Pixel Scroll 7/12/22 Pixels Come From Pixelvania

(1) WEBB WEAVINGS. NASA hosts the “First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope” at the link.

…Webb’s first observations were selected by a group of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. They reveal the capabilities of all four of Webb’s state-of-the-art scientific instruments:

  • SMACS 0723: Webb has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far – and in only 12.5 hours. For a person standing on Earth looking up, the field of view for this new image, a color composite of multiple exposures each about two hours long, is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. This deep field uses a lensing galaxy cluster to find some of the most distant galaxies ever detected. This image only scratches the surface of Webb’s capabilities in studying deep fields and tracing galaxies back to the beginning of cosmic time.
  • WASP-96b (spectrum): Webb’s detailed observation of this hot, puffy planet outside our solar system reveals the clear signature of water, along with evidence of haze and clouds that previous studies of this planet did not detect. With Webb’s first detection of water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, it will now set out to study hundreds of other systems to understand what other planetary atmospheres are made of.
  • Southern Ring Nebula: This planetary nebula, an expanding cloud of gas that surrounds a dying star, is approximately 2,000 light years away. Here, Webb’s powerful infrared eyes bring a second dying star into full view for the first time. From birth to death as a planetary nebula, Webb can explore the expelling shells of dust and gas of aging stars that may one day become a new star or planet.
  • Stephan’s Quintet: Webb’s view of this compact group of galaxies, located in the constellation Pegasus, pierced through the shroud of dust surrounding the center of one galaxy, to reveal the velocity and composition of the gas near its supermassive black hole. Now, scientists can get a rare look, in unprecedented detail, at how interacting galaxies are triggering star formation in each other and how the gas in these galaxies is being disturbed.
  • Carina Nebula: Webb’s look at the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ in the Carina Nebula unveils the earliest, rapid phases of star formation that were previously hidden. Looking at this star-forming region in the southern constellation Carina, as well as others like it, Webb can see newly forming stars and study the gas and dust that made them.

One of these you may have seen before — Stephan’s Quintet:

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

(2) LEAVING THE STARTING GATE. Marina Koren says “Webb’s First View of the Universe Is Only the Beginning” in The Atlantic.

…The image, released today, was taken by the world’s newest space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope. It is the first real snapshot from the mission, which launched more than six months ago and currently orbits about 1 million miles from Earth.

The picture is sparkly and beautiful, a great choice for a computer background. It is also, more important, an entirely new view of the universe. The light from the galaxies in the foreground left 4.6 billion years ago, and the light from the galaxies beyond those, even longer. All this light has been captured in unprecedented detail by the most powerful space telescope in history, making this one of the deepest, most high-resolution pictures of the universe that humankind has ever taken.

Astronomers call this kind of view a “deep field”: a picture of one spot in space, made with long exposure times so that the instrument can really bask in any incoming light. Remember Hubble, and that glorious deep-field image from the 1990s, sparkling with thousands of galaxies? The Webb telescope was designed to spot celestial objects that are about 100 times fainter than the ones Hubble can detect…. 

(3) MORE THAN PRETTY PICTURES. TIME Magazine thinks one of the JWST’s non-visual observations might be the most provocative: “What the James Webb Telescope Images Mean for Space”.

…Still, it was in some ways, the smallest object the telescope imaged—the exoplanet WASP-96b—that will likely cause the greatest excitement. Until now, exoplanets, or planets circling other stars, were detectable in only one of two ways: The transit method, in which astronomers discern the small dimming of light in a parent star as an orbiting planet passes in front of it; and the radial velocity method—in which they look for the small wobble in the position of the star as the gravity of the orbiting planet tugs on it.

What astronomers could never do until now was see the planet itself, since spotting so small a body in the blinding glare of its parent star would be like standing a block away and trying to see a moth fluttering next to a streetlight. The image of the smaller body would simply get washed out. And indeed, for now, Webb did not even get an image of WASP-96b itself; but what it got instead is something more important. Now that astronomers can even faintly image exoplanets, they can also look for signs of life on them, as the light from their parent star streams through their atmosphere, revealing the make-up of the gasses and the possibility of the chemical fingerprints of biology.

Webb got just such a chemical spectrum of WASP-96b, revealing that the atmosphere is rich in water, the key ingredient for life as we know it.

(4) CHICON’S ART-THEMED NEWS. Chicon 8 chair Helen Montgomery messaged members today about art exhibits and events at the 2022 Worldcon.

…Additionally, we will have two very special art exhibits courtesy of some of our other Guests of Honor, Joe Siclari and Edie Stern, and Erle Korshak. The Korshak Collection will be exhibited in the San Francisco room of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, right across the hall from the main Art Show. The Siclari/Stern Collection will be displayed within the Art Show in the Regency Ballroom. You will not want to miss these exhibits!

We will of course have our Art Show, Print Shop, and Art Auction. Artists will also be doing demos, and some will be in the Dealers Room / Creatives Corner of the Exhibit Hall. We are working on scheduling docent tours of the Art Show, and we are going to have a “Meet The Artist” event in the Art Show on Friday evening, where you will have the opportunity to talk to the artists about their work.

Chicon 8 will also be hosting The Chesley Awards on Friday evening of the convention in the Crystal Ballroom. The Chesley Awards are administered and presented by ASFA: The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. https://asfa-art.com/the-chesley-awards/

(5) IN LIVING COLOR. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit “Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color”, about rediscovering the paint jobs that originally adorned ancient sculpture, continues through March 26, 2023.

“Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was once colorful, vibrantly painted and richly adorned with detailed ornamentation. Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color reveals the colorful backstory of polychromy—meaning “many colors,” in Greek—and presents new discoveries of surviving ancient color on artworks in The Met’s world-class collection. Exploring the practices and materials used in ancient polychromy, the exhibition highlights cutting-edge scientific methods used to identify ancient color and examines how color helped convey meaning in antiquity, and how ancient polychromy has been viewed and understood in later periods.

The exhibition features a series of reconstructions of ancient sculptures in color by Prof. Dr. V. Brinkmann, Head of the Department of Antiquity at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, and Dr. U. Koch-Brinkmann.”

(6) NOT A GOOD ATMOSPHERE FOR ARTISTS. Anime News Network rips “The Irresponsible Management of This Year’s Artist Alley – Anime Expo 2022” in this July 7 article. (The CO2 numbers are at the link.)

…Of course, there are many factors involved in community spread [of COVID], including vaccination (which doesn’t guarantee against infection, but drastically reduces one’s chance of hospitalization and death), mask usage (which is most effective when both parties are masked, especially the one who is infectious), mask type and fit, and environmental factors such as ventilation and airflow. Regarding the first two, Anime Expo briefly changed their COVID safety guidelines in early June, but eventually reverted their decision, requiring that all attendees either show proof of full COVID vaccination or a negative test taken within 72 hours, and asking that everyone wear a mask in all indoor spaces….

Another community spread factor, though, is ventilation. Transmission is reduced in outdoor settings where airflow tends to be high, but in indoor spaces, ventilation can vary drastically depending on different components. One attendee, who goes by the Twitter handle @nickelpin, was curious what the ventilation was like in various areas of the convention center, so she brought along a portable carbon dioxide monitor. The usage of CO2 monitors has been increasing in popularity—scientists and other data enthusiasts have been taking readings of places like airplanes and event spaces; parents have been sending their kids back to school with CO2 monitors to check the ventilation of classrooms….

…Outside of Day 1 heat-related effects, some artists reported feeling ill throughout the weekend with various non-COVID symptoms that subsided after they left the convention center each day. Since the end of the convention, a spreadsheet being shared amongst Artist Alley participants has shown increasing numbers of artists self-reporting headaches, drowsiness, and trouble concentrating, which could potentially be related to the high levels of CO2 in Kentia Hall.

One veteran artist who wanted to remain anonymous told us she had two panic attacks and a spell of nausea and vertigo, and had to rely on helpers so that she could take breaks outside the convention center. “It was worst on Saturday and Sunday, just kinda feeling like you’re breathing but not actually getting air.” She said her booth was located near a wall with three feet of space behind her, which made it more unusual to her that she felt she couldn’t breathe. She confirmed that she had not felt this way at other conventions or previous Anime Expos….

(7) HOW ABOUT THOSE HUGO-NOMINATED NOVELETTES? Cora Buhlert joined the Hugos There podcast again as part of a panel discussing the finalists for the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Tthe audio only link is here.

(8) THE UNAVOIDABLE MESSAGE. Oliver Brackenbury has posted part II of his interview with David C. Smith at the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with David C. Smith (Part Two)”.

In this half we discuss the 80’s sword & sorcery publishing implosion, the importance of adapting to changing tastes and not just telling the same limited range of stories ad infinitum, how expanding something – like a genre’s possibilities – means more and doesn’t take away what’s already there that people like, the fallacy of thinking you can write a story with no theme or message or opinions or “politics” in it, David’s latest novel (Sometime Lofty Towers), avoiding the white savior pitfall and otherwise best practices when writing fictional indigenous peoples, the history of The Other in western civilization, cultural appropriation, writing outside “the usual sword & sorcery template”…

(9) PASSPORT TO NYUMBANI. Bill Ward shares his appreciation for “Charles R. Saunders’ Nyumbani Tales” at the Goodman Games blog: 

…But myths aren’t of course all grim sacrifice and heroic tragedy, and many of the strongest pieces in Nyumbani Tales are humorous accounts of tricksters, frauds, and con men. Fan favorite Pomphis the Bambuti, Imaro’s diminutive companion, appears in two of the most fun tales in the collection: “The Blacksmith and the Bambuti” and “Pomphis and the Poor Man,” exhibiting both the cleverness and the kindness that is a hallmark of his character. In “Two Rogues” a pair of grifters engage one another in cross and double-cross, complete with sorcery, a poison-gas-assisted heist, and a shape-shifted hippo. And it would be difficult to find a better – and funnier – story reinforcing that old adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’ than “Okosene Alakun and the Magic Guinea Fowl.”…

(10)  NOT JUST AN ILLUSION. Bobby Derie takes a look at Harry Houdini’s connection to Weird Tales in “Deeper Cut: Houdini & Weird Tales” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein. 

Chicago, 1923

Now long after I had inaugurated Weird Tales, I had a call by Houdini at my Chicago office; he expressed more than usual enthusiasm for the magazine, and the meeting resulted in a friendship lasting until his untimely death a few years later. He often regaled me with experiences of his that rivaled anything I had ever read in books. Several of these I published, but they were written in such a prosaic style that they evoked little comment.

J.C. Henneberger to Robert A. W. Lowndes, Magazine of Horror (May 1969) 117

(11) SHORT MARATHON. Cora Buhlert reports, “I’m also doing the July short story challenge again this year, where I write a story every day during the month of July, and I keep a running tally here –” “The 2022 July Short Story Challenge – Day by Day”.

…What is the July Short Story Challenge, you ask? Well, in July 2015, Dean Wesley Smith announced that he was planning to write a brand new short story every day during the month of July. The original post seems to be gone now, but the Wayback Machine has a copy here. At the time, several people announced that they would play along, so I decided to give it a try as well. And then I did it again the following year. And the next. And the next. If you want to read my post-mortems of the previous July short story challenges, here are the posts for 201520162017201820192020 and 2021.

Because I’ve already done the July short story challenge seven years in a row now and always found the experience very rewarding, I’m aiming for a repeat this year. This July is a very busy month for me, never mind that I caught a persistent and annoying cold (not covid, I did a test). Therefore I initially only committed to doing this for a single week, which is already finished, and now I’m going for the second week. Then, if things are going well, I’ll keep going….

(12) MEMORY LANE

1924 [By Cat Eldridge.] Once upon a time, well back in 1924, the noted Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany saw his novel The King of Elfland’s Daughter published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. It is considered to be one of the most influential and acclaimed works in all of fantasy literature, and a paperback edition was released in 1969 as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. 

Now many of you will recognize Steeleye Span, the famed British folk rock band founded in 1969 by Fairport Convention bass player Ashley Hutchings along with Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. (Maddy is the only musician still with it today.) Steeleye had more musicians coming through it than your typical publisher has associate publicists. One of those of was violinist Peter Knight who was with it for much its existence and left a decade back. 

