Justice League: Non-Spoiler Movie Review

By Daniel P. Dern: So we went to see the new Justice League movie over the weekend. It was OK enough (more on that below), but at the same time, I didn’t come away with the happy I-just-saw-a-enjoyable-movie feeling that I got from, say, Thor: Ragnarok or Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.

Here’s some quick thoughts — non-spoilers unless you haven’t even seen the main trailer. (And I’ll ROT13 any potential spoilers.)

Note: I’ve been reading comics long enough — starting in the single-digit age, when comic books were still a dime (although they soon jumped to twelve cents) — to remember the League’s first appearance, in 1960 (in The Brave and the Bold #28). (Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, debuted in 1956, Showcase #4 — I remember reading it, though probably not when it came out, but have clearish memories of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern in 1959 (Showcase #22), who were among the League’s original members (which did not include Superman or Batman). And, with some multi-year hiati, I’m still reading, through a mix of buying, librarying, and (legitimate) digital access. At heart, I’m a DC fan. Yes, I’ve read lots of Marvel, and bunches of indies — but I have less (if any) emotional attachment to how non-DC capes (heroes) get movie-ized.

Justice League, like the first Avengers movie, is a mix of “putting the band together for the first time,” “origin recaps for characters who’ve already been in one or more films (for this “universe”), and “fighting the ‘Big Bad'(s)” (to use the obvious Buffy-ism). Thankfully, not Lex Luthor; instead, Fgrccrajbys naq onmvyyvbaf bs Cnenqrzbaf obbz-ghovat va sebz Ncbxbyvcf (sebz Wnpx Xveol’f Sbhegu Jbeyq).

Given how incredible dark, dour, dismal, grumpy and/or sometimes unacceptably off-canon many of DC’s preceding superhero flicks have been (e.g., much of the Dark Knight Batman trilogy, much of The Man of Steel, much of Suicide Squad, not to mention Batman v Superman (whose events precede this movie) – Wonder Woman happily dodged these bullets, and Green Lantern had other, different problems), Justice League had a depressingly low bar to beat — from its fellow DC flix.

On the other hand, just a month or so ago, we got Thor: Ragnarok from Marvel, showing how much fun a super-scheme-and-punch-fest could be. And on the gripping hand, and pretty much concurrent with Justice League, over on the “small(er) screen” was the remarkably credible Supergirl/Arrow/Flash/Legends of Tomorrow “Crisis On Earth X” (pronounced “eks” rather than “ten”) four-part cross-over of DC heroes, arguably a movie-length four-acter.

In my opinion, Justice League did some things quite well:

  • Quick (or -ish) introduction of the new (within movie context) heroes Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash
  • Why Bats is building a team. (In the original Justice League origin, heroes converge via different parts of the Big Bad, and post-triumph, decide to form a club.)
  • Good action/fight scenes.
  • Great chatter and banter amongst heroes.
  • Some sense of reality, e.g., Batman being severely bruised post-fight.

But. But.

Very dull Big Bad. As one friend I chatted with said, no character there. Contract that with Thor: Ragnarok, where we were treated to Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, along with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (sometimes as a Bad), and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster. No shortage of style there, in acting, wardrobe or action.

I think that’s why I came away uninspired. Nothing (major) annoyed me. As with Thor: Ragnarok, thankfully neither New York City nor Washington D.C. were trashed. I enjoyed the heroes bantering, some of the derring-do-ing. But — like the first Avengers movie — having a handful of heroes go up against a world of baddies, that’s basically a way-outnumbered war movie.

The Justice League, throughout their (comic) career, have been at their best fighting more well-defined foes (or groups of foes). Kanjar Ro. Despero. Felix Faust. Luthor & his super-bad-friends. Splitting up into smaller teams, coming together for the big boffo win. And doing more than just physical fighting — also more problem solving, detective work, and the like.

Still: if you’re a DC fan, go. You’ll get enough (good) out of it. If you’re not a comic/superhero fan, and haven’t seen Thor: Ragnarok yet, do that. (If you’re a Marvel fan, I find it hard to believe you haven’t seen T:R yet.)

Beating a low bar, sigh, better than not doing so.

Here’s hoping the next Justice League movie (presumably based on the final “Easter Egg”) has better Big Bads.

Meanwhile, I’ve been told that the Director’s Cut of Batman v Superman makes somewhat more sense — and/but is somewhat longer. To the library web site I go!

Hey Amazon, How About Doing These Lord of the Rings TV Shows?

By Daniel Dern: According to a November 13 press release, Amazon.com will be doing one or more TV shows to based on Lord of the Rings and possibly other of J.R.R. Tolkien’s published and unpublished works — and thanks to an anonymous email from PalantirLeaks, I’ve got the inside scoop on their plans…which I’m (shhhh!) sharing with you.

As you’ll see, the Big A has an ambitious potential line-up — enough for its own cable channel — going beyond the obvious series and mini-series to the gamut of TV possibilities.

(Note/disclaimer, I’m not the only person having fun with this announcement — I’d noticed some likely headlines before I wrote most of my piece, but carefully avoided reading any of those stories… although I’m not finding them now, just this — “Hobbit star Orlando Bloom promises elven spin-off movie”.

I also deliberately avoided what’s probably the most obvious LoTR spin-off suggestion as too obvious not to have been made decades ago, and as a quick web search shows, there’s no shortage of hits for “Mordor She Wrote”…)

TALL AND SMALL (Cop show) Think “She’s an Entwive, he’s a Halfing,” as our protoganists find, fight, and solve crimes and mysteries/dunnits by an assortment of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, et cetera (creating opportunities for lots of fun guest stars, including, permissions permitting, Marvel’s Groot). Originally titled “Little, Big” until somebody pointed out that’s already the title of one of John Crowley’s science fiction books science fiction books.

MAKE ‘SHROOMS FOR DADDY. (Cooking) Hobbit-hosted, featuring festive fungi feasts. Sponsored by Farmer Maggot, who tries to interrupt with shaggy-warg stories about rascally hobbits trying to steal his mushers at night, plus PSAs flagging the visual differences between safe versus poisonous (or otherwise dubious) ‘shrooms.

HAPPY, HUNGRY HOBBITS! (For kids; possibly animated.) Follow Frodo, Samwise, Merry, Pippin and others when they were rascally young hobbitlings, and their hilarious hijinks as they search for elevenses, experiment with Gandalf’s fireworks, and more. Watch Frodo get in, and escape from, trouble by “borrowing” his Uncle Bilbo’s magic disappearing ring.

CLOAKS AND STAFFS U. (Angsty series) Gandalf, Galadriel, Saruman, Radagast when they were at wizarding school, learning their craft — and practicing through pranking each other.

MATHOM ROAD SHOW. Treasure or junk? Antiquing and garage/yard selling Middle Earth’s stuff.

RIDDLE US THIS (Game show) Smeagol Gollum hosts the ever-popular riddle game show, where the loser may be eaten, or at least web-wrapped by Shelob.

THE AMAZING WRAITHES. Which team will make it from the Last Lonely House to Mount Doom before the one of the Nine get them? All bets are off, in this exciting — and thrill-filled — competition.

DANCING WITH THE ELVES. (Competition) Judging includes who looks the most embarrassing by comparison.

GIMLI SHELTER. Dwarves show how to protect your home (hole, village, castle, etc.) against orcs, wargs, and flaming dragons.

THE B-FELLOWS. (Either reality show or fiction, TBD) Sure, we know about the Fellowship of the Nine… now follow the travails of the team(s) that didn’t make the cut, who bravely (but not always eptly) set themselves up as Decoy Fellowships.

HOW I MET YOUR MITHRIL (Middle Earth Geographic documentary) A look at the geography, minerals, fauna and non-sentient flora of Middle Earth, from pipeweed and athelas through why some of the mountain ranges improbably have corners (see
https://www.tor.com/2017/08/01/tolkiens-map-and-the-messed-up-mountains-of-middle-earth/). Narrated and led by Ranger ‘arry Aragon, with stunning aerial views courtesy of Eagles with head and body cams.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-SAM (live-action). Heh, turns out Shelob wasn’t just a humongous spider, she was also radioactive… as Samwise found out when he returned to the Shire and found himself sticking to walls, shooting webbing from his fingers, being strong as an Oliphant, and wanting to eat insects. Hilarity and hijinks ensue.
So set those DVRs, that’s what we’re Tolkein about!

Pixel Scroll 11/5/17 I’m The Pixel Of Scrolls. What Were You The Pixel Of Again?

(1) RANTS AND RAVES. Three days ago S.T. Joshi ranted about an alleged Lovecraft hater in “The Multifarious Illiteracies of Brian Keene”.

For the past two or three weeks I have been in misery. In short, I have been reading the novels of Brian Keene. Were I not driven by my sacred duty as a literary critic to assess the work of this grotesquely prolific blowhard for my treatise, 21st-Century Horror, I would have been relieved of this excruciating agony; but the job is done, as is my chapter on Keene, which can be found here.

…The only horror in Keene’s work is that there is so much of it. Since 2000, Keene has published at least forty-three novels, twelve short story collections, and sundry other material—an impressive achievement if his books were of any substance or even bare competence, but quite otherwise if, as appears to be the case, the books in question are nothing but crude and slapdash hackwork. A fair number of his books have been published by Leisure Books, a firm that habitually churns out pablum of all sorts for the great unwashed. It seems to be a match made in hell….

Today Brian Keene answered with “The Ballad of S.T. Joshi, or, Saruman and Wormtongue Meet the Great Unwashed”.

…With that being said, the probable origins of Lovecraft’s work are, in my opinion, repugnant. Lovecraft was racist and xenophobic…. These beliefs fueled his fiction, and the creation of his mythos. So much of Lovecraft’s work is driven by fear and disgust of “the other” or of genetic mutation. And in turn, so much of that work shaped and molded this field.

Despite their repugnance (or perhaps because of it) I think those origins are worth discussing. Joshi does not. He threatened to boycott a recent convention because the programming included a panel discussing the racist themes prevalent in Lovecraft’s work (and then reportedly defied his own personal boycott by signing books in the dealer’s room of that same convention). Because I wondered aloud on my podcast why he’s against discussion of such things, it further inured me as a “Lovecraft Hater”. Joshi also railed against the World Fantasy Awards discontinuing their bust of Lovecraft. When I stated on my podcast, “If I was a person of color, and I won that award — an award from my peers recognizing my work — I wouldn’t want a man who thought I was sub-human glowering down at me from my brag shelf”, this further fueled Joshi and Brock’s insistence that I am, in fact, a Lovecraft Hater.

