Roy Dotrice (1923-2017)

Roy Dotrice played Hallyne the Pyromancer in Game Of Thrones

By Steve Green: Roy Dotrice, British actor, died October 16, aged 94. In his best-known genre role he played Jacob “Father” Wells in Beauty and the Beast (55 episodes, 1987-90).

Other genre appearances include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), Late Night Horror (one episode, 1968), Omnibus (one episode, 1969), Tales of Unease (on episode, 1970), Toomorrow (1970), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Space:1999 (two episodes, 1975; these were re-edited for release in 1976 as Alien Attack), Saturn 3 (1980), Stephen King’s Golden Tales (1985), The Wizard (three episodes, 1986), Eliminators (1986), Tales from the Darkside (one episode, 1987), Faerie Tale Theatre (two episodes, 1987), Nightmare Classics (one episode, 1989), Children of the Dark (1994), Earth 2 (two episodes, 1995), Babylon 5 (one episode, 1995), Batman: the Animated Series (one episode, 1995), Strange Luck (two episodes, 1995-96), Tales from the Crypt (one episode, 1996), Spider-Man (four episodes, 1997), Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (three episodes, 1998), Sliders (two episodes, 1999-2000), Touched by an Angel (one episode, 2001), Alien Hunter (2003), Angel (one episode, 2003), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Game of Thrones (as Hallyne, two episodes, 2012).

He won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play (A Moon for the Misbegotten) in 2000.

Pixel Scroll 3/31/17 Once The Pixel Is Scrolled, Mr. File Is No Longer Your Friend

(1) SOMETHING EXTRA FOR YOUR STOCKING. Fans associate Doctor Who and Christmas because of the annual specials. But do you remember the Max Headroom Christmas episode? No, you don’t, because it was never produced…. Until now.

George R.R. Martin, who wrote that script (!), is in fact hosting a week-long Max Headroom marathon at the Jean Cocteau Cinema from May 13-20.

Twenty minutes into the future… thirty years into the past… it was 1987, and Max was the hottest television personality in the world, with the hottest television show….

Yes, that’s right. We’ve having a whole week of Max, to celebrate his 30th anniversary. We’ll be screening all fourteen episodes of his show: the original British pilot, “Twenty Minutes Into the Future,” and the American remake of same, plus every one of the ABC hours that followed….

Oh, and one more thing. We’ll also be featuring, for the very first time anywhere, two Max Headroom episodes that have never been seen or heard before anywhere, two episodes written by a guy you won’t find listed anywhere in the credits for the show: me.

Yep. That’s right. MAX HEADROOM is the great “what if” in my own television career.

For me, MAX came along after my stint on TWILIGHT ZONE and before BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. When ABC first greenlit the US show, they ordered six original scripts to follow the pilot, almost all of which ended up getting assigned to writers just coming off TZ. I was one of those. Mine was supposedly to be… hmmmmm, let me see now… the fourth episode of the series. My title was “Mister Meat.”…

I got a second chance when MAX was picked up for a second season, however. As a freelancer, I got the choice assignment of writing the Christmas episode. And this time I went to town. Wrote the story, rewrote the story, wrote the teleplay, revised the teleplay. “Xmas” was the title of the episode, and it got as far as pre-production…

And then the show was cancelled. Rather suddenly and unceremoniously, I must say. America was spared from celebrating Xmas with Max.

Ah, but with strange aeons even death may die… and like all good writers, I never throw anything away. So as part of our Jean Cocteau M-M-M-Maxathon, the world will meet “Mister Meat” and “Xmas” for the first time. “Mister Meat” is just a short treatment, so I will be reading it myself on the third day of the marathon, in the slot it would have filled if it had been filmed. Come and hear the episode that ABC deemed too offensive and disgusting for Ronald Reagan’s America.

As for “Xmas”… hell, we have a whole finished script of that one, so we’re going to be performing it, live, on the tiny little stage at the Jean Cocteau. Lenore Gallegos will direct, and the parts of Edison Carter, Bryce, Theora, Blank Reg, Max himself, and all the rest of the gang from Network 23 and the ZikZak corporation will be performed by a fearless cast of local actors…

(2) OTHER THINGS NEVER BEFORE DISPLAYED. Oxford’s Bodleian Library will host a major Tolkien exhibit in 2018 , and will publish a companion book.

The Bodleian Library is set to release a book – Tolkien: The Maker of Middle-earth – next year to accompany a major Tolkien exhibition due to take place at the Library.

The exhibition, due to take place in June 2018, will feature an unparalleled collection of Tolkien manuscripts, letters, illustrations and other material from the Bodleian’s Archives. The Bodleian houses the majority of Tolkien’s archives, and many of the items have never before been publicly exhibited. The collection, and the accompanying book, has been described as “unprecedented” by Samuel Fanous, the Head of Publishing at the Bodleian.

(3) THE TRAVELER SPEAKS. Gideon Marcus re-introduces the concept behind his brilliant blog — “[Mar. 31,1962] Read All About It! (What Is The Galactic Journey?)”

This weekend, the Journey travels to WonderCon, a midlin’-sized fan convention with an emphasis on comics and science fiction.  It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce Galactic Journey to a host of new readers, folks who have a keen interest in what this column has to offer.

So what is Galactic Journey?  Quite simply, it is the most comprehensive ‘zine you’ll find covering all of the coolest, the quirkiest, the most far out stuff, as it happens, day-by-day.

In 1962.

…When he started documenting this trip, it was October 21, 1958.  Sputnik was just a year old.  Buddy Holly was still around.  Now, three and a half years later, we have a new President.  We have a new dance craze.  There have been five men in space.

Along the way, he and his fellow travelers have written on every aspect of current science fiction and fantasy…

Galactic Journey is one of my favorite things on the internet – inventive and full of fascinating references to things beloved, forgotten, or never known to begin with!

(4) WEATHER REPORT. Darren Garrison employed his famous phrase-making skills again in comments: “Breaking news; Rainn makes Mudd.”

Star Trek: Discovery” has cast “The Office” alum Rainn Wilson in the role of Harry Mudd, Variety has learned. It is unknown how many episodes Wilson will appear in at this time.

Mudd was a charismatic interstellar con man who had repeated run-ins with the crew of the Enterprise in the original “Star Trek.” The character, who was first played by Roger C. Carmel, also appeared in an episode of “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”

YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. In comments, kathodus pointed out that you can play Ms. Pac-Man on a map based around the area supposedly containing Pratchett’s locale: https://www.google.com/maps/@51.0300925,-1.9468899,18z/data=!1e3.

You just need to click the little Pac-Man icon at the bottom left of the map. Reportedly, this will work until April 2. But when I tried to play, and it said my browser did not support the game, and recommended I download Chrome.

(5) NO FOOLING. The Horror Writers Association will begin taking applications for its HWA, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Dark Poetry, and Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarships on April 1.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five published

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • March 31, 1943  — Christopher Walken, whose sci-fi and horror movie credits include The Mind Snatchers, Brainstorm, The Dead Zone, Sleepy Hollow, and Blast From The Past.

(8) BIG DEAL, YES OR NO? Well, it must be for the BBC to run an article reporting “Doctor Who gets first openly gay companion” – although they had to work a little harder to define what exactly is the news here, bearing in mind Doctor Who’s wife is bisexual, and how often the show’s had gay supporting characters.

Bill Potts’s sexuality will be revealed pretty much straightaway in her second line of dialogue when the show returns to BBC One on 15 April.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st Century. It’s about time isn’t it?” Pearl Mackie, who plays Bill, told the BBC.

“That representation is important, especially on a mainstream show.”

She added: “It’s important to say people are gay, people are black – there are also aliens in the world as well so watch out for them.

“I remember watching TV as a young mixed race girl not seeing many people who looked like me, so I think being able to visually recognise yourself on screen is important.”

“[Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character – it’s something that’s part of her and something that she’s very happy and very comfortable with.”

Gay and bisexual characters have featured in Doctor Who before, such as Captain Jack and River Song, but this is the first time the Doctor’s permanent companion has been openly gay.

Although Captain Jack – played by John Barrowman – travelled with the Doctor for a number of episodes, he was not a full-time companion in the traditional sense.

(9) COMIC SECTION. Truly an inside sf joke in Bliss today.

(10) THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE RECOMMENDED. Jason of Featured Futures returns with another report from the March campaign on the Speculative Front with his “Summation of Online Fiction: March 2017”.

Compelling was off this month and the other twelve prozines produced forty-nine stories of 168K words. Only three of those struck me as especially noteworthy but that was partly offset by several honorable mentions. Tor.com came alive (mostly thanks to Ellen Datlow) when most other zines were below their average. Like Tor, Nightmare was also a little more impressive than usual–and in a month when it had a lot of competition, as many zines seemed to want to include some horror in this spooky month of March…

(11) PLIGHT FLIGHT. UK gaming companies may stage a counter-Brexit.

Some 40% of British gaming companies say they are considering relocating some or all of their business because of Brexit.

Companies cited losing access to talent and funding as major risks when Britain leaves the bloc.

A survey by industry group Ukie polled 75 of the more than 2,000 games firms in the UK, most of which worked in development.

(12) DATA. Counting authors’ uses of text in Ben Blatt’s book — “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve’ Crunches The (Literary) Numbers”.

But that’s what statistician Ben Blatt’s new book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, sets out to do, thin slice by thin slice.

He loaded thousands of books — classics and contemporary best-sellers — into various databases and let his hard drive churn through them, seeking to determine, for example, if our favorite authors follow conventional writing advice about using cliches, adverbs and exclamation points (they mostly do); if men and women write differently (yep); if an algorithm can identify a writer from his or her prose style (it can); and which authors use the shortest first sentences (Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Mark Twain) versus those who use the longest (Salman Rushdie, Michael Chabon, Edith Wharton).

Unexpected results include Tolkien being #5 in use of exclamation points, while Elmore Leonard is dead last.

(13) NEW TRANSLATION AWARD. As Oneiros said in comments: “Not strictly SFF but there is a new UK-based prize for women in translation”.

Coventry’s University of Warwick has announced the launch of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, to have its first winner in November.

The goal of the prize, according to the announcement, is “to address the gender imbalance in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by a British and Irish readership.”

Prof. Maureen Freely, head of English and comparative literature studies—and perhaps better known as the president of English PEN—is quoted in the university’s announcement, saying, “We’ve come a long way with the championing of world literature over the past decade, welcoming in a multiplicity of voices which have gone on to enrich us all.

“In the same period, however, we’ve noticed that it’s markedly more difficult for women to make it into English translation.

“This prize offers us an opportunity to welcome in the voices and perspectives that we have missed thus far.”

…The prize money of £1,000 (US$1,235) is to be split evenly between the winning female writer and her translator(s). Publishers are invited to submit titles starting on April 3. A shortlist is to be announced in October and the winner is to be named in November.

(14) THE VASTY FIELD OF TOLKIEN. David Bratman responds to “A reviewer’s complaint” on the Tolkien Society blog.

