Pixel Scroll 11/30/20 The Apotheosis Of Mayor Amalfi Considered As An Uphill Pixel Scroll

(1) THE SQUEEZE IS ON. NPR’s Morning Edition explores why “Critics Oppose Penguin Random House Acquiring Simon & Schuster”.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

It is the blockbuster that has the literary world talking – the potential merger of the huge Simon & Schuster with Penguin Random House, the largest publishing company in the country. But the Authors Guild, the world’s largest organization for writers, have released a statement opposing the deal. Laura Zats is a literary agent and the host of the podcast “Print Run,” and she joins us now to explain why the joining of these two companies might be a cause for concern….

ZATS: Well, I think the big thing to understand is that it’s not just that they’re going to have so much of a market share. But what happens when a single company has a market share is that there’s less competition for who can publish the books, which is really bad for agents – which is what I am – and really bad for writers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How so?

ZATS: There are a – as an agent, I submit to a lot of different imprints, a lot of different editors. And, currently, for example, when Penguin and Random House merged in 2013, you could go to auction with those. You could submit, and you could drive up advances, and you could get better terms and – for your writers.

(2) DREAMHAVEN UPDATE. Greg Ketter can still use help, as he noted in a message to a recent donor to the DreamHaven Restoration GoFundMe. (See the November 9 story “DreamHaven Books Owner and Employee Robbed, Beaten”.)

Thank you so much for thinking of us when there are so many people hurting these days.  It’s nice to know people are concerned for us.  It has been a rough year with the riot/break-in, Covid shutdowns, the assault and robbery, but, all-in-all, we’re in much better shape than most.  At least we’re still here.

The easiest ways to help are either ordering books from our website or there is a GoFundMe campaign under “DreamHaven Restoration”.  I actually thought it had ended but when we had the robbery a number of new donations showed up and made me cry all over again.  I’m not used to asking for or accepting help.  But I have learned to be terribly grateful for it once it’s offered.

(3) A HORROR MENTOR. A lot is explained in Odyssey Podcast #133 featuring JG Faherty.

A life-long resident of New York’s haunted Hudson Valley, JG is the author of seven novels, ten novellas, and more than seventy-five short stories, and he’s been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time). He writes adult and YA horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance, and his works range from quiet, dark suspense to over-the-top comic gruesomeness.

Since 2011, JG has been a Board Trustee for the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and a Mentor. He launched their Young Adult program, and also their Library & Literacy program, which he still runs. Recently, he co-founded the HWA’s Summer Scares reading initiative in conjunction with Becky Spratford and several library organization, and he teaches local teen writing programs at libraries. In 2019, he was recognized with the Mentor of the Year Award by the HWA.

As a child, his favorite playground was a seventeenth-century cemetery, which many people feel explains a lot.

(4) TWO COMPANIONS OUT. Io9 learned that Doctor Who’s Tosin Cole and Bradley Walsh Are Leaving the Show”.

…Whittaker also confirmed the news, saying she was “devastated” to lose Cole and Walsh as costars: “On a personal note, absolutely devastated. Both of them had to carry me to my trailer. I haven’t cried like that for such a long time. Brad couldn’t cope with it at all. Tosin was like, ‘I really can’t cope with you getting this upset.’”

As of now, it’s unclear whether Doctor Who will return to its more traditional pattern of “one Doctor, one companion,” or if new cast members will be added to the series. But for now, it will be a sad but sweet goodbye to one of the show’s greatest father-son teams. Doctor Who’s “Revolution of the Daleks” arrives on January 1, 2021. In addition, the series is entering production for its 13th season, which is set to have eight episodes.

(5) TOP FIVE. Here are The Guardian’s “Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2020”. Some are definitely less jolly than others.

Mordew
by Alex Pheby, Galley Beggar
The Gormenghastly city of Mordew is built on living mud – we discover it’s God’s body, not quite dead – that teems with grotesque and fantastical life. Pheby’s protagonist Nathan rises from the slums to meet a special destiny. It may sound like a cliched storyline, but the relentless inventiveness and verve of Pheby’s imagination make this book stand alone. Startling, baroque, sometimes revolting – but always amazing.

(6) THEY’RE DOOMED. Does James Davis Nicoll have more pitch ideas than Ryan George? I think so… “Four Stories That Subvert the Cosy Catastrophe Genre” at Tor.com.

Given our recent discussion of such tales, I should note that I quite dislike one particular subset of lifeboat stories: the ones in which a small group of plucky pioneers somehow escape the dying Earth and reach a new world they can call their own. But in the meantime, the unlucky masses who could not make their way onto the flotilla die with their homeworld.