It’s also important to note that Lovecraft’s racism is not a new topic, brought up by some supposed younger, newer generation of political Progressives or SJWs. The great Robert Bloch himself discussed Lovecraft’s racism in his seminal “Heritage of Horror” essay. Joshi doesn’t seem to have a problem with that. Based on his actions, he seemingly only has a problem with people discussing it if they are women (Ellen Datlow), LGQBT (S.j. Bagley), persons of color (Daniel José Older and Nnedi Okorafor), or apolitical “white trash” Appalachians (myself). I find that interesting…

So, again, for the record, I am not a “Lovecraft Hater”. I respect the man’s work. I don’t, however, respect the man.

…Which brings us to last Friday, and the reason why so many of you are asking me, “Who is S.T. Joshi?”.

Why did Joshi turn his attention toward me? I don’t know. Maybe it was our coverage of his antics on my podcast (where he is a recurring source of amusement). Perhaps he was offended that I sandwiched him between “Lovecraft Haters” Ellen Datlow and S.j. Bagley in the inaugural chapter of History of Horror Fiction. Or maybe he was driven half-mad by Jason Brock’s incessant whining.

Regardless, I woke up at 5am Friday morning. Publisher and author Ross Lockhart had sent me the link to Joshi’s tirade overnight. I clicked the link and read Joshi’s Introduction, where he states that I am “A grotesquely prolific blowhard” and that my work left him in “excruciating agony.” This pleased me. I thought it was funny enough to craft a cover blurb out of, so I did. Then some readers asked for it on a t-shirt, so I made this. And that was pretty much it….

(2) AMBIFORCESTROUS. Continuing a thought from yesterday – this comes from Mark Hamill himself.

(3) THOR SCORE. Daniel Dern submitted his non-spoiler review of Thor: Ragnarok for today’s Scroll:

(“Non-spoiler” as in “assuming you’ve seen at least one of the trailers already, but IMHO no how-it-ends spoilers in any case)

My short-short summary: Way loads of fun! Go and enjoy.

  • Among the best snappy multi-character dialog, and lots of it.
  • Basically sticks to one plot from start to finish (unlike, say, Guardians of the Galaxy II).
  • Nice to NOT see Manhattan/NYC trashed/destroyed/etc for a change. Similarly, no S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers harmed (or even sighted) in this movie.
  • Lots of bright colors, great costumes/garb/accessories.
  • a good balance of talking, fighting/battling, and both-at-once.
  • It’s contemporary fantasy and sci-fi. Thor pilots spaceships, etc.
  • prior knowledge needed of Marvel, any of the previous movies, etc. Yeah, knowing some can’t hurt. E.g., Loki and Thor briefly mentioning the time L turned T into a frog was real — one of Walt Simonson’s great arcs (a bunch of issues) in the Thor comic series.
  • In terms of “Marvel movie big picture,” this is sequentially following the events of Avengers/Age of Ultron.
  • Best Stan Lee cameo to date, IMHO.
  • Mentions Avengers by name at times, etc., but only Hulk actually in the movie. Most of the action is off-Earth, so no need to explain why the other A’s aren’t putting in their oar, so to speak.
  • Lots of Jeff Goldblum! Lots!

Offhand I don’t have any complaints or criticisms.

(4) REVIVAL MEETING, And everything considered, this seems a good time to ponder “The Norse gods’ unlikely comeback” as Mark Peters does in the Boston Globe.

Part of why the Norse myths continue to compel so many readers, writers, and artists is their sheer entertainment value, featuring high adventure, low comedy, apocalyptic nightmares, and ample drinking. Karl E. H. Seigfried, adjunct professor and pagan chaplain at Illinois Institute of Technology and author of the Norse Mythology Blog, said by e-mail that the Norse myths resonate on three levels: dramatically, emotionally, and spiritually. Of the three, the spiritual element is often overlooked.

Underneath the troll-smiting mayhem, the Norse myths have an uplifting core, insists Seigfried, who is also a priest of Thor’s Oak Kindred in Chicago. “In contrast to the gloomy Nordic worldview often portrayed in popular culture,” he said, “the wandering god [Odin] never stops searching for knowledge and never ceases to rage against the dying of the light. The old gods may die at Ragnarök, but the myth is life-affirming. We will not live forever, but our children will survive us, and their children will survive them.”

(5) HUBBARD. Alec Nevala-Lee, “author of Astounding, a forthcoming book on the history of science fiction, digs into the writing career of L. Ron Hubbard, gaining new insights into the life of the controversial founder of dianetics and the origins and nature of Scientology itself” in “Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology” at Longreads.

And it gets even stranger. When we turn to the stories themselves, we find that most of them have nothing in common with the tale of Xenu. In the pages of Astounding, Hubbard tended to write comic fantasies or adventures staged on a very modest scale, with situations lifted straight from the nautical or military fiction that he was publishing elsewhere. Aliens and galactic empires rarely played any significant role. When he employed these conventions, it was as a target for parody or as a kind of painted backdrop for the action. Yet when the time came to give Scientology a founding myth, he turned to space opera, referring to it explicitly in those terms, and the result didn’t look or sound much like anything he had ever written before.

(6) ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE. Fran Wilde has a tip for convention attendees, idiots, and assholes:

Other reactions:

(7) PROBLEM WITH COMPLAINT-DRIVEN CON POLICIES. A New Mexico event promoter says complaints led him to change a policy — “Comic Con ditches free passes for military, first responders”. How well do you think that worked?

An offer for local military and first responders to enjoy the Albuquerque and Santa Fe Comic Cons for free is about to end.

The promoter, Jim Burleson, said he was getting threats for giving free admission to only military, police and firemen.

Burleson took to Facebook this week with an announcement that’s angered many, saying: “This will be the last year we are offering free admission to police, military and firefighters.”

The decision stems from people — other than military and first responders — who complained about not getting a discount over the years, which, he says, led to threats.

“We actually got threatened at our Santa Fe Comic Con. Somebody threatened to call their dad who was a lawyer to prove that we were discriminating,” he said.

Now, there’s even more backlash from people who said he shouldn’t have given into the criticism, with some claiming they won’t be attending comic con anymore.


  • Mike Kennedy found a scientific breakthrough in Monty.
  • John King Tarpinian passes on the Star Wars nutritional advice he found in Brevity.

(9) LEAF BY TOLKIEN. Glen Dixon of the Washington Post Magazine writes about the death of the Baltimore City Paper which just folded, in “Baltimore City Paper is closing after 40 years. Will it be missed?” The following scene is inside the City Paper’s offices….

The wisdom of the crowd converged when Brandon Soderberg puzzled over the mysterious provenance of Gray Haven, the latest strain of marijuana to cross his palate. Soderberg is both the paper’s editor and one of its pot critics. He knows his weed, but he hadn’t been able to uncover the first thing about this particular variety. Perhaps the name held a clue? He read off some loopy texts from a helpful stoner friend, a Tolkien fan who said there is a place called Grey Havens in Middle-earth. The messages were pipe dreams billowing with head-spinning arcana. “I’ve read ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ ” said art director Athena Towery, dryly. “I don’t think that’s in there.” The room erupted with laughter, then settled on another Tolkien work — “The Silmarillion” — as the source. Photo editor J.M. “Joe” Giordano added that the bud shares its name with a neighborhood in Dundalk, Md.

(10) SPRING AHEAD, FALL OOPS. Joe Haldeman shared this on Facebook – pretty funny, even if the joke is about the wrong time change:

Another busy night at all the British henge sites as staff work all night to move the stones forward by an hour.

(11) FEDERATION POLITICAL SCIENCE. I don’t remember if I’ve run this before but it sure is fun. And like some Tumblr posts, it needs to be read from the bottom up; the pivot is a Klingon asking the Vulcans why they let humans run the Federation; the answer includes because the last thing they did is ” getting published in about six hundred scientific journals across two hundred different disciplines because of how many established theories their ridiculous little expedition has just called into question. also, they did turn that sun into a torus, and no one actually knows how”

(12) CREDENTIAL RENEWED. Kim Huett advises his article “Temple of the Sphinx”, with some thoughts on the William F. Temple story, “The Smile Of the Sphinx,” is now online.

In a fit of possibly misplaced enthusiasm I have created a website in order to post my Bill Temple article online for all the world to see. Those of you already familiar with this article might like to note that it has been rewritten here and there in order to fix a few errors and to add a little more depth to the story. In regards to the latter I would like to in particular thank Rob Hansen for all his hard work on THEN as that history made my job so much easier. The website in question can be found here at the URL below. Feel free to pass the URL on if you want as I think this is a story well worth sharing. This is especially true since it allows us to increase our count of times the word “cat” has appeared on this blog.

For all this Gillings did publish one story that I find absolutely fascinating, though perhaps not for the usual reasons. The story in question is a novelette by William F. Temple, his third published story. The Smile of the Sphinx appeared in Tales of Wonder #4 (Autumn 1938). In the introduction Gillings wrote:

‘…in the light of his logical reasoning, his fanciful notion loses its air of incredibility, and you will find yourself seriously considering whether it might not easily be fact…’

The story was well regarded at the time of publication. For example noted science fiction fan of the day (and later editor of New Worlds), Ted Carnell was so taken by The Smile of the Sphinx that in Novae Terrae #28 (December 1938) he was moved to claim:

‘For just as Bill Temple’s yarn in TOW will long be remembered as the cat story…’

Now at first glance all this makes very little sense as The Smile of the Sphinx is a rather absurd tale about an intelligent race of cats from the Moon who secretly rule the Earth.

(13) CHOCOLATE EMERGENCY. Adweek shares the laughs — “Snickers Got a Whole TV Channel to Act Weird When It Was Hungry in Great Media Stunt”.

The network is called Dave, and it normally features a millennial-focused grab bag of fun-loving programs. But one day recently, at exactly 3:28 p.m. (which Snickers says is “the hungriest time of day”), Dave suddenly and inexplicably turned into Rupert—a network showing boring and nonsensical shows including chess championships, vintage film noir and an art appraisal program.

Frankly, it seemed like Dave had become PBS.


[Thanks to JJ, DMS, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/17 Third Pixel To The Right And Scroll On ‘Til Morning

(1) DISCLAIMERS. Daniel Dern noticed this disclaimer on latest 30-second Justice League trailer (at the very end): “Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence”

“Accurate. Intriguingly specific,” he says. “Makes me wonder what other disclaimers might be.” And he suggests —


“Cussing, pouting, and attitude. Do not attempt these magic experiments without proper protective gear and spells.”


“Warning: If you’ve read the rest of the books, you know things keep getting worse.”


“Warning: It’s not Bob who’s your uncle.”

(2) KINGS OF THE PUBLISHING WORLD. The family that sells together rings cash register bells together…. “Stephen and Owen King and Joe Hill are all on the New York Times bestseller list right now”.

