Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill Wagner, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 10/18/20 The Beatles That Twisted And Shouted At The Heart Of The World

(1) WRESTLING OVER MEANING. Steven Erikson’s essay asserts a changing relationship between authors and literary criticism. “The Author as the Living Dead (Barthes’ Death of the Author: Zombie Horror and Literary Criticism)”.

… Death of the Author by Barthes is postmodernist. It has absorbed the essence of postmodernist thought which seeks to question the most basic assumptions of reality. It seeks to separate the author from the work for purposes of analysis. The faculty office door must remain closed to allow for the fullest purity of the endeavour that is literary analysis. With the author excised, and with an argument presented to bolster the assertion of non-contextuality in the work to be examined, the scholar is given free rein to invent whatever pleases them, provided the thesis is properly assembled.

Under the vast umbrella of postmodernism, personal interpretations have egalitarian virtue. The text is neutered of intention at its source (the author), to be dismantled and reassembled at leisure. If the author writes: “The shirt was blue,” the literary critic can now assert that line to mean the shirt was red, or there was no shirt at all, but a shirtless person made blue by the fierce winter wind. And if that sentence was not anchored to any character’s point of view, but rather to that of an unseen omniscient narrator, well, clearly that narrator wasn’t the actual author, but a voice generated by the novel itself, which sprang into creation like a toadstool on a pile of dung in the basement.

As with all art, in other words, the creator ceases to be relevant and the audience is made eminent.

You might think I’d be fine with that. By this means am I divested of all responsibility for what I write. What a relief. Just as I no longer have any say in how a reader interprets (or feels) about anything I write, the only thing that binds me to their expectations leaves the field of literary criticism behind and ventures into the crass world of consumerism, popularity, and publishing, since these market forces will decide if I am or am not a successful writer. When I wrote “The shirt was blue” I could not possibly have expected a reader to interpret the shirt as being red, or no shirt at all, and even if I had an expectation that a reader would read that sentence in one way and one way only, that’s no longer relevant.

De-contextualizing a work of art is the gentle injection that puts it to eternal sleep. No longer any risky vivisection awaiting the examiner. Just flat out, stiff-as-a-board-body dissection. Here the limits can be decided upon, the parameters clearly defined, the self-as-audience raised on the highest pedestal. It’s a postmodernist’s wet dream….

(2) BISHOP MEDICAL UPDATE. Michael Bishop gave readers a frank report about his cancer in a public Facebook post.

“What’s on your mind?” the cue on an unwritten Facebook post always reads, and today what’s on my mind is the fact that the cancer in my right thigh (twice removed: the cancer, let me stress, not my thigh) has returned and spread.

Its spread complicates treatment options, as do the lingering effects of earlier surgeries, and so, for now, excision is out and chemotherapy looms as the safest if not the fastest approach to returning me to healthy-featherless-biped status.

I won’t be coy: I’m posting this message because many of you are not only FB friends but also beloved friends, and you may want or deserve to know what’s happening now in Jeri’s and my conjoined life.

My second reason is selfish: I covet your prayers, good wishes, positive vibes, unalloyed sympathy, etc., if not your visits (in this time of pandemic) or any cards requiring answers (in my time of highly unfixed focus).

Forgive these prohibitions, my obvious inability to suffer in silence, and my fear-deflecting facetiousness. And bless you all.

(3) HINES HAS HAND SURGERY. Jim C. Hines tells how things have been going since the operation on his hand in “Surgery and Recovery”.

It’s been six days since the surgeon opened up my hand to try to restore movement to the pinky. At that point, the Dupuytren’s contracture had progressed to where I only had about 30° of movement. (Click the link for a lovely photo.)

This was causing trouble with things like reaching into a pocket or putting on a glove. It was also messing with my typing. When I finally met with the surgeon, he said I should have come in before it got to this point. Earlier on in the progression, they can do less invasive procedures to help. At this point, there wasn’t much to try except for surgery.

The surgeon said things went pretty well. He was able to get the fingers pretty much straight, though they may not stay perfectly straight as they heal. I was bandaged up and put in a splint to try to hold the finger straight as much as possible….

(4) TURNING THE PAGES. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus is navigating the winds of change: “[October 18, 1965] Turn, Turn, Turn (November 1965 Fantasy & Science Fiction)”.

…As the 60s dawned, the genre had become anemic.  Almost all of the monthly digests had gone out of print.  The old stalwart, Astounding, had changed its name to Analog, but is fiction remained stolidly fixed in an older mode.  Gold retired from Galaxy and Fred Pohl struggled to keep it and its sister mags fresh as its reliable stable of authors left for greener (as in the color of money) pastures.  F&SF‘s helm passed on to Avram Davidson, whose whimsical style did the magazine few favors.

But the genre seems to have found its feet and is stomping off in a new direction.  Propelled by a “New Wave,” again largely based in Britain, the science fiction I’ve been reading these days no longer feels like retreads of familiar stories.  They have the stamp of a modern era, an indisputable sense of 1960s.  And no single issue of a single magazine has represented this renaissance in SF better than the latest issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

(5) NARNIA ON EARTH. Travel wrter Chris Leadbeater speculates about “Where to find Narnia in the real world, as the CS Lewis classic turns 70” in The Telegraph.

The Mourne Mountains

Lewis’s love of Northern Ireland also extended to the Mourne Mountains – the coastal range which spreads out some 40 miles south of Belfast in County Down, and includes the mighty bluff that is Slieve Donard (2,790ft/850m). He would draw directly on these granite peaks and grassy troughs for the landscape of Narnia. In his essay collection On Stories (posthumously released in 2002), he would explain that “I have seen landscapes in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which, under a particular light, made me feel that, at any moment, a giant might raise his head over the next ridge”. And in a letter to his brother Warren, he once explained that “that part of Rostrevor [a village at the foot of Slieve Martin] which overlooks [the sea inlet] Carlingford Lough is my idea of Narnia”.

How much comparison you draw between this rocky realm and the pages of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is perhaps a matter of personal perspective. But the range is happy to play up the association (see visitmournemountains.co.uk/ChroniclesofNarnia) – and is home to two walking routes which tie in with the book.

The Narnia Trail is the shorter of the pair (see walkni.com/walks/the-narnia-trail) – a half-mile loop through Kilbroney Park, which sits right next to the waterline in Rostrevor. Lewis spent happy childhood holidays in the village, and the trail attempts to communicate some of this innocent joy to visitors. The path begins with a wardrobe door – and, as with C.S. Lewis Square in the city, Narnia-related statues (Aslan, Mr Tumnus, thrones) decorate the setting. As does a lamp-post akin to the one beneath which Lucy first espies Mr Tumnus.

The Cloughmore Trail – also in Kilbroney Park – requires slightly more effort, ebbing for 2.5 miles above the Lough (see walkni.com/mourne-mountains/cloughmore-trail-via-fiddlers-green). It features a large rounded boulder which, according to local legend, represents the stone table on which (spoiler alert!) Aslan is sacrificed by the White Witch….

(6) THE SISKO KID. We Got This Covered teases a second source that claims “CBS Reportedly Considering Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Revival”.

…Last weekend, We Got This Covered reported that the network is thinking about doing something with Avery Brooks as Benjamin Sisko, the chief of the space station throughout DS9‘s seven seasons (1993-99). Now, Geekosity’s Mikey Sutton is reporting that his own intel says much the same thing. According to the insider, CBS is considering reviving DS9 in some form for Paramount+, the rebranded and expanded CBS All Access that’s launching in 2021.

Sutton teases that other Deep Space Nine stars could return alongside him, too. He can’t say which ones as yet, but this news only doubles our chances of seeing Michael Dorn as Worf again, given that he would fit in with both this project and Picard. 