Why this distaste? Well…

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling would win the World Fantasy Award for their Silver Birch, Blood Moon anthology, the fifth in their Fairy Tale series. (Datlow would later garner a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.) If you’re familiar with the work they did with the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror Anthology series, then you know what to expect here. It’s fine Autumnal reading from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Delia Sherman, Nola Hopkinson, Patricia McKillip and many, many more exemplary writers. Tom Canty provided the cover illustration here as he did for so many of their anthologies. All of the Fairy Tale series are now available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 30, 1667 – Jonathan Swift.  Timeless for Gulliver’s Travels – because cutting the sharp nasty parts makes it seem a children’s book?  Because readers think it satirizes those stupid people over there?  Anyway, great.  Other work also worth reading.  (Died 1745) [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1893 – E. Everett Evans.  “Triple E” was so big-hearted and so actively that he was loved by fans and pros, large and small.  Four novels, two dozen shorter stories; The Planet Mappers won the annual Boys’ Clubs of America award for most enjoyable book.  Helped found the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fed’n), served a term as its President, founding editor of The Nat’l Fantasy Fan.  Co-edited Le Zombie with Tucker – what a combination.  Chaired the first Westercon.  The Big Heart (our highest service award) established at his death, for years bore his name.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr,. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as is his vampire mythos backstoried novels, Three Coffins and He Who Whispers. And I really should note his Sir Henry Merrivale character has at one genre outing in Reader is Warned. (Died 1977.) (CE) 
  • Born November 30, 1937 Ridley Scott, 83. Alien: Covenant which did surprisingly well at the Box Office and has a sixty-five rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes is his most recent genre work of note but he’s got a long and distinguished list that includes the most excellent Blade Runner, Alien, the 1984 Apple advert, Exodus: Gods and Kings , Legend,  Prometheus and yes, Robin Hood. I’ve watched Blade Runner sans the narration and I’ll say I still do prefer the original version. (CE)
  • Born November 30, 1944 – Susan Gubar, Ph.D., age 76.  Leading feminist interested in SF among much else.  Several important essays, some with Susan Gilbert; their Norton Anthology of Literature by Women put them among Ms. magazine’s Women of the Year.  Recently, see SG’s “C.L. Moore and the Conventions of Women’s SF”.  Sandrof Life Achievement Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1945 Billy Drago. Best remember I think as the evil John Bly in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.  He was certainly booked a lot in genre roles as he has appearances in Cyborg 2, Sci-Fighters,  Supernatural and X-Files. He also played the demon Barbas in the original Charmed series. And he was in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, a film I’m sure no one was begging for. Finally, I note that he was in the Masters of Horror “Imprint” episode, which Showtime pulled due to “disturbing content” which you can read about here. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born November 30, 1947 David Mamet, 73. Playwright with an interesting genre history. He wrote and produced Frog Prince based off that folktale, and later did a contemporary version of the Faust legend. Not to forget the comic weirdness of The Revenge of the Space Pandas, or Binky Rudich and the Two-Speed Clock. (CE) 
  • Born November 30, 1952 – Jill Eastlake, F.N., age 68.  She and her husband Donald E. Eastlake III are Founding Fellows of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Co-chaired Boskone 11, chaired Boskone 15.  Guest of Honor at Rivercon IX.  Reliable, responsible at many tasks.  Her help with costuming earned her the Int’l Costumers Guild Life Achievement Award.  For one Worldcon she telephoned me about judging the Masquerade (our onstage competition); she was the Masq Director; I said “Sure, Jill.”  She said “I want you for one of my Workmanship Judges.”  I said “Jill, I’m not competent to do that.”  She said “Which one of us is running this Masquerade, you or me?”  I think that was the year I crawled underneath two monsters to see how their pipe-frames were fastened.  The other judges said I was okay.  [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1955 Andy Robertson. A fan and editor who worked as an assistant editor on Interzone and contributed myriad reviews and interviews. He published some fiction and edited two anthologies based on the works of William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands, Volume 1: Eternal Love, featuring tales set in Hodgson’s world, and William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands Volume 2: Nightmares of the Fall. Alas they were never made into digital editions. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born November 30, 1955 —  Kevin Conroy, 65. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series which is my Batman. Justice League Action saw him reprise that role with the other characters often noting his stoic personality.  I’ve not seen it, but on Batwoman, he plays Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” episode.  Bruce Timm likes his work in the Batman 75th Anniversary Short Batman: Strange Days which is interesting as he only says one word though he grunts nicely.  (CE)
  • Born November 30, 1957 – Martin Morse Wooster, age 63.  Articulate critic and commenter, often seen here and in Banana WingsFantasy ReviewInterzoneMimosa, NY Review of SFQuantumSF Book ReviewSF CommentarySF ReviewThrust.  Contributor to e.g. Magill’s Guide to SF.  Outside our field, see e.g. Angry Classrooms, Empty Minds.  [JH]
  • Born November 30, 1982 – Zach Fehst, age 38.  American Magic was a Library Journal Summer Best Book.  Outside our field, has traveled to three dozen countries, hosted Discovery Channel’s Ultimate Guide to the Awesome; plays electric mandolin, skis on snow and sand.  “Sometimes when I’m feeling hopeless I ask myself what someone with hope would do, and try to do that.”  [JH

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOONESBURY. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna uses the occasion of Doonesbury’s 50th anniversary to interview Garry Trudeau about the ten greatest strips of the past 50 years. “As ‘Doonesbury’ turns 50, Garry Trudeau picks his 10 defining strips”. On the list is —

PALM BEACH CARD CONTROVERSY (June 21, 1985)

Palm Beach, Fla., ordinance requires low-wage service employees to register with police and carry ID cards.

Trudeau: The legendary Mary McGrory told me that in all her years of writing columns, she wasn’t sure a single one of them had changed anything. That’s not a bar that cartoonists generally set for themselves, but in the case of my story arc about racist Palm Beach pass cards, the strip did have an impact. Exposure of the apartheid-like ordinance proved so embarrassing to Florida that the state legislature passed a law banning it. It was called the “Doonesbury Bill,” and the governor sent me the signing pen. Still, that’s the exception. Most of the time, expecting satire to make a difference is purely aspirational.

(11) FLAME ON. Hero Within offers a “Comic Con Scented Candle”. Don’t you think everybody on your gift list deserves one?

Are you missing the sights, sounds and experiences of comic cons? How about the smell? To reflect the worst year ever, the world’s worst product of 2020, the Comic Con Scented Candle. Our Hero Within scientist* secretly spent 2019 at conventions collecting the essence of fans and distilled this blend of body odor, old comic books and stale hot dogs into a horrible candle. While not for the faint of heart, it will remind you of being surrounded by a thousand sweaty fans. Makes for a perfect gift but a terrible candle. Order at your own risk.

(12) YOUR CULTURAL COMMENTATOR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] If Bertold Bretcht’s Threepenny Opera were in Klingon, we’d have the song:

“Mek’Leth The Knife”

(13) DOGGING IT. “In the Footprints of the Hound: Why The Hound of the Baskervilles Still Haunts” on CrimeReads, sf writer James Lovegrove, author of the Holmes pastiche The Beast Of The Stapletons explains why The Hound Of The Baskervilles remains one of the scariest novels ever written.

