Bob Madle’s 100th Birthday
— A Request

Bob Madle (left) and Curt Phillips (right) in 2019.

By Curt Phillips: Bob Madle will celebrate his 100th birthday on June 2, 2020. Originally there was to be a fairly lavish birthday party at Bob’s home in Rockville, MD, but now for obvious reasons that can’t happen. So I have a favor to ask of every Fan reading this message, no matter where you are. Would you please join me in sending Bob Madle a birthday card?

Bob was one of the original members of the fandom we’re all part of today, and is almost the last living link we have with our earliest history. He was an original member of the Philadelphia SF Society and the Science Fiction League. He was at the 1936 Philadelphia SF Conference, and was at the first Worldcon in 1939. He served in WWII, came home and became a specialty SF book dealer and still operates that business. He wrote the column Inside Science Fiction for the Columbia pulps in the 50’s, was the TAFF delegate in 1957, and was for many years a fixture in convention dealer’s rooms everywhere. He’s a very knowledgeable and passionate science fiction fan and nearly all of his contemporaries are gone now. Please join me in sending Bob a birthday card for his 100th birthday, just to let him know that Fandom remembers and appreciates his lifetime of devotion to science fiction. Bob is a good friend whom I last saw about a year ago when I visited him in Rockville, and I deeply wish that I could be there in person to wish him a happy birthday this year. I would love it if the Post Office delivers a sack full of birthday cards to his home this year, and that’s why I’m asking your help. Please take a moment to find a birthday card, or write a note, and drop it in the mail to:

Robert A. Madle
4406 Bestor Drive
Rockville, MD 20853-2137
Tel: (301) 460-4712

Bob doesn’t have an email address, and doesn’t use a computer so an old fashioned birthday card is the way to go. It will be very easy for each of you to let this request slip by, but I’m asking you to help make Bob’s 100th birthday a little happier by sending that card or note.

And please help spread the word to every fan and fannish group you know. No matter what your fannish interests are, no matter what area of fandom you might inhabit, comics fan, Star Trek fan, gamer, filker, cosplayer, fanzine fan, convention fan, or a book & magazine collector; it all traces back to the fandom of the 1930’s and Bob Madle is right at the heart of it. He was there in the beginning and he’s still here with us. This may be your only chance to ever tell him “thanks” for helping to get Fandom going and for helping to keep it alive for all of us today.

Please copy this request to any fans or fannish groups you can think of. Convention mailing lists, clubs, what have you. This is a once in a lifetime event that we all can share in.  If you live outside the US and don’t think you can get a card in the mail in time, you can also email me your greetings for Bob which I’ll print out and promptly mail to him.

Curt Phillips — Absarka_prime@comcast.net

My personal thanks to all who help celebrate the 100th birthday of our friend, Bob Madle.

Pixel Scroll 5/25/20 Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Pixels How Do You Measure, Measure A Scroll?

(1) THE SANTA FE. Now he’ll really be George Railroad Martin: “George R. R. Martin Buys Part of Historic Santa Fe Railroad”.

George R. R. Martin, who wrote the book series that was adapted into the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” and two co-investors have bought an abandoned, 18-mile spur railroad line from Santa Fe to Lamy, New Mexico, with the intent of restoring it to its former glory as a tourist attraction, The Business Insider reported on Monday.

No price was mentioned for the purchase, which also includes 10 antique rail cars, two vintage locomotives, and a station house at Lamy currently leased by Amtrak that is part of its twice daily line from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“There are a lot of opportunities for a new tourist attraction,” Martin told the Albuquerque Journal. “COVID has thrown a monkey wrench into our plan. We had hoped to get things up and running in 2021, but now it won’t be until 2022.”

I’ve caught a train at the Lamy station, after visiting my sister in Santa Fe. It’s miles out of town — despite the city’s iconic railroad name, the Amtrak line doesn’t run through the city.

Martin explains his plans in more detail in his blog post “All Aboard for Lamy” which concludes:

…It is going to take a lot of work, more than a few bucks, and a fair amount of time to get the railroad running again.   There are tracks and trestles to inspect and repair, old historic coaches to restore to their former splendor, a dead locomotive to bring back to life.   And the coronavirus has slowed the process way down.   But sooner or later, we do hope to have the old Lamy Line chuffing and puffing once again, and we have all sorts of fun ideas for the future, live music and murder mysteries and train robberies and escape rooms and… well, we shall see.

And best of all, we won’t need to pull up the tracks when Christmas is over.

(2) CON CANCELLATION. Pulpfest, planned for August, has been cancelled, too. They made the announcement today: “There is Nothing Wrong with Your Television Set . . .”

…We regret to announce that PulpFest is being postponed until August 2021.

Although it is likely that businesses and events in the region where PulpFest is staged will be allowed to resume operations in June, they will have to follow guidelines issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

…Given the substantial risks involved and our desire to maintain the health and well-being of our many supporters, the PulpFest organizing committee voted unanimously to postpone this year’s convention until early August 2021.

(3) LEAP, BUT NOT QUANTUM. Chancellor Agard, in “Watch Legends of Tomorrow jump from Friends to Downton Abbey in exclusive sneak peek” on Entertainment Weekly discusses tomorrow’s episode, where the Legends jump from the world of a show like Friends to one like Downton Abbey to one like Star Trek.

(4) A HORSE, OF COURSE. Yesterday was the thirtieth anniversary of the debut of the third Back to the Future movie. Yahoo! Entertaiment put together a quiz — “‘Back to the Future Part III’ turns 30: Take this quiz to test your knowledge”. I really blew this one – only 6 out of 14. And one of my right answers was about how special effects manure was made – am I supposed to be proud of that?

… On May 24, 1990, the final film in Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s Back to the Future trilogy premiered in theaters. Directly picking up from the cliffhanger of 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, where Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and the DeLorean time machine accidentally being struck by lightning, sending him back to the Old West. Part III picks up with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traveling to 1885 to rescue Doc and return him to the present. 

(5) SPACE FORCE REDUX. Netflix dropped a second trailer for Space Force, which they have cleverly called Space Force Trailer 2.

Steve Carell was also on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday  promoting Space Force but he doesn’t talk about the show until 5-1/2 minutes into the segment.

(6) STILES REMEMBERED. Balticon 54’s website includes a tribute to the late fanartist: “In Memoriam: Steve Stiles (1943-2020)”. Includes lots of photos and art.

Steve Stiles became a science fiction fan in 1957; he’d been illustrating fanzines from then until his death, earning him the first Rotsler Fan Artist Award in 1998, and a Fan Artist Hugo in 2016. Professionally, he worked in numerous comic book genres since 1973 (horror, super hero, science fiction, humor), including the award-winning Xenozoic Tales and perhaps the first steampunk graphic novel, The Adventures of Professor Thintwhistle, with author Richard Lupoff.

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

May 25Towel Day which is celebrated by fans every year on May 25 as a tribute to the author Douglas Adams. Fans carry a towel with them as described in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held May 25, 2001 two weeks after Douglas Adams’ death. [Via Rocketmail.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 25, 1977 Star Wars premiered. Later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it was written and directed by George Lucas. You know who the cast is so we’ll not list all of them here. Lucas envisioned the film as being in the tradition of Buck Rodgers which he originally intended to remake but couldn’t get the rights to.  Reception by critics and fans alike was fantastic with IguanaCon II voting it the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo over Close Encounters of The Third Kind. It holds a stellar 96% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • May 25, 1983 Return of the Jedi, the last of the original trilogy, premiered. Later retitled Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, it came out six years after Star Wars. It is directed not by Lucas this time but by Richard Marquand from a screenplay by Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan who co-wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The principal cast is the same as the first film. Critics were ever so slightly less pleased with this concluding film of the trilogy but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an equally stellar 94% rating as the first film. It would win The Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at L.A. con II beating Right Stuff and WarGames. Box office wise, it sold more tickets for most of its first eight week American run than any other film.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 25, 1915 – DeeDee Lavender.  Four decades an active fan with her husband Roy.  Together they were Secretary-Treasurer of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n in 1950.  They were at Aussiecon I the 33rd World Science Fiction Convention (I wasn’t), and Noreascon II the 38th (I was).  They’re in Harlan Ellison’s forewords to his collections I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Angry Candy; they knew Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, and were guests at the B&H homes in Ohio and California.  They were part of a Southern California fannish social group called the Petards, named by one of Rick Sneary’s famous misspellings, hoist for host.  Here she is with Roy at a Petards meeting in 1983 (Dik Daniels photo), and thirty years earlier in New York (L to R, Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, DeeDee, Roy, Stan Skirvin; Mike Resnick collection).  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1916 – Charles Hornig.  Publishing his fanzine The Fantasy Fan in 1933, thus First Fandom (i.e. active by at least the first Worldcon, 1939), and hired, age 17, by Hugo Gernsback to edit Wonder Stories.  Founded the Science Fiction League with HG, 1934; later edited Fantasy; also Future and Science Fiction (they eventually combined); SF Quarterly.  See his notes on Nycon I, the first Worldcon, here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1926 – Phyllis Gotlieb.  Prix Aurora for A Judgement of Dragons (note spelling; she was Canadian).  The Sunburst Award is named for her first novel.  Thirteen SF novels, twenty shorter stories, eight poetry collections (the first being Who Knows One?).  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian.  Among her husband’s Physics students was Cory Doctorow’s father.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1946 Frank Oz, 74. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1946 Janet Morris, 74. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy,  the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. And let’s not over overlook her Heroes in Hell series she wrote,most co-authorEd with her husband Chris Morris, some with C J Cherryh and David Drake. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1950 – Kathryn Daugherty.  Engineer.  Married four decades to James Stanley Daugherty.  Back when FORTRAN wasn’t even Two-tran she fed punch-cards to a Control Data CDC 6400.  For ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, Official Editor of the con committee’s APA (Amateur Press Ass’n, a collection of fanzines) The Never-Ending Meeting.  At Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon, headed Contents of Tables; a typo made it “Contests of Tables”: in each newsletter I announced “Today’s winner is the Picnic”, “Today’s winner is the Periodic”.  Chaired Westercon LIII, a hard one: it was at Honolulu, see my report here [PDF; p. 11].  Luckily not exhausted; she and JSD were Fan Guests of Honor at Baycon in 2001, and Loscon XXXI (2004).  Joined me in liking Mission of Gravity.  Obituary by OGH here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1952 Al Sarrantonio, 68. His horror short stories are brilliant and they‘ve earned him a Stoker for 999: New Tales of Horror and Suspense and a Jackson for Stories: All-New Tales, the latter co-edited with Gaiman. His Masters of Mars series is SF and he’s written a Babylon 5 novel as well, Personal Agendas. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1953 – Stan Sakai.  Lettered Groo the Wanderer comics; since 1984, author of Usagi Yojimbo comics about samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, who has (wouldn’t you know it) crossed paths with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The rônin lifeis hard.  During the most recent Year of the Rabbit (2011), the Japanese-American Nat’l Museum in Los Angeles had an Usagi Yojimbo exhibit.  Sakai has won a Parents’ Choice award, an Inkpot, six Eisners, an Inkwell, two Harveys, two Haxturs (Spain), a Plumilla de Plata (Mexico), a Cultural Ambassador award, and a Nat’l Cartoonists Society award.  [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1960 Eric Brown, 60. Well-deserved winner of two BSFA awards for his short stories, “Hunting the Slarqye” and “The Children of The Winter”.  He’s very prolific, averaging a novel a year over the past three decades and countless novellas and short stories. As far as SF goes, I’d start with his Binary System and Bengal Station series, both of which are superb. And I’m going to single out his Sherlock Holmes metaverse novel, The Martian Menace, in which The Great Detective meets and defeats those Invaders. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 54. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tanith Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1982 – Bertrand Bonnet.  Six dozen reviews in Bifrost (French-language prozine; European SF Society award for Best Magazine, 2016), of Blish, Le Guin, Pohl (with and without Kornbluth), Resnick, Tolkien (including the Letters, yay).  [JH] 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur’s birds learn about their ancestors.
  • Non Sequitur sells foresight.
  • Non Sequitur has an SJWC intervention.
  • Mikey Heller drew a comic about a cat café. It’s got sjw credentials, sf, everything!