In what’s a first for the Kings, three out of five members of the family are all on the New York Times bestseller list as of this week.

Stephen King and his youngest son, Owen, collaborated on the highly entertaining horror yarn “Sleeping Beauties,” about a mysterious mystical occurrence that puts all the women of the world to sleep — and if they wake up, well, watch out. That book came out on Sept. 26 and immediately shot to the top of the hardcover fiction list; it still remains at number four, five weeks in.

Meanwhile, Joe Hill, the eldest of the King kids, last week released “Strange Weather,” a collection of four novellas about the supernatural and horrific. It debuted this week at number nine on the hardcover fiction charts.

(3) GRIPE SESSION. ComicsBeat’s Heidi MacDonald covers the complaints about the Central Canada Comic Con held in Winnipeg: “When a con goes badly: Area man claims C4 Winnipeg was ‘The Worst Convention I Have Ever Attended’”. According to webcomics creator Michael McAdam —

Blanket statement that remained true for the entire weekend: No volunteer anywhere could answer any questions. They were confused, lost, disjointed, or had incorrect information. In fact, a Facebook friend of mine tried to attend on Saturday- and was given so many incorrect directions to registration that he gave up and left without entering the con! Think about that: a paying attendee, who wants to come in and spend his money, can’t even get directed to the proper entrance due to absolute incompetence and ignorance. How many people do you think gave up? How much in terms of potential earnings was lost due to stupidity?

Followed by lots more like that.

(4) THIS JUST IN. Meanwhile, back at World Wombat HQ….

(5) BINTI MEETS TED. Tor.com tells how “Nnedi Okorafor’s TED Talk Explains Afrofuturism vs. Science Fiction Using the Octopus Analogy”, including this quote from Okorafor:

This idea of leaving but bringing and then becoming more is at one of the hearts of Afrofuturism, or you can simply call it a different type of science fiction. I can best explain the difference between classic science fiction and Afrofuturism if I used the octopus analogy. Like humans, octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. However, octopus intelligence evolved from a different evolutionary line, separate from that of human beings, so the foundation is different. The same can be said about the foundations of various forms of science fiction.

(6) ORIGINAL CUT DISCOVERED. Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols made a discovery:

In the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies today I discovered the original release version of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, previously considered lost. The film previewed badly in 1982, and the Disney studios panicked and decided to rework the film. The lost version has never been released, and is believed never to have been screened since that preview.

(7) PARK PLACE. There was a summer groundswell of public support to name a Tacoma park after Dune author Frank Herbert. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Officer Michael Thompson answered Andrew Porter’s request for an update with this statement:

Still under consideration, still no decision. Our planning department is dealing with several construction projects, so the decision probably will be pushed back to later in the year instead of “fall.”

Herbert was born in Tacoma in 1920 and lived there as an adult. The idea to name a newly developed park for him was first suggested in 2013.

(8) RUSSELL OBIT. Pioneering television director Paddy Russell (1928-2017) has died at the age of 89. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Patricia Russell, known to all as Paddy, had a long and distinguished career as one of the first female Directors in British television….

In the 1950’s Television was crying out for theatre staff to work in the new medium and Russell was recruited as a production assistant, working with the famed director Rudolph Cartier. Acting as the director’s eyes and ears on the studio floor, Russell worked on some of the most innovative and pioneering dramas of the day including the Quatermass science-fiction serials as well as the 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four starring Peter Cushing.  …Her first encounter with Doctor Who came in 1966 when she became the first female Director to work on the show. She helmed the First Doctor story The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve.

…It was eight years later that Russell returned to the show working on the six-part Jon Pertwee story Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It was a story fraught with technical difficulties in the attempt to bring dinosaurs to London using the primitive methods available in the early 1970’s. While not always successful it was a story Russell was very proud of.

…Two more stories followed, both staring the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. In 1975 she directed the fan favourite Pyramids of Mars, followed in 1977 by the Horror of Fang Rock. She had a prickly relationship with the lead actor whom she found increasingly difficult to work with….


International Speculative Poetry Day

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association persuaded the State of Minnesota to declare November 3 to be International Speculative Poetry Day.

International Speculative Poetry Day seeks to highlight the vibrant legacy and extraordinary achievement of speculative poets. It seeks to introduce communities to the delights and benefits of reading and writing speculative poetry as well as make speculative poetry an important and innovative part of our cultural life.  Speculative poetry has produced some of the nation’s leading creative artists and influential books, performances, and exhibitions, inspiring other artists, educators, and community builders around the world.


  • November 3, 1957 – Laika becomes the first dog in space.

And the bards of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association have put up a page of verse honoring the pioneer, “Remembering Laika”.

This year, November 3rd coincides with the 60th anniversary of Laika’s historic mission into outer space. (That’s 420 in space dog years!) She advanced Earth’s knowledge and paved the way for space exploration and much of our modern world today.  Several of our SFPA members recently shared poems inspired by Laika and our canine companions to mark the day. A special thanks to them and Dr. Suzie GeeForce for illustrating the occasion! You can also find additional poems by our members in our list-serv.

  • November 3, 1976 — The original Carrie debuted


  • Born November 3, 1954 Godzilla. (I think this means it’s the day the film was released.)

(12) WAVES. Lela E. Buis questions whether some TV participants are “Asking for contradictory things?”

I’m probably going to get into serious trouble with this post, as it touches on third wave feminism. Various people have urged me to address the topic before and I’ve just not gotten to it. Up front, let me say I’m a second wave feminist, and I have opinions that sometimes diverge sharply from the current platform.

Here’s the issue: A while back I watched a panel discussion on the Weinstein scandal, and I was struck with some contradictions. This show was Friday, Oct. 13, Third Rail with Ozy asks: Is sexual harassment inevitable in the workplace? Along with Colorado College Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, the panel included three younger women.

Roberts related her personal experience with Weinstein as a 20-year-old and her subsequent decision that she wasn’t cut out for work in Hollywood. The panel then went on to define sexual harassment in the workplace to include compliments on appearance and beauty. Hm. Okay, second wave question here: Roberts looks professional. She’s got on a boxy jacket and restrained hair and makeup, but the other women look like they’ve spent hours on their appearance, plus a big chunk of change. They have on form-fitting clothing, heavy make-up and trendy hair styling. Why?

If we assume appearance is expression and therefore a type of speech, what are they saying?…

And she continues from there with her analysis.

(13) ANOTHER ATWOOD IN DEVELOPMENT. This one is based on a historical novel: “Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’ adapted as Netflix series”.

Another Margaret Atwood novel is getting the Hollywood treatment, this time on Netflix.

In “Alias Grace,” a six-episode Netflix miniseries starring Sarah Gadon, an Irish immigrant working as a maid in Canada in the 1840s is accused of murdering her boss and his mistress. Her case is covered with breathless scrutiny, making the young woman infamous.

Based on Atwood’s historical novel, Gadon plays Grace, who recounts her life story to a young psychiatrist trying to help jog her memory.

(14) IT IS TO BLUSH. Slate’s Sam Adams declares “Stranger Things’ “Punk” Episode Is Unbelievably Awful”

The second season of Stranger Things—or, if we must, Stranger Things 2—effectively recaptures the meme-spawning magic of its first. But for a season that mostly follows the template of “What if that thing you liked, but more?” the new episodes make a pronounced departure in splitting Millie Bobbie Brown’s Eleven off from her group of demogorgon-fighting pals, most of whom think she’s disappeared or dead. As the series’ breakout character, played by its strongest young actor, Eleven is a natural candidate to carry her own largely self-contained storyline, but the strain of building a new world for her to inhabit taxes the Duffer brothers’ self-mimicking skills to the limit, and finally exhausts them altogether in its seventh episode, “The Lost Sister.” The result is an unmitigated embarrassment…

(15) BRINGS THE HAMMER. NPR’s Chris Klimek says “‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Is Hela Good”:

Ragnarok, an incontrovertibly bitchin’ word that refers in Norse myth to the final, winner-take-all smackdown between good and evil, is an awfully heavy subtitle for a movie as affably insubstantial as The Mighty Thor’s mighty third.

Catching us up on what your friendly neighborhood Thunder-God (and your friendly neighborhood Incredible Hulk) were doing while they were absent from last year’s Captain America: Civil War, the movie earns the backhanded compliment of being the best Thor picture by an Asgardian mile, and the more sincere one of being not in the least a chore to sit through. It’s funnier and prettier than most of the other Marvel movies, having figured out that adopting the visual palette of Frank Frazetta’s glossy swords n’ monsters n’ muscles fantasy paintings — rather than trying to cross that uncanny valley into photorealism — is a good way to make the wall-to-wall CGI less fatiguing. Half the frames in this film would look right at home airbrushed on the side of a 1978 Ford Econoline “shaggin’ wagon” van, which would almost certainly be blasting Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” a vintage headbanger that the Thor 3 soundtrack Ragna-rocks twice. (I am getting choked up thinking about all the 10-year-olds who will see this thing and shortly thereafter download their very first Led Zep.)

(16) GOURD EMERGENCY. Or, why they call it “felonious abandonment of zucchini”: German man believes 11-pounder is unexploded bomb, calls police: “German police find ‘WW2 bomb’ was big courgette”.

The 5kg (11-pound) courgette had probably been thrown over a hedge into the 81 year old’s garden, police said.

Luckily no evacuation was required in Bretten, a town near Karlsruhe in south-west Germany.

The last part is by no means a joke — On 3 September 65,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Frankfurt, so that a 1.4-tonne British bomb could be defused. It was the biggest evacuation in post-war German history for an unexploded bomb alert.

(17) THIRSTING FOR ACTION. SyFy Wire looks forward to seeing “Beer-loving giant ants terrorize teens in trailer for It Came from the Desert

New levels, man — new levels. In the never-ending quest to escalate campiness to heights that beggar irony, here comes a movie. A movie, based on a Commodore Amiga video game from the late 1980s, about giant ants; ants that live in the desert; ants who enjoy beer straight from the keg and can only be vanquished — at great personal cost — by a mostly-expendable cast of libidinous teens.

You know how these things make us feel.

If you gamed in the ‘80s, you may remember It Came from the Desert, an Amiga title that drew heavy inspiration from Them! and other B-horror flicks from the 1950s. As the game’s protagonist, Dr. Greg Bradley traversed the Nevada desert landscape, staging desperate battles against radioactively-mutated ants in a variety of interesting locations.

Now Cinemaware, the game’s original developer, is teaming with Finnish VFX effects studio Roger! Pictures to revive the goofy premise in a live-action format. The trailer for the eponymous movie seems to lie somewhere between a proof of concept and an enticing synopsis of what we’re (admittedly) hoping will end up as a finished product.


