Pixel Scroll 9/20/17 Won’t You Jaunt Home, Lije Bailey?

(1) IT’S ABOUT TIME. The Sun tells about the actor’s latest project — “Tom Baker is back playing Doctor Who nearly 40 years after originally playing the Time Lord”.

He recorded final scenes for Shada, written by Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy creator Douglas Adams.

It was meant to be a six-episode tale for Tom’s fourth incarnation of the Doctor in 1979-80.

But production was wrecked by a BBC technicians’ strike and only half was filmed before it was shelved.

Tom and other members of the original cast — including Lalla Ward, 66, as companion Romana — returned for the recording in Uxbridge, West London.

They are voicing animated sequences that will replace the unfilmed material.

(2) NEXT LARA CROFT. Rick Marshall on Digital Trends has “First ‘Tomb Raider’ trailer introduces Alicia Vikander as the new Lara Croft”.

Two films based on Lara Croft’s adventures preceded the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot film: 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and 2003’s Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Both films cast Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft and collectively earned $432 million at the worldwide box office, making the series one of the highest-grossing film franchises based on a video game property.

Tomb Raider hits theaters March 16, 2018.

 

(3) THE SPIRIT OF SFF. Although I’ve become inured to this phrase being code for “more nutty nuggets, please,” author Joseph Brassey has only the original meaning in mind when he talks about “Keeping the Fun in Science Fiction” at Fantasy-Faction.

I firmly believe, however, that a story should be able to confront real problems without losing its soul, its sense of fun, and this is found in the conviction that things can always be better. It is in an explicit rejection of a tone of cynicism, because work that grapples with darkness doesn’t need to assume it is in the nature of our most misanthropic, derisive qualities to prevail. Hope is not a method, but it is the precursor of methods. The spark that ignites action and turns talk of change into moving feet and hands grasping for actions of worth. Hope is not the fire. It is the lighter of fires.

The human element is everything. Where the fantastical meets the machine. Where the magic meets the skycraft. Where the sword turns aside the crackling bolt of gunfire and the pilot spins the wheel to take her ship from the roaring path of the dragon’s breath. Where conflict assails the human spirit and we find our noblest qualities in the face of ravening hate, violent authoritarianism, and bone-chilling fear.

It is in the wonder that reaches for stars, responds to fury with mercy, hatred with love, having the courage to peer beyond a terrible present to embrace a future awash with a thousand hues of color.

(4) GENRE WALK WITH ME. Abigail Nussbaum delves into her psychology as a viewer, the history of a particular show, and generational changes in the television medium in “That Gum You Like: Scattered Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return” at Asking the Wrong Question.

My third try with Twin Peaks was just a few months ago, when, in preparation for the upcoming revival series, I mainlined the entire 30 episodes of the show, plus Fire Walk With Me, over a long weekend.  It was strange experiencing the show this way, simultaneously a newcomer and someone who knew quite a bit about it, including the major turns of plot.  What was even stranger was how much the existence of The Return changed the meaning and significance of the original Twin Peaks, even before a single frame of it had aired.  From a failed experiment, it became merely a chapter in a story, whose later installments might yet redeem it.  Watching Twin Peaks was suddenly no longer an exercise in nostalgia and self-flagellation, but that venerable Peak TV practice of binge-watching the previous seasons before the new episodes start.  I ended up enjoying this rewatch much more than I was expecting (Fire Walk With Me, in particular, turns out to be a great deal more rewarding than I’d been led to believe), but I wonder if I would have felt the same if I didn’t know that another chapter in the saga was just around the corner.

(5) YOUR HOST, BORIS KARLOFF. It’s 1962 in England and a wonderful sf anthology series has just completed its run: “[Sep. 20, 1962] Out of this World (the British Summer SF hit!)”. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard delivers mini-reviews of all the episodes.

As I mentioned before, this series was launched with Dumb Martian shown as part of the Armchair Theatre series.  The new series has a very spooky theme tune called The Concerto to the Stars, composed by Eric Siday, which plays against a background of moving microscopic tentacles that sets the tone for the show.  For those who are interested, Tony Hatch has expanded the theme tune into very catchy 45 record, available from all good record stores.

The format of the show has each episode introduced by Boris Karloff, who is disarmingly charming with his bon mots about the story to come.  There are two breaks for adverts, which is annoying, but this is commercial TV, so it is to be expected.  Then Mr. Karloff signs off the story with an announcement of the cast.

(6) LAWYER LETTERS GO GENRE. Adweek has the story: “Netflix Sent the Best Cease-and-Desist Letter to This Unauthorized Stranger Things Bar”.