(11) LID OVERFLOW. In The Full Lid 22nd May 2020 Alasdair Stuart takes a look “at how now is very much the time for Strange New Worlds and what the Short Treks set on Pike’s Enterprise can teach us about the show’s tone.”

I also take a look at excellent, furious and overlooked movie Assassination Nation and Bog Bodies, a superb crime graphic novel out this week. Signal Boost is big this week but the YA/MG Author spotlight that follows it is much bigger and full of amazing books.

This week Stuart also launched The Full Lid Plus! A monthly supplement covering Disney Plus.

It’s first issue covers what we learn in the first for episodes of The Mandalorian and looks at award winning free-climbing documentary Free Solo. Oh and Will Smith sings.

The Full Lid Plus is published monthly and run off a paid subscription model, Details at the link.

Stuart’s Hugo Voting Packet for 2020 is also available at his website. “It touches on all my non-fiction work, has links to every piece and a consolidated PDF of everything too.”

(12) NO GO. It barely got out of California:“Virgin Orbit rocket fails on debut flight”

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit company has tried unsuccessfully to launch a rocket over the Pacific Ocean.

The booster was released from under the wing of one of the UK entrepreneur’s old jumbos which had been specially converted for the task.

The rocket should have ignited its engine seconds later but engineers had to terminate the flight.

Virgin Orbit’s goal is to try to capture a share of the emerging market for the launch of small satellites.

It’s not clear at this stage what went wrong but the firm had warned beforehand that the chances of success might be in the region of 50:50.

The history of rocketry shows that maiden outings very often encounter technical problems.

The firm is sure to be back for another attempt pretty soon – depending on the outcome of the post-mission analysis.

(13) FLOCKING OFF. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] I just noticed this monologue from the May 18th Late Night with Seth Meyers. There was no genre-related sketch that night. However!

When Seth Meyers first started broadcasting from home, he apparently (to my eyes, at least) ordered several feet of cheap respectable-looking trade paper and hardcover books from a local used book store. One that caught my eye was Shardik, which has a lot of whitespace on the spine and that weird symbol. The two copies of a book about Thessalonica were the big tip-off to me these were surplus and not garage detritus.

And then there was The Thorn Birds. No one seemed to believe Seth Meyers was a Thorn Birds fan.

Soon Meyers moved out of his garage and into his attic, where he has a plain backdrop…and an end table with a small stack of books. I’ve seen two dust-jacketed books claiming to be The Thorn Birds and one unjacketed copy between them. The Janelle Monae clip has a stack of Thorn Birds, Thorn Birds II: More Thorns, and Thorn Birds III: Something written in script too fine for me to read.

But the best one yet you can see in this clip, in the lower left-hand corner:

(14) JUST WHEN THE PREZ LEARNED HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT. BBC reports “WHO halts trials of hydroxychloroquine over safety fears”.

Testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus has been halted because of safety fears, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

Trials in several countries are being “temporarily” suspended as a precaution, the agency said on Monday.

It comes after a recent medical study suggested the drug could increase the risk of patients dying from Covid-19.

(15) DON’T KNOW HOW GOOD YOU’VE GOT IT. And we close with this benediction from The Onion: “Nation’s Politicians, Law Enforcement, Corporate Executives Marvel At Futuristic Utopia They’re Living In”.

“To think that I have all this at my fingertips, whether it’s automated high-volume stock trading or unlimited surveillance footage of my employees, it’s like something out of a science fiction paradise,” said pharmaceutical executive Ron Pollard, who claimed previous generations of police officers, elected officials, and business leaders could never comprehend the world of unlimited possibilities that has been created for them, where they are free to do whatever they want all the time.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Alasdair Stuart, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/20 He Was A Bug-Eyed, Lizard-Gorn, Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) VIRTUAL BALTICON IN-PROGRESS REPORT. The Sunday Edition of the Virtual Balticon 54 Newsletter Rocketmail, which can be downloaded here, says the total unique attendance on Zoom for all of Friday was 1,343 and on Saturday 2,787 people. This does not count the fans participating on other platforms. The newsletter also contains Masquerade participant info, and fundraising totals.

Balticon runs through tomorrow, and you can access it in a variety of ways. Dale S. Arnold explains:

You can of course continue/start enjoying the Virtual Balticon 54 by going to WWW.balticon.org and choosing links off the schedule and or links on the platform page. You can ghost by just watching the YouTube and Twitch feeds which stream the items each hour that the most people signed up for participating on that item in zoom if you prefer not to register on zoom as well…. Programs continue all the way through Monday…

However, they are running a GoFundMe to pay the virtual freight.

For the record as of 5:20 AM on 5/24/20 the total GoFundMe donations are at $11,065.00 gifted by the generous fans that are making Virtual Balticon 54 possible. An additional $495.00 has come into the BSFS paypal account during the GoFundMe campaign by folks who did not want to use GoFundMe using the http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm link. The BSFS treasurer reports that “almost” $2,000.00 has also been received as checks and or people donating their B45 memberships instead of taking a refund.

(2) FANFIC DISPUTE GOES TO COURT. There’s a lawsuit in progress over reuse of fanfic tropes in commercial genre fic. It could have repercussions well beyond hyper-niche erotica. The New York Times devotes a long article to the litigation: “A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question”.

…Then, in 2018, Ms. Cain heard about an up-and-coming fantasy writer with the pen name Zoey Ellis, who had published an erotic fantasy series with a premise that sounded awfully familiar. It featured an Alpha and Omega couple, and lots of lupine sex.

…Ms. Cain urged Blushing Books to do something. The publisher sent copyright violation notices to more than half a dozen online retailers, alleging that Ms. Ellis’s story was “a copy” with scenes that were “almost identical to Addison Cain’s book.” 

… “You have to make sure you use the tropes of Omegaverse in order to be recognized by fans of the genre,” Ms. Ellis said. “Crave to Conquer” and its sequel, “Crave to Capture,” were published in early 2018 by Quill Ink Books, a London company she founded. Readers gave the series glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, calling it “sensational new Omegaverse!” and the “best Omega yet.”

In late April 2018, Ms. Ellis got an email from a reader who had ordered one of her books from Barnes & Noble, then learned that it wasn’t available anymore. She soon discovered that all of her Omegaverse books had disappeared from major stores, all because of a claim of copyright infringement from Ms. Cain and her publisher. Ms. Ellis found it bewildering.

“I couldn’t see how a story I had written using recognized tropes from a shared universe, to tell a story that was quite different than anything else out there commercially, could be targeted in that way,” Ms. Ellis said. “There are moments and scenarios that seem almost identical, but it’s a trope that can be found in hundreds of stories.”

A lawyer for Ms. Ellis and Quill filed counter-notices to websites that had removed her books. Some took weeks to restore the titles; others took months. There was no way to recover the lost sales. “As a new author, I was building momentum, and that momentum was lost,” Ms. Ellis said. And she worried that the “plagiarist” label would permanently mar her reputation.

Ms. Ellis decided to sue. “Everything would have been in question, my integrity would have been questioned, my ability to write and tell stories — all of that would have been under threat if I didn’t challenge these claims,” she said.

In the fall of 2018, Quill Ink filed against Blushing Books and Ms. Cain in federal court in Oklahoma, where Ms. Ellis’s digital distributor is based, seeking $1.25 million in damages for defamation, interfering with Ms. Ellis’s career, and for filing false copyright infringement notices. In the suit, Quill’s lawyers argued that “no one owns the ‘omegaverse’ or the various tropes that define ‘omegaverse.’”

Ms. Ellis’s lawyers thought they had a strong position. But they struggled to find a prior case that addressed whether fan fiction tropes could be protected by copyright….

