Goodreads Choice Awards 2021 Finalists

The finalists for the Goodreads Choice Awards – Best Books 2021 have been posted. Readers have until December 5 to cast their votes for the winners in the 17 categories.

Here is what made the finals in the primary categories of genre interest – Best Fantasy, Best Science Fiction, Best Horror, Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Best Graphic Novels and Comics.

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2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by biologist and writer Merlin Sheldrake is winner of the 2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment. The prize was announced at a live ceremony on November 29 that also was streamed on YouTube.

The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them. They can change our minds, heal our bodies and even help us avoid environmental disaster; they are metabolic masters, earth-makers and key players in most of nature’s processes. In Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake takes us on a mind-altering journey into their spectacular world and reveals how these extraordinary organisms transform our understanding of our planet and life itself. Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and a writer.

Chaired by Professor Luke O’Neill FRS, the 2021 judging panel was comprised of television presenter, Ortis Deley; mathematician and Dorothy Hodgkin Royal Society Fellow, Dr Anastasia Kisil; author and creative writing lecturer, Christy Lefteri, and journalist, writer and film maker, Clive Myrie.

O’Neill, Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, commented: “Entangled Life is a fantastic account of the world of fungi, which to the uninitiated might seem unpromising as a topic, but which Merlin Sheldrake brings alive in the most vivid of ways.  We learn all kinds of interesting things about fungi, from how they helped plants colonise land (which means without them we wouldn’t be here) to how they form huge networks allowing trees to communicate (in the form of the ‘Wood Wide Web’), to stories of fungus-gathering enthusiasts, how fungi might help save the planet by digesting plastic, and even how they can manipulate our minds.  This is science writing at its very best, which yet again emphasises how the scientific method is so important in our effort to understand the world around us. Entangled Life is an important, scientifically rigorous and most of all entertaining read.”

Brian Cox OBE, FRS, The Royal Society Professor for Public Engagement in Science, added: “At a time when science is front and centre of everyone’s lives, making it accessible and understandable through great writing is more important than ever. The best science writing invites people to explore the world around them and view it in a new way, and Entangled Life is a perfect example. Exploring Nature always delivers insights that are surprising and often resonate way beyond the initial research or subject matter, and Merlin’s wonderfully written book is a perfect example. From antibiotics to parasitic ‘zombie infections’, Entangled Life brings the reader face to face with the beauty and terror of Nature.”

Sheldrake receives a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the other five shortlisted authors.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me, When I Pixel Scroll?

(1) GET AN EARFUL. Today File 770 partnered with AudioFile Magazine to unveil “AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks”. Here is the link to the complete AudioFile Magazine – Best Of 2021 list.

We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

(2) A PAY SERVICE NIXES DISCON III. “WeChat Restrictions, We Tried, We Really Tried” says DisCon III:  

“We have had to remove WeChat as a payment option. Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time. Our tech team is working to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. That said, all of our other avenues are still available, and there’s still time to join us at DisCon III. Please visit our member services page to purchase your membership.” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

(3) ON BROADWAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The opening of (Marvel) Hawkeye (new TV series) includes Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (and his 3 kids) going to a performance of Rogers The Musical (note that the signage looks very Hamiltonian), and we get to, delightfully, see about half of “I Can Do This All Day” about the NYC invasion, in the first Avengers movie.

Here’s one of many articles on this, including an audio with the full lyrics:  “Hear Hawkeye’s Rogers: The Musical song, and how Marvel pulled it off” at Polygon.

… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You CanRogers is the MCU’s latest attempt to reminisce over past battles with a wink and nod. A little like the scene in Loki where the God of Mischief finds Infinity stones being used as paperweights, the silliness of Rogers asks the audience if they can remember what all the fuss was about….

(4) HE GAVE IT A SPIN. Camestros Felapton says “The Wheel of Time adaptation is looking good”.

…A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world….

(5) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Ride,” by Linda Nagata, a story about climate, public transportation, and AI in Hawaii.

 …The boy waved at them, then turned again to Jasmine. “Give it a try,” he exhorted her in a conspiratorial whisper. “Promise you will?”

Those eyes.

Her smile brightened. She didn’t want to disappoint those eyes. So she played along, teasing, “I might.” And maybe she really would. It was just a little game, after all….

It was published along with a response essay by cities and transit journalist Henry Grabar: “What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?”

I like to think of myself as deeply skeptical of the many internet algorithms telling me what I want and need. I turn off targeted advertising wherever I can. I use AdBlock to hide what’s left. Most of my YouTube recommendations are for concerts or sports highlights, but I know I’m just a few clicks away from a wild-eyed influencer telling me to gargle turpentine for a sore throat. Twitter trending topics? I regret clicking immediately.

But I make an exception for the sweet, all-knowing embrace of the Spotify algorithm, to whom I surrender my ears several times a day. This software doesn’t just know my taste in music better than my friends; it acts on it, with chains of songs that build off things that I know I like, or forgot I did….

(6) HARLAN IN THE WILDERNESS. Stephen Bowie interviewed Harlan Ellison in 1996 about his early days writing for television: “Harlan Hits Hollywood” at The Classic TV History Blog.

…I was going to ask you if you remembered watching “Memos From Purgatory” when it was first broadcast, but perhaps you don’t, since it wasn’t actually the first one.

It’s a moderately funny story about what happened the night it aired.  I was living in Beverly Glen, in this little treehouse. The television set that I had was a real small TV, with rabbit ears, and the antenna was up the side of the mountain behind the house.  I mean this house, literally and actually, sat half on a rock ledge and the other half sat in the crotch of a gigantic banyan tree. It was raining that night, it was raining terribly. And the antenna, which was up the hill – rabbit ears down in the house and an actual antenna up on the hill; I mean, there was no cable – well, the antenna fell over.  

I had invited all these people to come and see the show, and we couldn’t get any reception.  So a friend of mine volunteered to go up, and he put on my raincoat, and he stood up there in the pounding rain, a really torrential downpour.  He stood up there holding the fuckin’ antenna up. And I was kind of, you know, upset that he was up there, not to mention that there were cougars or mountain cats – really, there were catamounts or cougars or whatever the fuck they are – up there running loose, because it’s all watershed land.  And I was terrified that he was going to get eaten, or washed away, or drowned, or fall off the mountain, or something. So about midway through I went up and I took his place. And I came back drenched, soaking wet, I looked like a drowned rat, and everybody was raving about this thing, and I had only seen about half of it….