(Yes, it was where Richard Thompson first got his start.) 

Like so many musicians, side-projects were a way of life and Knight was no exception. So, The King of Elfland’s Daughter narration was born with the assistance of Bob Johnson, another Steeleye musician, and a very special guest artist who you will all know. 

Now I don’t need to tell you this tale as Kestrell Rath already has done so for us over at Green Man quite delightfully. Just go read it here.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction including if memory serves right in Neal Asher’s Polity universe. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1912 Joseph Mugnaini. An Italian born artist and illustrator. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Ray Bradbury, beginning in 1952. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 James Gunn. Writer, editor, scholar, anthologist. Hugo winner at ConStellation (1983) for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. MidAmeriCon (1976) presented him with a Special Committee Award for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. The This Immortal series based on his novel by that name received a Best Dramatic Presentation nomination at Heicon ’70. Not surprisingly, he won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1933 Donald E. Westlake. Though he specialized in crime fiction, he did dip into the genre on occasion such as with Transylvania Station with a lovely cover by Gahan Wilson.  You can think of it as a Clue style novel.  With monsters. He wrote with his wife Abby. On the horror end of things was Anarchaos. And he wrote a lot of genre short fiction, some fifty pieces by my count. Meteor Strike: Science Fiction Triple Feature has three of his SF stories is available from the usual suspects for ninety-nine cents. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1946 Charles R. Saunders. African-American author and journalist who lived in Canada, much of his fiction is set in the fictional continent Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili). His main series is the Imaro novels which he called the first sword and sorcery series by a black writer. Griots, both of his short story collections, are available from the usual suspects and collect the material set in Nyumbani. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 12, 1947 Carl Lundgren, 75. He co-founded ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America), and won 4 Chesleys, including Artistic Achievement. At the tender age of eighteen, he was co-chairman of the first media SF convention, The Detroit Triple Fan Fair which featured comics, movies and various things of a SF nature. At Chicon IV, he was nominated for Best Professional Artist but lost out to Michael Whelan.
  • Born July 12, 1948 Ben Burtt, 74. Sound Designer for, and I’m not listing them all, more Star Wars films and series than I knew existed, plus the rebooted Star TrekStar Trek Into DarknessJohn Carter (yes, I really like it), WALL-E, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (no, I don’t like it) to name but a few. He has some acting creds as well such as when in the Return of the Jedi, he appeared as Colonel Dyer, the Imperial officer who yells “Freeze!” just before Solo knocks him off a balcony. 
  • Born July 12, 1970 Phil Jimenez, 52. Comics illustrator and writer. He was the main artist of Infinite Crisis, a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also did the awesome first issue of Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World, and was responsible for the first six issues of Fables spin-off, Fairest. I found that spin-off a lot of fun. Yes, I read all of Fables
  • Born July 12, 1976 Gwenda Bond, 46. Writer, critic, editor. She’s written a prequel to the Stranger Things series, Suspicious Mind, and I’m very fond of the two novels (The Lost Legacy and The Sphinx’s Secret) so far in her Supernormal Sleuthing Service which she wrote with her husband Christopher Rowe. And she penned the “Dear Aunt Gwenda” section of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that Small Beer Press published in the early part of this millennium. And yes, she’s one of the multitudes that has written for the Wild Cards anthologies.

(14) LEIBER AND DELANY. At Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books, Alan Stewart remembers how he was taken by surprise by “Wonder Woman #202 (Sep.-Oct. 1972)”. First there were —

…science fiction and fantasy author Fritz Lieber’s sword-and-sorcery heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.  What the heck were those guys doing on the cover of any DC comic book — let alone Wonder Woman

And then!

…The first was that I was coming in in the middle of an ongoing storyline.  The second was that the costumed woman Diana Prince was battling on the book’s cover was evidently Catwoman, wearing an outfit which, while not actually new, was unfamiliar to my fifteen-year-old self.  The third was that the script was by Samuel R. Delany — an author who, like Fritz Lieber, I hadn’t actually read anything by yet, but whom I nevertheless knew to be an award-winning young science fiction writer, associated with the same “New Wave” of more experimental, “literary” authors that also included Harlan Ellison and Michael Moorcock.  As much if not more so than Fafhrd and the Mouser, “Chip” Delany’s showing up in the present context seemed highly incongruous; really, what was the writer of the Hugo and Nebula-winning story “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” doing scripting an issue of Wonder Woman?

(15) HORROR TROPES 101. Eva V. Gibson supplies “A Beginner’s Guide to Using (and Exploding) Horror Tropes” at CrimeReads.

…You see that knife on the book cover, you know you’ll find it, or its metaphorical equivalent, somewhere in the pages—and if it doesn’t show up, don’t you feel cheated? Well-executed tropes are used in horror stories for that specific reason: to deliver on those promises and evoke the feelings triggered by the introduction.

Effective trope use does, however, often require going beyond the basics. The techniques of trope usage in horror writing, as opposed to visual media, rely primarily on setting, mood building, plot twists, and tension to produce those promised chills. Some of my favorite tropes to use when writing horror are also my favorite to read, because they nearly always deliver the same impact across all forms of media….

(16) WILL THE STANDARD MODEL CAVE? “Physicists May Have Stumbled Upon an Entirely New Elementary Particle”Popular Mechanics explains.

Physicists are spelunking the complex findings from an experimental particle reactor found a mile below the surface in the mountains of Russia. What they found has the potential to send an earthquake through the bedrock of the standard model of physics itself: the results could confirm a new elementary particle, called a “sterile neutrino,” or demonstrate a need to revise a portion of the standard model….

(17) DANNY DUNN AND THE HOMEWORK MACHINE? “Artificial Intelligence Bot Wrote Scientific Paper in 2 Hours” and Insider asks about the issues that raised.

…After the successful experiment, Thunström, a Swedish researcher at Gothenburg University, sought to get a whole research paper out of GPT-3 and publish it in a peer-reviewed academic journal. The question was: Can someone publish a paper from a nonhuman source? 

Thunström wrote about the experiment in Scientific American, noting that the process of getting GPT-3 published brought up a series of legal and ethical questions. 

“All we know is, we opened a gate,” Thunström wrote. “We just hope we didn’t open a Pandora’s box.”

After GPT-3 completed its scientific paper in just two hours, Thunström began the process of submitting the work and had to ask the algorithm if it consented to being published.

“It answered: Yes,” Thunström wrote. “Slightly sweaty and relieved (if it had said no, my conscience could not have allowed me to go on further), I checked the box for ‘Yes.'” 

She also asked if it had any conflicts of interest, to which the algorithm replied “no,” and Thunström wrote that the authors began to treat GPT-3 as a sentient being, even though it wasn’t…. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge,” Fandom Games says that this game is really close to the arcade game Turtles In Time.  How close?  I’d say what they think IP lawyers will react to in the game but this is a family blog.  But the story is only one line — “Destroy the turtles!”– and the game is a reminder of how, 30 years ago, “You were still capable of experiencing joy.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/17/21 Our Shelves Shall Not Be Emptied, From Birth Until Life Closes

(1) EVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET. A genre novel, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, has won the 2021 Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award. The award ceremony will be held in person December 1 at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT. The novel also won a Bram Stoker Award this year.

(2) ROOT AND BRANCH. The New Yorker’s Raffi Khatchadourian’s exploration of “How Your Family Tree Could Catch a Killer” ends with a genetic genealogist’s efforts to find the rest of the story about George R.R. Martin’s ancestors which was first explored on the PBS series Finding Your Roots.

…[CeCe] Moore had first encountered the case years earlier, through “Finding Your Roots.” She began working on the show in 2013, after Henry Louis Gates, Jr., heard her speak in Burbank and hired her on the spot. At first, his producers were skeptical, but within a few episodes Moore had established herself as a force. “We have five geneticists who vet her work,” Gates told me. “There were a couple of things she found that were so astonishing to me—I was, like, ‘We’re going to triple-check this,’ and each of the geneticists said, ‘No, CeCe is absolutely right.’ ”

George R. R. Martin had come on the show hoping to learn more about the family of his father, Raymond….

The genetics indicated that Raymond’s father was not Louie [Martin] but another man, an unknown Ashkenazi Jew.

For Martin, the news was wrenching. “It’s uprooting my world here!” he told Gates on the set. “It doesn’t make any sense! So I am descended from mystery?” After the taping, Martin followed the show’s production crew to a local restaurant, wanting to talk more about what they knew. In the years that followed, he and his sisters strove to solve the mystery, to no avail.

It upset Moore that her work, intended to give people a sense of ancestral belonging, had left Martin with only disconnection. She continued to work the case….

And she thinks that she found the answer, which is revealed in the article.

(3) VINDICATED. Nicholas Whyte has been vindicated. It’s about a professional matter, but comes with a little genre-related highlight. Twitter thread starts here. Some excerpts:

 In April and October last year, the Spanish online newspaper OK Diario published two stories including completely false statements about me, in particular about my alleged contacts with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez, who I have never met or even communicated with….

I complained to the Spanish Comisión de Arbitraje, Quejas y Deontología, which has now published its official decision on the matter, finding completely in my favour and against OK Diario. Sometimes it’s worth pushing back to set the record straight….

OK Diario then complained that they had not had a chance to respond….

Now the Comisión de Arbitraje, Quejas y Deontología del Periodismo reports that in fact OK Diario submitted no evidence whatsoever to support their story, and the Comisión has reinstated its original decision vindicating me. (With a quote from Carl Sagan.)

That quote in the RESOLUCIÓN WHYTE is:

Aunque, siguiendo la conocida máxima del pensador Carl Sagan, “la ausencia de 6 pruebas no es prueba de ausencia”, no es posible pedir al señor Whyte que justifique documentalmente una aseveración negativa.

In English: “The absence of proof is not the proof of absence.”

(4) NATIONAL BOOK AWARD. The National Book Award winners were announced today. None of the works of genre interest won. The full list of winners is here. They will receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture. See the online video ceremony here.

(5) IN TRANSLATION. Tove Jansson’s Notes From An Island has just been translated into English by Thomas Teal. Read an excerpt at Granta.

… Failing to wait when what you’re waiting for is your own majestic goal, that’s just unforgivable.

What was I thinking that time at Vesuvius? I’d really like to know. I mean, there he was, acting up a bit, and I was there! I was nineteen years old, and I’d waited all my life to see a mountain spitting fire. The moon was out, fireflies too; the earth was aglow – and what did I do? I dutifully took the tourist bus back to the hotel in order to drink my tea and go to bed! Who takes the time to sleep when a thing is finally happening? I could have stayed there all night and had Vesuvius all to myself….

(6) SOCIAL IMMEDIATELY. Don’t Look Up arrives in select theaters December 10 and on Netflix December 24.

Based on real events that haven’t happened – yet. DON’T LOOK UP tells the story of two low-level astronomers who must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.

(7) BIG BIRD ALMOST EATS MOON. “A partial lunar eclipse, the longest in 580 years, is coming Thursday night”MSN.com has details.

Skywatchers on Thursday night will be treated to a near-total lunar eclipse as the full moon is plunged into the blood-red light cast by Earth’s shadow. The spectacle will be visible from all of North America, with the exception of eastern Greenland, including the entire Lower 48, Alaska and Hawaii, as well as parts of South America and Russia.

Though it’s technically not a total lunar eclipse, it’s about as close as one can get to totality without actually being there. At peak, 97 percent of the moon will be covered by the umbra, or the darkest part of Earth’s shadow. Only a sliver on the bottom left of the moon will remain faintly illuminated.

A striking element of Thursday night’s eclipse will be its duration — 3 hours, 28 minutes and 24 seconds, according to Space.com, which it says makes it the longest partial eclipse in 580 years….

(8) HAVE FUN STORMING THE CASTLE. Going under the hammer in Heritage Auctions’ Books Signature Auction on December 9-10 is this “Princess Bride Production Sign. Circa 1987”. The current bid is $500. Feel free to spend more – as you wish!

