Pixel Scroll 5/28/22 Though I Scroll Through The Pixels Of The Of Media Birthdays, I Will Fear No Spoilers

(1) WELLS AMA. Martha Wells did an “Ask Me Anything” for Reddit’s r/books today: “I’m Martha Wells, and I’m an author of science fiction and fantasy, including The Murderbot Diaries. AMA!”

What authors do you like to read?

N.K. Jemisin, Kate Elliott, Nghi Vo, K. Arsenault Rivera, Rebecca Roanhorse, Fonda Lee, Aliette de Bodard, Ovidia Yu, Lois McMaster Bujold, Zen Cho, Barbara Hambly, Judith Tarr, Tana French, Tade Thompson, C.L. Polk. A whole bunch, basically. 🙂

(2) GREAT AND NOT-SO-GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Naomi Kanakia discusses “My relationship to bias against trans people in the publishing industry” at The War on Loneliness.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on my ‘career’ (so to speak) as a trans writer for teens, which (oddly enough) now includes being one of the enemies du jour for a substantial part of the country!

Personally, it doesn’t bother me that much. I don’t lose sleep over it. If I got harassment or felt unsafe, I’m sure that would change. All the consequences are professional. There’s a huge appetite for trans narratives now, but I think they’re also risky, and that more marginal or nuanced perspectives like mine are just not what the country feels like it needs. That’s even aside from the risks of a book being banned by the right or cancelled by the left (or, as in a few cases, cancelled by right-wing trolls who pick out seemingly-offensive passages and use them to get the left riled up)

I see being trans the same way I see being a woman or being brown: it’s a definite professional liability, and it probably makes publication and acclaim harder to come by, but it also makes the work more meaningful. In a way, it’s kind of a privilege to be able to write about things that people care about, to say stuff that they might not’ve heard before, and to have a perspective that’s valuable. Which is to say, if it wasn’t harder for me to succeed, the would be less worth doing. I do think that if you want to produce something valuable, it’s always going to be more difficult, precisely because what is valuable is rarer, less-understood, and doesn’t have the same immediately-intuitive appeal….

(3) VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. Steve Vertlieb had a setback after returning home from heart surgery. But now he’s back home from a second hospital stay and has copied File 770 on his account for Facebook readers.

A Pseudoaneurysm And Blood Clot Bring Me To My Knees Once More, Requiring Renewed Forced Hospitalization

 … Just returned a little while ago from Abington Hospital in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania where I spent the last ten days unexpectedly confined to the dreaded hospital once again. I was only home for five days when agonizing pain in my lower groin forced me to to go back to the emergency room for a re-evaluation of my already precarious medical condition. I was diagnosed rather quickly, I fear, with a Pseudoaneurysm in my left lower groin area, as well as a blood clot in my left leg. I had a two and a half hour blood transfusion a few days ago in order to correct a low Hemoglobin level which had only added to my recent medical woes. I’m home again, however … I hope this time permanently.

To quote Dr. Henry Frankenstein … “HE’S ALIVE … ALIVE.” I’ve returned bloodied and scarred, but alive and on the mend, from the proverbial gates of hell. I shall live, God willing, to tell the story of my remarkable journey through fear, panic, and nearly terminal illness to the sweet gates of successful surgery, completion, and somewhat “limitless” vistas.

My time on Facebook will, for the present, be limited, I fear, in the days ahead, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve survived. I came home from the hospital yesterday (Thursday) after a ten day stay following major open-heart surgery. The procedure lasted approximately six hours, during which my surgeons replaced one heart valve, repaired another, stitched back together the hole in my heart, and stopped my internal bleeding.

This procedure was far more involved and life threatening than I ever imagined or was advised. The second time, it seems, is not the charm, but the entire bracelet. They had to cut through an already existing incision, breaking once healed bones protecting my heart cavity yet again, in order to reach and operate upon the newly troubled areas. My recovery, consequently, will also be far more difficult than my original transition back to health, healing, and wholeness twelve years ago.

The good news, however, is that when I asked my surgeon the chances for a complete recovery, he responded “ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.” Doing anything beyond menial movement and chores over the next several months will be severely limited. My brother Erwin is here with me for the next month or so, and he’ll be taking care of me. However, my reason for posting this morning, is to let you all know that I have survived a difficult surgery, and that I’m looking forward, with faith and dreams, to a Summer, a year, and a life of happiness, love, laughter, and blessed renewal.

Thank you all from the bottom of my sometimes troubled heart for the most gracious gift of your prayers, and friendship. In Love, Peace, and Gratitude Steve

(4) VIRGIL FINLAY ART. Doug Ellis has announced a sale:

For fans of the great Virgil Finlay, my latest art sale catalog is now available.  This one is devoted entirely to the art of Finlay.  Note that none of these are published pieces, but instead are personal pieces (including abstracts).  This material all comes from Finlay’s estate, and I’m selling it on behalf of his granddaughter.

You can download the catalog (about 30 MB) through Dropbox here.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. “Out of Ash by Brenda Cooper” at Slate is a short story about climate change, the new entry from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly 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. 

…Mist gave way to soft rain, then faded back to damp cold. Stored sunlight made octagonal tiles on the path under my feet glow. I followed its light to the middle of Central Park, where dusk barely illuminated the blue and red mosaics of the town well. Volunteers had moved every piece of the well they could salvage from drowning historic Olympia to the replica in New Olympia. By car, the journey was over 65 miles. The new city perched on the lower slopes of Mount Rainier, and the water tasted as clean, although more like mountain than river. This well, like the old one, operated as a free community asset. The glowing streets, the well, and, a few blocks away, the new State Capitol all looked even more beautiful than the artist’s renderings. The city ran on sunlight. Edible plants bordered parks, fed by recycled wastewater as clean as the well water. New Olympia gave as much back to the ecosystem as it took….

Molly Brind’amour’s response essay considers, “What happens if no one moves to a new city?”

Multiple choice question: Your favorite beautiful, coastal city is at risk of being flooded by sea level rise, and you have the power to do something. Do you

a)   Build a sea wall
b)   Rearrange it into the hills
c)    Move the entire city inland
d)   Do nothing

These are the options facing today’s leaders… 

(6) STYLIN’ IN SIXTIES HOLLYWOOD. Techno Trenz remembers when: “Over a pair of shoes, Frank Sinatra came dangerously close to assaulting writer Harlan Ellison.”

…Sinаtrа wаs so pаrticulаr аbout his аppeаrаnce thаt he becаme enrаged when people didn’t dress the wаy he did. When he wаs in а bаr, he hаppened to notice Ellison.

“[Ellison] wore а pаir of brown corduroy slаcks, а green shаggy-dog Shetlаnd sweаter, а tаn suede jаcket, аnd $60 Gаme Wаrden boots,” Gаy Tаlese wrote in the Creаtive Nonfiction аrticle “Frаnk Sinаtrа Hаs а Cold.”

Sinаtrа wаs irritаted enough by Ellison’s аttire thаt he аpproаched him while plаying pool.

“Look, do you hаve аny reаson to tаlk to me?” Ellison inquired.

Sinаtrа responded, “I don’t like how you’re dressed.”…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2011 [By Cat Eldridge.] Eleven years ago on this evening, the BBC aired the first episode of the Outcasts series. You’ve probably never heard of it as it only lasted eight episodes. It was created by Ben Richards who had absolutely no SFF background being a writer of such series as the British intelligence series Spooks (which is streaming on Britbox). 

It was written by him along with Jack Lothian and David Farr with the story being it is set on the colony planet Carpathia and it revolves around the ongoing lives of the existing settlers, and the introduction of the last evacuees from Earth.  No spoilers there I think.

When critics saw the pilot episode, they were downright hostile. Let’s start with Kevin O’Sullivan of The Mirror who exclaimed “While the barmy BBC squanders a billion quid on getting the hell out of London… it must have saved a fortune on ­Outcasts.  A huge horrible heap of cheapo trash, this excruciating sci-fi rubbish tip looked like it was made on a budget of about 50p.  Who directed it? Ed Wood? And what a script! So jaw-droppingly dreadful it hurt.” 

David Chater at the Times wrote, “Not since Bonekickers has the BBC broadcast such an irredeemably awful series. Sometimes catastrophes on this scale can be enjoyed precisely because they are so dismal, but this one has a kind of grinding badness that defies enjoyment of any kind.” 

Mike Hale of the New York Times gets the last word: “With none of the flair or self-deprecating wit that has defined other British sci-fi imports (‘Torchwood,’ ‘Primeval’), ‘Outcasts’ strands a number of talented performers, including Mr. Bamber, Eric Mabius and Liam Cunningham, on a world of wooden dialogue and interplanetary clichés. There’s nothing a rescue ship from earth can do for this crew.”

Audience figures for the series were extremely poor: as they started with an initial low figure of four point five million viewers for the pilot, and the show lost nearly two-thirds over its run, to finish with one point five million UK viewers. 

Richards remain defiant after it was moved to a new time stating “I have every confidence we will rule our new slot. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!” and “Cultdom beckons. And keep watching hardcore because remaining eps great.”  Well BBC didn’t pay attention as they then cancelled the series despite actually having shot some of the first episode of the second series. 

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

It appears to streaming for free on Vudu.  And it was released as a UK DVD.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 28, 1908 Ian Fleming. Author of the James Bond series which is at least genre adjacent if not actually genre in some cases such as Moonraker. The film series was much more genre than the source material. And then there’s the delightful Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car. The film version was produced by Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, who had already made five James Bond films. Fleming, a heavy smoker and drinker his entire adult life, died of a heart attack, his second in three years. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 28, 1923 Natalie Norwick. She had a number of genre roles in the Sixties including being Martha Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”, a Trek episode, and appearing as Josette duPres Collins on Dark Shadows. (Died 2007.)
  • Born May 28, 1951 Sherwood Smith, 71. YA writer best known for her Wren series. She co-authored The Change Series with Rachel Manija Brown.  She also co-authored two novels with Andre Norton, Derelict for Trade and A Mind for Trade
  • Born May 28, 1954 Betsy Mitchell, 68. Editorial freelancer specializing in genre works. She was the editor-in-chief of Del Rey Books. Previously, she was the Associate Publisher of Bantam Spectra when they held the license to publish Star Wars novels in the Nineties. She edited the Full Spectrum 4 anthology which won a World Fantasy Award. 
  • Born May 28, 1981 Laura Bailey, 41. I find voice performers fascinating. And we have one of the most prolific ones here in Laura Bailey. She’s got hundreds of credits currently, so can hardly list all of them here, so l’ll just choose a few that I really like. She voiced Ghost-Spider / Gwen Stacy in the recent Spider-man series and the Black Widow in Avengers Assemble and other Marvel series. And she appeared in Constantine: City of Demons as Asa the Healer. 
  • Born May 28, 1984 Max Gladstone, 38. His debut novel, Three Parts Dead, is part of the Craft Sequence series, and his shared Bookburners serial is most excellent. This Is How You Lose the Time War (co-written with Amal El-Mohtar) won a Hugo Award for Best Novella at CoNZealand. It also won an Aurora, BSFA, Ignyte, Locus and a Nebula. 
  • Born May 28, 1985 Carey Mulligan, 37. She’s here because she shows up in a very scary Tenth Doctor story, “Blink”, in which she plays Sally Sparrow. Genre adjacent, she was in Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Sittaford Mystery as Violet Willett. (Christie gets a shout-out in another Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and the Wasp”.)

(9) CON OR BUST. Dream Foundry’s Con or Bust program is gearing up again. The program helps creatives of color attend conventions and other professional development opportunities they otherwise might not be able to by financing their trip, stay, and/or tickets.

They’re looking for donations – to offer one, use the donation form here. If you think you’d benefit from the funds, there’s a request form here. 

(10) SERVICE INTERRUPTUS. Cat Eldridge circled back to right-wing blog Upstream Reviews to read any new comments on its recent gloating posts about the Mercedes Lackey controversy and SFWA’s announcement that its membership directory data had been compromised. Surprisingly, he found that the blog is offline – all you get is an “Internal Server Error.” There’s still a Google cache file – the blog’s last entry was Declan Finn kissing Larry Correia’s butt.  Maybe the internet threw up? Cat says, “Quite likely as the parent domain is for it is mysfbooks.com which as been blacklisted by the internet as being dangerous to visit (may have worms, may harvest your passwords, may steal your immortal soul).”

(11) IF I COULD TALK TO THE ANIMALS. They left this part out of Doctor Doolittle, I guess.

Young dolphins, within the first few months of life, display their creativity by creating a unique sound. These bleats, chirps and squeaks amount to a novel possession in the animal kingdom — a label that conveys an identity, comparable to a human name.

These labels are called signature whistles, and they play an essential role in creating and keeping relationships among dolphins. While the development of a signature whistle is influenced by learning from other dolphins, each whistle still varies in volume, frequency, pitch and length….

… Fellow researcher Jason Bruck, a marine biologist at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, told National Geographic the original goal was to test whether dolphins use their signature whistles in the same way people rely on names.

Bruck couldn’t do that unless he found a second way dolphins could identify each other. Luckily, he remembered that a fellow scientist had previously observed wild dolphins swimming through what the website called “plumes of urine” and he figured the creatures might be using it as an ID technique….

(12) WHAT’S UP, DOCK? A travel writer for Insider gives a detailed account of her Starcruiser experience, accompanied by many photos of the décor, characters, and food, and assures everyone the $5200 price tag is worth it. “Adults Try Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser — Cost, Review, Photos”

I felt the price I paid was justified for everything that was included in this experience and watching my husband live out his best Star Wars life was priceless.. 

Plus the level of service and entertainment, the cast, and the food were just incredible. 

If you are a Star Wars fan, I recommend this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But I have to tell you if that’s the price I’ll have to pay, like Han Solo said, “This is going to be a real short trip.”