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • October 2012 — Eight years ago this month, Arkady Martine started off her genre career with “Lace Downstairs” published in Abyss & Apex, 4th Quarter. Though she was only one novel, her Hugo winning A Memory Called Empire with her second A Desolation Called Peace out early next year, she’s been quite prolific in writing short works with seventeen stories, two poems and one essay by the title of  “Everyone’s World Is Ending All the Time: Notes on Becoming a Climate Resilience Planner at the Edge of the Anthropocene”. Her website is worth visiting. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 18, 1925 – Voltaire Molesworth.   Led a revival of the Sydney Futurians after World War II.  Fanzines LunaCosmos.  Vital to the three natcons (natcon = nat’l SF con; nearest thing for U.S. fans is the NASFiC = North America SF Con, held since 1975 when the Worldcon is overseas, although that’s a continental not a national convention) in Sydney during the 1950s.  Mathematician, amateur radio operator, managed the Univ. New South Wales radio station.  Wrote A History of Australian Fandom 1935-1963.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1934 – Kir Bulychev.  Author, scriptwriter, translator.  Best known for Alisa Selezneva series, fifty novellas and other short stories, animation, tie-ins, videogames; also Village of Gusliar and Doctor Pavlysh.  Reporter for Locus from Moscow.  Ph.D. under another name, two nonfiction books.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born October 18,1935 Peter Boyle. The monster in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. He won an Emmy Award for a guest-starring role on The X-Files episode, “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose”. He also played Bill Church Sr. in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.  One of his final roles was in the “Rosewell” episode of Tripping the Rift. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born October 18, 1938 Dawn Wells, 82. Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided last year was genre. She and Tina Louise are the last surviving regular cast members from that series. She had genre one-offs on The InvadersWild Wild West, Fantasy Island and Alf. She reprised her role on the animated Gilligan’s Planet and, I kid you not, The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island. (CE) 
  • Born October 18, 1944 Katherine Kurtz, 76. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, the final volume of The Childe Morgan Trilogy, was published several years back. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great. (CE) 
  • Born October 18, 1947 Joe Morton, 73. Best remembered as Henry Deacon on Eureka in which he appeared in all but one of the seventy-seven episodes. He has other genre appearances including in Curse of the Pink Panther as Charlie, The Brother from Another Planet as The Brother, Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Dr. Miles Bennett Dyson, The Walking Dead as Sergeant Barkley, and in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League as Silas Stone, father Victor Stone aka Cyborg. (CE) 
  • Born October 18, 1950 – Tony Roberts, 70.  A hundred eighty covers, thirty interiors.  Here is Macroscope.  Here is a Best of A.E. Van Vogt and here is a Best of Fritz Leiber.  Here is A World Out of Time.  Here is To Live Forever.  Here is Xanadu 3.  See his Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1951 – Jeff Schalles, 69.  Pittsburgh fan working on PgHLANGE III-IV, moved to Minneapolis and its local club, or something, Minn-stf (stf, pronounced and sometimes spelled stef, a remnant of Hugo Gernsback’s word scientifiction).  Con reports for SF Chronicle and Locus.  Stalwart in the last three issues of Science Fiction Five-Yearly, also IdeaRune.  Fanartist including photographs; did these fine photos of Bob BlochChuch Harris and Avedon CarolHarlan EllisonSteve StilesGeri Sullivan (note allusion to The Harp That Once or Twice).  [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1958 – Elissa Malcohn, 62.  Edited Star*Line 1985-1988 and 2011 (some with co-editors), three covers for it (2007), half a dozen interiors (1986-1988).  Six novels, a dozen shorter stories; forty poems in AboriginalAmazingAsimov’sStrange Horizons, Tales of the Unanticipated.  [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1964 Charles Stross, 56. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series especially the recent Empire Games and Dark State novels. Other favored works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels though the second makes me cringe. (CE)
  • Born October 18, 1965 – Sergey Poyarkov, 55.  Artist emerging to us in the 1990s.  Exhibited at some of our cons.  Artbooks Balance of ContradictionsFlawless Imperfection.  This was in a show at Odessa.  This sold at auction in 2013 for a five-figure sum.  [JH]
  • Born October 18, 1968 Lisa Irene Chappell, 52. New Zealand actress here for making a number of appearances on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys after first appearing in the a pre-series film, Hercules and the Circle of Fire. Curiously according to IMDB one of her roles was as Melissa Blake, Robert Tapert’s Assistant. Quite meta that. (CE) 
  • Born October 18, 1974 – Amish Tripathi, 46.  Eight books sold 5.5 million copies on the Indian subcontinent.  First author in Indian publishing history to have six fiction books simultaneously in the top 10 of the HT-Nielsen Bookscan national bestseller list 4 weeks in a row.  Honorary doctorate from Jharkhand Rai Univ.  Grandfather a Sanskrit scholar and a Pandit in Uttar Pradesh.  Just announced (Sep 2020) he’ll do a feature film of his Legend of Suheldev.  See his Website.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows tourism is still alive. Or is that after-alive?

(10) A GORN IN TIME SAVES NINE. “Star Trek: Discovery Season 3’s Gorn Reference Creates A TOS Plot Hole”ScreenRant seems concerned, but Doctor Who gets along fine with a complete lack of internal consistency, so as the bard say, “What, Me Worry?”

…In “That Hope Is You,” Burnham is learning about the travails of the 32nd century from Cleveland “Book” Booker, who crashed into her as the Red Angel suit dropped out of the wormhole. Book recognizes that Burnham’s wormhole was unnatural and chastises her recklessness, not yet realizing she’s a time traveler from the past. According to Book, the Gorn “destroyed two light-years worth of subspace” while attempting to creating artificial wormholes, to which Burnham replies “the Gorn did WHAT?” The biggest curiosity here isn’t whatever mischief the Gorn have been getting up to, but how Burnham has even heard of the species. The aforementioned “Arena” episode marked the moment of first contact between Starfleet and the Gorn, and was set in 2267. The Discovery departed for the far-future in 2258, so its crew should have no idea who the Gorn are, yet Burnham’s line suggests exactly the opposite.

(11) NO FLASH, PLEASE. The Guardian article about recently rediscovered concept designs for a 1979 Flash Gordon movie — “Flesh Gordon? Artwork reveals erotic version that was never made” – suffers from a confusing headline. There was, of course, a Flesh Gordon movie released in 1974. (Bjo Trimble worked on Flesh Gordon as a makeup artist, an experience she described in her book On the Good Ship Enterprise: My 15 Years with Star Trek.) But as for the project that never reached movie screens —

…[Nicolas Roeg’s] Flash Gordon film would have starred Debbie Harry, lead singer of the American band Blondie, as Princess Aura, the seductive daughter of Ming the Merciless, the tyrannical dictator, who would have been played by Hollywood movie star Keith Carradine.

But the production was abandoned before Roeg had cast his superhero after he fell out with its producer, Dino De Laurentiis, the movie mogul who made Barbarella, a 1968 science-fiction comic adaptation that turned Jane Fonda into a sex symbol. De Laurentiis had dreamed of three Flash Gordon films. He only made one, the 1980 version directed by Mike Hodges, which became a cult favourite, with huge conventions worldwide despite disappointing reviews.

… John Walsh, a film-maker and author, has retrieved about 40 designs for the Roeg version from the British Film Institute (BFI) archives: “It’s public knowledge that Roeg worked on the film’s development. What hasn’t been seen is its artwork.”

Walsh will feature the artwork in his forthcoming book, Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film, to be published on 20 November.

One image depicts Flash Gordon confronting Ming for a sword fight on top of the emperor’s royal spaceship. “It is a vast sequence that could not have been realised using 1970s technology,” Walsh said. “This image has more of the flourish of the original Raymond comic strips from the 1930s.”

(12) FRANKENSTEIN SETS A RECORD. SYFY Wire has a recommendation for your listening pleasure: “The Bride Of Frankenstein’s Original 1935 Score Hits Vinyl For First Time Ever With Spooky Cool Set”.

Directed by Frankenstein’s legendary filmmaker James Whale and released in 1935 by Universal Pictures, The Bride of Frankenstein is considered by film scholars and cinephiles to represent the pinnacle of Golden Age Hollywood horror, with chilling performances by Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester, and a haunting, majestic musical score composed by the masterful Franz Waxman.

