Pixel Scroll 2/26/21 Got My Mjolnir Working

(1) IF YOU LOVED THEM IN GOOD OMENS… A finalist for RadioTimes.com Awards 2021– TV Moment of the Year is Judi Dench slamming David Tennant and Martin Sheen in Staged, a British comedy series set during the COVID-19 pandemic and primarily made using video-conferencing technology.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing exaggerated versions of themselves (actors) in 2020 trying to get work is already hilarious, but add in Dame Judi Dench and you’ve got a work of art. Tennant and Sheen aren’t exactly enthusiastic about their new role in a play, and Dench is on hand to remind them they have said yes to a job so they should “stop f**king about” and “do the bloody job”. That’s them (and us) told.

The series premiered on BBC One last summer, and another eight-episode series was released January 4. The first series synopsis is —

David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End. The pandemic has put paid to that, but their director (Simon Evans – also playing himself) is determined not to let the opportunity pass him by. He knows how big a chance this is for him and turns his attention to cajoling his stars into rehearsing over the internet. All they need to do is read the first scene, but throughout the series they come up against a multitude of oppositional forces: distraction, boredom, home-schooling and their own egos.

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Don Blyly is interviewed by Carz Nelson in “Down But Not Out: The Future of Uncle Hugo’s” at The Alley Newspaper.

…Deciding whether to reopen the stores won’t be easy. At 70 years young, many assumed owner Don Blyly would retire from retail business after the fire. Such assumptions are premature, however. It takes a lot of drive to start over from nothing, but Blyly seems to be equal to whatever tasks he sets himself.

…He admits that he has a knack for bouncing back from adversity, “I’ve noticed that I seem to have more resilience than most other people and I’ve wondered why. Partly it is stubbornness. Partly it is because the more of a track record you have at overcoming previous difficulties, the more confidence you have of overcoming the latest difficulty.”

Blyly says the city has a lot to answer for when it comes to the uprising, “Back in 2015 the Department of Justice made recommendations for reforming the Minneapolis Police, but the City Council has done nothing to implement those recommendations. The judge in the trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Damond raised issues about problems with the Minneapolis Police that have never been addressed.” 

Since the uprising and subsequent looting, he’s concerned that many people think the area is too dangerous to visit, “About half of my sales were to people outside the I-495/ I-694 loop, and they are now scared to come to Minneapolis to spend their money. Customers in South Minneapolis told me that they would be scared to return to the Uncles if I rebuilt in the old location. The city is going to have to actually work on fixing the problems with the Minneapolis Police instead making ‘defunding’ speeches before people will feel comfortable about spending their money in Minneapolis again.”

(3) IT PAYS TO BE POSTHUMOUS. Julie Phillips, in “Born to Be Posthumous” at 4Columns, reviews Mark Dery’s Born To Be Posthumous:  The Eccentric Life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

By his mid-twenties, the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey had already settled on his signature look: long fur coat, jeans, canvas high-tops, rings on all his fingers, and the full beard of a Victorian intellectual. His enigmatic illustrations of equally fur-coated and Firbankian men in parlors, long-skirted women, and hollow-eyed, doomed children (in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, among other works) share his own gothic camp aesthetic. Among the obvious questions for a reader of Gorey’s biography are: Where in his psyche, or in the culture, did all those fey fainting ladies and ironic dead tots come from? And, not unrelatedly: Was Gorey gay?

…Gorey described himself as “undersexed” in a 1980 interview, and equivocated: “I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.” Did he reject a gay sexuality, or was his particular sexuality, perhaps asexuality, not yet on the menu? Dery isn’t out to judge, and encourages us instead to look at how Gorey’s arch imagery, flamboyant self-presentation, and “pantheon of canonically gay tastes” (ballet, Marlene Dietrich records, silent film) allow him to be read in the context of gay culture and history, whatever his praxis in bed…. 

(4) TOO MANY NOTES. Vox’s Aja Romano investigates a kerfuffle at Archive Of Our Own (AO3) about the issues of a million-word fanfic with 1,700 tags. “Sexy Times with Wangxian: The internet’s most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning”.

… Since it first appeared in October 2019, “Sexy Times With Wangxian,” or STWW, has become notorious across AO3. That in itself is unusual, because most AO3 users stick to their own fandoms and don’t pay much attention to what’s happening in others. STWW belongs to the fandom for the wildly popular Chinese TV series The Untamed, and the “Wangxian” in the title refers to the ship name for the show’s beloved main romantic pairing. It’s a very long fanfic, over a million words, and contains more than 200 chapters of porn featuring The Untamed’s large cast in endless permutations and sexual scenarios.

All that, by itself, isn’t enough to make STWW remarkable — not on a website as wild and unpredictable as AO3. Yet the fic has become impossible for many AO3 users to ignore thanks to a unique quirk: Its author has linked it to more than 1,700 site tags (and counting).

A quick note about AO3’s tagging system: It is designed to let users tag creatively and freely. So you can add useful tags, like pairing labels and character names, but you can also toss in personalized tags for fun and creative expression, from “no beta readers we die like men” to “I wrote this at 4am on three bottles of Monster Energy and zero sleep don’t judge.”

The tagging system is in service of the site’s total permissiveness — you can write anything you want in tags. But for the site to function, tags still need to be useful for navigation. So AO3 has hordes of volunteers known as “tag wranglers” whose sole job is to sort through the massive number of fic tags on the site and decide which ones will actually help users find what they’re looking for.

Those tags are then made “canonical,” which means they’ll become universal tags that every user can sort through. They’ll also appear within a list of suggested tags as you type. If I start to type “hospital” while tagging a fic, AO3 will return canonical tag suggestions like “Alternate Universe — Hospital,” “Hospital Sex,” and “Hogwarts Hospital Wing.” That makes it easy to determine whether your fic fits tags the community is already using.

AO3’s tagging system is so organized and thorough that it has won widespread acclaim from fields like library science and internet infrastructure. But it still has its limits — and with more than 1,700 tags, “Sexy Times With Wangxian” has revealed what some of those limits look like — in some cases quite literally….

The tags are so numerous, they can’t fit into a single screenshot on a large monitor. Here’s a quick scroll through the entire thing…

(5) THEY’RE FEELING BETTER. Jen Chaney, in “No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time” at Vulture, has an oral history of the last episode of Lost, which reveals that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had the ambiguous ending in mind the whole time and that the show was so important that the State of the Union in 2010 was moved because it conflicted with the final season opening episode.

…When the finale aired, it sparked divided responses (understatement) from fans. Some loved the emotional way in which Jack’s journey and that of his fellow survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 came to a close. Others were extremely vocally angry about not getting more direct answers to the show’s many questions. Still others came away from it all convinced that the castaways had been dead the whole time. (They were not dead. They really weren’t.)

What was semi-clear at the time and is even clearer now is that the broadcast of the Lost finale would mark the end of something else: the truly communal broadcast television experience. Subsequent finales would be major events (see HBO’s Game of Thrones) and even draw larger audiences (2019’s final Big Bang Theory attracted 18 million viewers, compared to the 13.5 million who tuned in for the Lost farewell). But nothing else since has felt so massively anticipated and so widely consumed in real time the way that the end of Lost, the Smoke Monster Super Bowl, did in 2010.

Vulture did extensive interviews with writers, cast, and crew members, who reflected on the development of “The End,” the making of the still hotly debated episode, and the cultural conversation it continues to generate. Because, yes, of course, we had to go back.

(6) AT HOME WITH SFF. Aidan Moher conducts a lively and revealing Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, Brian Staveley, Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard in “Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House” at Uncanny Magazine.

…An appreciation for speculative fiction isn’t always handed down from within a family. Sometimes it grows on its own, or is introduced by a friend or a teacher. Or a child is uninterested, despite their parents’ best efforts to sway them to the side of elves and proton cannons. I recently reached out to several writers to ask them about their experience growing up, their parents’ relationship to speculative fiction, and the impact that parenthood has had on them as writers….

…There are also emotional sacrifices that come along with parenthood. After the birth of her first child, de Bodard’s tolerance for stories featuring child abuse or endangerment “went from weak to zero” immediately. “I had to put off reading a book I was much looking forward to because I couldn’t get past the violence against a child.” As the father of a daughter, I’ve had a similar experience to de Bodard, and have also become even more aware of and angered by the pervasive sexism that continues to plague speculative fiction and fandom.