That’s part of the title of a little opinion piece by Thomas Honegger in the latest issue of Hither Shore (v. 12, dated 2015), “To whom it may concern – a Reviewer’s Complaint.” Honegger’s complaint is over a lack of “a certain minimal level of professional quality” in Tolkien studies. He mentions fact-checking and proofreading, but his main concern is lack of bibliographical research, scholars unaware of major and basic work in the areas they are covering. “How are we going to advance Tolkien studies if scholars in the field are ignorant of each others research?”

Well, I know how and why this happened. It’s the explosion in the size of our field. About 30 years ago – it seems such a blip in time – I wrote an article for Beyond Bree giving a potted summary of every book about Tolkien that had ever been published, including the art books and parodies. I had them all in my head, and almost all of them on my shelves. I couldn’t do that any more. There’s just too much stuff out there.

(At this point a real article would provide statistics. This is not a real article, and I lack both time and inclination to do that work right now. But if you’ve been paying attention to the field over the years, you know this too.)

Scholars were used to knowing off the top of their heads what work had been done in specific areas of the field. Perhaps they’re still trying to do so, but failing.

Thomas Honegger has, of course, the answer to this. Research. There are bibliographies, online databases, etc. And don’t I know it. I’m right in the middle of doing my lonesome best at compiling the bibliography of Tolkien studies for 2015 that will be going in the next issue of Tolkien Studies….

(15) HONORVERSE WAR COLLEGE. Baen Books hosts “Honorverse Analytics: Why Manticore Won the War” by Pat Doyle and Chris Weuve.

Pat and Chris are members David Weber’s Honorverse consulting group, BuNine. Both are defense professionals who use their day-job expertise to help David flesh out the background worlds and ways of the Honor Harrington series novels. The analysis below is an example of the sorts of briefs and articles BuNine prepares for David as he continues his imaginative journey exploring the Honorverse and bringing his stories to millions of readers.

…The size disparity between the two star nations goes beyond just resources. It also effects what is known as strategic depth, which is usually viewed as the ability to trade space for time. Think for a moment about the disparity between Israel (a country with no strategic depth) and Russia (a country with a lot of strategic depth, as Napoleon and Hitler discovered). At the beginning of the war Manticore has virtually no strategic depth, as the vast majority of both its population and its economic wherewithal is concentrated in the Manticore home system. Haven, on the other hand, has lots of strategic depth—it can and does lose star systems over the course of the war with little decrease in its own warfighting capability. Worth noting, though, is that strategic depth is a more nebulous concept in the Honorverse than in our own universe. Even leaving aside the hyperbridges, the nature of hyperspace travel in the Honorverse has the effect of making space non-contiguous, by which we mean that you can get from point A to point C without going through point B. In theory, then, the Royal Manticoran Navy could appear above Nouveau Paris without warning, just as a Havenite Fleet could do the same at Manticore.

(16) A SERVICE TO MANKIND. Timothy the Talking Cat, being the altruist that he is, thinks anybody should be able to turn out a Cattimothy House book cover in five minutes, not just its publisher. Read “A Message from the CEO of Cattimothy House” and go play.

Here’s a screenshot of the control panel and my first masterpiece.

(17) WHAT’S THAT FLOATING IN THE PUNCHBOWL? Were you in need of a libertarian take on Beauty and the Beast? Look no farther – let Dan Sanchez tell you about “Belle’s Tax-Funded Fairy Tale Life”, a post at the Foundation for Economic Education.

Not to be a childhood-ruining killjoy, but who paid for all this? It’s not like the Beast is an entrepreneur: the local Steve Jobs, providing the townspeople with mass-produced magic mirrors that can make FaceTime calls.

As the new film’s opening sequence makes explicit, the prince paid for his lavish lifestyle by levying taxes—so high that even lefty Hollywood regards them excessive—on the hard-working, commercial townspeople discussed above. The party-animal prince being transformed into a sulking beast may have amounted to a 100% tax cut for the town; no wonder the townspeople are so cheerful and thriving when we first meet them!

(18) DANSE MACABRE. This is bizarre – is that enough reason to use the service in the ad? Get the background from AdWeek in “Skeletor Dances to the Theme From Fame in the Most ‘80s-Tastic Ad You’ll See This Year”.

With an undead head and inhuman abs, Skeletor might literally live forever, which could explain why he’s now jamming out to the lyrically appropriate theme from Fame.

Mattel’s cackling villain from the 1980s cartoon (and blatant toy marketing machine) He-Man and the Masters of the Universe returns to the marketing world after a three-year hiatus, most recently having taken over Honda’s Twitter feed in 2014.

Now Skeletor is shilling for MoneySuperMarket, a British financial-comparison site that promises to help users save on insurance, bank rates and more. And, as you’d imagine, He-Man isn’t far behind.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Jason, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Oneiros, kathodus, Darren Garrison, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 3/26/17 May You Dream Of Large Pixels

(1) WUT. WIRED has a bad feeling about this: “Only You Can Stop The Expanse From Becoming the Next Canceled Sci-Fi Classic”

Syfy’s epic space show The Expanse is a smash hit among science fiction fans, drawing praise from websites like io9 and Ars Technica and from celebrities like Adam Savage. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley also loves the show.

“This is my favorite show on TV,” Kirtley says in Episode 248 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “This is the most serious science fiction TV show—in terms of what hardcore science fiction fans would want in a TV show—that I’ve seen in a long time, possibly ever.”

But while the show is widely praised in many corners, it has yet to attract a wider audience. John J. Joex, who tracks the ratings of various shows over at Cancelled Sci Fi, says that The Expanse looks like a show headed for cancellation.

“The ratings started out decent and then really dropped off,” he says. “And I know this is an expensive series to produce, so I was really getting kind of nervous about it.”

(2) TECH PREDICTIONS. There’s a touch of Ray Bradbury in “Interactive! The Exhibition” at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum through April 16:

Interactive! is a large-scale, hands-on examination of how popular culture in movies, books, TV, and the arts has influenced modern technology and changed the ways we live, work, move, connect and play. In addition to a wide variety of “hands-on” experiences, including Oculus Rift virtual reality, interactive robots, the driverless car, multiple gaming stations, remote control drones, 3D printing stations and more, Reagan Library visitors will also get up close to some of science fiction’s most iconic characters, including a roving, interactive R2D2 from Star Wars, a T-800 endoskeleton from The Terminator, and a full-size Alien from the Alien films. The exhibit also showcases the creative inspiration behind legendary innovators such a Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Walt Disney.

  • Over a dozen immersive games await, including Virtual Reality Gaming by Oculus Rift, robotic arm interactives, 80’s gaming stations and more.
  • Create and compose your own musical masterpiece.
  • Seek out resources on Mars with a remote-control version of the rover from the hit film The Martian.
  • Get up close with the first ever 3D printed car, by Local Motors.
  • Examine communications from the landline rotary telephone and VCR to smartphones.
  • Check out jetpacks, Marty McFly’s hoverboard and even meet Baxter the robot!
  • And much more!

This exhibit is great for museum guests of all ages – from the young, to the young at heart!

(3) VISIONS OF BEAUTY. Jane Frank has remodeled her WOW-art (Worlds of Wonder) website.

She’s also offering Un-Hinged! A Fantastic Psychedelic Coloring Book with All Original Designs by Mike Hinge through Amazon.

(4) ONE THUMB UP. David Sims of The Atlantic finds “’Life’ Is a Fun, Joltingly Scary Creature Feature in Space”.

Daniel Espinosa’s new horror film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds as astronauts fighting a hostile alien…

Any reasonable creature feature worth its bones should have, on balance, about half a dozen scenes where a character makes a patently illogical decision. Just discovered a new form of ancient alien life? Give it some zaps with a cattle prod, just to see what happens. Now you’re fighting an alien enemy in an enclosed space station? Break out the flamethrower! Running low on fuel? Definitely vent everything you have left in an effort to startle the creature, even when it doesn’t work the first three times. If the film is scary and chaotic enough, every bad choice will act as a link in a chain, building to a satisfying crescendo of mayhem that the audience has secretly been rooting for all along. Life isn’t perfect—you probably won’t remember it after three months—but it does exactly that.

Daniel Espinosa’s horror film is set in space and has some ostensible sci-fi trappings, as it’s centered around humans’ first encounter with prehistoric Martian life. But the movie might as well take place in an underground cavern or a fantasy dungeon, since its two-fold premise is fairly universal: The heroes are trapped in a gilded tomb from which they may not escape, and the monster they’ve awakened is stuck in there with them.

(5) WE HATES IT. At Locus Online, Gary Westfahl makes clear that Life does nothing to alter his dislike of horror movies generally – “Mutiny of the Unknown Alien Slime: A Review of Life”.

Further, one might argue that when it comes to alien life forms, anything is possible, but the plausibility of this particular alien life form can be seriously questioned. Without going into detail about all of its antics, I find it extremely difficult to imagine, given what we know about the history of Mars, any series of events that would cause such a creature to emerge and thrive for hundreds of millions of years (which is what we are told happened). And Derry specifies that the alien is a carbon-based life form that in most ways closely resembles terrestrial life forms; and since all such organisms would die within a minute if exposed to the vacuum of space, the Martian would never be able to cavort about in a vacuum with undiminished energy and flexibility for an indefinite period of time. But this nonsense does provide the film with an exciting scene, and for the filmmakers, that was all that mattered. In sum, precautions will always be necessary in dealing with potential alien life, but no one should have any nightmares about slimy, lightning-fast starfish embarking upon campaigns to slaughter all humans in sight.

(6) BEAT THE CLOCK. James Van Pelt, in “Marketing Short Stories”, reviews lots of sales and rejection statistics derived from taking the Bradbury challenge.

First, the background. Two years ago I decided to try Ray Bradbury’s challenge to write a story a week for a year….

CONCLUSIONS: – I was able to find places to submit all the stories pretty much all the time. If there are that many markets, then the short story marketplace is robust. The Submission Grinder lists 25 markets in science fiction that will pay six cents or more per word. There are many more, beautifully done, semi-pro magazines that I’m proud to submit to who pay less. – This is an old lesson, but if you are going to write short stories and submit them on spec, you have to be thick-skinned. I have been submitting stories seriously since the 80s. I’ve sold 145 stories, been a finalist for the Nebula, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award. I’ve appeared in several Year’s Best collections. I think I’m doing okay, but I’m still rejected at an 8 to 1 ratio. Mike Resnick doesn’t suffer from this ratio, I’ll bet, but there’s only one Mike….

(7) SHARING THE FUN. The Los Angeles Times profiles “Frank Oz and the gang of ‘Muppet Guys Talking’ still pulling on their silly strings”.

The movie is the first documentary directed by Oz, who also made such comedies as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Bowfinger.” And of course he was the voice of Yoda in the “Star Wars” films.