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Free THOR Comics, Including One by J. Michael Straczysnki

Free, as in, you don’t have to have Amazon Prime, or Kindle whatever, just an Amazon account. Today only! Because it’s www.amazon.com/THORsdayUPDATE: Beware this ends up being the start of a subscription to Kindle Prime after the first 30 days.

  • Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Vol. 1
  • Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1
  • Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson Vol. 3

Daniel Dern sent the link with the comment, “All are well worth reading. The art’s great in two. God of Thunder in particular, Esad Ribic, not that Walt Simonson’s Thor is anything but fabulous as well. Get ’em while you can!”

[Thanks to Daniel Dern for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/1/17 Surely This Has Been Done Already?

(1) TALESPINNER. Ken Liu’s Star Wars book is out today.

Star Wars: Legends of Luke Skywalker [is] a set of tall tales about the Jedi Knight that have been passing from cantina to freighter and from mouth to audio receptor ever since a certain farm boy left Tatooine for the wider galaxy far, far away…

Devan Coggan interviews me for Entertainment Weekly: “Ken Liu Tells Star Wars Tall Tales in The Legends of Luke Skywalker:

Legends follows a number of young deckhands working aboard a ship bound for Canto Bight (a casino world featured in the upcoming The Last Jedi). Together, they swap six different stories about Luke, each passed down from a different storyteller. One comes from a droid who claims to have witnessed Luke singlehandedly lead a droid rebellion, while another comes from a tiny, flea-like creature who claims to have had a pivotal role in Luke’s escape from Jabba’s palace. One of the particular highlights is the tale told by a former Imperial engineer, who says that Luke Skywalker was nothing but a piece of propaganda made up by the Rebellion. The real Luke is a con artist named Luke Clodplodder, who orchestrated a massive scam with his friends aboard a ship called the Century Turkey.

(2) BORDERLANDS GETS ITS PERMANENT HOME. Via Shelf Awareness, the good news: “Success: Borderlands will buy Haight St. building thanks to its fans”.

Unable to secure a large loan from a bank, Beatts put the question to Borderlands’ clientele – would they be interested in funding the purchase for 1373 Haight St?

They were. In 18 days, lenders put up $1.9 million.

Recycled Records currently occupies the building, but the record store owner was planning to retire after the sale of the building, Beatts said.

Were any lessons learned?

“I learned that I’m the kind of person who can raise close to two million dollars in two and a half weeks, that was a surprise. I also learned that, if you really want to achieve your goal, you have to pursue every single solution,” Beatts wrote in an email to Mission Local.

He’d made offers on two other buildings before Haight Street panned out, and had toyed with other funding models before settling on the patron loan approach.

(3) IN THE SLAM. SPECPO visits Minneapolis: “Outreach report: The Not-So-Silent Planet [MN]”.

This month I had the chance to see the work of the folks at Word Sprout who organize The Not-So-Silent Planet.

As a regular event, The Not-So-Silent Planet currently holds the distinction of being the longest-running speculative literature slam in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the famed Kieran’s Pub. We’ll have to do some research to verify, but so far it seems like it may also well be the longest-running speculative literature slam in the country or even the cosmos. But then again, space is a very big place.

Typically held in the Poet’s Room at Kieran’s, it’s an evocative space with great energy and a supportive and enthusiastic audience. For an October reading they had almost a dozen readers and audience members including their special guest Kyle Dekker, organizer Phillip Andrew Bennett Low, and Riawa Thomas-Smith. There was a good mix of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and experimental works.

(4) GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN. Io9’s Charles Pulliam-Moore tells how “The Gotham City Sirens Are Taking Over Riverdale in Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica”‘.

The premise to DC and Archie Comics’ crossover special Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica reads like a piece of fan fiction, something television or film studio executives dream about but would never dare actually writing. Obviously, this is why the comic’s first two issues, written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini with illustrations from Amanda Conner and Laura Braga, so damned good. They’re so ridiculously absurd, it’s almost impossible not to enjoy the hell out of them. [SPOILERS FOLLOW]

Daniel Dern sent the link with a comment: “Looked fun when I skimmed the new issue (#2) at the comic store, I’ll wait until the six issues are available as borrowable book (or issues show up via one of the legitimate free/low-cost digital comic services I’m using).”

(5) ANOTHER CASUALTY. Book World customers are going into mourning – the chain is shuttering its 45 stores: “Closing the books: Book World to close all its stores and liquidate inventory”.

Book lovers in the Brainerd area are likely to shed a tear at Tuesday’s announcement by Book World Inc.—it is closing all its stores because of poor sales and online competition.

The Appleton, Wis.-based company will liquidate all its inventory starting Thursday in an “everything-must-go” sale at all of its 45 locations across seven states, including the one in Baxter.

“We anticipate that running at least through the end of the year … into January, but that’s really contingent on inventory—and certainly staffing plays a part in that, too—but primarily inventory,” said Book World Senior Vice President Mark Dupont.

The family-owned independent chain of bookstores located throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Missouri offers a huge selection of books for all ages.

(6) IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR. TIME Magazine anointed this pair the winners of the internet’s Halloween costume contest:  “This Couple Won Halloween By Pranking People With Their ‘Levitating’ Star Wars Bike”.

YouTube vloggers Jesse Wellens and Carmella Rose dressed up as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, but not in their classic Star Wars garb. Instead, they dressed as Luke and Leia as rebels zipping through the forest world of Endor from The Return of the Jedi and the only thing missing was an Ewok or two.

While that retro costume would certainly rate well with Star Wars fans, Wellens and Rose had a plan to put their costume over the top. With a little help from some friends at Lithium Cycles, they built a replica of a Speeder Bike that looked like it was actually floating and rode it through the streets of Manhattan. The sight was exhilarating enough that even wizened, seen-it-all New Yorkers couldn’t help but gawk.


(7) ON THE BLOCK. Robby the Robot is one of the star attractions in Bonham’s Out of This World auction on November 21.

There’s also a good article about Robby at New Atlas: “The original Robby the Robot goes up for auction”

Forbidden Planet was MGM’s first major science fiction film. Robby cost US$120,000 to build (US$1.2 million in today’s money) and was constructed out of vacuum-form Royalite plastic, acetate, and aluminum with rubber hands, a Perspex transparent “head” and a pair of men’s size 10.5B black leather loafers inside the feet for the actor wearing the 100 to 120 lb (45 to 54 kg)) prop/costume, which was articulated like a suit of armor.

But Robby was more than a suit. He included seven war-surplus electric motors to power his mechanical “scanners” and “brain,” plus a “mouth” made of blue neon tubes run by a 40,000 Volt power source run via a cable out of the robot’s heel or onboard batteries.


  • Born November 1, 1917 — Zenna Henderson
  • Born November 1, 1923 — Gordon R. Dickson


  • John King Tarpinian finds a bittersweet farewell to Halloween in Lio.
  • Mike Kennedy was convinced that it sucks to be chosen after reading today’s Basic Instructions.

(10) DUBIOUS HOLIDAYS FOR CHILDREN. Camestros Felapton is back in full stride, in another argument with Timothy the Talking Cat: “McEdifice Returns: Chapter We’ll Be Back After This Short Break”.

“Well I for one endorse the concept,” replied replied replied Camestros, “After all you made up International Tim Day, Catmas and The Feast of Saint Felix the Squirrel Killer.”

“It is a DISTRACTION you fool! A distraction from our important work!” replied replied replied replied Timothy, slamming his tiny fist-like paw on the desk in front of him. “I need some help from you with this project and you are off doing who knows what for that mechanical fusspot!”

“I was burning what Americans call ‘candy’ in a pre-emptive bonfire night.”

“Bonfire night?”

“Ah, yes – you miss out every year because pets must be hidden on bonfire night. It is an annual British festival of fireworks and municipal arson based on 17th-century anti-Catholicism and remembrance of a time some time tried to blow up parliament but with syncretic elements of pagan pre-winter festivals. Also traditionally children beg for money by demonstrating to adults that they have made an effigy of a man who was tortured to death which they will burn later. It is very traditional.”

“Now who is making stuff up?” said the cat skeptically.

“On reflection Catmas sounds more plausible.” agreed Camestros. “So what help do you need?”

(11) HALLOWEEN FOR THOSE NOT IN THE WORLD SERIES. MLB.com has pictures: “The baseball world pulled off some epic Halloween costumes this year”. Here’s one of them:

(12) THE GREAT UNREAD. Mental Floss revisits “15 Children’s Books No One Reads Now”. The list includes a story that stresses how important it is to stay between the lines.


Ask anyone about anthropomorphic trains and their first response is likely to be “Thomas the Tank Engine.” Or, if you’re a purist, “The Little Engine That Could.” “Tootle,” first published in 1945, is likely way down the list, if he even comes up at all. But for many years, the industrious engine was on track to become one of the best-selling books of all time.

Andrew Porter says, “Gosh, I have the Little Golden Book of this, which includes numerous wonderful illustrations, including –”

(13) ON OLD OLYMPUS’ TOWERING TOPS. Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Since we’re discussing variations in religion, a note on a fannish religion,” “The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too”

On this day 500 years ago, an obscure Saxon monk launched a protest movement against the Catholic Church that would transform Europe. Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation changed not just the way Europeans lived, fought, worshipped, worked and created art but also how they ate and drank. For among the things it impacted was a drink beloved throughout the world and especially in Luther’s native Germany: beer.

The change in beer production was wrought by the pale green conical flower of a wildly prolific plant — hops.

Every hip craft brewery today peddling expensive hoppy beers owes a debt of gratitude to Luther and his followers for promoting the use of hops as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church. But why did Protestants decide to embrace this pretty flower, and what did it have to do with religious rebellion?

Therein foams a bitter pint of history.

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church had a stranglehold on beer production, since it held the monopoly on gruit — the mixture of herbs and botanicals (sweet gale, mug wort, yarrow, ground ivy, heather, rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon) used to flavor and preserve beer. Hops, however, were not taxed. Considered undesirable weeds, they grew plentifully and vigorously — their invasive nature captured by their melodic Latin name, Humulus lupulus (which the music-loving Luther would have loved), which means “climbing wolf.”

(14) TIME TO CONFESS. Keeping up the seasonal theme: “After 20 Years, Can Cornell Finally Bust Open Its Great Pumpkin Mystery?”

In 1997, someone speared a massive pumpkin on the spire atop of Cornell’s McGraw Tower … 173 feet in the air.

No one knew who. No one knew why. And no one knew how.

In fact, for a while, no one even knew — for sure — if it was a pumpkin. Suspicions grew as the gourd lingered on, month after month. But some students figured that one out with the help of a drill attached to a remote-controlled weather balloon, which captured a sample. (Seriously.)

It was definitely a pumpkin.