Personal writing of any sort reveals layers to a person that even their close friends and loved ones might not recognize. My wife often finds it odd to read my writing—not because of the subject matter, but because it’s told in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar to her ear.

“My children have all read at least some of my writing,” said Elliott. “I often consult them about plot, character, and world–building because I like to hear their feedback, because they know me so well, and because they have fascinating and deep imaginations. They are probably my most valuable writing resource, with my cherished writer and reader friends a close second.”…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the opportunity to “Savor Stan Lee’s favorite sandwich with comics writer Jo Duffy” in episode 139 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Duffy

My old Marvel Bullpen pal Jo Duffy had a lengthy, celebrated run back then on Power Man and Iron Fist, where she also wrote Conan the BarbarianFallen AngelsStar Wars, and Wolverine. She also wrote Catwoman for DC and Glory for Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios imprint of Image Comics. Additionally, she worked on the screenplays for the horror films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5.

We discussed why she knows what Superman will look like when he’s 100, the many reasons our kid selves both thought Marvel had D.C. beat, the genius of Marie Severin, how I may have inadvertently been responsible for her getting a job as an Assistant Editor in the Marvel Bullpen, what it was like to work with Steve Ditko, the firing she still feels guilty about 40 years later, how she approached the challenge of writing Power Man and Iron Fist, the letter she wrote to Stan Lee after the death of Jack Kirby, the two-year-long Star Wars story arc she was forced to squeeze into a few issues, the best writing advice she ever got, and much more.

(8) FIRST THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS. Sarah Gailey, in “Building Beyond: Move Mountains” at Stone Soup, gets an assist from Alex Acks and nonwriter Kacie Winterberg to illustrate how easy a particular facet of sff creation can be:

Building Beyond is an ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.

How do you go about communicating with a mountain to prevent it from pursuing its ambition of becoming a volcano?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 26, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, considered the most popular of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not-so-accidental take off of Fu Manchu. Cat Eldridge reviewed the episode at A Green Man Review. You can watch the first part online here with links to the rest of the story there as well. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 26, 1874 – Katherine Cameron.  Member, Glasgow Society of Lady Artists (Women Artists after 1975).  A dozen illustrated books for us.  This is in Stories from the Ballads (M. Macgregor, 1906).  Here are Snowdrop and the Seven Dwarfs.  Here is Celtic Tales.  Here is Undine.  This is in The Enchanted Land.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1916 – Clifford Geary.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us; many others.  Noteworthy in particular for illustrating Heinlein’s “juveniles”.  Here is a frontispiece for Starman Jones.  Here is an interior for Between Planets.  This is in Space Cadet.  Here is one from outside our field.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1928 Theodore Sturgeon. I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 76. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 – Alex Eisenstein, age 76; 1946 – Phyllis Eisenstein (Died 2020).  Active fannish couple; P also an active pro, a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories with A collaborating on half a dozen; so far as I know The City in Stone, completed, remains unpublished.  AE co-edited Trumpet.  Here is his cover for More Issues at Hand.  PE was Guest of Honor at Windycon XXX, Capricon 26, ConQuesT 38; a soft-sculpture of her was part of the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  AE, a noted SF art collector, has organized many displays including that Chicon.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 73. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1952 – Bob Devney, F.N., age 69.  Eight-time finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lover of SF movies – some of them, anyway.  When I remarked to him I hadn’t seen The Devniad in a while, he muttered something about Twitter; but quite possibly he still hasn’t recovered from Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, where he worked very hard, as I saw and maybe you did too.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1957 – John Jude Palencar, age 64.  A hundred ninety covers, five dozen  interiors.  Artbook Origins.  Here is Rhinegold.  Here is Kushiel’s Avatar.  Here is The Dark Line.  Here is Mind of My Mind.  This picture led to The Palencar Project – David Hartwell did such things.  Five Chesleys.  American Water Color Society Gold Medal.  Hamilton King Award.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Also National GeographicSmithsonianTime.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on  Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had any lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current carnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series there features here as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material including photos of her puts it. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 56. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1968 – Lynne Hansen, age 53.  Half a dozen novels, ten dozen covers.  Here is Strangewood.  Here is Things That Never Happened (hello, Scott Edelman).  Here is A Complex Accident of Life.  Here is The High Strangeness of Lorelei Jones.  [JH]

(11) COATES TO SCRIPT SUPERMAN MOVIE. Trey Mangum, in “Ta-Nehisi Coates To Write Upcoming Superman Film From DC And Warner Bros.” on Shadow and Act, says Coates will write a script for a Superman movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, but with no director or stars attached at this time.

…We’re hearing that no director is attached as of yet and plot details remain under wraps. Additionally, the search for an actor to play Kal-El / Superman hasn’t started yet.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” said Coates in a statement received only by Shadow and Act. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

“There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity,” said J.J. Abrams in the statement to S&A.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” added Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

(12) SANS RIDES ET SANS REPROCHE. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara finds this is a rhetorical question: “Is Disney California Adventure, with no rides, worth $75?”

…If you think Disney’s recent announcement that it will soon be charging $75 a head for the thrill of wandering around California Adventure to buy and eat things while admiring the entrances to still-closed rides is nuts, I am here to tell you that it is not.

At least not if my recent visit to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is any indication.

…It was absolutely clear right away. Desperate for even the faintest tang of the Disney experience, thousands of us apparently are quite willing to settle for the elements of the Disney experience we normally complain about the most: waiting in line, overpriced food and the siren call of way too much Disney merch.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was a 45-minute wait simply to enter the Downtown Disney area, 50 if you count the five-minute walk from the car, which cost 10 bucks to park.

To be fair, the line that snaked through an entire parking lot could be construed, at least in these coronavirus-plagued times, as a Disney experience in and of itself. The now-ubiquitous six-feet-apart marks created a socially distant conga line that involved far more walking than standing: “Well, we’re getting our steps in,” one of my daughters remarked.

…As the sun set over the Simba parking lot and our group advanced through the temperature-taking station and the bag-check station, then past a police presence prominent enough to make any mask-shirker think twice, one could at least imagine a world returning to something approaching normal.

Listen to the piped-in music! Yes, once upon a time it did indeed drive some of us insane. But now, after a yearlong lifetime of home-office work — concentration broken on an hourly basis by the maddening syncopated roar of leaf blowers and brain-drilling hum of the neighbors’ home improvement project — all those Disney tunes fell around us like the singing of a heavenly host….

(13) MARTINE’S SEQUEL. In a review at Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere makes the book sound irresistible: “A Desolation Called Peace: Wonderfully rich and nuanced”,

…Beyond the plot reasons, I loved that it was more a cultural conflict because that concept is at the heart of this duology: the way the Empire doesn’t simply conquer via its military but swamps others with its pervasive, relentless, invasive cultural tentacles (hmm, sound familiar?), the way the question of “who counts as human” (or more broadly, who can be considered a person) runs throughout the Empire on a macro level, and throughout the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass on a micro level.

… It’s impossible to read these moments and not relate them to everyday existence for those forced to swim in the sea of a majority culture. This fraught tension is made all the richer for how Martine portrays (realistically) how seductive such cultural power is even for those it threatens to swamp, like falling in love with the waves that are trying to drown you. And then it gets under the skin and into the brain so it becomes almost second nature: “Mahit laughed, a raw sound … She couldn’t do it all. She thought in Teixcalaanli, in imperial-style metaphor and overdetermination. She’d had this whole conversation in their language.”

(14) HARD TIME. Will it be at least seven more years before Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has something good to say about the monthly issue of Analog? “[February 26, 1966] Such promise (March 1966 Analog)”.

… It all came down to this month’s Analog.  If it were superb, as it was last month, then we’d have a clean sweep across eight periodicals.  If it flopped, as it often does, the streak would be broken.

As it turns out, neither eventuality quite came to pass.  Indeed, the March 1966 Analog is sort of a microcosm of the month itself — starting out with a bang and faltering before the finish….

(15) FROM BROADWAY TO BROADBAND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 19 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews “online interactive theatre shows” which try to capture some of the spontaneity of live theatre.

Collaboration is key to success with all these show: the quicker an audience learns to share tasks, the better.  In Sherlock In Homes:  Murder At The Circus (from the Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre), this turns out to be a group of small girls from Wales with a formidable line in questioning,  (The same companies have also created Sherlock In Homes 2:  Murder On Ice.)