…Yet, as Sherlock Holmes’s closest brush with the supernatural, The Hound of the Baskervilles demonstrates that the Great Detective’s powers are equal to any task, even combating forces that are seemingly beyond our ken. The Hound itself is no common blackmailer or thief or assassin. It is a thing of nightmares, so frightening that the sight of it alone can induce a fatal heart attack in one victim and send another hurtling to his death off a rocky outcrop while fleeing it. It is designed to scare not just characters in the novel but readers too, and when Holmes and Watson at last overcome it, and the artifice behind it stands revealed, our fears are not entirely allayed. This is no Scooby-Doo unmasking moment, when we can laugh as we understand that there was nothing to be afraid of, that the horror was all in our minds. We can’t help but remember that the Hound was trained, and tricked out in phosphorescent paint, and kept half-starved by its owner, for no reason other than to terrify and pursue and kill. It is an embodiment of evil. It is Stapleton’s jealousy, resentment and cruelty made flesh, a canine avatar of avarice.

(14) READ THREE. Camestros Felapton makes me want to read this book! “Review: City of Brass by by S.A. Chakraborty”.

…I’m a bit late starting S.A. Chakraborty’s 2017 fantasy series or, on the otherhand, I’m just in time as the third part of what is now a trilogy was published this year. The novel follows Nahri from Cairo to the magical city of Daevabad where a second point-of-view character awaits, the djinn prince Ali. Pious and idealistic, Ali is second in line to the throne but is torn between his familial duty and his concern for the shafit under-class of the city — the half-human/half-djinn people who are treated unjustly by ruling families. Nor is this the only fracture point in the city…. 

(15) SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. Archie McPhee calls your attention to the “Lucky Yodelling Christmas Pickle Ornament”, an insidious technology that even Philip K. Dick forgot to predict.

This Yodelling Pickle Ornament yodels when you walk past. That means it’s either a bright, cheerful reminder of pickles and Christmas or an alarm that lets you know when snoopers are investigating their presents. Either way, you need one!

(16) ANOTHER POINTY THING. Damn, they’re breaking out all over the place! “Utah monolith sighting followed in Romania by similar mystery metal object”SYFY Wire has he latest.

Only days after the now-famous first metal monolith was discovered hiding out in the Utah desert, another gleaming slab has now been spotted lurking near an ancient archaeological site in Romania. Early reports don’t reveal much, but British tabloid Daily Mail led the charge today in revealing an early look at the newly-discovered 13-foot obelisk, which reportedly was found on Nov. 26 near an ancient Dacian fortress.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The New Mutants Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that The New Mutants is a film where one mutant’s chief personality trait is his love of doing dishes and the mutants are in a school “run by one woman with zero security guards.”

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

Ben Bova (1932-2020)

Author and Hugo-winning editor Ben Bova died November 29 at the age of 88. Family member Kathryn Brusco announced the cause of death was COVID-19 related pneumonia and a stroke. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak also confirmed the death with a second source (“Legendary Science Fiction Author Ben Bova Has Passed at the Age of 88“.)

Bova’s first professional sf sale was a Winston juvenile, The Star Conquerors (1959), and his first published short fiction was bought by Cele Goldsmith at Amazing – “A Long Way Back” (1961). During the Sixties he had nearly two dozen more novels and stories published.

He made several sales to Analog before meeting editor John W. Campbell, Jr. face-to-face at a Worldcon in Washington, D.C. After shaking his hand, Campbell provocatively said: “This is 1963. No democracy has ever lasted longer than 50 years, so this is obviously the last year of America’s democracy.”

Another story sold to Campbell, “Brillo” (1970), co-authored with Harlan Ellison, was his first story to be up for an award, a Hugo nominee. (And ten years later they won a judgment against ABC and Paramount, makers of Future Cop, for plagiarizing their idea.)

Bova also served as the science advisor for the Canadian television series Ellison created, The Starlost. Appalled by the production, Ellison assigned his credit to “Cordwainer Bird,” and Bova resigned but didn’t have the “contractual right to remove his name from the credits.” His novel The Starcrossed, is loosely based on those experiences.

Ben Bova studied journalism at Temple University in the Fifties, paying his way through by working as a copyboy at the Philadelphia Inquirer on a shift that started at 6 p.m. and went until 3 a.m. He learned “the basics of writing news copy are simple enough: be clear and deliver on time.”

He acquired his interest in science from visiting the Fels Planetarium, part of Philadelphia’s science museum, the Franklin Institute. “I never took a formal college course in science; I learned from the director of the Planetarium, I.M. Levitt, who became a lifelong friend and mentor.”

In 1956 he was hired by Glenn L. Martin Co. and worked on Project Vanguard, having marketed himself to recruiters as “someone who could understand what the engineers were doing and translate it into copy that the general public could understand.” In the 1960s he worked for the Avco Everett Research Laboratory.

When John W. Campbell, Jr. suddenly died in 1971, Bova was offered the job of editing Analog Science Fiction magazine. “It was like being drafted to run for president. You’re terribly afraid you’re not up to the task, but you can’t refuse to step up to it.” He eventually asked the publisher’s executive who had hired him why he was picked for the job, when much better-known science-fiction writers had been considered. The executive answered that he had made it a point to read the work of each person up for the job. “Ben,” he said, “you were the only one I could understand!”

Bova made Analog, already the prozine with the largest circulation, even more successful. His accomplishments included publishing Spider Robinson’s first sale, a Callahan’s Bar story, and during his tenure acquiring many Hugo-winning stories, among them Larry Niven’s “The Hole Man” and ”Borderland of Sol”, Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake, George R.R. Martin’s “A Song for Lya,” The Forever War and “Tricentennial” by Joe Haldeman, “Home Is the Hangman” by Roger Zelazny, “Eyes of Amber” by Joan D. Vinge, and more. He was the winner of the first Best Professional Editor Hugo (1973), and collected five more while at the helm of the magazine.

He left Analog in 1978 to edit Omni, holding that post until 1982.

During Bova’s career he wrote over 120 fiction and nonfiction books. His novel, Titan, part of The Grand Tour series, won the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2007. Another in the series was Jupiter —

Bova served as President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) from 1990 to 1992. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal paid tribute: “I am devastated that our community has lost Ben Bova. He was so welcoming to new writers and embodied the philosophy of paying it forward.”