Evidence for this comes from Chicago, where an unauthorized Stranger Things bar recently opened and has since become quite popular. Naturally, Netflix wasn’t OK with this. But instead of firing off a nasty, sharply worded missive, it sent a quite adorable letter to the owners in the style of the Stranger Things universe.

“Danny and Doug,” the letter started out…

My walkie talkie is busted so I had to write this note instead. I heard you launched a Stranger Things pop-up bar at your Logan Square location. Look, I don’t want you to think I’m a total wastoid, and I love how much you guys love the show. (Just wait until you see Season 2!) But unless I’m living in the Upside Down, I don’t think we did a deal with you for this pop-up. You’re obviously creative types, so I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s important to us to have a say in how our fans encounter the worlds we build.

We’re not going to go full Dr. Brenner on you, but we ask that you please (1) not extend the pop-up beyond its 6 week run ending in September, and (2) reach out to us for permission if you plan to do something like this again. Let me know as soon as possible that you agree to these requests.

We love our fans more than anything, but you should know the Demogorgon is not always as forgiving. So please don’t make us call your mom.

(7) THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Early in Honest Trailers’ take on Wonder Woman comes this line:

Now, Patty Jenkins bravely asks the question, “What if a female-led superhero movie wasn’t absolute garbage from beginning to end, and had a powerful message for girls: Save the world, look flawless doing it, be a literal god, then men might begrudgingly half-tolerate your presence?”

 

“I pretty much howled,” says Rick Moen, who sent the link, “Fair cop.”

(8) VOICE OF OUR FRIENDS. Last night a thousand people paid tribute to the late June Foray. From The Hollywood Reporter, “Veteran Voice Actress June Foray Remembered by Lily Tomlin, More at Packed Event”.

Billed as “Hokey Smokes! A June Foray Celebration,” the grand gala was produced by animation veterans Mark Evanier, Jerry Beck, Bob Bergen, Howard Green and Tom Sito and ably hosted by Evanier, who was June’s longtime friend and sometime employer.

Among the many eager to pay personal and professional tribute were Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson), Bill Mumy (who spoke of June’s guest appearance on an episode of Lost in Space), animation historian Charles Solomon, Teresa Ganzel (The Duck Factory) and a surprise guest — Lily Tomlin — who won a voiceover Emmy in 2013 the same night June received the Governors Award. Tomlin said of Foray, “The characters she played were so much more than cartoons; they were our friends.” …

Foray was also saluted for her tireless efforts to engender more respect for the world of animation as a founding member of the American branch of ASIFA (Association International du Film d’Animation), which produces the annual Annie Awards, and she is credited with helping to establish the Academy Award category for best animated feature film.

As a grand finale, Evanier invited a number of animation actresses who had been inspired by Foray’s pioneering work to come up onstage and pose for a sort of “class photo” (below) flanking a large portrait of Foray in her natural habitat — seated at a microphone….

Evanier remarked that Foray’s career began in the Golden Age of Radio in the 1930s and continued up to and including video games.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 20, 1979 – The theatrical release was edited down as the pilot episode for TV’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • September 20, 1985 Morons From Outer Space premiered theatrically on this day.
  • September 20, 1987  — Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future premiered its first and only season.
  • September 20, 2002 Firefly premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 20, 1948 – George R.R. Martin

(11) MALTIN ON ELLISON BIO. Leonard Maltin approves “A LIT FUSE: THE PROVOCATIVE LIFE OF HARLAN ELLISON: AN EXPLORATION WITH EXTENSIVE INTERVIEWS by Nat Segaloff (Nesfa Press)” which is more than I can say ‘til I read it. And maybe then.

Harlan Ellison is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. An author, activist, and professional provocateur, he is incapable of being dull, which makes this book a page-turner almost by definition. His fame in the field of science-fiction obscures other facets of his career, including writing for television and movies. It’s all chronicled in this highly readable profile by a longtime friend and follower. No single book could cover the entirety of Ellison’s life, or reproduce every one of his memorable rants, but Segaloff makes a healthy start in that direction.

(12) QUARTER CENTURY MARK. SyFy Wire continues to celebrate the channel’s 25th anniversary with lists – today “25 people we really miss”.

In the last 25 years, we’ve had some amazing new creators of science fiction, fantasy, and horror emerge – but we’ve lost many true legends in the field along the way, as well. These writers, artists, actors, and visionaries helped to make our world a richer place with the power of their imaginations and continue to inspire us long after they’re gone.

How often are you going to see David Bowie on a list sandwiched between Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury?

(13) LOTS TO TALK ABOUT. Amal El-Mohtar sees strengths and weaknesses in Annalee Newitz’ Autonomous: “In A Future Ruled By Big Pharma, A Robot Tentatively Explores Freedom — And Sex: ‘Autonomous'”.