(7) DRAGON IT OUT. A new book says “George R.R. Martin flew to New York to ‘beg’ an HBO executive to make ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 seasons long, according to his agent” reports Yahoo!

HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” came to an end in 2019 with two shortened seasons, which brought the total to eight seasons and 73 episodes. But the story’s original creator, the author George R.R. Martin, pushed for up to 10 seasons and 100 total episodes, according to a new book.

New accounts of Martin’s wishes can be found in a book titled “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” by the journalist James Andrew Miller.

Miller, who conducted 757 interviews for the book, spoke with Martin, Martin’s agent, Paul Haas, and Richard Plepler, HBO’s former CEO.

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas told Miller.

(8) IN XANADU. Henry Farrell points to the availability of the video of a panel he was on with Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Noah Smith, and Jo Walton. And he has a few more things he’d like to say in his post “The Future Finds Its Own Uses for Things” at Crooked Timber.

So this event on the relationship between social science and science fiction went live late last week. It has Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton, Noah Smith and … me. I’ve been wanting to say something a little bit more about this relationship for a while. Here is one take, which surely misses out on a lot, but maybe captures some stuff too.

…The Hume quote captures a particular – and very common – way of thinking about the world. It suggests that beneath the vast procession of history, the extraordinary profusion of ways in which human beings organize their society, their politics and their economies, lies a hidden and coherent unity. He emphasizes “the constant principles of human nature” – other social scientists have other notions about what the underlying unity involves and entails. But from this perspective all the ways in which things are different across time and space are really illustrations of how they are really deeply the same. This is a powerful lens for understanding the world and perhaps changing it.

When Marco Polo counters Kublai Khan, he points towards quite the opposite phenomenon; how an apparent unity -an abstract of plane forces – can be opened up to disclose the quiddity of things. A chessboard is a plane divided into sixty-four squares – yet it is also something physical, made out of joined-together pieces of wood, each with its own history. The apparently all encompassing abstract unity conceals a world of variation. Unless you understand how the squares were formed – a year of drought; a frosty night; a caterpillar’s appetite; you cannot understand how the chessboard came to be as it is.

It is a little too simple to say that social science is on Hume’s side of the dialectic, while science fiction is on Marco Polo’s. What makes more sense, I think is that very good social scientists and very good science fiction writers each work the tensions between the two understandings of the world, more from the one side than the other….

(9) NAME YOUR PRICE. Filer Jane Sand’s novelette “Not Poppy Nor Mandragora” is in the newly released Fusion Fragment issue #9. The publishers invite readers to “download Fusion Fragment #9 for free or pay what you want!”

(10) CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SPOILERS. I say, this Ars Technica article gives away the entire story, never mind spoilers! “David Tennant makes a dashing Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days preview”. It wasn’t easy to find an excerpt that didn’t blab some important part!

…Verne’s story, in turn, inspired the late 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly to make her own world tour, completing the trip in 72 days. She even met Verne in Amiens and wrote her own bestselling book about her adventures. Monty Python alum Michael Palin made the charming TV travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 1988, detailing his recreation of Fogg’s journey, without resorting to airplanes….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Nineteen years ago on NBC, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie first aired. It was the first film to be made for television by The Muppets franchise. It was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (in his feature directorial debut though he earlier been hired by Nimoy to associate produce the Conspiracy ’87 Hugo-nominated Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis.

It starred the usual Muppet puppeteers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson) plus a number of human guests: David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg. Executive producers Juliet Blake and Brian Henson, though the actual producers were Martin G. Baker and Warren Carr. 

This is also the final Muppets production from the Jim Henson Company, as The Muppets were in their final years of ownership by the Henson family before being sold to Disney in 2004.

Critics were generally very impressed by this film with such comments as the Canadian Movie News saying it “is a medley of familiar Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Story and The Grinch, amongst others, with a distinct Muppet spin.” Interestingly audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less impressed giving a mediocre fifty-one percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C S Lewis. I first encountered him when reading The Screwtape Letters in University. I later read of course The Chronicles of Narnia which I found most excellent though I’ll admit that I’ve not read his Space Trilogy. (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • 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. She has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 71. He played the title character in the late Seveties Dr. Strange film, well before the present MCU film reality existed. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as OrcaHouse of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’d accused it of name laundering, including 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1955 Howie Mandel, 66. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 52. 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 miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 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 as Mark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.)

(13) IT’S NOT SURPRISING. “‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Square Episode Missing From Disney+ Hong Kong; Discovery Leads to Censorship Concerns” reports Deadline.

An episode of The Simpsons during which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform.

Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, having launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

At time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities and Disney has not responded to requests for comment.

The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong….

(14) D&D DIVERSITY. “‘A safe haven’: how Dungeons & Dragons is slaying social anxiety” – the Guardian runs the numbers.

… Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has brought together a far more diverse array of players than its stereotypes suggest. Earlier this year, the game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, released a report showing that, of its estimated 50 million players, 54% were younger than 30 and 40% identified as female. What it didn’t reveal was the rise in visibility of queer and neurodiverse players.

…For people such as Shadia Hancock, the founder of advocacy group Autism Actually and Dungeon Master to a group of young neurodiverse players, the therapeutic potential of the game has always been clear.

“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Hancock says. “I work out the players’ expectations at the beginning of a game. Some get really into creating their characters, some are more interested in finding items and exploring the world, others are really interested in how the characters met. We all have a mutual love of gaming, but we all want something different from the session.”

Some characteristics expressed by some of Hancock’s players – social anxiety, increased empathy, difficulty adapting to change, feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments – have become familiar to many Australians in the wake of lockdowns. Studies cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found reported levels of social anxiety increased over the past two years among all age groups, with young neurodiverse Australians even more likely to have experienced a decline in wellbeing.

“While other people are excited about going out, I’m filled with dread,” Hancock tells me. “With Covid, we [autistic communities] had all these sudden changes, often with short notice, and there was this need to constantly adapt to new rules. Not knowing what is coming up is really anxiety-inducing. During the pandemic, that became a shared experience.”

(15) NEXT TIME, TAKE THE TRAIN. John Holbo’s “The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas” is adorned with a big Omelas-themed travel poster (which you can see at the link.)