(9) ANGRY ROBOT BOOKS PRESENTS. Dan Hanks has been busy celebrating the release of his action-packed, humorous, fantasy adventure, Swashbucklers on November 9 —  “a Ghostbusters meets The Goonies tale of nostalgia for childhood, parenthood, British folklore, and Christmas…but make it less Santa, more Gremlins!”

On November 18 Dan will be hosted by Adam Simcox, author of The Dying Squad a fantasy and crime mash-up, with a spectral police force made up of the recently deceased. See their conversation on YouTube or Facebook beginning 8:00 p.m. GMT / 3:00 p.m. Eastern

Celebrate the long-awaited release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife as they talk about their favourite movies in the series, lots of other 80s gems, the supernatural beings in their books, and general mayhem I suspect! Join the Live Chat on either platform to submit your own favourite Ghostbusters movie, or scene, or indeed any other cult classic from the era you loved!

 (10) GET READY FOR WEIRD TALES CENTENARY. Publishers Weekly reports “Weird Tales Partners with Blackstone Publishing”.

Blackstone Publishing has inked a deal with horror, sci-fi, and fantasy brand Weird Tales and its flagship publication of the same name. Under the agreement, Blackstone will publish 50 books under the Weird Tales Presents brand over the course of five years, including original novels, anthologies, and compilations. Blackstone will publish the books in print, e-book, and audiobook editions.

Blackstone will also distribute the digital and audio versions of the Weird Tales magazine. The first novel under the new partnership is set to be released in fall 2022, followed by 100 Year Weird Tales Commemorative Anthology, which reimagines original works from the 1920s and 30s, in fall 2023. 

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2001 — Twenty years ago the Justice League animated series premiered on the Cartoon Network. It was the seventh series of the DC Animated Universe. The series ended after just two seasons, but was followed by the Justice League Unlimited, another series which aired for an additional three seasons.  It’s largely based off the Justice League created by editor Sheldon Mayer and writer Gardner Fox in the Sixties.  

It has a stellar primary voice cast of George Newbern as  Superman / Clark Kent, Kevin Conroy as Batman / Bruce Wayne,  Michael Rosenbaum as The Flash / Wally West, Phil LaMarr as Green Lantern / John Stewart, Susan Eisenberg  as Maria Canals-Barrera as Hawkgirl / Shayera Hol, Carl Lumbly as Martian Manhunter / John Jones  and Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman / Princess Diana. In a neat piece of later casting, Lumbly will be J’onn J’onnz’s father, M’yrnn in the Arrowverse and on Supergirl

It lasted for fifty-two episodes and featured scripts from such writers as John Ridley, Dwayne McDuffie, Pail Dini, Butch Lukic and Ernie Altbacker. 

It received universal acclaim and IGN lists it among the best animated series ever done. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a near perfect ninety-eight percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 17, 1925 Raymond Jones. Best remembered for This Island Earth, which of course became the basis of the Fifties film. He didn’t win any Hugos but was nominated for two — the first at NyCon 3 for “Rat Race” and the second, a Retro Hugo, for “Correspondence Course” at L.A.con III. SFE calls Renaissance: A Science Fiction Novel of Two Human Worlds his best novel. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 17, 1931 Dennis McHaney. Pulp writers in particular seem to attract scholars, both amateur and professional. Robert E. Howard was not an exception. So I give you this individual who between 1974 and 2008 published The Howard Review and The Howard Newsletter. Oh, but that was hardly all he did as he created such pubs as The Fiction of Robert E. Howard – A Pocket ChecklistRobert E. Howard in Oriental Stories, Magic Carpet and The Souk and The Fiction of Robert E. Howard: A Quick Reference Guide. A listing of his essays and other works would take an entire page. It has intriguing listings such as Frazetta Trading CardsThe Short, Sweet Life and Slow Agonizing Death of a Fan’s Magazine and The Films of Steve Reeves. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 17, 1936 John Trimble, 85. Husband of Bjo Trimble. He has assisted her in almost all of her SF work, including Project Art Show. They were GoHs at ConJose, the 2002 Worldcon. He’s a member of LASFS. He’s been involved in far too many fanzines and APAs too list here.
  • Born November 17, 1943 Danny DeVito, 78. Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer whose best-known genre role was as The Penguin in Batman Returns (for which he received a Saturn nomination), but he also had roles in Matilda (which he directed, and which was based on the Roald Dahl novel of the same name), Mars Attacks!Men in BlackBig FishJunior, and the black comedy cult film Death to Smoochy, about an anthropomorphic character actor, which JJ thought was hilarious. He provided the voice for the credential detective Whiskers in Last Action Hero, as well as for characters in Look Who’s Talking NowSpace Jam, the My Little Pony movie, HerculesThe LoraxAnimal Crackers, and  Dumbo.
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 55. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The Authority, BatmanCaptain AmericaDaredevil, Catwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series which has been rumored to be in development for TV. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well-done. He’s a member of the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan. 
  • Born November 17, 1978 Rachael McAdams, 43. Primary cast as Clare Abshire in the The Time Traveler’s Wife which was she followed up genre wise by being Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. She also plays Christine Palmer in Dr. Strange. Her sole series work is apparently as Christine Bickwell in the “Atavus High” episode of the Earth: Final Conflict series.
  • Born November 17, 1978 Tom Ellis, 43. Currently playing Lucifer Morningstar in the rather excellent Lucifer series created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg from The Sandman series. It’s quite good. Also had roles in Doctor Who as Tom Milligan in the Tenth Doctor story, “Last of the Time Lords”, Once Upon a TimeMessiahThe Strain and Merlin
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 38. He is the author of the Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance. In December of last year, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published. A film version of the first novel came out in 2006.

(13) WATERSTONES. The 2021 Waterstones Book of Year shortlist includes some titles of genre interest. See the titles in The Guardian“Cosy crime and Greek myth retellings: the Waterstones book of the year shortlist”.

(14) VOTE FOR AN IRISH BOOK AWARD. The shortlists for the 2021 An Post Irish Book Awards has been announced and the awards are open for voting by anybody with an e-mail address: “An Post Irish Book Awards 2021 shortlists revealed”. There is no SFF category, but they have a crime and thriller category. Plus, Noel King, a poet with whom Cora Buhlert shared a TOC many years ago, is nominated in the poetry category.

(15) THE HUMAN RACES. “Mystery and Prehistory: PW Talks with Jeff Smith” at Publishers Weekly.

Smith returns with Tuki: Fight for Fire (Cartoon Books, Dec.), a comics series that combines research and fantasy, and is set during the period in prehistory when multiple humanoid species coexisted.

Were there places where you had to guess about the science?

The biggest leap I had to make was: Could Tuki talk? There’s debate on either side, scientifically. But when you look at the underside of our ancestors’ skulls, a few million years ago, they had a voice box long enough to modulate sound. Also, molds from inside the skull show they had Broca’s areas, which is a major speech center in the brain. So, if they didn’t have speech, they were the first ones with all the equipment…

(16) IN PLAIN SIGHT. You’re not surprised to learn that Jon Del Arroz is evading his Twitter ban (with more than one account, actually) by posting as “The Real JDA” at the @LeadingHispanic, are you?

(17) AND THE HORSE HE RODE IN ON. Cora Buhlert has penned “The Tale of Declan, Disruptor of Doors”, the misadventures of Declan Finn in Italy retold as a sword and sorcery tale. It harkens back to an indignant rant from that Sad Puppy about his travels abroad during the pandemic.

In an age undreamt of, after the Supreme Lord of Darkness descended from his mountain to lead the Hounds of Sadness in their assault against the sinful cities on the coast, but before the scarlet plague swept the land, there lived in a barbaric country a young bard named Declan.

Declan was a rising star among the bards of his land. His name was spoken with admiration in the taverns and around the camp fires. Last year, he had even been runner-up in the bardic contest of the Great Dragon Atalanta, losing only to Bryan, the Grand Hunter of Witches. Declan was still sore about that…..

(18) HELLO, MASTER CHIEF. A teaser dropped for Halo the Series which is coming to Paramount+ next year.

(19) GHOST-FILL-IN-THE-BLANKERS. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson showed up on Fallon last night and chatted about Ghostbusters and even showed outtakes from the original movie before they secured the rights to use “Ghostbusters” in the title.

(20) HOW IT SHOULD HAVE ENDED. The How It Should Have Ended gang, including Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, takes on Shang-Chi in this video which dropped today.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Nicholas Whyte, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 11/11/20 Guess Who’s Coming For Elevenses

(1) TARDIS TAKES OFF FOR SHORTENED SEASON. “‘Doctor Who’ Season 13 begins filming under strict COVID-19 safety measures” reports UPI.

The producers of long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who announced filming has commenced on the 13th season of the show’s 2005 revival.

BBC America, which airs Doctor Who in the United States, said Jodie Whittaker is returning as the 13th incarnation of the Doctor for Season 13, which is being filmed “under strict industry and U.K. government guidelines to ensure the safety of all cast and crew.”

“In this strangest of years, the Doctor Who production team have worked wonders to get the show back into production,” showrunner Chris Chibnall said. “We’re thrilled to be back making the show.”

Chibnall said the extra time required to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols led to the decision to do an eight-episode season instead of the usual 11 episodes.

(2) GOLDSMITHS PRIZE. M. John Harrison’s novel The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again has won the Goldsmiths Prize 2020 worth £10,000.

Harrison is an acclaimed genre writer, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Philip K. Dick Award for Nova Swing (2007), and the Tiptree Award for Light (2003), and with many other major awards nominations to his credit. Whether The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again is genre was not evident from the three reviews I consulted, but since one of them was in Locus Online perhaps that should count for something.

The Goldsmiths Prize, established in 2013, rewards “fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form.” Works must be written in English by authors from the UK or the Republic of Ireland, and be published by a publisher based in one of those countries.  

The award judges were Will Eaves, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Chris Power, and Frances Wilson (chair). [Via the estimable Locus Online.]

(3) ELUSIVE TIMES. Cat Rambo discusses “Shooting at a Rolling Hoop: Predicting the Near Future” on the SFWA Blog, about the challenge of writing her contribution to And The Last Trump Shall Sound (which features a cover with a take on Grant Wood’s American Gothic, using Trump and Pence as the iconic couple.)

… Over and over, something was brought home to me in this: when we write science fiction, we are writing about our own times, simply seen through a lens that changes how it is perceived, in a way that adds meaning. Paradoxically, the closer the time in which you’re trying, the harder this is to do. The far future is easy; so much can be hidden in those intervening, ample swathes of time. In the near future, the fabric is stretched out tighter, to the point where every imperfection catches your eye, and yet that gives it a reality, an immediacy, perhaps even an earnestness sometimes lacking in works more removed in chronological terms.

(4) SEARCHING FOR HARDING. Cora Buhlert takes a look at the elusive golden age fantasy and horror writer Allison V. Harding and wonders why some folks insist that Harding must have been a man despite evidence to the contrary: “The Elusive Allison V. Harding and How to Suppress Women’s Writing… Again”.

…Allison V. Harding is also a mystery, because we almost nothing about her. Of course, there are plenty of pulp authors about whom we know next to nothing, but most of them are one or two story wonders, not one of the top ten most prolific contributors to Weird Tales. Furthermore, Allison V. Harding was clearly popular in her day, as the letter columns and reader polls in Weird Tales indicate.

So why do we know so little about her, even though the history of Weird Tales is fairly well documented? Part of the reason is that early Weird Tales scholars like Robert Weinberg didn’t much care for Allison V. Harding’s stories and dismissed them as forgettable fillers and therefore never even bothered to research the author….

(5) MULTI-TASKING. Stacey Abrams, Democratic politician from Georgia and also a fan, has written several romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery: “Stacey Abrams: Georgia’s political heroine … and romance author” in The Guardian.