He also held the position of President Emeritus of the National Space Society

Bova taught science fiction at Harvard University and at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where he has also directed film courses. He received his doctorate in education in 1996 from California Coast University.

He was Worldcon Author Guest of Honor at Chicon 2000. He was awarded the Robert A. Heinlein Award in 2008 for his work in science fiction.

Bova was married three times. He had a son and a daughter with his first wife, Rose. They divorced in 1974. That same year he married Barbara, and their marriage lasted 35 years, until her death in 2009. In 2013, he married Rashida Loya.

Richard C. West (1944-2020)

Tolkien scholar Richard C West died of COVID-19 on November 29 in Madison, Wisconsin. 

He was the editor of the book Tolkien Criticism: An Annotated Checklist (Kent State, 1970), co-winner of the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies (1976). He contributed essays to numerous books and journals about Tolkien and fantasy, and served on the board of editors for the journal Extrapolations.

Richard helped found Tolkien and Fantasy Society at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1966, and also founded a Tolkien book discussion group which met continuously for more than fifty years. He was a founding member of The Madison Science Fiction Group, and one of the founders of the feminist science fiction convention, WisCon. He published the pioneering Tolkien fanzine / journal Orcrist, 8 issues from 1966 to 1977, with an anniversary 9th issue in 2017. 

This is just the beginning of a list of his accomplishments. There is an extensive bibliography on Tolkien Gateway

“A modest and kindly man, I don’t think Richard ever realized that he was one of the best of the best of Tolkien scholars,” John D. Rateliff, another leading Tolkien specialist, said of West today.

West was retired as Serials and Technical Services Librarian from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He married Harriet Perri Corrick in May 1977 in Madison, WI. Perri currently has COVID-19 as well but is not as ill. 

[Thanks to Diane Martin for the story.]

AudioFile’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks
of 2020

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2020 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks.

They are listed below with links to the AudioFile review.

AudioFile will be featuring exclusive interviews with narrators from Best Audiobooks 2020 across all the categories on their podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.

2019 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks

Whether they are brought to life by an all-star cast or narrated by actors with the skills to bring vibrant characters to life, these 2020 Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror audiobooks will sweep you up in stories both familiar and highly original. Join an old friend on an unforgettable journey, witness the birth of a new city, or explore an isolated mansion in the Mexican countryside. Once you start listening to this year’s best audiobooks, you won’t want to put them down.


THE SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.] | Read by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, and a Full Cast


THE HAUNTING OF H.G. WELLS by Robert Masello | Read by Steve West


THE CITY WE BECAME by N.K. Jemisin | Read by Robin Miles


MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Read by Frankie Corzo


THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien | Read by Andy Serkis

Pixel Scroll 11/29/20 Tonstant Pixel Scrolled Up

(1) FREE READ FROM FUTURE TENSE. “The Suicide of Our Troubles” by Karl Schroeder, is part of Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.

Nadine Bach noticed a package of ham waving at her from inside the grocery store. November was one of those months when the choice was between paying rent and buying food, and she hadn’t planned to stop by during her daily walk—but this ham was proclaiming that it was free.

Having prospective meals wave at her was hardly unexpected—Mixed Reality was finally maturing past the flying-whale stage of visual grab-assery, and was settling into the predictable role of being yet another advertising medium….

Journalist Anna V. Smith has written a response essay: “When Nature Speaks for Itself”.

In more than 100 countries, citizens have clear constitutional rights to a healthy environment. The United States is not one of them. Nevertheless, for the past few decades or more, people have argued through the courts that the U.S. has an obligation to provide a healthy environment, including addressing climate change, as the Juliana v. United States youth lawsuit has insisted. But simultaneously, an emerging movement is focusing on the rights of nature itself: to grant personhood status to lakes, rivers, and plant species so they might have legal standing in court to defend their rights to exist and persist. If laws are an assertion of a nation’s values, what does it say that the U.S. grants personhood to corporations, but not nature?…

(2) ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT UTAH. Salt Lake City’s Fox13 reports “Monolith removed from southern Utah desert by ‘unknown party’”. You see, this is how primates really operate. That’s why 2010 is in the rearview mirror and we’re nowhere near Europa.

The now-famous “monolith” structure that was discovered last week by a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter crew during a count of bighorn sheep in southeastern Utah has been removed — but not by government officials.

Riccardo Marino posted on Instagram that he and Sierra Van Meter went to the spot, located south of Moab and just east of Canyonlands National Park, late Friday night to get some photos. But when they arrived, it was no longer there.

Marino said they saw a pickup truck with a large object in its bed driving in the opposite direction shortly before they got there.

Marino and Van Meter also saw that someone had written “Bye B****!” and appeared to have urinated at the spot where the piece, believed by most to be abstract art, formerly stood.

(3) NEW ZOOM INTO FAN HISTORY. Joe Siclari of FANAC.org invites you to “Get ready for a trip to fannish London!”

We are planning a series of  Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions, and for our first sessionRob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know,  he has written the history of English fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them at https://taff.org.uk/ebooks.phpReserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.

Despite the pandemic, Rob has done video recordings around London, and with historic photos and live description will give us a tour that covers some household fannish names and places. He has worked with Edie over the past several months to provide an interesting and fairly detailed coverage of London’s fan heritage. This one hour session is based on tours which Rob has given to individual fans and also developed as a group tour after the last London Worldcon. Even if you have been on one of these tours, you will find some fresh sights and insights. Of course, Rob will be live on Zoom with additional material and to answer questions.  Please send your RSVP to fanac@fanac.org, as our Zoom service is limited to 100 participants.

(4) ALMA AWARD. The nominees for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2021 were released in October, 263 candidates from 69 countries.

Worth 5 million Swedish kronor, the world’s largest cash prize for children’s literature is given to authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters for work “of the highest artistic quality” featuring the “humanistic values” of the late Pippi Longstocking author, for whom the award is named. Lindgren died in 2002 at the age of 94.

The 2021 ALMA laureate will be announced on April 13, 2021.