*Confused? This page contains a parody of a famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d point you to it, but there are no versions legally free on the web. Buy a book! Read Wikipedia. If you are somehow here about the BTS song – sorry, I don’t know about that. (But with half a billion hits, somebody probably does.)

I’ve written notes on my take on Le Guin. An essay! That’s here

Also, once I made the graphics I tossed ’em on Redbubble. Forgive me. It seemed funny.

“I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

(16) DS9 ON NFT. Voice actor Joshua Martin put together a parody video where Deep Space Nine’s “Quark and Odo discuss NFTs and Crypto Currency”. There’s also a Twitter thread that starts here.

(17) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. SlashFilm reveals “This Is What You’re Really Hearing When R2-D2 Screams In Star Wars”.

…One fateful moment of stress managed to help define a character through more than four decades and nine movies in the Skywalker saga — and counting.

(18) STAND BY TO ENTER HYPE-SPACE. Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken pans Disney World’s effort to sell people on its new theme hotel: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel Preview Looks Unimpressive”.

If you’ve been slavering for your chance to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to head to Walt Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, might I suggest you towel off your chin for the time being? Disney has released a video preview of some of what awaits families who come aboard the Halcyon, and it doesn’t look particularly enticing.

The first thing you should know about this video is that it stars Disney Parks Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson and The Goldbergs’ sitcom actor Sean Giambrone. The two take a very short tour of the Starcruiser, but instead of them just talking like normal people about what people who come to the Halcyon can expect, it’s scripted and painfully unfunny. You’ve been warned. But this video also raises an important question, which is: Disney wants $6,000 for this?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Jayn, Bill, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks. They are listed below with links to the AudioFile review.

AudioFile will be featuring exclusive interviews with narrators from Best Audiobooks 2021 across all the categories on their podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.

Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks for 2021

Blast off with AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks by your side. Our Best Listening list includes Ray Porter’s lively narration of Andy Weir’s newest out-of-this-world adventure and a stunning sci-fi novella from Nnedi Okorafor brought to life by the talented Adjoa Andoh. Read on to discover all of our favorites and find some new listening to enjoy. For the full list of 2021 Best Audiobooks visit AudioFile’s website

BLACK WATER SISTER by Zen Cho| Read by Catherine Ho | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Catherine Ho delivers a stellar performance of this layered urban fantasy set in contemporary Malaysia. Jess’s college degree and secret girlfriend are not enough to keep her in the U.S. when her parents return to their homeland. She soon discovers that the gods and spirits are very real there. Ho’s seamless transitions between characters and accents keep listeners rooted in the story’s Southeast Asian setting. 

PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir| Read by Ray Porter | AudioFile Earphones Award

Through tone and pacing, narrator Ray Porter makes Andy Weir’s fantastical space opera seem plausible. Porter captures the panic and semi-hysterical self-deprecation of an amnesiac who is the sole survivor on a spacecraft cruising through space. As the protagonist’s memories return, Porter is called upon to deliver a United Nations of accents.

REMOTE CONTROL by Nnedi Okorafor| Read by Adjoa Andoh | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Adjoa Andoh captivates listeners with a stunning sci-fi novella set in a near-future Ghana. Andoh is perfectly in tune with Okorafor’s compelling story, smoothly switching between her British accent as the narrator and the intonations of the vibrant characters she brings to life. As a girl, Sankofa gains incredible power and then kills everyone she loves in a tragic accident. Exploring the country on foot, she learns to control her powers. 

RULE OF COOL by Matthew Siege| Read by Felicia Day | AudioFile Earphones Award

Felicia Day narrates a sidesplitting literary RPG (role-playing game) told from the perspective of the story’s monsters. Raze is a gearblin—a mix of goblin and gremlin—in a game in which the players carry out quests. Using a special code, Raze casts aside her chains and gathers other monsters to face down the game’s so-called heroes. Raze’s journey is hilarious, and Day’s performance boosts the story to the level of a must-listen for fans of the genre. 

THE SANDMAN: ACT II by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.]| Read by James McAvoy, Neil Gaiman, Kat Dennings, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, John Lithgow, and a Full Cast | AudioFile Earphones Award

Anchored by Neil Gaiman’s hypnotic storyteller’s voice, the second act of THE SANDMAN bewitches. As Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, James McAvoy sounds both imperious and weary, otherworldly and very human. The star-filled cast of actors and lush production guide listeners back and forth in time and in and out of fantastic worlds. Sound effects and original music make for a completely immersive experience.

VAGRANT QUEEN 1: The Bezoar of Kings by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith| Read by Nanette Savard and a Full Cast | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Nanette Savard and an ensemble of voice actors skillfully create a universe in which a queen flees from villains who fear she will try to reclaim her throne. Thanks to the wonderful narration, it’s easy to get lost in the adventure. No-nonsense Queen Elida teams up with Isaac, a cocky rebel from the Han Solo School of Rogues, to steal a mind-control device from a bad guy. 

Emails from Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the ???

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

IS WRITER X IN JAIL?

Hello All, Melanie here.

I’ve been under the weather all week, and to be honest, I’m still really fuzzy on what reality is or isn’t, and if you told me it was Tuesday and that Obamer is president, I’d believe you.

BUT. I didn’t get an email from X this week.

I slept most of the days she normally sends these (usually Thursday or Friday, sometimes Saturday at the latest.) At first, I thought she would likely be busy during the holiday and wouldn’t get an email out until late Friday night. Then I spent a considerable amount of time wondering who she would be spending her Thanksgiving with. Gladys? Ms. B___ who lives up the road and got a palm-reading? Does X have family in town? She never mentions it. 

My kids helped prepare our Turkey-Day meal. In a feverish fit, I honestly thought about sending her a plate but decided against it as it would mean sending my partner out driving into the night in the direction of a New Hampshire town we haven’t been able to find on a map. We have a lot of goodwill toward each other and don’t mind going the extra mile, but that would be a big ask, even so. At some point, I wrote “how to get across reality?” in the notebook I keep beside my bed for when I remember some doctor’s appointment or birthday in the middle of the night.  

So, we didn’t send a plate of Thanksgiving goodness across realities. 

And I decided that X spent Thanksgiving with Ms. B___ or Gladys, or Marjory, or possibly everyone in the entire town of Cradensburg, and that let me sleep.