It was chosen by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1998, having been deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Now just in time to spice up your Halloween season, New Orleans-based Waxwork Records is presenting The Bride of Frankenstein Original 1935 Motion Picture Soundtrack by Franz Waxman for pre-order on the occasion of its 85th birthday. This marks the very first time the entire score has been delivered onto vinyl, sourced from the original 1935 acetates and masters provided to Waxwork by the Waxman estate and Universal Pictures. 

(13) OLD CAT ONLY WINS ONCE A NIGHT. BBC finds the ancients also loved their SJW credentials: “Large 2,000-year-old cat discovered in Peru’s Nazca lines”.

The figure of a relaxing cat has been discovered in the Nazca desert in Peru.

The Nazca lines, a Unesco World Heritage site, is home to designs on the ground – known as geoglyphs – created some 2,000 years ago.

Scientists believe the cat, as with other Nazca animal figures, was created by making depressions in the desert floor, leaving coloured earth exposed…

In a statement, Peru’s culture ministry said: “The figure was scarcely visible and was about to disappear, because it’s situated on quite a steep slope that’s prone to the effects of natural erosion.”

It added that the geoglyph, which is about 37m (120ft) long, has been cleaned and conserved over the past week.

Johny Isla, Peru’s chief archaeologist for the Nazca lines, told Efe news agency that the cat pre-dates the Nazca culture – which created most of the figures from 200 to 700 AD.

The cat, he said, was actually from the late Paracas era, which was from 500 BC to 200 AD.

“We know that from comparing iconographies,” he said. “Paracas textiles, for example, show birds, cats and people that are easily comparable to these geoglyphs.”

(14) CHESLEY AWARDS ON THE CALENDAR. Here are the presenters for the 2020 Chesley Awards. The winners will be revealed on Saturday, October 24 at 7 p.m. EST in conjunction with IX Arts.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/17/20 The Eliot Ness Monster

(1) CARRYING OUT THEIR LAST WISHES. J. Michael Straczynski posted on Facebook today about his all-consuming role as executor for Harlan and Susan Ellison.

… “How do YOU know what the deal is, huh? My guy talked to the executor just yesterday, who told him this straight-up. How do YOU know better than HE does?”

How do I know better? How do I know these are just rumors?

Because I am the Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust.

I’ve kept a low profile since accepting this position in order to focus on of the million-and-one details that have to be addressed. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been appointed an executor, but it is a massive undertaking. To be an executor is to inherit nothing but be responsible for everything, and to implement the last wishes of those who entrusted you with the totality of their life’s work.

Consequently, ever since Susan’s passing, 80% of my day, every day, has gone into establishing the Trust, dealing with tax issues, creditors, court documents, lawyers, accountants, affidavits, death certificates, corporate minutes…in simpler cases, the process only takes a few months, and usually ends by parceling out bequests or auctioning off the estate.

But that is not the case here, because there is the legacy of Harlan’s work that must be preserved and enhanced. Looking after all this, and seeing to Harlan and Susan’s wishes, is something I will likely be doing for the rest of my life.

Everything that Harlan ever owned, did or wrote will be fiercely protected. Steps are being taken to certify Ellison Wonderland as a cultural landmark, ensuring that it will remain just as it is long after I have gone to dust.

To revive interest in his prose, literary representation has been shifted to Janklow & Nesbit, one of the largest and most prestigious literary agencies in the world. Film and TV rights will be handled through A3, previously known as the Abrams Agency, also a leading and influential agency. I will be working hand in glove with them to get Harlan’s work back into print in a big way.

There is more to say on future plans – much more – but all of that will come in time….

(2) WORD MAGIC. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick promises that Alix E. Harrow’s “‘The Once And Future Witches’ Will Have You Spellbound”.

…Harrow likes a secret society in the best way, and Witches is riddled with secrets, honeycombed with groups working toward overlapping or opposing goals. The Sisters engage in imaginative skulduggery, scrounging plans from overlooked skills and ignored know-how. She also likes an uprising, and here, where witchery and sickness both run deep as water under a layer of oil, that’s heady stuff. We all (I hope) agree women getting the vote was long overdue. Framing the reclamation of magic and power against that real-world struggle, which we know turned out a certain way, feels particularly apt to themes of once and future, poignant to the powerlessness many feel this year.

I adored watching characters as their expectations were subverted, as their understanding of their world expanded. Harrow revels in many-layered mysteries, in a story of many acts, in wordplay….

(3) MAUS ARTIST. The Guardian’s Sam Leith interviews “Graphic artist Art Spiegelman on Maus, politics and ‘drawing badly'”.

…Spiegelman’s success had the disconcerting effect of placing an artist who had been happy in the comix-with-an-x underground – a lysergic disciple of R Crumb – very firmly in the literary establishment. He became a staple of Tina Brown’s New Yorker, a darling of academics, and came to be regarded by many, not without resentment, as a sort of capo of the US comics scene.

“I remember when I first got this Pulitzer prize I thought it was a prank call,” he says, “But immediately after I got back to New York, I got an urgent call from a wonderful cartoonist and friend, Jules Feiffer: ‘We have to meet immediately. Can you come out and have a coffee?’ And we met. He said: ‘You have to understand what you’ve just got. It’s either a licence to kill, or something that will kill you.’”

That comics are now considered “respectable” – thanks in part to Maus – is something Spiegelman never quite looked for. But he acknowledges it has its advantages. “I’m astounded by how things have changed. And I would say I might have been dishonest or disingenuous when I said I wasn’t interested in it being respectable. I love the medium. And I love what was done in it from the 19th century to now. But I know that on some level, I want it to be able to not have to make everything have a joke, or an escapist adventure story.”

His rocket launch into canonicity was both “liberating and also incredibly confining – trying to find places to go where I wouldn’t have to be the Elie Wiesel of comic books”. Even at the time, Spiegelman seems to have been conscious that Maus would be in danger of defining him. The next project he took on was illustrating Moncure March’s jazz-age poem The Wild Party for a small press: “This was going to be a kind of polar opposite [to Maus]: decorative, erotic, frivolous in many ways and involved with the pleasures of making; although it didn’t turn out to be so pleasurable in its third year. Every project I start turns into a coffin.”

(4) MAKE IT SO. “‘I Longed To See Something Different, So I Wrote It’: Questions For Rebecca Roanhorse” at NPR.

… In an email interview, Roanhorse tells me that’s something she’s always wanted to write about. “I have been reading epic fantasies inspired by European settings since I was a child, and while I’m still a fan of many of these works, I longed to see something different,” she says. “So I wrote it. I never made a conscious decision to go in that direction. That direction was simply the natural culmination of my love of the architecture, poetry, politics, and history of these places and people that I’ve been learning about forever.”

(5) IN MEMORY NOT GREEN. The actress says it ain’t so: “Tatiana Maslany Refutes She-Hulk Casting Report: Lead Role In Disney+ Series ‘Not Actually A Thing” at SYFY Wire.

Previous reports that Tatiana Maslany was getting ready to go green may have been premature. The Canadian-born Orphan Black star recently told an Ontario newspaper that she’s not been cast, after all, as the star of Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk series at Disney+.

Speaking with the The Sudbury Star this week, Maslany tapped the brakes on all the She-Hulk hype, saying she’s “unfortunately” not currently tied to the series. First reported by Variety in September, word quickly spread that Marvel had tapped Maslany to play Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk), the comics-based cousin of Bruce Banner.

(6) GAME FACE. Ty Schalter’s “Personal Canons: Ender’s Game” is the latest guest post in Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series.

…So why, then, am I putting on my cape and riding out for this book as one that Everyone Must Read?

It’s not just because it remains a beautiful piece of art. Neither is it just because many other great books Card wrote have been silenced by his own inability to let them speak for themselves. Nor is it just because Ender’s Game deserves to be snatched from the canonical pyre and preserved for future generations.

It’s because Ender’s Game is a warning.

It’s a warning to privileged kids like me, who believe they know better than everyone else, when they don’t know how to turn in their homework on time. It’s a warning to everyone who thinks the universe owes them anything, just because of the circumstances of their birth. It’s a warning to a society that will stop at nothing to put itself first, even if that means perverting everything it’s supposed to stand for. Most of all, it’s a warning to authors, to readers, to writers, to the SFF community.