(13) PORTENTOUS WORDS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt prepares people for the release of Obi-Wan Kenobi by giving his ten favorite Obi-Wan moments from Star Wars episodes 1-4. “Obi-Wan Kenobi moments to know before his Disney Plus return”. Second on the list:

Duel of the Fates “We’ll handle this.” (Episode 1: The Phantom Menace)

Duel of the Fates, the epic lightsaber battle featuring Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul, borders on Star Wars perfection. Its success comes from the combination of John Williams’s score, Ray Park’s physicality as Darth Maul and modern CGI technology finally catching up to the imagination of George Lucas. And it is a moment that shows the ascension of Obi-Wan from Padawan to Jedi Knight when he ends up victorious.

(14) OBOE WAN. Legendary film composer John Williams hit the stage to surprise fans at Anaheim Star Wars Celebration and play the theme for the new Obi Wan Kenobi series.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/22 I Have A Master’s Degree – In Scrolling

(1) WHO SAID THIS JOB WAS EASY? Bad Writer by greybeardgames boasts (?) a recommendation from one of sff’s leading names:

“The most depressingly realistic writer’s life simulation I ever experienced” Lavie Tidhar, author of Maror, Hood, By Force Alone, Osama, Central Station, and others.

You play Emily, a struggling writer, trying to make it in the big bad world of short story publishing. You walk around your house, getting ideas, and writing stories. Try not to get too distracted, or you will get sad that you hadn’t written during the day. Get too sad, and it’s game over. She gives up and gets a new job doing something far less fun and stressful.

The game was created by author Paul Jessup, creator of haunted fantasies and weird futures. Only $2.99! Many find they prefer playing it to writing. Oops!

(2) WISCON NEWS. WisCon has set an in-person attendance cap of 600 as a safety measure. They’ve also given a status report about their GoHs: “In-person attendance cap, Guest of Honor updates, and more”.

Regarding our Guests of Honor:

  • We’re thrilled to confirm that Sheree Renée Thomas will be attending WisCon 2022 in person and will also be available to participate in virtual programming.
  • Unfortunately, due to family commitments and the ongoing pandemic, neither Zen Cho nor Yoon Ha Lee will be able to participate either physically or virtually in WisCon 2022.
  • We have yet to receive confirmation whether Rebecca Roanhorse will be able to participate virtually (for the second time) or physically.

The post also discusses major changes they’ve had to make in response to Covid or in response to the limited time and energy volunteers have to run events.

(3) LEGOLAND ADDS STADIUM. The LEGO® SoFi Stadium is now open at Legoland California Resort.

SoFi Stadium has “touched down” in Miniland USA! An architectural marvel that took a team of 25 dedicated Master Model Builders more than 6,000 hours and more than 500,000 LEGO® bricks to build, the final SoFi Stadium model stands at more than 30 feet long, 15 feet wide and over 4 feet tall. It’s currently considered the largest LEGO® stadium in the world. The massive LEGO structure joins other top Southern California attractions featured in LEGO form, including Griffith Park Observatory, Hollywood Bowl and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The LA Times has more coverage: “A record replica of SoFi Stadium arrives at Legoland”.

…More than a dozen members of the park’s model shop team completed the final installation of the model, which took place over the course of four days, park representatives said.

Inside the stadium, model makers re-created the L.A. Ram’s starting roster for Super Bowl LVI, which they won in mid-February over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The scene will include “Minilander,” or Lego versions, of this year’s Super Bowl championship team, park officials said. There will also be an “audience” of 3,000 Lego people inside….

(4) REPORTING ON LOCATION. “Friendship in the Time Of Kaiju: A Conversation with John Scalzi” conducted by Arley Sorg at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Are kaiju something that you’re into, did you grow up watching Godzilla?

Some of my earliest memories of television are the Japanese kaiju movies. When I grew up in Los Angeles, I’d watch channel nine and channel eleven. They were independent stations at the time, and they would fill up their Saturday and Sunday afternoons with Japanese movies where these big monsters would stomp on things. When you’re seven or eight years old, and before the Star Wars era, all of it looked startlingly realistic. It was like, “This could be happening! What the hell’s going on in Japan, how do they live?” I think anybody who was my age growing up watching these things, it just sort of seeped into your bones.

(5) VIRGIL FINLAY ART SALE CATALOG. Doug Ellis shares his Finlay auction catalog – get an eyeful, then buy a wall-full!

For fans of the great Virgil Finlay, here’s my latest art sale catalog.  This one is devoted entirely to the art of Finlay, with over 50 originals.  Note that none of these are published pieces, but instead are personal pieces (including abstracts) and a few prelims.  None of this material has been at any convention, nor has it been in any prior catalog.  This material all comes from Finlay’s estate, and I’m selling it on behalf of his granddaughter.

And if you like Finlay art, I’ll have a few hundred other, similar pieces for sale at this year’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (May 6-8, 2022 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown center) that has not been shown in any catalog either.

You can download the catalog (about 30 MB) through WeTransfer here.

(6) A WINK IS AS GOOD AS A NOD. In the Washington Post Magazine, Jason Vest profiles Rob Poor, whose eyeball was used for a retina scan Captain Kirk had to undergo in Star Trek Ii:  The Wrath Of Khan.  The scan seems routine today but Vest says this was “one of the earliest digitized photo images of living matter used in a major film” and Vest described how it happened. “William Shatner’s eyeball double in ‘Star Trek II’ tells how it happened”.

…Poor’s story illuminates not just how far our technology has come in the past 40 years, but also how the effects wizards working on “Star Trek II,” in swinging for the fences, helped lay the foundation for something we take for granted today: the digital cameras of our communicators (er, cellphones). As such, I asked Poor if he would be willing to revisit the tale of his role in a pioneering filmmaking moment and technological advance — and one that has seen him achieve on-screen immortality, if uncredited, as … William Shatner’s stunt eyeball….

(7) PKD AT THE MOVIES. “A Scanner Darkly Is the Best Philip K. Dick Film Adaptation, Not Blade Runner” contends CBR.com.

…The look of A Scanner Darkly is the first noticeable difference that sets it apart from other adaptations and is a crucial decision to pull off PKD’s vision. PKD’s themes of warping identities, hallucinations and false realities are often difficult to capture on film, and Linklater’s return to rotoscoping — an animation technique that traces over live-action cels which he also used in Waking Life — is a spot on visualization of these themes.

This is evidenced in the very first scene, which shows a frantic Charles Freck (Rory Cochrane) dealing with an infestation of imagined insects. The fact that the bug hallucinations look identical to the real world drags viewers into the uncanny valley, creating a simultaneously lifelike and artificial setting where it is difficult to know what is actually taking place.

In addition to the look of A Scanner Darkly, the film also avoids the most common missteps that other films have made when adapting PKD’s work. Featuring heroics without heroes, action without resolution and romance without lovers, PKD worlds are perhaps too incongruous for film, especially the bombastic style found in this era of the Hollywood blockbuster.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1992 — [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty years ago, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories wins the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. The novel was published two years earlier and was his first novel since The Satanic Verses which as we all know resulted in that book being condemned by many Islamic clerics and Rushdie being condemned to death. Much of this novel can be considered a commentary upon what happened to him then. 

Haroun itself is “a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad it had forgotten its name”. It will by the end of the stories have its name restored. A joyous event indeed. 

The New York Times review compared it to the work of Barrie, Beatrix, Potter and E. B.  White: “Salman Rushdie’s remarkable new children’s book belongs in this company. The only difference is that the experiences that lie behind ‘Haroun and the Sea of Stories’ are nearly as fantastic as anything in the tale. Before the fact, who could have believed that a world-famous spiritual leader would publicly exhort his millions of followers to murder a novelist in another country, and promise them eternal salvation should they succeed?”

The Kirkus review aimed at librarians was more literary in nature: “Memorable bedtime story targeted for an audience as large as a bull’s-eye on the side of a barn. The book is catalogued for January but will be shipped to bookstores in early November for Thanksgiving sales. Few readers will not find some tie between this story of a silenced father-storyteller and Rushdie’s death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini—but it’s a tie not stressed by the author. Perhaps the brightest aspect of the book is its bubbling good humor and witty dialogue, and then its often superb writing: ‘There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, which were so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy even though the skies were blue.’” 

Befitting the literary nature of the book and its use of multiple languages, it was made into an audiobook which is read by Rushdie himself. I’ve heard it — it’s an extraordinary work indeed. 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories was adapted for the stage by Tim Supple and David Tushingham. It had its stage premiere in 1998 at the Royal National Theatre in London. It was also an opera, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written by Charles Wuorinen in 2001 with libretto by James Fenton, which premiered at the New York City Opera in Fall 2004.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1892 Thorne Smith. A writer of humorous supernatural fantasy. He is best remembered for the two Topper novels — a comic fantasy fiction mix of plentiful drink, many ghosts, and sex. Not necessarily in that order.  The original editions of the Topper novels complete with their erotic illustrations are available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1934.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 80. I remember him in Babylon 5’s  “A Late Delivery from Avalon” episode as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what on his genre list really impresses you? 
  • Born March 27, 1949 — John Hertz, 73. He’s an active fanzine fan who publishes Vanamonde. He’s also an experienced masquerade judge, convention art show tour docent, and teacher of Regency dancing. Winner of the Big Heart Award at the 2003 Torcon. With the help of the HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance) fan fund he attended Nippon 2007. He‘s a three-time Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer. Four collections of his fanwriting have been published, West of the MoonDancing and Joking, On My Sleeve, and Neither Complete nor Conclusive.  (OGH)
  • Born March 27, 1950 John Edward Allen. One of the forgotten dwarfs of Hollywood, he stood but three feet and ten inches tall. English by birth and English in death as he was back there after an impressive career in Hollywood to die on his native soil. How impressive? Well given how hard it was for dwarfs to find work, pretty good as he appeared in Snow White LiveBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturySide Show (circus horror film), Under the Rainbow (see IMDB link here), Tales from the Darkside (as a goblin), Swamp Thing series (love that series), Superboy (as a carnival dwarf) and Snow White: A Tale of Terror. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 27, 1952 Dana Stabenow, 70. Though better known for her superb Kate Shugak detective series of which the first, the Edgar Award-winning A Cold Day for Murder is a Meredith moment right now, she does have genre work to her credit in the excellent Star Svensdotter space series, and the latter is available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born March 27, 1953 Patricia Wrede, 69. She is a founding member of The Scribblies, along with Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust and Nate Bucklin. Not to be confused with the Pre-Joycean Fellowship which overlaps in membership. Outside of her work for the the Liavek shared-world anthology created and edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, there are several series she has running including Lyra (Shadow Magic)Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate (co-written with Caroline Stevermer). She’s also written the novelizations of several Star Wars films including Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones in what are listed  as  ‘Jr. Novelizations’.
  • Born March 27, 1969 Pauley Perrette, 53. Though she’s best known for playing Abby Sciuto on NCIS, a role she walked away from under odd circumstances, she does have some genre roles. She was Ramona in The Singularity Is Near, a film based off Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Next up is the most excellent Superman vs. The Elite in which she voices Lois Lane. Let’s see… she had a recurring role on Special Unit 2 as Alice Cramer but I never watched that series beyond the pilot so I’ve no idea what that role was. 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 51. Certainly best known here for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly ‘verse, though the large viewing audience now know him as Richard Castle on Castle. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor I think. In both roles. In his case, I’d say most of it. He voiced Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: DoomJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh, and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BAFFLING HALT. “NASA Criticized for Ending Pronoun Project” reports Scientific American.

In a move that has been widely criticized, NASA leaders recently terminated a test project that allowed employees at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) to display pronouns in their official agency identifiers. The decision affected more than 100 employees who saw their stated pronouns vanish from communication platforms.

…Organized by a handful of management officials within GSFC, the pronoun-inclusive effort was “a tech demo”—a prepilot program, a Goddard employee says, that was a first step toward addressing concerns that included issues with removing deadnames from the agency’s IT system. (A deadname is the name a transgender or nonbinary person had before transitioning.) In searching for solutions, the GSFC team spoke with NASA Headquarters, as well as legal departments and employee resource groups at the agency. In other words, “this wasn’t a bunch of people going rogue,” says a scientist at GSFC.

During that process, the GSFC team identified an option that would let employees add their pronouns to their display names, which are used in electronic communications, including e-mail, contact lists, instant messaging platforms and Microsoft Teams environments. Usually, those identifiers include “[Last name],” “[First name]” and “[NASA Center-XXX],” where the “XXX” would be replaced by a three-digit organizational code. But by filling in an optional field that is typically used for nicknames, employees could add pronouns after their names. It was an efficient and inexpensive way to make a necessary change, employees say, and did not require any additional coding or IT investments….

(12) SIGNAL CLOSE ACTION. Someone asked a question. Martin Wisse answered, “My rightwing guilty pleasure: Honor Harrington” at Wis[s]e Words.

If you’re on the political left, what is the most right-wing artistic work that you enjoy and appreciate (in whatever way you understand that concept)? And if you’re on the right, the reverse?

And my mind immediately went to David Weber and his Honor Harrington series. Doing Horatio Hornblower in Space! series is already a pretty conservative concept, but Weber took it up to eleven, especially at the start….

(13) IF YOU LOOK UPON A STAR. The story follows this introduction — “Fiction: ‘A Tranquil Star’” by Primo Levi in The New Yorker.

Italo Calvino once referred to the novelist and memoirist Primo Levi as “one of the most important and gifted writers of our time.” An Italian chemist and Holocaust survivor, Levi was the author of fourteen books, including “The Periodic Table” and “Survival in Auschwitz.” Since Levi’s death, in 1987, The New Yorker has published eight of his works of fiction and poetry. In 2007, the magazine excerpted the title story from Levi’s posthumous collection “A Tranquil Star.” The tale describes, in vivid, granular detail, the life and death of a star called al-Ludra, as observed through the eyes of various astronomers. But it’s also a story about the fine boundaries of the spoken word. … To compose a narrative about a star—and to make it as relevant as any depiction of a notable figure or close acquaintance—is no small feat. Levi balances the astonishing with the wonted, tracing the minute details of matter that appears immutable, and yet, like our own history, is ever changing….