But yesterday (that would be Saturday at the time of this writing which is late Sunday), I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. with a strong feeling that—not only had I not received an email, but that I wouldn’t. You know how you just know something, but you don’t know how you know? Nothing generates a generous dose of anxiety as knowing something that certainly.

I got up and immediately tried to prove myself wrong. I went through my inboxes—all of them. I went through spam and trash and…nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Then I began to re-read her older emails. I found one tiny but also kind-of-huge detail that I managed to miss. 

X was planning to break into the Grim Hill House at 7:30 pm on Thanksgiving. This was, of course, to accomplish the uber-important goal of retrieving her right croc that she had flung at the Head of Brian a month or so ago. Given what I’ve gathered about her personality, I think X went through with it. But also, given what I’ve gathered about her personality, I don’t think she’s exactly a ninja…

I may be fever-delusional, and she’ll get me an email tomorrow or maybe even late tonight and that I’m overreacting, but I honest-to-goodness worry that she may have been arrested. 

And, if she was, that means that maybe her “protege” R___ was arrested, too? That poor kid. He’s already run for the hills once. Now that X has messed with the timeline, she has earned a second chance, and he has earned a negative integer chance.

I dunno. Do you think I’m overreacting? 

If I knew the right numbers to call, I’d call the sheriff’s office in Cradensburg, but that’s been a nothing burger of a google search. 

Maybe I’m overreacting. 

It’s Tuesday, right? 

And Obamer is president?

Pixel Scroll 11/28/21 I Have Squandered All My Pixels

(1) CASTAWAY. BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs hosted “Neil Gaiman, writer” who shared the eight tracks, book and luxury item he would take with him if cast away to a desert island. Listen to the program at the link.

Or, let BBC Radio 4 blab it to you in a post: “Nine things we learned from Neil Gaiman’s Desert Island Discs”.

Neil Gaiman is a multi-award winning author whose work includes the novels Stardust, American Gods and The Graveyard Book and the comic book series The Sandman. His first novel, Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett, was published in 1990, and Neil recently adapted it as a TV series starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen. He specialises in creating fantastic alternative realities which exist under the nose of the world as we know it. He recently told his 2.8 million Twitter followers that he wore his ‘lucky Batman underpants’ for his Desert Island Discs recording – and here are nine things we learned from the programme…

5. A furious child inspired his first book for younger readers

Neil published The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish in 1997.

“The idea, like most of my children’s books, was stolen from one of my children,” explains Neil. “In this case from my son, Mike, and he would have been four, maybe five years old. I’d said something to him that he didn’t like, like possibly suggesting to him that it was actually his bedtime.”

“And he looked up at me with a fury that only a small boy can generate, a special kind of fury and he just said, ‘I wish I didn’t have a dad’. He said, ‘I wish I had….’ And then he paused because he hadn’t thought that through and, and then he said, ‘I wish I had goldfish!’ And he stomped off while I just thought ‘That is brilliant!’”

(2) HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS, DISCON 1. Andrew Porter received this postcard after reserving his room for Discon, the 1963 Worldcon in Washington DC. “Back when I was still Andy Silverberg…” – his name at the time.

(3) QANTAS PHYSICS. Fanac.org’s next “FanHistory Project Zoom Session” will be “Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Aussiecon – Part 1, 1936 to 1960” featuring Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. According to your time zone, it starts December 4 at 7PM Dec 4 EST, 4PM Dec 4 PST, or December 5 at 11AM in Melbourne AU. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org to get the Zoom link.

From the 1930s to the 1950s sf fandom in Australia was active and buoyant. Centred mainly around the city of Sydney their activities included fanzine production, club meetings and feuding. Yet by the beginning of the 1960s it had nearly all withered away. How did this vibrant community survive the Second World War and yet somehow fail to make it through peacetime? This, and many other questions, will be addressed by Dr Leigh Edmonds, sf fan and professional historian, in his FANAC talk titled “Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Aussiecon – Part 1, 1936 to 1960.”

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? The Los Angeles Times reports on Comic-Con Special Edition: “Comic-Con returns to San Diego amid COVID-19 pandemic”.

They say not all superheroes wear capes. But they do all now wear masks.

This weekend, thousands of people flocked to San Diego for the city’s first in-person Comic-Con — the beloved geekfest for all things science fiction, superhero and fantasy — in two and a half years.

The cosplayers squeezed into their spandex, strapped on their plastic weapons and secured their brightly colored wigs.

But with great power comes great responsibility. So, in a pandemic twist, they all donned face masks and red wristbands after proving they had either been vaccinated against or had recently tested negative for the greatest villain of all: COVID-19….

(5) COMIC-CON MUSEUM. The Times of San Diego takes its “First Peek Inside Comic-Con Museum, Revealing Exhibits Amid Soft Opening”.

…Local dignitaries, Comic-Con officials and volunteers were the first to see the 250,000 square feet of exhibits as a “special edition” San Diego Comic Convention opened Friday at the San Diego Convention Center.

The former San Diego Hall of Champions sports museum will be a destination for Comic-Con attendees, who can take a free shuttle between to the venue. The shuttle goes every 30 minutes….

This is the link to the Museum website where these six theme exhibits are now on display:

  • Gene Roddenberry: Sci-Fi Visionary as creator of “Star Trek.”
  • Chas Addams…Family and Friends as cartoonist of darkly humorous and macabre characters.
  • Eight Decades of Archie: a new pop-up exhibition that explores the storied history of America’s typical teenagers
  • Cardboard Superheroes: the art of teenage brothers Connor (17) and Bauer (14) Lee, this exhibit features life-size cardboard models of superheroes such as Hulkbuster, Groot, C-3PO, and Baby Yoda.
  • Out of the Darkness: Comics in the Times of COVID featuring artwork by San Diego young people.
  • The PAC-MAN Arcade on the 2020 Museum Character Hall of Fame Inductee.

(6) COMICS EXHIBIT IN WASHINGTON, DC. There’s news about what the Library of Congress is doing with Steve Geppi’s collection of comics. Geppi Gems is on view in the LOC’s Graphic Arts Gallery through March 2022. A second rotation, with a completely different selection, is intended for the Spring of 2022. “Geppi Gems Exhibit: Highlights from the Stephen A. Geppi Collection at the Library of Congress”.