Another Sherlock-inspired show, Murder At The Circus is a droll, family-friendly affair, low on tech high in audience-actor interaction. Sherlock is missing (again), leaving behind a rum case involving a dead circus clown and a plate of potted meat.  We, the impromptu detectives, must quiz a line-up of dubious suspects with names like Glenda Flex (acrobat) and Rory McPride (lion tamer), all of whom are adept at juggling the truth.

After several rounds of unfocused interrogation from our team, the Welsh 10-year-olds spring into action. “Where were you location-wise when you were kissing?’ demands one, sternly, of a particularly evasive character,  It would take a hardened criminal not to crack.”

The websites for this are sharpteeththeatre.orgthewardrobetheatre.com, and sherlockimmersive.com.

(16) MALZBERG ON PKD. A year ago on the DickHeads Podcast: “Interview #12 – Barry Malzberg – Malzberg Spectacular Part 1”.

David must have done something right because author Barry Malzberg was willing to sit down for a lengthy phone conversation with him. In this interview, Barry leads David through his experiences with multiple authors including PKD, the in’s and out’s of the publishing industry of the 60s and 70s, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out part 2 of our Barry Malzberg Spectacular where author James Reich joins David in an in-depth look at the award-winning novel Beyond Apollo, which garnered the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

(17) POTATO HEAD, THE MORNING AFTER. The London Economic has an entertaining collection of tweets about yesterday’s kerfuffle: “Best reactions as usual mouthpieces are foaming over a genderless Potato Head”. Here are a few —

When it was all over but the shouting, Reason’s Robby Soave announced:  “Mr. Potato Head will remain the strong, masculine figure he always was.”

(18) IN MELODY YET GREEN. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman reviews Lady Gaga Oreos. They’re pink! (With green filling!) “Lady Gaga Oreos are an extra-sweet mystery wrapped in an enigmatic pink wafer”.

…One of the promotions tied to Gaga’s cookies is a Sing It with Oreo feature. You can make personal recordings, transform them into “musical messages of kindness” and send them to folks you love and support. The pink foil packaging for Gaga Oreos features a QR code, which provides instant access to the recording function. You probably have to give up countless pieces of personal information in the process, but go ahead, “Just sing from the heart, and make someone’s day a little brighter.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/21 Good Science Fiction Predicts The Pixel. Great Science Fiction Extrapolates To The Scroll

(1) COGITO ECO SUM. In “Jeff VanderMeer Talks Noir, Suspense, and His New Eco-Thriller With Meg Gardiner” at CrimeReads Gardiner interviews VanderMeer about his new novel Hummingbird Salamander, which he says is a thriller set “ten minutes into the future.”

MG: You’re known as a speculative fiction writer—science fiction, fantasy, the weird. Hummingbird Salamander, though, is grounded in the present day-ish world. It doesn’t include supernatural elements. It does contain plenty of suspense and action, and draws us into mysteries that revolve around traumatic loss—of family, ecologies, maybe the world. How do you describe this book? 

JV: That’s true, but at the same time the Southern Reach trilogy, for example, was set in the real world and the real challenge there was character relationships, how to unfold the mystery—all of the usual stuff in non-speculative books. So I see the “weird” element in Hummingbird Salamander as being about how dysfunctional and strange our reality has become. Sometimes I describe the novel as a thriller-mystery set ten seconds into the future, or as traveling through our present into the near future. Readers should expect a lot of the dark absurdity and environmental themes as well as the usual thing—that I tend to write “messy” protagonists who don’t easily fit into the world around them. The fact is, our reality with its conspiracy paranoia and all the rest tends to affect our fiction, too. So that the present-day is science fiction.

(2) BAFTA GOTY NOMINEES. The BAFTA EE Game of the Year Award Nominees 2021 have been released. The EE Game of the Year Award is the only category at this year’s British Academy Games Awards voted for by the public. This new award recognizes the fans’ favorite game from the past year. These are the nominees:

(3) FOUR CENTURIES OF YOLEN. “’Owl Moon’ author Jane Yolen looks back at 400 books”. The article is behind a Boston Globe paywall, but what the heck, let’s celebrate!

Her 400th publishes March 2 — and she’s got 30 more in the works

By Lauren Daley Globe Correspondent

(4) BY NO MEANS THE LAST. Peter White, in “’Avatar: The Last Airbender’ To Expand With Launch Of Avatar Studios” at Deadline, says Nickelodeon is launching Avatar Studios to produce a lot of animated content following the continuing success of Avatar:  The Last Airbender.

Nickelodeon is launching Avatar Studios, a division designed to create original content spanning animated series and movies based on the franchise’s world….

Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, which follows the adventures of the main protagonist Aang and his friends, who must save the world by defeating Fire Lord Ozai and ending the destructive war with the Fire Nation, aired for three seasons between 2005 and 2008.It was followed by The Legend of Korra, which launched on Nickelodeon in 2012 and ran for four seasons.

The property has subsequently been translated into a ongoing graphic novel series written by TV series co-creator DiMartino, a live-action feature film starring Dev Patel and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and Netflix is making a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series, albeit without the involvement of Dante DiMartino and Konietzko. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra have grown at least ten-fold in popularity since their original hit runs on Nickelodeon…” said Brian Robbins, President, ViacomCBS Kids & Family.

(5) MONOPOLY MONEY. The New York Times contemplates “What Happens When a Publisher Becomes a Megapublisher?”

…Perhaps the industry’s biggest concern about the merger, especially among agents and authors, is what it will mean for book deals. An agent representing a promising author or buzzworthy book often hopes to auction it to the highest bidder. If there are fewer buyers, will it be harder for agents to get an auction going for their clients, and ultimately, will it be harder for authors to get an advantageous deal?

Penguin Random House operates about 95 imprints in the United States, like Vintage Books, Crown Publishing Group and Viking, and these imprints are allowed to bid against one another, as long as another publisher is bidding as well. If the third party drops out, the bidding stops, and the author selects an imprint from within Penguin Random House in what the industry likes to call a “beauty contest.”

A spokeswoman for Penguin Random House said the practice of allowing imprints to compete would continue but that it was too early to say whether Simon & Schuster and its imprints would still count as a third party. Some publishers only offer house bids and do not allow internal competition….

Booksellers are concerned, too:

Penguin Random House has worked closely with independent booksellers during the pandemic, offering flexible or deferred payments to help them through such a challenging year. Still, some are anxious about narrowing competition in a world where their choices are already constricted. Gayle Shanks, one of the owners of Changing Hands bookstores in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., said that while Penguin Random House has been supportive of independent bookstores, she worries that with fewer big publishers to work with, she’ll have less leverage and opportunity to negotiate.

(6) ROBOCOP STATUE. Its kneecaps alone weigh 25 pounds apiece! “A decade later, Detroit’s crowdfunded RoboCop statue is finally complete — but still awaiting a final home” reports the Detroit Metro Times. “The statue, in the coming weeks, will be moved into storage, awaiting its new home — though it will no longer be the Michigan Science Center.”

…10 years ago this month, some wag tweeted at Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that Detroit needed a statue of RoboCop. The reason: Philadelphia had a statue of Rocky, and RoboCop “would kick Rocky’s butt.”

The post lit up social networking, prompting the creation of a fan page blaring “Detroit Needs a RoboCop Statue.” It gave hundreds of people something to like, to laugh about, or even to scorn.

“Within 24 hours, it went viral,” Walley says. “And I don’t remember whether I called Jerry or Jerry called me, but a light bulb went off. We were like, ‘Whoa, we could really create a big buzz and gain a lot of attention for what we’re doing. We might be able to take it to the next level!”

Their instincts hit instant pay dirt: Within three days, their crowdfunding appeal for funding a statue of RoboCop had raised more than $17,000 from more than 900 backers worldwide. Heck, soon Funny or Die released a video of RoboCop lead actor Peter Weller riffing on the project. By the time the funding drive was over six weeks later, more than 2,700 backers had pledged more than $65,000.

…On the east side of Detroit, in a small cinderblock building across the road from a major auto parts supplier, work continues on the RoboCop statue. On this chilly winter afternoon, Venus Bronze Works honcho Giorgio Gikas is busy coaching his crew through final assembly at his shop.

Gikas is the very picture of a European metalworker. Stocky and stout, and adorned with tattoos, he wears his hair short on the sides and back, long on top, pulled back into a ponytail. He speaks in an accented, raspy voice in Hemingway sentences that pull no punches. Mention a Detroit art name to him and he’ll give you his honest estimation — without the sugar on top. Gikas has a right to his opinion — he is the only outdoor sculpture conservator in Michigan who does museum-quality work.