(14) A CUT ABOVE. Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition is streaming April 5 on Paramount+.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Max Headroom chats with BBC presented Terry Wogan in this clip from 1985 that dropped this week.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/17/22 If You Can’t Handle Me At My Pixel, You Don’t Deserve Me At My Scroll

(1) PLEASE, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE? “Editorial Resignations At Big Houses Spark Reckoning” reports Publishers Lunch. Of the four departed editors, one worked for Tor and two for Orbit.

Multiple resignations from the editorial departments at two big houses caused an online reckoning on Friday. Four editors, Angeline Rodriguez and Hillary Sames at Orbit, Erin Siu at Macmillan Children’s, and Molly McGhee at Tor all announced their resignations, leading to a discussion about the workload of junior and mid-level employees and the difficulty of advancement across the industry. The online exchange brought into the open the frustrations of increased workload, burnout and turnover that have been brewing as the pandemic continues. Those feelings are intensified as big publishers report record sales and earnings, even as multiple people report on Twitter they believe their employers are not sufficiently reinvesting those proceeds in additional staff, systems and raises.

At the heart of the discussion was McGhee’s resignation letter which she posted on Twitter….

McGhee’s interview with the New York Times ran under the headline “When Will Publishing Stop Starving Its Young?”

… On March 11, McGhee joined a group of junior and midlevel employees who exited the publishing industry, blaming low pay, unrealistic workloads and burnout. For context: It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to live in or near New York City (epicenter of bookmaking) on an entry-level publishing salary. Add school loans, subtract a second job or additional subsidy and you risk being factored out of a career in letters before the ink on your college diploma has had a chance to dry.

“As some of you may have heard, today is my last day at Tor Books,” McGhee wrote in the resignation letter she shared on Twitter. “My promotion request was denied, and as such I am leaving as my first acquisition (the marvelous THE ATLAS SIX by Olivie Blake) debuts at number three on The New York Times Bestsellers List.” She goes on, “Making the NYT is a career high for an editor. It is rare for an assistant to do so and, by all accounts, this should be ‘a great beginning’ and not a heartbreaking end.”

McGhee also cites “the invisibility of the junior employee’s workload” as one of her reasons for leaving Tor. As Blake writes in her novel, “We are the gods of our own universes, aren’t we?” Indeed we are. But gods cannot live on ramen alone….

The text of McGhee’s March 11 message follows:

(2) ESA AND ROSCOSMOS BREAKUP. The European Space Agency has suspended the ExoMars rover after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ESA ruling council “acknowledged the present impossibility of carrying out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover mission with a launch in 2022” – “ESA – ExoMars suspended”.

As an intergovernmental organisation mandated to develop and implement space programmes in full respect with European values, we deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine. While recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States.

ExoMars

ESA’s ruling Council, meeting in Paris on 16-17 March, assessed the situation arising from the war in Ukraine regarding ExoMars, and unanimously:

  • acknowledged the present impossibility of carrying out the ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars rover mission with a launch in 2022, and mandated the ESA Director General to take appropriate steps to suspend the cooperation activities accordingly;
  • authorised the ESA Director General to carry out a fast-track industrial study to better define the available options for a way forward to implement the ExoMars rover mission.

Space Transportation

Following the decision by Roscosmos to withdraw their personnel from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, all missions scheduled for launch by Soyuz have been put on hold. These concern essentially four institutional missions for which ESA is the launch service procurement entity (Galileo M10, Galileo M11, Euclid and EarthCare) and one additional institutional launch.

Consequently, the ESA Director General has initiated an assessment on potential alternative launch services for these missions, which will include  a review of the Ariane 6 first exploitation flights.  A robust launch manifest for ESA missions’ launch needs, including for spacecraft originally planned for launch by Soyuz from Kourou, will be submitted to Member States.   

Likewise, “Russia’s War in Ukraine Threatens Joint Missions to Mars, Venus and the Moon” reports Scientific American.

… The strife is impacting otherworldly missions as well: Consider Russia’s nascent Venera-D mission, a proposed orbiter and lander meant to blast off for Venus in 2029. The U.S. had been considering allowing NASA to collaborate on Venera-D, perhaps by contributing scientific instruments. But, citing retaliatory sanctions, Russia’s space leadership deemed continued U.S. participation in the project “inappropriate.”…

(3) RUNAWAY SUCCESS. Brandon Sanderson’s record-breaking Kickstarter, “Surprise! Four Secret Novels by Brandon Sanderson by Dragonsteel Entertainment”, had raised $29,710,529 when I checked today. With 14 days remaining it will obviously break $30 million and then some.

(4) MS. PRESIDENT. “Stacey Abrams makes surprise appearance on Star Trek as president of Earth”Yahoo! has the story.

Stacey Abrams just boldly went where no Georgia gubernatorial candidate has gone before.

Abrams, the Georgia politician who’s running for governor of the state this year, had a surprise cameo in the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, appearing as the president of United Earth.

A scene at the end of the season four finale, “Coming Home,” introduces the United Earth president, and Abrams gets several lines, announcing that “United Earth is ready right now to rejoin the Federation, and nothing could make me happier than to say those words.” She also has a discussion with Discovery‘s main character, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), about Earth rejoining the Federation, and this scene closes the episode….

(5) MOFFAT’S NEXT SHOW. “The Time Traveler’s Wife shares trailer for new Steven Moffat series”Radio Times sets the frame.

Sky has released the official teaser trailer for Steven Moffat’s adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife, which will air on Sky Atlantic and NOW in May.

… The six-episode series is the second major adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s popular novel of the same name, following the 2009 film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, once again telling the story of a marriage that threatens to be torn apart by time travel. Alongside Leslie and James, the cast also includes Desmin Borges, Natasha Lopez, Kate Seigel and Michael Park.

Of course, it’s not Moffat’s first time dealing with time travel – following his hugely successful stint as Doctor Who showrunner between 2009 and 2017 – but he’s been on record to explain that the two shows share little in common beyond that superficial similarity.

(6) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Well, this will certainly be out of the price range of us mere mortals… Virgil Finlay’s “Portrait of Robert A. Heinlein” will be up for auction on April 15. “This lot is accompanied by a letter signed by the artist and dated August 5, 1953.”

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2006 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Doctor Who ended back in 1989 when the Seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy had his final story, “Survival.” No indication was given beforehand that the show was being cancelled. 

A year after the BBC revived by the show in the UK, Doctor Who returned in the U.S. “Rose” was broadcast in the States on March 17, an episode named for the Billie Piper character who was the first modern companion. Christopher Eccleston played the Ninth Doctor.  Briefly. Note that there is no regeneration scene here. Of course as we know there were other Doctors between the Seventh Doctor and this Doctor. Indeed the numbering is suspect, isn’t it? 

So how was the reception for this new Who? The New York Times liked it: “In most previous versions of the show, so little was going on between the Doctor and his female companions that fans took to making up sex scenes on the Internet, much the way ‘X-Files’ buffs tried to fantasize a little action between Scully and Mulder. But between the Doctor and Rose there is genuine, old-fashioned chemistry, and their interaction, which occasionally takes on the aspect of screwball comedy, is much the best thing in the show.” 

And Radio Times succinctly put it, “Think big. Think bold. Think fantastic! For the very first time, Doctor Who achieves a perfect blend of big screen and small screen.”

Season One over at Rotten Tomatoes holds a near perfect ninety-six percent rating among audience reviewers. 

The entire new series is streaming on HBO Max. The older series is on a number of streaming services of a British nature.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 17, 1846 Kate Greenaway. Victorian artist and writer, largely known today for her children’s book illustrations. So popular was she and her work that the very popular Kate Greenaway Almanacks appeared every year from 1883 to 1895. Among her best-known works was her edition of Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rosa Mulholland’s Puck and Blossom and Bret Harte’s Pirate Isle. (Died 1901.)
  • Born March 17, 1906 Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. Her first role as an actress, she played Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch, plus several uncredited roles as well.  She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and antisemitic. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 17, 1945 Tanya Lemani, 77. Iranian-born actress who is one of the victims of Star Trek’s “Wolf in the Fold” as the dancer Kara. She has appeared on the original Fantasy IslandGet Smart, I Dream of Jeannie, The Bionic Woman, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in one-offs.
  • Born March 17, 1933 Penelope Lively, 89. I’ve actually mentioned her before as Catherine Butler did a work in part on her, Four British fantasists: place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. She’s here because I’m very fond of one of her novels, The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, having a great liking for fiction about that story. She’s won the Booker Prize for Moon Tiger and the Carnegie Medal for British children’s books for The Ghost of Thomas Kempe.
  • Born March 17, 1941 Paul Kantner. A founder of Jefferson Airplane which would become Jefferson Starship. The Dragonfly album, particularly “All Fly Away” and “Hyperdrive” is very genre as well as much of the Jefferson Airship output is genre. “Hyperdrive” would be used in the opening ceremonies at MidAmeriCon (1976). (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 17, 1947 James Morrow, 75. Author of the most awesome Godhead trio whose first novel, Towing Jehovah, won a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award and was nominated for a Hugo at Intersection. I’m also impressed by The Last Witchfinder as it’s told by a sentient book, Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica
  • Born March 17, 1948 William Gibson, 74. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. He won a Hugo at Aussiecon Two for Neuromancer, his only such win, though he had other nominations including for the other two novels in the Sprawl trilogy.
  • Born March 17, 1951 Kurt Russell, 71. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good and he’s fantastic in it.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) YOU BE THE JUDGE. All Squaxx dek Thargo may want to know there’s going to be a “Star-studded online convention to celebrate 45 years of 2000 AD”. It’s free and happening on March 26-27.

Featuring celebrity fans and legendary creators, The Galaxy’s Greatest will stream online and for free on 26 and 27 March on 2000 AD’s social media channels and YouTube, and Rebellion’s dedicated Twitch stream.

The two-day show will feature top flight guests on more than a dozen panels, all discussing the impact of 2000 AD on comics and culture over almost half a century, as well as announcements and new merchandise.

… The event will throw a spotlight on the people who have helped make 2000 AD the galaxy’s greatest comic, with creators both new and legendary sharing their stories and insights on the comics-making process — including a feature interview with the co-creator of Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog, John Wagner, as well as panels with Garth Ennis (The BoysPreacher), Rob Williams (Suicide Squad), Alex de Campi (Archie vs Predator), Sean Phillips (Criminal), Anna Morozova (Judge Anderson), John McCrea (Hitman), Dan Cornwell (Rok of the Reds), Aleš Kot (Zero), and more to be announced.

The next 45 years of 2000 AD will also be discussed with owners and publishers Chris Kingsley OBE and Jason Kingsley OBE, and current editor Matt Smith – now the longest serving editor in 2000 AD history….

(11) SQUELCH THAT RUMOR. Radio Times eavesdrops while “Catherine Tate addresses Doctor Who return rumours”.

…The Donna Noble star has been heavily linked with a return to the sci-fi show in recent months, with rumours that she might rejoin the cast for the upcoming 60th anniversary special.

And she addressed those rumours during an appearance on The One Show to promote her new film The Nan Movie, telling Jermaine Jenas that she “probably started a lot of them” herself.

“What can I tell you? No, I wish it was [true],” she said. “Well, no one’s been in touch.”

But she added: “I’m on the same number, I’d just like to say. So, if you’ve got the money, I’ve got the time.”

(12) OCTOTHORPE.  John Coxon has COVID, Alison Scott wanted to do a podcast, and Liz Batty had no better offers. So it’s a short episode of the hosts answering Cora Buhlert’s questions. Listen to Octothorpe 53  here: “It Was John’s Idea”.

(13) BREAKFAST IS SERVED ON ARRAKIS. The New York Times was initiated into “The Secret Sounds of ‘Dune’: Rice Krispies and Marianne Faithfull”.

…We were at Zuma Beach on the kind of warm March afternoon that New York readers would surely prefer I not dwell on, and Villeneuve’s Oscar-nominated sound editors Mark Mangini and Theo Green were nearby, pouring cereal into the sand. This wasn’t meant to provoke any sea gulls; Mangini and Green wanted to demonstrate the sound-gathering techniques they used to enliven Arrakis, the desert planet where the “Dune” hero Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) discovers his destiny.

 “One of the most compelling images in the film is when Paul first steps foot onto the planet,” Mangini said. Since the sand on Arrakis is laced with “spice,” a valuable and hallucinogenic substance, the sound designers had to find an audible way to convey that something special was underfoot.

By way of explaining it to me, Mangini ground his work boot into the soft patch of sand that he had dusted with Rice Krispies. The sand produced a subtle, beguiling crunch, and Villeneuve broke out into a big smile. Though he’d heard it plenty of times in postproduction, he had no idea what the sound designers had concocted to capture that sound.

“One of the things I love about cinema is the cross between NASA kind of technology and gaffer tape,” Villeneuve said. “To use a super-expensive mic to record Rice Krispies — that deeply moves me!”…

(14) FLY LIKE AN EAGLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future… At least that’s what the Steve Miller Band assured me in their 1976 hit Fly Like an Eagle. Perhaps they assured Elon Musk the same thing (though he’d only have been 5 at the time).

In 2016, Musk told us that humanity would land on Mars by 2024. In late 2020, he revised the landing date to 2026. Now he’s telling us 2029. This is hardly the first time that Musk has been forced to change projections for one of his ventures. Nor is it the first time a targeted date for anyone’s space launch has slipped.

To me, 2029 still seems ambitious given where we are. But, if Musk (or someone else) does manage to hit that date, it’ll be 60 years after the Eagle landed on the Moon. Assuming I live that long (and am still compos mentis), it’d be extraordinary to witness both landings in one lifetime. “Elon Musk Has New Estimate for When Humans Might First Step on Mars” at CNET.

… Starship, which SpaceX is designing to take astronauts to the moon for NASA and eventually to Mars, has made some successful high-altitude flights, but has yet to make it to space.

Musk has made noise over the past two years about federal launch regulations slowing the process of reaching Mars and recently even floated the specter of bankruptcy if SpaceX isn’t able to produce Starship’s raptor engines more rapidly.

Unsurprisingly, getting to Mars takes planning. As Mars and Earth move around the sun, the two planets move closer to one another and then farther away again. To take advantage of the times when the trip between the two worlds is shortest requires launching during certain windows. The ideal Mars launch windows for this decade are later this year, late 2024, late 2026 and late 2028/early 2029. 