…Stephen A. Geppi opened the Geppi Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2006, with the intent of showing how artistic creations from the pages of newspaper comic strips and comic books permeated popular culture. Over time, he expanded his collecting interests to reflect such comic book themes as superheroes, westerns, science fiction, horror, sports, music and entertainment. When the Geppi Entertainment Museum closed its doors in 2018, Mr. Geppi generously donated a large portion of its contents to the Library of Congress, with a desire that thousands of people share his excitement for comic books….

There’s also an online version of the exhibit: “Geppi Gems”.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1972 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-nine years ago this evening, Via Galactica, a SF rock musical, premiered on Broadway. Critics all hated it. Audiences really weren’t fond of it either. It lasted but seven shows before being cancelled. Yes, it was that bad. The story by Christopher Gore and Judith Ross, lyrics by Gore, and music by Galt MacDermot. It marked the Broadway debut of actor Mark Baker who went on to far better things. (Raul Julia was in the cast.) The storyline was so difficult to follow that at the very last moment producers inserted a plot synopsis in Playbill, but audiences still had no idea what they were witnessing unfolding on stage which involved, among other things, a clamshell-shaped garbage ship called the Helen of Troy. No, I’m not kidding. It would be one of the very first Broadway plays to lose a million dollars. That’s over six million dollars today. 

Jennifer George, daughter of the producer George W. George, has a look at it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 28, 1930 William Sargent, 91. He played Dr. Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”, a first season episode of Star Trek. He also shows up in Night Slaves (really don’t ask), Mission: ImpossibleShazam!Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock Presents and The Invaders. He was in the pilot for The Immortal series but wasn’t in the regular cast.
  • Born November 28, 1939 Walter Velez. His agent and fellow artist Jill Bauman wrote, “Walter created illustrations for most of the major book and gaming companies. He has been long known for his cover art for such popular books such as the Thieves World series and the Myth Adventures series, both edited by Robert Asprin; and the EbenezumWuntor, and Cineverse Cycle series, all by Craig Shaw Gardner. Walter illustrated for TSR games extensively. He applied his multi-faceted talents to trading cards for the Goosebumps series for the Topps Company, and a series of Dune trading cards. In the early 80’s he worked with Random House to create art for several Star Wars books that were licensed from George Lucas.” (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 28, 1944 Rita Mae Brown, 76. Author of the Sister Jane mysteries which features foxes, hounds and cats as characters with voices which in my mind makes them genre novels. Not to mention her creation of Sneaky Pie Brown who “is a New York Times best-selling writer and cat who co-authors the Mrs. Murphy series of mystery novels with her owner, Rita Mae Brown.” And who she has an entire series devoted to. 
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 75. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece even if the second has its moments, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, he’s done a lot but the only one I can say that I recall and was impressed by was his Legends of Tomorrow’s “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As a Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day.  
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 69. Best remembered as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on Law & Order appearing in 395 episodes of the series. Since Dick Wolf also is responsible for Chicago Med, she’s now playing Sharon Goodwin there. Both of her major SF roles involve robots. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse which I believe the consensus here is that it’s genre. 
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 59. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder. 
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 40. Her main SFF film is as the title character of Adèle Blanc-Sec in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec as directed by Luc Besson. Anybody watched the uncensored English version that came out on Blu-ray? It’s on my list To Be Watched list. She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short.
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 34. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in the Guardians of The Galaxy and in the later MCU films, Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” and “The Doctor’s Wife”, the first at Renovation and the latter at Chicon 7. 

(9) FORTY WHACKS. The New Yorker enumerates “The Lessons of ‘The Lorax’”.

In 1989, the year that Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, for writing “The Satanic Verses,” American parents in Laytonville, a small town in Northern California, demanded that their children’s elementary school take Dr. Seuss’s 1971 book, “The Lorax,” off its list of required reading for second graders. The book is “Silent Spring” for the under-ten set. “I speak for the trees,” the Lorax says, attempting to defend a soon to be blighted forest, its tufted Truffula trees chopped down and knit into hideous thneeds—“a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need”—until there is nothing left but one single seed.

…“I drew a Lorax and he was obviously a Lorax,” Geisel said. “Doesn’t he look like a Lorax to you?” But, in 1989, to Bill and Judith Bailey, the founders of a logging-equipment business in Laytonville, the Lorax looked like an environmental activist. “Papa, we can’t cut trees down,” their eight-year-old son, Sammy, said after reading the book, in which a “Super-Axe-Hacker” whacks “four Truffula Trees at one smacker.” Townspeople were caught up in the so-called “timber wars,” when environmentalists camped out in trees and loggers wore T-shirts that read “Spotted Owl Tastes Like Chicken.” Logging families took out ads in the local newspaper. One said, “To teach our children that harvesting redwood trees is bad is not the education we need.”…

(10) ONE DAM THING AFTER ANOTHER. “Ian Frazier Wishes Somebody Would Write About the World’s Largest Beaver Dam” in the New York Times. He avoids SF…but we’ll skip that quote.

Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

I don’t know — how about the world’s largest beaver dam? It’s in northern Alberta, Canada, and very hard to get to. Supposedly it’s the largest animal-made structure visible from space. I would like to write about it myself, but no editors are interested. (Write about it, that is, without actually going there.)

(11) ELON MUSK NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post.  Isabelle Khurshudyan and Mary Ilyushina discuss the popularity of Elon Musk in Russia.  Among his fans is Pavel Antonov, who wants to be the first bartender in space, with his role model being the android Michael Sheen played in Passengers. “Why Russia’s mania for Elon Musk just keeps on growing”.

…Pavel Antonov’s life goal can be traced back to the 2016 movie “Passengers,” a sci-fi romance that takes place on a luxury spaceship. One character in the movie is Arthur, an android bartender played by Michael Sheen. Arthur provides smiling relief amid the chaos.

“I immediately thought Musk will definitely need such a person who would distract from all problems,” Antonov said. “For at least one hour, you can sit at the bar, forget about everything and talk about neutral topics. From then on, I decided that I want to be the first bartender on Mars.”…

He’s developed “a signature cocktail for Mars” which is bright blue and a red cherry for the Red Planet…

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mr. Sci-Fi” Marc Scott Zicree is roaming the aisles at San Diego Comic-Con — Special Edition.

