars’ and beyond”.

 [Rob Bredow [(head of Lucasfilm’s visual effects division Industrial Light & Magic), speaking of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy:]

“She said, ‘There have been a few times in my career where there have been these kinds of moments. Go for it,’” Bredow recalled in the cafeteria of Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters. “She, and we, are looking for those opportunities to break new ground.”

By all accounts, the gamble on “The Mandalorian” has paid off for Lucasfilm since it debuted to an enthusiastic response on streaming service Disney+ in November. Viewers have obsessed online about the show’s introduction of so-called Baby Yoda, an infant from the same species as the green Jedi master…

Kennedy said she plans to make key decisions about the direction of the franchise in the coming weeks. But some things she already knows. While the “Skywalker” saga is ending, the company won’t abandon the characters created in the most recent trilogy. Additionally, she said, the plan is to move beyond trilogies, which can be restricting.

“I think it gives us a more open-ended view of storytelling and doesn’t lock us into this three-act structure,” she said. “We’re not going to have some finite number and fit it into a box. We’re really going to let the story dictate that.” […]

(20) WORKS FOR HER. NPR interviews somebody who had success with the idea — “Researchers Explore A Drug-Free Idea To Relieve Chronic Pain: Green Light”.

Ann Jones tried everything short of surgery for her chronic migraines, which have plagued her since she was a child.

“They’ve actually gotten worse in my old age,” says Jones, who is 70 years old and lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Jones would have as many as two dozen migraines a month.

Over the years, some treatments might work initially, but the effects would prove temporary. Other medications had such severe side effects she couldn’t stay on them.

“It was pretty life-changing and debilitating,” Jones says. “I could either plow through them and sometimes I simply couldn’t.”

In 2018, her doctor mentioned a study that was taking place nearby at the University of Arizona: Researchers were testing if daily exposure to green light could relieve migraines and other kinds of chronic pain.

Jones was skeptical.

“This is going to be one more thing that doesn’t work,” she thought to herself.

But she brushed aside the hesitation and enrolled in the study anyway.

It began with her spending two hours each day in a dark room with only a white light, which served as the control. In the second half of the study, she swapped out the conventional light for a string of green LED lights.

For more than a month, Jones didn’t notice any change in her symptoms. But close to the six-week mark, there was a big shift.

She began going days in a row without migraines. Even when the headaches did come, they weren’t as intense as they had been before the green light therapy.

(21) NOT DARWIN. But a sign of the times: “Driver ‘blows up’ car with ‘excessive’ use of air freshener”. Doesn’t smell so good anymore. (Includes a picture of the destruction.)

A driver caused an explosion in his car when he lit a cigarette after spraying air freshener.

He used “excessive” amounts of the aerosol scent before sparking up, according to firefighters.

Gas from the spray ignited, blew out the windscreen and windows and buckled the doors but the man escaped with only minor injuries.

Police said the incident in Halifax on Saturday “could’ve been worse” and warned people to follow safety advice.

The motorist was in stationary traffic in Fountain Street in the town at about 15:00 GMT on Saturday when the explosion happened.

It was so powerful it caused damage to windows at nearby businesses.

(22) YULE TRADITION. Marcus Errico, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Joker’s still getting away… How ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’ became the ultimate holiday spoof”, looks into the origins of “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” and traces its origins to the Batman TV series of the 1960s.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Alan Baumler, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/3/19 These Are The Pixels That Try Men’s Scrolls

(1) IN OPINIONS YET TO COME. Brooke Bolander is the latest sff author to pen a futuristic op-ed for the New York Times.

As Tor.com puts it –

Asking “Who Should Live in Flooded Old New York?” Bolander imagines a time in which it’s illegal to live in the flooded remains of NYC, with the only residents being those who are too poor to move elsewhere. In this future, Mr. Rogers’ theme song has turned into an “old folk song,” and “draconian federal regulations” punish those remaining, while millionaires running illegal tourism schemes in the city get off scot-free.

(2) WHAT TOR LEARNED FROM LIBRARY SALES EMBARGO. Jason Sanford’s analysis, “Does library ebook lending hurt book sales? Tor Books experiment reveals answers, may lead to new ebook lending terms”, is a free post at his Patreon page. 

Sanford interviewed Fritz Foy, president and publisher of Tom Doherty Associates, the unit of Macmillan that includes Tor, who shared “an unprecedented look at their embargo test….”

…To discover if library ebook lending was indeed hurting sales, Macmillan used their Minotaur imprint as a control group and Tor Books as an experimental group. The two groups have books which sold in similar patterns along with authors and book series which drove steady sales from year to year.

For the experiment Tor prohibited ebook sales to libraries until four months after a book’s release. After that date libraries could purchase the Tor ebooks. The control group Minotaur instituted no such restriction. (As a side-note, Foy said the there was never a plan to do a six-month embargo on ebook sales to libraries, as reported in that Good e-Reader article.)

Foy was surprised by the experiment’s stark results.

“All but one title we compared (in the Tor experiment group) had higher sales after the four month embargo on ebook sales to libraries,” he said. “And the only title where we didn’t see this happen had bad reviews. And when you looked at the control group, sales remained the same.”