The sixtysomething has been working on RoboCop for six or seven years, including the time he spent fighting colon cancer. The malignancy left him in bed for a year and a half, in no condition to do anything.

“I’m clean now, got everything taken care of,” he says, then looks over at the statue and adds, “and it’s still here.”…

(7) PEOPLE OF THE (FUTURISTIC) BOOK. Next Thursday, March 4 at 7:00 ET, Michael A. Burstein, Valerie Frankel, and Steven H Silver will be discussing “What it means when we say something is Jewish Science Fiction” as part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s programming in support of their Jews in Space Exhibit.  More information and the registration page can be found at “People of the (Futuristic) Book”.  Ticket prices are free, $5, $25, or $50.

(8) TREK + TREK = PARAMOUNT PLUS. “Paramount+ Releases Expanding Star Trek Universe Sizzle Reel”Comicbook.com sets the frame.

When Paramount+ launches on March 4th, it will become the streaming home of every classic Star Trek series in its entirety — Star Trek: The Original SeriesStar Trek: The Animated SeriesStar Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise — plus the first three seasons of Star Trek: Discovery and the first season of Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks. Each of those newer series will return for more episodes. Discovery spinoff Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is in production and Kurtzman has said that he has years of new Star Trek planned….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years or so of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born February 25, 1917 – Rex Gordon.  Nine novels for us, a dozen others, some under other names.  Radio operator on passenger and merchant ships during World War II; one was sunk.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born February 25, 1930 – Frank Denton, age 91.  His fanzine Ash-Wing drew Grant Canfield, Terry Jeeves, Andy Porter, Lisa Tuttle; here is AW 14 (Jim Garrison cover).  Co-founder of Slanapa.  Fan Guest of Honor at MileHiCon 6, Westercon 30, MosCon II, Rustycon 7.  The Great Haiku Shoot-Out with Mike Horvat.  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1943 – Jean Weber, age 78.  Of the twenty-year fanzine WeberWoman’s Wrevenge.  GUFF delegate (Get Up and over Fan Fund when northbound, Going Under Fan Fund southbound) with Eric Lindsay, published Jean and Eric ’Avalook at the U.K. (this link might let you download a PDF).  Guest of Honour at Circulation IV.  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1949 – Wiktor Bukato, age 72.  Author, publisher, translator of Anderson, Clarke, Ellison, Sturgeon, Weinbaum, White.  Here is Science Fiction Art (sztuka is art in Polish).  Three Silesian Fantasy Club Awards as Publisher of the Year.  Co-ordinator of Eurocon 1991.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1957 Tanya Huff, 64. Her now-concluded Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me though it’s probably not quite good enough to a Hugo worthy series.  And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series which might be. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend. (CE)
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 53. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short since the Eighties. Their first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but they now have five novels published with the latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Their story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1970 – Robert Price, age 51.  Learned Cantonese as a teenager, got a Chinese Studies M.A. in Germany, wrote Space to Create in Chinese SFhere is his cover; here is a 2017 interview.  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1984 – Susan Dennard, age 37.  Studied marine biology around the world, but forwent a Ph.D. to write.  Half a dozen novels (two of them NY Times Best-Sellers), two novellas.  After marrying a Frenchman, settled in the U.S. Midwest; two dogs named Asimov and Princess Leia, two cats.  Likes karate and gluten-free cookies.  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1985 Talulah Riley, 36. Miss Evangelista in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, two most excellent Tenth Doctor stories. She also portrays Angela in the Westworld series, and she shows up in Thor: The Dark World as an Asgardian nurse. And she’s Gina Gartison in Bloodshot, the Van Diesel fronted Valiant Comics superhero film.  Anyone seen the latter? (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shares advice from an Avenger.

(11) OCEAN’S ARMY. Netflix dropped a trailer for Army of the Dead, a Zack Snyder movie about zombies smashing Las Vegas.

Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.

(12) TODAY’S THING NOT TO WORRY ABOUT. Did you hear about the controversy over whether Hasbro is “cancelling” Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head and replacing them with unisex Potato Head? Hasbro says this isn’t happening and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head will continue as separate characters.

(13) BRUNNER IN PERSPECTIVE. “Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Society of Time by John Brunner” at Locus Online includes an interesting overview of Brunner’s career.

… But on the other hand, now that we have passed the 25th anniversary of his death, the personal details of his life—the mortal horrors and human mundanities—recede somewhat from the foreground of his biography, and the mountain ranges of his books remain. Thus it is with every writer, great and small, in their posthumous days. And so we can now see that Brunner’s life was, using this perspective, consequential and victorious, not an unmodified tragedy at all. He left monuments. For one brief span—from 1968’s Stand on Zanzibar to 1975’s The Shockwave Rider—Brunner was on fire, tapped into the zeitgeist and channeling his speculations into brilliant novels that remain eerily prophetic and impactful today. If you read The Sheep Look Up (1972) in 2021, you’ll think it’s a newly written post-mortem on our current sad state of affairs….

(14) IT WAS MIDNIGHT ON THE SEA. In “More Than a Hundred Years Later, the Sinking of the Titanic Still Matters” on CrimeReads, sf author Alma Katsu discusses her new novel The Deep, her take on the Titanic disaster.

…As the Titanic goes to show, it is easy for humans to cling to denial when faced with existential threats like spiraling poverty and consolidation of power by elites. How does one prepare for doomsday? Is it so unexpected that many would prefer to believe the lies and would refuse to see the iceberg until chunks of it came crashing onto the deck?

(15) BOG STANDARD. This Mental Floss post certainly lives up to its title: “11 Incredible Things Found in Bogs”.

2. FRANKENSTEIN BODIES

Archaeologists know that prehistoric people knew about bogs’ preserving properties not just because of the butter, but also because of a pair of extremely cool—and extremely weird—skeletons known as the Cladh Hallan bodies. Found beneath the floor of a house in a small village in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, these two bodies were buried sometime around the year 1000 BCE. It wasn’t unusual for ancient people to bury their ancestors beneath their homes. What was odd, however, was the fact that the bodies were hundreds of years older than the house itself. The island’s early inhabitants had mummified the corpses by stashing them in a bog for several months before burying them in their new location.

It gets even weirder. On closer examination, archaeologists discovered that each skeleton was a mishmash of bones from three different individuals, making a total of six bodies. The matching was done so well, it only turned up during a DNA test.

(16) THE NEXT GENERATION. Satirical news site The Onion offers up this gem: “NASA Welcomes Litter Of Mars Rovers After Successful Breeding Of Perseverance, Curiosity”. They write:

It will be months before these little guys can open up their image sensors and begin rolling around on their own, but once they do, their mother will teach them how to collect samples and analyze soil composition.

(17) JUST A LITTLE CAT MAP. The Budget Direct insurance website is attracting clicks with its feature “Cats vs. Dogs: Which Does the World Prefer?” – their map of the results is here.

…Country-for-country, the cats have it. We found 91 countries with more cat posts than dog posts on Instagram, and just 76 the other way around. Cat-lover territory includes the huge territories of Canada (52.3% of cat or dog photos are cats), China (88.2% cats), and Russia (64% cats).

The dogs take more continents, though. Dog posts outweigh cat posts across North and South America, Oceania, and Africa, while the cats take just Europe and Asia. The most fervently dog-loving city is Morpeth in North East England. Morpeth has the highest number of dog posts among the 58 cities that are 100% pro-dog. Hoofddorp in the west of the Netherlands is the most emphatically pro-cat city.

(18) THROWBACK THURSDAY. In case you thought the TV show had an original story.

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

BSFS Taking Entries in Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society invites young writers between the ages of 14 and 18 who live in or attend school in Maryland to enter the Jack L. Chalker Young Writers’ Contest.

The contest is looking for original, highly imaginative science fiction stories under 2,500 words. Submissions are being taken through March 31. See the complete guidelines here.

The submissions ranked first, second and third receive cash prizes of $150, $100 and $50, respectively. The three winners also receive complimentary registrations for Balticon for themselves and their parents or a guest. They also receive a Balticon T-Shirt.

Chalker, an award-winning sff author who helped to found the BSFS in 1967, also was a history teacher in Baltimore City Schools for 12 years. Chalker was best known for his Well World novel series. He died in 2005, and the writing contest was named in his memory beginning in 2006.