Yes, it’s possible to build a future where everyone can thrive together. Where our stories and our lives are enriched by the diversity of our voices, experiences, myths, cultures, and canons. Where the stories we tell light the way for all of humanity.

But the moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice by default. It requires constant, collective work with hammer and tongs. It requires pain, exhaustion, sacrifice by those who are able on behalf of those who aren’t. It requires humble reflection on everything we’ve ever done and choosing to do the right thing now, again and again, no matter how badly (or how often) we’ve screwed up. It is the journey of a lifetime, or many lifetimes.

(7) THE LIGHTHEARTEDNESS OF OTHER DAYS. James Wallace Harris surveys the field in “Poking Fun at Science Fiction”, but confesses, “My problem is sarcasm, satire, and subtle jabs go right over my head (my lady friends take advantage of this).”

…Study that Emsh (Ed Emshwiller) painting above. At first I thought it a clever way to suggest action – a woman had been abducted from a space colony. But then I thought of something, and it became funny, But how could it possibly comic? Obviously a woman has been kidnapped by an alien on a colony world – that’s tragic. But if you know the history of science fiction magazines, and the cliches about covers with BEMs carrying off a scantily clad women, then you might think Emsh is playing around. In case you don’t know the lingo, BEM stands for bug eyed monster. Sex sells, even for science fiction magazines. Why did Emsh leave off the sexy woman and lower the sales of that issue? Because we expected a naked woman he thought might be funny to disappoint us. Sure, the painting is of a serious action scene, a man is running to rescue a woman. Maybe even the editor told him, “No babes.” But I like to think Emsh is also poking fun at science fiction (See the section below, Sex, Nudity, and Prudity in Science Fiction.)

(8) FLEMING OBIT. Actress Rhonda Fleming died October 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Rhonda Fleming, 97, Movie Star Made for Technicolor, Is Dead”. Here’s a brief excerpt concerning her genre connections.

Rhonda Fleming, the red-haired actress who became a popular sex symbol in Hollywood westerns, film noir and adventure movies of the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97.

Ms. Fleming’s roles included those of a beautiful Arthurian princess in the Bing Crosby musical version of Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (1949).

… Ms. Fleming’s … last film was “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 spy comedy based on the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart,” in which she played Edith Von Secondberg, an international fashion designer.

In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, relaxing at her California home with Mr. Mann, she said, “My husband recently asked me if I’d seen any movie I wanted to appear in.” She went straight for a specific role. “I said yes, the dinosaur in ‘Jurassic Park.’”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago at Noreascon Two, Alien would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Ridley Scott from the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon off the story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. This would the second Hugo nomination form O’Bannon who was nominated earlier at MidAmeriCon for Dark Star. He’d would win his second Hugo several years later for Aliens at Conspiracy ’87, and be later nominated at Chicon V for Total Recall and Alien 3 at ConFrancisco. A half million audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a horrifyingly great ninety-four percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 17, 1856 – Jane Barlow.  Knew French & German; classical scholar; pianist.  D.Litt. from Univ. Dublin.  A score of books; Irish Idylls went into nine editions.  For us The End of Elfintown book-length poem; translation of The Battle of Frogs and Mice, title page here; under another name, A Strange Land.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1917 Marsha Hunt, 103. Performer who appeared in both the original versions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, also appeared in Star Trek: The Next GenerationShadow Chasers and Fear No Evil. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 86. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a BBC video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it.  (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1942 – John Sapienza, Jr., 78.  Gamer (six years in Alarums & Excursions), WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) stalwart, helpful con-runner (he was at SMOFcon 7; SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” being as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better; SMOFcon 37 was in 2019), and lawyer, who found himself marrying Peggy Rae Pavlat, which had an effect like Atomic Mouse’s U-235 pills.  He was and is quite worthy; I said the only way Peggy Rae could have got more sapience was by marrying him.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Robert Jordan.  Best known for the Wheel of Time series, finished by Brandon Sanderson at RJ’s death.  Also Conan the Barbarian books.  Under other names, historical fiction, a Western, dance criticism.  In the Army earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with oak-leaf cluster, Bronze Star with “V” and oak-leaf cluster, two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm.  His widow continues as an editor.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1950 – Michael J. Walsh, F.N., 70.  Another WSFA stalwart, he chaired Constellation the 41st Worldcon, three Disclaves including one he couldn’t attend, two Capclaves, Balticon 15, three World Fantasy Conventions.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 29, Lunacon 40, Armadillocon 36, World Fantasy Con 2018.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Publisher, Old Earth Books.  Occasional Filer.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1951 – Geraldine Harris, 69.  Five novels, two shorter stories; see her Website here.  Also children’s books on ancient Egypt.  Married name Geraldine Pinch identifies her academic work in Egyptology, from which she says she has retired.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1958 Jo Fletcher, 62. British editor who, after working for Gollancz for 16 years, founded Jo Fletcher Books in 2011. Interestingly ISFDB says she’s done two World Fantasy Convention souvenir books, Gaslight & Ghosts and Secret City: Strange Tales of London, both with Stephen Jones. She also wrote with him the British Report aka The London Report for Science Fiction Chronicle. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 52. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll noted he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 49. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1983 Felicity Jones,  37. She played Ethel Hallow for one series of The Worst Witch and its sequel Weirdsister College. She’d later be in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Felicia Hardy and in Rogue One as Jyn Erso. I’d say her role as balloon pilot Amelia Wren in The Aeronauts is genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1984 – Randall Munroe, 36.  Stick-figure cartoons can degenerate into word gags, and the endlessly sour can tire like the sweet, but speaking of endlessness, “Time” in RM’s xkcd won the Best-Graphic-Story Hugo having been updated every thirty minutes 25-30 Mar 2013, then every hour until 26 Jul, in total 3,099 images; he evidently learned Time must have a stopHuxley did.  A teacher of mine said “There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.
  • Bliss suggests the next Harry Potter title.
  • A mega-dose of secret history at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

(12) GRAB AND GO. October 20 will be the day NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex snatches a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Planetary Society has a briefing: “Your Guide to the OSIRIS-REx sample collection”. Click on planetary.org/live for NASA TV coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET / 21:00 UTC.

…Collecting a sample from Bennu is no small challenge. The asteroid, which measures 500 meters (a third of a mile) wide, ended up being much rockier than mission designers expected. The sample site is just 16 meters in diameter and surrounded by boulders bigger than OSIRIS-REx itself. The spacecraft must collect its sample without guidance from Earth, since it currently takes nearly 20 minutes for signals to travel between our planet and Bennu at the speed of light.

The entire process takes almost 5 hours. OSIRIS-REx will match Bennu’s 4-hour rotation rate and slowly descend to the surface. To give the spacecraft more room to maneuver, it adjusts itself into a Y-shape, extending its sample arm 3 meters and tilting back its two solar panels. Eventually OSIRIS-REx must turn its high-gain antenna away from Earth, restricting the volume of information ground controllers can receive. The spacecraft figures out where it is by comparing surface views from prior flyovers with real-time camera images. It will back away immediately if it thinks it’s going to crash.

Bennu barely has any gravity, so OSIRIS-REx can’t land. Instead, the spacecraft will high-five Bennu with a cylindrical dinner plate-sized device at the end of its arm called TAGSAM, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM blasts nitrogen gas into the surface, kicking dust and small rocks into a collection chamber that runs around the inside of the device.

OSIRIS-REx won’t overstay its welcome, immediately backing a safe distance away from Bennu. The mission team will take pictures of TAGSAM to verify they got a sample, and later spin the spacecraft to weigh it. If for some reason things go awry, the spacecraft carries enough nitrogen for two more collection attempts. But if everything goes according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will store the sample in a capsule and depart for Earth next year. In September 2023, the capsule will parachute to a landing in Utah.