(5) PROWSE OBIT. Actor Dave Prowse, the original Darth Vader, has died aged 85 reports The Guardian. He was a 6’6″ weightlifter who’d made a name for himself in England as The Green Cross man, a traffic safety figure in PSAs before being invited by George Lucas to audition for the roles of Vader and Chewbacca. He chose Vader and when asked why, replied: “Everyone remembers the villain.”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1990 — Thirty years ago, the sort of horror novel Angel of Darkness by Samuel M. Key was first published by Jove Books. The author had a short career having just three novels credited to him, the others being From a Whisper to a Scream and I’ll Be Watching You. Now that would be the end of the story if it hadn’t turned out that this was the pen name for Charles de Lint who recently won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, a rare honor indeed. Amusingly enough, Samuel M. Key was the name of the small monkey puppet that graced the top of his computer at that time. All three novels are now available from the usual digital suspects under the name of de Lint. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 29, 1832 – Louisa May Alcott.  Besides Little WomenLittle Men, and more outside our field, she wrote A Modern Mephistopheles and five dozen shorter ghost stories, fairy tales, and other fantasies.  Active abolitionist and feminist.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1898 C.S. Lewis. There are no doubt folks here who are far more literate on him than I am. I read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him.  I know individuals that have loved The Space Trilogy and I’ve known ones who loathed it. So what do you like or dislike about him? (Died 1963.) (CE)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born November 29, 1925 – Leigh Couch.  Science teacher.  First Fandom.  Active fan, as were her husband and their children including Lesleigh Luttrell.  LC had letters in The Alien CriticJanusSF Commentary, and Analog.  Guest of Honor at Archon 1 – as LL was at Archon 3.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1950 Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than seventy short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years, SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born November 29, 1952 – Doug Beekman, age 68.  A hundred covers, ninety interiors.  Also comics, collectible cards, agenting; outside our field, advertising.  Spectrum Gold Award for comics, Silver for advertising.  Here is Time Out of Joint.  Here is The Drawing of the Dark.  Here is Spinneret.  Here is The Stars at War.  Here is an ink drawing for Homecoming Earth (and see DB’s comments here).  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1956 – Mark Ferrari, age 64.  Having for years taken our breath away with colored-pencil images like these he was struck by a truck while riding his mountain bike, recovering but not enough to perpetuate his Prismacolor perfection.  He wrote The Book of Joby, by which time technology could take him to giving good graphics again.  Now he can make this and this.  Do see his Website.  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 51. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseriesas someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central. (CE) 
  • Born November 29, 1971 Naoko Mori, 49. Torchwood is really the genre appearance she’s remembered for and  I see that she popped up first in Doctor Who playing her Torchwood character of Doctor Sato in the Ninth Doctor story, “Aliens of London”.  She also voiced Nagisa Kisaragi in Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm, and she had the role of Asako Nakayama in the second season of The Terror series which is based off the Dan Simmons novel. (CE) 
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther alias Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode asMark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born November 29, 1981 – Jon Klassen, age 39.  First person to win both the Caldecott (U.S.) and the Greenaway (U.K.) for illustration with the same book, which he wrote too.  Both This Is Not My Hat and predecessor I Want My Hat Back were NY Times Best-Sellers, jointly selling over a million copies.  Previously the Governor General’s Award for English-language children’s illustration (Canada; Cats’ Night Out).  Among other things JK illustrated Mac Barnett’s Circle.  [JH]
  • Born November 29, 2001 – Mckenzie Wagner, age 19.  Five books, the first published when she was 7.  Maybe anything can’t happen, but lots of things can.  You start whenever you start.  [JH]

(8) ICE PIRATES. Alec Nevala-Lee discusses Stillicide by Cynan Jones at the New York Times: “A Climate-Crisis Novel Offers True-to-Life Snapshots of Survival”.

…Cynan Jones’s climate-crisis novel “Stillicide,” which was originally written as a BBC Radio series, arrives just as the bar has been raised for world-building. We want speculative fiction to unfold against a complex background, without getting bogged down in incidental facts that an average person would take for granted. Yet noticing the uncanny details of our lives is all we seem to do lately, and few authors can compete with the strangeness of the real world.

Over the course of several excellent short novels, Jones, who lives in Wales, has figured out a formula that seems to rise to the challenge. His favorite strategy is to build a story around a single clearly defined thread — in his devastating debut, “The Long Dry,” it’s a lost cow — that provides a structure for a series of intensely observed vignettes. This frees him to move between time frames and perspectives, and he often focuses on people on the margins.

In “Stillicide,” the through-line is an iceberg headed for London. The novel opens many years after Britain has entered an extended drought, and enough time has passed for one phase of responses to yield to the next. After becoming a target for terrorists, a pipeline to the city has been replaced by a train that carries millions of gallons of water from a distant reservoir, equipped with automatic guns to mow down any moving object near the tracks. Another plan involves towing a giant iceberg to the dry Thames, which will displace entire neighborhoods….

(9) DUE NORTH. Sean D.’s “Microreview [Book]: Sweet Harmony by Claire North” at Nerds of a Feather covers a new novel by a celebrated author.

…Sweet Harmony follows Harmony, a young woman living in a world in which nanotechnology (nanos) can not only improve your health, but your libido, mentality, and physicality. Harmony’s surrounded by people obsessed with superficiality, and the more she is deemed unworthy by them, the more insecure she becomes. She becomes beholden to nanos, with almost all of her expenditures dedicated to keeping her esteemed beauty. But that obsession comes with a price.

This novella tackles domestic abuse, unattainable beauty standards, familial conflict, selfishness warring with selflessness, and vocational biases. Not one of those themes is undercooked or scattered. The secret is that Claire North uses the nanotechnology as an underpinning to all these themes. The story spotlights Harmony’s experience and growing dependency on the nanos and touches all the themes along the way, never losing focus because as it moves from idea to idea, it’s always grounded in a center.