It is just a few hours after their premiere and four of the Muppet originators — Oz, Brill, Barretta and Goelz — are sitting around a hotel conference table in Austin. (Nelson died in 2012, the same year the movie’s conversation was filmed.) The four of them have a rapport one might associate with a sketch comedy group, responding quickly to one another with a near-telepathic sense of connection.

With impish delight, Goelz noisily unwraps a candy over the microphone of an interviewer’s recording device a few beats longer than is necessary. Brill playfully spurts a sweet from between her fingers, sending it gracefully arcing through the air to the other side of the room.

It was that largely unseen affinity among them that was the initial impetus for the film. While they have all spoken separately about their characters and time working with Muppets creator Jim Henson, who died in 1990, it was not until filming “Muppet Guys Talking” that they had ever done an interview together.

(8) FRANKLY SPEAKING. ScreenRant, on the other hand, says there are “15 Dark Secrets About The Muppets”.

How quickly people forget that the very first pilot episode of The Muppet Show was entitled, “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence”. In fact, The Muppets and associated Henson characters were never completely immune to controversy, tragedy, or touchy topics, despite their family-friendly exterior. After all, muppets are essentially just a bunch of guys with their hands up the butts of various animal and human-like creations. What kind of dark secrets could we possibly uncover about them? Read on, all you puppet-loving weirdos and take a gander at 15 Dark Secrets About The Muppets

  1. Frank Oz never wanted to be a puppeteer

Amazing as it may seem, one of the most famous muppet voices, aside from Jim Henson himself, never wanted a career in puppetry. Frank Oz was the son of Belgian immigrants who were both puppeteers themselves. While his siblings never took much of an interest in it, Oz performed puppet shows to make extra money as a teenager, saving up for a trip to Europe. As he explained in an interview with IGN, “it was something that I latched on to because it was a way to please them (his parents) and it was a means of expression for a shy, self-effacing boy.”

Oz had actually planned to study journalism in college, but dropped out after a year when Jim Henson offered him a job….

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Spinach Day

It’s not just Popeye who will be strong to the finish on Spinach Day, but everyone who chooses to celebrate the day by consuming some of this leafy green plant will get to join in the health benefits as well!

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 26, 1937 — Popeye statue unveiled during spinach festival, Crystal City, Texas. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

(11) TODAYS BIRTHDAY BOY

(12) INSIDE THE SHELL. The Guardian calls her “Scarlett Johansson, charismatic queen of science fiction”.

Hollywood quickly made room on its red carpets for the young Scarlett Johansson in 2003, when she first created a stir in Sofia Coppola’s film, Lost in Translation. It seemed clear that this blonde bombshell from New York, who was so ably sharing the screen with a dyspeptic Bill Murray, would go on to deliver popcorn buckets-full of mainstream audience appeal. Beautiful, mysterious and charismatic: she was already an aspirational trophy for any traditional leading man.

Yet, 14 years on, Johansson is established instead as a rather different sort of screen idol. Following a succession of high-octane blockbusters and off-beat critical hits, the actress is now enshrined as perhaps the leading sci-fi action star of her generation. Where once her sardonic smirks and sultry looks spoke of old-school movie glamour, she is now more likely to grab the limelight by kickboxing than by smouldering.

(13) IMAGINE SUPERMAN WITHOUT ONE OF THESE. “Last call for the phone booth?” was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

Yes, there’s nothing like reaching out and touching someone from a phone booth. They used to be everywhere, but they are now rare coin-operated curiosities. Mo Rocca looks into the history of the once-ubiquitous phone booth, and of the wi-fi kiosks that are now replacing them in New York City.

(14) WWWWD? Another video on CBS Sunday Morning, “The immortal Wonder Woman”.

The real superpower of the comic book heroine, who just turned 75, is the power to inspire. Faith Salie explores the history of Wonder Woman, and talks with Lynda Carter, made immortal by playing the Amazonian on TV in the 1970s, and with Jill Lepore, author of “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.”

(15) A TALE AS OLD AS TIME. In NPR’s analysis of many versions of the basic story includes a discussion ofan upcoming Tanith Lee collection: “Tale As Old As Time: The Dark Appeal of ‘Beauty And The Beast’”.

The tales in [Maria] Tatar’s compilation swing from vicious to romantic, from comedy to horror. There are stories of a steadfast prince being loyal to his frog-wife, or a princess searching for her bear-husband “east of the sun and west of the moon” — here, love is proven in action and rewarded with happiness. But Beauty and the Beast stories are about power as much as about love. So sometimes the prince steals a maiden’s animal skin to force her to stay with him, or he puts his tortoise-wife on display against her wishes, or he ignores his devoted wife’s warnings and discovers she’s actually a crane. And these stories, where power is abused, differ sharply from the stories of proof and trust: Almost all of them end with her escape.

(16) A TALE AS OLD AS ME. And for us oldpharts: BBC provides video coverage of an opera based on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The Opera de Montreal is taking the rock out of “rock opera” with its ambitious interpretation of Pink Floyd’s classic double album, The Wall.

Another Brick in the Wall: L’Opera tells the story of Pink, a rock star who retreats into his mind to cope with the alienation of fame.

Roger Waters’ lyrics provide the narrative backbone of the two-hour production but composer Julien Bilodeau has removed the album’s familiar rhythms and melodies in favour of timpani and a 50-person chorus.

(17) TUNES OF THRONES. An LA audience was treated to a more up-to-date musical experience this past week — “’Game of Thrones’ live experience transforms Forum into Westeros for the night”.

One of the many powers held by a historic music venue like the Forum in Inglewood — which has seen celebrated concerts by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and Prince — is that of a time machine.

Capable of transporting an audience back to a summer when it first heard a favorite song or an aging band to its initial heyday, the Forum’s ability to slip the bounds of time was again in full view Thursday night with the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, a celebration of the blockbuster HBO series and its music, led by the show’s composer, Ramin Djawadi.

This time-skipping quality could be felt on two fronts. With a mix of orchestral sweep, multiple screens and the occasional blast of fire and smoke, the show’s expected aim was to transport fans to the Middle Ages-adjacent universe of the tangled and very bloody machinations of George R.R. Martin’s Westeros. However, the performance also offered a fleeting glimpse of the not too distant future when “Game of Thrones” is no longer something analyzed and anticipated — July 16 and the new season is coming, everyone! — and exists only as a memory. Indeed, having left such an imprint on pop culture, it wasn’t difficult to imagine this concert being toured and staged well after “Game of Thrones” is over and our watch is ended.

This sort of living tribute to a series nearing its finish gave the night a communal, Comic-Con-esque quality.

(18) WILSON. In “How sketching a dying father led Daniel Clowes to his quirky new film ‘Wilson’” the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Daniel Clowes, whose new film Wilson is based on his graphic novel.  Clowes makes comparisons between producing graphic novels and directing and discusses what happened when he took Charles Schulz’s challenge to come up with a gag for a comic strip every day.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 3/19/17 1984 Was Not Supposed To Be An Instruction Manual!

(1) FAKE REVIEWS FOR CHARITY. For Red Nose Day, March 24, 2017, “Pay a fiver to Comic Relief and TQF will review your book. (But we won’t read it.)”.

The Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction team have written for the most respectable reviewing publications in the world, including Interzone! Black Static! The BFS Journal! And the Reading University student newspaper! But on Friday, 24 March 2017, for one day only, they will cast aside their scruples and review books they’ve never read, all in aid of Comic Relief.

For authors and publishers, big and small, this will be a great way to publicise your books while supporting a good cause. And maybe it’ll help people to recognise fake reviews when they see them. The book doesn’t have to be yours. You could order a review for a friend’s book. Or your favourite novel. Or your least favourite. Or buy several reviews. Anything you like!

We are taking bookings in advance. Once you have made a donation of five pounds, email us with the cover and blurb, or just include an Amazon link to the book in your message when making the donation, and we’ll book you in.

(2) GRUMPY OR DOC? The Guardian’s Zoe Williams asks “Beauty and the Beast: Feminist or Fraud?”

Has Disney really turned Beauty and the Beast into a feminist fairytale? Or is it all just posh frocks and women’s work with a slice of Stockholm syndrome thrown in? We delve beneath the furry facade

1) Incomplete subversion of the genre

The main – indeed the only – stated piece of feminism is that Belle has a job, so escapes the passivity and helplessness that has defined heroines since Disney and beyond. Eagle eyed feminist-checkers noted even before the film’s release that Belle’s inventing is unpaid – so it’s not a job, it’s a hobby. I don’t mind that. The future of work is automation, and even feminists will have to get used to finding a purpose outside the world of money.

I do, however, feel bound to point out that Belle’s invention is a washing machine, a contraption she rigs up to a horse, to do her domestic work while she teaches another, miniature feminist how to read. The underlying message baked into this pie is that laundry is women’s work, which the superbly clever woman will delegate to a horse while she spreads literacy. It would be better if she had used her considerable intellect to question why she had to wash anything at all, while her father did nothing more useful than mend clocks. It’s unclear to me why anyone in this small family needs to know the time.

(3) WHAT IF THEY THROW ROCKS? Eavesdrop on the “Confessions of an asteroid hunter” in The Guardian.

Space physicist Dr Carrie Nugent talks about the chances of Earth being hit by a giant asteroid – and why she owes her job to a Bruce Willis movie

The New Scientist reported research that speculated that millions could die if an asteroid came down over a city. Or that a tsunami would kill 50,000 people in Rio de Janeiro if it landed in the sea off the coast of Brazil. How likely is that? An asteroid impact in the worst-case scenario is a terrifying thing. It seems very uncontrollable: in popular culture it’s often a metaphor for human powerlessness over the world. But when you actually look at the problem and you look at statistics, you realise that we can find asteroids, and we can predict where they are going incredibly accurately. That’s kind of unique for something that’s a natural disaster. And, if we had enough warning time, we could actually move one away. It’s a solvable problem.

And these include firing a nuclear missile at the asteroid? Certainly. I interviewed Lindley Johnson who’s got the coolest title in the world: planetary defence officer. He makes the point that nuclear is something that’s being considered, but he also says that it’s a last resort. One thing I found surprising is that the most effective thing might just be to get out of the way. If it’s a small asteroid – and depending on where it’s going to come down – you might just want to evacuate. In the same way you would deal with a flood.

(4) IT’S ACCURACY IN JOURNALISM. This past week George R.R. Martin and the Mayor Santa Fe helped launch The Stagecoach Foundation, whose assets include a small office building. Martin wrote immediately after the launch —

Stagecoach will be a non-profit foundation. Our dream is to bring more jobs to the people of Santa Fe, and to help train the young people of the city for careers in the entertainment industry, through internships, mentoring, and education.