(13) POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH WITH BRAIN INSPIRED COMPUTING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A core trope of science fiction has been ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) from Arthur Clarke’s HAL 9000 to Philip K. Dick’s replicants.  In real life, computer scientists have over-used the term, applying it to things like facial recognition, and so for what SF folk would call AI they call it General Artificial Intelligence (GAI).  In addition to the rod to GAI, there is also the problem of Moore’s Law by which computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years: this cannot go on indefinitely and we may reach the limit in a decade or so’s time.  Chinese computer scientists from the Centre for Brain-Inspired Computing Research, Tsinghua University, Beijing, have just had a breakthrough that is likely to help address both issues.  Their work is rather technical but in essence they have developed a new approach using neural networks. Instead of getting the network to work like a normal computer, they have developed a new computer system hierarchy.  In essence, while normal computers have an algorithm described in software which is accurately compiled into an exact equivalent intermediate representation of hardware — a set of instructions that is then run on the hardware, what the computer scientists have done is develop an inexact, approximate way to do this.  This overcomes the difficulty of producing exact representations in neural networks. One advantage of this is that their programs can be run on a number of different types of neural network.  Another is that while exactness is lost, processing speeds and power greatly increases.

All this sounds very fine, but will it work? Well, they have tried it out with three experiments done both their new way and on a traditional computer as well as a platform, based on devices called memristors, that accelerate neural network function. One, was to simulate the flight of a flock of birds. The second was to simulate riding a bike, and the third performing a linear algebra analysis called QR decomposition.  All worked.  However the degree of accuracy presented by the new architecture depended on the degree of approximation used. For example, with 10% error no bird, in the flock of birds simulation, matched the standard computer simulation. But with 0.1% error nearly all the birds were plotted either overlapping or immediately adjacent to those plotted with the standard traditional computer simulation.  It may well be that in a couple of decade’s time, when you are locked out of your home by your house AI and arguing with it to be let in, you may reflect that the key stepping stone to creating such GAIs was this research.  (See the review article as well as the primary research abstract and the full paper (available only to subscribers and at subscribing academic libraries’ computer terminals.)

Meanwhile you can see a summary of last season’s science over at ;SF² Concatenation.

(14) REPEATEDLY FRAMED. Not Pulp Covers gives Ray Harryhausen a taste of his own stop-motion:

Special effects master, Ray Harryhausen, demonstrates animating a skeleton warrior from 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

(15) VOLUMES OF MONEY. Learn “Why first edition books can attract obsessive collectors and sell for eye-watering sums” at Inews.

Sales of first editions have made headlines around the world this week after fetching eye-watering price tags.

A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of his plays, from 1623 – was sold by Christie’s at auction in New York for a record $9.98m (£7.6m), hot on the heels of the sale of a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for £75,000 on Tuesday.

But beyond the big hitters, there are collectors all around the world quietly seeking out first editions. They can amass important collections that would be nigh-on impossible to achieve if it was art, and not books, they were buying.

… Beyond that, collectors love first editions because they can show how the author wanted the book to look and can be a joint collaboration between author and publisher.

F Scott Fitzgerald, for example, was shown the original artwork for the dust jacket of The Great Gatsby and it influenced his thoughts on the novel. He wrote to his publisher in August 1924, begging them to keep the jacket for him as he had “written it into the book”.

Arthur Ransome so disliked the drawings produced for his book Swallows and Amazons that only the dust wrapper, endpaper and frontispiece designs were retained. He would eventually go on to illustrate it himself.

The Hobbit’s famous first edition cover – featuring a mountainous landscape – was designed by JRR Tolkien himself and is loved by collectors and fans alike.

And Lewis Carroll withdrew the initial print run of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over the quality of the images. There are thought to be only 22 of them in existence; with such scarcity comes a willingness from collectors to pay huge sums.

(16) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it’s actually a plasma torch, but it does look (and somewhat act) like the “real” thing. “Lightsaber technology has improved in the real world with the help of this retractable plasma sword” at SYFY Wire.

Lightsaber technology has come a long way since Star Wars‘ George Lucas painted some wooden dowel rods for Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Now people in the real world have actually created the ancient and respected blade of the Jedi — and it’s getting closer and closer to the legit canon construction. The latest evolution involves a retractable flaming beam that offers up 4000° of Darth Maul-halving power.

The latest step in The Hacksmith‘s grand quest for a real-life lightsaber (the YouTuber has been advancing his constructions over many different iterations) involves a retractable “blade” that replaces the super-hot metal rod from previous editions like the protosaber. Now it really looks like the lightsaber blade is extending and retracting, along with all the fiery damage it brings.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Every now and then.]

Pixel Scroll 10/16/20 Hey! HAL! I’m Not Just Sitting Here On The Dock Of The Pod Door Bay For My Health! Open The $^%&$! Door, HAL!

(1) A TAIL OF SPACE. A new Star Trek: Discovery trailer. Complete with a certain feline. 

(2) PARIS CALLING. Halfway through the Constelación Magazine Kickstarter, they are announcing their second special event – “Translation Station” with Aliette de Bodard and Cristina Jurado. Takes place October 23 at 7 p.m. Paris time (10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern)  Register here.

Our very own Cristina Jurado is hosting a chat with multi-award-winning author Aliette de Bodard. They’ll have a fascinating conversation about translations and languages, and whever else happens to come up.

To date the Kickstarter has raised $10,048 of their $18,000 goal.

(3) ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH. In “Barnes & Noble Cyberattack” Locus Online signal boosts a warning to B&N customers:

Barnes & Noble CEO Darren Guccione warned customers to be “on high alert” following an October 10 data breach. The company notified customers via email.

While we do not know if any personal information was exposed as a result of the attack, we do retain in the impacted systems your billing and shipping addresses, your email address and your telephone number if you have supplied these… It is possible that your email address was exposed and, as a result, you may receive unsolicited emails… We currently have no evidence of the exposure of any of this data, but we cannot at this stage rule out the possibility….

(4) TOP 100 FANTASY LIST. TIME Magazine has anointed “The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time”

… To develop our list, we began in 2019 by recruiting a panel of leading fantasy authors—Tomi Adeyemi, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Marlon James, N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin and Sabaa Tahir—to join TIME staff in nominating the top books of the genre (panelists did not nominate their own works). The group then rated 250 nominees on a scale, and using their responses, TIME created a ranking. Finally, TIME editors considered each finalist based on key factors, including originality, ambition, artistry, critical and popular reception, and influence on the fantasy genre and literature more broadly.

The result is a list that underscores the imaginative breadth of fantasy fiction—from early roots in the oral storytelling tradition that brought about works like The Arabian Nights, to modern classics like A Wrinkle in Time and groundbreaking recent novels like Black Leopard, Red WolfThe Poppy War and Elatsoe. Together, these titles help us trace our history and understand our reality….

I’ve read 24 of these, which is a disgraceful score – fortunately a few more of them are on my TBR pile.

Rich Horton regaled Facebook readers about the list’s deficiencies:

… Chew on that for a bit. This list doesn’t include Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It doesn’t include Little, Big. I could make a case that those are the two BEST fantasies of the past half-century. But they don’t make this list?…

He also noted that a third of the listed books came out in the past 6 years. Is this a Golden Age of fantasy, or is that another problem?

TIME also ran an article by N.K. Jemisin about the “Timeless Power of Fantasy”

… These are fraught times—but there have always been fraught times for someone in the world, somewhere. And there have always been those whose mastery of the art of storytelling has helped us understand how powerfully stories shape the world. C.S. Lewis sought to comfort children with faith. Philip Pullman disturbed them with warnings of encroaching fascism. There is a preponderance of stories aimed at children on this list, possibly because we’re still openly hungry for stories in the years of our childhood, and thus the stories we absorb then have a lasting effect. Our hunger for stories doesn’t really change when we grow up, however; the need is still there, acknowledged or not—especially if the stories we’ve been given up to that point don’t accurately encapsulate reality. Thus it’s fitting that some of the most powerful storytellers on this list, such as Victor LaValle, engage with adult concerns like parenthood instead of myth.

Is it comforting to see how many of the stories on this list wrestle with the need to reform institutions and change the leadership of society? It could be. Yet the newer storytellers on the list, many of whom hail from colonized cultures and thus have vastly different background stories from those of “classic” fantasy authors, also warn us of the realities of societal strife. The good guys don’t always win, the bad guys don’t always lose, and either way, the ones who suffer most will be the people who were already struggling to get by….