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Posten–Santa” on Vimeo, Santa’s feeling pretty grumpy because the icebergs at the North Pole are melting and the Norwegian Postal Service is improving its deliveries!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Joe Siclari, David Doering, Michael J. Walsh and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Brian White Takes Over As Interim Editor at Fireside

Brian J. White announced today that Pablo Defendini is resigning from all editorial functions at Fireside Fiction Company (Fireside Magazine and Fireside Books). White, Fireside Fiction’s founding editor and publisher from 2012-2017, is returning as interim editorial director.

The change is being made as Fireside tries to recover from Defendini’s intensely criticized posting of an audio recording of a contributor’s essay by a white narrator in an affected accent, exacerbated by Defendini’s admission that he didn’t listen to it before posting it (see “Fireside Editor Apologizes for ‘Auditory Blackface’ by Narrator of Essay in November Issue”).

White, who remained one-third owner of the company when he stepped down, says:

I will be serving several roles in the capacity of interim editorial director: I will oversee the continuity of publication of Fireside’s contracted stories; lead a review and rework of Fireside’s quality control, production, and approvals process; and lead the search for a new editor-in-chief. While I will be working with the guest editors for each issue, story selection and editing will remain under their control.

Pablo Defendini, the majority owner of Fireside Fiction Company, continues as its Publisher & Art Director. He will not have a role in editorial decision-making, but he will for now remain as art director (magazine layout/design and art), as well as managing the finances and a number of other administrative functions.

White explains the necessity of this:

…The magazine has one other permanent staff member, copyeditor and proofreader Chelle Parker, and otherwise relies on freelance guest editors and artists. Simply put, there is no one in place to hand these many operations over to. If Pablo were to fully resign today, both Fireside Magazine and Fireside Books would fold, and along with them all the stories, essays, and other content in the pipeline, which currently extends deep into 2021. We strongly want to avoid causing that kind of harm to those authors.

To aid the transition, Fireside will postpone the submissions period for the Autumn 2021 issue of Fireside Quarterly, under guest editor Brandon O’Brien.

And they are indefinitely pausing the publication of all audio recordings of stories. Chelle Parker will lead a review of all previously published audio on FiresideFiction.com to look for any other problematic recordings.

White says he will only be acting as editorial director for a matter of months. He is committed to finding a new editor-in-chief who comes from a marginalized background:

I am a cis, straight, white man with some chronic pain disabilities. And I know that long-term, a cis, straight, white man is not what Fireside needs in its leadership roles. I’m taking on this temporary role only because my familiarity with Fireside means I’m well-positioned to do so on short notice and without a need for extensive orientation.

During White’s prevous tenure Fireside published 150 stories, plus longer works, and produced the influential #BlackSpecFic report (2016).


Also today, the Washington Post published its account of the controversy, “Fireside Magazine’s art director Pablo Defendini apologizes for ‘auditory blackface’”. The reporter reached out to the main figures in the story, including narrator Kevin Rineer who makes several mitigating claims for his performance that were not mentioned in his original Twitter or YouTube apologies (which File 770 was able to review in the time they were online before Rineer deleted them.)

Rineer told The Post in a statement that he was unaware he would be reading a Black woman’s work when he auditioned for Fireside Quarterly and that he only received the full manuscript for the work after signing a contract.

Communications lapsed, Rineer said, when he reached out to Fireside and Bradley through a distributor and didn’t get a response. Rineer says he wishes he would have broken the contract rule to contact Bradley directly about her work.

“My normal narrative style is to read with a general West Coast American accent. I made the mistake of reading Dr. Bradley’s work and assuming an accent that was not representative of her voice,” he said. “I had tried to find a different narrator who would be a suitable representative in my network and via public forums, to no avail, in the week-long time frame I had.”

SMOFCon 37-1/4 Update

SMOFCon 37¼ reports they are approaching 200 members. Fans are welcome to join up for this one-day virtual event about conrunning, and also encouraged to ask questions of the participating future Worldcon and SMOFcon bids. 

SMOFCon 37¼ will be on Saturday, December 5, 2020 from 08:00 to 23:59 Eastern Standard Time (UTC – 5; you can convert to your local time using online tools such as Timeanddate.com). 

Membership is free, but you must register in advance here. Most fans should select the regular registration option. The committee asks: Please do not select a Program Participant registration unless you are representing a Worldcon or SMOFCon bid or seated convention or have been invited to be a program participant.

The SMOFCon 37¼ program schedule is here.

The first three program items will be; Question Time for future Worldcon bids, then for the two seated Worldcons, and then for seated and finally  bids for future SMOFCons. 

The committee has sent questionnaires to all of the groups involved, and received many replies, and encourages fans to peruse and consider these FAQ’s. 

They also say:

We note the bidding calendar is busy! 

We welcome questions for the bids and if any member wishes to ask a question, we are collating them for the moderators, and have forms linked as follows. 

The form for each item is the link next to the words “Submit questions here” in the description of the program item. The deadline for submitting questions is Thursday, December 3, 2020. You must be a member of SMOFCon 37¼ to submit questions. The moderators of each item will select which questions to ask the bids/conventions.

Question Time for Worldcon bids will be taken in reverse chronological order, with bids for 2027 first, then 2026, and so on. Bids for later years will have less allocated time for presentations and questions, with the time increasing per year, ending with bids for 2023. The detailed schedule for each year is in the listing for the item, and includes planned time for internal breaks during the scheduled three-hour item.

The two other scheduled items are a session with CoNZealand chairs Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates discussing aspects of the change to virtual and experience that they had, and a panel looking at the pivot fandom has successfully made to virtual events.

In addition, the Virtual Con Suite has breakout rooms. If you are interested in holding a special-interest group discussion or a meeting in one of the breakout rooms, request a slot using the form linked from the front page of the web site: ReqConSuite  

Con Suite breakout sessions will not be listed as separate program items. They are listed in the program listing for the Con Suite.

If you have questions about registering for SMOFCon 37¼, the convention program, or other aspects of the event, write to info@smofcon38.ca

SMOFCon 37¼ is jointly organized by SMOFCon 38 (Montreal, Canada 2022) and SMOFCon 39 (Lisboa, Portugal 2021).

[Thanks to James Bacon for the press release.]