(3) LOTR DIRECTOR. “‘The Lord Of The Rings’: J.A. Bayona To Direct Amazon Series”Deadline has the story.

Amazon Studios’ high-profile The Lord of the Rings TV series has made a key hire. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona has been tapped to direct the first two episodes of the big-scope fantasy drama, following in the footsteps of Peter Jackson, who directed the feature adaptations of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novels.

…Bayona’s first feature film, critically acclaimed thriller The Orphanage, executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and later won seven Goya Awards in Spain, including best new director.

Bayona most recently directed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide last year. He also directed the features The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and A Monster Calls, starring Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones, as well as the first two episodes of Showtime’s hit series Penny Dreadful.

(4) LOTR LOCATION. And where will the series be filmed? Probably where you’d have predicted it would if you never heard about the plan for Scotland. Yahoo! Movies reports “Scotland loses out on lucrative ‘Lord of the Rings’ shoot over ‘Brexit uncertainty’, claims new report”.

Amazon’s $1.5 billion (£1.19bn) Lord of the Rings series looks set to begin filming in New Zealand this month, after producers reportedly got cold feet about shooting in Scotland.

The NZ Herald reports that a “huge” part of the series, said to be the most expensive TV show ever made, will be produced in Auckland, specifically at the Kumeu Film Studios and Auckland Film Studios, with an official announcement coming this month. The report states that pre-production on the Amazon show has been based at the two studios for the last year.

Producers were also said to be considering Scotland as a production base, but New Zealand’s public-service radio broadcaster Radio New Zealand (Radio NZ), claims “the tumultuous Brexit situation hindered Scotland’s pitch”.

(5) RESNICK RETURNS TO FB. Mike Resnick gave Facebook readers a medical update about his frightening health news:

Sorry to be absent for a month. 4 weeks ago I was walking from one room to the next when I collapsed. Carol called the ambulance, and 2 days later I woke up in the hospital minus my large intestine. Just got home last night.

I don’t like growing old.

(6) TIDHAR PICKS BUNDLED. Storybundle announced the The 2019 World SF Bundle, curated by Lavie Tidhar:

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

  • Afro SF V3 by Ivor W. Hartmann
  • The Apex Book of World SF 5 by Cristina Jurado and Lavie Tidhar
  • Nexhuman by Francesco Verso
  • Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

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

  • Escape from Baghdad! by Saad Z. Hossain
  • After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun
  • The Thousand Year Beach by TOBI Hirotaka
  • Slipping by Lauren Beukes
  • Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Vanishing Kind by Lavie Tidhar

This bundle is available only for a limited time.

(7) JAMES WHITE AWARD. The judges for the 2019 James White Award will be Justina Robson, Chris Beckett and Donna Scott.

The competition is open to original, unpublished short stories of not more than 6,000 words by non-professional writers. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine. The deadline for submissions was June 28. The winner will be announced in August.

(8) JUMANJI. The next sequel will be in theaters at Christmas.

In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own, they discover that nothing is as they expect. The players will have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape the world’s most dangerous game.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1958 Fiend Without A Face premiered.
  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future was released.
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day debuted in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1998.)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well, that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a “Retro-Hugo” for his work in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”, popularized the idea fans wore propeller beanies and well, being amazing sounding. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Tim O’Connor. He was Dr. Elias Huer in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for much of its run. Other genre appearances were on The Six Million Dollar ManThe Twilight Zone, The Outer LimitsWonder WomanKnight RiderStar Trek: The Next Generation and The Burning Zone. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Altered States is his best known SF film but he’s also done The Devils, an historical horror film, and Alice in Russialand. Russell had a cameo in the film adaptation of Brian Aldiss’s novel Brothers of the Head by the directors of Lost in La Mancha. And, of course, he’s responsible for The Who’s Tommy. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 82. Screenplay writer, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead which is adjacent genre if not actually genre. Also scripted of course Brazil which he co-authored with Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeow. He also did the final Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade final rewrite of Jeffrey Boam’s rewrite of Menno Meyjes’s screenplay. And finally Shakespeare in Love which he co-authored with Marc Norman.
  • Born July 3, 1943 Kurtwood Smith, 76. Clarence Boddicker in Robocop, Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and voiced Kanjar Ro in Green Lantern: First Flight. He’s got series appearances on Blue ThunderThe Terrible ThunderlizardsThe X-FilesStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: VoyagerMen in Black: The Series3rd Rock from the SunTodd McFarlane’s Spawn, Judtice League, Batman Beyond, Green Lantern and Beware the Batman. His last role was as Vernon Masters as the superb Agent Carter.
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 57. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas then Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) IT DON’T PAY TO BE IGNORANT. Not on Jeopardy! as Andrew Porter witnessed tonight:

In the category American Writers, the answer was, “In a story by this sci-fi master, ‘I Sing the Body Electric!’ is the title of a pamphlet for a robot grandmother.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Isaac Asimov?” and “Who is Robert Heinlein?”