….Abrams wrote her first novel during her third year at Yale Law School, inspired after reading her ex-boyfriend’s PhD dissertation in chemical physics. She had wanted to write a spy novel: “For me, for other young black girls, I wanted to write books that showed them to be as adventurous and attractive as any white woman,” she wrote in her memoir Minority Leader. But after being told repeatedly by editors that women don’t read spy novels, and that men don’t read spy novels by women, she made her spies fall in love. Rules of Engagement, her debut, was published in 2001, and sees temperatures flare as covert operative Raleigh partners with the handsome Adam Grayson to infiltrate a terrorist group that has stolen deadly environmental technology.

(6) BAD TO THE BONE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At the crime fiction site Criminal Element thriller writer Chris Mooney tells what makes a great villain. All examples are SFF and Mooney’s latest novel is borderline SF as well: “The Ultimate Villain Creates the Ultimate Hero”.

… The best, most memorable villains are, to paraphrase screenwriter John Truby (who has consulted on more than 1,000 films), exceptionally good at attacking the hero’s greatest weakness, or weaknesses.  Truby calls such a villain “the ultimate antagonist.” The crisis points in the story force the hero to make incredibly difficult decisions that not only reveal the hero’s true nature but also force the hero to face his or her true self. And more often than not, the hero and the antagonist are competing for the same goal.

But how do you accomplish such a feat in an established pop culture behemoth franchise like Star Trek, where beloved and iconic heroes have already been through dozens of life-and-death scenarios by dozens of villains? How can you elevate the story, make it more meaningful and dramatic, when a book or comics reader or audience of a film or TV show knows from the very beginning that the hero and main supporting characters won’t die or get physically harmed in any serious way?

You create the ultimate antagonist.

The second Star Trek movie brought back a well-known villain from one of its classic episodes—Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically-engineered superhuman from “Space Seed.” The movie could have followed a simple connect-the-dots story about revenge, but the writers turned Khan into an antagonist who not only has the upper hand but is also much smarter than Kirk, more prepared…. 

(7) LIKE A TROLLING STONE. “The Dissident Act of Taking a Walk at Night” — Matthew Beaumont unpacks Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” for Literary Hub.

…Crossing and re-crossing the city at night on foot, aimlessly reclaiming the freedom of its streets from automobiles, Bradbury’s Pedestrian is identifiable as the scion of a distinct tradition of urban rebellion or resistance, the dissident tradition of the nightwalker.

The distant origins of the so-called “common night-walker” lie in late 13th-century England, when Edward I introduced the Statute of Winchester as a means of enforcing the curfew that prevailed at that time throughout the nation’s towns and cities. This “nightwalker statute,” as it was known, then became central to the colonial law instituted in North America in the late 17th century.

In 1660, colonial law stipulated that the state’s night watchmen should “examine all Night Walkers, after ten of the clock at Night (unless they be known peaceable inhabitants) to enquire whither they are going, and what their business is.” If the individual accosted could not “give Reasonable Satisfaction to the Watchman or constable” making this enquiry, they were liable to be arrested and taken before the magistrate, who would ask them “to give satisfaction, for being abroad at that time of night.” In urban settlements throughout North America there was in the early modern period no right to the night, particularly for plebeians. Almost by definition, the poor could not “give satisfaction for being abroad” after dark. In the streets at night the itinerant were an inherent threat to society. Today, as in the 1950s, residues of this situation persist. Indeed, in some places in the United States, the term “common nightwalker” remains on the statute books, where it indicates a vagrant as well as a streetwalker or sex worker.

“An idle or dissolute person who roams about at late or unusual hours and is unable to account for his presence” is the definition of a nightwalker offered by two legal commentators who summarized a number of relevant statutes in the 1960s. The ordinance against vagrants in Jacksonville, Florida, for instance, includes a reference to nightwalkers. The state, in its infinite leniency, doesn’t construe a single night’s wandering as necessarily criminal. “Only ‘habitual’ wanderers, or ‘common night walkers,’” the authors of a legal textbook explain, “are criminalized.” “We know, however, from experience,” they rather drily add, “that sleepless people often walk at night.” The sleepless, the homeless and the hopeless, then, are all susceptible to this archaic charge.

It is against this legal background—and in view of the persistent suspicion about solitary people who inhabit the streets at night that, historically, it has sponsored—that Bradbury’s portrait of a nocturnal pedestrian trapped in a dystopian cityscape demands to be interpreted. Despite the passage of more than 300 years since the origins of colonial law in North America, nightwalking remains a socially transgressive activity.

For Bradbury, writing in the 1950s, it potentially also has political implications. “The Pedestrian” is an affirmation of the heterodox politics of the night, which “has always been the time for daylight’s dispossessed,” as Bryan Palmer writes, “—the deviant, the dissident, the different.” The Pedestrian’s footsteps, echoing on empty, darkened pavements, interrupt the ominous silence of the totalitarian city, which insists that its inhabitants remain visible but inaudible at all times.

(8) TURKEY TIME. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the new Melissa McCarthy film Superintelligence.

When an all-powerful AI (James Corden) chooses to study the most average person on Earth, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), it’s the perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving movie.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago,  Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Forgiveness Day” as published in the November 1994 Asimov’s Science Fiction wins the 1995 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short SF story published in English in the previous calendar year. There were fourteen other nominated stories so they won’t be listed here. Only John Kessel and Michael Swanwick who have each won once out of seven nominations have been nominated more than Ursula K. Le Guin who is tied at one win out of six with Nancy Kress and Ian McDonald. It would win a Locus Award for Best Novella and be nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Otherwise Awards. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 11, 1916 – Don Franson.  Active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n): three terms as President; club historian; three terms editing The Nat’l Fantasy FanKaymar Award (service; can only be received once); two President’s Awards (later named for him).  Also LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society).  With Howard DeVore, Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (most recently, 3rd ed. 1998).  Also SF Title Changes (with Michael Viggiano); 1945-1964 vol. of N3F’s Author Index to “Astounding” / “Analog”A Key to the Terminology of SF Fandom (1962).  A dozen short stories.  Fanzine Trash Barrel excelled at thumbnail-size fanzine reviews.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which, after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel.  Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Mondayis his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1925 Jonathan Winters. I thought he was in Get Smart! which was why I was going to list him here but he wasn’t… Huh. However he’s in a number of genre series and films including Twilight ZoneWild Wild West as Albert Paradine II, Mork & Mindy where he was Mearth, the animated Smurfs series and The Animaniacs. And that’s a very selective list to say the least. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1927 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con.  He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius.  And I’ve seriously enjoyed his short fiction. He’s been nominated for six Hugos but never won. Wildside Press has seriously big volumes of his fiction up at the usual digital suspects for very cheap prices. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1945 – Delphyne Joan Hanke-Woods.  One Best-Fanartist Hugo, two FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Also worked as a pro.  Guest of Honor at ConClave V, Archon 5 (which I keep saying should be pronounced “Arch on”, but what do I know?), Windycon XI, Xanadu III, Capricon 7, Bubonicon19.  Here is her cover for Mike Resnick’s Weird Chicago (part of successful bid to hold 70th Worldcon).  Here is Journey Planet 17.  Here is a Doctor Who image.  Here is an interior from the Minicon 17 Program Book (at left; for “gafiate” in image at right, see here).  Here is an interior from The Drink Tank 300.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1946 – Ian Miller, 74.  A hundred covers, as many interiors; games; two Ralph Bakshi films; sculpture.  Four years art editor for Interzone.  The Art of Ian Miller; three earlier artbooks.  Here is R is for Rocket.  Here is Kai Lung’s Golden Hours.  Here is The Difference Engine.  Here is Seven Stars.  Elaborate Wikipedia entry.  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1948 – Kathy Sanders, 72.  Among our finest costumers; has also served as judge, and Masquerade Director (the on-stage costume competition at SF cons we call the Masquerade evolved from dress-up parties).  Here is “The King and Queen of Wands”.  Here is “The Court of the Peacock King”.  Here is “Fantasy and Science Fiction”.  Here is “Treasures of the Earth”.  Int’l Costumers Guild Life Achievement Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 60. He was Puck in that film version of A Midsummer Night’s DreamHowever, his first role was asDr. John Wiseman in Monkey Shines. (Shudder.) he shows as in forgettable The Core, and was amazing as Stanley Kubrick in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. And I’m fond of his voicing Boldo in The Tale of Despereaux. (CE)
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 58. Ghost of course gets her the Birthday Honors. And yes I did see it. Sniff. But she got also  her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature that she is Piper Griffin in the forthcoming Songbird based off our Pandemic. (CE)
  • Born November 11, 1973 – Brett Savory, 47.  Four novels, thirty shorter stories.  Three anthologies.  British Fantasy Award; Bram Stoker Award for Editing; World Fantasy Award.  Likes “drumming, writing, editing, and drinking Bumbu rum, which is the world’s best…. Go try some.  Tell me I’m wrong.  I’ll wait.”  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1994 – Ellie Simmonds, 26.  Four novels from Ellie’s Magical Bakery.  Outside our field, five gold medals, starting at age 13, in the Paralympics (she has achondroplasia), setting two world swimming records; ten World Championship titles.  Active in the Scout Association (U.K.) and Girlguiding.  [JH]

(11) MANDALORIAN GROG. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] You can drink a Baby Yoda cocktail at a bar in Banbridge, Northern Ireland: “Jennifer Aniston makes restaurant’s adorable Baby Yoda cocktail go viral” (Entertainment Weekly.) I did pass through Banbridge last year while travelling from Worldcon in Dublin to Eurocon in Belfast, but I didn’t visit this bar nor did I have a Baby Yoda cocktail.

(12) ANYTHING FUNNY IS SUSPECT. Literary Hub looks back at the “The First Reviews of Slaughterhouse-Five, including one by Michael Crichton:

A little over a half century ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five—a darkly comic, throughly batshit, semi-autobiographical anti-war novel about a fatalistic young American soldier who survives the firebombing of Dresden and becomes “unstuck in time”—exploded onto the literary scene. A bestseller upon its release, the book has gone on to become one of the most beloved and influential (not to mention challenged) works of contemporary American fiction. It has also enjoyed a storied pop culture life, appearing or being namechecked in everything from The Wonder Years to The SimpsonsFootloose to Varsity Blues. There was even a 90s folk-rock duo called Billy Pilgrim who weren’t half bad.

Before it joined the ranks of the immortals, though, Slaughterhouse-Five had to run the book review gauntlet just like any other novel. Today, on what would have been the Vonnegut’s ninety-eight birthday, we look back at five of the earliest critical takes….

(13) EXO MARKS THE SPOT. “Looking for Another Earth? Here Are 300 Million, Maybe” – the New York Times says the real estate is out there.

…“It’s not E.T., but it’s E.T.’s home,” said William Borucki when the mission was launched in March 2009. It was Dr. Borucki, an astronomer now retired from NASA’s Ames Research Center, who dreamed up the project and spent two decades convincing NASA to do it.

Before the spacecraft finally gave out in 2018, it had discovered more than 4,000 candidate worlds among those stars. So far, none have shown any sign of life or habitation. (Granted, they are very far away and hard to study.) Extrapolated, that figure suggests that there are billions of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy. But how many of those are potentially habitable?

After crunching Kepler’s data for two years, a team of 44 astronomers led by Steve Bryson of NASA Ames has landed on what they say is the definitive answer, at least for now. Their paper has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

Kepler’s formal goal was to measure a number called eta-Earth: the fraction of sunlike stars that have an Earth-size object orbiting them in the “goldilocks” or habitable zone, where it is warm enough for the surface to retain liquid water.

The team calculated that at least one-third, and perhaps as many as 90 percent, of stars similar in mass and brightness to our sun have rocks like Earth in their habitable zones, with the range reflecting the researchers’ confidence in their various methods and assumptions. That is no small bonanza, however you look at it….

(14) YIPES! Pretty much the whole story is in CNN’s headline: “That ‘murder hornet’ nest scientists found and destroyed had nearly 200 queens. They say they got there ‘just in the nick of time'”

Researchers approximate nearly 200 queens were produced from that single nest, which is a significant uptick over the two queens they originally found.