But the other mysteries remain today. And Farhad Manjoo — Cornell alum, former editor-in-chief of the school paper and now a tech reporter at the New York Times — wants answers.

He calls the pumpkin-ing of the tower “the greatest prank in Cornell history.” And he’s asking the pranksters — or those who love them — to step forward and claim their glory.

(15) SPLASH. More data on Chicxulub: “Asteroid impact plunged dinosaurs into catastrophic ‘winter'”.

An independent group earlier this year used a global climate model to simulate what would happen if 100Gt of sulphur and 1,400Gt of carbon dioxide were ejected as a result of the impact.

This research, led by Julia Brugger from the University of Potsdam, Germany, found global annual mean surface air temperatures would decrease by at least 26C, with three to 16?years spent at subzero conditions.

“Julia’s inputs in the earlier study were conservative on the sulphur. But we now have improved numbers,” explained Prof Morgan.

“We now know, for example, the direction and angle of impact, so we know which rocks were hit. And that allows us to calibrate the generation of gases much better. If Julia got that level of cooling on 100Gt of sulphur, it must have been much more severe given what we understand now.”

(16) STILL GOING AROUND. Play it again: “The firm saving vinyl”.

Whether gathering dust in your loft or currently spinning on your turntable, it’s a fair bet that at least some of your vinyl records came from a small factory in the Czech Republic.

The facility in question is the headquarters of GZ Media, based in the small town of Lodenice, 25km (16 miles) west of the Czech capital, Prague.

GZ is today the world’s largest producer of vinyl records, of which it expects to press 30 million this year, for everyone from the Rolling Stones and U2, to Lady Gaga and Madonna.

The success of the company is a far cry from the early 1990s, when vinyl records appeared to be on the way out, with music fans having switched en masse to compact discs.

(According to an NPR interview a few years ago, Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady is a fan of vinyl.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Dave Doering, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the diurnal period Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/17 You Can Get Anything You Want From Alice’s Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (Excepting Neutrinos)

(1) JAILHOUSE ROCK. Brian Lee Durfee says “The First Ever in the History of the World Prison Comic Con Is in the Books!”:

James Dashner (Maze Runner) and I put on a fun event at the Utah State Prison last night. If two writers can make an auditorium full of felons laugh non-stop for one hour we know we did our job right. Mr. Dashner’s sense of humor and story-telling gifts were spot-on perfect. My favorite line of the night from Dashner, “My next book is about a serial killer…oh…um…are there any serial killers here tonight?” It brought down the house. He received a standing ovation.

And today, walking around the prison, I’ve received nothing but huge smiles and mega thanks from all the Inmates who attended. Gotta give a huge shout out to all who helped make it happen. Many publishers donated books and comics. Many writer friends donated signed books. Plus all the staff at the prison who got behind the project and helped out. I will post a link to the Dept of Corrections official event page w/photos when our public relations team makes it available.

PS I’ll try and make this an annual event bigger and better each year including the women’s unit, drug rehab, mental health, etc. One day I will have all the guards in Harley Quinn cosplay…

(2) THE VAST WASTELAND. Will no one rid him of this troublesome editor? The Traveler from Galactic Journey is stuck in 1962 with an editor of F&SF who’s driving him mad: “[Oct. 17, 1962] It’s Always Darkest… (The November 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

Ah F&SF.  What happened to one of my very favorite mags?  That’s a rhetorical question; Avram Davidson happened.  The new editor has doubled down on the magazine’s predilection for whimsical fantasy with disastrous (to me) results.  Not only that, but it’s even featuring fewer woman authors now than Amazing, of all mags.  I am shaking my head, wishing this was all some Halloween-inspired nightmare.  But no.  Here it is in black and white with a forty cent price tag.  Come check out this month’s issue…but don’t say I didn’t warn you:…

(3) BURDEN LIFTED FROM CALIFORNIA BOOKSELLERS. Publishers Weekly carries more coverage about the legislative change: “California Rescinds Autograph Mandate for Booksellers”.

California’s controversial law that requires booksellers to obtain a certificate of authenticity before they could sell books autographed by authors has been rescinded.

The move follows a lawsuit filed in May by Book Passage owner Bill Petrocelli and backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation that argued that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” The original law was enacted to require that store owners certify that any autographed item over $5 carry an authentic signature. The law was passed to fight against the sale of fake memorabilia, but included books.

Petrocelli, as well as other California booksellers, argued that the paperwork involved to meet the new law would make selling copies of autographed books too expensive. Book signings are an important part of booksellers’ business model, with Book Passage, for example, hosting more than 800 signings a year.

Faced with the lawsuit and opposition from booksellers, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that exempted books from the law, after which the PLF dropped its lawsuit.

(4) THE CURSE. Don Steinberg in the Wall Street Journal (in an article behind a paywall), notes that nearly all of the companies that paid for product placements in the original Blade Runner either no longer exist or are in severe financial trouble.

Atari began its downward spiral a year after the film’s 1982 release; Koss went bankrupt in 1984, and RCA and Bell Telephone received substantial screen  time and disappeared by the late 1980s. The last company Blade Runner promoted that failed was Pan Am, which folded in 1991.

(5) YOUR PERSONAL POP CULTURE SF RADAR. Daniel Dern sent these selected YA sci-fi references from contemporary TV shows:

This week’s episode of The Flash: Barry Allen is speed-binging all the shows he missed over the previous six months… “…wait, Jon Snow is dead [two seconds later] … wait, Jon Snow is alive?”

Unexpected music: In last week’s episode of Gotham, one scene opens to the sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Go Ask Alice.” No obvious direct plot or character reference, but it sonically made sense. (Vs the use of Led Zepp’s “Foreigner” for the upcoming Thor/Ragnarok trailer and theme, which also makes topical sense, along with being great.)


Ditto vs a mountainside of characters singing or otherwise mutilating Nirvana’s “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” in the 2015 movie Peter Pan.


(6) FAUX PHARMA. The Guardian lists “Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction”, most of them from sf.

Fictional drugs are miniature rocket ships: they take characters to places unknown and strange. The practice of drug invention goes back to the ancient Greeks (Moly, Lethe) and Shakespeare (Oberon’s love potion). Here are some modern examples from the pharmacopoeia of dangerous delights.

The first two are:

  1. Soma (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley) Soma is used to calm and pacify, suspending people in a state of permanent bliss. The World State of Huxley’s dystopian novel issues the drug as a means of control, to quell rebellious feelings. This is a drug used as a political metaphor, a form of mass entertainment taken to its ultimate level, a replacement for religion. In contrast, Huxley’s own mescaline-induced journey through the “doors of perception” gave him a glimpse of the mystery of pure being. From which we can only conclude that he kept the best drugs for himself.
  2. Melange (Dune by Frank Herbert) The most famous drug in science fiction – and one of the most powerful – melange or “spice” is found on the desert planet of Arrakis, produced and guarded by giant sandworms. In small doses it brings on a perfect high and increases sensual awareness of the world around you. In large amounts it enables the user to travel through the folds of space. Wow. This property makes it highly desirable, and entire empires rise and fall in the struggle to control its procurement and distribution. This is drug as merchandise, and as a gateway to the stars.

I was wondering why Thiotimoline wasn’t in the list ‘til I refreshed my memory – it’s a chemical compound, not a drug.

(7) LEAVE ROOM ON YOUR HUGO BALLOT. Lois McMaster Bujold announced on Goodreads that a new Penric novella is upcoming – maybe in November.

I am pleased to report I have finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella, sequel to “Mira’s Last Dance”. Title is decided all but one vowel — I’ll add it when my aesthetic waffling concludes. About 44,980 words.

Later: Having spent the whole last day wrestling with one. dratted. vowel., title has finalized as: “The Prisoner of Limnos”

I plan to have cover art by Ron Miller again, of which I will post a sneak peek in due course.

…This e-publication thing is getting frighteningly fast, in part because a lot of little things which were baffling decisions or upward learning curves first round are now set templates which only need replicated.


Vincent Price’s grandfather invented baking powder.  (Source: Cooking Price-Wise)

(9) A CABELL CABAL. A link to a Crooked Timber of academic interest: “Robert A. Heinlein and James Branch Cabell” by John Holbo.

…I’m not going to quote pre-print stuff [from Farah Mendlesohn’s Heinlein book] but I’ll pass along one detail I never would have guessed. Heinlein was, apparently, a huge James Branch Cabell fan. He loved Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. I have just started rereading Jurgen myself, since I’m done with Dunsany. (I’m not making any systematic early 20th century fantasy circuit, mind you. We just shifted houses and, somehow, an old, long-unregarded 60’s paperback copy of Jurgen floated to the top. Perhaps this universe’s God is a Richard Thaler-type, giving me a nudge. Also, Mendlesohn is apparently not the first to note that Heinlein liked Cabell. Wikipedia knows. I am, apparently, last to know. But perhaps you have been in that sorry boat with me.)

This isn’t a major theme of her monograph, but Mendlesohn suggests Heinlein wanted to be a satirist in a Cabell-ish (and/or Swiftian, Twainian, Sinclairian, Kiplingesque) vein, in some of his works. But he didn’t really have it in him. He’s too earnest and convicted, albeit eccentrically so. He doesn’t do ironic equivocation. (I imagine if Cabell had tried to write Jurgen as a boy’s adventure book – Have Fine, Snug, Well-Fitting Garment With Curious Figures On It, Will Travel – he might have encountered equal and opposite stylistic incapacities in his soul.)

(10) HMMM. Does Luke do that?

(11) CLASS IS IN SESSION. “Pitches and Synopses Workshop with Jennifer Brozek” has been Storified for your edification from notes taken by Cat Rambo.

(12) KYELL GOLD IN STORYBUNDLE. Daniel Potter interviews Kyell Gold about his book in the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle. (This is a video in a public Facebook post.)

(13) A MORAL AUTHOR. Ann Leckie told this story in a Twitter thread that starts here.

It includes a moral:

(14) FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. Here are the links to all three four parts of the SFWA and indie series, in case you missed any:

(15) ARTS AND SCIENCES. Shades of Hedy Lamar — artist/model designs a better health monitor for ISS: “Meet the model changing the future of space medicine”.

Alex Sorina Moss is an artist and a model, but that’s just a side hustle for her main ambition – to design an ear piece that could transform medicine and space travel forever.

Moss’s idea has already shot her team to stardom, winning a 2016 Nasa prize for the Best Use of Hardware.  But what’s more, it signals an uplifting new direction for wearable tech.

Canaria is a small cuff worn on the ear which measures vital bodily statistics, as well as other metrics such as levels of certain gases in the air around the wearer. Where other well-known biometric wearables target consumers looking to keep fit, Canaria is being prepped as a medical grade instrument.