I rarely dog-ear the books I read for review, trusting myself to remember their most notable aspects. I dog-eared enough of Autonomous‘ pages to almost double its thickness, such was the granularity of things I wanted to highlight, praise, and discuss. From startling insights to delicately turned prose to whole passages of unbearably tender musings on the intimate desires of artificial intelligence, there’s much more than I can feasibly talk about here. But here’s some highlights.

Autonomous‘ main interest is the danger our late capitalist modernity poses to personhood, and the intricacies of what it means to be free – from ownership, from programming, from the circumstances of one’s birth. But the parts that enthralled and moved me most – to laughter, to tears – were the musings on sexuality, and the contrast between Jack and Paladin’s respective experiences. Throughout most of the novel, Jack’s relationship to sexuality is written in clinical, chemical terms, a physical means to a physical end; Paladin’s, meanwhile, is explored in intimate, puzzled probings, often starkly contrasted with the extreme violence for which Paladin was built. I loved the contrast between seeing a woman treat sex as casually as an itch to scratch, and a genderless robot building romance and sexuality from first principles, through internet searches, conversations with other AIs, and awkward, fumbling experiments.

(14) BUGS M ‘LADY: Sophia Spencer and Morgan Jackson co-wrote a scientific paper on Twitter, entomology and women in science, after a tweet about Sophia’s love for bugs went viral: “Once Teased For Her Love Of Bugs, 8-Year-Old Co-Authors Scientific Paper”

We were hoping that we could find an entomologist or two, perhaps, that would be willing to talk to Sophie and share a little bit about their backstory,” he said. “We were blown away with the number of people who came charging to help Sophia.” The organization received more than a thousand replies and more than 130 direct messages.

(15) WOMEN IN POP CULTURE. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas takes a victory lap in “Hard Corps: Women in power and the politics of taking action”.

This same toxicity has recently riddled science fiction and fantasy literature as well. In 2015 and 2016, alt-right trolls took aim at the prestigious Hugo Awards and what they perceived as a leftist bias. Women, of course, have long had a forceful presence in this literary domain, particularly those driven by strong ideological motivations: Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler to name but a few. And in film, directors including Kristina Buozyte, Kate Chaplin, Kathryn Bigelow, Jennifer Phang and Lizzie Borden have each used science fiction codes and conventions in profound and often diverse ways.

But it is in front of the camera that the genre’s history of strong, active women is the most visible and diverse. Heroine Maria and her evil gynoid doppelga?nger in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, aggressive sex bomb Jane Fonda as the title character in Roger Vadim’s Barbarella, turbo-mum Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, resourceful Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, and – of course – the iconic image of the no-shit-taking woman, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the Alien movies. For starters.

But if we’re going to lift the lid off of this particular Pandora’s Box, it’s worth doing it properly. Representations of strong women in cinema bleed outwards across eras, production contexts and the often blurry lines of film genre itself. Any prehistory of women characters in the recent Star Wars movies – Rey (Daisy Ridley) from The Force Awakens and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) from Rogue One – must necessarily look far beyond the terrain of sci-fi itself.

(16) TERMINATOR WILL RETURN. Borys Kit’s Hollywood Reporter story “Linda Hamilton Set to Return to ‘Terminator’ Franchise”, says that James Cameron is producing a new Terminator film, to be directed by Deadpool director Tim Miller.

After waving hasta la vista, baby, more than 25 years ago, Linda Hamilton is returning to the world of Terminator, reuniting with James Cameron, the creator of the sci-fi franchise, for the new installment being made by Skydance and Paramount.

Cameron made the announcement at a private event celebrating the storied franchise, saying, “As meaningful as she was to gender and action stars everywhere back then, it’s going to make a huge statement to have that seasoned warrior that she’s become return.”

With Hamilton’s return, Cameron hopes to once again make a statement on gender roles in action movies.

“There are 50-year-old, 60-year-old guys out there killing bad guys,” he said, referring to aging male actors still anchoring movies, “but there isn’t an example of that for women.”

(17) G AS IN GEEZER. Meanwhile, an octagenarian male hero gets the glory in William Shatner’s Zero-G: Green Space, released September `9.

In the second installment of William Shatner’s Zero-G series, Director Samuel Lord must identify a mole sabotaging the top-secret NASA project aboard the US space station Empyrean, while also fighting a fast-replicating virus that threatens humanity. In the year 2050, the United States sends the FBI to govern its space station, The Empyrean. Under the command of suave, eighty-year-old director Samuel Lord, the “Zero-G” men are in charge of investigating terrorism, crime, corruption, and espionage, keeping an eye on the rival Chinese and Russian stations as well….