SFWA Names the 2021 Guest Editors for The Bulletin

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) announced today Sascha Stronach and Yilin Wang will be The Bulletin guest editors in 2021. Stronach will guest edit Issue #218, slated for September 2021, and Wang will guest edit Issue #219, slated for December 2021. L.D. Lewis was the first guest editor for The Bulletin, helming Issue #215, which was published in Fall 2020.

SFWA Editor-in-Chief Michi Trota said, “I’ve admired Sascha’s and Yilin’s work in SF/F and am excited they’ll be bringing their unique visions and perspectives to shape their issues of The Bulletin.”

Sascha Stronach is an author, editor, and poet based in P?neke, New Zealand. They are of Greek and K?i Tahu M?ori descent and also probably a little goblin. After training in bareknuckle underground web fiction deathmatches for close to a decade, they released their debut novel The Dawnhounds, which is about LGBT+ warlock pirates fighting the cops and won the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel. In their spare time, they can be found in the woods creating bizarre aggregates of sticks and dirt that hum with strange possibility. 

Stronach said, “I’m excited to be a guest editor for The Bulletin. One thing that’s always struck me about SFFH is how we care for each other, how willing we are to provide guidance and support. The publication [industry] (such a slow beast!) can often feel like an antique, but their slower pace is their strength: they allow for depth and reflection, they have a permanence and weight that’s vital to the sort of discussions writers, new and old, need to keep our blades sharp. I’ve benefited from them for years, and I’m honoured to help shepherd them into the world. Let’s make this a celebration of diversity, insight, and craft.”

Yilin Wang is a writer, editor, and Chinese–English translator. Her writing has appeared in ClarkesworldThe Malahat ReviewGrainCV2carte blancheThe Toronto StarThe Tyee, and elsewhere. She has been longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize, a finalist for the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction, and longlisted for the Peter Hinchcliffe Short Fiction Award. Her translations have appeared or are forthcoming in PathlightSamovarLiving Hyphen, and The Temz Review, while her research on martial arts fiction has been featured on various gaming podcasts. She is a member of the Clarion West Writers Workshop 2020 and a former assistant editor for Room Magazine.

“I am very excited for this chance to work with Michi Trota and the team at SFWA as a guest editor for The Bulletin,” Wang added. “In this position, I hope to solicit writing from underrepresented voices on a range of topics such as international science fiction and fantasy translation, and game writing. I really look forward to working on this issue and to sharing it with readers.”

SFWA President, Mary Robinette Kowal said, “Sascha Stronach and Yilin Wang are brilliant and insightful people. I’m so pleased they’ll be leading these issues of The Bulletin in 2021.”

[Based on a press release.]

Jazmin Collins Wins 2021 Dell Magazines Award

The winner of the 2021 Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing  

Winner: Jazmin Collins, Arcadia University, for, “My Gardening Journal: Tales from a Psychic Gardener.”

First Runner-up: Samuel Owens, the University of Chicago, for “The Piano Player.”

Second Runner-up: Jack Hawkins, Vanderbilt University, for “Chronicler of a Dying World.”

Honorable Mention: Samuel Owens, University of Chicago, for “Man’s End.”

The $500 award goes to the best unpublished and unsold science fiction or fantasy short story submitted by a full-time undergraduate college student.

The winner will be asked to read the winning story at an exclusive Zoom award ceremony to be held in conjunction with the online International Conference on the Fantastic in mid-March 2021. The winning story will be published in print or online by Asimov’s Science Fiction. (The Dell Award was formerly known as the Isaac Asimov Award.)

The award was started in 1992 by Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine editor Sheila Williams and science fiction writer and journalism professor Rick Wilber who are the co-judges.

Pixel Scroll 2/24/21 Old Rossum’s Scroll Of Practical Credentials

(1) YOU TAKE THE HIGH ROAD. George R.R. Martin is involved in developing a series based on Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks for HBO, as he explained at Not A Blog: “On the Road with Roger Z”:

… We had not intended to announce anything yet, to be sure. Development is a long and uncertain process. Thousands of shows are pitched, hundreds of pilots are written, dozens of pilots are filmed, but only a very few of them ever get greenlit to series. There is a reason that Hollywood insiders call it “development hell.” And what’s the point of announcing projects that might never make it to air? That’s why HBO — like most other networks and streamers — prefers to keep these things quiet.

Even so, even so… you cannot win the lottery unless you buy a ticket, so we all keep playing.

…My career in television started in 1985 when I adapted Roger Zelazny’s “The Last Defender of Camelot” for THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It was the first script of mine ever to be filmed (starring Richard Kiley and Jenny Agutter and a stuntman whose nose got cut off during the swordfight). Roger was a friend, a mentor, and one of the greatest science fiction writers who ever lived. He died in 1995, but his work will live for so long as people read SF and fantasy. It was an honor to be able to bring one of his stories to television. And now I am hoping we will be able to do it again.

I pitched ROADMARKS to HBO last year — along with four other SF and fantasy works (by various other writers) that I thought had the makings of great shows. They all had (and have) lots of potential, but ROADMARKS was the one they responded to….

(2) LEVER OF CHANGE. Learn the key to an author’s new book in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

…The big idea of Transgressions of Power is that a human being, in the moment of action, may not know what the significance of their choices might be; they might not be in a position of power that allows for drastic change; but their choices and actions matter.

(3) FRY’S CLOSING. [Item by Betsy Hanes Perry.] Fry’s was where, in Northern California, you went to look for components; later it branched out into computers (of course!), computer components, large appliances. It used to stock snacks as a loss-leader to get geeks to come in for casual shopping.

All the stores were themed, and the one in Fremont was themed around the 1893 World’s Fair. It had a Tesla coil that went off once an hour (see here). The one in San Jose was themed as a Mayan temple. “The kitschy history of the Bay Area’s themed Fry’s Electronics” at SFGate.

…If you’re not familiar: Every Fry’s store has a theme and elaborate decorations to go along with it. In the Bay Area, the San Jose store “pays tribute to the first astronomers, the Mayans, with settings from Chichen Itza,” complete with a massive temple at the entrance, palm trees between shelves and hidden speakers that play the sounds of birds chirping through the parking lot. Fremont is the “1893 World’s Fair,” where a Tesla coil at the center of the store fires off every hour. Sunnyvale is “the history of Silicon Valley” and the Palo Alto store was “Wild West.” (Sadly, the Palo Alto store rode into the sunset earlier this year.)

[Editor’s postscript.] The Fry’s in Burbank near where I used to live had an explicitly Fifties sci-fi alien invasion theme. It was awesome.

(4) THE FIRST SILENCE. Tananarive Due conducts an interview with “Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins on ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Legacy” at Vanity Fair.

…FOSTER: We met at a reading. I didn’t really get a proper meet with Tony. So we’re sitting across from each other, and he launches in, and we start the reading. And I was just petrified. [Laughs.] I was kind of too scared to talk to him after that.

He did another movie, and I started the film without him. I still kept that kind of hold-your-breath feeling about the character just from that first reading. Jonathan wanted to use this technique that Hitchcock talked about, where you have the actors use the camera as the other person. And I think there was something really interesting about that for the film, but that also meant that Tony and I couldn’t see each other. For a lot of the close-ups, we were looking into a camera lens and the other person was just a voice in the background. And—remember?—they had to lock you into the glass prison cell. So he would do a whole day inside the prison cell, and they wouldn’t let him out. We’d just do his side. And then the next day, we’d do my side.

HOPKINS: Also, they discovered before we started filming that there would be a problem if there were bars on the prison cell for left and right eyelines. So the designer—it was Kristi Zea—came up with a Perspex thing, which makes it even more frightening, because he’s like a tarantula in a bottle. No visual borderline between the two. It was more terrifying, because it’s a dangerous creature in a bottle who can do anything. He could break the glass….

(5) MORE, PLEASE. In “The Canonical Sequel FAQ” John Scalzi tells fans what the future holds in store for his various series.

Pretty much on a daily basis, I get asked on social media whether there will ever be a sequel to [insert one of my books/series here]. To reduce the amount of typing that I have to do each time this is asked, I now present The Canonical Sequel FAQ, which will tell you — at a glance! — whether you can expect a sequel to whatever book it is that you are hoping to have a sequel to. This will be updated from time to time.

(6) TIM KIRK MAP. Brenton Dickieson introduces readers to “’The Country Around Edgestow’: A Map from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength by Tim Kirk from Mythlore” at A Pilgrim in Narnia. The map has been reproduced at the link with permission.