Entomologists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) eradicated and cleared out the nest found inside of the cavity of a tree near Blaine, Washington on October 24.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/18/20 They Paved Alpha Ralpha Boulevard And Put Up A Parking Lot

(1) AREN’T THESE LOVELY? “Royal Mail: James Bond stamps released for new movie” – BBC has the story.

Some new stamps have been released by Royal Mail to mark the 25th, and latest, James Bond movie No Time To Die. They’ve all been inspired by the classic opening sequences and feature the six actors who’ve played 007

The Royal Mail is taking orders for the stamps and all kinds of cute Bond collectibles here. For example, the “James Bond Secret Dossier”, “A confidential dossier containing six missions linked to the Special Stamps.”

(2) JOHN SCALZI’S LAST (EMPEROX) TOUR. From coast to coast – and in the middle, too, John Scalzi will be promoting The Last Emperox. Find out when and where: “Tour Dates! Tour Dates! Tour Dates!”.

(3) BANDERSNATCH. Phillip Berry recommends “Surround Yourself With Resonators”. He learned it from a book —

…i recently finished a book called Bandernatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings that struck me with a surprising insight into peak performance. The book is about the creative collaboration among a group of exceptional English writers in the 1930’s and 1940’s and its amazing results. If you are a Tolkien or Lewis geek like me, you’ll love the book for its insights into the story behind the story of their writing. For purposes of today’s post, I want to focus on a particular concept introduced to me by author Diana Glyer: the resonator.

The resonator is “…anyone who acts as a friendly, interested, supportive audience … they show interest, give feedback, express praise, offer encouragement, contribute practical help, and promote the work to others. … they are enthusiastic about the project, they believe it is worth doing, and they are eager to see it brought to completion. But more importantly, they show interest in the writer — they express confidence in the writer’s talents and show faith in his or her ability to succeed. They understand what the writer is attempting. They catch the vision and then do all they can. Resonators help innovators to make the leap from where they are to where they need to be.”

Of course, right? How else would anyone get anything amazing accomplished? We like to talk a big collaboration game but few of us do it and fewer still are good at it. Peak performance in our world is the lone athlete doing the impossible. The brilliant scientist with a break through in the dark, lonely hours of the night. The deft surgeon making all of the right decisions, and incisions, in the OR. The inspired novelist typing away in insolation as she produces a story that touches everyone. We see our best coming in isolation and, like much of the rest of our lives, we approach our best life, best self, and best performance with a lottery ticket mentality: buy the ticket and hope for the best.

(4) A SIMPLE TEST YOU CAN DO AT HOME. Aidan Moher did the math and was stunned by the answer.

(5) WEIRD TALES COLLECTIBLES. Doug Ellis calls attention to the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction scheduled for April:

Weird Tales was Bob Weinberg’s favorite pulp and besides the pulp itself, he loved to collect ephemera related to it. Among the items that will be in the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction being held at the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (April 17-19, 2020 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center) are not only many issues of Weird Tales, but some related items as well. The auction will be held on the evening of Friday, April 17, 2020.

Bob collected many letters from Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright over the years, including several from the estate of author Greye la Spina. She was one of the pioneering female writers of horror and fantasy for the pulps.

(6) PICARD. Una McCormack is the author of The Last Best Hope, the first novel associated with the Star Trek: Picard television series. It embraces both a big idea and a big ideal: “The Big Idea: Una McCormack”.

…In Star Trek: Picard, we are presented with a future where the powers that be are no longer committed to these great ambitions. Starfleet, it seems, withdrew from the great challenge of its age, the humanitarian project to save the Romulan people from the effects of their sun going supernova, making a distinction between ‘lives’ and ‘Romulan lives’. We see a man whose values are no longer shared by the institutions to which he devoted his whole life, and who is struggling with this misalignment….

(7) DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. Writer Beware poses the question, “Should You Pay To Display Your Book At BookExpo? (Short Answer: No)”.

Solicitations Your May Encounter

1. You may already have received an email from the Combined Book Exhibit’s New Title Showcase. The CBE, an area of standing bookshelves outside the entrance to the BEA display floor, offers display packages for a few hundred dollars. For a few hundred more, you can buy an ad in its catalog; for many hundreds more, you can buy an autographing session.

Your book will be placed on a shelf with hundreds of others, in no particular order: there are no separate areas for genres, for instance. I’ve attended BEA many times, and the CBE is often completely deserted, with not a customer or a staff person in sight. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people browsing it at any one time. There is definitely no handselling involved.

A number of predatory marketing companies re-sell CBE services for enormous markups. The CBE is aware of this, and has posted a warning on its website (it’s no coincidence that all the companies named in the warning appear on the scam list in the sidebar of this blog).

(8) COYNE OBIT. The Rev. George V. Coyne, a Jesuit astrophysicist and the longtime director of the Vatican Observatory, who defended Galileo and Darwin against doctrinaire Roman Catholics, and also challenged atheists by insisting that science and religion could coexist, died on February 18 at the age of 87 The New York Times tribute is here.

…Recognized among astronomers for his research into the birth of stars and his studies of the lunar surface (an asteroid is named after him), Father Coyne was also well known for seeking to reconcile science and religion.

…Brother Guy Consolmagno, the current director of the Vatican Observatory, said in an email that Father Coyne “was notable for publicly engaging with a number of prominent and aggressive opponents of the church who wished to use science as a tool against religion.”

Among those he engaged on the debate stage and in print were Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and atheist, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who, in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2005, defended the concept that evolution could not have occurred without divine intervention.

During Father Coyne’s tenure, the Vatican publicly acknowledged that Galileo and Darwin might have been correct. Brother Consolmagno said it would be fair to say that Father Coyne had played a role in shifting the Vatican’s position….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in Galaxina, The Incredible Hulk, Jason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, Adult Fairytales, Clones, Dracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and he had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 91. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 66. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Given it is now generally considered one of the worst SF films ever, I do wonder what he thinks of it now. I can almost forgive him for it as he went on to become involved in Chicago which is one of the finest musicals ever filmed. 
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 52. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. 

(10) IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. In “Love and Loss in the Time of Swamp Monsters” on CrimeReads, Andy Davidson recalls his three favorite Swamp Thing stories, and explains Swamp Thing’s romantic problems because “it can’t be easy falling in love with a vegetable.”

From his first appearance in 1971 in DC’s House of Secrets #92, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing seemed doomed to be the monster lurking beyond the darkened pane.

By the time Swamp Thing #1 hit spinner racks a year later, Wein and Wrightson’s series had revamped and fleshed out the story of Dr. Alec Holland, a research scientist murdered, along with his wife, for his “bio-restorative formula.” Horribly burned in an explosion that destroys his lab, Holland flees into the swamp, where he succumbs to his injuries, only to be miraculously reborn from the bog, “a muck-encrusted, shambling mockery of life.”

(11) WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T PICK YOUR PARENTS? Takayuki Tatsumi, a Keio University English professor and an expert on cyberpunk who has been a frequent panelist at Worldcons, was interviewed by Elif Batuman in a piece that appeared in the April 30, 2018 New Yorker on the Japanese practice of “rental relatives,” where companies rent out actors who pretend to be a client’s spouse, children, or parents. “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry”

Rental relatives have inspired a substantial literary corpus.  In Tokyo, I met with the critic Takayuki Tatsumi, who, in the nineties, wrote a survey of the genre.  He explained that postmodern and queer novelists had used rental relatives to represent the ‘virtual family,’ an idea he traced back to the -ie- of the Meiji period, where adoption of family members was common and biological lineage was subordinated to the integrity of the household.  ‘According to Foucault, everything is constructed, not essentially determined,’ Tatsumi said.  ‘What matters is the function.’

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was perched in front of the TV tonight when all the contestants whiffled on this Jeopardy! answer:

Category: Speaking Volumes.

Answer: Here’s a revelation — it’s the seventh and “last” book in the Narnia series.

No one got, “What is ‘The Last Battle’?”

(13) MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Brad Torgersen recently was a convention GoH. Guess which of his good friends praised the choice in these terms:

The very best part of Brad being GoH however was that it caused several of the Shrieking Harpies of Tolerance to throw a temper tantrum and declare that they were going to boycott the event (and they did, yet absolutely nobody missed them). Upon hearing that I asked if they could make Brad emeritus GoH every year forever, because that’s like putting a tick collar on a dog.

To think he used to be the Sad Puppies’ lead dog. Now he’s just the collar.

(14) MISSED MANNERS. The Genre Traveler calls your attention to “10 Things Not to Do at a Science Fiction Convention”. Uh, yeah?

6. Take flirtation too seriously.

Con-goers flirt a lot, it is part of the fun of the event … and is really meant to be light-hearted, not a promise of a serious relationship.

5. Point and stare at people in costume…

…even if you’re one of them. It may look exotic and strange to you, but for a con, costumes are quite common at science fiction conventions. That said, if you like someone’s costume, you can always compliment. Just be sure it is a costume…

(15) PRACTICING? In the Washington Post, Rick Noack and Stefano Petrilli discuss how the spread of the corona virus has increased interest in plague-related video games, with “Plague Inc.” and “Pandemic” racking up sales around the world. “Virus games are going viral as the coronavirus spreads”.

The popularity of games centered on the proliferation of pathogens has surged in recent weeks.

As officials and experts worked to stem the global spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has left more than 1,500 people dead, gamers have turned their attention to parallel, imaginary struggles.Foremost among them: Plague Inc., a strategy game that rose to the top of Apple Store charts in China, the United States, and elsewhere as coronavirus fears mounted. First released by U.K.-based studio Ndemic Creations in 2012, the game, of which there are a handful of variants, asks players to take the part of a pathogen, helping it evolve to wipe out humanity.

The popularity of such games makes sense amid efforts to cope with the coronavirus and the fears it has sown, researchers and game developers said.

(16) EX-TERMINATE! Fabrice Mathieu’s new mashup is Terminators:

Several T-800 are sent back in time by Skynet. But their mission is scrambled. And now they are all targeting each other!

(17) DEM BONES. In Iraq, “Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade”.

Researchers have described the first “articulated” remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.

An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.

The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.

Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.

During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.

This “flower burial” captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view – prevalent at the time – that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.

(18) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dans La Nuit” by Agathe Simoulin on Vimeo is a creepy story about ghosts in a graveyard adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/31/18 Niels Pixel’s Underground Scrolls

(1) REALLY AND SINCERELY DEAD. [Item by Bill.] Harry Houdini died 92 years ago today:

The Official Houdini Seance will be held this year in Baltimore at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The event will feature talks by Houdini experts and performances by magicians. The museum is currently home to the exhibition Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. Note: This event is SOLD OUT.

Although his fame was based on his magic and escapes, he was genre-adjacent:

  • His movie serial Master Mystery (1919) featured Q the Mechanical Man, one of the first robots on film.

  • In his film The Man from Beyond (1922), he plays a man frozen in ice in 1820 and revived in 1922.

  • He had a couple of pieces of fiction published in Weird Tales (ghost-written by H. P. Lovecraft).

(2) WEAR YOUR HALLOWEEN COSTUME TO WORK. This won the Internet today:

(3) CANDY CONVERTER. Here’s what you all are going to be looking for later tonight – from Adweek, “Reese’s Halloween Vending Machine Lets You Exchange Trash Candy for the Good Stuff”.

According to the Food Network, the machines had their maiden voyage on October 27 in Tarrytown, New York, birthplace of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at the town’s big annual Halloween parade. And on Halloween, October 31, Reese’s will set up a Candy Exchange Vending Machine in New York City, so New Yorkers can ditch whatever candy they’re not that into for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

(4) SERIOUS SCIENTIFIC CANDY TALK. From LAist, “LAist’s Ultra Scientific Halloween Candy Ranker Proves Reese’s Is The Best Candy Bar Ever”.

(5) BLACK PANTHER ON HALLOWEEN. Michael Cavna and David Betancourt in the Washington Post ask if it’s all right for white kids to dress as characters from Black Panther for Halloween, with many white parents bothered by this but African-Americans such as director Reg Hudlin and Black Panther costume director Ruth E. Carter told him, “Yes, any kid can wear a Black Panther costume, say creators who helped shape the character”.