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

Revisit “Fighting Forties” LASFS in Rob Hansen’s Bixelstrasse

Did “Shangri-LA” or Ah! Sweet Idiocy! best describe the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society of the 1940s? The answer is – Yes! – as readers of Rob Hansen’s new fannish ebook will discover. Bixelstrasse: The SF Fan Community of 1940s Los Angeles is the latest addition to TAFF’s library of free downloads. 

The story emerges from the participants’ own words – famous and notorious figures like Forrest J Ackerman, Charles Burbee, Claude Degler, Francis Towner Laney, “Tigrina” and “Morojo”, as well as pros of the day including Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Harryhausen, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Fritz Lang, Fritz Leiber and A.E. van Vogt.

It’s another huge compilation — 193,000 words — and available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they also hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund. Find it here.

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword:

The Bixel Street era of LASFS has fascinated me since I first read about it in Harry Warner Jr’s All Our Yesterdays. Yes, there have been other occasions on which fans have shared premises in varying degrees, but to have a community of fans centred around a clubroom and living in nearby rooming houses on the same street gave rise to all-week, around-the-clock fanning of a sort not seen before or since. […]

This set-up, the whole “fannish village” they established, was immensely appealing to me in my twenties (though seeing so much of each other inevitably exacerbated personality clashes, of course). Add in the large numbers of fans from around the country who passed through Los Angeles thanks to the war, many of them processed via the Induction Center at nearby Fort MacArthur before being sent off to fight, and you have something unique in the history of fandom, a saga featuring fans and pros, communists and homosexuals, madmen and mystics, Hollywood stars and spies.

Within the confines of mundane South Bixel Street lay the Bixelstrasse, a name that describes the tight cluster of dwellings on that street that housed its fannish community….

From Bixelstrasse: The SF Fan Community of 1940s Los Angeles.

Fans appearing in the cover photo taken at the 1941 LASFS Xmas Party are as follows. Rear: Helen Finn, Dorothy Finn, Eleanor O’Brien, Morojo, Art Joquel, Ed Chamberlain, Gerald Miller, Henry Hasse. Front: Paul Freehafer, Peggy Finn, Walt Daugherty, Forry Ackerman, Norwin Johnson. Sign over door reads SHOTTLE BOP. See also the 1940s LASFS Gallery at Rob Hansen’s site.

[Thanks to David Langford for the scoop!]

Westercon 75 Still Without A Home

Westercon, created in 1947, and which in its heyday drew a couple thousand fans, is held in a Western North American city – if one wants to hold it. Right now there are no takers for 2023.

Even this year’s Westercon business meeting was deferred until this weekend at Loscon 47 because the 2021 Seattle Westercon was not able to hold the con and disbanded. The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, stewards of the Westercon service mark, conducted a 2023 site selection vote yesterday – None of the Above won against the assorted write-ins. (Once there was an unopposed 2023 bid for Tempe, but they withdrew in June.)

Kevin Standlee announced the site selection result on his blog, as he prepared to chair today’s Westercon business meeting where there was wide latitude under the rules to pick a site anywhere in North America west of 104° west longitude or Hawaii. But there were still no takers. Instead, he told Facebook readers afterwards, the Westercon Business Meeting created a committee (“The Standlee-Hayes Commission”) to find a site/group to host Westercon 75. Kevin says, “We won’t decide until sometime early in the new year. More details later, including a recording of the Business Meeting.”

Pixel Scroll 11/27/21 And In The Barkness Dine Them

(1) SEVERANCE PAY. On The Last Leg, Jodie Whittaker tells the host about her emotional final day on Doctor Who, and the souvenir she stole from the set.

(2) NANOWRIMO DEADLINE APPROACHES. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – and guess which month is almost over? Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green hit the goal, but knows from experience what can happen when “NaNoWriMo meets real life”.

… But the real problem for me and for a number of other writers is NaNo is a complete deviation from our normal way of writing. To push through and finish “the book”, most of us have to turn off the internal editor. We have to give ourselves permission not to write in all the details we usually put in during the first draft. We have to remember that what comes out is not the final product but is, at best, an expanded outline which will need another month or two to get ready for publication….

(3) GATOR GENESIS. It’s interesting that a Gothamist writer claims to have authenticated this story, because during my early days in fandom I’d heard it was perpetrated by Galaxy editor H.L. Gold. “The Alligator In The Sewer: Evidence Behind NYC’s Urban Legend”. The Wikipedia also devotes an article to “Sewer alligator” legends.

On a chilly day in 2010 I stood on the steps of City Hall to hold a press conference. Equipped with a proclamation from the Manhattan Borough President and an enlarged clipping from the NY Times, I was there to announce the First Annual Alligator in the Sewer Day, a pseudo-holiday I have been celebrating every year since.

Exactly 75 years earlier, on February 9th 1935, New York City’s greatest urban legend was born, and the NYT story, which ran the following day, proved that legend was true.

“Alligator Found in Uptown Sewer,” read the headline. The piece recounted how some East Harlem teens were shoveling snow down a storm sewer when one of them noticed movement below. He peered into the darkness and was stunned by what he saw. “Honest, it’s an alligator!” he proclaimed to his buddies….

(4) NO AHHHS ARC. Camestros Felapton provides the “Interim, spoiler-free, review of Doctor Who: Flux” you may not have known you needed.

… Overall, I think so far it has been pretty good. Like previous Chibnall seasons, there’s no stand-out 100% future-classic episode but he is leaning into his strengths. Those strengths include a good sense of the aesthetics of “good” Doctor Who episodes (but not the substance of it) and longer story arcs. Rehashing classic villains isn’t a great way of moving the series forward but Chibnall’s attempts at new ideas previously have largely fallen flat, so…I think I prefer him playing it safe….

(5) A WAY OUT. New Scientist’s Sally Adee reviews Charlie Jane Anders’ new collection in “Even Greater Mistakes review: Short sci-fi stories without the sexism”. The post ends:

… But as Anders shows us, we have choices in how to deal with these rigged systems. We can always throw the whole lot in the bin.

(6) VINDICATION. Vincent Czyz, reviewing a new edition, says “The jury’s in. The critics who agreed with an early assessment that 1975’s Dhalgren is a ‘literary landmark’ get to touch champagne flutes and congratulate one another,” in “Book Review: Samuel R. Delany’s ‘Dhalgren’ – A Critical War of Words” at The Arts Fuse.