Apparently news reports got significant facts wrong, even the nearest big city paper. When when he saw the news reports, GRRM wrote a list of corrections:

— the Stagecoach building is not 30,000 square feet. Someone pulled that number out of their ass, and dozens of other reports have repeated it. That’s a rough approximate figure for MEOW WOLF, an entirely different place on the other side of Santa Fe. The Stagecoach building is perhaps a third that size,

— I did not “build” Stagecoach. David Weininger did that in 1999, as the headquarters for his compnay, Daylight Chemical Information Systems,

— I am not “opening a film studio.” Stagecoach is a non-profit foundation dedicated to bringing more film and television production to Santa Fe, it is not a film studio,

— there are no sound stages at Stagecoach (though there are several here in town, at the Santa Fe Studios and the Greer Garson Studios). It’s an office building, and will be used primarily for pre- and post-production purposes,

— I am not going to be “running” a foundation, much less a studio. That task I’ve given to a dynamic young lady named Marisa X. Jiminez, who helped open Santa Fe Studios here in town, and who will have total charge of the day-to-day operations of Stagecoach, under a board of directors.

(5) OVER THE TRANSOM. Compelling Science Fiction editor Joe Stech says they’re once again open for submissions. He’s looking for stories to include in issue 7 (and beyond). The submissions window will remain open until 11:59pm MDT on June 1st, 2017. Full details on the submissions page.

(6) MONTAIGNE OBIT. An actor who appeared in two original Star Trek episodes, Lawrence Montaigne (1931-2017) has died.

StarTrek.com is saddened to report the passing of Lawrence Montaigne, the veteran actor who played the Romulan, Decius, in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Balance of Terror” in 1966 and returned a year later to portray Stonn, a Vulcan, in “Amok Time.” The actor died on Friday, March 17, at the age of 86.

(7) BERRY OBIT. Famed guitarist Chuck Berry (ob-sf — he was referenced Back to the Future) died March 18. The Guardian has the best obit says Cat Eldridge.

Chuck Berry, who has died aged 90, was rock’n’roll’s first guitar hero and poet. Never wild, but always savvy, Berry helped define the music. His material fused insistent tunes with highly distinctive lyrics that celebrated with deft wit and loving detail the glories of 1950s US teen consumerism.

His first single, Maybellene, began life as “country music”, by which Berry meant country blues, but was revamped on the great postwar Chicago label Chess in 1955. It was not only rock’n’roll but the perfect indicator of just what riches its singer-songwriter would bring to the form. Starting with a race between a Cadillac and a Ford, told from the Ford-owner’s, and therefore the underdog’s, viewpoint, this immeasurably influential debut record featured one of the most famous opening verses in popular music: “As I was motorvatin’ over the hill / I saw Maybellene in a Coupe de Ville …”

Berry’s recording of “Johnny B. Goode” was included on the disk attached to Voyager, per a birthday letter sent from Carl Sagan.

(8) WRIGHTSON OBIT. Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson (1948-2017) died March 18 of brain cancer. He was 68.

Wrightson was best known for co-creating the DC Universe character Swamp Thing with writer Len Wein and for illustrating the Swamp Thing comic in the early ’70s. His many other projects included a comic book version of the 1982 Stephen King-penned anthology horror film Creepshow and a 1983 edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for which he spent seven years creating around 50 illustrations. Wrightson also worked as a conceptual artist on a number of films including the original Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, and Creepshow director George A. Romero’s zombie movie Land of the Dead.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

History of International Read To Me Day International Read To Me day was established by the Child Writes Foundation to encourage the growth and spread of adult literacy. It became clear that in countries throughout the world adult literacy is a problem, and many adults simply lack the ability to read even for pleasure. When trying to find ways to help offset this, it became apparent that being read to as a child helped to encourage literacy and a love of reading in adults. The result of these findings was obvious! A holiday needed to be established to encourage the foundations of literacy by reading to our children, and thus was born “International Read To Me Day”!

(10) PORTALS OF DISCOVERY. Will you want to read the book after you play the game? “Joycestick: The Gamification of ‘Ulysses’” on the Boston College website.

A literary critic once asserted that the characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses – the sprawling, modernist opus that has bewitched or bedeviled readers for decades – were not fictitious: Through them, Stuart Gilbert said, Joyce achieved “a coherent and integral interpretation of life.”

Now, through a project titled “Joycestick,” Boston College Joyce scholar Joseph Nugent and his team of mainly BC students have taken this “interpretation of life” to a whole other realm.

Joycestick is Ulysses adapted as an immersive, 3D virtual reality (VR) computer game – a “gamification,” in contemporary parlance. Users don a VR eyepiece and headphones and, with gaming devices, navigate and explore various scenes from the book. Nugent, an associate professor of the practice of English, and his team are continuing to develop, refine and add to Joycestick with the hope of formally unveiling it in Dublin this coming June 16 – the date in 1904 on which Ulysses takes place, now celebrated as Bloomsday in honor of the book’s main character, Leopold Bloom.

(11) CAN’T BE FOUND. The author’s influence on pop culture is pervasive. So “Where Are All the Big Lovecraft Films?” asks this video maker.

H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most important horror and science fiction writers of all time, yet there really aren’t that many large scale adaptations of his work, and even fewer successful ones. So where are all the Lovecraft films?

 

(12) KEEPING UP THE RAY QUOTA. Just in case Camestros Felapton ever does another count….

FATHER ELECTRICO: RAY BRADBURY LIVES FOREVER! is a documentary film based on a collaboration between the author and sculptor Christopher Slatoff.

The frontal view of the sculpture depicts a young Ray’s father carrying him home from a very long day spent at two circuses. Turn the sculpture around and the image of the Illustrated Man and his tattoos come to life and tell their stories.

The other namesake, Mr Electrico, was a carnival magician who charged 12 year-old Ray to “live forever!” The budding author begin writing that day and never stopped.

The video can’t be embedded here, it has to be watched at Vimeo.

(13) NEITHER SNOW NOR SLEET. See Ellen Datlow’s photos from the March 15 KGB Reading.

Nova Ren Suma and Kiini Ibura Salaam read their stories (and parts of stories) the day after NYC’s mini-blizzard when the temperature was still icy

(14) EMAIL ASSAULT. “Shades of Langford’s ‘basilisks’,” says Chip Hitchcock — “US man held for sending flashing tweet to epileptic writer”.

A man accused of sending a flashing image to a writer in order to trigger an epileptic seizure has been arrested, the US justice department says.

John Rayne Rivello, 29, of Maryland, sent Kurt Eichenwald an animated image with a flashing light on Twitter in December, causing the seizure.

He has been charged with criminal cyber stalking and could face a 10-year sentence, the New York Times reports.

“You deserve a seizure for your post,” he is alleged to have written.

Mr Eichenwald is known to have epilepsy. He is a senior writer at Newsweek magazine, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a best-selling author of books including The Informant.

(15) HOW THEY DID IT. The Mummy (2017) Zero Gravity Featurette goes behind the scene of a stunt shown in the trailer.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, and Ellen Datlow for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day lurkertype.]

Pixel Scroll 3/5/17 I Could Not Scroll Thee (Dear) So Much, Scroll’d I Not Pixels More

(1) WEIN SCHEDULED FOR SURGERY. Wolverine co-creator Len Wein has made a public appeal for your good thoughts when he’s in surgery on Tuesday:

Hey, Gang–

I am about to impose on our online friendship for what I pray will be the final time. Then I can go back to posting endless videos of cute Golden Retriever puppies, of which there can never be too many.

Okay, so here’s the deal: About six weeks ago, I took a header while leaving my foot doctor’s office and bounced my head off the floor, which I may have talked about here. At first, they thought the damage was minimal, but further testing revealed I had fractured/broken my upper neck in several places, which need repair immediately or I run the risk of becoming a planter with a head on it. I’m going into the hospital tomorrow morning (March 6) for prep, with major all-day surgery scheduled for Tuesday (March 7) at 11AM PST.

So here’s where you come in. At that time on Tuesday morning, I’d really appreciate it if you just think good healing thoughts about me. I asked the same of you two years ago when I had my quintuple bypass heart surgery, and I believe to this day that’s a major reason I survived it.

So, if you think you can, please do. On the other hand, if you think I drink runny eggs through a straw, I’d rather you not think of me at all. After that, the rest is up to my talented surgeons and whatever Higher Powers That Be.

Thanks for listening, and I hope to see you on the other side.

(2) SPACEMAN SPIFF’S FRIEND. On The Verge, Andrew Liptak introduces readers to Brian Kesinger’s Tea Girls, which includes a series of  Calvin and Hobbes-style Star Wars cartoons.

(3) GANYMEDE BORNE ALOFT BY DEVELOPERS. “Tolkien’s favourite watering hole in line for a makeover: St Giles pub The Eagle and Child in major redevelopment bid”. The Oxford Mail has the story.

HISTORIC Oxford pub The Eagle and Child is in line for a major revamp.

Pub company Young’s and St John’s College plans to redevelop the Grade-II listed watering hole in St Giles.

Known as ‘The Bird and Baby’, it was the favourite meeting place of the 1930’s Inklings’ writers group, which included Lord of the Rings and Hobbit author JRR Tolkien and Narnia creator CS Lewis.

The makeover will span numbers 49-51, including Greens café next door and space above, which is vacant.

Under proposals submitted to Oxford City Council, the Eagle and Child will be expanded and upgraded, with distinctive eating and drinking zones created.

The two upper floors will be converted into seven hotel rooms, with en-suite bathrooms.

Leaseholder Young’s is working with St John’s College, which owns the building and both say they expect the redevelopment to be completed by 2018.

Young’s chief executive Patrick Dardis said: “The Eagle & Child is an iconic pub with huge potential and we are very excited to be working with St John’s on its redevelopment.

(4) THE HOME STRETCH. Radio Times says these three stars have a shot at becoming the next Doctor Who.

Former Death in Paradise star Kris Marshall may be the clear favourite to be the next Doctor – but he still has competition from two women according to one firm of bookies.

William Hill says money is still being taken on Tilda Swinton and Olivia Colman suggesting that the battle for the keys to the Tardis could now be a three-horse race.

(5) SUGGESTED READING. The SFWA Blog has posted the “2016 Andre Norton Award Jury Recommended Reading List” of young adult and middle grade fiction recommended by jurors Ellen Klages, Leah Bobet, Eugene Myers, Jei D. Marcade, and Fran Wilde. I have indicated 2016 award finalist with as asterisk (*).

2016 Andre Norton Award Jury Recommended Reading List

(in alphabetical order by author)

  • Kelly Barnhill – The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Algonquin) (*)
  • Frances Hardinge – The Lie Tree (Macmillan) (*)
  • A. J. Hartley – Steeplejack(Tor Teen)
  • Heidi Helig – The Girl From Everywhere (Greenwillow)
  • David D. Levine – Arabella of Mars (Tor) (*)
  • Katharine McGee – The Thousandth Floor (Harper Collins)
  • Philip Reeve – Railhead (Switch Press) (*)
  • Lindsay Ribar – Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies (Kathy Dawson Books) (*)
  • Patrick Samphire –  Secrets of the Dragon’s Tomb (Henry Holt)
  • Delia Sherman – The Evil Wizard Smallbone (Candlewick) (*)
  • April Genevieve Tucholke – Wink, Poppy, Midnight (Dial Books)
  • Diane Zahler – Baker’s Magic (Capstone Young Readers)

(6) NEWSWEEK TOLKIEN TRIBUTE. “The Road Goes On – The Making of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Silmarillion’” is an article from Newsweek’s Special Edition: J.R.R. Tolkien—The Mind of a Genius.