The biggest development in the case so far is that Blushing Books has left Ms. Cain to contest the matter alone. Last year, the publisher conceded that no plagiarism or copyright infringement had occurred, and a judgment was entered against the company, which paid undisclosed monetary damages to Quill and Ms. Ellis. (Ms. Cain is now self-publishing.)

Ms. Ellis and her publishing company filed a new civil suit against Ms. Cain in her home state of Virginia, arguing that she maliciously directed her publisher to send false copyright infringement notices to retailers. Ms. Cain’s lawyers have denied the claims, and have lined up authors, bloggers and readers as witnesses.

If the judge, or a jury, finds Ms. Cain in the wrong, the case would send a message to overzealous genre writers that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is not to be abused. By the same token, authors of genuinely original stories might find they have one fewer legal lever to protect their work. And a victory by Ms. Cain could encourage a free-for-all, emboldening authors to knock back competitors and formally assert their ownership of swaths of the fan fiction universe and common tropes in genre fiction.

Discovery is ongoing, and a pretrial conference before a judge is scheduled for June. In the meantime, the Omegaverse continues to thrive. This year, more than 200 new books from the genre have been published on Amazon.

The latest batch draws on virtually every genre and trope imaginable: paranormal shifter romances, paranormal Mpreg romances, reverse harem romances, sci-fi alien warrior romances. There are fantastical Alpha-Omega stories featuring witches, unicorns, dragons, vampires, wolf-shifters, bear-shifters, and wolf-shifters versus bear-shifters. There are comparatively pedestrian Omegaverse romances about celebrity chefs, dentists, frat boys, bakers, bodyguards and billionaires. In a teeming multiverse of stories, the tropes are still evolving, inexhaustible.

(3) MEXICANX INITIATIVE REMEMBERED. This San Antonio Current story shows John Picacio, winner of SFWA’s 2020 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, is also a hometown hero: “San Antonio Science Fiction Artist John Picacio Wins Award for Opening Door to Mexicanx Talent”.

… “Many of the folks I selected were rising stars such as David Bowles, Julia Rios and Marcela Davison Aviles,” Picacio said. “The Initiative enhanced their networks, but the vast majority of my picks were much newer talents to the field. The industry badly needs their cultural perspective and their voice right now.”

(4) AFRICAN SFF AT STORYBUNDLE. The “African Speculative Fiction Bundle curated by Ivor W. Hartmann” is available from StoryBundle. Same deal as always – “Support awesome authors by paying however much you think their work is worth!”

This is the most comprehensive collection of African speculative fiction authors ever assembled. With the complete bundle containing nearly 100 authors and over 145 works it stands both as an excellent introduction to the rapidly evolving canon of African SF and a unique one-time collection of their works. From established stars you might know such as Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, and Sarah Lotz, to upcomers like Wole Talabi, Chinelo Onwualu, Nerine Dorman, Dilman Dila, and so many more.

The road to this bundle has been paved by the work of countless African writers, editors, publishers, and most importantly readers. For too long was the African experience, imagination, and insight, held captive and until relatively recently only glimpsed through the thick lens of other cultures and their inherent biases. In a big way this is what the new wave of African Speculative Fiction is about: telling our own stories, revealing our vibrant cultures from within, sharing our unique perspectives, and writing ourselves into futures that for so long seemed to spell our doom by virtue of our absence.

(5) CLASSIC RETURNING. “Battlestar Galactica Reboot Producer Sam Esmail Teases the New Series” at Comicbook.com.

[Sam] Esmail says he never planned to helm the series himself. “I’m a huge fan of Ronald Moore’s Battlestar, but I don’t know if I’m great at hard sci-fi like that,” he says. “I love it. I’m a fan of it. But I knew early on that we were going to have to bring somebody in to run the room and to write the scripts.”

He went to explain why the job went to Lesslie, who is best known for the miniseries The Little Drummer Girl. “He’s just a fantastic writer,” Esmail says. “I loved his series, Little Drummer Girl, and the one thing that really struck me about him and his take for Battlestar, one of the reasons I even wanted to do Battlestar, was that the way Ron Moore, what he did with his remake in the early 2000s where it was this sort of hard sci-fi series with lots of action set pieces and really this exciting sci-fi adventure but purely grounded in an allegory of what was going on at the time, which was post-9/11. And it wasn’t that subtle, the links, I would say. But because he was also attuned to the sci-fi nature of the show, you didn’t feel it.

“When I was approached to do Battlestar now, it has to have that same sort of dynamic. It can’t be just a retread of what he already did so masterfully back then. What are we saying about today’s world? And Mike just had this great take, and I’m not going to go into it because obviously, I don’t want to spoil it for fans, but you kind of see it a little bit in Little Drummer Girl where politics plays a big part in it but without compromising the entertainment value, because in my opinion, you’ve got to have that….” 

(6) SUPER RESOURCE. There’s always a ton of news at the Superman Supersite about the iconic Kryptonian and those who keep the legend going. It’s where I found out about this new series: “’Superman & Lois’ Detailed Synopsis and Premiere Announced”.

The CW Network has announced that “Superman & Lois” will officially premiere in January, 2021 when the network launches its new season.

…In “Superman & Lois”, after years of facing megalomaniacal supervillains, monsters wreaking havoc on Metropolis, and alien invaders intent on wiping out the human race, the world’s most famous superhero, The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin, “Teen Wolf”) and comic books’ most famous journalist, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch, “Grimm”), come face to face with one of their greatest challenges ever – dealing with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Complicating the already daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must also concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass, “Little Fires Everywhere”) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin, “The Peanuts Movie”) could inherit their father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.

Returning to Smallville to handle some Kent family business, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui, “Entourage”), a local loan officer who also happens to be Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez, “Graceland”). The adults aren’t the only ones rediscovering old friendships in Smallville as the Kent sons are reacquainted with Lana and Kyle’s rebellious daughter, Sarah (Inde Navarrette, “Wander Darkly”). Of course, there’s never a dull moment in the life of a superhero, especially with Lois’ father, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh, “Nip/Tuck”) looking for Superman to vanquish a villain or save the day at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Superman and Lois’ return to idyllic Smallville is set to be upended when a mysterious stranger (Wolé Parks, “All American”) enters their lives.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 24, 1957 Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest.  It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz!]

  • Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell.  Pronounced “hew-ell”.  Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1841-1866. Crater on the Moon named after him.  Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science.  Coined the words scientistphysicistlinguisticsosmosisionastigmatism.  Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides.  Clifton Fadiman put him here by anthologizing in Fantasia Mathematica this poem.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox.  Five dozen stories in AmazingAstoundingCosmosFantasticFutureIfImaginationOrbitRocket StoriesSaturnSF AdventuresSF QuarterlySF StoriesUniverse – and that’s just some of the prozines we’ve had – translated into French, German, Italian.  You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor.  Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard.  Stories in Fantasy BookVertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003).  Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried.  Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.”  With husband Tom hosted the Pinckard Salon; Big Heart Award to both, 1984; the Salon drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad, and like that.  Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accident gunshot wound. (Died 1990) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 71. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Michael Chabon, 60. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 60. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s  in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1965 – Shinichirô Watanabe.  Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai ChamplooSpace DandyCarole & Tuesday.  Blade Runner – Black Lotus is in the works.  Don’t ask me why my host’s daughter at the Yokohama Worldcon was rehearsing The Magic Flute but I don’t know any of my fellow gaijin rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.  [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon.  Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle.  Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa.  Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton – will this man write The Federalist?  [JH]

(9) SUPERERO GENESIS. In the Washington Post, African-American author Tre Johnson discusses how he is using the language and ideas of superheroes to enable him to cope with the pandemic. “The coronavirus has made the waking world into a dreamscape”.

A more perfect origin story would’ve had a superheroic tinge. Maybe I’d be sitting in my apartment, on the couch, contemplating how to move safely about Philadelphia when a clatter of glass would erupt and a ball of coronavirus — the size of a grapefruit with the spiny ridge of a porcupine — would bound through my window, roll to my feet and pulse with exhaustion. I’d stare at it and think Yes, father, that is what I will do, I will become an anti-virus. And that would be the reason to don the mask that I now wear daily when I walk my neighborhood.

(10) BAKE ME A CAKE AS FAST AS YOUR CAN. And mark it with a “C” – for corona. “Pandemic-Baking Britain Has an ‘Obscene’ Need for Flour” – the New York Times has a full accounting.

A week before Britain came to a standstill in mid-March, the Wessex Mill found itself fielding nearly 600 calls a day requesting one of the country’s hottest commodities: flour.

The mill in Oxfordshire has produced nearly 13,000 small bags of flour each day during the coronavirus pandemic, a fourfold increase. Demand led Emily Munsey, a flour miller who runs the business with her father, to hire more staff and add afternoon and night shifts to keep the mill running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the first time in its 125-year history.

“It’s been very challenging as a company. The amount of work we’ve all had to do has increased a huge amount,” said Ms. Munsey, who has since scaled back to five days a week, though still around the clock, to give employees a weekend break. “Demand remains consistently obscene.”

Commercial mills produce nearly four million tons of flour each year in Britain, according to the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers. With much of the country stuck at home, baking has surged, and retail-size flour bags have become scarce on grocery shelves.

The coronavirus outbreak has flooded social media with #coronavirusbaking and #quarantine cookies. Yeast is in short supply, and butter sales have soared. In April, Google searches for cake, bread and flour skyrocketed….

(12) CURTAIN CALL. [Item by JJ.] Anthropomorphic phone — I’m calling it genre.

(13) READING IN THE NEW CAPTAIN. Ted Anthony, in the Associated Press story “Kirk 2.0:  Capt. Pike of the New ‘Star Trek’ A Welcome New Icon” says he welcomes Christopher Pike as the captain of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds because he sees James T. Kirk as “an interstellar Don Draper–brooding, arrogant, a top-down manager who earned his privilege but often presumed it” and thinks Pike will be a more responsible captain.