(18)  PUNISHER. Nextflix has a new trailer up for the Punisher.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/19/17 These Are A Few Of My Favorite Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

(1) DARMOK AND JALAD AT THE TIKI BAR. ThinkGeek invites you to get your “Star Trek The Next Generation Geeki Tikis”.

La Forge, Picard, Worf, Cardassian, Borg, Ferengi

Allow us to raise a toast to your taste in housewares with these Star Trek The Next Generation Geeki Tikis. A set of six, these tiki mugs let you drink with Captain Picard, Geordi La Forge, Worf, a Cardassian, a Ferengi, and the Borg. Yes, all of the Borg since they’re a collective consciousness. Best not to play trivia against that one. These tiki mugs hold around 14 oz. each, and they’ll look great next to your Horga’hn fertility statue.

 

(2) BOOK DONATIONS REQUESTED. John Joseph Adams posts:

Got any books you’d like to donate to a good home? My sister’s looking for donations for her school’s library:

In “Nothing to Read”, teacher Becky Sasala explains the need.

I recently assigned my juniors to independently read a book every nine weeks. We took part of a class period and visited the media center to ensure that every student had access to a variety of books. I was absolutely floored by the emptiness of the building. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; the county that I work (and live) in is a poor rural county. The average wage in Hoke County is $18,421. Most households’ combined income is less than $50,000. Less than 15% of adult residents hold a degree beyond high school. I also discovered that the library has not had any money to purchase new books since 2009. 2009!

Books appropriate for high school students can be sent to the following address:

  • Hoke County High School
  • c/o Rebecca Sasala
  • 505 Bethel Rd.
  • Raeford, NC 28376

More information at the linked post. There’s also a related Amazon wish list.

(3) HEINLEIN UNBOUND. Farah Mendlesohn, a historian, critic and fan who is a Hugo, BSFA, and BFA winner, and WFA, Mythopoeic, and Locus Award finalist for her scholarly non-fiction works on science fiction and fantasy, is crowdfunding the publication (by Unbound) of her critical study of the writings of a giant of the SF genre.

Dear Friends,

As you all know, I had to withdraw my book on Heinlein from the original publisher due to length. As I explored other options it became clear that no academic publisher could take it without substantial cuts, and no one who read it, could suggest any. So I am utterly delighted to be able to say that Unbound, a crowdsourcing press, have agreed to take the book.

Robert A. Heinlein began publishing in the 1940s at the dawn of the Golden Age of science fiction and carried on writing until his death in 1988. His short stories contributed immensely to the development of science fiction’s structure and rhetoric, while his novels (for both the juvenile and adult markets) demonstrated that you could write hard SF with strong political argument. His vision of the future was sometimes radical, sometimes crosswise, and towards the end in retrenchment. He continues to influence many writers whether in emulation or reaction. Recent controversies in science fiction have involved fighting over Heinlein’s reputation and arguing about what his legacy is and to whom he belongs…

The key thesis of the book is a challenge to the idea of Heinlein as a libertarian and resituating him as a classical Liberal in the terms he understood; a man who prized the individual highly but understood the individual as at their best when enmeshed in the complex structure of a nurturing society.

Support levels start at £12 for the e-book, and higher levels include hardback copies, critiques of supporters’ non-fiction, workshops, and afternoon tea plus a tour of the personal library of Mendlesohn and SF critic Edward James.

(4) THE STORIES YOU WANT. Like everyone, Liz Bourke has her own specific set of interests, however, most readers have privately asked themselves the question in the title of her latest column, Sleeps With Monsters: Why Can’t More Books Pander To Me?” at Tor.com.

I’m a queer woman (bisexual, and to a degree genderqueer, if precision matters). Much of my reading experience, particularly with new-to-me authors, and even more so with male authors, involves bracing for things that are tiresome, wearying, and/or hurtful. Whether it’s active misogyny, background sexist assumptions, gratuitous sexual assault of women (which may or may not be used to motivate the character arc or development of male protagonists), Smurfettes, women without communities that include other women, transphobia, Buried Gays, or just the general sense that the world the author’s created has no room for people like me in it, there’s frequently a level of alienation that I need to overcome in order to be able to enjoy a new book—or film, or television show, or videogame, etc.—and constantly being braced for that alienation is exhausting.

And that’s even before we get to books that are outright badly done, alienating in ways that aren’t aimed at me (but fuck racism), or just aren’t to my tastes (a lot of comedy, most horror, certain themes that need to be really well done to work for me).

But I’m so used to experiencing this alienation, or to expecting it, that it’s a wrenching shock when I find books that just… welcome me in. That don’t place any barriers in my way. I don’t notice the amount of effort overcoming this alienation requires until I don’t have to make that effort—like not really knowing how much pain you were in until it stops.