The story of Bilbo Baggins and his quest to the Lonely Mountain was originally conceived with no connection with his vast and epic mythology. The Lord of the Rings, which began as a simple sequel to the immensely successful The Hobbit, also lacked concrete ties to The Silmarillion (at least in the book’s early stages). But the grip of Tolkien’s earliest tales on the rest of his oeuvre proved inescapable, and the author found himself adding references to his myths within The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, especially because several characters from the latter work, such as Galadriel, hailed from the time period described in The Silmarillion. Tolkien added these characters into his larger legendarium, and in doing so couldn’t resist the temptation to delve deeper into the myths he created and their implication for his world.

“He became more and more interested in what you might call the metaphysical aspects of his secondary invention,” Christopher Tolkien said. “Above all with the nature of the Elves.” The result was that Tolkien died with what he regarded as his most important work, the urtext of a universe loved by millions, in a state of frozen transformation.

Fortunately, Christopher Tolkien was intimately familiar with his father’s vision for Middle-earth’s mythology and proved capable of sorting through the reams of notes and journals the professor left, containing everything from the genealogy of Elf kings to poems to the details of life in Aman. Working with Guy Gavriel Kay (who later went on to become an accomplished fantasy writer in his own right), the younger Tolkien crafted the final version of The Silmarillion for publication in 1977. For the first time, fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings learned of the titanic clashes between good and evil and feats of heroism only hinted at in their favorite fiction.

(7) TOLKIEN, THE PSYCHIC PAPER EDITION. And for those of you with no intention of ever reading the book, eBay is offering the perfect collector’s first edition of The Silmarillion – a publisher’s pre-sale dummy copy – for a mere $945.  It has everything but that bothersome text.

TOLKIEN, J.R.R. The Silmarillion. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1977. First Edition. Publisher saleman’s dummy copy used in advance of the book’s publication. This sample book prints the half-title, title pages, copyright page and the first 32 pages of the text followed by a couple of hundred blank pages to fill out the book. With a long blank folded sheet at the rear as a mockup for the map that would be in the finished book. Bound in blue cloth with the stamping and decoration the same as that of eventually used in the finished book. Fine copy in a fine proof state dust jacket.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 5, 1943 Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is released.

(9) THE FROZEN CHOSEN. As I reported earlier today, Vox Day released the Rabid Puppies 2017 slate. The slate comes with a brand-new logo.

Matt Y accepted the challenge of interpreting the new art.

Techgrrl1972

And could someone decode that logo?

I’ll try:

What you have is a title using a Heavy Metal font, giving it the look of a Def Leppard concert T-shirt. There’s a lot of ice, obviously a clear signal refuting climate change. There’s the castle from Frozen ironically in that they’ll never let it go. There are three puppies. The one on the left is sporting a ladies fur lined parka which might be seasonal however would seem odd to be wearing fur over fur. Not just in a PETA way but just in general. That puppy appears to be playing fetch with Mjolnir and is on it’s way to return it. The husky in the middle has it’s head cocked in stupefied confusion in a mirror image of how most people look when someone tries to explain Rabid Puppies to them. The one on the right didn’t get the melee weapons memo and is trying not to show the others how much that hurt it’s feelings.

The three of them will defend Elsa against the Duke’s evil plans, while desperately seeking a participation trophy once again.

(10) MAGICAL THINKING. Camestros Felapton, in “Tired Puppies 2017”, deconstructs Brad Torgersen’s latest column for Mad Genius Club.

In the comments, Brad even manages to have his cake and eat it by complaining about more ‘literary’ SF *not* having traditional SF covers (his specific example is All the Birds in the Sky) because that is a bad thing too for some reason. Yes, yes, you’d think that he would WANT non-nuggety SF to have non-nuggety covers but that would be applying far too much logical consistency to what is a fundamental objection to wrongbooks having wrongfun in the bookshop.

I think the best, most recent example of this, is All The Birds In The Sky. It’s packaged deliberately as a lit book. It desperately wants to escape the SF/F shelves and go live on the mainstream shelves where the “important” books live. (chuckle) I blame Irene Gallo, who is very much responsible for this trend at TOR. She wants the field as a whole to stop looking like it did during the high period. Because making all that amazing money with space art that actually looks like space art, and swords’n’sorcery art that actually looks like swords’n’sorcery art, was just so gauche.

Note how there is no ground for compromise here. If publisher market SF to a less-SF audience then for Brad this is bad, if they market the same SF to a SF audience then to Brad this is also bad. Would Brad *seriously* be happy if ALl the Birds in the SKy had a cover featuring space rockets (in the book), people descending from ropes from helicopters (in the book) and magical people casting spells (in the book)? Goodness no! That would be the other evil of somehow tricking the honest-SF-reader into reading a book with cooties.

We are back to the unspoken logic of much of what has consumed the right for decades. It is unspoken and avoided, an incomplete argument leads people to a conclusion that they would reject if spoken. By not following the logic they can retain a belief that they are moderate and reasonable. However, their argument always leads to the same spot. Brad would just rather these wrong books DID NOT EXIST. He doesn’t want to ban them or burn them or imprison their authors (although how else can his wish come true?) he just wants them to magically not be there.

(11) THUMBS DOWN. BBC calls live Beauty and the Beast overlong and pointless.

There are two obvious differences between the two versions, however. The first difference is that the current film is live-action, so there are lots of rococo sets and intricate digital creations to look at. And yet, despite the zillions of dollars that must have been spent on the Hogwarts-ish production design, the sad fact is that neither of the showstopping numbers, the title song and Be Our Guest, is as magical or imaginative as it was in a cartoon which came out over a quarter of a century ago.

Few of the actors live up to their predecessors, either. Buried as he is under layers of computer-generated imagery, Dan Stevens manages to make the Beast his own by finding the pathos in his aristocratic awkwardness. Ewan McGregor puts some oomph and ooh-la-la into Lumiere the candelabra. As for the rest of the cast, Emma Watson is prim and petulant as Belle; Emma Thompson’s Mrs Potts is no match for Angela Lansbury’s, who was as warm and soothing as the tea she brewed; and Kevin Kline is painfully mannered as Belle’s wittering father. In many cases, what it comes down to is that the voices in the cartoon were provided by musical and opera veterans who could really sing, whereas the same characters in the live-action film are played by movie stars who really can’t.

(12) DON’T BUILD THIS IN YOUR BASEMENT. The UK military misplaced what?

A north Wales town has a cold war thriller on its hands after nuclear submarine plans were found in a charity shop suitcase.

Staff at a Barnardo’s store in Porthmadog, Gwynedd, were amazed to discover the document showing details of the former £200m HMS Trafalgar.

“Someone said that if the phone rang and it was someone with a Russian accent, I should put it down,” joked manager, Stella Parker.

The plans will be auctioned off.

Charity store staff say the suitcase was donated anonymously and filled with books.

But hidden in the lining of the luggage was the impressive 6ft (1.8m) drawings of the former Royal Navy vessel.

Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Dave Langford is probably snickering at anyone who foolishly thought The Leaky Establishment was fiction….”

(13) VIRTUAL EXHIBITS. Twilight Zone Museum is celebrating 15 years online by hawking video from two TZ conventions held at the beginning of the century. (Remember when the 21st Century was the future?)

For those who missed our two Los Angeles-based TZ Conventions, you’re in luck! We have the 3 panel discussions done in 2002 available on DVD. The actor panel featured actors Cliff Robertson, Jean Carson, Jonathan Harris, Arlene Martel, Wright King, William Windom, Suzanne Lloyd, Kevin McCarthy, James Best, Anne Francis, and Suzanne Lloyd. The writer panel featured George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner, John Tomerlin (“Number 12 Looks Just Like You”), and Marc Zicree. The directors panel featured James Sheldon and Eliot Silverstein plus actors Susan Gordon and Ben Cooper (who appeared in their episodes). George Clayton Johnson’s historic keynote address at the VIP Dinner Celebration, which can be viewed for free right here on this page, is also available on DVD. The 2004 panels: Actor panel with George Takei, H.M. Wynant, Shelley Berman, Gail Kobe, Bill Mumy, and Lloyd Bochner. Director/Producer panel with Ted Post and Del Reisman (both of these panels were hosted by Tony Albarella). Writer panel hosted by Andrew Ramage, with Gloria Pall (TZ actor and writer of her own TZ scrapbook plus 14 other books), Sandra Grabman (author of “The Albert Salmi Story”), Chris Beaumont (son of Charles Beaumont, TZ writer extraordinaire), Roger Anker (biographer of Beaumont), and George Clayton Johnson. There was a fourth panel of folks involved with “The New Twilight Zone” (from the 80s), led by Alan Brennert and including Harlan Ellison, Rockne O’Bannon, and others. The charge is $60 for all four of the 2002 panels and the charge for all five of the 2004 panels is also $60. Shipping cost is $6 within USA; if you buy both sets, it’s still $6 total for shipping. Outside USA shipping – please inquire for cost, as we will have to look it up online. These are high quality Region 1 DVDs. Payment methods accepted are Paypal, cash, or USPS money order ONLY! If paying by Paypal, there is a surcharge of $6 if purchasing both sets, or $3 if purchasing only one set, due to Paypal’s processing fees. Note: it costs you nothing to send money by Paypal, but there is a fee for us to receive your money and a 2-3 day waiting period before it hits our bank account. Please email oceanave@usa.net to place your order or if you have further questions!

(14) DEADPOOL 2. A teaser for the next Deadpool movie is making the rounds.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/17 That’s it! Scroll Over Man, Scroll Over!

(1) ACADEMY INVITES LE GUIN. Ursula K. LeGuin has been voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters reports SFGate. The 87-year-old Le Guin is one of 14 new core members of the Academy.

The arts academy, an honorary society with a core membership of 250 writers, artists, composers and architects, once shunned “genre” writers such as Le Guin. Even such giants as science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and crime novelist Elmore Leonard never got in.

Academy member Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, advocated for Le Guin.

“As a deviser of worlds, as a literary stylist, as a social critic and as a storyteller, Le Guin has no peer,” he wrote in his recommendation, shared with the AP, that she be admitted. “From the time of her first published work in the mid-1960s, she began to push against the confines of science fiction, bringing to bear an anthropologist’s acute eye for large social textures and mythic structures, a fierce egalitarianism and a remarkable gift of language, without ever renouncing the sense of wonder and the spirit of play inherent in her genre of origin.”

(2) 2017 RHYSLING ANTHOLOGY COVER REVEAL. Hat tip to F.J. Bergmann.