…It’s not accidental that Pike is the son of a father who taught science AND comparative religion — an embodiment of the empiricism-faith equation that “Star Trek” and its captains have always espoused. In many ways, in fact — even more so than Chris Pine in the movie reboots — Pike functions as James T. Kirk 2.0.

(14) COSMIC CREEPOUT. “Every ‘I Have A Bad Feeling About This’ In Star Wars Movies”: ScreenRant tries to round up every time someone said they had a bad feeling about something.

…However, George Lucas’ wonderful world of science fiction space opera has also provided the world with a series of timeless movie quotes. “May the Force be with you” has taken on a life of its own and “I am your father” is now a staple of Father’s Day greetings cards. In more recent years, less prominent quotes have come to the fore thanks to the onset of meme culture, “it’s a trap!” being the most famous. Now The Mandalorian is getting in on the act with “this is the way” and “I have spoken.

But undoubtedly one of the most famous utterances in the Star Wars universe is “I have a bad feeling about this,” …

(15) A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME. As reported last month (item 13), Lou Antontelli is running for Congress in Texas. But this week the district’s Republican incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned his seat to accept appointment as director of National Intelligence. With no incumbent to run against, shit just got real! And at least one Texas paper (besides the one owned by the candidate himself) thinks it’s terrific that Lou Antonelli is running: “Libertarians field viable candidate for District 4 seat”. The question is how well these pearls of wisdom will play with the locals:

… Antonelli said his goal running as a third party candidate is to inject original ideas into the discussion, and push for the Libertarian Party to become the second party in the district, displacing the Democrats.

“Can you imagine how much better our political system would be if the two major parties were the Republicans and Libertarians, instead of the Republicans and Democrats?” Antonelli asked. “Libertarians are the loyal opposition, as opposed to the Democrats, who are the disloyal opposition.”

Antonelli said Libertarians stand for hacking away strangling bureaucracy at all levels of government, and returning as much authority as possible to individuals.

“Thanks to the Covid pandemic, we have all gotten a free trial of socialism,” he said. “How do you like it?”

(16) ON YOUR MARK: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Astronauts complete rehearsal for historic mission”

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have completed their dress rehearsal for Wednesday’s flight to the International Space Station.

The mission, the first crewed outing from American soil in nine years, will see the pair ride to orbit in a SpaceX Falcon rocket and Crew Dragon capsule.

It’s a demonstration of the new “taxi” service the US space agency will be buying from the Californian firm.

Lift-off on Wednesday is timed for 16:33 EDT (20:33 GMT / 21:33 BST).

The weather around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida may have other ideas, however.

A forecast released on Saturday by the US Space Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron predicted just a 40% chance of favourable conditions come launch time.

There is a strong possibility the Kennedy complex could see thick cloud, rain and even thunder.

If controllers are forced to scrub, everyone will come back on Saturday for a second try.

Hurley and Behnken are now all but done with their preparations.

The weekend “Dry Dress” rehearsal saw the pair don their made-to-measure spacesuits, walk out to a Tesla, and then make a 6km drive down to Kennedy’s famous Launch Complex 39A.

(17) GET SET: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Who are the astronauts?”

On 27 May, two US astronauts will achieve a world first when they launch to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a spacecraft built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Here, BBC News profiles the astronauts who will make the historic journey.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are about to break a nine-year hiatus for Nasa, becoming the first astronauts to launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

…”It’s well past time to be launching an American rocket from the Florida coast to the International Space Station and I am certainly honoured to be a part of it,” Hurley, 53, said earlier this month.

Behnken, 49, added: “On my first flight… I didn’t have a son, so I’m really excited to share the mission with him.”

Nasa has chosen two of its most experienced astronauts to help California-based SpaceX ready the Crew Dragon for launch. The two are also longstanding friends.

“Being lucky enough to fly with your best friend… I think there’s a lot of people who wish they could do that,” says Hurley.

When they blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket, their spouses will know exactly what they are going through. That’s because they’re astronauts too.

(18) GO: “Nasa SpaceX launch: What’s the mission plan?”

On Wednesday, the California company SpaceX will launch a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s something the firm has done many times before, taking cargo to the sky-high laboratory. But on this occasion, the firm will be transporting people.

It’s one of those seminal moments in the history of spaceflight.

When Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lift off atop their Falcon-9 rocket, inside their Crew Dragon capsule, it will mark the first time humans have left US territory to reach low-Earth orbit in almost nine years.

But more than that, it sees a shift to the commercialisation of human space transportation – of companies selling “taxi” rides to government and anyone else who wants to purchase the service.

This page details the key phases in the mission sequence.

Launch will occur from the Kennedy Space Center’s Complex 39A. This is the famous Florida pad from where the Apollo 11 moonwalkers and the very first shuttle, Columbia, also began their missions.

(19) CLASSIC OR STINKER? In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The ‘Lost’ finale at 10: Why viewers loved and hated ‘The End'”, Ethan Alter says even though it was 10 years since Lost ended, controversy continues over whether the ending of the show was brilliant or stupid. UH, SPOILERS, I GUESS?

…What the duo decided to do was to design a finale that emphasizes character over mystery. “The End” plays out in two realities: the mysterious island where mystical forces and weird science live side-by-side, as well as the “Flash sideways” timeline where Jack and the rest of the castaways were back in the real world, albeit leading different lives than what we saw in the flashback sequences that were a major part of previous seasons. The island-based sequences are explicitly devoted to tying up some, though not all of the loose ends: Jack has a final confrontation with the Man in Black, currently housed in the body of John Locke (Terry O’Quinn); Hurley (Jorge Garcia) becomes the new protector of the island, with Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) as his sidekick; and pilot Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) gets everyone else — including Kate (Lilly), Sawyer (Holloway) and Claire (Emilie de Ravin) — the heck out of dodge. As the plane soars away from the island, a mortally wounded Jack watches it depart from his final resting place as his eyes close, a direct nod to the first shot of the first episode….  

(20) WHO SAW IT COMING? Usually we’re filling in this blank with Philip K. Dick’s name. See how bad things have gotten, that PKD isn’t the answer! “2020 Is One Great Big George Saunders Story” says InsideHook.

…But there is one author who predicted these dumb and absurd times: George Saunders. 

The MacArthur “Genius” and Booker Prize-winning Saunders has been publishing darkly hilarious visions of America since the early 1990s. Zadie Smith has said “not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny” while The New York Times noted “no one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.” Perhaps the archetypal Saunders story is “Sea Oak,” which follows a trod-upon worker at an aviation-themed male strip club called Joysticks: “Guests rank us as Knockout, Honeypie, Adequate, or Stinker. Not that I’m complaining. At least I’m working.” At home, his family lives in a dangerous neighborhood and anesthetizes themselves with reality TV shows like How My Child Died Violently while fantasizing about the American dream, summarized by one character as “you start out in a dangerous craphole and work hard so you can someday move up to a somewhat less dangerous craphole. And finally maybe you get a mansion.”

(21) JANELLE MONÁE. On Late Night with Seth Meyers Janelle Monáe talks about David Byrne using one of her songs in his musical American Utopia, a musical she wrote as a child and her efforts to help communities during the pandemic.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

2019 Ursa Major Awards

Image by EosFoxx

The 2019 Ursa Major Awards winners were announced May 23 (in a video that confusingly labels them the 2020 awards.)

More than 1100 fans nominated and voted this year.

Best Motion Picture
Live-action or animated feature-length movies.

  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu (Directed by Rob Letterman; May 3)

Best Dramatic Series or Short Work
TV series or one-shots, advertisements or short videos.

  • Beastars (Directed by Shinichi Matsumi) Episode 1, October 8, 2019 (Japan)

Best Novel
Written works of 40,000 words or more. Serialized novels qualify only for the year that the final chapter is published.

  • Fair Trade, by Gre7g Luterman

Best Short Fiction
Stories less than 40,000 words, poetry, and other short Written works.

  • This Dog For Hire, by Mary E. Lowd, in Jove Deadly’s Lunar Detective Agency

Best Other Literary Work
Story collections, comic collections, graphic novels, non-fiction works, and serialized online stories.

  • Fang 10, edited by Kyell Gold and Sparf

Best Graphic Story
Includes comic books, and serialized online stories.

  • Beastars: Volume 12-16, by Itagaki Paru

Best Comic Strip
Newspaper-style strips, including those with ongoing arcs.

  • Housepets!, by Rick Griffin

Best Magazine
Edited collections of creative and/or informational works by various people, professional or amateur, published in print or online in written, pictorial or audio-visual form.

  • Dogpatch Press, edited by Patch Packrat

Best Published Illustration
Illustrations for books, magazines, convention program books, cover art for such, coffee-table portfolios.

  • Moth Monarch, Furnal Equinox 2019 T-shirt design

Best Game
Computer or console games, role-playing games, board games.

  • Untitled Goose Game

Best Website
Online collections of art, stories, and other creative and/or informational works. Includes galleries, story archives, directories, blogs, and personal sites.

  • Fur Affinity

Because there were insufficient qualifying nominations, there was no Non-Fiction Work or Fursuit category this year.

2020 Neffy Nominees

The National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) distributed the Neffy Award ballot in the May issue of TNFF.

N3F President George Phillies told members voting will take place in June. And when it’s over, “Recalling strange events of days gone by with other awards, neither the point totals nor the order of finish beyond first place will be revealed.”