“Very few suspect the existence of this city. It is as if not only the media but the laws of perspective themselves have redesigned knowledge and perception to pass it by. Rumor says there is practically no power here. Neither television cameras nor on-the-spot broadcasts function: that such a catastrophe as this should be opaque, and therefore dull, to the electric nation! It is a city of inner discordances and retinal distortions.” – Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren

Dhalgren is a tragic failure,” howled science fiction heavyweight Harlan Ellison in his February 1975 review for the Los Angeles Times. “An unrelenting bore of a literary exercise afflicted with elephantiasis, anemia of ideas, and malnutrition of plot.”

“I have just read the very best ever to come out of the science fiction field,” countered Theodore Sturgeon, another SF heavyweight who, in my opinion, was a tad heavier. “Having experienced it, you will stand taller, understand more, and press your horizons back a little further away than you ever knew they could go.” Galaxy Magazine published his take on Dhalgren after Ellison weighed in.

Critic Darrell Schweitzer, writing for the fanzine Outworld (October 1975), threw in with Ellison, calling Dhalgren “shockingly bad.” “It is a dreary, dead book,” he went on to say, “about as devoid of content as any piece of writing can be and still have the words arranged in any coherent order.”

That seems a pretty definitive judgment, and yet forty-five years later Schweitzer repented: “I have to admit that Dhalgren seems well on its way to fulfilling the definition of ‘great literature’ I give here, i.e., that it means something different to readers and different points in their lives, and they keep coming back to it.”…

(7) MARCHING ON TURKEY DAY. Gothamist has a large gallery of photos from the “2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade In NYC”. Here are two of them:

(8) LOVES A CHALLENGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]  In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote seven songs for the new Disney animated film Encanto and who will write new songs with Alan Menken for the live-action The Little Mermaid remake scheduled to be released in 2023. “’Encanto’’s Lin-Manuel Miranda has become a go-to songwriter for Disney”.

…But it was while working together on Disney’s 2016 animated hit “Moana” — which yielded Miranda’s Oscar-nominated “How Far I’ll Go” — that the composer vocalized an “I Want” wish to screenwriter Bush, who recalls: “He told me he wanted to write the definitive Latin American Disney musical.”

Soon the two were talking with Bush’s “Zootopia” collaborator and fellow brass musician Byron Howard,who would also become a writer-director on “Encanto” (as would Charise Castro Smith). They shared the experience of coming from large extended families. Out of that grew an “Encanto” story that spotlights a dozen main characters — “unheard of in Disney animation,” says Bush….

(9) PEDESTRIAN FACTS. MeTV wants you to know: “Here’s what’s on the ground in ‘The Jetsons’”.

…One of the most common misconceptions about The Jetsons is that the cartoon never shows the ground beneath Orbit City. The Jetson family lives in the Skypad Apartments. George works at Spacely Space Sprockets. Both cylindrical buildings project into the sky like birdhouses on long poles. It is a world of flying cars.

This optimistic vision of the 21st century often left viewers wondering — what is on the ground? Well, the answer is… hobos, walking birds, concrete and parks.

One of the best views of the surface level comes in the seventh episode, “The Flying Suit.” Remember, The Jetsons originally aired for a single season in 1962–63, as reruns kept it on Saturday mornings for years. Anyway, this particular episode revolves around W.C. Cogswell and Mr. Spacely both developing a red jumpsuit that allows people to fly. Meanwhile, Elroy had concocted pills that allow people to fly. A mix-up at the dry cleaners swaps the suits, and in the end, both companies think their flying suit is a dud. Besides, who wants to slip on a special unitard when you can just pop a pill? The episode closes with Cogswell tossing his X-1500 flying suit out the window, believing it to be worthless….

(10) SONDHEIM OBIT. Stephen Sondheim, whose works includes CompanyA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ForumSunday in the Park with GeorgeSweeney ToddFolliesInto the WoodsAssassins and lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, died November 26 at the age of 91. The New York Times obituary is here cites one of his lesser-known genre creations:

…Mr. Sondheim’s first professional show business job was not in the theater at all; through the agency representing Hammerstein, he was hired to write for a 1950s television comedy, “Topper,” about a fussbudget banker haunted by a pair of urbane ghosts. (Much later, Mr. Sondheim wrote a whodunit film script, “The Last of Sheila,” with the actor Anthony Perkins; it was produced in 1973 and directed by Herbert Ross.)

Sondheim coauthored this episode of the fantasy sitcom Topper in 1954 when he was 24.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

[By Cat Eldridge.]

1995 — Twenty-six years ago this evening, the writers of Deep Space Nine decided to riff off of James Bond with the “Our Man Bashir” episode. It was directed by Winrich Kolbe from a story that originated with a pitch from Assistant Script Coordinator Robert Gillan which was turned into a script by Producer Ronald D. Moore. 

Although the episode takes its title from Our Man Flint, a major inspiration for the story was the James Bond films. This obvious influence resulted in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer complaining to Paramount about it as they had GoldenEye coming out. Though why they thought it would affect the success of the film is a mystery as it was the best Pierce Brosnan Bond film and the most successful of his films. 