(13) AURORA AWARDS. The 2019 Aurora Awards Voter Package is online, available to members of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association.

The purpose of the Aurora Awards Voter Package is simple. Before you vote for the Aurora Awards this year, we want you to be able to read as much of the nominated work as possible, so you can make and informed decision about what is the best of the year. Please note: the package is only available while voting is open. Remember voting ends September 14, 2019 at 11:59:59 EDT!

The electronic versions of these Aurora Award nominated works are made available to you through the generosity of the nominees and publishers. We are grateful for their participation and willingness to share with CSFFA members. If you like what you read, please support the creators by purchasing their works, which are available in bookstores and online.

(14) EN ROUTE. John Hertz, while packing for his journey to Spikecon, paused to quote from the classics:

Farewell my friends, farewell my foes;
To distant planets Freddy goes;
To face grave perils he intends.
Farewell my foes, goodbye my friends.

(15) MORE BOOKS I HAVEN’T READ. At Tor.com, Gabriella Tutino publicized a list compiled by Reddit User einsiboy, creator of the TopRedditBooks site: “Here are the 100 Most Discussed Fantasy Books on Reddit”.  The Reddit link is here. I’ve only read 19 of these – what a disgrace!

(16) JDA REAPPLIES TO SFWA. Mary Robinette Kowal took office as SFWA’s new President at the start of the month. Jon Del Arroz says his latest application for membership is already in her inbox: “A New Dawn For SFWA!” [Internet Archive link].

Things are changing at SFWA as my friend Mary Robinette Kowal has been installed as president, after I endorsed her candidacy early on.

…As she has featured my books on her blog not once, but twice, I know that Ms. Kowal’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity is important to her, and she will be doing everything she can to change the perception that SFWA is a place where Conservatives and Christians are not welcome to be called professional authors.

As such, I have reapplied to SFWA as of yesterday, and let Ms. Kowal know, so we can begin the long journey of working together to ensure equality for Conservative and Christian authors. I’ve offered my services as an ambassador to the community, so she will directly be able to hear the grievances of such authors who have been treated as second class citizens — dare I say, 3/5ths of a professional author — for so long now within the science fiction community.

(17) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE INTERNET. Shades of Cryptonomicon. Futurism.com thinks that the “Russian Sub That Caught Fire Possibly Sent to Cut Internet Cables”

Fire Down Below

On Monday, a Russian submarine caught fire during a mission, killing 14 sailors on board.

But the public didn’t find out about the incident until the next day, when Russia finally released a statement about the accident — though two days after the event, the nation still wouldn’t say exactly what kind of sub caught fire or whether it was nuclear-powered.

A possible reason for Russia’s caginess? Multiple sources are now claiming the sub was an AS-12 “Losharik,” a nuclear-powered submarine some speculate was designed to cut the undersea cables that deliver internet to the world.

(18) FOUR FOR THE FOURTH. For the holiday, James Davis Nicoll has lined up “4 SF Works Featuring a Far-Future U.S.A.” at Tor.com.

In Joe and Jack C. Haldeman’s There Is No Darkness, English is an obscure language, spoken only on backwater worlds and a few places on Earth. We don’t know exactly when the book takes place, as year zero has been set to the founding of the (future) Confederacion. We are told the year is A.C. 354.

What we see of a future Texas suggests that it’s still as recognizably American as Justinian’s Constantinople would have been recognizably Roman. While the region seems a bit down at heel, it’s also one of the more optimistic takes on a future America.

(19) SCALZI GIVEAWAY. Or maybe Christmas will come early and you can read this:

(20) IF IT E-QUACKS LIKE A DUCK. Thomas has found a place where “Robots Replace Ducks in Rice Paddy Fields”.

Aigamo is a Japanese farming method that uses ducks to keep unwanted plants and parasites out of rice paddy fields. This duck crossbreed is able to keep the paddy clear without the use of herbicides or pesticides, and the fowls’ waste actually works as a pretty good fertilizer.  

The method was first introduced in the 16th century but soon fell out of favor. It wasn’t reintroduced as a natural farming method until 1985 and it quickly became popular across the country as well as in China, Iran, France, and other countries. 

About 15 ducks can keep a 1,000-square-meter area clear of insects, worms, and weeds, and they even enrich the water with oxygen by constantly stirring up the soil. But as humans are prone to do, an engineer from Nissan Motor, needed to build a better mousetrap, although this one may not have too many beating down a path to his door. 

Created as a side project, the Aigamo Robot looks less like its namesake and more like a white, floating Roomba with eyes. While the ducks can be trained to patrol specific areas, the robot employs Wi-Fi and GPS to help the robot stir up the soil and keep bugs at bay, though no word yet on how much ground it can cover in a single day. 

(21) SPIDER TO THE FLIER. Have you seen “United–Fly Like a Superhero” on YouTube? The Spider-Man version of the United Airlines safety video? Too bad it’s not as much fun as the Air New Zealand hobbit videos.

(22) STRANGE VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “9 Ways To Draw A Person” on Vimeo, Sasha Svirsky offers a strange video that doesn’t actually tell you how to draw a person.

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