(5) FORGOTTEN DOCTORS. Artist Paul Hanley posted his conceptions for the Doctor Who TARDIS console rooms of “forgotten doctors” or those seen briefly in the Fourth Doctor serial “The Brain of Morbius”. Thread starts here. The first two:

(6) POPULAR FEAR. “Little Bursts of Fright: The Horror Anthology Is Having a Heyday” reports the New York Times.

When Mary Laws set out to create “Monsterland,” her new socially conscious horror anthology series on Hulu, she drew inspiration from the concise, unnerving fables of the British playwright Caryl Churchill.

“She knows how to tell a scary story,” said Laws, who has a playwriting background. “She refuses to give the audience a break.”

But Laws also looked within.

“As a woman, part of why I’m interested in horror is that I’ve been put in horrific situations and have experienced something like real terror,” she said. “My womanness has led me into those action-packed two minutes of tense terror that you feel when you’re facing some kind of dreaded situation. That’s the way that I think horror has to work.”

Accelerated terror in a fleeting time frame: that’s the revved-up engine that drives “Monsterland” and other new horror anthologies out this spooky season. Hulu’s “Books of Blood” assembles three tales inspired by Clive Barker’s short stories. “The Mortuary Collection,” on Shudder, is a compilation of darkly antic narratives. Quibi’s blood-and-guts series “50 States of Fright” recently released several new episodes, each set in a different state.

Sam Raimi, an executive producer of “50 States of Fright,” said the best short-form horror is “designed like a great campfire tale.”

“It’s something you can really get goose bumps from in a brief amount of time,” said Raimi, known to horror fans as the director of the “Evil Dead” movies. “I like the precision that it takes for a filmmaker to hold the audience in its grip.”

(7) IMAGINARY PAPERS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the 4th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. The new issue features writing from SF critic Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Katherine Buse, a scholar of digital media and the environmental humanities.

Buse’s Forgotten Futures segment discusses —

SimEarth (1990)

I like to say that my favorite video game is SimEarth (1990). But this is a joke: as far as I know, SimEarth has never been anyone’s favorite. Attempting to embody the paradox of “fun climate model,” it’s borderline unplayable: it’s baffling, slow, and lacking in what McKenzie Wark calls “satisfying win conditions.” It was created by Will Wright in consultation with James Lovelock as a software implementation of the Gaia Hypothesis, a theory of life at the planetary scale which Lovelock began to develop while working at NASA on astrobiology….

(8) NEUKOM WINNERS PANEL. Neukom Institute Director Dan Rockmore invites you to an “Online Event with 2020 Speculative Fiction Literary Arts Awards Winners” on Wednesday, October 21 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

The panel discussion includes Neukom Award winners for Speculative Fiction (Debut) Cadwell Turnbull, author of The Lesson, Speculative Fiction (Open Category) Ted Chiang, whose stories are collected in Exhalation, and award judge Sam J. Miller.

Use the link below to join the online event:
https://dartmouth.zoom.u/j/93780993554?pwd=am5xQU0xTURIYmVHenhhNm0zdUZYZz09

Passcode: 789407

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1990 — Thirty years ago at ConFiction, the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, would go to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Released the previous year by  Lucasfilm, it was, of course, directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Jeffrey Boam which in turn was based off the story by George Lucas and Menno Meyjes. Need we note that George Lucas created the characters? Runners-up were The Adventures of Baron MunchausenBatmanField of Dreams and The Abyss. It holds a rather spectacular ninety-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 16, 1924 David Armstrong. He never had a major role but he was in myriad gene shows. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. alone he appeared in twenty-two episodes in twenty-two different minor roles, he was a henchman twice on Batman and had two uncredited appearances on Trek as well. He showed up on Mission ImpossibleGet Smart!The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and even The Invaders. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 95. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the BSFA Award for Best Film and is based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1947 Guy Siner, 73. Apparently he’s one of only ten actors to appear in both the Trek and Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”.  And that might place him in very select acting company indeed. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1958 Tim Robbins, 62. I think his finest role was as Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, but his first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in the truly awful War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in the even worse Green Lantern. (CE)
  • Born October 16, 1965 Joseph Mallozzi, 55. He is most noted for his work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three Stargate series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series. (CE)
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 47. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Real Humans upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1827 – Arnold Böcklin.  Symbolist painter.  Here is Self Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle.  Here is Silence of the Forest.  Here is St. Anthony Preaching to the Fish.  Here is Faun Whistling to a Blackbird.  Most famous for five versions of The Isle of the Dead – here is one – which inspired Mahler, Rachmaninoff, and Zelazny: this Dean Ellis cover is an homage.  (Died 1901) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1891 – Frances Comstock.  Illustrator, painter, sculptor.  Here is her cover for Dewey’s Star People.  Here is her frontispiece and an interior for Fairy Frolics.  Here is her cover for La Mothe – Fouqué’s Undine and here is an interior.  Here is an illustration for Crothers’ Ignominy of Being Grown-Up.  (Died 1922) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1926 – Ed Valigursky.  Two hundred covers, six dozen interiors.  Here is the Nov 51 Fantastic.  Here is The Stars Are Ours!, hello Publius – note the really wonderful foreground faces.  Here is The Pawns of Null-A.  Here is City.  Here is The Currents of Space.  Here is an interior illustrating “The Black Tide”.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1947 – Laura Brodian Kelly-Freas Beraha, D.M.E., 73.  Doctorate in Music Education (I heard her play piano two-hands with Somtow Sucharitkul), then San Francisco Bay area fandom.  Moved to L.A., exchanged coats by mistake with Kelly Freas at a party, married him, won a Chesley with him, survived him, married a local teacher whose name means blessed.  No one else outranks me as a Kelly Freas fan.  [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1951 – Patrice Kindl, 69.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, Children’s Fiction, for Owl in Love.  Six more novels.  She and husband (son works in Manhattan) have 1 dog, 1 parrot, 1 cat; have raised monkeys, have housed hawks.  “All my characters are made up….  This isn’t an easy profession….  Read a lot and write a lot.”  Do I have to wait until I’m grown up? “No.  You should be reading and writing now.”  Does spelling matter? “Yes.  Yes, yes, yes!”  Grammar isn’t important, is it? “YES!  YES!  YES!”  Hmmmm.  This sounds like work.  “Yes.”  [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1973 – Christian Cantrell, 47.  Three novels, half a dozen shorter stories, despite or because of being Director of Design Prototyping at Adobe.  Hulu, TriStar, Fox 21, Random House projects in the works. “You can,” he says, “plant paphiopedilums [Venus’ slippers] in lava rock”, and he shows us.  [JH]

(11) END OF THE LINE. If you have the stomach for it, you can learn a lot about “The Last Days of Stan Lee” on the AARP site. Tagline: “A heartbreaking tragedy about the (alleged) abuse of the Marvel Comics creator by those who swear they loved him.”

…As we approach the second anniversary of Lee’s death, a half-dozen civil suits are pending and a criminal elder-abuse prosecution by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office remains mired in pretrial maneuverings. The courts have yet to shed light on many of the details and the veracity of the elder-abuse charges against several people. Elder-abuse cases are difficult to bring to trial, tough to litigate and hard to win. Was Stan Lee, like 1 in 10 Americans over age 60, a true victim of elder abuse, which can include physical violence, emotional torment, financial exploitation and willful deprivation? Plenty of evidence and testimony suggests that may be true.

But uncomfortable questions will arise along the way: Is it possible that our real-life hero, like many others in his situation, was complicit in his own abuse? And who will be the villain in this story? There will be plenty of suspects to choose from, but in the end, you will be shocked but not surprised.

(12) CAMEO COLLECTION. Last night’s Jeopardy hearkened back to Stan’s brighter days – unknown to the contestants, evidently. Andrew Porter took notes:

Final Jeopardy: Movie Appearances

Not an actor, this man who died in 2018 appeared briefly in some 40 mainly action films with a combined $30 billion worldwide gross,

Wrong question: Who is ?

Correct question: Who is Stan Lee?