(16) DECONTAMINATION. Cleaning up after the Fukushima disaster — “The robots going where no human can”. (Video at the link.)

Robots have become central to the cleaning-up operation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, six years after the tsunami that triggered the nuclear meltdown.

It is estimated that around 600 tonnes of toxic fuel may have leaked out of the reactor during the incident.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company is using a variety of robots to explore areas too dangerous for people to go near.

BBC Click was given rare access to the site to see how the decontamination work was progressing.

(17) IN TIMES TO COME. EPCOT for real? “‘Future city’ to be built in Canada by Alphabet company”.

Sidewalk Labs, owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is to build a digital city in Toronto.

It aims to turn a waterfront area into a working laboratory for a range of “smart” technology.

It is likely to feature fast wi-fi availability, millions of sensors, sustainable energy and autonomous cars.

Technology companies are touting their hardware and software to cities, as urban planners tackle issues such as congestion, pollution and overcrowding.

(18) FANHISTORY HELP WANTED. Do you recognize the artist?

(19) REMEMBERING THE AEROSPACE RACE. The BBC looks back on “The Soviet Union’s flawed rival to Concorde”.

It is December 1968, and a truly ground-breaking airliner is about to take its first flight.

It resembles a giant white dart, as futuristic an object as anything humanity has made in the 1960s. The aircraft is super streamlined to be able to fly at the speed of a rifle bullet – once thought too fast for a passenger-carrying aircraft.

The distinctive, needle-nosed front of the aircraft looks like the business end of something rocket-powered from a Flash Gordon serial; when the aircraft approaches the runway, the whole nose is designed to slide down, giving the pilots a better view of the ground. The effect makes the aircraft look like a giant bird about to land.

It sounds like a description of the Anglo-French Concorde, the plane that will cross the Atlantic in little more than three hours – but it’s not. The spaceship-styled jet sports the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union on its giant tailfin. It is the Tupolev Tu-144, the communist Concorde, and the first passenger aircraft to fly more than twice the speed of sound….

(20) HEARTBREAKER. Steven Soderbergh tweeted what he says is “a rejection from Lucasfilm” from 1984 — but which is actually a standard Hollywood release saying that they won’t consider unsolicited material.

(21) COMING TO NETFLIX, Bright Official Trailer #3.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sputnik-2, or Laika, Our Hero” is a video from Popular Science about the 50th anniversary of Laika’s journey into space aboard Sputnik 2.

When the international press reported that the Soviets sent a dog into orbit, the public freaked. Not because communism was beating democracy in the space race, but because how could anyone send a dog—alone—into space. If there’s one global commonality, it’s this: everyone loves dogs. So, the Soviets spun the story. Laika, the space dog, became a national hero. Yes, she died on her one way mission. But, she gloriously orbited Earth for over a week until her eventual, peaceful death. And, because of Laika’s sacrifice, the Soviet space program was now years ahead of the Americans…

But, none of that was true.

Based on declassified Soviet space program documents as well as primary source archive from back in the day, this is a revised version of Laika’s one way trip. In her words. That is, approximately her words. She was a dog, after all.


[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/29/17 Like The Best And Worst Of Typos That Lose Control

(1) TASTING SESSION. James Davis Nicoll feeds his test subjects “Ugly Chickens” by Howard Waldrop at Young People Read Old SFF.

With so many works to choose from, which of Waldrop’s stories to pick? “The Ugly Chickens” seemed like a safe bet; the setting is comfortably mundane and it won both the Nebula and World Fantasy Award, as well as garnering nominations for the Hugo, the Locus and the Balrog. I’ve been wrong before; what did the Young People actually think?

Some say yay. Not Mikayla:

I’m not generally a fan of this style of story anyway, but it didn’t matter because I was pretty much done by the third paragraph.

(2) HOME COOKING. Aaron Pound has launched the “The Ad Astra Cooking Project” at Dreaming About Other Worlds.

I recently acquired Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook, a collection of recipes from members of the Science Fiction Writers of America edited by Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde. As with all things, I intend to review it, but reviewing a cookbook poses a challenge that most other books do not: There is really no way to accurately review the book based upon reading it. Cookbooks are interactive – you can only appreciate them if you cook the recipes and eat them. So that is exactly what I am going to do….

The book was created to raise funds for the SFWA Legal Fund to support writers in need. The overall theme of the recipes in the book is supposed to be “party”, working on the theory that writers know how to throw a party. A lot of the recipes were solicited for this work, but some were originally collected by Astrid and Greg Bear for a cookbook that was never published. The introductory material includes Connie Willis passing on some excellent cooking advice from Charles Brown, and Carrie Vaughn explaining how to create a cocktail laboratory, including a couple of recipes for some classic cocktails to try. Larry Niven contributes a chapter on how to serve hundreds of cups of Irish Coffee to eager convention-attendees, an essay that is clearly informed by lots of experience….

First out of the oven is — “Ajvar by K.V. Johansen”.

The first recipe in Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook is one that K.V. Johansen discovered when some of her books were translated into Macedonian and she began traveling to the Republic of Macedonia, presumably to promote her work. Ajvar is an eggplant and bell pepper concoction flavored with garlic, cider vinegar or lemon juice, and hot sauce that can be served as a spread on naan or bread….

(3) CHANGING COLORS OF THE SEASON. It’s time for Petréa Mitchell’s “Fall 2017 SF Anime Preview” at Amazing Stories. Here’s one example of what you have to look forward to –

ClassicaLoid 2

The premise: More surreal comedy about characters patterned on famous composers using musical powers to bend reality. And Antonín Dvo?ák will be a pygmy hippopotamus.

Derivative factor: Sequel

The buzz: The first ClassicaLoid was a surprise hit in Japan, but there’s less enthusiasm about it in English-speaking fandom.

Premiere: October 7

(4) ALL FALL. Meanwhile, back on American TV — “Your Guide To (The Many, Many) Sci-Fi And Fantasy TV Premieres And Returns In October” from Creators.

The Fall season launched in September with over a dozen returns and premieres, but things really kick into gear in October. At current count there are 23 (!) shows returning to the schedule or starting their freshman seasons this month, and that means you have quite a lot of #scifi and #fantasy shows to pick from. Below is a rundown of the October entries and you can see the full Fall schedule here.


(5) CLASSIC SF BOUND FOR TV. Deadline has a blast of genre news: “Amazon Developing ‘Ringworld’, ‘Lazarus’ & ‘Snow Crash’ In Genre Series Push”.

Amazon has set up three high-profile drama series for development: Ringworld, based on Larry Niven’s classic science fiction book; Lazarus, based on the comic book by Greg Rucka (Jessica Jones); and Snow Crash, based on Neal Stephenson’s cult novel.

The streaming platform has been ramping up its slate with new projects as part of a programming strategy overhaul in search of big, buzzy shows. A major emphasis has been put on fast-tracking big-scope genre drama series in the mold of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, with Sharon Tal, brought in earlier this year as Head Of Event Series, tasked with spearheading efforts. The deals for Ringworld, Lazarus and Snow Crash are part of that push….

More discussion at the link.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman beckons his audience to “Ruminate over reindeer with Johanna Sinisalo in Episode 48 of Eating the Fantastic.

Johanna Sinisalo

Joining me this episode was Johanna Sinisalo, who was one of this year’s Worldcon Guests of Honor. Her first novel, Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (Not Before Sundown) won the Finlandia Prize for Literature in 2000 and the James Tiptree Jr. Memorial award in 2004. Her novel Enkelten vert (Blood of Angels) won the English PEN Award. She was a Nebula Award nominee in 2009 for “Baby Doll.” Her novel Auringon ydin (The Core of the Sun) recently won the 2017 Prometheus Award for Best Novel. She has won the Atorox award for the best Finnish-language SF short story seven times.

We discussed what she learned in advertising that helped her be a better writer, how Moomins helped set her on the path to becoming a creator, why she held off attempting a novel until she had dozens of short stories published, the reason the Donald Duck comics of Carl Barks were some of her greatest inspirations, the circuitous way being an actor eventually led to her writing the science fiction film Iron Sky, and more.

(7) KINGS GO FORTH. Daniel Dern says, “This NPR segment gives a good sense of what the King father/son event I went to was like – some of the readings and the schmoozing, including many of the same points and anecdotes I heard them do in person. (hardly surprisingly).” — “Stephen And Owen King On The Horror Of A World Without Women In ‘Sleeping Beauties’, Author interview by Mary Louise Kelly”, initially on NPR’s Morning Edition.

(8) CAVEAT EMPTOR. These are supposed to be Top 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Star Trek Discovery. If it turns out you knew them, I don’t know where you go for a refund.


Chip Hitchcock and John King Tarpinian send this warning about a peril for Filers, in yesterday’s Bizarro.

(10) SAFETY FIRST. John Scalzi’s question elicits a thread of entertaining answers….

(11) HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, WESLEY. Teresa Jusino is giving orders at The Mary Sue: “Star Trek: TNG at 30: Here’s Why Wesley Crusher Was Awesome, So You Just Shut Up.”.

Basically, the moral of so many episodes of TNG was basically Hey adults! Maybe if you’d listen to Wesley instead of telling him to shut up all the time, you might learn something! In “The Naked Now,” the entire Enterprise crew is infected with a Polywater intoxication that makes everyone all primal and horny and totally into their own deepest desires. So, naturally, what’s the oft-ignored Wesley’s deepest desire? (Besides Ashley Judd?) That’s right, he makes himself the Acting Captain of the ship thanks to a doohickey that he made for fun that can replicate Captain Picard’s voice.

And yet, even while under the influence, he’s such a genius that he’s able to figure out how to quickly turn the ship’s tractor beam into a repulsor beam when the adult Chief of Engineering tells him it would be too hard. He uses the repulsor beam to propel the disabled Enterprise away from another ship, narrowly avoiding the fragments of an exploding star that would’ve hit them. This is the kind of thing Wesley Crusher was capable of on a bad day….

(12) THE MONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN. Vox Day’s crowdfunded Alt*Hero raised $37,000 of its $25,000 goal in about a day. Three donations account for $10,000 of the receipts, however, the site reports 426 backers so far.

A new alternative comic series intended to challenge and eventually replace the SJW-converged comics of DC and Marvel.

(13) AVENGERS GO BOOM. But he may not be able to keep pace with Marvel’s effort to replace itself —

It’s the end of an Avengers Era as we know it! And in the team’s final days, a change has come to the Marvel Universe in the form of a story that’s filled with so much action and so much drama, Marvel had no choice but to make it a weekly epic!