(5) THE HOME STRETCH. Artist Gary Gianni’s Kickstarter to publish Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea, Gianni’s book with Mike Mignola, has gotten a great reception – in fact, they’ve just added their FOURTH stretch goal reward –

FOURTH STRETCH GOAL ANNOUNCED! Free all-new fully illustrated The Call of Cthulhu book by Gianni with 100 pencil drawings to all Kickstarter supporters who pledge $50 or more if we reach our Stretch Goal #4, 80K goal!

Gianni’s many credits include illustrating George R.R. Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

(6) 21ST CENTURY AIR TRAVEL. The title promises “WorldCon 2017, aka The Best, Most Tedious Disaster Story Ever” and Anaea Lay delivers. And yet I read it all. Highly illogical!

When that broke up and it was time to head home, several of the people I’d been hanging out with very kindly and English-ly refused to go on to their hotel before making sure I could find where I was staying, despite my insistence that this was unnecessary.  The joke was on them, though, because I managed to have a fail-tastic adventure anyway.  You see, I knew the address of where I was staying, and I had the keys for getting in.  What I didn’t have was the apartment number.  In a building with eight floors.

(7) MARKETING TECHNIQUE. RedWombat explains a new piece to her agent:

(8) HE LOOKS BEFORE HE LEAPS. Arnie Fenner interviewed John Fleskes at Muddy Colors earlier this week. How many bungee-jumping publishers do you know?

People don’t normally equate daredevils with art books: how does doing death-defying stunts segue into becoming a publisher?

Well, the risk of doing a stunt and that of running a business is very similar, really. So, people have the tendency to call us “extreme” or “daredevils” but in reality each stunt is very calculated and planned far in advance. It’s not like we would just hook up a random bungee cord to anything and just jump off. I worked for a pair of brilliant engineers who would include us in the planning stages and I really learned to appreciate the analytical process of working for those who set up highly complicated stunts where peoples lives were on the line. By the time the actual stunt would happen, sure, if you went off script you could die, but there really wasn’t anything to seriously worry about. Oh, man, jumping out of a hot air balloon at 500 feet and falling 300 feet, now that is a feeling of absolute freedom to fly like that!

But, my real point is that it is a calculated risk when doing a stunt. Days, or weeks, or months of planning can go into what we did. It’s exactly the same with Flesk. Everything that I do is a risk. Instead of risking my life, I’m risking all of my finances, my company, and my livelihood.

The Call For Entries for Spectrum 25 will go out in a few weeks: can you share some of your perspective after having led the competition, judging, and annual for the past 4-going-on-5 years?

The greatest part of Spectrum, without a doubt, has been its community. It’s the people that make it worthwhile year after year. We’re all in it together, it’s here because of the generosity, the support and the downright goodwill of everyone involved. It’s so much bigger than me, it’s not about me whatsoever, but like I’ve mentioned before, it lets me play a role in doing for others. If I do things right, my name never comes to the front or is in the spotlight. I want it to be about the artists. That’s the part at the end of the day that satisfies me the most. That’s my drive. I prefer to work in the background as much as possible, only coming out when absolutely necessary and only when it is to serve others. This community, these artists, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. That you and Cathy would tap me on the shoulder, that they would see something in me, I’m forever grateful. You’ve treated me like family. I’m truly blessed to know you both and be a part of Spectrum. You know, I’m still a bit shocked by where I am today? I never would have expected any of this.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Talk Like A Pirate Day

(10) TODAY IN ALLEGED HISTORY

September 19, 1961 – Betty and Barney Hill were abducted for two hours by a UFO.

(11) TODAY IN REGULAR OLD HISTORY

  • September 19, 2000 – Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a novel about the glory years of the American comic book, was published. It won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born September 19, 1979 — Hermione Jean Granger

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CAPED CRUSADER

  • Born September 19, 1928 – Adam West

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY U.N.C.L.E. AGENT

  • Born September 19, 1933 – David McCallum

(15) LIVING PROOF. Remember when the Worldcon’s new YA Award couldn’t be called the Tesseract out of courtesy to an existing Canadian anthology series? If you weren’t already acquainted with it, now’s your chance. Compostela (Tesseracts Twenty) edited by Spider Robinson and James Alan Gardner will be released in the U.S. on October 9. (It’s already available in Canada.)

Compostela (Tesseracts Twenty) is an anthology of hard and soft science fiction stories that best represent a futuristic view of the sciences and how humanity might be affected (for better or worse) by a reliance in all things technological.

The stories contained within the pages of Compostela are a reflection of the world we live in today; where science produces both wonders and horrors; and will leave us with a future that undoubtedly will contain both. Journeys to the stars may be exhilarating and mind-expanding, but they can also be dangerous or even tragic. SF has always reflected that wide range of possibilities.