It was well-received at the time and has not been visited by the Suck Fairy which I hold is true of the entire series. Charlie Jane Anders at io9 considers it one of goofiest Deep Space Nine episodes, and Keith DeCandido at Tor.com says “holy crap is it fun”.  The trailer is here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 27, 1907 L. Sprague de Camp. The Tales from Gavagan’s Bar he wrote with Fletcher Pratt are my favorite works by him. Best novel by him? I’d say that’s Lest Darkness Fall. His only Hugo was awarded at LoneStarCon2 for Time & Chance: An Autobiography. He got voted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, and he got World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. His very first Award was an IFA for Lands Beyond that he wrote with Willie Ley. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 27, 1935 Verity Lambert. Founding Producer of Doctor Who. (When she was appointed to Who in 1963, she was BBC Television’s only female drama producer, as well as the youngest.) After leaving BBC, she’d oversee the Quatermass series at Thames. She’d return to BBC to Executive Produce three seasons of So Haunt Me, a supernatural series.  Wiki has her producing an episode of Doctor Who called “A Happy Ending” in 2006 which it tuns out is one of this fannish productions notable for the presence of Susan, played by Carole Ann Ford, the daughter of the First Doctor.  (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 27, 1940 Bruce Lee. His only genre role was as Kato in The Green Hornet which to my utter surprise only lasted for twenty-six episodes between 1966 and 1967. He also appeared on Batman in three episodes, “The Spell of Tut”, “Batman’s Satisfaction”, and “A Piece of The Action”. Despite the various weird rumors, including Triad induced curses about his death, it was quite mundane. Donald Teare, an experienced forensic scientist who had been recommended by Scotland Yard was assigned to the Lee case. His conclusion was “death by misadventure” caused by cerebral edema due to a reaction to compounds present in the combination Equagesic medication. (Died 1973.)
  • Born November 27, 1951 Melinda Snodgrass, 70. She wrote several episodes of Next Gen while being the series’ story editor during its second and third seasons. She has also contributed produced scripts for the series Odyssey 5Outer Limits, Beyond Reality, and SeaQuest DSV. She’s contributed a lot of stories of the Wild Cards series of which she is co-editor, and I’m very fond of her Imperials Saga which is what that promo blurb referring to Bridgerton was about. 
  • Born November 27, 1957 Michael A. Stackpole, 64. Best known for his myriad Star Wars and BattleTech books, but I’m going to single him out for the excellent Once a Hero which was nominated for a Nebula, his Conan the Barbarian novel, and the two Crown Colonies novels.
  • Born November 27, 1961 Samantha Bond, 60. Best known for playing Miss Moneypenny in four James Bond films during the series’ Pierce Brosnan years. She was also Mrs Wormwood in three episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the spin-off of Doctor Who, and played Helga in Erik the Viking which written and directed by Terry Jones. 
  • Born November 27, 1963 Fisher Stevens, 58. He’s best remembered as Ben Jabituya in Short Circuit (and renamed Ben Jahveri in the sequel), Chuck Fishman on Early Edition, and Eugene “The Plague” Belford in Hackers. He’s also had roles on The HungerLostThe Mentalist, Medium and Elementary.
  • Born November 27, 1974 Jennifer O’Dell, 47. Her only meaningful role to date, genre or otherwise, has been that of Veronica on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World but what a pulp heroine she made there . She’s had some minor roles such on Charmed and Bones, and appearances on films such as Alien Battlefield and Dr. Laurie Williams on Vampire flick Slayer but nothing major to date.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro  tells the story of Dorian Moneybags.

(14) MIYAZAKI RETURNING. “Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki Comes Out Of Retirement For New Film”Deadline has the story.

Famed anime director Hayao Miyazaki revealed he is coming out of retirement once again to make a feature length animated film.

In an interview with the New York Times, Miyazaki didn’t give much detail about the film, but mentioned its based on Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 book How Do You Live? The story follows a teenage boy in Tokyo who moves in with his uncle after his father dies. The novel is reportedly one of the director’s favorites.

Miyazaki didn’t confirm if the film would have the same name as the book, but when asked why he was returning to direct the film, he simply answered “Because I wanted to.” Studio Ghibli co-founder and producer Toshio Suzuki described the new film as “fantasy on a grand scale.”…

(15) PURPLE PEOPLE. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Hawkeye’s sidekick Kate Bishop in Hawkeye but could play an increasingly important role in the MCU in the future. “Hailee Steinfeld of ‘Hawkeye’ could become the next big star of the Marvel universe”.

Hailee Steinfeld had no idea how much one color was about to take over her new superhero life.

Purple has become her second skin during the production and promotion of her highly anticipated series “Hawkeye.” Steinfeld kept seeing the color splashed across the “thousands” of pages she read of the Hawkeye comics, which she enjoyed so much she keeps them on display at her home. Both her character, Kate Bishop, and Clint Barton, played by Jeremy Renner, have purple suits — and it was obvious her chats with the wardrobe department on “Hawkeye” would have a singular focus.

“It’s so funny because, I of course obviously knew about the purple walking into this … but I guess maybe I didn’t. Because it has become my world,” Steinfeld told The Washington Post. “But I’m not mad about it. I do love the color purple.”…

(16) TO PROMOTE PRINT SALES. “Solana Beach Art Gallery to Host Dr. Seuss Art Collection” says Times of San Diego.

Exclusive Collections in Solana Beach announced this week it will host a private collection of artwork by beloved author Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss.

Virtually unknown to the general public, the art collection features paintings and sculptures created by the famous children’s author.

Organizers described the work as “a mind-expanding collection based on decades of artwork, which Dr. Seuss created at night for his own personal pleasure.”

(17) CAVE LIBRUM. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says we probably ought to ban all books, because books are dangerous! “School boards should ban all books. They’re just too dangerous.”

… Books follow you home and pry open your head and rearrange the things inside. They make you feel things, sometimes, hope and grief and shame and confusion; they tell you that you’re not alone, or that you are, that you shouldn’t feel ashamed, or that you should; replace your answers with questions or questions with answers. This feels dangerous to do, a strange operation to perform on yourself, especially late at night when everyone else in the house is sleeping….

(18) ANTIQ-TOCK-QUITY. “Surveillance, Companionship, and Entertainment: The Ancient History of Intelligent Machines” at The MIT Press Reader.

Robots have histories that extend far back into the past. Artificial servants, autonomous killing machines, surveillance systems, and sex robots all find expression from the human imagination in works and contexts beyond Ovid (43 BCE to 17 CE) and the story of Pygmalion in cultures across Eurasia and North Africa. This long history of our human-machine relationships also reminds us that our aspirations, fears, and fantasies about emergent technologies are not new, even as the circumstances in which they appear differ widely. Situating these objects, and the desires that create them, within deeper and broader contexts of time and space reveals continuities and divergences that, in turn, provide opportunities to critique and question contemporary ideas and desires about robots and artificial intelligence (AI)….

(19) STAR WARS NEWS. Disney dropped the trailer for their Boba Fett series today: “The Book of Boba Fett”.

“The Book of Boba Fett,” a thrilling Star Wars adventure teased in a surprise end-credit sequence following the Season 2 finale of “The Mandalorian,” finds legendary bounty hunter Boba Fett and mercenary Fennec Shand navigating the galaxy’s underworld when they return to the sands of Tatooine to stake their claim on the territory once ruled by Jabba the Hutt and his crime syndicate.

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