Beginning this January, Marvel will unleash the epic AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER with AVENGERS #675, a weekly saga that unites the casts and creative teams of three titles into an epic tale of heroic action, jaw-dropping cliffhangers, and drastic adventures! The AVENGERS, UNCANNY AVENGERS and U.S. AVENGERS come together in a powerhouse of an event that will be unleashed in a story as spectacular and epic as the Marvel Universe itself.

Featuring one of Marvel’s biggest collaborations to date, each issue will be co-written by superstar writers Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub with art by Pepe Larraz for the first month, Kim Jacinto for the second month, and Paco Medina for the third month.

(14) REMINDS ME OF HEINLEIN. More dreams: “Elon Musk says rockets will fly people from city to city in minutes”.

Mr Musk made the promise at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia.

A promotional video says the London-New York journey would take 29 minutes.

Mr Musk told the audience he aimed to start sending people to Mars in 2024. His SpaceX company would begin building the necessary ships to support the mission next year.

He says he is refocusing SpaceX to work on just one type of vehicle – known as the BFR – which could do all of the firm’s current work and interplanetary travel.

(15) SURF’S UP. The BBC reports a journal article: “Tsunami drives species ‘army’ across Pacific to US coast”.

Scientists have detected hundreds of Japanese marine species on US coasts, swept across the Pacific by the deadly 2011 tsunami.

Mussels, starfish and dozens of other creatures great and small travelled across the waters, often on pieces of plastic debris.

Researchers were surprised that so many survived the long crossing, with new species still washing up in 2017.

The study is published in the journal Science.

(16) GENE FIXING. Beyond CRISPR: “DNA surgery on embryos removes disease”.

Precise “chemical surgery” has been performed on human embryos to remove disease in a world first, Chinese researchers have told the BBC.

The team at Sun Yat-sen University used a technique called base editing to correct a single error out of the three billion “letters” of our genetic code.

They altered lab-made embryos to remove the disease beta-thalassemia. The embryos were not implanted.

The team says the approach may one day treat a range of inherited diseases.

(17) DANGER UXB. Neat video: “WW2 bombs blown up at sea in Japan”.
US-made shells have been destroyed in a controlled underwater explosion in Japan.

(18) KILLING GROUND. Real-life source of some “Call of Duty” scenery: “The deadly germ warfare island abandoned by the Soviets”.

That expert was Dave Butler, who ended up going with them. “There was a lot that could have gone wrong,” he says. As a precaution, Butler put the entire team on antibiotics, starting the week before. As a matter of necessity, they wore gas masks with hi-tech air filters, thick rubber boots and full white forensic-style suits, from the moment they arrived.

They weren’t being paranoid. Aerial photographs taken by the CIA in 1962 revealed that while other islands had piers and fish-packing huts, this one had a rifle range, barracks and parade ground. But that wasn’t even the half of it. There were also research buildings, animal pens and an open-air testing site. The island had been turned into a military base of the most dangerous kind: it was a bioweapons testing facility.

(19) THANKS, DONORS. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology is getting longer — “3 Novellas Added! All 3 Print Copies Reward!”

9 days left to go in the campaign, and we’ve reached another stretch goal to add 3 novellas which adds another 58,000 words to the book!  All 3 excellent science fiction stories by S.B. Divya, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Gu Shi with translation by Ken Liu and S. Qiouyi Lu.

I’ve also added a reward level that includes a print and ebook copy of each of the 3 volumes of the anthology for $80–if you’ve already pledged but you’d like print copies of all 3 you can choose to upgrade.

There are still a couple of stretch goals left.  The next one’s just a short hop of $58 from where we are now to add “We Have a Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You” by Rebecca Ann Jordan.  And another $300 beyond that to add one more novella “Hammers on Bone” by Cassandra Khaw.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

An Evening With (As In, They’re On Stage, I’m In The Audience) Stephen and Owen King, On Tour Promoting “Sleeping Beauties”

By Daniel Dern: One of the many great things about attending science fiction conventions — regional ones like Arisia, Boskone and ReaderCon, and, where schedule and budget permit, Worldcons — is getting to see/hear, and with luck, planning, and more luck, even getting autographs, perhaps even the chance to chat.

For example, I’ve had, over the years, the privilege of seeing many of my faves (your list will of course vary) like Larry Niven, Anne Leckie, Jerry Pournelle, Samuel R. (“Chip”) Delany, Patricia McKillip, Harlan Ellison, Kit Reed, Barry Malzberg… you get the idea, and, I’m sure, have your own list, and perhaps also stack of autographed books.

But I haven’t seen Stephen King at any of the cons I go to. I became a fan when I encountered his remarkable short story, “Quitters, Inc.” in an anthology. Since then, my King faves include Different Seasons (novellas, including “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”), Firestarter, 1963, The Dome, and his two books of essays on/about writing.

(Although he clearly does go some places: Here’s an hour of King with George, in 2016.)

So back in June when my SO forwarded me an announcement that he was going to be doing an event IN THE TOWN WHERE I LIVE — within reasonable walking distance, no less — as one stop of a book tour that he and his younger son Owen King would be doing for their new (available starting September 29) book, Sleeping Beauties ,you can be I quickly checked my schedule for conflicts and then webbed in my $35 for a ticket.

Note, this event was sponsored or otherwise run by/with Newtonville Books, a local (to me) independent bookstore.

That day has come, I went, I’m back, here’s my report.


Even before the event proper, it was clear this was done by folks who knew what they were doing. The ticket sales process (using Brown Paper Tickets) was clear and seamless. About a week before, they sent out two or three emails, advising/reminding us how things would go, e.g.:

• The schedule times for “lines start” (5PM), “doors open” (6PM), “event starts” (7PM)”

People were invited to email questions for the Kings, from which a few would be selected and read.

• There would not be any public autographing. (Although I did hedge my bets, bringing my copy of King’s On Writing… just in case a legitimate opportunity arose.)

• Everybody gets a hardcover copy of the new book — at the end of the event. Some would have been pre-autographed.

I got there around 5:15 PM, and there were a fair number of people already. There were two lines, A-L and M-Z. (I assume that was last name, although for me, same difference anyway.) I didn’t see anybody I knew. Some people were wearing or carrying King-themed shirts, handbags, etc. I didn’t see anybody in costume. Everybody was cheerful and well-behaved. (It didn’t hurt that we had perfect New England fall weather.)

Like any experienced fan, I had come prepared — i.e., I’d brought a book. In my case, my library reserve-request of Ann Leckie’s brand-new Provenance, which I’d picked up earlier in the day. I did schmooze some with my fellow in-liners, one of whom had a carry-bag whose design was images of King’s book covers.

The venue was full (the tour’s web site shows all the events SOLD OUT). I’ll guesstimate between 700-800 seats. The background music while we were waiting (once seated) was interesting. I couldn’t hear it clearly, but one cut sounded like the Jefferson Airplane doing a concert version of “Somebody To Love” (i.e., not from their original Surrealistic Pillow album), and later, Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen.”


Stephen and Owen King began by talking briefly about the book. (Per the book’s website: “Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men.”)

They then each read a page or two. Then they dialogued with each other, talking about growing up, becoming writers, how this book happened.

This segued to a Q&A, where they took turns asking each other questions, including Owen asking his dad two questions from the Shawshank Redemption section of The Stephen King Quizbook, which Owen said he’d found in their attic. Then one of the organizers read several of the pre-submitted questions, and they took one from the audience.

The book’s tour web site includes a video of the Kings talking about their new book:

and here they are on Good Morning, America:

One thing that stood out for me is that as part of one of his answers, Stephen King quoted a line from Alfred Bester on the writing process. I’ve always been impressed by King’s familiarity with the canons (the pulps, early sf, comics, etc. — authors and works) and his acknowledgements and citations of them in his essays.

I’m looking forward to reading Sleeping Beauties.

It’s not the first with this premise; the one that springs to mind is The Disappearance by Philip Wylie (Within SFdom, Wylie is/was probably best-known for Gladiator, considered to be one of the influences/predecessors for Superman, and co-authoring When Worlds Collide/After Worlds Collide. Within popular culture, Wylie is (well, was) probably best known for “momism” in his Generation of Vipers. Other Wylie to check out: Finnley Wren. And my fave, the stories of Florida fishermen Crunch & Des, there’s one or more collections available.

But the world has changed (some) since Wylie’s 1951 take on this kind of event. Plus the “event” is different here. And Wylie and the Kings are, well, very different authors.

Anyhoo, now I can add Stephen King to my (mental) checklist of authors I’ve seen, and heard read.

And oh yeah, my copy of the book from the event includes the authors’ autographs. Whoohoo!

Pixel Scroll 9/14/17 I Grow Old, I Grow Old, I Shall Wear The Bacon On My Pixels Scrolled

(1) BEFORE THEY WERE BORN. In the latest Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll finds out what the panelists feel about an original Hugo winner, Eric Frank Russell’s “Allamagoosa”.

Although British, Eric Frank Russell (January 6, 1905 – February 28, 1978) wrote primarily for the US market. He dabbled in a number of modes, including Fortean tales of the weird, low key anarchist adventures and satire. It’s the last mode that’s relevant to this story.

Eric Frank Russell’s 1955 “Allamagoosa” is significant for a number of reasons. It won the inaugural Hugo for Best Short Story1. It slots into an under-populated niche (comedic SF) and is notable, within that niche, for being genuinely funny. It belongs to a now largely extinct genre, military comedy, whose drama derives not from people shooting each other, but from the eternal struggle between individual and bureaucracy. Military takes on that struggle may be out of fashion, but civilian comedies on the same theme are too common to list. The context may be unfamiliar to my readers, but the struggle will be familiar.

(2) THE ORVILLE. Samuel R. Delany had a few things to say about The Orville, none of them good.

…Every situation and every image is a cliche. Nothing in the show aspires to be either original or to represent the best of the modern SF genre–or even the modern world.

You will never go broke underestimating the American public, is what this this makes me think of; but I wonder if someone has decided to extend it to gamble on the whole world as an extension of the this cynical view of the audience. It’s about on the level of the old Adam West and Burt Ward Batman and Robin show from the middle sixties. But is neither as original, entertaining, or thoughtful. If this show goes on to start getting great has-been actors to play cameo parts of the various villains, I won’t be surprised….

(3) CATCHING UP. Tor.com ran this Le Guin excerpt at the end of August: “’Introduction’ from Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels & Stories, Volume Two

The novels and stories of the Hainish Descent were written in two periods separated by at least a decade. Everything in the first volume of this collected edition dates from the 1960s and ’70s, except one story from 1995; in the second volume, after one short novel from 1976, everything is from the 1990s. During the eighties I didn’t revisit the Hainish Universe at all (nor, until 1989, did I go back to Earthsea). When I became aware of this discontinuity, I wondered what kept me away from these literary realms I had invented, explored, established, and what brought me back to them.