(3) NEW FICTION WEBZINE. Science fiction and fantasy book imprint Strange Fictions Press will officially launch Strange Fictions SciFi & Fantasy Zine on February 28 with “This Chicken Outfit,” by Pushcart nominated author, A.L. Sirois. Siriois’ short stories have appeared in ThemaAmazing Stories, and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He has also contributed comic art for DC, Marvel, and Charlton.

Strange Fictions will focus “on publishing speculative short fiction, nonfiction, art, and poetry twice a week for genre fans worldwide.”  New stories, poems, and essays will appear every Tuesday and Friday. Subscribers can sign up for email notifications whenever a new story is posted.

Strange Fictions SF&F Zine is open to submissions from both new and experienced genre writers, and details can be found at the website.

Authors of acquired pieces for Strange Fictions SF&F ‘Zine will receive a flat fee payment of $5 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 4,999 words and under and $10 for stories, essays, poetry, and book reviews of 5,000-10,000.

(4) ALOFT. Martin Morse Wooster recommends Miyazaki Dreams of Flying as “a lovely compilation of flying scenes from Miyazaki films, including an interview where the great animator expresses his love of airplanes.”

(5) DEFYING THE LAW…OF GRAVITY. In “Mars Needs Lawyers” on FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker looks at the many problems of international law that have to be solved in we’re ever going to have successful Mars missions.  For example:  if you have astronauts from five countries flying in a spacecraft that’s registered in Liberia, how do you figure out which country’s law applies?

For instance, a limited number of satellites can orbit the Earth simultaneously. Put up too many, and you end up with an expensive game of celestial bumper cars. But some countries — Russia and the United States, in particular — had a big head start on gobbling up those slots. What do you do if you’re Nigeria? Today, Gabrynowicz said, the international community has settled on a regulatory system that attempts to balance the needs of nations that can put an object into geostationary orbit first with the needs of those that aren’t there yet but could be later. And even this compromise is still extremely controversial.

The same basic disagreement behind them will apply to Mars, too. And it’s at issue right now in the U.S., as lawmakers try to figure out how best to implement the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act — a bill signed by President Obama in November 2015. That law states that U.S. companies can own and sell space resources — including minerals and water. But the details of what this means in practice haven’t been worked out yet, Gabrynowicz said. Legal experts say that those details will make the difference in terms of whether the law puts the U.S. in violation of the Outer Space Treaty.

This question of whether space should be an Old West-style gold rush or an equitably distributed public commons could have been settled decades ago, with the 1979 Moon Agreement (aka the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies), which would have established space as part of the “common heritage of mankind.” What this would have meant in practice is not totally clear. But at the time, opponents saw it as having the potential to ban all private enterprise and effectively turn the heavens into a United Nations dictatorship. It ended up being signed by a handful of countries, most of which have no space program. But it is international law, and if humans go to Mars, though, we’ll likely end up debating this issue again.

(6) GAME WRITING. Monica Valentinelli gives an “Overview of Game Production and the Role of Writers” at the SFWA Blog.

One of the things I enjoy doing as a game developer is hiring new writers. In almost every case, writers are shocked to learn how many levers and pulleys there are in game production. This tends to hold true regardless of what kind of game a writer is contributing to; in part, this has to do with the process of transitioning from a consumer’s mindset (e.g. fan, critic, reviewer) to that of a creator’s. Sometimes, however, the process is confusing because there are aspects physical development that writers aren’t always involved with. A good example of this is that developers often regard word processing documents with an eye for production when they redline and provide comments. What’s laid out vertically on a page in text isn’t how it will be rendered in the final product, and that has a huge impact on what the writers are hired to write, edit, and make changes on. Sometimes, the number of words that fit on a page or a screen can also shape a writer’s assignment, too.

Other, lesser-known aspects of production might include:

  • Canon or Setting Bible creation
  • Systems/rules documentation
  • Marketing copy and sell sheets
  • Outlining and project management
  • Mock-ups and proofs for manufacturing
  • Playtest or beta editions

(7) DISNEY’S DUDEFRÉRES. Another clip from the live-action Beauty and the Beast shows LeFou singing “My, what a guy, that Gaston!” With Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou.

(8) VOIR DIRE STRAITS. Shadow Clarke juror Jonathan McCalmont followed his introductory post with an entry on his ownblog, Ruthless Culture “Genre Origin Stories”.

A couple of things that occurred to me upon re-reading the piece:

Firstly, I think it does a pretty good job of capturing how I currently feel about the institutions of genre culture. To be blunt, I don’t think that genre fandom survived the culture wars of 2015 and I think genre culture has now entered a post-apocalyptic phase in which a few institutional citadels manage to keep the lights on while the rest of the field is little more than a blasted wasteland full of isolated, lonely people. One reason why I agreed to get involved with shadowing the Clarke Award is that I see the Shadow Clarke as an opportunity to build something new that re-introduces the idea that engaging with literary science fiction can be about more than denouncing your former friends and providing under-supported writers with free PR….

McCalmont’s post includes a high overview of the past 40 years of fanhistory. I was surprised to find many points of agreement, such as his takes about things that frustrated me at the time they were happening, or that I witnessed affecting my friends among the LA locals who founded anime fandom.

Regardless of whether they are conventional, idiosyncratic, or simply products of distracted parenting, our paths into science fiction cannot help but shape our understanding and expectations of the field. Unfortunately, where there is difference there is bound to be misunderstanding and where there is misunderstanding there must inevitably be conflict.

The problem is that while the walls of science fiction may be infinitely porous and allow for inspiration from different cultures and artistic forms, the cultural institutions surrounding science fiction have shown themselves to be remarkably inflexible when it comes to making allowances for other people’s genre origin stories.

The roots of the problem are as old as genre fandom itself. In fact, the very first Worldcon saw the members of one science fiction club deny entry to the membership of another on the grounds that the interlopers were socialists whose politicised understanding of speculative fiction posed an existential threat to the genre’s continued existence. A similar conflict erupted when the unexpected success of Star Wars turned a niche literary genre into a mass market phenomenon. Faced with the prospect of making allowances for legions of new fans with radically different ideas as to what constituted good science fiction, the institutions of genre fandom responded with sluggishness indistinguishable from hostility. Media fandom was born when traditional fandom refused to expand its horizons and the same thing happened again in the early 1990s when fans of anime decided that it was better to build their own institutions than to fight street-by-street for the right to be hidden away in the smallest and hottest rooms that science fiction conventions had to offer.

The institutions of genre culture may pride themselves on their inclusiveness and forward-thinking but this is largely a product of the excluded not sticking around long enough to give their own sides of the story. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have been offered the chance to get in on the ground floor when science-fictional ideas began to manifest themselves in different ways. Time and again, the institutions of genre culture have chosen to protect the primacy of the familiar over the vibrancy of the new and the different….

Cultural commentators may choose to characterise 2015 as the year in which genre culture rejected the misogynistic white supremacy of the American right but the real message is far more nuanced. Though the institutions of genre culture have undoubtedly improved when it comes to reflecting the diversity not only of the field but also of society at large, this movement towards ethnic and sexual diversity has coincided with a broader movement of aesthetic conservatism as voices young and old find themselves corralled into a narrowing range of hyper-commercial forms.

I thought that was well said. Unfortunately, I also read the comments.

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • February 24, 1909 – August Derleth
  • February 26, 1918 – Theodore Sturgeon

(10) THE STRAIGHT POOP. “Do Cats Cause Schizophrenia? Believe the Science, Not the Hype” advises WIRED.

The link between schizophrenia and cats goes back to the 1970s, when psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey learned that viruses from dogs might trigger multiple sclerosis—a neurological condition—in humans. “That got me thinking about which animals host which infectious agents,” he says. Soon, he learned that cats host the most successful infectious bacteria in the world: Toxoplasma gondii. Looking into previously published research, he found plenty of studies showing that schizophrenics often had higher levels of toxoplasma antibodies in their blood than people without the mental illness.

Then he started surveying schizophrenics about their life history, and found that many had indeed lived with cats. But what’s important isn’t just if, it’s when. See, Torrey’s theory isn’t merely that T. gondii causes mental illness, it’s that it somehow alters the development of a person’s brain during crucial periods of brain development—and probably only if that person is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. It’s a complicated hypothesis, and even after four decades of study, Torrey says he’s still not totally convinced it’s fact. Hence, his continued research on the subject.

Still, every study he publishes—his most recent, dropped in July of 2015—attracts the media like nip. Same with refutations, like the one published this week. The authors analyzed a dataset of 5,000 UK children, looking for a correlation between cat ownership during critical ages of brain development and behavioral indicators of later psychosis (like dark thoughts) at the ages of 13 and 18. Their statistical analysis of the results showed no correlation. Most (but not all) news websites ran with some variation of “Relax, Cats Don’t Cause Schizophrenia.”

But that’s not what the study said.

(11) GUESS WHO. From 2015. David Tennant’s NTA Special Recognition – his reaction: “Actor Sees A Tribute Video On Screen. The Realizes It’s For Him And He Can’t Believe It”

(12) TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Carl Slaughter says, “This documentary convincingly demonstrates how the Batman movies/trilogies reflect the cultural era in which they were produced.”

  • 60s Batman  –  prosperity
  • 70s  –  disillusionment  –  no Batman movies
  • Batman  –  escapism
  • Batman Returns  –  anti rich
  • Batman Forever, Batman & Robin  –  safety
  • Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises  –  fear
  • Batman versus Superman  –  extremism

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 2/21/17 Troll, Troll, Where’s My Scroll? Gone To The Pixel, Lol Lol Lol!

(1) SPIRIT QUEST. The Society of Illustrators in New York City will host a Will Eisner centennial exhibit from March 1-June 3.

  • An opening reception will be held at the Society of Illustrators on the evening of March 10, from 7:30 – 11:00pm. Suggested donation of $20 helps support our programming and exhibitions. Cash bar will be open until midnight.
  • On April 22, there will be a gallery talk led by curators Denis Kitchen and John Lind.
  • A panel discussion on Will Eisner is scheduled for May 9.

The lasting legacy that Will Eisner (1917–2005) has in sequential art cannot be overstated—he is known as the Champion of the Graphic Novel. His innovative storytelling, layouts, and art on his newspaper series The Spirit inspired a generation of cartoonists, and his turn toward an acclaimed run of graphic novels, beginning in 1978 with A Contract with God, helped pioneer the form. Among the honors bestowed upon Eisner are the Reuben Award, the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award, the Yellow Kid Award, and multiple Harvey Awards and Eisner Awards—the latter of which were named in his honor.

This two-floor retrospective—the largest Eisner exhibition ever in the United States—curated by Denis Kitchen and John Lind, comprises over 150 pieces including original artwork from Smash Comics (1939), key sequences from his graphic novels including A Contract with God (1978), Life on Another Planet (1983), A Life Force (1988), To the Heart of the Storm (1991), and over 40 pages of originals from The Spirit (1940–1952) newspaper section.