It’s looking as though Musk’s initial ambitions may have been overly optimistic. If his target date slips much further, into the 2030s, it will be more in the ballpark of when NASA has always been aiming in terms of sending the first astronauts to Mars…. 

(15) BEHIND THE LINES. Enjoy Greener Grass a Star Wars short film made with Unreal Engine 5.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Pitch Meeting” Ryan George says in the third Harry Potter movie, Voldemort isn’t around but Dumbledore still gets to give his annual address on the many ways Hogwarts students can die.  And when asked why Hogwarts could produce a book of monsters that is an actual monster, the writer answers, “It’s clear wizards don’t have any consumer protection laws.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rich Horton, Gary Farber, Olav Rokne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 11/7/21 Sufficiently Advanced Robot Sheep Might Not Obey You

(1) THE UNANTICIPATED METAVERSE. “Neal Stephenson talks about his climate thriller — and why the metaverse didn’t match his vision”GeekWire has a Q&A.

Who’ll lead the effort to address climate change? “In my book, it’s a billionaire, because it makes for a good story. I don’t know how realistic that is. It’s more likely to be governments that are less democratic, frankly. If you look at the way the United States and the U.K. both responded to coronavirus, we weren’t even able to get a large part of the population to agree that it was a real thing, even though people were dying by the hundreds of thousands. … I’m pessimistic about our ability to get people to agree that human-caused climate change is a real thing, much less to agree on taking expensive and difficult steps to deal with that problem.”

On the future of democracy: “To be clear, I’m not a big fan of non-democratic countries. I’m a democracy guy all the way. But if the question we’re talking about is, ‘Can the big democracies like the U.S. and the U.K. get behind expensive and difficult action to address climate change?’ … Right now I have to be realistic and say that doesn’t look that likely.”…

(2) STRANGER THINGS TEASER. Variety breaks it down: “’Stranger Things’ Season 4 Teaser Shows Life Beyond Hawkins”.

…In it, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Will are living new lives in California, where Eleven seems to be having a hard time adjusting, although she doesn’t admit that when writing to Mike (Finn Wolfhard). Her letter serves as narration for the teaser, which you can watch below.

“I even like school now. I have made lots of friends,” she says, as she’s ignored by peers in the school hallway. “Even so, I am ready for spring break, mostly because I get to see you. We will have the best spring break ever.”

The teaser ends in a montage of classic “Stranger Things” chaos: explosions, car chases, a creepy doll, a military arrest and more. The song “A Place In California” by Jeremiah Burnham plays in the background as the teaser comes to a close….

(3) CORFLU 38. At Corflu Concorde in Bristol, England this weekend, Sandra Bond was named Past President of the Fan Writers of America for 2020. Bond also was Corflu’s GoH – always determined by drawing an attendee’s name from a hat.

(4) RETURN OF MASSIVE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses “massively multiplayer online role-playing games” or MMORPGs.

In recent years there has been a marked absence of exciting new projects.  While other games have evolved, MMORPGs have stagnated.  They got bigger, but not better.  One of the more popular recent releases is World of Warcraft Classic, which restores the game back to its unadorned first iteration:  many players would rather go backwards than forwards. Sometimes I wonder: did the games change?  Or did we?

Just because there hasn’t been another blockbuster doesn’t mean the genre is dead.  If one game can claim to have assumed World of Warcraft‘s mantle, it is 2013’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, a game that was rebuilt after a failed 2010 relaunch and has since cultivated a dedicated community of 24m players. Meanwhile New World, with its 17th century setting and focus on crafting, drummed up healthy viewing numbers on Twitch — though it has recently been shedding players.  We are also beginning to address the first MMORPGs born through crowdfunding, including the new release Crowfall and the upcoming Pantheon and Ashes of Creation.

(5) DOWNLOAD ELLIS’ ART SALE CATALOG. Doug Ellis has issued his new art sale catalog, devoted entirely to the art of Virgil Finlay, with over 300 originals, as well as ephemera such as cover proofs.  

Please note that only one of the pieces is a published illustration; the others are a mixture of science fiction/fantasy and astrology preliminaries, sketches, personal pieces, abstract art and paintings.  If you saw the Finlay material I had at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention two months ago, you’ll still want to take a look, as over half the art in this catalog wasn’t at the show.  This material all comes from Finlay’s estate, and I’m selling it on behalf of his granddaughter.

You can download the catalog (325 pages, about 90 MB) from Wetransfer or Dropbox.

(6) REVIVAL HOUR. If you thought it had been awhile since you last saw an issue of Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine, you were right.  

After 15 years, a new dawn for Penumbric

For a few years in the early 2000s, there was an edgy little speculative fiction magazine called Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine. It published fiction, art, poetry, graphic narratives … and online, yet! But then it got a little too hubristic, and it tried to be a print magazine, too (I mean, you couldn’t just be online, could you?) … and the magazine sank.

It’s time to rise again. Reincarnate.

When submissions open, this is what they’ll be looking for:

I would love to see submissions representing not only multiple cultures but subcultures, exploring issues of race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, and many things I haven’t thought of. Does this mean you have to represent everybody and everything in 1000 words? Of course not. But be aware that we are creating a magazine that overall reaches and represents the true diversity of the world we live in.

In terms of genre, I am looking for work that constitutes the ever-moving edge of its kind, as a place between light and dark, consciousness and un, today and tomorrow; work exhibiting the strange, the bizarre, that which is not of the world we know, but more of a twilight realm or even altogether alien place. Not necessarily science fiction, not necessarily fantasy, not necessarily horror, and not necessarily not these things. In short, ideally edgy. Maybe even idealistically edgy. I am NOT looking for porn.

(7) IT’S NICE AND EASY ON THE OTHER SIDE. Auralee Wallace makes the case for cozy paranormal romances: “The Charm of the Paranormal Cozy: An Appreciation” at CrimeReads.

Oh, we live in troubled times, don’t we? I could list all the things wrong with the world, but why bother? All you have to do is turn on the TV, or scroll through social media, or simply walk down the street and you’ll likely be inundated with the many terrible crises we’re all facing. Who needs more of that? No, instead of reminding you of what’s wrong with the world, I’d like to offer you an escape. An escape to a world that seems much like our own but with a few key differences. It’s a world where you can expect to be handled gently. Where you can snap your fingers or wiggle your nose and life becomes miraculously easier. Here you can rest safely in the knowledge that there are forces of good working behind the scenes, and, if you’re lucky, you might just catch a peek through the veil to other side. It’s not only a world where comfort is savored and valued; it’s one where justice always prevails, killers are always caught, and the murders are at least a little bit cozy….

(8) TEXAS-SIZED SFF COLLECTION. A video introduction to the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University, housing one of the largest science fiction and fantasy collections in the country. Featuring a sneak peek at Kristen Britain’s archive.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1997 — Twenty-four years ago, Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers premiered. It’s based rather loosely off Robert Heinlein’s Hugo Award winning novel.  It had a cast of Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards Jake Busey,  Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon and Michael Ironside, and it received a mixed reception by critics ranging from utterly loathing it to really, really loving it and a generally negative one by most SF fans; it currently garners a rather excellent seventy percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes among the quarter million audience reviewers who’ve given an opinion, and never earned backed its hundred million budget taking in just a hundred and twenty million. It would spawn a number of sequels, universally bad, and one superb animated series that was unfortunately not completed. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 7, 1910 Pearl Argyle. Catherine CabalI in the 1936 Things to Come as written by H.G. Wells based off his “The Shape of Things to Come” story. Being a dancer, she also appeared in 1926 The Fairy Queen opera by Henry Purcell, with dances by Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton. Her roles were Dance of the Followers of Night, an attendant on Summer, and Chaconne. (Died 1947.)
  • Born November 7, 1914 R. A. Lafferty. Writer known for somewhat eccentric usage of language.  His first novel Past Master would set a lifelong pattern of seeing his works nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards but not winning either though he won a Hugo short story at Torcon II for “Eurema’s Dam”.  He did receive a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, and he also received the Cordwainer Smith Foundation’s Rediscovery award. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 7, 1934 Wendy Williams. You know I’ll work in a Doctor Who reference if I can.  She was in a Fourth Doctor story, “The Ark in Space” as Vira. Other genre appearances include Danger Man,  Leap in the DarkJack the Ripper and The Further Adventures of the Musketeers. (Died 2019.)
  • Born November 7, 1950 Lindsay Duncan, 71. Adelaide Brooke in the Tenth Doctor‘s “The Waters of Mars” story and the recurring role Lady Smallwood on Sherlock in “His Last Vow,” “The Six Thatchers,” and “The Lying Detective”. She’s also been in Black MirrorA Discovery of WitchesFrankensteinThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMission: 2110 and one of my favorite series, The New Avengers.
  • Born November 7, 1960 Linda Nagata, 61. Her novella “Goddesses” was the first online publication to win the Nebula Award. She writes largely in the Nanopunk genre which is not be confused with the Biopunk genre. To date, she has three series out, to wit The Nanotech SuccessionStories of the Puzzle Lands (as Trey Shiels) and The Red. She has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel for The Bohr Maker which the first novel in The Nanotech Succession. Her 2013 story “Nahiku West” was runner-up for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and The Red: First Light was nominated for both the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Her site is here.
  • Born November 7, 1954 Guy Gavriel Kay, 67. The story goes that when Christopher Tolkien needed an assistant to edit his father J. R. R. Tolkien’s unpublished work, he chose Kay who was being a student of philosophy at the University of Manitoba. And Kay moved to Oxford in 1974 to assist Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion. Cool, eh? The Finovar trilogy which I love is the retelling of the legends of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere which is why much of his fiction is considered historical fantasy. Tigana likewise which is wonderful somewhat resembles renaissance Italy. My favorite work by him is Ysabel which strangely enough is called an urban fantasy when it isn’t. It won a World Fantasy Award. Let’s not forget that he was the Toastmaster at ConFrancisco.
  • Born November 7, 1974 Carl Steven. He appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock as a young Spock, thereby becoming the first actor other than Leonard Nimoy to play the role in a live action setting. Genre one-offs included Weird ScienceTeen Wolf and Superman.  He provided the voice of a young Fred Jones for four seasons worth of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo which can be construed as genre. His life didn’t end well. (Died 2011.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ICONIC MODEL. Robert K. Jones chronicles “Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ Unknown Muse” in The Comics Journal.

You’ve seen her, but few people know her name.

She appears in some of Jeffrey Catherine Jones’ most famous paintings, notably The Wall (1977), Seated (1983), and the covers for fantasy books such as The Undying Wizard (1975). She was also the most prominent model for the idiosyncratic strip Idyl published by National Lampoon during the years 1972-1976. 

Yet, outside the artists’ circle of friends, almost no one knows anything about Jones’ most referenced, most enigmatic model: Sandi Zinaman (1952-2015), a librarian, artist and caterer who lived most of her life in New York state’s Hudson Valley…. 

(13) BUG OR FEATURE? “Why Doctor Who’s TARDIS Make its Iconic Sound?” CBR.com summons clicks with the question, “But is it actually supposed to, or is it user error?”

Any Doctor Who fan will instantly recognize the distinctive wheezing sound the TARDIS makes whenever it materializes or dematerializes. Variously dubbed the “vworp-vworp,” “vwoorp” or “vwoorpy” by fans of the franchise as well as several characters in-universe, the noise is as iconic as the time machine’s blue police box exterior.

For most of the show’s long run, fans and creators alike assumed the noise was simply part of the TARDIS, as intrinsic as its bigger-than-the-outside interior and temperamental, semi-sentient nature. It wasn’t until New Who and the Eleventh Doctor’s run that showrunner Steven Moffat invented an explanation for the sound effect — though some feel it is a rather dicey one. As with many factoids in the long-running, ever-changing universe of Doctor Who, there are plenty of canon occurrences that directly contradict this explanation, as well. So what is the truth behind the vwoorpy?…

(14) THEY PUT THINGS IN OUR EARS TO CONTROL OUR MINDS. WYNC’s On the Media did a segment on “The Science Fiction Origins of the Metaverse”.

When Facebook changed its name to Meta, after the Metaverse, many were quick to identify the term’s origin: Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk classic Snow CrashBut the novel hardly paints an optimistic future—runway inflation, collapsed governments, and a maniacal media magnate who uses the Metaverse to, get this, destroy people’s minds. It begs the question: did Zuckerberg misread it?

This week, Brooke speaks with Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, Annalee Newitz, former Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo and science fiction author, and Gene Seymour, longtime cultural critic, to unpack the literary world behind the social media giant’s new name. They discuss why the tech moguls love science fiction so much, the perils of reading these “world-building” novels too literally, and how new forms of the genre today are already making the Metaverse look obsolete.

(15) PLOT HATCHED. My Retro Computer is in the business of selling PC’s in shells that look like early days home computers.

Do you remember your first home computer?

Was it a Commodore 64, Vic 20 or an Amiga? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a modern day PC in a retro computer shell?

Here at My Retro Computer we aim to do just that. We believe the PC market is boring and stagnated, it needs a new fresh approach – retro is the new modern.

Starting with the famous C-64 we aim to expand the range to include the Vic20, A-500 and possibly the spectrum ranges.

(16) VACUUM WRAPPED. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert didn’t waste any time in mocking SpaceX’s little problem: “Launch Pads Are The New NASA-Approved Diapers”.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/5/21 Mr. Pixel, Can Scroll! How Droll!

(1) BUTLER HONORED. GeekWire, a site with roots in Seattle, took a strong interest in today’s news of a “Mars rover landing site named after Octavia E. Butler” because Butler spent her last years living in the Seattle area.

Alan Boyle, who wrote the story, is a long-time science fiction fan as well and hosts a relatively new science fiction podcast, Fiction Science, which looks at the intersection of science/technology and science fiction. His co-host is writer and Clarion West graduate Dominica Phetteplace. Alan’s also written about Butler before.

Fifteen years after her death, Seattle science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler has joined an exclusive pantheon of space luminaries memorialized on Mars.