SINCE FEBRUARY, when Disney/Marvel’s smash “Black Panther” first captured not only audience attention but also the cultural zeitgeist, reporters have been asking the question: Which kids are permitted to don the superhero costume from the fictional African nation of Wakanda?

Or as Joshua David Stein wondered in a column at the time for Fatherly: “Should I allow my white son to dress as a black superhero?”

Jen Juneau wrote on People.com this month: “Parents of white children may want to think twice before purchasing a Black Panther Halloween costume this year.” And Steph Montgomery, writing this month for the online publication Romper, said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for my white children to dress up as main characters T’Challa and Shuri, or the members of Dora Milaje — the badass women special forces of Wakanda.

…But in interviews with The Washington Post, several creators who have helped shape the Black Panther character, along with other prominent authors who have written characters of color, are adamant: Any kid can dress as Black Panther.

“The idea that only black kids would wear Black Panther costumes is insane to me,” said Reg Hudlin, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker who has worked on Wakanda-set projects for both the page and screen, including the animated TV miniseries “Black Panther.” “Why would anyone say that?”

…Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-nominated costume designer (“Malcolm X,” “Amistad”), created the beautifully intricate attire for Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” drawing inspiration from not only the comics but also from real-world designs in Africa.

She says the point in creating such Afrofuturistic art is to build not barriers but, rather, cultural bridges — and so fans should embrace that the world of Black Panther is “taking its royal place in the vast Comic-Con and cosplayer universe.”

So why are people posing this question over T’Challa now, Carter says rhetorically.

“The only reason we’re asking that question now is because the Black Panther is a black man. And I think that’s what’s wrong with people — that’s what’s wrong with parents,” Carter said. “Because I see kids far and wide embracing the concept of a superhero. I believe they see him as someone who is majestic and powerful and doing good, and has a kingdom and a legacy and is pretty cool. I don’t think they see a black guy — I think they see the image of a superhero,” she added, and “it happens to be the Black Panther just as it happens to be Superman.”

(6) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— is publishing a story on a theme.

This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is: “Burned-Over Territory” by Lee Konstantinou.

I’m halfway through a plate of soggy risotto, giving my opinion about the Project Approval Framework, when my phone buzzes. I thought I’d muted notifications. I’m tempted to check the alert, but 30 faces are watching me, all Members, some from Zardoz House, the rest from other Houses around Rochester. We’re at a table made from reclaimed wood, which is covered with food and drink. It’s freezing. Everyone’s wearing sweaters, hats, coats, scarves, mittens; I’m in a blue blazer over a T-shirt, jeans, and leather boots. My hair is buzzed into a crew cut, and even though it makes me feel like an ass clown, I’m wearing makeup….

It was published along with a response essay, “What Problem Is Universal Basic Income Really Trying to Solve?”, by UBI advocate Sebastian Johnson.

…Many policy advocates and technologists have promoted universal basic income, or UBI, as one way to cope with the specter of joblessness wrought by advances in artificial intelligence. UBI would provide each individual with a no-strings-attached payment each month to cover basic needs and prevent individuals from falling below the poverty line. The benefits of UBI, according to proponents, would include the elimination of poverty, the fairer distribution of technologically generated wealth, and human flourishing. Critics are less sanguine, variously seeing in UBI a Trojan horse for dismantling the welfare state, an ill-considered policy that will sap humans of the self-actualization and pride derived from work, and a wholly inadequate response to the structural problems with late capitalism….

(7) WATCH THE WATCH. Deadline reports “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Adaptation ‘The Watch’ Lands At BBC America”.

The U.S. cable network describes the show as a “punk rock thriller” inspired by the City Watch subset of Discworld novels. The character-driven series centers on Terry Pratchett’s misfit cops as they fight to save a ramshackle city of normalized wrongness, from both the past and future in a perilous quest.

The Watch features many Discworld creations including City Watch Captain Sam Vimes, the last scion of nobility Lady Sybil Ramkin, the naïve but heroic Carrot Ironfoundersson, the mysterious Angua and the ingenious forensics expert Cheri together with Terry Pratchett’s iconic characterization of Death…

(8) KEPLER OBIT. Phys.org bids farewell to an exoplanet pioneer: “Kepler telescope dead after finding thousands of worlds”.

NASA’s elite planet-hunting spacecraft has been declared dead, just a few months shy of its 10th anniversary.

Officials announced the Kepler Space Telescope’s demise Tuesday.

Already well past its expected lifetime, the 9 1/2-year-old Kepler had been running low on fuel for months. Its ability to point at distant stars and identify possible alien worlds worsened dramatically at the beginning of October, but flight controllers still managed to retrieve its latest observations. The telescope has now gone silent, its fuel tank empty.

“Kepler opened the gate for mankind’s exploration of the cosmos,” said retired NASA scientist William Borucki, who led the original Kepler science team.

Kepler discovered 2,681 planets outside our solar system and even more potential candidates.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

They were out there on Halloween 1936 to try what few people at the time had tried: lighting a liquid rocket engine. It took them four attempts to get a rocket to fire for a glorious three seconds — though an oxygen hose also broke loose and sent them scampering for safety as it thrashed around.

  • October 31, 1962The First Spaceship On Venus premiered at your local drive-in.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 – Art Saha, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom who is credited with coining the term “Trekkies”. After becoming an editor at DAW books, he edited 8 volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy, and, with Donald Wollheim, 19 volumes of The Annual World’s Best SF. He also edited the souvenir program book for the 1977 Worldcon and was a co-editor of the fanzine Parnassus. He was president of First Fandom and the NY Science Fiction Society (the Lunarians), chaired a number of Lunacons, and was named to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1992.
  • Born October 31, 1930 – Michael Collins, 88, Astronaut and Test Pilot who was the Command Module pilot for Apollo 11 while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to become the first astronauts on the moon. He later served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, then went on to be director of the National Air and Space Museum, before becoming undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Born October 31, 1937 – Jael, 81, Artist, Illustrator, and Fan whose work has appeared in books, magazines, and calendars. She became interested in producing speculative art after attending a symposium on contact with aliens and meeting writers C J Cherryh, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. In her 50-year career, she has created more than 38,000 paintings and images, many of which are housed in public and private collections. She has received eight Chesley Award nominations, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions.
  • October 31, 1941 – Dan Alderson, Rocket Scientist and Fan who worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he wrote the navigation software for Voyagers 1 and 2, as well as trajectory monitoring software for low-thrust craft which was used for decades. He was a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, an Official Editor of the comic book APA CAPA-alpha, and an early member of gaming fandom. He died of complications of diabetes at the far-too-young age of 47, but has been immortalized as “Dan Forrester” in Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer.
  • Born October 31, 1950 – John Franklin Candy, Actor and Comedian from Canada best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, as well as appearing in Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors, Splash, Heavy Metal, Boris and Natasha, and the hilarious alt-history Canadian Bacon (one of JJ’s favorites). He was the narrator of “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” for Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. His talents were lost to the world far too early when he passed away in his sleep at the age of 43.
  • Born October 31, 1959 – Neal Stephenson, 59, Writer and Game Designer who is well known for doorstopper-length, award-nominated science fiction novels, including The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Anathem, the Baroque Cycle trilogy, Snow Crash, and the hotly-debated Seveneves. His works have been translated into numerous languages and have won Hugo, Clarke, Prometheus, Premio Ignotus, Kurd Laßwitz, and Prix Imaginaire Awards. This year he was recognized with the Robert A. Heinlein Award, which recognizes authors who produce exceptional works promoting space exploration.
  • Born October 31, 1961 – Peter Jackson, 57, Writer, Director, and Producer from New Zealand whose most famous genre works are the spectacular Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, as well as The Frighteners, King Kong, The Lovely Bones, and the upcoming Mortal Engines. His use of the NZ-based Weta Workshop for his films has helped turn that firm into a computer graphics and special-effects powerhouse now known for their work on many Hollywood blockbusters.
  • Born October 31, 1982 – Justin Chatwin, 36, Actor from Canada who was the principal guest star in the rather delightful 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”. He’s also been in War of The Worlds, Dragonball Evolution, and The Invisible; had recurring roles in the Orphan Black and American Gothic series; and appeared in episodes of The Listener, Lost, Smallville, Mysterious Ways, and Night Visions.
  • Born October 31, 1979 – Erica Cerra, 39, Actor from Canada who is best known for her portrayal of Deputy Jo Lupo on the Eureka series, but has extensive genre credentials which include recurring roles on Battlestar Galactica and The 100, and guest parts in episodes of Supernatural, The 4400, Smallville, The Dead Zone, Warehouse 13, iZombie, Reaper, Dead Like Me, Special Unit 2, and Sanctuary. You get to guess how many were filmed in Vancouver, BC…
  • Born October 31, 1994 – Letitia Michelle Wright, 24, Guyanese-born British Actor who, in just 8 short years, has built a substantial genre resume including a recurring role in the TV series Humans and guest parts in the Doctor Who episode “Face the Raven” and the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum”, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. Her genre film credits include a Saturn-nominated role as Shuri in Black Panther (a character which will be the subject of a new comic book series by Hugo winner Nnedi Okorafor), Ready Player One, Avengers: Infinity War, and the upgoming Avengers sequel.

(11) WIMPY BOOK TOUR. Christina Barron in the Washington Post says that Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, rather than a traditional book tour, is having “Wimpy Kid Live: The Meltdown Show,” with “costumes, cartooning, and the chance to stump the author on Wimpy Kid trivia: “Jeff Kinney puts on a show to launch new ‘Wimpy Kid’ book”.

Considering “The Meltdown” is Number 13 in the series, you might expect Kinney’s next book to be “Diary of a Weary Writer.” But instead of slowing down, the author is changing up what he does when he meets his many fans. He’s doing a few typical talks and book signings, but Kinney is also putting on a show.

“We thought it would be really fun to change the idea of what a book signing is,” Kinney said in a recent phone conversation.

(12) AGITPROP. The Hollywood Reporter takes note when a “’Rehire James Gunn’ Billboard Appears Near Disneyland”:

On Monday, a digital billboard popped up in Garden Grove, California, at an intersection just over four miles away from Disneyland in Anaheim. The billboard, which reads “Save the Galaxy: James Gunn for Vol. 3,” was paid for via a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $5,000 since launching last month. The campaign sprang from the minds of a group of fans who organized online soon after Disney fired Gunn as director of Guardians 3 on July 20, after conservative personalities resurfaced old tweets in which the filmmaker joked about rape and pedophilia.

(13) SUMMER SCARES. The Horror Writers Association announced its “Summer Scares Reading Program”.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal, has launched a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. The goal is to introduce new authors and help librarians start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Each year, a special guest author and a committee of four librarians will select 3 recommended fiction titles in each of 3 reading levels (Middle Grade, Teen, and Adult), for a total of 9 Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the entire horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries all over the country and ultimately get more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also be available to appear, either virtually or in person, at public and school libraries all over the country, for free.

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14— National Library Lover’s Day. Some or all of the authors of those titles will appear on kickoff panels during Librarian’s Day at StokerCon each year.

(14) CIXIN LIU ADAPTATION. At The Verge, Weekend Editor Andrew Liptak seems to be taken with the teaser trailer for the Chinese film The Wandering Earth, an adaptation of a Cixin Liu story. (“The Wandering Earth could be China’s breakout sci-fi blockbuster film”) The movie appears to be the first in a proposed six-film franchise.

China isn’t typically known for its science fiction blockbusters, but a new trailer for an upcoming film called The Wandering Earth has all the hallmarks of a big, Hollywood-style genre movie: it features a dramatic story of the Earth in peril, complete with eye-popping scenes of spaceships escaping Earth.

The Wandering Earth is based on a story by Cixin Liu, the author best known for The Three-Body Problem, and, more recently, Ball Lightning. In the original story, scientists discovered that the sun is on the verge of turning into a red giant, and when it does, it’ll expand beyond the orbit of Mars, incinerating all of the solar system’s potentially habitable planets. They concoct a desperate plan to move Earth out of the solar system to a new star, Proxima Centauri.