SI is located at 128 East 63rd Street between Lexington and Park Avenue in New York City.

(2) DRAGON CON LOSING AWARD? SF Site News carried the Parsec Awards announcement that they are surveying fans about their receptivity to a virtual awards ceremony in place of the annual presentations at Dragon Con. The Parsec Awards “celebrate speculative fiction podcasting.” From the awards site —

This is not something we take lightly. Over the years the awards ceremony has been an opportunity for us to share laughs, music, triumph and tragedy as a community. You, who have supported us and each other, are the reason the awards exist and we would be remiss if we didn’t attempt to serve you in the best way possible.

We feel that a virtual awards ceremony may help us do that.

By dissociating the awards with Dragon*Con, we feel that more of our community will be able to participate. No longer will travel to Atlanta be a prerequisite for presenters, entertainers or recipients. Many of those who attended Dragon*Con even found their schedules did not allow their attendance at the awards. We also feel that we can have a better chance of securing judges’ time when we are not smack in the middle of Con season as we can now have some flexibility in scheduling the awards.

So far 73% of the respondents to the survey favor moving to a virtual awards ceremony.

(3) ONE STOP. Marco Zennaro has organized a cover gallery for the “2016 Nebula Award Nominees” plus a synopsis of each work and links where to buy or find them for free.

(4) PRAISE FOR RAMBO. Rich Horton comments on “Nebula Nominees”.

Three stories that showed up on my list of potential Hugo nominees. (“Red in Tooth and Cog” was on my Short Story list (my word count for it is 7000, making it technically a Short Story but eligible for nomination as a Novelette).) The other two are “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” and The Jewel and Her Lapidary. (Curious that in length those three stories are at the very bottom end of novelette, right in the middle, and at the very top end.) The remaining three stories are decent work that I didn’t have listed among my favorites of the year, but none of them strike me as poor stories. So, again, a pretty strong shortlist, with my personal inclinations favoring either Cat Rambo’s story or Jason Sanford’s story; with Fran Wilde’s a close third — a win for any of those would make me happy.

UPDATE: Apparently there is no deadband for Nebula nominations, and “Red in Tooth and Cog” has been declared too short for novelette. It would have been nominated as a Short Story, but Cat Rambo graciously declined the nomination.

This is a shame from my point of view — Rambo’s story is (to my taste) definitely one of the best couple of stories on either the short story or novelette list, and so the shortlist is diminished by its absence. (“The Orangery”, the replacement novelette, is a fine story, to be sure, but not as good as “Red in Tooth and Cog” (in my opinion).)

This also makes the overall shortlist even more Fantasy-heavy (vs. SF), which is of course totally allowed, but to my taste again a bit to be regretted. I do think the Nebulas recently are tending to lean a bit heavily to the Fantasy side.

(5) NOW READ THE STORY FREE. You can find “Red in Tooth and Cog” in its entirety online at at Cat Rambo’s website.

(6) GONE WITH THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. In a piece called “Warfighter: Toad Hall”, The Angry Staff Officer reimagines The Wind in the Willows as if it were a wargame for military strategists to analyze, complete with the use of animal intelligence or AMINT.

How Wind in the Willows can teach us about small unit actions in warfare.

That sound? Oh, that’s just the clunking of heads hitting desks, as people react to their beloved childhood book being brought under the scrutiny of the military microscope. But really, we’d be doing an injustice to that mighty asymmetric warfighter, the Badger, if we neglected to share his courageous story with an entirely new generation of military strategists. Wind in the Willows is not a military work by any means. But the Battle for Toad Hall bears noting, because Kenneth Grahame unwittingly factored in some key elements of small unit warfare.

(7) BELLE CHIMES IN. Emma Watson sings in this new Beauty and the Beast clip.

(8) SUCH A DEAL. Director Alfred Hitchcock paid $9,000 anonymously for the film rights to Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho.

(9) SAVAGELAND. The award-winning Savageland from Terror Films will be released online February 24.

Terror Films has locked in a U.S. release date for the multi-award winning film, Savageland. To celebrate the film’s February launch, a “Dead Alive” clip is available, now!

The film is centered on the night of June 2, 2011. On this date, the largest mass murder in American history occurs in the off-the-grid border town of Sangre de Cristo, Arizona, just a few miles north of Mexico. The entire population of fifty-seven disappears overnight and the next morning nothing is left but blood trails leading into the desert.

 

(10) LENGTHENING SHADOW. The final three Shadow Clarke jury members introduce themselves, followed by the first shortlist post.

In the world of translation lit-blogging, I also discovered the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (now Man Booker International Prize) shadow jury. The idea was that a group of bloggers would read the Prize longlist; write about and discuss the books; create their own shortlist; and choose their own winner. It sounded great fun, so I asked to join – and it was.

I’ve had such wonderful times as a shadow juror, it has become a highlight of my reading year. I’m delighted that Nina Allan has adapted the idea for the Clarke Award, and excited to be participating in the project. I look forward to new conversations about science fiction, new insights, thoughts and perspectives.

These days I would describe myself as a reader on the outer edge of the sf genre; a frequent dipper of toes but a dipper nonetheless. I say that in context. I read 100 fiction books last year, of which just under a quarter could be characterised as science fiction or fantasy.  That’s quite a significant proportion I suppose, and if asked I would identify sf as something I’m interested in.  But I know that in some parts of the reading universe that’s not a great deal, and that what I’ve read doesn’t qualify me as an expert in any shape or form. At the most basic level I think of my role in the shadow judging process in this way: I’m the kind of person who uses the Clarke Award as a litmus test of quality and a steer to sf books to look out for.  I’m looking for ways to supplement the limits of my expertise and this is one of them.  As a reader of predominantly ‘literary’ and historical fiction I’d like to think the Clarke shortlist is a shortcut to the most critically challenging, engaging and powerful fiction in the field in any given year.

Even as I grew to recognise science fiction as a specific branch of literature, I remained wholly ignorant, for a long time, of the culture surrounding it. I had no idea there was such a thing as SF fandom and, most likely because I knew no one else who read SF or even knew about it beyond the Doctor Who or Star Wars level, I rather think I cherished the idea that novels like The Time Machine and The Day of the Triffids had been written especially for me. How could it be otherwise, when these books contained everything I might hope to find in a story: mystery, adventure, that fabled sense of wonder and that secret silver seam of something else, something that tastes like fear but is closer to awe.

[Before I start, I would like to state for the record that for the purposes of the shadow jury I am pretending that The Gradual – written by my partner Christopher Priest – does not exist. As such I will not be considering it for inclusion in my personal shortlist, or talking about it in this post.] 

So here we are again – the submissions list for the 2017 Clarke Award has just been posted, and the speculation about the runners and riders can officially begin. I’ve been playing this game by myself for a number of years now, poring over the list, winnowing the wheat from the chaff, trying to arrive at a list of six books that I would consider my ‘ideal’ shortlist. It’s never easy. Out of the thirty to forty novels I would personally consider as genuine contenders – and for me that would be books that aren’t zombie/vampire/horror/fantasy novels with no science fictional sensibility or run-of-the-mill commercial SF – there are always around eight to ten I could pick quite happily, with the result that I usually end up feeling I’ve short-changed one book or another by not including it in my reckoning.

(11) MONSTER ARTIST. A Guardian interview: “Emil Ferris: ‘I didn’t want to be a woman – being a monster was the best solution’”.

There has never been a debut graphic novel quite like Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. The 55-year-old artist’s first published work, which came out last week, is a sweeping 60s-era murder mystery set in the cartoonist’s native Chicago. It’s composed of ballpoint pen drawings on wide-ruled notebook paper and is the first half of the story with the second volume out in October. Before she began work on Monsters, Ferris paid the bills with freelance work as an illustrator and a toy designer, making figurines for McDonald’s – she sculpted the Mulan line of Happy Meal prizes for one of the fast food behemoth’s subcontractors – and for Tokyo toymaker Tomy, for whom she worked making the Tea Bunnies line of dolls.

But in 2001, Ferris contracted West Nile virus. At the time a 40-year-old single mother, Ferris’s work was all freelance, she said – with the effects of west Nile hindering the use of three of her limbs, her work dried up, and she looked for another outlet, in part for her creative output, and in part to exercise a dominant hand damaged by the effects of the disease. She went back to school and produced My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, which draws on her own childhood and on the experiences of family and friends who survived the Holocaust. But when her book was finished the Chinese company shipping the copies from the printer in South Korea to the United States went bankrupt and the whole print run was held hostage at the Panama Canal by the shipping company’s creditors along with the rest of the cargo on the ship carrying it.

Now, it is finally here.

(12) LOADED SF. Joshua Sky tells Tor.com readers about “Collecting Philip K. Dick: Science Fiction’s Most Powerful Gateway Drug”.

Philip K. Dick has a way of taking the reader there. Each of his novels presents a whole new experience in of itself; a totally different world that is both new yet enticingly familiar. The reader, upon finishing the book, finds that they’re no longer the same person who started it. As I’ve said, his work is perception-altering.

By age 22, I landed my first job out of college at Marvel Entertainment—it was just as the crash of 2008 was happening, so I was relieved to find something full-time. In my department was a Japanese fellow, Teru, who also collected PKD’s work and we bonded over that, swapping books and chatting about our interpretations of his stuff. Teru suggested that I also read Alfred Bester and J.G. Ballard. Another friend and co-worker during this time was a Brooklynite named Eric. We’d met at Brooklyn College and would discuss Dick’s work and make up different word games–my personal favorite was coming up with bad titles for PKD novels (since Dick himself had some deeply strange titles for his books, such as The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, to cite just two examples.)

The more I read, the more I learned about PKD himself. Turns out, most of what he wrote was first draft material with just a bit of polishing. He’d probably laugh at how most of the universities have trained an entire generation of writers to be self conscious and to over-rewrite, probably one of the most detrimental things a writer can do.

(13) LIBERATED JEDI. FANAC.org has added to its YouTube channel the video of MidAmeriCon’s (1976) audience Q&A session with the producer and leading man from the yet-to-be-released movie Star Wars.

Right out of the gate, some fan questions Princess Leia’s costume choice, and asks haven’t they seen covers of Amazing?

Gary Kurtz answers, “And we’ve got to remember women’s liberation. At this time we can’t be, we aren’t sexually selling females or males in this film.”

You didn’t know that, did you?

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. Before the film was released, before Star Wars and George Lucas were household names, producer Gary Kurtz, star Mark Hamill and marketing director Charles Lippincott came to MidAmeriCon to promote Star Wars. This Q&A session is full of fascinating background information about the film, the filming and the attitudes of the Star Wars team. For example, listen to Kurtz talk about the massive $18M gate they would need to break even. This is brought to you by the FANAC Fan History Project, with video from the Video Archeology project (coordinated by Geri Sullivan, with technical work by David Dyer-Bennet).

 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Darrah Chavey, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Beauty and the Beast – US Official Final Trailer

On March 17, rediscover a tale as old as time.