Best Novel

  • What the Wind Brings by Matthew Hughes
  • The Family Pride by Chris Nuttall
  • Monster Hunter Guardian by Larry Correia and Sarah A. Hoyt
  • Endgames by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Best Shorter Work

  • “Waterlines” by Suzanne Palmer (Asimov’s SF)
  • “By the Warmth of their Calculus” by T. S. Buckell (Mission Critical)
  • “A Place to Stand On” by Marie Vibbert (Analog)
  • “The Menace from Farside” by Ian McDonald (Tor)

Best Book Editor

  • Toni Weisskopf

Best TV Show

  • Supergirl
  • Batwoman

Best Cover Artist

  • David Hardy
  • Brad Fraunfelter

Best Anime

  • The Promised Neverland
  • Sarazanmai
  • Astra: Lost in Space

Best Manga, Comic, or Graphic Novel

  • Monstress
  • Lady Mechanika
  • Hit-Girl in Hollywood
  • Books of Magic

Best Non-N3F Fanzine

  • Opuntia
  • My Back Pages
  • Fadeaway
  • Event Horizon
  • Chunga

Best N3F Fanzine

  • Ionisphere
  • The N3F Review of Books
  • Tightbeam

Best Fan Artist

  • Jose Sanchez
  • Angela K. Walker

Best Fan Writer

  • Will Mayo
  • Lloyd Penney

Pixel Scroll 5/23/20 Extraordinary Pixellated Derisions And The Madness Of Scrolls

(1) DOCTOR’S ORDERS. Mark Oshiro is winding down his Mark Reads videos for medical reasons: vocal cord damage. He’ll still be doing the reviews, just not the live readings. Oshiro is a two-time Best Fan Writer Hugo nominee (2013, 2014). “Announcing the next Mark Reads project and the future of videos”

First, the not-so-great news. I ask that you please respect my privacy in terms of like… not asking invasive questions about my medical stuff. Thank you in advance! The short of it is: I got sick in January 2019, did not go to the hospital (as I assumed it was a cold), and have been dealing with some ramifications of that since then. The main issue, though, is that over 2019, I sustained damage to my vocal chords. If we were not in a pandemic, I might have just taken a break from videos and then jumped back into things, but since this is not an emergency, most non-essential stuff is postponed here in NYC.

So, doctor’s orders: I need to stop doing Mark Reads videos. (Not Mark Watches, though, since it is not me continuously talking/yelling for 30-40 mins straight.)

… But also: I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE. Because it’s time to start a NEW SERIES here on Mark Reads and YES, SERIES.

…I will be reading N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy next!!!

There won’t be videos, but there will be REVIEWS! And it’s kinda exciting to get to go back to the old style of reviews, where I have to put my immediate reactions into the review instead of relying on videos for that part. 

(2) FREEDOM. Not a small press but a publishing cooperative – here’s how and why they did it: “Nerine Dorman on Making a Cooperative Initiative Work” a guest post on Cat Rambo’s blog.

It all started innocently enough about five or so years ago. A fellow author sent me a link to an article about the Book View Café, and we figured: why don’t we do something like this? By this stage many of us in our small circle of writerly folks were already rather jaded about the opportunities available in the industry—especially for those of us who live in far-flung places like South Africa where there isn’t a big market for SFF fiction. Some of us had already been agented, had sold novels to big publishing houses. Some of us were not making it out of the slush pile yet… or were exhausted by all those full requests for submissions that simply vanished into a sticky silence. Added to that, some of us also had had unpleasant experiences with small presses going under, taking their back catalogue out of print. And a good handful were simply daunted by the war stories told by their author friends who’d already had a mad whirl on the merry-go-round of getting published and had their fingers burnt.

(3) SPFBO PROGRESS REPORT. Mark Lawrence says he has 192 of the 300 entries wanted to begin the sixth Self-Published Blog-Off. They are listed in the post.

(4) HOW QUICKLY THEY FORGET. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The last question of the New York Times‘s news quiz had enough information to be easy, but only 43% picked the correct answer.

The new book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” tells the story of a character named Coriolanus Snow and is a prequel to which best-selling series?

“Game of Thrones”

“Harry Potter”

“The Hunger Games”

“Twilight”

(5) HOW TO FILL UP THE VAST WASTELAND. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that it’s highly unlikely the major networks will have original dramas on this fall because no pilots were shot and Los Angeles and New York remain locked down. This could mean that the networks could broadcast more foreign or cable originals, leading to Star Trek: Picard being broadcast on CBS. “The fall broadcast season could look like nothing we’ve ever seen before”.

…Most of the roughly 50 pilots ordered this year were never shot. (Pilot-shooting usually takes place in the spring — right as lockdowns began.) That means network executives would have to order full series with nothing but a script on which to base their decision, a process they have historically resisted as too risky.

Not that they could shoot those programs — or any returning ones — if they wanted to. To make a September debut, series need to begin shooting by July or early August at the latest. Yet production is nowhere near restarting. Producers and the guilds that cover most Hollywood workers have all said they are not yet comfortable reopening sets, where hundreds of cast and crew work in close quarters for long hours.

(6) AMAZINGCON. Steve Davidson has updated the AmazingCon schedule of events. The virtual event runs June 12-14. Registration required. Donations requested, but not required.

Taking place on line (we’re calling it “AmazingCon – Virtually the First One!”) via Zoom and this website, AmazingCon will feature author readings (more than 40!), writing workshops, panel discussions, continuous musical performances, an online art show and more.

(7) TAPPING INTO THE HUGOS. Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron will begin a series of Hugo finalists live shows, over the next month hosting the finalists in various Hugo categories for panel discussions featuring their work and nominations. Registration required – no charge.

May 30David Brin and Best Professional Artist Hugo finalists

On Saturday the 30th of May we have the Best Professional Artist finalists on the show. We will further feature world-renowned author and public intellectual David Brin for a reading and an interview. This episode was created in collaboration with ASFA, and the finalists panel will be moderated by Sara Felix.

Participating in the panel: Tommy ArnoldGalen DaraJohn PicacioYuko Shimizu, and Alyssa Winans,

June 6 — Joe Haldeman and the 2020 Hugo finalists for Best Novel

On Saturday the 6th of June, we have the Best Novel finalists on the show. We will further feature genre-shaping Grand Master Joe Haldeman for a reading and an interview, along with a surprise guest.

Participating in the panel: Alix E. HarrowSeanan McGuireArkady Martine, and Kameron Hurley.

Other upcoming shows:

  • June 13: Best Novella and Best Novellette.
  • June 20: Best Short Story and Editors Short Form

(8) VETERANS. The immortal warriors of The Old Guard are coming to Netflix on July 10.

Forever is harder than it looks. Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond The Lights), The Old Guard is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 23, 1984 — George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a prequel to Raiders of The Los Ark, premiered. The second film in the now four film deep franchise, it starred Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri,  Roshan Seth, Philip Stone and Ke Huy Quan. It was primarily written by Lucas with assistance from  Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. It was scored by John Williams. It had decidedly mixed reviews early on but the  consensus now among critics is that it’s a very good film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes agree and give it an 85% rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 23, 1909 Robert Thomas Maitland Scott Jr. Son and a father and son writing team who created The Spider, a pulp character who was clearly a rip-off of The Shadow. They wrote only the first two Spider novels before it was written by various house authors though it’s disputed if Scott Jt. had an uncredited role because the SF element in the series clearly reflect his tastes. He would die in a motor vehicle while on active duty with Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1915 – Oliver Butterworth.  Four decades a Professor of English at Hartford College; staged a yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday party.  Six children’s books: we can claim The Enormous Egg which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, two more.  The egg was enormous because it had to hatch a triceratops, eventually named Uncle Beazley.  Egg was made into a play, produced on television by NBC Children’s Theater.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1915 – William Timmins.  A run of 46 Astounding covers including for The World of Null-A, six more; here’s his last; fifty interiors.  Outside our field, All AcesThe Boy Scout HandbookCluesDime SportsFamily CircleLibertyThe ShadowWestern Storyoilswatercolors.  He’s on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1921 – James Blish.  Member of the Futurians, his fanzine The Planeteer.  Doctor Mirabilis about Roger Bacon.  In the Wonders of 1958 discussions at the 66th Worldcon we took up two of his books from that year and asked “How does Time compare to Conscience”?  Six dozen Star Trekadaptations, collected in a dozen books.  Ninety more short stories.  Twenty columns of book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  At the 38th Worldcon, I danced “Horatio’s Fancy” with his widow.  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1933 Joan Collins, 87. Sister Edith Keeler in “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the sort-of Ellison-scripted Trek episode. She has an extensive number of other genre appearances including Land of the PharaohsMission: ImpossibleThe Man From U.N.C.L.E.Tales from the CryptSpace: 1999The Fantastic JourneyFuture CopFantasy Island and Faerie Tale Theatre. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1933 Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1934 – Phil Castora.  Quiet and unassuming fan, joined us in 1951 at Pittsburgh, then Washington, D.C., then Los Angeles where I met him.  Quiet, that is, unless something struck him as really funny, when he would collapse laughing, rolling on the floor and startling the cat if you had one.  I was like that in law school.  His letters to File 770 in paper days were gems, as Our Gracious Host has told us.  And OGH should know; he too served as our club Secretary.  Luckily Castora left a memoir, Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 – Isidore Haiblum.  City College of New York with honors.  Eighteen novels, a good number; thirteen are ours, a good number for those of us among whom eighteen is a good number; translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  Roger Zelazny called Interworld a mix of hard-boiled and zany, and he should know.  Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (with Stuart Silver) about Golden Age radio.  Interviewed Isaac Bashevis Singer in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 Susan Cooper, 85. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Do not go see the truly awful film. Her Scottish castle-set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and just plain fun. I’d also recommend Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent.  (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1967 Sean Williams, 53. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1974 – Sarah Beth Durst.  A score of fantasy books for kids, teens, adults.  Alex Award from American Lib’y Ass’n.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Drink, Slay, Love made into a Lifetime movie.  About The Reluctant Queen, here’s her Big Idea. Translated into Czech, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 41. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superb), co-authored with Bev Vincent and illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE)

(11) INCOMING. The BBC asks “Could you – would you – eat in a mask like this?” “Remote controlled mask invented to allow eating” (video).

A face mask with a remote controlled mouth has been invented in Israel, allowing diners to eat food without taking it off.

The mask can be opened mechanically by a hand remote or automatically when the fork reaches the mask.