Today NASA announced that the Red Planet locale where its Perseverance rover touched down last month is called Octavia E. Butler Landing, in honor of a Black author who emphasized diversity in tales of alternate realities and far-out futures.

“Butler’s protagonists embody determination and inventiveness, making her a perfect fit for the Perseverance rover mission and its theme of overcoming challenges,” Kathryn Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance, said in a news release. “Butler inspired and influenced the planetary science community and many beyond, including those typically under-represented in STEM fields.”

Butler died unexpectedly in 2006 at the age of 58, after sustaining a head injury in a fall on a walkway outside her home in Lake Forest Park, Wash. She had moved to the Seattle area in 1999 from her native Southern California….

(2) BUTLER’S OLD NEIGHBORHOOD. “Octavia Butler’s Pasadena: The City That Inspired Her To Create New Worlds” on “Here and Now” at WBUR.

…One of host Tonya Mosley’s neighbors makes it a point to walk clear across Los Angeles every once in a while to free his mind and find inspiration in his surroundings. Mosley isn’t quite there, but she does enjoy a daily stroll along the majestic, tree-lined streets of Pasadena, California. Walking the same route every day is an exercise in staying present.

Pasadena is the kind of place where kids ride their bikes in the middle of the street and the manicured lawns and shrubs rival those of the Midwest. For Octavia Butler, one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of our time, Pasadena was the spark that lit her flame.

“There is something about this mix of urban and wild,” journalist Lynell George says. “[Butler] was constantly looking at these interactions of how we use, you know, wilderness in space and nature.”

The title of George’s book “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler” comes from Butler’s description when asked what it takes to write science and speculative fiction. The book explains that early on in Butler’s life, she used the limited world around her — only where she could get by on foot or by bus — to create new worlds and possibilities.

An “avid walker,” Butler journeyed around Pasadena and wrote down what she called “walk thoughts” in a notebook, George says. Butler examined the climate and noted small changes over time.

(3) JOHN VARLEY UPDATE. Now that John Varley is out of the hospital his partner, Lee Emmett, has added a several paragraph long update to “Sending Prayers to the Cosmos”.

John was discharged from the hospital February 28 with many instructions… Also included in his discharge package was a booklet, Heart Surgery Care Guide, with all the no no’s: No lifting more than 5 pounds; No using arms to push or pull; No lifting elbows above shoulder height; No reaching behind your back, above waist level; No driving.

He has a red heart-shaped pillow that he hugs to his chest when he coughs, sneezes, burps, laughs, hiccups, gets in and out of bed, stands up, or rides in a car in the backseat behind the front passenger….

Varley added a note of his own:

This will be brief as it is still hard for me to sit in a typing position, and my left arm doesn’t work very well. Since I’m a lefty this is a bigger problem for me than it probably is for you. They say it will get better.

I just wanted to add my thanks to the excellent report and appreciation Lee wrote, above. I thank you for the good vibes and wishes and karma sent my way during my recent travails. Yes, and your prayers as well, though I’m an atheist and don’t know quite what to do with them. Is anyone really listening? Maybe so. Can’t hurt to pray, anyhow.

I also need to send a special thank you to those who sent small donations along with the wishes. As you know, in the USA we have easily the best health care in the world … if you can afford it. I got wonderful care every moment I was at PeaceHealth hospital. Now the bills will start coming in. We pay for insurance (more than we can afford) but the co-pays can sometimes be deadlier than COVID. (For which we still haven’t been able to find a vaccination appointment.)

That’s all I can do now. I will have some observations and such a little later, when my arm stops trembling.

(4) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org’s FanHistory Project Zoom Session for March 27 will bring you face-to-face with “The Benford Twins, Fandom and the Larger Universe with Greg and Jim Benford.”

Jim and Greg Benford became fans in the 1950s, and throughout a lifetime of science, professional writing, and extensive accomplishments, they have remained fans. 

In this Zoom session, they’ll talk about their introduction into fandom, their fandom over the years, and tell stories about the important and interesting people they’ve met. What influence has fandom had on them? Did relocation change their interactions with fandom? How have their professional lives influenced their fandom? Join us and find out (and expect a few surprises)!

To receive a Zoom link, please RSVP to fanac@fanac.org . 

(5) ADVICE FROM COURTNEY MILAN. Clarion West will host a free online workshop — “When and How To Quit Your Day Job with Courtney Milan” – on March 9. However, it’s probably too late to get in on it — when I checked the registration page there was a “sold out” message.

Quitting your day job is one of the biggest decisions you can make as a writer. How do you know if you’re ready? What if you make a mistake and you don’t have enough money? How stable do you need to be? What if you’re fired and don’t have a choice? What do you need to know beyond finances? This workshop addresses these questions (and brings up points you may not have considered) as well as common issues that arise when you transition from a day job that provides structure into freelance work where you’re the only boss.

(6) BRAND X. Peter Suciu lays out the reasons why “Scott Baio And Patton Oswalt Feuding On Social Media Should Serve As Warning Of How Not To Act” at Forbes.

…”Celebrity flare-ups on Twitter typically follow a couple of courses,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “Some are personal brand-building efforts, which aim to draw attention to someone who believes the spotlight is passing them over by theatrically taking on someone with a far higher profile. Others seem more ethically-aimed, like historian Kevin M. Kruse’s takedowns of historical falsehoods that various public figures claim are true. Over time, such exchanges mostly follow highly predictable courses though the verbal slap-downs seem to keep people coming back. If it worked for Don Rickles, maybe Scott Baio can make a go of it.”

King references Scalzi in this article, which naturally caught John’s eye:

(7) ADKISSON OBIT. Michael George Adkisson (1955-2021) died February 7. The family obituary is here. He was editor/publisher of New Pathways magazine from 1986-1992. 

…Mike as everyone calls him, has a brilliant mind, loves art, writing, movies and science fiction. He was the founder, owner, editor and publisher of the science fiction magazine, New Pathways. The magazine got published from March 1986 to Winter of 1992. Being an artist himself, he provided much of the magazine’s artwork in the early issues…. 

About the impact of New Pathways the Science Fiction Encyclopedia says:

…The last issue appeared a year after the previous one and the magazine ceased at the height of its influence. It held a crucial place in the 1980s in providing a market for the alternate view of sf and Speculative Fiction. It was part of an evolution flowing from Scott Edelman’s Last Wave and on to David Memmott’s Ice River, C J Cypret’s Nonstop Magazine and Steve Brown’s Science Fiction Eye.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 5, 1938 — On this day in 1938, RKO first aired “The Bride of Death” with Orson Welles as  The Shadow. Welles prior to his War of The Worlds broadcast would play the role for thirty three episodes in 1937 and 1938 with Blue Coal being the sponsor. You can download it here. (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 5, 1853 – Howard Pyle.  Five novels touchng the Matter of Arthur (here’s one), another about Robin Hood; some folks groan HP toned fables down to make them suitable for children, others applaud his artistry as a retelling fabulist (in the original sense, not the later meaning a liar). Twenty-four tales in The Wonder Clock, one for each hour, with poems by sister Katherine Pyle.  Illustrator, of his own books and e.g. two by Woodrow Wilson while WW was a history professor; here is a Story of Siegfried – no, not by that James Baldwin.  Here is a mermaid.  (Died 1911) [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1936 Dean Stockwell, 85. You’ll do doubt best remember him as Al the hologram on Quantum Leap.   He had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleThe Night GalleryA Twist in The TaleOrson Welles’ Great Mysteries and The Twilght Zone. Anything I’ve overlooked? (CE) 
  • Born March 5, 1942 Mike Resnick. Damn, it still losing him hurts. It’s worth noting that he’s has been nominated for thirty-seven Hugo Awards, which is a record for writers, and won five times. Somewhat ironically nothing I’ve really enjoyed by him has won those Hugos. The novels making my list are his John Justin Mallory detective novels, The Red Tape War (with Jack L. Chalker & George Alec Effinger), and, yes it’s not really genre, Cat on a Cold Tin Roof. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born March 5, 1952 Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, 69. She’s  better known by her pen names of Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm.  I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read and enjoyed by her was Wizard of the Pigeons, but The Gypsy with Steven Brust was equally enjoyable and had the added bonus of a Boiled in Lead soundtrack.  What’s she done recently that I should think of reading? (CE) 
  • Born March 5, 1946 – Phil Jennings, age 75.   Seven novels, seventy shorter stories.  His work has been called “pyrotechnical … [his] exuberance is intermittently chaotic.”  [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1955 Penn Jillette, 66. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. Also he had a recurring role on Sabrina the Teenage Witch as Drell, the head of the Witches’ Council. He’s been in Fantasia 2000Toy StoryFuturama: Into the Wild Green YonderSharknado 3: Oh Hell No!Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanVR.5Space Ghost Coast to Coast and most recently Black Mirror. (CE) 
  • Born March 5, 1955 – Hejja Attila.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Twoscore covers, a few interiors.  Here is The Hugo Winners, vol. 1.  Here is The Web Between the Worlds.  Here is Stepsons of Terra. Here is The Wrong End of Time.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1959 – Howard Hendrix, Ph.D., age 62.  Six novels, twoscore shorter stories, half a dozen poems (one had a Dwarf Star Award from SF Poetry Ass’n); three anthologies; book reviews in NY Review of SF.  Professor of English at Cal. State Univ., Fresno. [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1974 Matt Lucas, 47. He played Nardole, a cyborg,  who was a companion to the Twelfth Doctor.  He is the only regular companion introduced under Steven Moffat to have never died on screen. He provided the voice of Sparx on Astro Boy, and was Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Alice through the Looking Glass. (CE) 
  • Born March 5, 1976 – Katy Stauber, age 45.  Three novels, two shorter stories; two anthologies with Chester Hoster (Futuristica vols I & II).  Has read IvanhoeThe Jungle BookDon Quixote, Lucifer’s HammerMetamorphoses, The Aeneid, four Shakespeare plays, three books by Dickens, two by Stevenson, five by Vonnegut, eighteen by Wodehouse (that’s not too many), The Stranger.  [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1984 – Ashley Hope Pérez, Ph.D., age 37.  Professor of world literatures at Ohio State Univ.  One novel for us, two others (Out of Darkness School Lib’y Journal and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year; Printz Honor, Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award) .  She says “I believe in writing that reflects the uniqueness and diversity of lives lived in any given community, regardless of the background of the author.”  [JH]
  • Born March 5, 1986 Sarah J. Maas, 35. Author of the Throne of Glass series wherein Cinderella is stone cold assassin, and one I‘ve not sampled yet. If you’re so inclined, there’s A Court of Thorns and Roses Coloring Book. Really. Truly.  (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) KICKSTARTER IS IMMINENT. Edward Willett is launching a Kickstarter March 9 to fund Shapers of Worlds: Volume II, an anthology featuring top talents in the industry including Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Garth Nix among others who were guests during the second year of Edward Willett’s podcast, The Worldshapers. The appeal launches March 9 at 12 noon CST – interested fans can go to the pre-launch page (which will become the project page) to sign up to be notified when it opens.

If it funds, Shapers of Worlds Volume II will feature new fiction from Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Helen Dale, Candas Jane Dorsey, Lisa Foiles, Susan Forest, James Alan Gardner, Matthew Hughes, Heli Kennedy, Lisa Kessler, Adria Laycraft, Ira Nayman, Garth Nix, Tim Pratt, Edward Savio, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Jeremy Szal, and Edward Willett, plus stories by Jeffrey A. Carver, Barbara Hambly, Nancy Kress, David D. Levine, S.M. Stirling, and Carrie Vaughn. Among those authors are winners and nominees for every major science fiction and fantasy literary award, plus several international bestsellers.

Backers’ rewards offered by the authors include some 100 signed books (including limited editions), Tuckerizations (a backer’s name used as a character name), ready-to-hang photographs, audiobooks, bookplates, and more.

Shapers of Worlds Volume II is a follow-up to Shapers of Worlds, successfully Kickstarted one year ago.

(12) THE CAPITAL OF THE INSUBORDINATION. Denver author team O.E. Tearmann’s work includes the queer cyberpunk Aces High, Jokers Wild series which to date includes five novels and two short story collections. The fifth novel, Draw Dead, was released March 3.

Their books include strong themes of diversity and found family, providing a surprisingly hopeful take on a dystopian future. Bringing their own experiences as a marginalized author together with flawed but genuine characters, Tearmann’s work has been described as “Firefly for the dystopian genre.”

“Aidan Headly never wanted to be the man giving orders. That’s fine with the Democratic State Force base he’s been assigned to command: they don’t like to take orders. Nicknamed the Wildcards, they used to be the most effective base against the seven Corporations owning the former United States in a war that has lasted over half a century. Now the Wildcards are known for creative insubordination, chaos, and commanders begging to be reassigned. Aidan is their last chance. If he can pull off his assignment as Commander and yank his ragtag crew of dreamers and fighters together, maybe they can get back to doing what they came to do: fighting for a country worth living in. Life’s a bitch. She deals off the bottom of the deck. But you play the hands you’re given.

(13) ON A ROLL. Sff art collector Doug Ellis recalls for Facebook readers details of a delightful six-week run acquiring multiple works by Virgil Finlay.  

In last week’s Finlay Friday, I told the tale of how, back in the last week of March 2005, I’d acquired 15 Virgil Finlay originals from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was an incredible purchase, but within six weeks it led to my acquisition of five more Finlay originals. Needless to say, that six week period was the greatest Finlay run of my collecting career….

(14) CHARGE! BBC Future discusses “The battery invented 120 years before its time” and why it is an idea whose time has come.

…It was the early 1900s, and the driver of this particular car was Thomas Edison. While electric cars weren’t a novelty in the neighborhood, most of them relied on heavy and cumbersome lead-acid batteries. Edison had outfitted his car with a new type of battery that he hoped would soon be powering vehicles throughout the country: a nickel-iron battery. Building on the work of the Swedish inventor Ernst Waldemar Jungner, who first patented a nickel-iron battery in 1899, Edison sought to refine the battery for use in automobiles….