(13) THE TWENTIES ARE NOT ROARING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here are a few news stories about the pandemic woes of the British and global cinema industry, mostly from the Guardian

Months after the initial Covid-19 restrictions closed all cinemas, Australian moviegoers are beginning to return for socially distanced screenings across most of the country.

But with most major international releases delayed, the large chains that rely on blockbusters face an uncertain future. And for independent operators, more accustomed to showing reruns of classics and local titles, the outlook is not much clearer….

…But the immediate future for Bollywood in the UK now looks particularly bleak, given that Cineworld venues host more than half of all Bollywood screenings in the UK, presenting between 40 and 50 different films a year. The prospect of reduced takings in the UK is being felt in Mumbai, where the industry relies on the territory for a sizeable chunk of its overseas revenue.

…“But for me the really big success is the BFI restoration of La Haine,” said Wood. “We’ve played it now for four weeks and it’s sold out every single performance.” Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder has also been hugely popular.

“Many of the successes have been foreign language, a number are directed by women, some directed by people of colour,” Wood said.

UK cinema admissions are set to hit their lowest level since records began almost a century ago, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic wiping almost £1bn from box office sales.

…Do you need the same number of cinemas if they’re only showing blockbusters? For some time, many of them have been artificially sustained anyway, the real estate empty for much of the day. There’s also the problem that this is a sector that’s historically been very conservative and reluctant to innovate. I remember when there was a great controversy about the introduction of cup-holders.

…I love the cinema – it truly brings me joy. “Escapism” sells the experience short; I feel alive and engaged when lost in a narrative that is not my own. I used to see about three films a week, but I think I’ve seen about three films since March because watching them at home just doesn’t come close and I haven’t been back since the cinemas reopened as it doesn’t feel like the responsible thing to do. Covid is meant to spread best in an enclosed environment and I’d feel proper shit if I caught it and ended up giving it to my parents and they then died because I just had to see Tenet.

…One of my routes on my morning runs each week takes me past a small independent high-end movie theater, privately owned. It has a full restaurant, a beautiful bar, a space that can be rented for civic events, and six small theaters with extremely comfortable chairs.

In the Before times, as one reporter likes to call everything pre-Covid, the theater had a wait-staff that would take your orders while you sank into those seats to watch your favorite blockbuster. Every Democratic Presidential candidate held an event in that theater in the run-up to February’s caucus. Not a week went by when I didn’t see or get an invitation to a special event held there.

In March, when quarantine set in, the theater’s owners put up huge sheets of plywood over the display windows on all three stories of the building and made the lovely balcony inaccessible should someone get the bright idea to climb up there.

No one has painted the plywood, unlike so many other plywood coverings in the Arts District here. So the high-end theater now looks like an abandoned building. A group of homeless men slept against the plywood until someone moved them out. Occasionally, one of the totally stoned people from the high-end marijuana dispensary across the street will sit on a bench near the plywood, swaying to music only they can hear….

(14) BUTLER DID IT. Having seen the trailer, JJ calls Greenland “like a bad mashup of Deep Impact, Armagedddon, and 2012: We Were Warned.

A family fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary. Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.

(15) DRAMATIC TRACKS. “Prehistoric footprints of woman carrying toddler while dodging sabre-toothed cats unearthed” – let Yahoo! News tell you the story.

Prehistoric footprints of a woman carrying a toddler while dodging sabre-toothed cats and giant sloths are the longest set of fossilised human prints ever found, scientists have said.  

The prints, which stretch for almost a mile and were discovered in the White Sands National Park in New Mexico, USA, date back 13,000 years.

…Locally known as “ghost tracks” because they can only be seen under certain weather conditions, the adult tracks were first discovered in 2017, followed by the child’s.

The prints tell the remarkable story of a woman and a small child as they made their way across the mudflats with large predators crossing their path.

An analysis found the woman was moving at a rapid pace, intermittently carrying and putting down the child.

On the outward journey, her prints show that she was slipping, suggesting conditions were wet and treacherous. But on her return, following the same path almost exactly, she was alone and no slipping marks were detected.

During the trips, other tracks show a giant sloth, mammoths and sabre-tooth cats crossed their path, and the sloth was startled by their scent.

“As the animal approached the trackway, it appears to have reared up on its hind legs to catch the scent, pausing by turning and trampling the human tracks before dropping to all fours and making off,” Prof Bennett said….

(16) HOT ON THE TRAILER. Amazon Prime introduces Invincible. The series will be online in 2021.

INVINCIBLE is an adult animated superhero series that revolves around 17-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), who’s just like every other guy his age — except his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Joey Eschrich, Ben Bird Person, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “I Can Improve On The Classics” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/15/20 The People All Said Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Fabulous Riverboat

(1) BELTERS AND SUSPENDERS. Amazon Prime dropped The Expanse – Season 5 Official Trailer

The future of The Belt has begun as Marco Inaros wages Armageddon against the Inners for a lifetime of oppression and injustice.

(2) NEW MOON TREATIES. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says that the U.S. and seven other countries have signed the Artemis Accords which regulate conduct on the Moon including the role private businesses can play in mining and other enterprises: “Seven nations join the U.S. in signing the Artemis Accords, creating a legal framework for behavior in space”.

NASA announced Tuesday that seven nations have joined the United States in signing the Artemis Accords, a series of bilateral agreements that would establish rules for the peaceful use of outer space and govern behavior on the surface of the moon.

The rules would allow private companies to extract lunar resources, create safety zones to prevent conflict and ensure that countries act transparently about their plans in space and share their scientific discoveries.

… By law, the United States is effectively barred from cooperating with China in space. But NASA officials said that even if Russia and China are not signatories, the accords would be successful because they would create a baseline for the world to follow.

“Precedent is important,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the office of international and interagency relations. “By embracing our values, along with our partners, we’re creating a track record, a norm of behavior that will influence the entire world to proceed with the transparent, peaceful and safe exploration of space.”

Signatories would agree, for example, to help provide emergency assistance in the case of an injured astronaut. They would also agree to protect historic sites, such as the Apollo 11 landing area. They would also agree to be transparent about their plans for space and share scientific data.

The accords would allow countries or companies to create “safety zones” so they could work to extract resources. NASA and China are both interested in going to the South Pole of the moon, where there is water in the form of ice in the shadows of craters.

Being able to operate there safely, without interference, will be critical if multiple nations are vying for the same resource in the same place, he said.

“The most valuable resource that I think any nation is going to be interested in is the water ice at the South Pole,” he said. “So if we get to a position where there is a competition for that resource that’s an area that we’re going to have to deal with.”

(3) TIME TO CAPITALIZE. DisCon III, the 79th Worldcon, officially began taking applications for the Capitalize! fan fund today — application forms are available here. The fund’s purpose is to “financially support fans, staff, and program participants from marginalized communities in an effort to lift voices across science fiction, fantasy, and fandom who have not been recognized in the past.” (More details in this post: “2021 Worldcon Launches Capitalize! The DisCon III Fan Fund”.)

Donations are requested so they can increase their outreach. Jared Dashoff says, “The Worldcon community can only gain by opening its doors and growing. Diversity benefits us all.”

(4) HEAR CORA’S STORY. Cora Buhlert’s short story, “Patient X-5” is now online in the latest episode of the podcast Simultaneous Times: “Space Cowboy Books Presents: Simultaneous Times Ep.32 – Cora Buhlert & Andy Dibble”. She says, “They did a great job with the production. There’s even incidental music and sound effects.”

(5) WHERE BRITISH TOWNSPEOPLE WANT TO SAVE A DALEK. Atlas Obscura looked on in fascination: “When Town Council and a Sci-fi Museum Went to War Over a Dalek”.

IT WAS A COLD JANUARY morning in 2019 when an unfamiliar car rolled into Allendale, a small village nestled within the North Pennines in Northumberland County, England. This wasn’t unusual; in the prior three months the village had seen a fresh influx of visitors, ever since the grand opening of “Neil Cole’s Adventures in Science Fiction: Museum of Sci-fi.” The family-run business, with a menagerie of pop-culture intergalactic friends and foes in an impressive array of classic movie and television props, costumes, and original artwork, wasn’t so much a museum as it was a loving ode to the genre. As odd a choice as the quiet, historically rich Allendale seemed for such a contemporary collection, locals had whole-heartedly embraced the attraction and welcomed the tourism it brought.