That’s the sort of question interviewers and critics often ask and I usually dodge, uncomfortable with their assumption of rational choice guided by conscious decision. I may have intentions, as a writer, but they’re seldom that clear. Sometimes I find there is a certain tendency to my readings and thoughts, a general direction in which I am drawn—evidenced in a wish to learn more about certain subjects or fields (sleep and dream studies, satyagraha, medieval mining, DNA research, slavery, gender frequency, the Aeneid, the Inca). If this impulsion continues and gains energy, the subject matter of a story or novel may emerge from it. But it is an impulsion, not a decision. The decisions will be called for when the planning and writing begin.

(4) USING THE OLD BEAN. Daniel Dern suspects, “Yeah, this will only make sense to a limited audience, probably few under AARP age…” From a comment on io9’s “Game of Thrones’ Latest Attempt to Avoid Spoilers May Include Filming Multiple Endings” comes this photo of one of the leaked scenes….

(5) TURN UP THE VOLUMES. Nerds of a Feather brings us “6 Books with Jonathan Strahan”.

  1. What book are you currently reading? 

I’m currently reading the latest Tom Holt novel, The Management Style of the Supreme Beings, which is a lot of fun. It’s a satire on religion, and reminds me a lot of Jeremy Leven’s Satan, His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S., which is a weird book I read years ago, and a bit of James Morrow’s Only Begotten Daughter, which I adore.

(6) EDUCATED GUESS. The Hugo Award Book Club, in “The runners-up for the 1953 Hugo Award”, ventures its opinion about what the shortlist might have looked like in the award’s first year, before there were rules instituting the now-familiar final ballot.

If there had been a nominating process, there’s no way to know for sure what might have been on it, but it’s possible to make a few informed guesses. At the time of the fourth convention progress report, Wilson “Bob” Tucker’s Long Loud Silence was second in the vote count. The story — a character-driven conflict in a post-apocalyptic U.S. — is notable for its bleakness. It’s hard to root for a protagonist whose goal of getting out of the ruined Eastern U.S. would mean spreading a plague. It is an excellent novel by one of the central figures of early fandom. For today’s SF fan, it’s surprising to think that both Long Loud Silence and The Demolished Man were ahead of the second volume of Asimov’s original Foundation Trilogy, Foundation and Empire. This is the high point in a series of novels that was named “Best All-Time Series” at the 1966 Hugos, and whose inferior sequel won the 1983 Hugo Award.


  • September 14, 1986 The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers animated series premiered on television.


  • Born September 14, 1936 – Walter Koenig

(9) COMICS SECTION. John King Tarpinian finds not-terribly-hidden layers of comedic meaning in today’s Off the Mark.

(10) BUT DID YOU MISS IT? In The Atlantic, reviewer Lenika Cruz takes note of what these comics don’t have, as well as what they do have: “Marjorie Liu on the Road to Making Monstress”.

When the comic-book series Monstress introduces its haunted heroine, she has the look of someone just barely surviving. Maika Halfwolf is naked, missing part of an arm, wearing a metal collar, and being sold at a slave auction—a casualty in a bloody conflict between humans and Arcanics, a race of magical creatures. Of course, Maika is more than she seems. An Arcanic who looks human, she’s enraged by her mother’s death, her missing memories, and the atrocities she’s suffered. There’s also a strange, deadly power taking root in her body and mind—one she can neither understand nor control.

Written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda for Image Comics, Monstress is a sprawling epic fantasy that drops readers into the middle of a magic-filled alternate history. Described as a kind of “matriarchal Asia,” Maika’s universe is wracked by a race war and inhabited by violent witch-nuns, vicious deities, and innocent civilians—all of which is brought to life by Takeda’s exquisite manga-style, Art Deco–inspired art. Liu doesn’t ease her audience’s arrival into this intricately designed world by defining new terms or supplying a linear history of Maika’s life (the scale and complexity of the worldbuilding has earned Monstress comparisons to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books). Still, Liu and Takeda’s series differs from most genre fare, comics or otherwise, in at least one key way: There are almost no men or white characters.

(11) CAREER ARC. Bit parts and bad films: “Has Hollywood let Idris Elba down?” A Toronto International Film Festival video interview. Best quote: Dark Tower was “edited in a wood chipper.”

(12) HELLBOY CASTING. “Daniel Dae Kim thanks Ed Skrein after taking over Hellboy role” – the BBC has the story.

Daniel Dae Kim, who is known for shows like Hawaii Five-0 and Lost, will play Major Ben Daimio in the new film.

The character was Japanese-American in the original Hellboy comics.

Kim said he applauded his fellow actor Skrein “for championing the notion that Asian characters should be played by Asian or Asian American actors”.

(13) GEEKING OUT. SyFy continues celebrating its quarter-centennial by quizzing a celeb in “Geeky Q&A: Felicia Day”.

As part of SYFY 25 – where we’re looking back at everything amazing that’s happened in the world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror over the last 25 years – we asked a bunch of famous people what sort of geeky stuff they like.

Here’s what the incredible Felicia Day had to tell us.

The one thing I geek out over the most is:

A new world I can escape into, whether video game, movie, TV show or book.

The first thing I remember geeking out over is:

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series.

(14) BODEGA BACKPEDALING. Bodega.com’s Paul McDonald tries to recover from internet outrage over yesterday’s business announcement in “So, about our name…”

What’s with our name?

In Spanish, “bodega” can mean grocery store, wine cellar, or pantry. In many major cities, it’s come to mean the mostly independently-run corner stores that populate the city and serve the community. Like NYC’s bodegas, we want to build a shopping experience that stands for convenience and ubiquity for people who don’t have easy access to a corner store.

Is it possible we didn’t fully understand what the reaction to the name would be?

Yes, clearly. The name Bodega sparked a wave of criticism on social media far beyond what we ever imagined. When we first came up with the idea to call the company Bodega we recognized that there was a risk of it being interpreted as misappropriation. We did some homework?—?speaking to New Yorkers, branding people, and even running some survey work asking about the name and any potential offense it might cause. But it’s clear that we may not have been asking the right questions of the right people.

Despite our best intentions and our admiration for traditional bodegas, we clearly hit a nerve this morning, we apologize.

(15) FELL OR JUMPED? But did Bodega.com make a mistake, or take a calculated misstep of the kind that’s typical of Jon Del Arroz’ playbook? The LA Times found backers of both analyses.

Short of promising a name change, McDonald wrote that the company will “commit to reviewing the feedback and understanding the reactions from today.”

McDonald and co-founder Ashwath Rajan received angel investments from executives at Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and Google, and secured funding from a number of notable venture capital firms.

But on Twitter, at least one prominent tech investor criticized Bodega for its botched rollout. Spark Capital partner Nabeel Hyatt summed up Bodega’s issue as one of branding, saying it’s the “best example yet that framing your start-up properly matters.”

Andrea Belz, vice dean of technology innovation and entrepreneurship at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, said it seemed like a case of a company going to market without fully understanding that market.

“I’m fairly certain that when you want to modernize an industry, you don’t want to start by offending people,” she said. In this case, launching their product with the implication that they’re going to replace the local corner store doesn’t particularly ingratiate them to their potential customers.

When a start-up is looking to solve a problem for which people already have a solution — in this case, nearby places to buy things — positioning is particularly important. Belz pointed to the Bodega co-founders’ former employer, Google, as an example of a company that displaced earlier search engines by positioning itself as sleeker and easier to use.

She said Bodega’s much-criticized rollout could dissuade people from trying out the product once it reaches their area.

But Jeff Scheinrock, who teaches entrepreneurship as faculty director of the Applied Management Research Program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, said founders and investors must have known the name would get people talking.

“The name is controversial, and I think they got what they wanted out of that,” he said, pointing to the news coverage, including this report.

(16) GOT TO BE KIDDING. Grady Hendrix, who is promoting his new non-fiction book Paperbacks from Hell at the Film Noir Cinema on September 19, as part of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies monthly lecture series, shares some provocative opinions with the Brooklyn Paper in “Horror stories: Author celebrates creepy covers and terrifying tales”.

“Horror didn’t exist in fiction until ‘Rosemary Baby.’ When that book came out it was quite honestly the first horror novel bestseller since the ’40s, and then the movie of course was also a big hit,” he said. “Then came ‘The Exorcist’ and that was a hit movie and both of those books were bestsellers for a long time.”

(17) CHEAP SHOT. The sommelier at Refinery 29 has a recommendation: “These Halloween Wines Are Only $10 So You Can Spend All Your Money On The Good Candy”.

Fortunately, you don’t have to skip out on being festive in order to avoid spending six hours waiting for JELL-O shots to chill, or splurge on super fancy bottles, either. That’s because Door Peninsula Winery is now offering a crazy budget-friendly alternative that simply screams Halloween. Enter: “Hallowine.”


(18) DRAFTING A CANDIDATE. Who needs to be governor when you’re already King? All the same, “Former Maine Gov. John Baldacci wants Stephen King to run for office: ‘You’ve got a winner there'”. The Washington Examiner has the story.

Stephen King fans are hoping they can get the author of the clown horror story It and 53 other novels to consider running for political office.

Among them are the state’s most recent former governor, two-term Democrat John Baldacci, who told the Washington Examiner, “Stephen would win any office he decided to run for in Maine.”

“I would be out there handing out fliers and putting on bumper stickers for him,” said Baldacci, who left office after eight years in 2011. “He’s been a big asset for the state of Maine and for a lot of people who look for common sense in the wilderness.”

There are clear opportunities in Democratic-leaning Maine. The pugnacious Republican Gov. Paul LePage, an ardent Trump supporter, is term-limited and will be replaced in an election next year while centrist GOP Sen. Susan Collins is up for re-election in 2020

(19) FAREWELL CASSINI. Movie of 13 years of Saturn pictures: “Saturn’s Strangest Sights, As Captured By A Doomed Spacecraft”.

(20) TRIP AROUND THE SUN. An extensive history of the Cassini mission told by the people who helped make it happen: “Our Saturn years”.

“I look back and think: ‘Gosh, I’ve worked on Cassini for almost an entire Saturn year.'”

(21) LIFE CATCHES UP WITH SF. Who said science fiction never predicts anything? (Nobody, actually, but it’s such a good hook….) — “At Bug-Eating Festival, Kids Crunch Down On The Food Of The Future”.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a footnote, “Filers may remember ‘chirpy chili’ in Pohl’s ‘Second-Hand Sky’, part of the fix-up Lives of the City.”

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Secret Meaning of Stephen King’s IT” is a video by ScreenCrush that looks at the 2017 IT, the 1990s mini-series of IT, and lots of other horror movies to show their use of water and how water can be scary.

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