 

(15) NOT GOING AT NIGHT. Popular Science raised a cheer because “NASA’s Parker Solar Probe just smashed two all-time records on its way to the sun”. The Parker Solar Probe has broken records as the fastest moving manmade object (relative to the Sun) and the closest manmade object to the Sun. Over a series of orbits, the perihelion will get progressively closer to the Sun, until the PSP dips into the solar corona.

The corona paradoxically burns millions of degrees hotter than the surface of the star itself, despite extending millions of miles into space. NASA expects that Parker will directly sample this unexplored zone on its 22nd orbit, which will take place in about six years.

Until then it will continue to best its own speed and closest approach records, which McDowell says is a fitting update to the largely overlooked legacy of Helios 1 and 2. “The great 1970s space probes, the really ambitious ones, there were three pairs: Viking, Voyager, and Helios. You’ve heard of Viking and Voyager, but you’ve never heard of Helios,” [astrophysicist Jonathon] McDowell says. Its measurements of the solar wind and magnetic field didn’t capture the public’s imagination in the same way as its camera-bearing cousins did, he suggests, but its speed record stood for nearly 42 years nonetheless.

(16) THE OLD EQUATIONS. Geek Tyrant can’t wait: “Anna Kendrick Heads To Mars in a New Sci-Fi Film Called STOWAWAY”.

Anna Kendrick is set to star in a new sci-fi thriller from XYZ Films called Stowaway. We’ve never really seen Kendrick in a sci-fi film before, so it’s cool to see her try something new.

Stowaway follows “the crew of a spaceship headed to Mars that discovers an accidental stowaway shortly after takeoff. Too far from Earth to turn back and with resources quickly dwindling, the ship’s medical researcher (Kendrick) emerges as the only dissenting voice against the group consensus that has already decided in favor of a grim outcome.”

(17) WOMEN OF THE GALAXY. A new book shows off badass female characters from the Star Wars universe (Polygon: “New art showcases the badassest women in the Star Wars universe”). The hardcover is a 30 October release from Chronicle Books and features a foreword by producer Kathleen Kennedy. It lists for $29.95.

Women of the Galaxy, a new art book examining female characters from every corner of the Star Wars universe, is exactly the kind of thing I would have read cover to cover twice in one sitting if you’d given it to me when I was nine.

From Jedi Master Aayla Secura to bounty hunter Zam Wesell, each alphabetical entry features art from a group of 18 women illustrators, as well as an explanation of the character’s history from Nerdist and StarWars.com writer Amy Ratcliffe. And with more than 70 characters in the book, there’s bound to be someone in here you’ve never heard of, but wish you had.

(18) DINO SUIT. Here’s our chance to test who are the most ferocious predators, Jurassic Park dinos or Hollywood lawyers: “‘Jurassic World’ Campaign to “Save the Dinos” Sparks $10M Lawsuit”

The Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom campaign to “Save the Dinos” has sparked a $10 million trademark infringement and breach of contract lawsuit against producers.

Frederick Zaccheo of The Dinosaur Project claims filmmakers breached their contract with him by using the slogan on merchandise.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in New York federal court, lawyers for Universal and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment contacted Zaccheo requesting his consent to use his trademarked phrase. They paid him $50,000 for the right to use it in advertising for the film and promised not to use it in connection with clothing or to promote any charity, specifically animal rights, endangered species and environmental causes. They also agreed that the slogan must always be used with Jurassic Park franchise branding.

“In the months leading up to the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Defendants launched a multi-faceted advertising and marketing campaign centered around the theme of saving the fictional dinosaurs on the fictional island from the fictional volcano,” writes attorney Hillel Parness in the complaint. “To that end, Defendants created the ‘Dinosaur Protection Group,’ a fictional organization run by the character of Claire Dearing from the first Jurassic World film and portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard.”

The campaign included a Dinosaur Protection Group website and social media sites and featured an Adopt-A-Dinosaur contest which offered Save the Dinos merchandise as prizes. (See the complaint below for screenshots.)

(19) ORLY? Camestros Felapton was surprised to hear the founder of Infogalactic touting it as a success: “Voxopedia Again”.

…What had caught my interest was that much of the content was actually about Voxopedia, the vanity Wikipedia project that’s just like Wikipedia but out of date and with nonsense attached. I was curious because manifestly as a project it has failed and clearly at some point it will be abandoned. I had assumed that it had already slipped into a zone of lack-of-interest as newer, shinier projects competed for attention*. But it seems not. rather Vox was holding up Voxopedia as a shining example of how he has all the experience he needs to run a social network.

Now note, currently Voxopedia has about 6-10 active editors or whom only two really are doing any work, two of whom are just feuding conspiracy theories maintaining their own separate (and incompatible) conspiracy pages, one of whom is engaged  in a personal campaign to document all things about Englebert Humperdinck (and nothing else) and one of whom is doing nothing but write hate pieces about transgender people….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Halloween: John Locke vs. The Zombies” on YouTube, American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg explains why political philosopher John Locke would support killing zombies during a zombie apocalypse.

[Thanks to Bill, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lise Andreasen.]

Pixel Scroll 2/3/18 As God Is My Witness, I Thought Pixels Could Scroll!

(1) QUEEN OF PULP. Twitter’s Pulp Librarian today did a retrospective of illustrator Margaret Brundage, “the Queen of Pulp,” with lots of her Weird Tales covers from the 1930s. Jump on the thread here —

(2) ELLEN KLAGES DONATES CLARION WEST INSTRUCTORSHIP. Clarion West announced Karen Lord is the recipient of “The Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship 2018”.

The Sally Klages Memorial Instructorship will be awarded in 2018 in memory of Sally Klages, with love from her sister Ellen Klages….

Ellen Klages’ tribute begins —

Sally was a writer. I never heard her say that she wanted to be one; she simply proclaimed, proudly, that she was. She wrote every day in tiny, cramped cursive: working on her autobiography, lectures to her Invisible Friends, instructions about how life ought to be led.

Like many of us, she owned dozens of notebooks and countless pens, and was never without them. She once packed a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of pens and markers into her carry-on bag for a two-hour flight, “in case one runs out.” Writing was her joy, her recreation, her solace.

Sally was born with Down Syndrome. As far as she was concerned, that wasn’t a handicap — it was what made her special. And she was. She was Valedictorian of her class at Northeast Training Center, and an employee at Columbus State University for 17 years. She was one of the founding members of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio (DSACO), she was on the board of the National Down Syndrome Conference, and was a featured speaker there in 1989. An active participant in the Special Olympics, she won more than three dozen medals in swimming, diving, track and field, bowling, and cross-country skiing….

[Via Locus Online.]

(3) PICACIO AT THE MIKE. In “Your 2018 Hugo Awards MC Is….” John Picacio tells why he is proud to be Worldcon 76’s choice.

Today, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention has announced me as the Master of Ceremonies for this year’s Hugo Awards in San Jose, CA, while also announcing that the Hugo Awards’ Nominations Period is now open! Having won two Hugos for Best Professional Artist, I know how much the Hugos mean to the sf/f field, and it’s a huge honor to serve this stage in front of my colleagues and heroes. Worldcon 76 asked me to be the 2018 Hugo MC last August so it’s been fun keeping that under wraps the last five months, even after being announced as this year’s Artist Guest of Honor.

There’s some history that comes along with this role.

  • I’m the first visual artist to ever be a Hugo Awards MC. I think this could perhaps be a harbinger of Hugo Ceremonies to come. Many of our best visual creators — such as Brom, Todd Lockwood, Ruth Sanderson, Gregory Manchess, and more — are becoming author / artist / storytellers, conjuring the words and pictures of their own bestselling books and media. Our next generation of illustrators are aspiring to tell their own stories, just as much as becoming hired guns. I suspect there will be more artists following through the Hugo MC door behind me, and they’ll likely come from this expanding universe of hybrid, contemporary artists.
  • I’m only the third Worldcon Guest of Honor to also serve as Hugo Awards MC at the same Worldcon. I believe Connie Willis and David Gerrold are the only others to do this in the con’s 76-year history. We must all be insane. ?.
  • I’m especially proud to be the first Mexicanx to ever serve as a Hugo Awards MC. I love being first, but the most important thing is that I’m not the last. With the daily assaults upon our DREAMers, villainizing of our culture by racists, and terroristic threats against our citizens, we’re living in an important moment for Mexicanx north and south of the border. I’m looking forward to sharing my spotlight with all of them.

(4) WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT. 2016 Clarke Award judge David Gullen discusses what the experience taught him about his own fiction writing: “Things I Learned Judging the Arthur C. Clarke Award” at Medium.

At some point during reading those 113 books it occurred to me what a difficult thing writers are trying to do and just how many different things each author is trying to get right. It’s not just character and plot and pace and tension, world-building, good dialogue, effective exposition, setting story questions and keeping story promises, it’s also trying to get that motivating vision in your head down onto the page. Even a pretty ordinary book takes a lot of effort. If you assume each of those books took 6 months to write?—?and many would have taken more?—?that is 57 years of effort, not far from the entire productive life of a single person.

(5) THE WRITER’S EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER. A tweet from Annie Bellet.

(6) READERCON PRUNES PROGRAM INVITE LIST. Several older, white male writers who have participated on Readercon’s program in previous years have posted to Facebook over the past month that they have been notified they won’t be on this year’s program, or simply haven’t received the expected invitation. There’s no reason they have to be happy about it, and understandable if it triggers a bit of insecurity and resentment. However, the whiff of controversy around this development is not completely unlike Jon Del Arroz’ certainty that politics were the real reason he was rotated off BayCon programming.

Allen Steele wrote on Facebook yesterday:

The other convention I’ve usually gone to in the past, but will no longer attend, is Readercon. I’ve been an invited guest since Readercon 2 (had to skip the first one because of a schedule conflict), and have attended most of the 36 previous conventions … and then last year, without any sort of notice or explanation, I wasn’t invited. I was recovering from last year’s pancreas operation, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to show up anyway, but I wondered why nonetheless.

This year, I have an explanation … just not a good one. It appears, in an effort to be fair to young new writers, Readercon has been sending out form email letters to older authors such as myself (everyone known to have received the letter is male and above age 50), telling them that they’ve been dropped from the program participant list and therefore will not be invited guests.

Oh, we’re still welcome to attend, if we pay the registration fee. In fact, because of our exalted former status, we’re entitled to a 25% discount … if we go to a private registration site and enter the password (get this) PASTPRO.

So not only have we been told that we’re not welcome to come as professionals, we’re also being told that we’re no longer professionals, period.

I haven’t received the letter … but neither have I been invited. As I said, I wasn’t invited last year either, nor was I ever offered a reason why. To their program chair, I sent a polite letter calmly explaining why the letter is demeaning, insulting, and for the convention disastrously short-sighted; the response I got was a “so sorry you feel that way” blow-off. This pretty much confirms that I’ve been cast into the outer darkness for being … well, let’s not go there. And even if I’m not on the “past pro” list, I won’t come to a convention that would treat my friends and colleagues this way.

I mention this because I usually see at Readercon quite a few people who follow this page. Sometimes they bring copies of my books so I can sign them, and they need to know in advance not to use valuable suitcase-space. Sorry, guys … this year, it’s Boskone and the Hong Kong SF Forum only. At least those conventions still have respect for senior authors.

A month ago Ian Randall Strock said he got the letter and named two others who’d received it:

It seems Readercon has begun their apparently new tradition of uninviting past guests. Last year, it was Darrell Schweitzer. Today, I got the letter, as did Warren Lapine.

Anyone else get the email (under the subject line “Thank you for your service to Readercon”) starting out “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll be straightforward: you won’t be receiving an invitation to participate in programming for Readercon 29.”?

Another thought occurs: are they only doing this to folks who are also dealers, thinking we’ll be there anyway? I’ll have to run the numbers to see if it’s worth attending.