Reminds me of a way parents try to jolly a toddler into eating unwanted vegetables – “Here comes the plane in for a landing!”

(12) NOT READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Anthony Lane studies “Our Fever for Plague Movies” in an article for The New Yorker.

… Such terrors are not ours. But they are, so to speak, our regular dreads intensified—superheated, speeded up, and luridly lit. We worry about being stuck in bed with a rocketing temperature and drenched pajamas; we worry about our elders, who may be home alone and afraid to be visited, or wrestling for breath in the back of an ambulance. Such worries are only natural. Our imaginings, though, defy both nature and reason. They are as rabid as zombies, falling and crawling over themselves to fabricate what comes next. Dreams travel worstward, during a fever, and one job of the movies is to give our dreams, good or bad, a local habitation and a name.

(13) STARLORD PRAT. “Chris Pratt accidentally deleted 51,000 emails”.

Actor Chris Pratt has shared the moment he accidentally wiped clean his entire email inbox.

The Marvel star began sorting through his inbox after telling fans his son, Jack, had teased him for having 35,000 unread messages.

Unfortunately, Pratt pressed the wrong button and was forced to watch as 51,000 emails were erased.

Pratt shared the moment on Instagram, and fans rushed to poke fun at the incident.

“Yesterday my son was playing with my phone and he gasped in shock looking at the number of unread emails that I have. It’s a lot,” Pratt said.

“I’m one of those idiots who will do an IQ test and be like, ‘Wanna take an IQ test? Give me your email’. And then I do, which proves my IQ is about seven, I just get junk from everyone and I just don’t erase it.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy actor said his new goal while taking time off work due to Covid-19 would be to read through 1,000 emails a day.

He also made a promise to reply to them all.

However, his well-meaning plan fell through when he inexplicably deleted every single message he had ever received.

(14) MASKED AND CAPED CRUSADER. If you subscribe or haven’t run out of free articles (like I have) you may be able to read Kate Sidley’s  “Batman Works From Home”, one of The New Yorker’s “Daily Shouts.”

(15) TIME AFTER TIME. The Avocado has a wild story that, despite its title — “Groundhog Day Reclassified As Documentary” – feels more aligned with The Terminator.

… The panic that defined March and April had been replaced by a constant, ever-present anxiety that hadn’t spiked since he found out his job status was transitioning from furloughed to terminated. Since then the days have felt blended, broken up only by the occasional thrill of going to the grocery store for pasta or paper towels, although even those adventures have been less pleasant because his mask had really started to smell.

Jack couldn’t remember whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday when he woke up this morning and gave up on the analysis before deciding. …

(16) GOOD TO GO. “Nasa SpaceX crew mission cleared to launch”.

Key officials at the American space agency (Nasa) and private launch firm SpaceX have signed off next week’s historic mission to the space station.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will ride to orbit from Florida – the first time in nine years that humans have left Earth from US territory.

A review panel has found no technical reason to delay the mission.

SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket with its Dragon capsule is set to lift off at 16:33 EDT (21:33 BST) on Wednesday.

…Already, the Falcon has been rolled out to the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, and lifted into the vertical.

The transfer on Thursday allowed SpaceX engineers to conduct a static fire on Friday. This saw the vehicle ignite briefly all nine of its engines to confirm their operational status.

(17) LOOKING AHEAD AT AI. He would say we’ve been warned — “A Case for Cooperation Between Machines and Humans” in the New York Times.

The Tesla chief Elon Musk and other big-name Silicon Valley executives have long promised a car that can do all the driving without human assistance.

But Ben Shneiderman, a University of Maryland computer scientist who has for decades warned against blindly automating tasks with computers, thinks fully automated cars and the tech industry’s vision for a robotic future is misguided. Even dangerous. Robots should collaborate with humans, he believes, rather than replace them.

Late last year, Dr. Shneiderman embarked on a crusade to convince the artificial intelligence world that it is heading in the wrong direction. In February, he confronted organizers of an industry conference on “Assured Autonomy” in Phoenix, telling them that even the title of their conference was wrong. Instead of trying to create autonomous robots, he said, designers should focus on a new mantra, designing computerized machines that are “reliable, safe and trustworthy.”

There should be the equivalent of a flight data recorder for every robot, Dr. Shneiderman argued.

It is a warning that’s likely to gain more urgency when the world’s economies eventually emerge from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and millions who have lost their jobs try to return to work. A growing number of them will find they are competing with or working side by side with machines….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mel Blanc:  Man of a Thousand Voices on YouTube is a 2007 documentary featuring interviews with directors Friz Freleng, Terry Gilliam, William Hanna, and Chuck Jones, voice actors Stan Freberg, June Foray, and Janet Waldo, long-time friend Kirk Douglas, and author Kim Newman.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Danny Sichel, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Gadi Evron, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

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

Australian Shadows Awards
2019 Finalists

The Australasian Horror Writers Association announced the shortlists for the Australian Shadows Awards 2019 today. The juried award is given in seven categories for work by an Australasian author that has horror/dark fiction content either as a focal point or an integral element of the work, and the intent of the work must be to disturb or inspire fear in the reader. Eligible genres/sub-genres include horror, dark fiction, dark fantasy, and paranormal fiction.

COLLECTED WORKS

  • Collision: Stories by J.S. Breukelaar
  • Figments and Fragments by Deborah Sheldon
  • Served Cold by Alan Baxter

EDITED WORKS

  • Beside the Seaside: Tales from the Day-Tripper edited by Steve Dillon
  • Trickster’s Treats #3 – the Seven Deadly Sins Edition edited by Marie O’Regan and Lee Murray
  • Midnight Echo #14 edited by Deborah Sheldon

GRAPHIC NOVEL

  • The Eldritch Kid: The Bone War written by Christian D. Read
  • Matinee written by Emmett O’Cuana
  • Geebung Polo Club written by Shauna O’Meara (adapted from a Banjo Patterson poem)
  • DCeased written by Tom Taylor

THE ROCKY WOOD AWARD FOR NON-FICTION AND CRITICISM

  • Suffer the Little Children by Kris Ashton
  • Horror and the paranormal, chapter 8 of Writing Speculative Fiction by Eugen Bacon
  • The Danse Macabre by Kyla Lee Ward
  • Horror Movies That Mean Something and Childhood Trauma Manifested by Maria Lewis

PAUL HAINES AWARD FOR LONG FICTION

  • Supermassive Black Mass by Matthew R. Davis
  • The Neverwhere Line by Matthew J. Morrison
  • Out of Darkness by Chris Mason
  • Enemy of My Enemy by Rick Kennett
  • 1862 by C.J. Halbard

 POETRY

  • Brine and Vanishings by Hester J. Rook
  • Taxonomy of Captured Roses by Hester J. Rook
  • Please Do Not Feed the Animals by Anne Casey
  • Separation by Jay Caselberg
  • Ode to a Black Hole by Charles Lovecraft
  • Boat of a Million Years by Kyla Lee Ward

SHORT FICTION

  • Steadfast Shadowsong by Matthew R. Davis
  • Vivienne & Agnes by Chris Mason
  • The Ocean Hushed the Stones by Alan Baxter
  • Ava Rune by J.S. Breukelaar

NOVEL

  • Fusion by Kate Richards
  • Shepherd by Catherine Jinks
  • The Flower and the Serpent by Madeleine D’Este

[Via SFFANZ.]

RWA Retires RITA Award, Announces Replacement,
“The Vivian”

The new board of Romance Writers of America, still trying to recover from the backlash of mass resignations of officers and loss of members following their predecessors’ attempt to censure Courtney Milan, hopes to signal their changing vision for the problem-ridden organization by remaking RWA’s annual awards and naming them after founder Vivian Stephens, an African-American woman.

Their statement “Introducing The Vivian, a New Award for a New Era” begins —

The RWA Board of Directors is thrilled to announce the introduction of a brand-new award, The Vivian, named after RWA founder Vivian Stephens, whose trailblazing efforts created a more inclusive publishing landscape and helped bring romance novels to the masses.

…In support of The Vivian, and guided by the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access, the contest task force has been hard at work developing a contest that aligns with the Board’s vision for RWA 2.0 and that is designed to fulfill the following mission:

The Vivian recognizes excellence in romance writing and showcases author talent and creativity. We celebrate the power of the romance genre with its central message of hope–because happily ever afters are for everyone.

They also acknowledged the former award’s namesake: “We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Rita Clay Estrada, RWA’s first president, for honoring us the past 30 years as the award’s namesake, and for her service to RWA and romance authors everywhere.”

Precisely how winners of The Vivian will be chosen under the new award’s judging scheme has yet to be revealed. RWA director Avery Flynn responded to concerns: “I don’t think I can go into any detail yet because it will be officially presented to the board and members at the May meeting. I’m sorry. I don’t want to break task force/board confidentiality at this point. I know that’s frustrating. Believe me, I’d love to spill everything now.”

The RWA’s says highlights of the proposed format include:

  • A clear rubric to enhance and streamline scoring guidelines in addition to judge training that will allow for more standardized judging,
  • A sophisticated matching process so that entrants can be sure their books go to judges versed in their subgenre, and
  • A category devoted to recognizing unpublished authors.

Their proposals will be shared with members at the May 30-31 Board meeting. The Board’s goal is for the rules and format to be finalized and voted on in time for a fall launch, with the first year of the contest to recognize books published in both 2019 and 2020. (The 2019 eligibility year is included to cover the gap left by the cancellation of this year’s RITAs).

RWA Executive Director Leslie Scantlebury and RWA President Alyssa Day spoke with Vivian Stephens to request the honor of naming this award after her.

In their conversations, she was gracious, kind, and hopeful for the future of RWA. They asked if she would share her thoughts with our members, and we’re pleased to relay them to you here:

“I once heard an astrophysicist explain how heavy elements of the Periodic Table forged into the center of stars, later explode, showering the universe and everything in it with its spoils, Stardust. Since we all live in the universe it is well worth remembering that underneath the outer dressing of ethnicity, color, and gender, we are all the same. Showered with the gift of stars.