…But more than a century later, engineers would rediscover the nickel-iron battery as something of a diamond in the rough. Now it is being investigated as an answer to an enduring challenge for renewable energy: smoothing out the intermittent nature of clean energy sources like wind and solar. And hydrogen, once considered a worrisome byproduct, could turn out to be one of the most useful things about these batteries….

Conventional batteries, such as those based on lithium, can store energy in the short-term, but when they’re fully charged they have to release any excess or they could overheat and degrade. The nickel-iron battolyser, on the other hand remains stable when fully charged, at which point it can transition to making hydrogen instead.

“[Nickel-iron batteries] are resilient, being able to withstand undercharging and overcharging better than other batteries,” says John Barton, a research associate at the School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough University in the UK, who also researches battolysers. “With hydrogen production, the battolyser adds multi-day and even inter-seasonal energy storage.”

Besides creating hydrogen, nickel-iron batteries have other useful traits, first and foremost that they are unusually low-maintenance. They are extremely durable, as Edison proved in his early electric car, and some have been known to last upwards of 40 years. The metals needed to make the battery – nickel and iron – are also more common than, say, cobalt which is used to make conventional batteries….

(15) HUSH-A-BOOM. BBC Reel hosts a video about“The mystery of Siberia’s exploding craters”.

On a remote peninsular in the Arctic circle, enormous wounds are appearing in the permafrost and have started to worry scientists. Research teams from Russia and the United States are racing to find out what this means for Siberia, and potentially the rest of the world. Based on the BBC Future article ‘The mystery of Siberia’s exploding craters‘.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fanac.org has posted video of last month’s Fan History Zoom panel “An Anecdotal History of Southern Fandom” with Janice Gelb, Guy Lillian III, Bill Plott, and Toni Weiskopf.

This Fan History Zoom (February 2021) explores the last 50-60 years of Southern US Fandom, through anecdotes and personal experiences. From Bill Plott with over 60 years of experience to Toni Weisskopf with a mere 40, the speakers share cherished memories and their thoughts on the nature of Southern Fandom. They speak about conventions, both regional and Worldcons, awards and traditions, bigger than life personalities, and fanzines. At the heart of it all, lies the hospitality and inclusiveness of Southern Fandom. There’s also a brief appearance by Jim Benford on the topic of his early fanzines, and an interesting Q&A session with the audience.

Here’s a sample anecdote, about Joe Celko, a Southern fan who shaved his head and wore a goatee one before that was a popular look: “At one party Kelly Freas actually drew on the back of his head his face while he was asleep…”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Rich Lynch, Daniel Dern, Paul Riddell, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Frank Catalano, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/19 The Scrolls of Our Teeth

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to share scallops with comics legend Larry Lieber in Episode 110 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Larry Nieber

I first met comic book artist and writer Larry Lieber when I worked in the Marvel Comics Bullpen of the mid-‘70s. Though perhaps that’s not really accurate — because that was only when I first met him in the flesh. I really first met him when I was seven, the year I picked up copies of Tales of Suspense #39, in which he co-created Iron Man, Journey into Mystery #83, in which he co-created Thor, and Tales to Astonish #35, in which he co-created Ant-Man.

…A week before Larry’s 88th birthday, we met for dinner at his favorite French restaurant, Bistro Le Steak, on the corner of Third Avenue and East 75th Street in Manhattan, where we chatted about the old days, as well as what he has planned for the days still to come.

We discussed the old-time radio shows which most influenced him, what he learned about humanity from reading Margaret Mead back in the ’50s, how the only reason he became a writer was because he was too slow to make a living an artist, who told him back at the start of his career that comics was a “dying industry,” the tips Stan Lee gave to make him a better writer, why his attempts to work for DC Comics never worked out, the warning artist Syd Shores offered he wishes he hadn’t heeded, how a quote he heard in a movie about Irish playwright Sean O’Casey helped him understand the arc of his own life, the three best-selling books he read before writing his own novel, his mixed feelings on winning the Bill Finger Award, how Jim Shooter helped him relearn how to be an artist, which comics assignment he enjoyed the most, what Stan Lee told him about the Rawhide Kid that made him decide to take it over from Jack Kirby, why he feels like Don Quixote, the surprising thing he thinks is the best thing he’s ever written, and much more.

(2) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Read about “8 Movies Accused of Plagiarism” – several of them genre – at Top10Films.UK.

2. The Terminator (1984) 

Harlan Ellison, a highly prolific writer, wrote many novels, short stories and screenplays. What most people do not know is that Harlan Ellison was a very litigious writer. He claimed that many TV shows and movies stole his ideas.

In an episode of “The Outer Limits” (called “Soldier”) about a robot from the future, Ellison claimed that the movie “The Terminator” was based on this story as well as another episode he wrote called “Demon With a Glass Hand”.

(3) SMOFCON UPDATE. SMOFcon 37, to be held December 6-8 in Albuquerque, NM, has posted its Code of Conduct.

(4) L’ENGLE CONFERENCE. Publishers Weekly’s report of the “First Madeleine L’Engle Conference Held in New York City” shows it was a remarkably diverse event.

Nearly 200 participants, including a distinguished roster of children’s book authors, gathered on November 16 at All Angels Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where author Madeleine L’Engle was a member for many years, to discuss how faith and art inform each other at Walking on Water: The Madeleine L’Engle Conference. Taking its title from L’Engle’s 1972 book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, the event was organized by Brian Allain of Writing for Your Life, a resource center for spiritual writers; Charlotte Jones Voiklis, L’Engle’s granddaughter, literary executor and co-author, with her sister Léna Roy, of the middle-grade biography Becoming Madeleine; and Sarah Arthur, author of A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle.

(5) SPREADING THE WORD. “Virgil Finlay’s Daughter Lail needs our help” – a GoFundMe has been started by Bob Garcia to raise $5,000 to help her respond to an emergency:

I met Virgil Finlay’s daughter Lail and  her daughter Brien at the World Fantasy Convention in 2014. We’ve become friends since then. For the last few years, she has been battling metatastic cancer while holding down a job, since her husband, musician Julio Hernandez, has been ill as well. They celebrated their 50th anniversary not so long ago.

A week or so ago I received this e-mail:

“Just a note to let you know that Sat. Nov 9th my house burned down with my husband inside. He died in the fire, my daughter and I are physically okay. So I don’t yet know if any of the artwork survived, and my daughter and I are now homeless and staying with a kind friend.”

Here’s the news story.

Lail needs all the help she can get. Especially with things that the insurance company just won’t cover. Besides the normal expenses, for example, she needs $1,100 just to remove her father’s art from the house, and more to get it cleaned and restored. And there are her father’s correspondences, which she has not been able to get into the building to see if they survived. Lail estimates she needs $5000 to get through this time.

And she needs to get these things paid for quickly, before it becomes too late to recover things from what’s left of her house.

(6) NOT LONG BEFORE THE END. “Star Wars: Dying fan to get early screening, Bob Iger confirms”.

A dying man and his son will be able to watch the new Star Wars film before it goes on general release, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has said.

Rowans Hospice in Waterlooville, Hampshire, sent out a plea on Twitter asking for an early screening of the movie, which is due out on 20 December.

The hospice said: “This is our most desperate hour. Sadly, time is not on his side for 20th Dec.”

After receiving confirmation, Rowans said it “cannot thank Disney enough”

The hospice tweeted on Wednesday asking for help for the patient to see the film, attracting hundreds of retweets.

(7) AN INKLING HAS HIS BACK. Earth and Oak has reprinted “CS Lewis’ Response to Critics of The Lord of the Rings: The Dethronement of Power” with this introduction:

C. S. Lewis’ defence of Tolkien’s work gives insight into the types of criticism it elicited. Chief among those criticisms were its supposed lack of realism, and lack of character development or moral complexity. Lewis robustly argues against both allegations, and with characteristic succinctness states “we know at once that it has done things to us.” Notably this review came only 2 days after Tolkien’s final instalment was published, in response to criticism that was clearly already in full flow since the earlier volumes. It demonstrates the extent to which even a great piece of work will encounter rejection and snobbery, but also demonstrates the value of even one strong ally who supports your work. Below is Lewis’ essay in full….

(8) STALEY OBIT. Actress Joan Staley died November 24. Her busy career included a few genre roles: “Joan Staley, Actress in ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,’ Dies at 79”.

She also slapped Elvis in ‘Roustabout,’ sang to Audie Murphy in ‘Gunpoint’ and played Shame sidekick Okie Annie on ‘Batman.’

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 29, 1959 The Atomic Submarine premiered. It stars Arthur Franz, Dick Foran, Brett Halsey, and Joi Lansing, with John Hilliard as the voice of the alien. It rates 27% at Rotten Tomatoes. It’s in the public domain, so you can see it here.
  • November 29, 1972 — Pong, the coin-operated video game version, debuted.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C.S. Lewis. There are no doubt folks here who are far more literate about him than I. I’ve read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him.  I know individuals that have loved The Space Trilogy and I’ve known ones who loathed it. So what do you like or dislike about him? (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her none-genre works that I recommend strongly is Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 69. He played the title character in the late Seventies Dr. Strange film. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as Orca, House of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’m accused it of name laundering, 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1954 Howie Mandel, 64. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1966 Andrée Bernard, 53. She appeared as Folly in “The Shakespeare Code”, a Tenth Doctor story. She was Yana Haverty in Snakes and Ladders, a What If Future UK series. and she provided voice work to Star Wars: The Old Republic – Rise of the Hutt Cartel.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 50. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action Comics, Batwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseriesas someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1970 Larry Joe Campbell, 49. He had the recurring role of Chief Engineer Newton on The Orville series. His character was written out at the end of season one. He’s also Officer Murphy in R.I.P.D. which is a really bad film, and was in Pacific Rim as one of this background perplexed you don’t really see, a construction worker.
  • Born November 29, 1971 Naoko Mori, 48. Torchwood was really her only genre appearance though I see that she popped up first in Doctor Who playing her character of Doctor Sato in the “Aliens of London” episode.  She also voiced Nagisa Kisaragi  in Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Anna Faris, 43. She broke into genre acting with the lead part of Cindy Campbell in the Scary Movie film franchise. She also had roles in May, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel and the Alvin and the Chipmunks. film franchise. 
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman, 43. The Black Panther alias Challa in Marvel’s film metaverse. The same year that he first was this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt.(If you’ve not heard, no one else did as it bombed at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he appeared on Fringe!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Baby Blues references a superhero film in its joke about a more widespread family TV viewing issue.

(12) SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF. James Davis Nicoll studies how writers have answered a question that possibly worries him more than other readers — “How to Explain the Sudden Appearance of Anthropomorphic Characters in Your Story”.

Lots of people love anthropomorphic characters. Perhaps you are one such fan. Perhaps you are a writer who plans to feature them in your fiction. Many authors don’t feel a particular need to justify anthropomorphic characters’ presence in their stories. There are plenty of examples available, but attempting to list all the relevant folktale figures, manga characters, and inhabitants of Duckburg would take up an entire essay, at least. But there are other people—people like me—who become anxious if important elements aren’t given a backstory or explanation. For those people, here are some semi-plausible ways anthropomorphic characters could have appeared in your setting…

(13) NOT JUST MAMMOTHS. “Extinction: Humans played big role in demise of the cave bear”.

The arrival of human ancestors in Europe some 40,000 years ago coincided with the downfall of the cave bear, scientists have revealed.

New evidence suggests humans hunted the bear and drove it from caves, putting it on the road to extinction.

The fate of the species was sealed by other pressures, such as the onset of the last Ice Age, and shrinking food resources.

The bear eventually died out 24,000 years ago.

“We see this dramatic drop in the population of the cave bear starting from 40,000 years ago, which coincides with the arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe,” said Prof Verena Schuenemann of the University of Zurich, who led the study.

“It is the clearest evidence we have so far that humans might have played a big role in the extinction of the cave bear.”

(14) STARTING YOUNG. I’d have loved this project. “Teaching children to build satellites in school” – a BBC video.

South African start-up XinaBox is teaching children to build satellites in school using a modular chip that can be clipped together.

The company is using its technology to teach children about space, science and coding in interactive workshops.

(15) THE DIGITAL JOLLY ROGER. “Rise of comic book piracy ‘a real problem'” reports BBC.

A comic book writer’s claim that the proliferation of piracy is “a real problem” has encouraged others in the industry to share their concerns.

Jim Zub, who writes for Marvel and IDW, tweeted that 20 times as many people read comics illegally shared online, than pay for digital or physical works.

Many other comic creators replied with their own experiences of pirated work.

For some, piracy brought personal and professional costs, while others suggested radical distribution changes.

(16) STAR WARS FEATURETTE. A nostalgic mix of behind-the-scenes footage from the original Star Wars movie and the latest, soon-to-end trilogy.

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

1944 Retro-Hugo Winners

Dublin 2019 announced the winners of the 1944 Retrospective Hugo Awards on August 15 as part of Opening Ceremonies.

There were 834 total votes cast (826 online, 8 paper ballots).

Best Novel

  • Conjure Wife, by Fritz Leiber, Jr. (Unknown Worlds, April 1943)

Best Novella

  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Reynal & Hitchcock)

Best Novelette

  • “Mimsy Were the Borogoves,” by Lewis Padgett (C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner) (Astounding Science-Fiction, February 1943)

Best Short Story

  • “King of the Gray Spaces” (“R is for Rocket”), by Ray Bradbury (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, December 1943)

Best Graphic Story

  • Wonder Woman #5: Battle for Womanhood, written by William Moulton Marsden, art by Harry G. Peter (DC Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Heaven Can Wait, written by Samson Raphaelson, directed by Ernst Lubitsch (20th Century Fox)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, written by Curt Siodmak, directed by Roy William Neill (Universal Pictures)

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  • John W. Campbell

Best Professional Artist

  • Virgil Finlay

Best Fanzine

  • Le Zombie, editor Wilson “Bob” Tucker

Best Fan Writer

  • Forrest J Ackerman

Pixel Scroll 8/12/19 Far From The Files We Know, Where The Pixels Flow

Editor’s Note: My mother’s pacemaker update went very smoothly. Her tech is good for years to come. Thanks for all the good wishes – which I relayed to her and she was pleased. And voilà, there’s a Scroll today after all.