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a live-action re-telling of the studio’s animated classic which refashions the classic characters from the tale as old as time for a contemporary audience, staying true to the original music while updating the score with several new songs. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Oscar® winner Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s eccentric, but lovable father; Josh Gad as Lefou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Golden Globe® nominee Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, the candelabra; Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Oscar nominee Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and two-time Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.

 

Pixel Scroll 1/28/17 The More You Hive, The Less Pixelated You Are

(1) CORTANA’S WRITERS. The Financial Times’ Emma Jacobs, in “Robots replacing our jobs? Microsoft’s Cortana is creating them”, interviewed Joanthan Foster, principal content publishing manager for Microsoft’s Cortana, who oversees a staff of 28 (including a children’s novelist and a playwright) tasked with giving this personal digital assistant a personality.

“Why, for example, does Cortana have to have a favourite movie? ‘Because people are asking that,’ says Mr Foster.  For a while, her favourite film was ET (she skews to science fiction) but today it swings between Star Wars and Star Trek films.  Her favourite TV show is Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Another sf reference:  Cortana’s name “is a reference to a buxom character clothed in a transparent sheath in the video game Halo.”

How to access this article – Look it up on Google and you will be able to click through to read it. If you use the link above directly, you will hit a paywall.

(2) ASTRONAUT FASHIONS. Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport, in “A first look at the path NASA astronauts will walk when the U.S. launches humans into space again”, has an overview of activities at Cape Canaveral, with reports on activities by Boeing, Blue Origin, Moon Express, and SpaceX.  But the news here is about the Boeing spacesuits.

Then there’s the sleek new blue Boeing spacesuit that, at 20 pounds, weighs 10 pounds less than the one worn by shuttle astronauts. It comes with gloves that work on touch screens and lightweight boots designed by Reebok that feel like slippers. Instead of having a huge fishbowl bubble helmet, as the shuttle astronauts’ suits did, the new suit’s helmet slips over the head like a hood.

2017-boeing-blue-starliner-spacesuit-SUIT0117

(3) MOVING POSTERS. Disney released a collection of motion posters featuring the cast of the upcoming live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. UPI has the story.

(4) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On February 15 the hosts of the reading series, Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, will present Michael Cisco and Nicholas Kaufmann. Begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Michael Cisco is the author of several novels, including The Divinity StudentThe NarratorThe Great Lover, Animal Money, The Wretch of the Sun, and a short story collection, Secret Hours.  His fiction has appeared in The WeirdLovecraft Unbound, and Black Wings (among others). His scholarly work has appeared in Lovecraft StudiesThe Weird Fiction ReviewIranian Studies, and Lovecraft and Influence. He lives and teaches in New York City.

Nicholas Kaufmann’s work has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, a Thriller Award, and a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Dying is My Business from St. Martin’s Press was selected for the Los Angeles Times Holiday Book Gift Guide, and the sequel, Die and Stay Dead, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. His latest novel is In the Shadow of the Axe, out now from Crossroad Press with an introduction by Laird Barron.

(5) STICK A FORK IN IT. Write On by Kindle, Amazon’s attempt at a Wattpad competitor, is closing down March 22, a year after leaving beta testing. Users have been advised:

Your Amazon.com account will not be affected by the closure of Write On. If you don’t have any content you wish to save, no further action is required on your part.

If you do have content you wish to save, we encourage you to download your posted and drafted stories by March 22.

(6) HURT OBIT. Actor John Hurt died January 25 at the age of 77. The Vanity Fair tribute listed some of his many genre credits –

The cause of death was not immediately reported; Hurt was diagnosed in 2015 with pancreatic cancer, but in October of that year announced that he was “thrilled” to have had his final scan, “and it‘s all gone brilliantly.”

… He earned his first BAFTA award in 1976, for playing gay author and ranconteur Quentin Crisp in the TV film The Naked Civil Servant; that same year, he played notorious Roman emperor Caligula in the TV film classic I, Claudius.

As a trained actor with a resonant voice and an unmistakable screen presence, Hurt could be a leading man—as in the 1984 version of George Orwell’s 1984 and David Lynch‘s The Elephant Man—but may be more familiar to audiences as a supporting player, from the first, unlucky victim of the chestburster in 1979’s Alien to 2016’s Jackie, in which he plays a priest who has the ear of a mourning Jacqueline Kennedy. He earned Oscar nominations for his roles in 1979‘s Midnight Express, as a heroin addict doing time in a Turkish prison, and in The Elephant Man. He’ll also be remembered by a generation of children as the mysterious Mr. Ollivander, wand salesman, from the Harry Potter films. And thanks to a 2013 appearance as the War Doctor on Doctor Who, he will also forever belong to a legion of fans.

In the last decade of his career alone, Hurt worked with some of the world’s most fascinating directors, from Guillermo del Toro in the Hellboy series to Steven Spielberg on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Lars von Trier on Melancholia to Joon-ho Bong on Snowpiercer.

— To which we can add The War Doctor in Doctor Who, the voices of Aragorn and Hazel (the rabbit) in the animated Lord of the Rings and Watership Down respectively, and still be guilty of leaving some out.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

David Tennant, John Hurt, Matt Smith.

(7) GARRAY OBIT. Artist Pascal Garray (1965-2017), a prolific Smurfs creator, passed away January 17.

During his career of 26 years, he also participated in the creation of 17 albums of ‘The Smurfs’ (‘Les Schtroumpfs’), and was the lead artist on at least six albums since 2002. The other regular Smurfs artists are Ludo Borecki, Jeroen de Coninck and Miguel Díaz Vizoso, while most of the writing is done by Thierry Culliford, Alain Jost and Luc Parthoens. Garray had just finished drawing the 35th Smurfs album (‘Les Schtroumpfs et les Haricots Mauves’, about bad eating habits), when he passed away on 17 January 2017.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 28, 1981 — Elijah Wood (actor)

(9) RSR’S GUIDE TO SHORT FORM EDITORS. Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank introduces its recently-posted guide to those eligible for the Best Editor Hugo – Short Form category.

With luck, this won’t be as controversial as it was last year. We’ve made it clearer that you’re supposed to use this data to vet a list of editors of works you’ve read—not to construct a slate of people whose publications you’ve never read (or even heard of).

Since people are more likely to know works than editors, we start by helping them find the editors who produced different publications. It’s a lot of work to figure out who’s qualified, so we’ve done that too.

Then, like last year, we show how much work each editor produced and how well that work was reviewed—both in terms of word count and percentage, which we encourage people to use to see how the editors in their list stack up.

New this year is a chart showing how much fiction from new writers each editor published, since this was the commonest thing people asked for last year. There are also sortable tables with the raw data so people don’t need to stare at charts to try to guess which editors were in the top four or five.

As ever, we’d love to hear ideas for what would make this easier to do.

(10) SEMIPROZINE HUGO. Neil Clarke’s Semiprozine.org announced last month they are “Currently updating directory”, which hopefully will happen soon because I need an authoritative answer to settle a difference of opinion!

We are currently updating the directory to reflect any changes in eligibility for the year ending December 31, 2016. Feel free to comment on this post if you have questions.

(11) COACHING. George R.R. Martin reminds everyone how TV shows can be eligible for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo – Long Form, whether you want them to or not.

This is truly the Golden Age for science fiction and fantasy on television, with more interesting series than ever before… most of them serial dramas. WESTWORLD, for instance. Terrific show. But the entire season is one story. To me, it makes no sense to pick an episode at random and nominate it in Short Form, when every episode depended so much on what had come before and what was to follow. I will be nominating WESTWORLD season one in Long Form, and I urge other WESTWORLD fans to do the same. Then we have STRANGER THINGS, recent Golden Globe nominee, another cool new genre show… I loved the series, but looking back, did I love one episode? No, I loved the whole story, so I’d nominate STRANGER THINGS, season one. Ditto for PENNY DREADFUL, the final season, which wrapped up in fine style last year. You could also make a case for MR. ROBOT, if you consider that sf.

And, of course, there’s GAME OF THRONES. Our sixth season won an unprecedented number of Emmys, setting an all-time record. And there are individual episodes that won Emmy acclaim: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won for writing for “Battle of the Bastards,” Miguel Sapochnik took the directing Emmy for the same episode, and “The Door” also earned a directing nomination for Jack Bender. But it was the season as a whole that won for Best Drama, and for me, at least, it makes the most sense to nominate GAME OF THRONES, season six, in Long Form.

(12) GREATEST ANIMATOR. Brian Phillips on MTV.com has an article called “The Little Gray Wolf Will Come”, a profile of Yuri Norstein, whose short films “Tale of Tales” and “Hedgehog in the Fog” are regarded as among the greatest pieces of Soviet animation but who has been stuck for 40 years working on a full-length version of Gogol’s The Overcoat that he may never finish.

Here he is, an old man, onstage at the Dom Kino. Cinephiles of Moscow, your evening’s entertainment: Yuri Norstein, 74, white-bearded, small, stout, urbane, rumpled, and mischievous. Sitting in front of a pale gold curtain, with a bump on his nose the size of a pistachio shell. Considered by many to be a great, if tragically self-defeating, Russian artist. Considered by many to be the finest animator in the world.

He did not move to Moscow last week; he knows what they say about him. How he sabotaged his own career at what should have been its peak. How he has not managed to release a new film in 37 years. How he made Hedgehog in the Fog, a movie every Russian child knows by heart, and then Tale of Tales, which international juries have more than once named the greatest animated picture ever made. How he threw it all away to chase an absurd, unattainable ideal, an animated adaptation of Gogol’s short story “The Overcoat” that he has toiled at for nearly 40 years and has never been able to finish. He takes questions at events like this, and the sequence is always the same. First a few respectful queries about his past work, his process, his inspirations. Then, when some brink of nerve has been crossed: When will you finish The Overcoat? Do you think you ever will?

(13) TIMEY-WIMEY STUFF. Science Alert says “Scientists have confirmed a brand new form of matter: time crystals”.

First predicted by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, time crystals are structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state.

Usually when a material is in ground state, also known as the zero-point energy of a system, it means movement should theoretically be impossible, because that would require it to expend energy.

But Wilczek predicted that this might not actually be the case for time crystals.

Normal crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in space – just like the carbon lattice of a diamond. But, just like a ruby or a diamond, they’re motionless because they’re in equilibrium in their ground state.

But time crystals have a structure that repeats in time, not just in space. And it keep oscillating in its ground state.

Imagine it like jelly – when you tap it, it repeatedly jiggles. The same thing happens in time crystals, but the big difference here is that the motion occurs without any energy.

A time crystal is like constantly oscillating jelly in its natural, ground state, and that’s what makes it a whole new form of matter – non-equilibrium matter. It’s incapable of sitting still.

(14) WHAT THE DOCTOR SAYS. David Tennant told The Last Leg viewers it’s all going to be okay:

[Thanks to Dawn Incoognito, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day J-Grizz.]