“Today, as we move forward into a new world order, Romance Writers of America must be one group, united by the purity of craft that identifies the organization. Guided by their star shine, moving quietly with confidence in the direction of their purpose, writing wonderful stories. Members must step up and deliver their best. Romance novels are read by people of Every Background throughout the World! They read these novels for entertainment, general information, life-style ideas, encouragement, rules of behavior, fun, a good laugh, hope, and a reminder of how life could be…if only.

“It is the duty of every Romance writer to give every Romance reader that experience. The writer must elevate themselves to be worthy of the craft and bring to it all of the nuances and magic of good storytelling. The reader deserves and expects nothing less.”

BGSU’s Browne Popular Culture Library profiled Stephens on Twitter today. Thread starts here.

Some of the initial reaction on Twitter:

[Via Locus Online.]

Pixel Scroll 5/21/20 Six Out Of 14 Duchies Vote OK To Release The Dragons In Two Weeks

(1) CALIFORNIA GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS – CASE BY (BOOK) CASE. “For booksellers in L.A., a partial reopening brings hope and anxiety” – the LA Times has the story.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Hillary McMahon pulled up into a parking spot in Pasadena, where a sign attached to a traffic cone read: “Reserved for Vroman’s Curbside Pickup. Space 1.” She dialed the number listed below the sign and let the store know she was ready for her book.

McMahon, 72, of La Cañada Flintridge, got out of her car, opened the trunk, hopped back inside and put on her blue mask. Minutes later, an employee wearing sunglasses, blue gloves and a mask walked out of the empty bookstore on an eerily quiet Colorado Boulevard, brown paper bag in hand, and dropped into the trunk a copy of Claudio Saunt ’s “Unworthy Republic.”

Vroman’s , with locations in Hastings Ranch and Pasadena, is among L.A.’s many independent bookstores — including Stories, Pages and Chevalier’s — that have started offering contactless, curbside service since Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed some retailers to reopen May 8 within strict guidelines for limiting the spread of the coronavirus….

…On May 14, the California Independent Booksellers Alliance held a virtual town hall for booksellers featuring a special guest — a nurse.

In advance of the meeting, nurse Jean Taylor-Woodbury distributed information on the state’s guidelines: site-specific protection plans; disinfecting protocols; training and screenings of employees and a detailed risk assessment.

Over the course of the call, which went over an hour, 72 booksellers from across the state asked Taylor-Woodbury a variety of questions: How long does the virus stay on paper and cardboard? How do you disinfect money? Do we have to disinfect books after browsers touch them? (The answer was “yes”.) How do you disinfect books? What do we do if customers won’t wear masks? Is there a better way to access testing? How long will someone test positive? …

(2) NO ALBACON THIS YEAR. Add Albacon 2020 to the roster of cancelled conventions. The event, which was to have been held in Albany, NY in September, has been postponed to 2021.

Due to the ongoing issues with Covid-19 health and safety, the Albacon Committee has decided to postpone the convention until Fall of 2021. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have agreed to attend as Guests of Honor. Memberships will roll over, but, given the situation, we will make an exception to our usual policy and give refunds on request.

(3) I SOLEMNLY SWEAR. This is wild. “This ‘Harry Potter’ Mask Reveals the Marauder’s Map as You Breathe”.

…Hook told Insider that she created these masks to “bring some magic” into the real world. While the masks were created using simple tools— an inexpensive sewing machine, standard sewing supplies, licensed cotton fabric, elastic, and of course the special color-changing pigment — the design process was lengthy. Each mask took her about 17 hours to create start to finish. “The majority of the time is waiting for the treatment to set into the fabric,” she told Insider.

(4) STAR PERFORMER. “NASA Names Dark Energy Telescope for Nancy Grace Roman”. The New York Times tells what the late astronomer did to earn the honor.

NASA announced Wednesday that one of its most ambitious upcoming space telescopes would be named for Nancy Grace Roman, who pioneered the role of women in the space agency.

Dr. Roman joined the agency in 1959 when NASA was only six months old, and rose to be its first chief astronomer. She is credited, among other things, with championing and spearheading the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Around the agency and in astronomical circles she is known as “the mother of Hubble.” She died in 2018.

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, as it is now named, is being designed to investigate the mysterious dark energy speeding up the expansion of the universe and to scan space for exoplanets belonging to distant stars. The project to build the telescope has survived several attempts by the Trump administration to kill it, and is now slated to be launched later this decade.

Until now it has been known by the decidedly uncatchy name of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or Wfirst. The acronym had a double meaning: “W” is the name for a crucial parameter that measures the virulence of dark energy, thus giving a clue to the fate of the universe.

“It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said in a statement issued by the space agency.

(5) TOWEL DAY. It will be time to celebrate again on May 25, and BookRiot’s contribution to the festivities is —“Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy?” I scored 13/15, and talked myself out of yet another right answer, so you may suspect it’s not that hard.

Traditional Towel Day celebrations primarily involve carrying a towel everywhere you go. (A towel, after all, “is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”) Last year, I celebrated with a Which Hitchhikers Guide Character Are You? quiz. For Towel Day 2020, I decided to put together a different sort of quiz, this time to test your knowledge on this zaniest of franchises. In this quiz, I’ll lob you 15 questions about all five Adams-penned Hitchhiker’s Guide books (no disrespect, Mr. Colfer, but today is literally not your day), plus one or two about the numerous adaptations.

(6) TRIFFIDS REDUX. The New York Times reviews Kenneth Oppel’s Bloom: “A Few Brave Kids Battle a Toxic World”. (May be paywalled.)

If flu-pandemic books make cold sufferers anxious and zombie books make agoraphobics jittery, here’s something to rattle the Zyrtec set.

You name an allergy, and adolescent Anaya in Kenneth Oppel’s BLOOM (Knopf, 320 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up) has it. Gluten, eggs, milk, smoke, dust — all of these things aggravate her acne. Anaya’s gorgeous ex-BFF Petra doesn’t have zit issues, but her allergy is a rare and lethal one: water. New kid Seth is allergic to life in general: Being shuttled between foster families who don’t want you sucks.

Then rain falls upon their Canadian home of Salt Spring Island. A peculiar rain. It clears Anaya’s skin and Petra isn’t allergic to it. In the hours that follow, the farm Seth tends with his current fosters, Mr. and Mrs. Antos, sprouts an invasive species of tall, black, spiky grass.

Soon it’s popping up all over the world, outgrowing even kudzu. Picture the xenomorph from “Alien,” only leafier. It destroys lawn mower blades. Cutting it releases acid. Burning it generates toxic fumes. And everyone seems to be allergic to it — except Anaya, Petra and Seth, who haven’t felt this lively in ages.

…There is nothing especially deep to this story. But these are deep times, and readers will have no choice but to overlay their current Covid-19 experiences on Oppel’s chillingly prescient details: the initial blaming of China, a shrinking work force gutted by sickness, closed schools, stay-at-home orders, overloaded hospitals and the omnipresence of medical masks.

It is a helpless situation with which readers will powerfully identify. How cathartic to imagine a few brave kids might turn it all around. This makes “Bloom” the perfect book right now for young readers searching for hope, strength, inspiration — and just a little horticultural havoc.

(7) TRAILER PARK. IGN reports “Tenet: New Trailer Premieres Tonight on Fortnite” – so it will already be available by the time you see today’s Scroll.

For anyone excited for Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated new movie, Tenet, you will be able to watch the brand new trailer on Fortnite starting tonight.

In the latest collaboration with Epic Games’ popular battle royale shooter, Warner Bros. is premiering the brand new Tenet trailer on Fortnite’s virtual big screens. The new Tenet trailer will premiere at the top of every hour starting at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET tonight, May 21.