(1) VERBAL KNIT. The official site says there will be text-based coverage of the Hugos and Retro Hugos: “Live Coverage of Hugo Award Ceremonies”. Details to come.

As usual we will be providing live, text-based coverage of this year’s Hugo Award Ceremony, which takes place at 8:00pm on Sunday evening, Dublin time.

This year we also plan to bring you live, text-based coverage of the Retro-Hugo Award Ceremony, which will take place as part of the Worldcon Opening Ceremonies at 8:00pm on Thursday evening, Dublin time.

(2) ST:TOS DID IT RIGHT. Next Big Future declares “Old Star Trek Was Right As US Navy Returns to Manual Switches”. So says the headline they’ve unrolled above a story ganked from the USNI News (“Navy Reverting DDGs Back to Physical Throttles, After Fleet Rejects Touchscreen Controls”).

The Navy will begin reverting destroyers back to a physical throttle and traditional helm control system in the next 18 to 24 months, after the fleet overwhelmingly said they prefer mechanical controls to touchscreen systems in the aftermath of the fatal USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) collision.

The investigation into the collision showed that a touchscreen system that was complex and that sailors had been poorly trained to use contributed to a loss of control of the ship just before it crossed paths with a merchant ship in the Singapore Strait. After the Navy released a Comprehensive Review related to the McCain and the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) collisions, Naval Sea Systems Command conducted fleet surveys regarding some of the engineering recommendations, Program Executive Officer for Ships Rear Adm. Bill Galinis said.

In the same vein, Elissa tells why she prefers sci-fi shows with physical ship controls. Thread starts here.

(3) FLAME ON. Alan Weisman takes two books with dire warnings about climate change as his texts for “Burning Down The House” in New York Review of Books.

David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth expands on his 2017 article of the same name in New York, where he’s deputy editor. It quickly became that magazine’s most viewed article ever. Some accused Wallace-Wells of sensationalism for focusing on the most extreme possibilities of what may come if we keep spewing carbon compounds skyward (as suggested by his title and his ominous opening line, the answer “is, I promise, worse than you think”). Whatever the article’s lurid appeal, I felt at the time of its publication that its detractors were mainly evading the message by maligning the messenger.

Two years later, those critics have largely been subdued by infernos that have laid waste to huge swaths of California; successive, monstrous hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria—that devastated Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico in 2017; serial cyclone bombs exploding in America’s heartland; so-called thousand-year floods that recur every two years; polar ice shelves fracturing; and refugees pouring from desiccated East and North Africa and the Middle East, where temperatures have approached 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and from Central America, where alternating periods of drought and floods have now largely replaced normal rainfall.

The Uninhabitable Earth, which has become a best seller, taps into the underlying emotion of the day: fear. This book is meant to scare the hell out of us, because the alarm sounded by NASA’s Jim Hansen in his electrifying 1988 congressional testimony on how we’ve trashed the atmosphere still hasn’t sufficiently registered.

(4) FOLLOWING IN HIS FOOTPRINTS. Doug Ellis told Facebook readers that his company, Adventure Pulp LLC, has acquired the rights to the works of A. Merritt.

I’m already chatting with some folks regarding a few possible projects, and I hope to have some exciting Merritt publishing news soon!

Along with the rights, I acquired the remaining papers and art owned by the Merritt estate. Argosy reprinted Merritt’s classic “Seven Footprints to Satan” in five installments in 1939, starting with the June 24, 1939 issue. Merritt insisted that they use Virgil Finlay (with whom Merritt was working at American Weekly) to provide the illustrations for the story. This was Finlay’s entry into the Munsey pulps, and besides further work for Argosy, he would shortly be turning out great work for the Munsey pulps Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels. All five Finlay originals for this story were among the art I acquired.

(5) BIRD BRAINS. NPR’s Ilana Masad says “Humans Are Gone In ‘Hollow Kingdom,’ So It’s Up To The Crows”.

Plague, virus, and zombie apocalypse narratives tend to share a few common threads: Often, humanity brings such terrors upon itself; usually, survivors or those with immunity come together in ragtag groups and attempt to find a cure and/or fight their way through to where the other healthy people are; and, almost always, humanity survives — perhaps in drastically reduced numbers, sans modern technology — and must learn to rebuild itself anew. The central metaphor in these narratives tends to be that humanity is really quite an awful, violent species that wars with itself constantly, and that our boundless curiosity and hubris — whether that involves scientific research gone awry or meddling with forces beyond our ken — ultimately lead to our own near-complete destruction.

This metaphor is definitely present in Kira Jane Buxton’s debut novel, Hollow Kingdom, but luckily for anyone drawn to its gorgeous cover (it’s an eye-catcher, a bright, near-neon green with a black and purple crow staring intensely from behind the white font), Buxton takes a joyfully original approach to apocalyptic fiction. See, instead of us humans being the focal point in the story of our own extinction, it’s the plethora of life that we leave behind that takes center stage.

The novel is largely narrated by a domesticated crow named S.T. — short for something unprintable — who has spent his life with a beer-drinking, junk-food-eating, sports-loving, breast-obsessed man named Big Jim, who raised S.T. from a hatchling. A dopey, lazy dog named Dennis rounds out their little Seattle-based family. When Big Jim’s eye unexpectedly falls out of his head, S.T. knows something is very wrong, but it takes him a good long while before he gives up on his beloved MoFo — S.T.’s term for humans, learned at Big Jim’s bosom — and leaves home, accompanied by Dennis.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. While Scott Edelman’s flying to Dublin he invites you to listen to the new episode of Eating the Fantastic, and “Bite into a burger with P. Djeli Clark”.

P. Djèlí Clark won both the Nebula Award and the Locus Award for Best Short Story earlier this year for “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” — and is currently up for a Hugo Award not just for that, but for his novella “The Black God’s Drums” as well. His fiction has appeared online at Tor.com, Lightspeed, Fireside Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and elsewhere, and in print anthologies such as Hidden Youth and Clockwork Cairo. He is founding member of FIYAH Literary Magazine.

We got together for dinner Friday of [Readercon] at Quincy’s Fat Cat Restaurant, which specializes in comfort food like nachos, wings, mac and cheese, and ribs, though they also serve higher end items like duck and ribeye steaks. But our tastes were not quite so upscale that night, so we stuck to chicken quesadillas and burgers.

We discussed his upcoming first novel (the sale of which was announced only days before we spoke), the background which gave birth to his award-winning story “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” the reason The Black God’s Drums switched point-of-view character during his writing of it, what he learned about New Orleans due to an unfortunate encounter with the local police department, ….and much, much more.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 12, 1894 Dick Calkins. He’s best remembered for being the first artist to draw the Buck Rogers comic strip. He also wrote scripts for the Buck Rogers radio program. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Complete Newspaper Dailies in three volumes on Hermes Press collects these strips. (Died 1962.)
  • Born August 12, 1903 J O Bailey. ESF says that “his Pilgrims through Space and Time: Trends and Patterns in Scientific and Utopian Fiction (1947) was the first academic study of sf, which it analyses primarily on a thematic basis, and without ever using the term ‘science fiction’, referring instead to ‘scientific fiction’ and the Scientific Romance.” (Died 1979.)
  • Born August 12, 1910 Jane Wyatt. Spock’s mother of course. She also was In Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon. (Died 2006.)
  • Born August 12, 1921 Matt Jefferies. He’s best known for his work on the original Trek where he designed much of the sets and props  including the Starship Enterprise, the Klingon logo, and the bridge and sick bay. The Jefferies tubes are named after him. (Died 2003.)
  • Born August 12, 1931 William Goldman. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted for the film. Wrote The Stepford Wives script and King’s Hearts in Atlantis and Misery as well. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 12, 1947 John Nathan-Turner. He produced the series from 1980 until it was cancelled in 1989. He finished having become the longest-serving Doctor Who producer and cast Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 12, 1954 Sam J. Jones,  65. Flash Gordon in the 1980 version of that story. Very, very campy. A few years later, he played the lead role in a TV adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit.
  • Born August 12, 1992 Cara Delevingne, 27. She shows up in the Suicide Squad as June Moone aka The Enchantress, and in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as Laureline. I adore The Fifth Element, should I see this film? 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Two SJW Credential comics today.

(9) POINT AND CLICK. A Polaroid camera revival, thanks to Stranger Things — “The OneStep 2 Starter Set – Stranger Things Edition”.

Polaroid Originals is also releasing collectable special edition film, perfect for super fans to capture their stranger moments. As a further ode to the Stranger Things universe, each pack of 8 will include 16 graphic design prints, which will transport you back to the summer of 1985 in Hawkins, discovering Scoops Ahoy at the town’s new Starcourt Mall and back to the flashing lights of Joyce Byer’s living room.

Stranger Things is renowned for re-imagining the early 80s, and is infused with popular culture from the period, from walkie-talkies and Fabergé Organic big hair to Dungeons and Dragons. Retro Polaroid cameras pop up throughout the series, capturing moments from the Hawkins middle school’s Snow Ball to the gang’s iconic Ghostbuster Halloween costumes. After all what would the 80s be without a Polaroid snap?

(10) DIGITAL CHARACTERS, GENUINE PATHOS. “Digital Fur, Digital Folks: Reality Is Starting to Feel Overrated” according to the New York Times.

If the historians of the future try to pinpoint the exact moment when the term “digital fur” became ubiquitous in our culture, they might eventually identify the evening of July 18, when the “Cats” trailer premiered online just as the first public screenings of Disney’s “The Lion King” remake were unspooling across the country.

Here were two state-of-the-art endeavors, using computer-generated fur — by all accounts an enormously difficult and time-consuming special effects undertaking — toward extremely different ends.

(11) EARHART’S PLANE? Dr. Robert Ballard is on his way to the site – he hopes. The New York Times has the story: “Finding Amelia Earhart’s Plane Seemed Impossible. Then Came a Startling Clue.”

…Dr. Ballard has always wanted to find the remains of the plane Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared in 1937. But he feared the hunt would be yet another in a long line of futile searches.

“You have it in a holding pattern in your head,” said Dr. Ballard, founder of the Ocean Exploration Trust. “You’re still saying, ‘No, no, it’s too big a search area.’”

Then, a few years ago, another group of explorers found clues so compelling that Dr. Ballard changed his mind. Now, not only is he certain he knows where the plane is, he has set course for a remote atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati to recover it.

If his expedition succeeds, he’ll not only solve one of the enduring mysteries of the 20th century. The 77-year-old explorer will also be transferring his legacy of discovery to a new generation of oceanic detectives.

Until recently, Dr. Ballard accepted the Navy’s version of Earhart’s fate: On July 2, 1937, near the end of their round-the-world flight, the aviator and her navigator, Fred Noonan, vanished over the Pacific. After a lengthy and costly search, the Navy concluded on July 18, 1937, that the two died shortly after crashing into the ocean.

But in 2012, an old friend presented Dr. Ballard with a startling alternative….

(12) HERE WE GO AGAIN. NPR explains how “With Congressional Blessing, Space Force Is Closer To Launch”.

It started as a joke.

Early last year, President Trump riffed on an idea he called “Space Force” before a crowd of Marines in San Diego.

It drew laughs, but the moment was a breakthrough for a plan that had languished for nearly 20 years.

“I said maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the Space Force,” Trump said at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in March 2018. “And I was not really serious. Then I said, ‘What a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.'”

But now, under a new name and with Congress’ support, Space Force is closer to becoming a new military reality. It would be the first new military service in more than 70 years.

In January 2001, a special commission chaired by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said space needed to become a top national security priority. But the 9/11 terrorist attacks derailed those plans.

Since that time, military leaders, lawmakers and experts have warned that new resources were needed in space to get ahead of a potential, hostile nation setting out to destroy a U.S. satellite. Such a move could threaten our everyday lives, from our cell phones to the electric grid to the military’s ability to launch nuclear weapons.

As a result, proponents argue that the U.S. has fallen behind and needs to upgrade an existing Air Force office focused on space to become an official service.

(13) “BIRDS DO IT…” BBC reports “Berlin gay penguins adopt abandoned egg”.

Two male penguins at Berlin Zoo have been caring for an abandoned egg since July in their long quest to become parents.

The same-sex couple, Skipper and Ping, are keen to have a chick of their own, and have even been known to “try to hatch fish and stones”, spokesman Maximilian Jäger told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.

He said the two king penguins adopted the egg, which had been abandoned by the sole female of the species at the zoo, and are “behaving like model parents, taking turns to keep the egg warm” by nestling it on their feet under a flap of belly skin.

The are now doing their best to protect their precious charge from jealous rivals, after a little encouragement from their human guardians.

(14) CONIC SECTION. Got to love the new art for next year’s Gallifrey One convention. Baskin-Robbins meets the TARDIS!

(15) GEICO’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. A time portal-themed commercial for GEICO insurance.

For her science fair project, Sophie creates a wormhole which release figures from the past like Abraham Lincoln.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/17 It’s Crackers To Scroll A Rozzer The Pixel In Snide

(1) RECOMMENDED BY NINE OUT OF TEN. The BBC scanned the media and concluded: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi has critics in raptures”. (Except for Variety and The Verge.)

“Rousing.” “Thrilling.” “Addictively bold.” Just a few of the superlatives the critics are using to describe the latest film in the Star Wars saga.

The Last Jedi, writes the Telegraph, is “enormous fun” and “will leave fans beaming with surprise”.

The Guardian calls it “an explosive sugar rush of spectacle” possessing “a tidal wave of energy and emotion”.

Variety, though, swims against the tide, describing it as “the longest and least essential chapter in the series”.

Rian Johnson’s film, says Peter Debruge, is “ultimately a disappointment” that “gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late.”

Writing in The Verge, Tasha Robinson tends to agree: “Audiences will likely come away from The Last Jedi with a lot of complaints and questions.”

(3) SPACE BALONEY. A history of fake Star Wars news — “Inside the ‘Star Wars’ Fake News Con That Tortured Fans for 20 Years” from Thrillist.