Featuring works by these Canadian visionaries:

Alan Bao, John Bell, Chantal Boudreau, Leslie Brown, Tanya Bryan, J. R. Campbell, Eric Choi, David Clink, paulo da costa, Miki Dare, Robert Dawson, Linda DeMeulemeester, Steve Fahnestalk, Jacob Fletcher, Catherine Girczyc, R. Gregory, Mary-Jean Harris, Geoffrey Hart, Michaela Hiebert, Matthew Hughes, Guy Immega, Garnet Johnson-Koehn, Michael Johnstone, Cate McBride, Lisa Ann McLean, Rati Mehrotra, Derryl Murphy, Brent Nichols, Susan Pieters, Alexandra Renwick, Rhea Rose, Robert J. Sawyer, Thea van Diepen, Nancy SM Waldman.

(16) THE EIGHTIES WERE STRANGER. Adweek is enthusiastic: “Netflix Is Making Stranger Things Versions of Classic ’80s Movie Posters, and They’re Amazing”.

Netflix is pulling out all the stops on social media in the weeks leading up to Season 2. Last month, the show’s official Twitter account began giving fans more of what they want by launching a weekly recap of each episode of the first season under the hashtag #StrangerThursdays, and tying each episode to a classic ’80s film.

Even more impressive, the art team at the show has paid homage to each film’s original poster art while placing the Stranger Things cast members in its universe. The tweets also include copy referencing the movies that inspired them.

The post has all of them, but here’s one example.

A fan has been inspired to make another —

(17) UHHH. A comic linked from File 770 prompted Steve J. Wright to refer to his Lego-playing days as “Grotesque Sexual Deviancy”.

At least, we thought we were just having fun.  It turns out, though, that we were transgressing the boundaries of gender as laid down by God and marketing departments.  We should never have engaged in the heinous perversion of unsegregated Lego.  Our Lego should have been sorted into strong, potent, manly Lego (mine) and soft, gentle, feminine Lego (my sister’s), and the division should have been rigorously maintained.  All these years I thought we were just playing with Lego, and instead we were promoting an insidious non-binary genderqueer agenda that subverts all the established notions of masculinity and femininity, that causes confusion and actual harm to children who are too young to handle the idea of boys playing with girls’ Lego, that will probably pollute our precious bodily fluids and hasten the downfall of Western civilization.

thought we’d just got a sensible arrangement, so that if, say, my sister wanted to hold a state funeral for one of the Crater Critters, she could grab a bunch of black Legos and build a hearse without any arguments.  Now I know that we were, in fact, undermining the very foundations of all that is good and decent and true.

(18) FRESH OUTBREAK OF TROLLS. Gwynne Watkins of Yahoo! Movies, in “‘Star Wars’ fan petition seeking removal of J.J. Abrams from ‘Episode IX’ picks up steam”, writes that 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding that J.J. Abrams be removed as director of Episode IX because they feel that Disney promised a fresh director for every installment.

The petition at Change.org begins:

Star Wars fans abroad were upset with the result of J.J. Abrams’ directing of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Although not reflected in the box office sales, most fans agree that Abrams’ vision for Episode VII resulted in a rehash of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. There was virtually no creativity, and no risks taken. Such complacency cannot be the trajectory of this sequel trilogy. More specifically, the metric for success in a Star Wars movie cannot be box office sales. Lucasfilm and Disney *need* to listen to fan criticism. Star Wars fans deserve better. They demand better.

Almost 3,500 people have signed it so far.

(19) BONES. New books by the late Michael Crichton continue to appear. Fantasy Literature’s Ryan Skardal renders a verdict on one that came out this past May in Dragon Teeth: Palaeontologist wars”

Johnson is stranded in Deadwood with his bones, which everyone assumes is a cover for gold. Some readers may be pleased to learn that the Bone Wars between Cope and Marsh are drawn from history. Robert Louis Stevenson and Wyatt Earp also appear.

I did not find very much information on how finished Dragon Teeth was before publication, but, unlike Micro, there is no mention of another author who finished this work. It’s tempting to point out that this novel about fossils seems more skeletal than most of Crichton’s novels. The characters are flat, their interactions seem rushed, and every chapter is very short. There are moments of historical detail that are a bit more developed, such as when devout Christians express doubt about fossils and whether a perfect god could create something flawed — let alone something so flawed that it might go extinct. Even these details, however, feel like sketches.

(20) CON CEASES FOR SAFETY REASONS. The staff has put an end to an Ohio convention in the wake of the chair’s criminal conviction. Nerd & Tie has the story: “Anime Punch Disbands After Con Chair Michael Beuerlein Pleads Guilty to Sexual Battery”.