… One of Lewis’ key terran fictional places is “Edgestow,” the home of Bragdon Wood, Bracton College, and the literary centre of the events in That Hideous Strength. In my reading about Lewis and Arthurian literature, I happened upon Margaret Hannay’s piece, which included a map of “The Country Around Edgestow” by artist Tim Kirk.…

(7) ARE YOU BOOKED FOR THE LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY? “Doctor Who Master trilogy watchalong party confirmed for Sunday” says Radio Times.

…Doctor Who Magazine’s Emily Cook has organised most of the watchalongs so far, and announced that they would be coming to an end this month. She tweeted the news by saying, “Everything has its time, and everything ends… I’ll be announcing the final Tweetalong later this afternoon!”

She later followed up with a tweet that read, “Believe it or not, we’ve been doing Doctor Who Lockdown for almost a year now! This may be the last Tweetalong, but we’re going to end with a SPECTACULAR watch party.

“And here comes our final Tweetalong… A TRIPLE BILL! Sunday 28th February 6pm (GMT), UTOPIA 7pm (GMT), THE SOUND OF DRUMS 8pm (GMT), LAST OF THE TIME LORDS. Watch with fans around the world. Join in with the hashtag #YANA”

If you haven’t participated in the event before, the idea is that fans from all over the world re-watch classic episodes at exactly the same time, tweeting their reactions and comments along the way.

(8) CATCH AND SELL ‘EM ALL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 17 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber discusses the rise in value of rare Pokemon cards.

Today, a Chansey (Pokemon card) could be worth around $3,000. That’s a great deal less than the rare holographic Blastoise which sold at auction last month for $360,000, roughly the price of a brand-new Ferrari. In 2021, their 25th year of existence, Pokemon cards are enjoying a resurgence in popularity almost matching their late-1990s heyday.

This is partly down to the pandemic, which has left many stuck at home with extra disposable income, to take up a new hobby that combines investment with a waft of nostalgia. Streaming platforms YouTube and Twitch have cultivated communities of Pokemon card traders such as Leonhart, who quit his job as a lawyer to open card packs full-time on YouTube (the sealed packs contain a random selection of cards which could be precious or worthless), and streaming star Logan Paul, who says he has spent $2m on his card addiction.

(9) HEAR OCTAVIA BUTLER. NPR’s “Morning Edition” devoted a segment today to “Sci-Fi Writer Octavia Butler Offered Warnings And Hope In Her Work”. It includes numerous sound bites from an archival interview with the author. Listen to a recording or read a transcript of the NPR item at the link. (The complete transcript of Octavia Butler’s 2005 interview is available at Democracy Now! – “Remembering Octavia Butler: Black Sci-Fi Writer Shares Cautionary Tales in Unearthed 2005 Interview”.)

NOEL KING, HOST:

Octavia Butler seemed almost to belong to the future. She was the first Black woman to receive the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Those are the highest honors in science fiction and fantasy writing. She was the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur genius grant. She was prolific and prophetic from the 1970s until her death in 2006. Here’s Laine Kaplan-Levenson from NPR’s history show Throughline.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

OCTAVIA BUTLER: I don’t recall ever having wanted desperately to be a Black woman science fiction writer. I wanted to be a writer.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 24, 1952 — On this day in 1952, Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here. It is not one of the three Aladdin And His Lamp filmsthat are rated at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 24, 1786 – Wilhelm Grimm. With older brother Jacob (1785-1863) assembled and published the collection known to us as Grimms’ Fairy Tales (1812). Loved music; good story-teller; animated, jovial fellow. The Grimms weren’t the authors, so I can’t call them seminal, but they sure were vital. (Died 1859) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.) (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1921 – Richard Powers. Frank R. Paul Award. SF Hall of Fame. Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. Six hundred sixty covers, seventy interiors. Artbooks Spacetimewarp Paintings; The Art of Richard Powers. Our great pioneer of illustration that was not representation. You can see it start here with a 1950 cover (his first?) for Pebble in the Sky. By 1956 he did this for To Live Forever. By 1963 he was here for Budrys’ Inferno. Here is the Sep 78 Analog. Here is the Program Book for Chicon V the 49th Worldcon, 1991 – where he was Guest of Honor; before that, LoneStarCon I the 3rd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). Not one Chesley, not one Hugo. Did we appreciate him? Do we now? (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 88. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World, A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1941 – Sam Lundwall, age 80. Author, critic, translator, editor, publisher; television producer; cartoonist; photographer; singer. Organized Scancon 76 (Stockholm); Guest of Honor at Eurocon 9 (Zagreb), 21 (Dortmund). Translated his 1969 book on SF from Swedish into English as SF, What It’s All About (1971). SF, an Illustrated History (1978). Penguin World Omnibus of SF (1986) with Brian Aldiss. More nonfiction in Swedish about SF. A score of novels (four available in English), seven shorter stories (four). Reporter for Locus. Long thought by many the personification of SF in Sweden, idiosyncrasies (how not?) and all. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 74. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt In Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He was made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 70. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror. She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 55. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 53. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1975 – Socorro Acioli, age 46. A score of books; Head of the Saint is available in English. Author, teacher, translator. “I collect bookmarks and coffee makers. I like old photos, old houses, and things that no longer exist. In the same measure [na mesma medida], I love technology.” [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1979 – C.J. Harper, age 42. Two novels for us, also “funny books for teens under the name Candy Harper…. attended six different schools, but that honestly had very little to do with an early interest in explosives”; she’s been “a bookseller, a teacher and the person who puts those little stickers on apples”; has read Vanity Fair, Gone With the Wind, Of Mice and Men, David Copperfield. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1991 – Daryl Qilin Yam, age 30. One novel; co-editor of SingPoWriMo (i.e. Singapore). Studied at Univ. Warwick, Univ. Tôkyô. Stageplay producer at non-profit collective Take Off Productions. On the board of directors of literary charity Sing Lit Station. “I am first and foremost a writer of fiction and poetry … photography … is a field in which I remain an amateur. But … we live in a world that loves images…. I have a fondness for the backs of people (facial expressions are too didactic for my taste), and I like to frame my subjects in situations where highlights and shadows are nicely balanced.” [JH]

(12) PRESERVING WORLDS. Here’s a new Diamond Bay Press podcast on the classic online gaming environments and virtual worlds that have become virtual ghost towns. It’s based on a new video documentary series called Preserving Worlds, which is available for free on the streaming service called Means.tv.

A conversation between Lex Berman and Derek Murphy.

Derek Murphy is the co-director, with Mitchel Zemil, of the Preserving Worlds series, and the documentary film Sarasota, Half in Dream.

Recorded with Zencastr from Cambridge and Brighton, MA on 18th February, 2021.

what if the ghost of a player of a dead game, was telling us what it was all like?

(13) THE ’66 DOLLAR QUESTION. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks sends a missive from 1966 asking — “[February 24, 1966] Is 1966 the Best Year Ever for American Comic Books?”.

… A lot of the thrill these days has been at Marvel, as some of their comics are reaching unparalleled new levels of excellence. For instance, the work of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee on both Amazing Spider-Man and the “Dr. Strange” strip in Strange Tales has been outstanding. Peter Parker has graduated high school and enrolled at Empire State University in Spider-Man. Pete seems to be shedding his nature as a nebbish since he joined college, making new friends while having new (and more sophisticated) problems. The three-part “Master Planner” saga which ended in ASM #33 was a storyline nonpareil, a thrill a minute journey with a spectacular denouement. (I’m including the payoff below, but please try to find all these issues if you can, because the leadup is just as spectacular).

(14) ANOTHER GOOD QUESTION. Alexandra Erin wonders something —

(15) JPL’S TRICKSTERS. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Remember that on the last Rover they would not allow JPL to put a JPL plaque on it so they used Morse Code on the wheels that spelled out JPL. Holes that were “designed” to drain sand as it moved about.

This time, there are multiple Easter Eggs. The first was deployed as Perseverance was en route to the Martian surface: “Mars rover’s giant parachute carried secret message” at Yahoo!

The huge parachute used by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team.

Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Clark, a crossword hobbyist, came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to know how the parachute was oriented during descent. Turning it into a secret message was “super fun,” he said Tuesday.

Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. They waited until the parachute images came back before putting out a teaser during a televised news conference Monday….