There was little legitimate movie news on the internet in early 1997, most tidbits trickling down from Hollywood’s print trade magazines, but the pioneering gossips and rumormongers of today’s post-and-verify-later model of online journalism hustled to find scoops and stake a claim with the eager readership. In its infancy, Ain’t It Cool News dished out flashy updates from its network of film industry spies; Corona’s Coming Attractions was a meticulous clearinghouse of rumors on just about every movie in development; for those that required all Star Wars, all the time, there were laser-focused sites like TheForce.net and RebelScum.com, which aggregated the latest Star Wars news (while occasionally dropping scoops of their own).

There was an embarrassment of rumor riches, and though a high percentage of the Star Wars scoops were bunk, people dove right in, elated that the most beloved film franchise of their youth had blasted back to the fore of pop culture. There was no reliable editorial oversight, only a treasure hunt, and the burden of bullshit detection fell on the reader. Which is how ludicrous stories — like the howler that nearly half the footage shot for The Phantom Menace came back from the lab out of focus — gained real traction in 1998.

(3) LICENSE TO SHILL. Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner began his coverage of last week’s SDCC v SLCC jury trial with some brutal criticism for Rose City Comic Con, who accepted a free license from SDCC to use the “comic con” name: “Opening Statements In The Trademark Battle Of The Comic Cons, While Other Regional Cons Go Full Judas”.

Of course, the problem with this study is that no matter what the public in the SDCC’s sample indicated, the simple fact is that comic conventions throughout the country have been using the term “comic con” with wild abandon. As they did so, it seems that the SDCC was in some sort of trademark hibernation for years, with no action against all of these national comic cons that I can find. SLCC made the same point in its opening argument, their defense seemingly settling on the notion that the term “comic con” had become generic….

It seems that the SDCC fully anticipated this defense and decided to attempt to undermine it by finding a comic con out there, any comic con, to enter into a laughably cheap licensing agreement. That SDCC is doing this only at the same time it is bringing this suit to trial makes its motive plain and naked. It’s a shameless attempt to give its long-abandoned trademark the imprimatur of now having an actual licensee. As disappointing as the SDCC’s actions are, those of the sellout cons are all the more so. Just read the press release from Rose City Comic Con in Portland about how it licensed the “comic con” mark and you’ll get an idea of just how likely it is that the SDCC basically scripted this thing for them.

“Rose City Comic Con, Portland, Oregon’s largest comics and pop-culture convention, is proud to announce its association with San Diego Comic Convention for its three-day event taking place September 7-9, 2018 at the Oregon Convention Center. Rose City Comic Con received the license at no additional cost to the show, and acknowledges the trademark owned by San Diego Comic Convention and is excited to affiliate itself with the prestigious event.”

“Comic-Con, the San Diego convention, is without question the biggest and most important event in the comics and popular arts industry every year. To have the respected event recognize the hard work of Rose City Comic Con by providing a license agreement is really remarkable for the city of Portland and the incredible community of creators we’re lucky to have here,” said Rose City Comic Con founder Ron Brister.

So moist does Rose City seem to be over its free license that it must have failed to understand the motive for this free gift by the SDCC and the damage it might do to all of the other comic cons out there that are now or might in the future be under threat by SDCC. Now, I don’t believe that SDCC managing to squeeze a few licensees from this national barrel of turnips suddenly means that it didn’t long ago abandon the “comic con” mark, but it seems obvious that these sorts of free licenses aren’t for everyone. I expect the SLCC, for instance, would have jumped at a free license early on in this process. Perhaps it would instead have stood its ground on principle, but given the enormous cost in time and money, not to mention that this thing has dragged out now for several years, I doubt it.

So nice job, Rose City. While one con fights not just for its life, but for the common sense notion that “comic con” should no longer be considered a legit trademark, you went full Judas. Hope those 30 pieces of silver are worth it.

(4) DEAD ON ARRIVAL. The train left Helsinki on December 13 on its way to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. One of the passengers won’t make it alive. Adweek reveals how “TBWA Is Turning a Speeding Train Into an Escape Room for Murder on the Orient Express”.

The “Escape Train” will travel 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) over 13 hours. The plot follows thus: A mysterious death has occurred aboard the train. Which player can identify the killer among them?

…The game was designed and built by InsideOut Escape Games, an escape room game pioneer in Finland. Challenges and puzzles will be movie-inspired, with two train carriages reserved exclusively for execution, but over a dozen cabins will be available for players to explore over its 13-hour run.

Online, people will also be able to watch the action as it happens.

“This is a rare opportunity to build a whole new type of game—it taking place on an actual train, with other passengers on board, adds a lot to the dynamics of an escape room experience,” says InsideOut’s Ágnes Kaszás. “To my knowledge, it is the longest-running game ever made, and we are very excited to be able to design it in the spirit of the new hit movie. It’s a dream come true, both for us and the players!”

 

(5) HELPS TO MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT. Kim Huett asks, “What about a bonus full-colour Doctor Strangemind post given we’re heading into Christmas? Sure, why not.” So in “Virgil Finlay & Fungi! In Colour!”, Huett gives one of sf’s great artist a little help:

Hopefully this seasonal fungi will help to brighten up the lives of those of you currently trudging through winter. I like to think a dead fir festooned with such colourful parasites would look every bit as festive as the traditional sort.

(6) JUSTICE LEAGUE NEEDS A DOG. In “(Super)man’s Best Friend”, Claremont McKenna College fellow Steven J. Lenzner tells Weekly Standard readers that recent movie and TV versions of Superman have neglected Krypto, who is a good dog who wants to protect Superman.

We readers are shown Krypto’s thoughts—and those thoughts, both in form and content, show him to be a model dog. Krypto thinks only in the present tense, employing—to the extent possible—one-syllable words with concision; that is to say, he thinks as one would imagine a dog thinking. Moreover, the content of his thoughts goes far toward explaining the old adage that dog is a Kryptonian’s best friend. Krypto is, as befits a good American dog, deeply concerned with his happiness—and what makes him happy, above all, is his master’s praise: “Good boy.” The first word of the story is Krypto’s (“Man”), as is the last word (“Happy”). And in between Krypto displays the cardinal canine virtues: loyalty, courage, and affection. Krypto loves his friends and hates his enemies. And his circle of friends has a limited radius. He has none of that easy and indiscriminate affection that diminishes the charm of a dog’s love for its master.

(7) IT’S BULL. In “Hitler banned it; Gandhi loved it: ‘The Story of Ferdinand,’ the book and, now, film”, the Washington Post’s Karen McPherson discusses the classic children’s book written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, which has just been remade as Ferdinand.  She discusses how the previous animated version of the film, Disney’s 1938 Ferdinand the Bull, won an Academy Award and how Leaf and Lawson’s book was praised by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and denounced by Adolf Hitler, who called the book “dangerous democratic propaganda.”

Leaf wrote “The Story of Ferdinand” in less than an hour one rainy fall afternoon as a gift to his good friend Lawson. Contending that “dogs, rabbits, mice and goats had all been done a thousand times,” Leaf focused his story on a Spanish bull named Ferdinand who eschews fighting for flower-sniffing, refusing to fight even when forced to face the matador in the ring. Instead, Ferdinand sits down to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers adorning the hair of women spectators.

(8) PEDAL TO THE MEDAL. Pretty soon it’s the robots that will be citius, altius, fortius: “A humanoid robot carried the Olympic torch in South Korea”.

One of the traditions of the Olympics is the torch relay, in which people carry the flame from Olympia, Greece to the location of the Games. In 2018, the Olympic Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the torch relay is currently underway. Earlier this week, the HUBO, the humanoid robot, carried the flame for part of its journey.

HUBO only covered 150 meters (about 500 feet) with the torch, but its presence was largely symbolic. As part of its torch duties, HUBO performed an example of a disaster rescue operation in which it cut a hole in a brick wall (while still holding the torch). It was intended as a “display of innovation and creativity,” according to PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee President LEE Hee-beom.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still received its theatrical premiere in the UK.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! came out on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHIMNEY SWEEP

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Usually you look in the Bible for what happened “In the beginning…” but Chip Hitchcock found the answer at Mr. Boffo.

(12) BIG BIRD. When they had happy feet, you got out of their way: “Giant Prehistoric Penguins Once Swam Off The Coast Of New Zealand”.

An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin.

The bird waddled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago. And it was a giant as far as penguins go. The researchers estimate that it probably weighed about 220 pounds and was around 5 feet 10 inches tall.

“That’s about as tall as a medium-sized man,” says Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Franfurt, Germany, and the lead author of the new study published today in Nature Communications. “This particular specimen is one of the largest known fossil penguins.”

The largest living penguin, on the other hand, the Emperor penguin, is a good bit shorter — around 4 feet.

The scientists have named the new species Kumimanu biceae, which means ‘monster bird’ in the Maori language. (Kumi is the name of a monster in Maori mythology and manu means bird.)

The new finding is really cool, says Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who wasn’t involved in the study. “I mean, what’s not cool about a human-sized penguin?” she says.

(13) THANKS FOR YOUR TECH. Despite their service being blocked, Google will open an artificial intelligence centre in China.

Google is deepening its push into artificial intelligence (AI) by opening a research centre in China, even though its search services remain blocked in the country.

Google said the facility would be the first its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent.

Silicon Valley is focusing heavily on the future applications for AI.

China has also indicated strong support for AI development and for catching up with the US.

(14) DOZOIS REVIEWS. The title of his December 13 entry is “Gardner Dozois Reviews Short Fiction” but most of it is brief descriptions of stories recently on Tor.com or in F&SF. Should that be what you’re looking for, you’ll find it at Locus Online.

(15) GLOBAL SWARMING. The BBC expects “Robot swarms to map the seafloor”.

It’s one of those truisms that we know the shape of the surface of Mars and the Moon far better than we know our own planet.

The reason for this is Earth’s oceans: they cover 71% of the globe and are impenetrable to the satellite mapping techniques we use so capably on those other worlds.

The scientific community has set itself the ambitious goal of correcting this anomaly.

The aim is to have no feature on the ocean floor larger than 100m unmapped by 2030.

It’s a huge task when you consider at the moment the vast majority of the water-covered parts of Earth are known to a resolution no better than about a kilometre.

Some big technological shifts will be required in the next 10 years to correct the picture. And that is really the raison d’être behind the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.

A $7m pot has been offered to find the systems and strategies that will bring about a step change in bathymetric (depth) mapping.

(16) PIPE DOWN. Kameron Hurley talks back to that Bitter Midlister Voice in her head, in “What Comes Next? Everything”.

… We have all met or heard from bitter midlisters. These are the people who publicly rant about how the success of their bestselling peers has nothing to do with quality, but with luck, or favoritism, and how the game is rigged against them. They bloviate on forums and social platforms about how they didn’t get the sort of success they were owed. This is often how you can differentiate the bitter midlister from those simply exhausted by the –isms inherent in publishing. Bitter midlisters feel that they are owed success by virtue of their existence, instead of simply that they understand they need to work harder in a system rigged to favor certain types of books and authors….

It used to be that when I wrote, I’d be railing against all the outside voices, the supposed gatekeepers, the editors and agents who rejected my work. As I’ve become more skilled, I realize that my greatest enemy isn’t them at all, and never was. My greatest enemy these days is just myself, and the BMV™.

I have a great deal to achieve in this, the second half of my life. The last year of horror had led me to double down on my worst tendencies, to withdraw, to simply endure. But I want the next thirty years of my life to be more than mere endurance. I want to truly thrive. I want to come into my own as a skilled artist, as a novelist. It’s always been my goal to be an exceptionally skilled novelist, the best, and I won’t get there by hiding in my house in Ohio with a pillow over my head and nursing the BMV™

(17) COULD HOLD A THOUSAND ROSETTAS. “Nasa’s New Horizons probe strikes distant gold” — the target past Pluto is at least two objects.

The American space agency’s New Horizons mission has struck gold again.

After its astonishing flyby of Pluto in 2015, scientists have just discovered that the probe’s next target is not one object but very likely two.

Earth-based observations suggest the small icy world, referred to simply as MU69, has a moonlet.

It seems New Horizons will now be making a two-for-the price-of-one flyby when it has its encounter on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019….

(18) TICKETY BOO. “Dracula ticks in amber tell ancient blood-sucking tale”. The BBC report reminded Chip Hitchcock of Brian Aldiss’s “Poor Little Warrior,” which describes human-size parasites (possibly ticks?) on a Brontosaurus; these are more typical in size.

Scientists say the discovery, which has echoes of Jurassic Park, is the first direct fossil evidence that ticks fed on the blood of dinosaurs.

The research is published in the journal, Nature Communications.

”Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs; now we have direct evidence of it,” co-researcher Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History told BBC News.

…Together, these findings suggest that ticks have been sucking the blood of dinosaurs for almost 100 million years.

(19) RENDEZVOUS WITH…? Is the weird shape unnatural? Stand by, while “Interstellar asteroid checked for alien technology”.

A project searching for intelligent life in the cosmos is going to check the first known interstellar asteroid for signs of alien technology.

The odd-shaped object was detected as it sped towards the Sun on 19 October.

Its properties suggested it originated around another star, making it the first such body to be spotted in our cosmic neighbourhood.

An initiative backed by billionaire Yuri Milner will use a radio telescope to listen for signals from it.

The team’s efforts will begin on Wednesday, with astronomers observing the asteroid, which is currently speeding away from our Solar System, across four different radio frequency bands.

(20) BATTLE OF THE SJW CREDENTIALS. It’s a Conestoga catastrophe.

(21) THE SHAPE OF WATER. The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. He begins by saying his manager’s call about the Golden Globe nominations woke him up “it took me four nominations to find the glasses.”

(22) LEGO ANNIHLATION. Mark Hepworth sent the link with a note: “Either genius, or a tragic waste of Lego. The main event starts at about 2:50.”

David, Henrik and Sylvia plays with Lego. This time it’s the giant 1.2 meter, 3152 piece, 3.5 kg heavy Star Wars – Super Star Destroyer. This episode has a twist to it. We mount the Super Star Destroyer on the rocket sled and accelerate it up to 108km/h. Very rapid disassembly follows.

 

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