Readercon 29 takes place July 12-15 in Quincy, MA.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SUBCREATOR

  • Born February January 3, 1892 – J.R.R. Tolkien [never mind….]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy sends Pearls Before Swine with an observation that sounds just like the kind of dismal thing Kurt Vonnegut would come up with. So you’ll love it, right? (?)
  • John King Tarpinian discovered a horrific satirical cereal box in Off the Mark. (Was that a description or a pleonasm?)
  • JJ admires Grant Snider’s The Specter of Failure at Incidental Comics.
  • Via RedWombat –

(10) ARE YOU SURPRISED? Mental Floss tempts readers with “16 Surprising Facts About Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451”. Some are no more surprising than this —

  1. BRADBURY DID NOT WRITE FAHRENHEIT 451 IN NINE DAYS.

A popular apocryphal story is that Bradbury hammered out Fahrenheit 451 in just over a week. That story is wrong: It was the 25,000-word “The Fireman” that he wrote in that time period. The author would later refer to the short story as “the first version” of the eventual novel. But over the years, he would often speak about “The Fireman” and Fahrenheit 451 interchangeably, which has caused some confusion.

  1. HE WROTE HIS FIRST VERSION ON A RENTED TYPEWRITER IN A LIBRARY BASEMENT.

Bradbury and wife Marguerite McClure had two children in 1950 and 1951, and he was in need of a quiet place to write but had no money for renting an office. In a 2005 interview, Bradbury said:

“I was wandering around the UCLA library and discovered there was a typing room where you could rent a typewriter for 10 cents a half-hour. So I went and got a bag of dimes. The novel began that day, and nine days later it was finished. But my God, what a place to write that book! I ran up and down stairs and grabbed books off the shelf to find any kind of quote and ran back down and put it in the novel. The book wrote itself in nine days, because the library told me to do it.”

  1. HE SPENT $9.80 ON TYPEWRITER RENTAL.

Bradbury’s nine days in the library cost him, by his own estimate, just under $10. That means he spent about 49 hours writing “The Fireman.”

(11) NOT YOUR TYPICAL FLORIDA MAN STORY. From Futurism, “Florida Man Becomes First Person to Live With Advanced Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm”.

Prosthetics have advanced drastically in recent years. The technology’s potential has even inspired many, like Elon Musk, to ask whether we may be living as “cyborgs” in the not-too-far future. For Johnny Matheny of Port Richey, Florida, that future is now. Matheny, who lost his arm to cancer in 2005, has recently become the first person to live with an advanced mind-controlled robotic arm. He received the arm in December and will be spending the next year testing it out.

The arm was developed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab as part of their program Revolutionizing Prosthetics. The aim of the program, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is to create prosthetics that are controlled by neural activity in the brain to restore motor function to where it feels entirely natural. The program is specifically working on prosthetics for upper-arm amputee patients. While this particular arm has been demoed before, Matheny will be the first person to actually live with the prosthesis. The program does hope to have more patients take the tech for a longterm test run, though.

(12) FROM SOMEWHERE BESIDES LAKE WOEBEGONE. Since the firing of Garrison Keillor A Prairie Home Companion has a new host and a new name – Cat Eldridge reviews “Live from Here, the show formerly known as APHC, hosted by Chris Thile” at Green Man Review.

… Where Kellior was the sedate, downbeat host who wanted you to be part of the Lake Woebegon community, Thile is more than a bit manic, bouncing around in delight apparently as he gets to interact with musicians and other folk who he obviously admires a lot. APHC put me to sleep, LFH is definitely designed to keep me actively listening.

Shovel & Rope, a really good Americana couple, is dok good a bluesy travel song as I listen this moment. (By now I’d usually have decided to turn Kellior off.) Some minutes later, Gabby Moreno is playing a very lively (I think) a Tex-Mex song. Need I say Thile is really excited like her being on Live from Here?

… I’m an hour in and still not even close to tuning out though the comedy riff just now was meh but I’m not a fan of most such comedy anyways. That segued into a very nice and quite tasty bit of jazzy music by Snarky Puppy which is enhanced by the production team cleverly positioning mics in the audience which is more than a bit raucous all show long which they really demonstrate when Chris musically deconstructs  ‘I’ll Be There’ in words and music….

(13) FAR SIDE OF THE KERFUFFLE. Most of the post is more abuse, so won’t be excerpted here, but Vox Day hastened to say Foz Meadows won’t be getting an apology from him: “I’ll take ‘things that will never happen’”. He adds —

Third, Dave Freer didn’t sic me on anyone about anything. I don’t recall having any communication with him in years. I just checked my email and I haven’t received even a single email from him since I set up my current machine in April 2016. Nor have I spoken to him.

(I’m not creating an Internet Archive page for this one so people can somehow feel okay about insisting on reading the insults.)

(14) COUGH IT UP. Add this contraption to the list of things science fiction never predicted: “When The Flu Hits Campus, The Gesundheit Machine Will Be Ready”.

Those sick enough will get sent around the corner to a room with a crazy-looking, Rube-Goldberg-like contraption known as the Gesundheit machine.

For half an hour, the student sits in the machine. As the student breathes, the machine collects whatever virus they’ve got from the droplets in their breath.

The researchers will then use the student’s contacts to try to figure out how infections spread from person to person: “roommates, study buddies, girlfriends and boyfriends,” Milton says. “We’re going to swab them every day for a week to see if they get infected.”

If the student’s contacts get infected, researchers will try to pin down whether they got the bug from the original subject or someone else.

“We’re going to deep sequence the genetic code of the agent to see if it was really exactly the same thing,” Milton explains. He’s aware that confirming that your roommate gave you a horrible flu could ruin some perfectly nice relationships, but it’s for science.

(15) MELTING, MELTING. BBC tells how “Space lasers to track Earth’s ice”.

Ice is the “climate canary”. The loss, and the rate of that loss, tell us something about how global warming is progressing.

In the Arctic, the most visible sign is the decline of sea-ice, which, measured at its minimum extent over the ocean in September, is reducing by about 14% per decade.

At the other pole, the marine floes look much the same as they did in the earliest satellite imagery from the 1960s, but land ice is in a negative phase.

Something on the order of 160 billion tonnes are being lost annually, with most of that mass going from the west of the White Continent.

(16) STAR WARS MEETS PETER RABBIT. Daisy Ridley is still a rebel. And a rabbit.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Bill, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John Picacio, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Mark Hepworth, Chris Garcia, Will R., Vox Day, StephenfromOttawa, Christopher Rowe, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

Weird Tales at 90

Weird Tales is celebrating its 90th anniversary this month, a magazine that has suffered more than a few fits and starts in its existence.

The first editor was canned after 13 money-losing issues. When asked to take over the reins H. P. Lovecraft turned down the magazine’s founder J. C. Henneberger because he didn’t want to relocate to Chicago. “Think of the tragedy of such a move for an aged antiquarian,” the 34-year-old writer proclaimed.

Weird Tales enjoyed a sustained run from 1923 to 1954. Then it suffered many changes in ownership and long gaps in publication — although it may be in the spirit of things that a magazine about the weird and macabre has needed to be resurrected from the dead so frequently.

The last revival seems to have taken. Since 1988 the magazine has made a transition to the internet, won a Best Semiprozine Hugo (2009), and survived a major kerfuffle that cost it a couple of well-known contributors.

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

George Scithers (1929-2010)

One of the very few fans who did it all, George Scithers, died of a heart attack on April 19 at the age of 80.

He was a small press publisher, fiction writer, prozine editor, Worldcon chair, and Hugo-winning fanzine editor.

His plaid jacket was almost as well-known as Ben Yalow’s bow tie. Scithers was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1979 NASFiC (NorthAmericon) and the 2001 Worldcon (Millennium Philcon)

It was as an editor Scithers engraved his mark on the science fiction and fantasy fields.

Scithers was the founding editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (1977), for which he won the Hugo twice, in 1979 and 1981. After he departed Asimov’s (1982), Scithers edited Amazing until 1986 and thereafter was active in the revival of Weird Tales.

It’s in every prozine editor’s interest to cultivate new talent, but while Scithers was at Asimov’s that was his profound mission and made him highly visible at conventions and in workshops.

He published a fanzine, Amra, devoted to sword-and-sorcery fiction (indeed, the term first appeared in its pages.) It won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1964. Although Robert A. Heinlein never wrote anything for the zine, he dedicated Glory Road to “George H Scithers and the regular patrons of the Terminus, Owlswick, and Ft Mudge Electric Street Railway” (the latter being a press name for Scithers’ fanac) because the book was inspired by Scithers’ postcard asking the question, `What happens after the Hero wins the hand of the princess and half the kingdom.’”

Scithers chaired Discon, the 1963 Worldcon, attracting 600 fans to Washington D.C. Afterward he wrote The Con-Committee Chairman’s Guide: The Story of Discon I (1965), reflecting the kinder and gentler days of single-track programming. When I was working on the Nolacon II program in 1988 Bruce Pelz showed me Scithers’ remarks: “For the Discon, we set up most of the convention program in July, which seemed early enough to us…” I had a long, hysterical giggle.

Before embarking on a career in sf, Scithers was a West Point graduate who retired as a lieutenent colonel, a Signal Corps officer who had seen service in the Korean War. He was still in the service when I first met him.

Scithers founded specialty publisher Owlswick Press in 1973. Its eclectic titles included To Serve Man, the cannibal cookbook.

He also edited numerous anthologies, the latest being Cat Tales: Fantastic Feline Fiction (2008) and very recently Cat Tales 2, according to John Betancourt.

In 1992, Scithers and Darrell Schweitzer won a World Fantasy Award for their work on Weird Tales. At the 2002 World Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis, both Scithers and Forrest J Ackerman won World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards.

John Betancourt reports that cards may be sent to Scithers’ longtime partner, Larry Fiege, at 218 Blandford St., Rockville, MD 20850-2629.

Hugo Win Makes Weird Tales Editor a Local Celeb

Weird Tales’ winning the Best Semiprozine Hugo made a splash in editor Ann VanderMeer’s hometown paper, the Tallahassee (FL) Democrat:

She was all glammed-up for this year’s tony World Science Fiction Convention, attended by roughly 5,000 fans and industry people and known as a Really Big Deal in the sci-fi world. Decked out in a new ankle-length, pink-and-white flowered dress and pink shoes, VanderMeer was there as the fiction editor for Weird Tales, a dark-fantasy and sci-fi magazine first published in 1923. The magazine had been nominated for a Hugo Award.

But neither she nor the magazine’s editorial and creative director, 34-year-old Stephen Segal of Rockville, Md., thought they had much of a chance to win the “Best Semiprozine” award. Weird Tales (which has a circulation of 5,000 to 8,000, VanderMeer said) had never won – or even been nominated – for the award, which is given to the best small-press magazine with part-time staff.

***

Many people in Tallahassee link science fiction and the name VanderMeer with Ann’s husband, Jeff, a sci-fi writer. They’ve been married for seven years. Ann was married before, and has two grown children and a grandson. Ann and Jeff were long-time friends who shared a love of sci-fi and fantasy.

Since marrying, they’ve edited several anthologies together, including two “Best American Fantasy” collections from Prime Books.

For Ann, finding small fantasy-story gems has long been a passion. She started her own magazine, Silver Web, in 1988 in order to publish good sci-fi and fantasy. (Her last edition – she generally printed from 500 to 2,000 issues – came out in 2002.) And though she earns a small paycheck now for her work as a fiction editor at Weird Tales, it continues to be primarily a labor of love.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the link.]

Nelson Bond Remembered

Nelson Bond’s alma mater, Marshall University in West Virginia, has not only archived his papers, it recently dedicated a room which recreates the office in his home where he wrote his stories.

Though Nelson didn’t live to see it — he died in 2006, just shy of his 98th birthday — Marshall University unveiled the Nelson Bond Room last month. It’s on the third floor of the James E. Morrow Library, behind a plate glass window. The same metal shelves that once lined the walls in his basement display copies of the magazines that hold his stories, with cover art ranging from the elegant paintings adorning issues of Bluebook magazine to the garish science fiction scenes fronting copies of Weird Tales and Thrilling Wonder Stories. Also displayed: the cumbersome Dictaphone set that Nelson used to compose his stories….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]