Columbus, OH based convention Anime Punch has been disbanded and will no longer hold any more events. The convention staff announced that they would be ceasing all future operations on in a statement on their official Facebook page on September 14…

The crime was prosecuted in Virginia, so probably was not committed at the convention.

(21) A SPECIALIZED NEED. Erika Satifka, in “Difference of Mind” at the SFWA Blog, points to a problem with most fictional treatments of mental illness.

According to the World Health Organization, one out of every four people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. Considering this, it’s important that when characters with mental illness are featured in one’s writing, the subject is treated with sensitivity and accuracy. Novels that portray such disorders well can make a huge difference.

Em Kalberg, the protagonist of my debut novel Stay Crazy, has paranoid schizophrenia. As I researched the novel, I found that there were very few positive representations of people with schizophrenia, and not just in speculative fiction, but everywhere. The vast majority of the time, characters with psychotic disorders are monsters or killers….

Besides her own Stay Crazy, Satifka recommends fourteen other novels, novellas, and short story collections that prominently feature characters with mental illnesses or trauma.

(22) TIS THE SEASON. Time to be reminded about “The REAL Legend Behind the Halloween Tree at Disneyland”:

Learning about Disneyland’s storied history is as fun as spending a day getting your thrills on at all of the attractions. From true tragic stories inspiring haunting legends to secrets and facts only the biggest park fans know, there’s always something else to discover about the Happiest Place on Earth – the legend of the Halloween Tree included.

Now, fans are probably familiar with the tree. The oak is located in front of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland. Every Halloween since 2007, the tree is decorated in a special way with jack-o’-lanterns hanging from its branches – but have you ever wondered why? The story goes that author Ray Bradbury, famous for Fahrenheit 451 and countless other fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and horror works, loved Halloween – and had a long history with Disney. Bradbury was a huge proponent of the Walt Disney Company and made his support for it clear throughout the years.

(23) SETTING THEM STRAIGHT. Camestros Felapton has been dismantling “Vlad James’” attack on the science in an Ursula Le Guin novel The Lathe of Heaven.

James wrote:

Unfortunately, she was less self-aware than [Harry Harrison], and injected phenomenally idiotic, pseudo-scientific explanations in her stories constantly.

Also:

She also claims that it would take the atmosphere “several hundred years to get rid of the CO2”. While I understand Le Guin found math difficult, if humans completely stopped producing CO2, it would take 9-12 days for the atmosphere to rid itself of the amount presently there. Or, if you believe global warm…err “climate change” hysterics, it will take…several years. A few hundred years is baseless ignorance.

But young Felapton, in “Science and Le Guin Part 2”, shows —

The quote from Le Guin is genuine and from The Lathe of Heaven published in 1970. It is also scientifically correct (more or less) whereas the criticism is scientific nonsense – indeed it is error piled on error….

A thorough takedown follows.

(24) THE SMELL IS OUT THERE. This is pretty damn funny – Anime Conventions: An Honest Guide.

(25) A MAGICAL TIME. IMDB says Andy the Talking Hedgehog is up 778% in popularity this week. Articles like The Guardian’s are the reason.

When Reid tweeted the Andy the Talking Hedgehog poster on Friday, the internet went nuts. That was partly because the poster featured a hedgehog, two cats, Dean Cain, Tara Reid’s Twitter profile pic manipulated to look slightly more wholesome and an unattributed quote calling it “a magical good time”. But it was also because the IMDb plot summary for the film read “Tara Reid brings her Oscar award-winning prowess to this documentary about a hedgehog that Dean Cain farted on giving it the ability to talk. It’s a fun-loving family movie that will for sure make you say “WOWZA. That’s a stinky fart!”’ That summary, incidentally, was attributed to Scott Baio.

Obviously, like the rest of the world, I desperately wanted to know the story behind Andy the Talking Hedgehog. Although we can rule out the summary as nothing more than internet high jinks, it would appear that the film is real. Back in November actress Maria Wasikowski tweeted a photo from the Andy the Talking Hedgehog set, alongside Dean Cain and, one month later, Tara Reid Instagrammed a shot of her character, Fairy BFF.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, JJ, Arnie Fenner, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Karl-Johan Norén, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #6

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part One

By Chris M. Barkley:

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Blackstar by David Bowie,  ISO Records – Columbia, Music and Lyrics by David Bowie with Maria Schneider, Paul Bateman and Bob Bharma on “Sue (Or A Season of Crime)”.

Album Personnel

David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, mixing, production, string arrangements, “Fender Guitar” (3), harmonica (7)

Length: 41 minutes 17 seconds.