What did I say?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 21, 1980 — Yoda made his debut appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in the United States on May 21, 1980. He has since appeared in over 50 films and TV shows.
  • May 21, 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior premiered. Directed by  George Miller and produced by  Byron Kennedy, the screenplay was by Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant. Australian New Wave composer Brian May is responsible for the music.  It stars Mel Gibson and the Australian outback. It was extremely well received by critics, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 87% rating currently. 
  • May 21, 1985 Ray Bradbury Theater premiered on HBO.  It ran for two seasons on there from 1985 to 1986, and then for four additional seasons on USA Network from 1988 to 1992. All 65 episodes were written by Bradbury and many were based on works he had previously written. The Ray Bradbury Theater site has the best look at the series. You can watch the first episode, “Marionettes, Inc.“ here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 21, 1471 – Albrecht Dürer.  Engravings, paintings, watercolors, woodcuts; printmaker; theorist.  The 15 Apocalypse pictures, or Knight, Death, and the Devilor Melencolia I, are each enough to make him an immortal fantasist.  (Died 1528) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1688 – Alexander Pope.  Second most quoted author in English (after Shakespeare); e.g. “damning with faint praise”.  Mock-heroic epic The Rape of the Lock (“lock” i.e. of hair; “rape” meaning “carry away by force”, same root as “raptor”) has sylphs.  Superb translations – if you are mainly looking for what wonderful English poetry he could make, not accuracy, because you know enough Greek to read the original, as Sam Johnson did, or don’t care – of Homer’s Iliad and (with collaborators) Odyssey, each being superb fantasy.  (Died 1744) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is considered the first such filming of that novel. Genre adjacent, he’ll show later in The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Three Musketeers and The Devil-Doll. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1903 – Manly Wade Wellman.  Wrote for AmazingAstoundingPlanetStartlingStrangeUnknownWeird Tales.  Best-known characters, John the Balladeer (“Silver John”; I’ve always been fond – if that word may be used – of the story “Vandy, Vandy”) and the two occult-phenomena investigators Judge Keith Pursuivant and John Thurstone.  Comics: wrote the first issue of Captain Marvel, contributed to The Spirit and Blackhawk.  Sixteen novels, two hundred shorter stories, in our field, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; detective fiction, a Western, histories of the Old South.  World Fantasy Award for life achievement.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1911 – Virginia Haviland.  Librarian, author, folklorist, student of children’s literature.  Reviewed for The Horn Book thirty years.  Sixteen volumes of Favorite Fairy Tales, one each for France, England, Russia, India, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Scotland, Denmark, Japan, Greece, Italy, Norway.  Founded Center for Children’s Literature, U.S. Library of Congress.  Kate Greenaway Medal for The Mother Goose Treasury.  Regina Medal.  Grolier Award.  Simmons University gives a Virginia Haviland scholarship.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason. It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and  Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise, as Steve Martin. And unfortunately, he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1918 Jeanne Bates. She’s Diana Palmer in the Forties The Phantom serial, possibly the first one done. Her first genre role was as Miss Norcutt in The Return of the Vampire, a unauthorized sequel to Lugosi’s 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. Most of the films she’s known for are horror films such as The Soul of a Monster and Back from the Dead. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1935 Bill Williams. He appeared on Science Fiction Theater in five different roles, and played The Millionaire on Batman in “Fine Finny Fiends” and “Batman Makes the Scenes”. He also made an appearance on The Wild Wild West in “Night of the Casual Killer“ as Marshal Kirby. He also did a lot of seriously pulpish SF films such as Space Master X-7. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1945 Richard Hatch. He’s best-known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of Battlestar Galactica franchise novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1951 – Broeck Steadman, 69.  Eighty covers, two hundred sixty interiors, for AnalogAsimov’s (see here), Realms of FantasySF Age; books, see herehere; postage stamps, see herehere; murals, see herehere.   Keeps bees.  Twenty years running an art school with up to forty students a week.  Has done art for liquor bottles, soda cans, cars, jet planes, computers, toothpaste, chocolate.  [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1953 Trevor Cooper, 67. He plays Takis in the Sixth Doctor story, “Revelation of the Daleks“, and then will show up as Friar Tuck in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”.  He’s currently playing Colin Devis in Star Cops, and he was Simeon in the Wizards vs. Aliens series before that. (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1958 – Jeff Canfield.  Photographer, system-software specialist, Formula Vee racer (he drove a Viper, which ought to count).  Recruited Kevin Standlee.  One of four founding directors, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.  Deputy vice-chair of 51st Worldcon, editor of its Program Book, timekeeper of its Preliminary Business Meeting, and its Speaker to Dr. Evil.  See here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1984 – Jackson Pearce, 36.  As You Wish, young-adult urban fantasy; four fairy-tale-retelling books based on Little Red Riding HoodHansel & GretelThe Little MermaidThe Snow Queen.  With Maggie Stiefvater, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, two more.  Tsarina (as by J. Nelle Patrick), historical fantasy.  YouTube channel with 200 videos, 13,000 subscribers.  Her Website says “Young Adult 58%, Middle Grade 42%, Baked Goods 85%, Glitter 100%”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BOOKING THE DATE. “Iam pervenimus usque ad umbilicos”. I don’t know what the title means even after running it through Google Translate, however, the results forced me to discard my bellybutton theory. Whatever it means, Steve J. Wright was in the room where it happened:

Well, I did it.  What did I do?  I uploaded two of my novels to Amazon’s Kindle publishing system, and within the past couple of minutes, I hit the button marked “Publish”.  There’s a review process, which is currently very slow because of the ongoing plague, so the books won’t actually be available for at least two weeks… but, at the end of that time, I presume a jet of light will shoot out of my head, as I level up from “deservedly obscure blogger” to “deservedly obscure indie author”.  (Yes, I’ve been spending too much time in MMORPGs.)

So, anyone who has said to themselves, “Bah and tcha!  This Steve person is full of criticism for other writers, going on about how to present sympathetic characters and how to construct your plot structure, but how well could he do it himself, eh?”… well, any such person will shortly be getting the chance to find out.  I’m not really in a position to be objective, myself – I mean, obviously I think I’m wonderful, but I’m aware that this opinion may not be universally shared.

Hey – forget about waiting, they’re already available. Take Martial’s word for it: “Ohe! iam satis est, ohe! Libelle”.

(12) SORRY, WRONG NUMBER. “She Gets Calls And Texts Meant For Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird” reports NPR.

There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.

Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.

“I asked my mom, ‘Hey, I keep getting these text messages’ — and I was also now starting to get phone calls — ‘for this guy Elon Musk. I don’t know who this is,’ ” Tucker said. “And my mom’s jaw just dropped.”

Turns out, Tucker’s cellphone number used to be registered to Musk. On any given day, she receives at least three calls or texts intended for Musk, whom she has never met.

If the maverick billionaire stirs controversy, as he is wont to do, her phone blows up with a torrent of messages. (Full disclosure: I reached out to Musk during one of those controversies, when he threatened to sue the California county that is home to Tesla’s headquarters over its coronavirus-related restrictions. Instead, I got Tucker.)

She has accidentally intercepted far more interesting calls than mine, however. One woman volunteered to go to space with SpaceX. Another person sent a blueprint for a bionic limb. “Which is, No. 1, really cool,” Tucker said. “But I have no idea how it’s built.”

(14) WHY. Today, Yahoo! Entertainment thinks they know the answer to “Why ‘Batwoman’ Star Ruby Rose Left the CW Series”.

…According to multiple sources, Rose was unhappy with the long hours required of her as the series lead, which led to friction on the set. It was thus decided by her and the network and studio, Warner Bros. Television, that they would part ways.

(15) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. And Ars Technica thinks they might be able to fill in a blank about another previously unexplained departure:“Here’s why NASA’s chief of human spaceflight resigned—and why it matters”.

Why did Doug Loverro resign?

He made an error during the procurement process of the Human Landing System, during which NASA selected bids from Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX to build lunar landers as part of the Artemis Program. In his resignation letter to employees on Tuesday, Loverro admitted he made a “mistake” earlier this year. Multiple sources have suggested that he violated the Procurement Integrity Act.

It’s worth noting that on March 25, 2020, NASA’s inspector general announced an audit of “NASA’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis missions to include landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.” It seems plausible that this audit may have involved some action taken by Loverro.

The article tells what he may have done, and assesses the implications of his departure on NASA’s hopes to meet the 2024 target.

(16) ARTIFACT. “Expedition To Salvage Titanic’s Wireless Telegraph Gets The Go-Ahead”.

In the final hours it took the R.M.S. Titanic to sink, wireless telegraph operators issued a series of increasingly frantic messages calling for rescue.

They went from detailed to desperate.

The last transmission — issued just a few minutes before the “unsinkable” ship disappeared below the surface of the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg — was just five words: “Come quick. Engine room nearly full.”

The messages offer a poignant record of the final moments of chaos and tragedy aboard the Titanic in April 1912.

And this week a federal judge ruled that the wireless telegraph set may be recovered from the wreckage.

U.S. Judge Rebecca Smith said retrieval of the Edwardian technology — the most advanced of its time — “will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking,” the Associated Press reported.

The decision is a victory for RMS Titanic Inc., a private company with exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the ship. It has been waging a decades-long legal battle to gain the right to extract the equipment and other artifacts from the ship.

In 2000, an earlier judge denied the company permission to cut into the shipwreck or detach any part of it. But Smith appeared swayed by RMST’s argument that remnants of the luxurious vessel are rapidly deteriorating.

“While many items that remain in and around the Titanic wreckage have the ability to enlighten generations on the lives of its passengers, only one item holds the story of all of the survivors,” Bretton Hunchak, president of the company said in a statement on Facebook.

(17) HOW ABOUT A NICE GAME OF CHESS? “Years Before The Pandemic, War Games Predicted A ‘Global Tempest'” says NPR.

One day in early March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the country, Margaret McCown was in her office at the Pentagon figuring out how her staff could work from home.

As McCown went over the logistics, she began to feel a sense of déjà vu.

A pandemic. Government on alert. Schools and offices closing. It was a scenario she had seen before. Just not in real life.

“That was that uncomfortable moment where you find yourself a little bit living in your own war game,” McCown said.

Starting in 2006, when she was a war gamer at the National Defense University, McCown spent two years running pandemic simulations for senior policymakers. The scenario: A novel flu strain is racing across the planet. The virus is deadly and highly contagious; U.S. officials are trying to contain the outbreak before it hits the United States. (Spoiler: They don’t succeed.)

McCown called the first exercise “Global Tempest.” In the office that day in March, she dug out an article she’d written about it for a defense journal. The title was “Wargaming the Flu.”

“As I looked through it, I was realizing the extent to which it had really identified some of the things that we were living and some of the debates I was seeing on TV,” she said.

In McCown’s simulations, as in several others in the early 2000s, participants foresaw an overwhelmed health care industry struggling to respond to unprecedented demand. McCown’s teams worried about the number of ventilators and hospital beds.

What’s more interesting to McCown is that the gamers also identified the many ways a pandemic could disrupt ordinary life.

(18) NO FIGHTING IN THE WARP ROOM. Everybody loves this house — the link is circulating widely: “480 Rainier Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15239 – 3 Bed, 1 Bath Single-Family Home – MLS# 1445093 – 24 Photos” at Trulia. The goodies are in the middle of the photo deck, so keep flipping.

Do you like Fun & Adventure? See this One of a Kind Brick Ranch, Converted into a 2 Story. Enter the Door to a 13th Century Castle Décor Sunken Living Rm, w/ Dramatic, High, Oak Beamed Ceiling, Hardwood Floor, Brick Fireplace, a Ladder to an Elevated Library. Time Travel at Warp Speed to the 25th Century Starship. A Talking Space Alien greets you as you walk toward the Floor to Ceiling, Outer Space Wall Mural. The Dining Rm Command Center Rear Wall opens up to the Spaceship Main Bridge-Working Computer & Controls from an Apache Helicopter, Speakers & a 55 Inch Screen (TV works)…. 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, N., Michael J. Walsh, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]