Alan White Is 2020 Rotsler
Award Winner

By John Hertz: The Rotsler Award for 2020 has been given to Alan White of Las Vegas.

The annual Award, begun in 1998 after the death of Bill Rotsler and in his memory, is for long-time wonder-working with graphic art in amateur publications of the science fiction community.  It is decided by a three-judge panel and carries an honorarium of US$300.  Rotsler was, among much else, one of the great fanartists.

Alan White has contributed to these publications since the 1970s – mainly the periodicals by and for fans that fans call fanzines (coined by Russell Chauvenet in the 1940s), also fannish conventions’ fliers, program and souvenir books, and other such companions.

When this drawing

was used to decorate Matters Passed On to This Year’s Business Meeting in the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention (“L.A.con II”) Program Book, White was already well known.

This one

appeared earlier in Scientifriction 9 (1977).

As other media became available, he used them.  Here is his cover for File 770 138 (2001).

Caricatured at left are (top to bottom) Mike Glyer, Bruce Pelz, Larry Niven.

Here is another drawing of about the same date which appeared some years later – as happens in Fanzineland – in Vanamonde 1403 (weekly; 2020).

Here is an even more elaborate cover for File 770 155 (2009).

Here is a recent image from This Here 35 (2020).

Fanart comes in many forms.  Good artists choose what will best suit what they wish to do – line drawings or computer-aided compositions, monochrome or color.  White is very good.

The Rotsler Award is sponsored by the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests, Inc., a nonprofit California corporation (yes, that’s what the initials spell, in this case pronounced “skiffy”).  The current judges are Mike Glyer, John Hertz, and Sue Mason.

Thanks for Ray Bradbury

A Bradbury roundup to wind up this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

(1) TEN CENTS A DANCE. Input expresses its gratitude: “We have dime-operated rental typewriters to thank for ‘Fahrenheit 451’”.

…DRIVEN BY COST AND CHILDREN — Open Culture has seen fit to remind us all that the classic novel had humble beginnings. Typed on a rental typewriter for $9.80 at a dime per half an hour, the book began as a 25,000-word novella called The FiremanOver the course of nine days, Bradbury spent 49 hours on this first draft.

His speed was largely driven by the sheer cost (we’re talking mid-century dimes here) and the ticking clock of being a present father. Surely, as more parents have had to attempt working from home while their children are being adorable, you can understand why Bradbury could no longer write from his garage. Unable to afford an office, he turned to rental typewriters in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library.

Plaque commemorating Ray Bradbury’s use of Typing Room at UCLA’s Powell Library to write Fahrenheit 451.

(2) MYSTERIOUS RAY. In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Cullen Gallagher is enthusiastic about the Hard Case Crime collection Killer, Come Back To Me, a collection of Bradbury’s crime fiction — “Bradbury Noir: The Crimes of a Science Fiction Master”.

 THE SKELETONS IN Ray Bradbury’s closet are out in Killer, Come Back to Me, a career-spanning collection of the science fictioneer’s crime stories. These 300 pages present a new side to readers who only know Bradbury from such classics as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Fahrenheit 451 (1953). Published by Hard Case Crime on the occasion of the author’s centennial, the selections were picked by Hard Case head honcho Charles Ardai, Michael Congdon (Bradbury’s longtime agent), and Jonathan R. Eller (director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University and author of, among other titles, Becoming Ray Bradbury, Ray Bradbury Unbound, and Bradbury Beyond Apollo). Encompassing everything from the early pulp work on which he cut his teeth to a story published two years before his death in 2012, Killer, Come Back to Me offers the full spectrum of Bradbury’s criminal imagination.

… Bradbury’s life of crime spanned seven decades. Unlike Elmore Leonard and Brian Garfield, who started with Westerns, then moved to mysteries and didn’t look back, Bradbury never left the mystery genre for good. His commitment to both crime and SF recalls the career of Fredric Brown, who, while 14 years older, only entered the pulps shortly before Bradbury did and divided his output between the two genres until his death in 1972. Like Brown, Bradbury’s work displays the influence of Weird Tales and Dime Detective (where both authors published), embedding elements of the bizarre and supernatural in murder mysteries. Among Bradbury’s weirdest stories is a Dime yarn called “Corpse Carnival” (July 1945), which begins with one of two conjoined twins witnessing the murder of the other. 

(3) HE WALKS BY NIGHT. Literary Hub considers Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” in “The Dissident Act of Taking a Walk at Night”.

…He is half-consciously creating what Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, in their celebration of the edgelands that characterize the uncertain border between cities and the surrounding countryside, have classified as “desire paths.” These are “lines of footfall worn into the ground” that transform the ordered, centralized spaces of the city into secret pockets; and that, in so doing, offer a “subtle resistance to the dead hand of the planner.”

Once he has decided on a direction, Mead strides off along his desire path, then, at once purposeful and purposeless. “Sometimes he would walk for hours and miles and return only at midnight to his house.” Mead has never encountered another living creature on these nighttime walks. Nor has he so much as glimpsed another pedestrian in the daytime, because people travel exclusively by car. “In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not once in all that time” (569).

The proximate reason for the eerie solitude of the city at night is that everyone else has carefully secluded themselves in their living rooms in order to stare blankly and obediently at television screens. The silence of the city is an effect of what Theodor Adorno once called “the unpeaceful spiritual silence of integral administration.” If there is no political curfew in place in Bradbury’s dystopian society, this is because a kind of cultural or moral curfew renders it superfluous.

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….

(4) OUT ON A LIMB. “The Best History Lesson Ever: Ray Bradbury and ‘The Halloween Tree’” at Bloody Disgusting.

…With the seminal dark fantasy masterpiece Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) and the latter career work A Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities (1990) on either side, The Halloween Tree is the middle installment in a loose Halloween trilogy by the author. Though he had written several other pieces dealing with childhood and growing up in a small town, this is his only novel that is aimed directly at children as its primary audience. Be that as it may, it is enchanting for readers of all ages. It is also well worth mentioning that the illustrations by Joseph Mugnaini, a frequent collaborator of Bradbury’s, are astounding.