It has been a year and a month since the passing of David Bowie. His final gift to us, Blackstar, is a testament to his musical sensibilities and genius.

In the fall of 2014, Bowie and his longtime producer Tony Visconti secretly gathered together a group of New York City jazz musicians and began to record this album. Although he knew his days were numbered, Bowie desperately wanted to add one last note to his majestic musical legacy.

Blackstar is not a conventional rock album by anyone’s standards. If anything, his use of the jazz ensemble more resembles a throwback to the jazz-fusion era of the 1970’s and ’80.

Besides showing Bowie was well aware of his fatal cancer diagnosis, he was also keen to show everyone that he would not let death get in the way of his artistic and creative endeavors.

Blackstar’s Hugo worthiness, in my opinion, rests on the title track, “Lazarus” and the accompanying ten-minute music video of “Lazarus.” Reading between the lines of his lyrics, Bowie’s symbolism and longing for something beyond death are there, even though he doesn’t know exactly what it might be or what form it might be in. There is no morbidity or fear in these musings, just a sense of wonderment.

You can view the full version of the “Lazarus” video here:

Two previously released songs, “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” and “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore”, were re-recorded for this album, replacing bridges that Bowie had originally played with new saxophone parts played on the latter song by Donny McCaslin.

Blackstar was released on January 8, 2016, coinciding with Bowie’s 69th birthday. David Bowie succumbed to liver cancer two days later.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Stranger Things (Eight Episodes, 395 minutes, Netflix) created and directed by Matt and Ross Duffer. Produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen and the Duffer Brothers. Written by The Duffer Brothers, Jessica Mecklenburg, Justin Doble, Alison Tatlock, Jessie Nickson-Lopez and Paul Dichter.

Starring:  Mille Bobby Brown, David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine, Finn Wolfhard , Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp and Shannon Purser as “Barb” Holland.

When I first heard about the premise of Stranger Things, my eyes rolled so hard they nearly catapulted from my skull. And I have never been more wrong and delighted in my life.

The setting:  Hawkins, Indiana, November 1983. When young Will Myers (Noah Schnapp) goes missing , a nightmarish chain of events is set into motion that include a government conspiracy conducted by a local science facility, an unhinged mother’s (Wynona Ryder) desperate search for her child, an alcoholic sheriff (David Harbor) involved in an investigation that’s way over his head, mysterious deaths and other disappearances of citizens and three pre-teen boys (Finn Wolfhard , Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin,) who happen upon an unearthly young girl with paranormal abilities (Millie Bobby Brown).

And there’s a monster.  A BIG ONE! From ANOTHER DIMENSION!

If you haven’t seen this phenomenal blend of horror, sf, fantasy, conspiracy thrillers and cultural tropes of the 1980’s, it would be criminal of me to say anything else do actually describe it. To those of us who actually grew up in that era (and I am one of them, to be sure), Stranger Things nostalgically calls out our cultural past and its tropes in practically every scene; Stephen King novels, the films of John Hughes, John Carpenter, Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas among many, many others.

The cast is uniformly spectacular and earned them all the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for 2016 against such world-class competitors like as The Crown, Downton Abby, Game of Thrones and Westworld.

So don’t count Stranger Things out if (or when, more likely than not) it goes up against heavyweights challengers like Star Wars: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond and Deadpool on the final ballot.

Best Novel

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, Mulholland Books, published 5 July 2016, 336 pages.

Victor, the narrator of this novel, is a clandestine US Marshal in contemporary America. His job is hunting fugitives. Victor does it and he does it well. But there are a couple of wrinkles to this situation:

Abraham Lincoln is assassinated before his inauguration and the Civil War never happens.

Slavery is kept viable through a series of political compromises by the ruling parties. By the 20th century though, only four southern states still have legalized slavery and the rest of the country is “civilly” segregated for everyone’s protection.

Victor is hunting African-American fugitive slaves under the Fugitive Persons Act.

Victor himself is black, is STILL a “Person Bound to Labor” and has the freedom to roam the country at will, but only at the brutal expense of the people he captures.

When Victor is sent to track down an outlaw abolitionist codenamed Jackdaw, he is forced to come to terms with his work, his life and the country he serves.

Even more daring than the plot of Underground Airlines is the fact that the author, Ben H. Winters, is white. A white author, even a well-meaning one, writing about such an explosive cultural topic today, with a black narrator, might seem to be professional suicide in the literary world. Winters, a skilled professional whose previous works have won the Edgar Award (The Last Policeman) and the Philip K. Dick Award (Countdown City) for Best Novel, has won over critics and readers with this brilliant alternate history thriller.

I will be very disappointed if Underground Airlines does not make the final Hugo Award ballot this year.