This illustration provided by NASA shows a diagram added over the parachute deployed during the descent of the Mars Perseverance rover as it approaches the surface of the planet on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

(16) BOOKS ARE THE ESSENCE. The Essence of Wonder crew gets together on-screen to exchange book recommendations in “EoW Staff Share Their Favorite Books! Ready… Fight!” on Saturday, February 27, at 3 PM (US Eastern). Register at the link.

(17) THE DIRTY DOZEN PLUS THREE. 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a highly scientific list of the fifteen “Worst Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made”. Well, at least highly-less-pulled-out-of-somebody’s-butt-than-usual for a listicle.

…To determine the worst sci-fi movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes. We created an index based on the average critic rating from Rotten Tomatoes, the average audience rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and the average user rating from IMDb. We only considered feature films with at least 5,000 Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews, 10 Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews, and 10,000 IMDb user reviews…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: ‘Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Earthblood’” Fandom Games says you play a werewolf fighting evil corporation Endron, “which doesn’t even pretend not to be Enron with a D” but is so dumb on security that it has ventilator shafts with doggy doors so werewolves can pass through them.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mlex, John King Tarpinian, Betsy Hanes Perry, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Gadi Evron, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

41st Japan SF Grand Prize

Trophy prototype design: Hiroshi Yokoyama / Photo: Taiyo Fujii

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan have announced the winners of the 41st Japan SF Grand Prize for the best science fiction works released between September 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020.

The grand prize winners receive a certificate and trophy, and divide a prize of 1 million yen.

The award ceremony will be held online on Saturday, April 17.

The selection committee members were Sanzo Kusaka, Mari Kotani, Yumiko Shirai, Gakuto Mikumo, and Hiroyuki Morioka.

GRAND PRIZE [TIE]

  • “Song of Delight Museum Planet III” Hiroe Suga (Hayakawa Publishing)
  • << Star System Izumo no Hyojo >> All 9 volumes Joji Hayashi (Hayakawa Bunko JA)

SPECIAL AWARD

  • For the achievements of translation and introduction of Toya Tachihara’s science fiction works in Greater China
Toya Tachihara

ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

  • Yasumi Kobayashi (Writer) (Died 2020.)
Yasumi Kobayashi (Photo courtesy of Tokyo Sogensha)

Learn About SAFF, the Space Agency Fan Fund

Astronaut Jeanette Epps (seated) and unidentified fan flashing the “Live long and prosper” handsign.

By Patty Wells: While searching out some photo permissions from a group of Thermians (long story, but know that Thermians are very helpful), Mike saw info about the Space Agency Fan Fund (SAFF) fly by on FB and asked about this non-profit. Since we are always happy to have a chance to reach out to a wider audience, let us tell you more!

The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests. For more specific information you can contact us via the website: The Space Agency Fan Fund – Bringing astronauts to WorldCons since 2015.

Multiple Worldcons have arranged for astronauts to appear as special guests with notable success. However, as much as fans and pros enjoyed and learned from space professionals, it depended on the relationships and initiative of individual conventions.  Sadly this did not happen every year.  Some con runners saw a need and focus on creating a new fan fund for promoting space-related guests.

Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon in Spokane, WA, had Kjell Lindgren appear online from space, which was wildly popular. After Sasquan, convention organizers had the vision that funding a fan organization to facilitate astronaut and other space agency personal appearances at future conventions (including Worldcons) was a great idea. The Space Agency Fan Fund was born out of this and was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. Space enthusiasts and those with NASA contacts were sought out to act as a board of directors for this fledgling fund. 

Since Sasquan in 2015, we have reached out to large conventions such as Worldcons and made the arrangements for and funded several astronaut appearances. For MidAmeriCon II, the 74th Worldcon, in 2016 NASA astronauts Jeanette Epps and Stan Love appeared. Both were SAFF funded, both participated in the Hugo ceremony, with Stan accepting the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer on behalf of Andy Weir. Jeanette accepted on behalf of The Martian for Best Dramatic Presentation, an outstanding mix of real and fictional space travel, and gave a great speech about how the film did a such a good job of portraying the teamwork between astronauts in the “field” and mission control solving problems. It is also worth noting that Jeanette carries her own sonic screwdriver (should it be needed) and delighted the children with it during one of her program items.

 In 2017, SAFF funded  Kjell Lindgren to appear in person at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland and also for Worldcon 76 in San Jose, CA. 

Jeanette Epps appeared again in Dublin, Ireland, at Worldcon 77. Then, of course, the world became very different, very suddenly. However, an astronaut appearance is in the works for DC in 2021, and the first steps have been taken to discuss an SAFF funded appearance for 2022. At each Worldcon, there will be a chance to take advantage of SAFF support in providing NASA astronauts and others as guests and participants.

Pixel Scroll 2/23/21 Trillogoogies

(1) DON’T MISS OUT. DisCon III reminds eligible voters they have until March 19 to nominate for the 2021 Hugo Awards.

Members of DisCon III, who registered before 11:59 p.m. PST December 31 2020, and CoNZealand have nominating rights for this year’s Hugos. Check now at https://members.discon3.org/ to make sure that you are in our system. If for some reason you aren’t, we can put that right quickly.

381 people have submitted The Hugo Awards nominations. Are you one of them?

(2) AN EQUATION WHERE 1138 IS 50. The Fanbase Weekly podcast is devoted to a “50th Anniversary Retrospective on ‘THX 1138’ (1971)”.

In this Fanbase Feature, The Fanbase Weekly co-hosts Bryant Dillon and Phillip Kelly (writer, filmmaker, and Fanbase Press Contributor) are joined by special guests Craig Miller (Star Wars Memories, Former Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm) and Gavin Hignight (writer – Star Wars: Resistance, Transformers: War for Cybertron) to participate in a thorough discussion regarding THX 1138 (1971) in light of the film’s 50th anniversary, with topics including the timely nature of the film’s themes, what the film reveals about filmmaker George Lucas and his pre-Star Wars ambitions and interests, and more. (Beware: SPOILERS for THX 1138 abound in this panel discussion!)

(3) COULD THERE BE A SEVENTH FOR NUMBER ONE? A.V. Club tells how the late actress could keep a streak alive: “The late Majel Barrett might still voice the computer on Star Trek: Discovery”.

…Earlier this week, the Roddenberry family Twitter account announced that Barrett’s voice had been recorded phonetically before she died, and that the family—including her son, Eugene Roddenberry Jr., an executive producer on CBS’s forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery—was working to synthesize it for potential use on a number of upcoming projects. According to the tweet, those include Apple’s Siri, and possibly even the voice of the Discovery computer.

It’s worth noting, though, that neither CBS, nor showrunner Byran Fuller, have confirmed that there are any plans to use Barrett’s phonemes for the computer’s voice. (Meanwhile, Discovery might already have a nod to Barrett in the form of lead character “Number One,” whose nickname probably references an otherwise-unnamed character Barrett played in the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage.”)

(4) LETTER FROM THE EDITOR. Nightmare Magazine’s Wendy N. Wagner sends a message:

(5) AFROFUTURISM. In “Afrofuturism gaining in popularity as nation wrestles with race” on Axios, Russell Contreras gives an overview of Afrofuturism, including interviews with Sheree Renee Thomas and Maurice Broaddus.

More Black writers and artists are turning to science fiction — and an artistic movement known as Afrofuturism — to tackle issues around race and inequality and give fans an escape from the harsh realities on Earth.

The big picture: Afrofuturism was long an underground movement. Its roots date back to W.E.B. Du Bois, though its name wasn’t coined til the 1990s. But it has been gaining a bigger mainstream profile in recent years with the blockbuster movie “Black Panther” and the HBO series “Lovecraft Country” and a national racial reckoning….  

(6) LEE OR DITKO? OR ALL OF THE ABOVE? “Roy Thomas, Former Marvel Editor, Pushes Back on New Stan Lee Biography” in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter.

Something like 95 percent of the time, Abraham Riesman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee is a very good biography. However, the remaining (and crucial) 5 percent of its content, scattered amid all that painstaking research and well-written prose, renders it often untrustworthy… i.e., a very bad biography. Because the author often insists, visibly and intrusively, on putting his verbal thumb on the scales, in a dispute he seems ill-equipped to judge.

As Marvel Comics visionary Stan Lee’s longtime employee and de facto protégé, and as a known student of the history of comic books, I suppose I would be expected to denounce Riesman’s book as scurrilous, a pack of lies.

But it’s both better — and worse — than that.