In 1993, the Hanna-Barbera company produced an animated special based on the novel for the ABC network written and narrated by Bradbury himself with Leonard Nimoy voicing the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud. So often when it comes to books and the movies based on them, one is clearly superior. In this case, both are so wonderful for different reasons that neither feels extraneous. The basics of the plot remain more or less the same in both, but the details and execution in each make both vital. Because they share most of the same plot points, let us explore both at the same time, reveling in the magic of each.

(5) PAST THE APEX. In “Bradbury in the Afternoon” at the Russell Kirk Center website, James E. Person, Jr. does a lengthy review of Jonathan R. Eller’s bio Bradbury: Beyond Apollo.

…By that time Bradbury was a legend: he was hailed and feted by his writing peers and admiring readers of all ages, his name mentioned in the same breath with H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as a writer of astonishingly imaginative science fiction and fantasy. Within the world of literature he knew everybody that was anybody, and his works were well on their way to becoming staples of middle-school and high-school literature courses. So what did the man do for the remaining fifty years of his life? The answer is hinted at in the title of the third and final volume of Jonathan Eller’s masterful Bradbury biography, by the words “Beyond Apollo.”

Why those words? Their significance lies in that from Bradbury’s perspective, the Apollo moon landings—particularly the initial landing in July, 1969—marked the apex of much that the author had dreamed of, the first step in mankind’s outward journey to Mars and beyond. When Neil Armstrong and Edwin (“Buzz”) Aldrin first set foot on the moon at Tranquility Base, it marked the pinnacle of the U.S. space program’s endeavors at that time. Everything that followed—the subsequent handful of successful moon landings, the space-shuttle initiative, the probes to Mars and beyond, the international space station—were wonderful but somehow a step down. As with Bradbury’s career, there was a sense that there was nothing left to prove. Beyond Apollo, there was a transitional phase of reset and refocus in America’s approach to space exploration and in Bradbury’s career….

(6) HEY, I KNOW THAT GUY. Phil Nichols’s seventeenth episode of his series “Bradbury 100” spotlight’s some events celebrating the milestone birthday. John King Tarpinian restrained his enthusiasm when he sent the link: “Darn it, I am included in this podcast at about 7 minutes in.”

This week’s Bradbury 100 is a bit different: instead of a featured guest interview, I present highlights from two Bradbury Centenary events from recent times, as well as summing up some of the key centenary events of the year so far.

The first of the highlights is a selection from the discussion in the first (and so far, only)  Bradbury 100 LIVE episode. This was an event I ran on Facebook Live back in September. In this recording, I talk to John King Tarpinian – a friend of Ray Bradbury’s who often accompanied him to public events – and educator George Jack.

The second is the audio from a public lecture I gave earlier this week, celebrating seventy years of Bradbury’s book The Martian Chronicles.

(7) COVID-19 PUSHES 451 OUT OF THE SYLLABUS.  In the Washington Post, Ashley Fetters interviewed teachers about the changes they’ve made as a result of the pandemic.  She interviewed Morgan Jackson, a high school English teacher in Philadelphia: “Distance learning is straining parent-teacher relationships”.

…Jackson has made changes to how she teaches.  She skipped, for example, a lesson she planned about an overdose scene in Fahrenheit 451.  ‘Typically, because Philadelphia is so rife with overdoses and drug issues, I would have had an in-depth discussion and read an article about that.  But because it’s such a controversial topic and some parents don’t want their kids knowing about that side of Philly, I kind of cut that out,’ she said.  ‘I feel more monitored now than I did when we were in class.’

(8) THAT’S SHAT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from an article by David Cheal in the November 21 Financial Times about Elton John’s 1972 song “Rocket Man.”

Decades before the opening scenes of Ridley Scott’s film Alien (1979) showed astronauts smoking, chatting, and drinking, before John Carpenter’s 1974 sci-fi classic Dark Star depicted a spaceship’s crew bored and listless, science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury had the prescience to realise that one day going ino space would be just a job.  His short story ‘The Rocket Man,’ part of his 1951 collection The Illustrated Man, tells of a man who works in space for three months at a time, coming home to an anxious wife and a curious teenage son.  Sniffing his father’s space uniform, the son finds it smells of ‘fire and time.”…

…In 1972 Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s lyric-writing partner, was heading home to see his parents.  He had read Bradbury’s story and was musing on it when a lyric popped into his head, about a man preparing to head off to his job in space:  ‘She packed my bags last night pre-flight, zero hour 9am…  Taupin normally used a notebook to jot down ideas but as he was driving he had to spend the day anxiously memorizing the lines before he could finally commit them to paper.  He sent the finished lyric to John (they mostly work separately), who set them to music,'”

Cheal notes that when William Shatner sang his version of “Rocket Man” at the Science Fiction Film Awards ceremony, Ray Bradbury was in the audience as he later gave the prize for best film of the year to Star Wars.

(9) FAN MAIL. Maddy Schierl remembers her response to a life-changing fictional encounter — “Door Reader Series: Fahrenheit 451” in the Door County Pulse.

I was in seventh grade the first time that I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I wasn’t a particular fan of science fiction, nor was I a fan of dystopian fiction. That being said, Fahrenheit 451 didn’t even register as belonging to a genre as I read it. 

Bradbury’s language was so rich and real and immediate that I remember being as convinced of the world he built as I was of any “real” setting. I wanted to sink into every sentence. I wanted to wrap myself up in unexpected metaphors and lush allusions. I wanted to be a writer just like Bradbury. 

After school the day that I finished reading Fahrenheit 451, I sat down to write Bradbury a letter. In this letter, I tried to express how much his book meant to me. I don’t remember now exactly what I wrote; I’m sure it was clumsy. What I do remember is including a small postscript informing him that I had enclosed an original short story, and would he please respond with any comments he might have. 

Then I decorated the envelope with red and orange flames and stuck three stamps in the corner because it was so heavy. (It might have been generous to call my short story short.) 

The next day, Ray Bradbury passed away. He was 91 years old, and my letter never got to him. I was devastated. Now, at 21 years old, I often wonder where that letter ended up. 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for these stories.]