… That Stan Lee was the co-creator, and not the sole creator, of the key Marvel heroes from the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man through Daredevil and the Silver Surfer can hardly be in dispute at this late stage. I myself, back in the ’80s when I wasn’t working for him, had a friendly argument with him on that score over lunch. I soon realized that, as much as he respected the talents and contributions of artists (Riesman would say “artist/writers” and he’s right, at least in one sense) such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to the characters introduced in the 1960s, he could never really bring himself, in his own mind, to think of them as “co-creators.” The two of us had to agree to disagree, and I never saw any use in bringing it up again.

If I can judge from Riesman’s writings, and from other sources over the years, I’m sure I’d have encountered the same kind of blinders-on stubbornness in Jack Kirby (oft-quoted in this book), who saw Stan as little more than the guy who scribbled a few words of dialogue and rode to unearned glory on his back.

Both men were, I think, wrong, and that’s why Riesman is so ill-advised to use nearly every opportunity he gets to weight things in Jack’s favor and against Stan. (By the way, if someone objects to my referring to Jack Kirby as well by his first name, it’s because the two of us were on a first-name basis from 1965 till the last time we met, sometime in the 1980s. I considered him then, and I consider him now, to be by far the greatest superhero artist in the history of the medium, and, along with Stan, one of its preeminent pop-culture geniuses.)

You think I’m exaggerating when I suggest that Riesman finds gratuitous excuses to favor Jack’s version of things over Stan’s? I’m not….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 23, 1886 – Ganpat.  This Anglo-Indian so wrote because “Ganpat” – as it happens, another name for the elephant god Ganesh – was as nearly as locals could approximate his surname Gompertz.  Eight novels for us, much other work.  Retired with the rank of Brigadier, went home and indulged his other love, fishing.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties Story Editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for Doctor Who, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation who created the Daleks made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1944 – John Sandford, age 77.  Hugely successful outside our field, he’s written one SF novel, Saturn Run with Ctein.  I thought it Hugo-worthy. You can see my interview with Ctein here (PDF; starts p. 17).  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1955 – Francesca Simon, age 66.  Six novels, one shorter story for us – I think; opinions differ about work called “children’s”.  Fifty books all told.  Children’s Book of the Year (U.K.) Award for Horrible Henry and the Abominable Snowman; first U.S. author to win this; at least it wasn’t about Henry VIII.  Libretto for a Gavin Higgins opera based on FS’ book The Monstrous Child in which Hel, Norse god of the dead, is an angry teenager.  Hey, it’s opera – [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 56. Founder, Tachyon Publications which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading. He also wrote some early genre fiction — no I’ve not read it. (CE) 
  • Born February 23, 1968 – Sonya Hartnett, age 53.  Six novels for us.  Lindgren Award.  Guardian Prize.  Much more work, many more awards, and controversy, outside our field; maybe you’d better look here.  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1975 – Nova Ren Suma, age 46.  Four novels, two shorter stories for us; three other novels, half a dozen other shorter stories.  Another Antiochian (as I am); people note her B.A. was self-designed, but we all do that: not saying it’s easy, Antioch isn’t for everyone.  The Walls Around Us NY Times Best-Seller, Cybils Award for it too.  Worked at Marvel on X-Men.  Went to the Launch Pad Workshop, NASA-funded astronomy for writers.  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 38. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind she’s been in quite a  number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s TravelsGnomeo & JulietThe MuppetsLooperEdge of TomorrowInto the WoodsThe Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns. (CE)
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 19. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1989 – Almijara Barbero Carvajal, age 32.  Two short stories in Spanish; two Spanish poems with translations in Strange Horizons, whose bio for her notes she was born in Motril, Granada, Spain, “and is still trying to figure out how to become real.”  But, as a teacher of mine once said, why not escape?  [JH]

(8) ALT-HIST. Sylvain Neuvel recommends “10 Mind-Bending Alternate Histories” at Publishers Weekly.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Speaking of Gettysburg, what if all the dead didn’t stay that way? After the zombie apocalypse puts a stop to the Civil War, Black and Indigenous people are sent to fight the undead. Ireland uses imagined horror to explore a very real one in this provocative YA novel about racism, resilience, and one badass woman fighting for her life.

(9) DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE. Heroes & Icons remembers: “Star Trek paid this subtle tribute to M*A*S*H when David Ogden Stiers appeared on The Next Generation”.

…It happens about 13 minutes into the episode when Stiers, who played a Kaelon named Timicin, is aboard the ship for a special mission. His character is portrayed as a brilliant scientist who believes he has figured out a way to save his planet’s dying sun. While he and Captain Picard’s crew experiment with Timicin’s theory, we watch Stiers coordinating with LeVar Burton’s Geordi La Forge. At a dramatic point, Geordi calls Timicin over to monitor his screen, and that’s when the M*A*S*H reference flashes, “Composite Sensor Analysis 4077.” 

(10) HOLO? HOLO? In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says ARHT Media has created HoloPod, which enables companies to beam holograms of people into meetings, thus enabling “people to engage with life-size, three-dimensional representations of people” in office or corporate settings. “Lifelike holograms may be the future of remote work”.

… Holograms might not be the next big thing, but start-ups in the 3-D space are positioning their offerings just in case.

The three-dimensional light projections have primarily been seen re-creating musicians onstage in recent years. Companies have wanted to bring them into homes, but the projection hardware is still too expensive for most people to afford. Companies, on the other hand, have larger budgets. And now software advancements are unlocking ways to use laptops, computers and smartphones to engage with and stream holograms emitted elsewhere.

In December, ARHT media showed what a hologram-enabled conference could look like as it beamed an executive from Los Angeles to Singapore to speak at an innovation summit. The event brought together a “small group” of attendees and was broadcast live to a larger audience online….

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter adjusted the rabbit ears and received tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! where the contestants didn’t know these legendary blades. 

Category: Swords.

Answer: In a fantasy saga by Michael Moorcock, this emperor of Melnibone wields a sword called Stormbringer.

No one got: Who is Elric?

Another answer: Glamdring is this wizard’s sword of choice.

No one got: Who is Gandalf?

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Simpsons Movie,” the Screen Junkies note the movie came out a decade after “anyone over the age of 12 stopped caring” about the show, and that Homer Simpson evolved into “An irredeemable jerk crossed with Wiley Coyote.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce D. Arthurs who is right when he calls it a “fine-looking word.”]

Worldcon 76 Moves for Summary Judgment in Del Arroz’ Defamation Suit

The attorney for San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., defendant in Jon Del Arroz’ defamation suit, filed a motion on February 17 requesting summary judgment in hope of getting the case dismissed without trial.

San Francisco Science Fiction Convention Inc. is the parent corporation of Worldcon 76, held in San Jose. Del Arroz sued SFSFC in 2018 after the Worldcon 76 committee announced he would not be allowed to attend the convention (“Del Arroz Files Suit Against Worldcon 76”; “We have taken this step because he has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct….”)

In February 2019, the court tossed four of the five causes of action in Del Arroz’s lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation. The case continues on the fifth complaint, defamation. 

Santa Clara (CA) Superior Court Judge Socrates P. Manoukian has set a hearing on the motion for summary judgment on May 11. If the motion is not granted, the case is scheduled for a jury trial beginning June 14.

Under California Code of Civil Procedure section 437c(c), a motion for summary judgment “shall be granted if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”  

The introduction to SFSFC, Inc.’s motion states:

…Plaintiff is a science fiction author who has built his writing career on a marketing strategy that involves pitting himself against other professionals in the science fiction industry in order to increase his visibility in the media and on social media sites. This lawsuit is simply an extension of these tactics, this time with SFSFC as yet another victim of Plaintiff’s abusive behavior – the same behavior which prompted SFSFC to prohibit Plaintiff’s attendance at the Convention in the first place. Plaintiff has, throughout this litigation, used the lawsuit as a catalyst to self-promote and garner attention, which has increased his notoriety, and his book sales.

As set forth herein, Plaintiff will not be able to prove the essential elements and, thus, his defamation claim fails for any of the following reasons: (1) the statement is not defamatory; (2) calling someone a racist or a bully is a non-actionable expression of opinion, rhetoric or hyperbole; (3) the statement falls under the common interest privilege; (4) Plaintiff cannot prove actual malice; and (5) Plaintiff cannot prove special damages. Because no triable issue of material fact exists to salvage Plaintiff’s claim, summary judgment is warranted….