The passengers in the vehicle, however, had not come as tourists. “Three huge guys were banging on our door every 15 minutes,” recalls Neil Cole, the eponymous owner, whose personal collection of memorabilia populates the museum. “There was a car watching from across the street. This was the [Northumberland County] Council; it was the first we’d heard from them.” The men, officers from Highways Enforcement, had been sent by the Council to follow up on a complaint that had been lodged against the museum by a single Allendale resident.

Cole and his wife, Lisa, had been accused of defiling their historically listed property by installing a modern timber shed outside it, along the street, without planning permission. They were given 14 days to remove it. This was no ordinary shed: It was home to a life-size Dalek.

Bureaucratic wrangling countered by popular support have put matters on pause while the next round of drama is prepared.

… “The Council was meant to work with me to come up with a solution and build something else,” Cole says. “But when we contacted them, they just wouldn’t.” In early August 2020, the Coles finally dismantled the shed. The loss comes with a silver lining, as the shed will be donated to the village preschool, where it will live on as a play area for children. A weather-resistant steel Dalek is currently being built to take the place of its predecessor as the new museum sentinel, Council be damned.

(6) HANDLE WITH CARE. When picking up some old volumes, collectors might be taking their lives in their hands: “Poison Book Project”.

The Winterthur Poison Book Project is an ongoing investigation initiated in April 2019 to identify potentially toxic pigments coloring Victorian-era bookcloth.

Analysis of decorated, cloth-case, publisher’s bindings at Winterthur Library revealed starch-coated bookcloth colored with “emerald green,” or copper acetoarsenite, an inorganic pigment known to be extremely toxic. This pigment’s popularity in England and the United States during the Victorian era is well documented. While the colorant was known to be widely used in textiles for home decoration and apparel, wallpaper, and toys, its use specifically in bookcloth has not been formally explored. Successful bookcloths were a closely guarded trade secret during the nineteenth century, limiting our current understanding of their materiality and manufacture. Conservation staff and interns at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library conducted a survey of bookcloth pigments in order to correlate the presence of emerald green and other potentially toxic pigments with specific publishers and date ranges. The project initially focused on the library’s circulating collection, which poses a greater potential risk to patrons, and then expanded to include the rare book collection.

In December 2019, the Winterthur Library data set was further expanded in cooperation with The Library Company of Philadelphia, which has significant holdings of cloth-case publisher’s bindings.

What differentiates this research project from others centered around arsenic-based pigments in library collections is threefold: first, the toxic pigment permeates the outer covering of Victorian-era, cloth-case publisher’s bindings; second, the large quantity of arsenic-based pigment present in bookcloth; and third, such mass-produced bindings may be commonly found in both special and circulating library collections across the United States and the United Kingdom….

(7) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In “Kids And Thrillers And Their Freaky Powers” on CrimeReads, C.J. Tudor recommends novels by Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Justin Cronin if you want to read books about kids with paranormal powers.

A Cosmology of Monsters by Sean Hamill

Noah Turner sees monsters.

So did his dad. In fact, he built a shrine to them, The Wandering Dark, a horror experience that the whole family operates every Halloween.

His mother denies her own glimpses of terror to keep the family from falling apart. But terrible things keep happening, including the death of Noah’s dad, the sudden disappearance of his oldest sister, Sydney, and his sister Eunice’s mental illness, not to mention the missing children from the town.

Then a huge supernatural creature that turns up on Noah’s doorstep one night . . . and Noah lets his monster in. 

(8) GIVE FEEDBACK TO THE WFC BOARD. Cheryl Morgan writes it off as “Another Year, Another World Fantasy Debacle”, however, she hasn’t ruled out participating on the program.  

…As it happens, although I thought I had confirmed my willingness to be on panel, no one from WFC has been in touch to explain about the change of panel description. So now I am not entirely sure whether I am still on panel. In any case, I am considering my position.

But Morgan does advise –

…This is your chance, fandom. You keep complaining that “They” should fix Worldcon, even though you know that there is no “They” with the power to do it, at least not in the short term. “They” should fix World Fantasy too, and in this case They exist. Here they are. They even have a convenient email address for you to write to….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1966 — Frank Herbert’s Dune shared the Best Novel Hugo with  …And Call Me Conrad by Roger Zelazny. It would also win the Nebula that year as well, and a decade later Locus would pick it as the Best All-Time SF Novel. (Runner-ups for the Hugo were John Brunner‘s The Squares of the City, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Skylark DuQuesne.) The first appearance of “Dune” in print, began in Analog with “Dune World”, December 1963 – February 1964 and then “The Prophet of Dune”, January – May 1965. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas, he’s best remembered I think for the Dumarest Saga. His other long running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. He novelized a number of the Space: 1999 episodes. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock, in the Trek franchise for showing up in that role in “Journey to Babel”.  Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an earlier episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission ImpossibleWild Wild West,  Otherworld and Planet of The Apes. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately twenty-four genre stories and six SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1954 Jere Burns, 66. I’m giving him a birthday write-up for being on the so excellent Max Headroom as Breughel the organlegger who seizes the unconscious  Edison Carter after his accident. He also had one-offs on Fantasy IslandThe Outer LimitsSabrina the Teenage WitchFrom Dusk to DawnThe X-Files and Lucifer. (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts, 65. Stacey Sutton in the fourteenth Bond film, A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s not forget her in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. (CE)
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West, 51. Jigsaw in the dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on the rather excellent John Carter.  One of his recent latest SFF roles was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (CE) 
  • Born October 15, 1911 – James H. Schmitz.  Eight novels, fifty shorter stories; most and deservedly famous for The Witches of Karres; also Telzey Amberdon and the Hub.  He’s in Anne McCaffrey’s cookbook.  The Best of JHS was the first NESFA’s Choice (New England SF Ass’n) book, hello Mark Olson.  Independent and colorful, he never cared whether he was revolutionary or challenging, so naturally –  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1912 – Chester Cuthbert.  Six decades ago organized the Winnipeg SF Society.  Fiction in Gernsback’s February 1934 and July 1934 Wonder Stories.  Gave his collection to Univ. Alberta just before his death, two thousand boxes weighing 45 tons.  Even wrote letters of comment to me.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1938 – Don Simpson, 82.  Building, carving, drawing, singing, marvelously and modestly strange.  Official Artist at Boskone 9.  Proud possessor of a purchase order from the Smithsonian Institution for “One (1) alien artifact”, which he designed for the Air & Space Museum.  Here is “Against the Battlemoon”.  Here is a star probe.  Here are a name badge and a calling  card (which, as you may know, is just the half of it).  Here is a sculpted garden.  Here is his design for three-sided dice.  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1942 – Beatrice Gormley, 78.  Six novels for us, biography of C.S. Lewis; a score of other fiction and nonfiction books, including biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Laura Bush, Marie Curie and Maria Mitchell.  After BG visited a Massachusetts school, a parent commenting on what impressed children observed “Wow!  A real writer who is paid real money has to rewrite!”  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1955 – Emma Chichester Clark, 65.  A score of covers, a dozen interiors for us, maybe more depending how you count; what about a blue kangaroo?  ECC’s illustrations for Laura Cecil’s Listen to This won a Mother Goose Award.  Here is her cover for “The Wizard of Oz” as Told by the Dog (who naturally considers the real title is Toto).  Here is an illustration from her Alice in Wonderland.  Here is the cover for her Through the Looking-Glass.  Here she is with her companion Plumdog.  [JH]
  • Born October 15, 1971 – Guy Hasson, 49.  Short stories in English, plays and cinema in Hebrew, mostly.  Two Geffen Awards.  A dozen stories in English available here.  Journal (in English) of his three-actor two-location film The Indestructibles here.  Tickling Butterflies made from 128 fairy tales here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SOUL. Disney dropped a new trailer for Soul.

What is it that makes you…YOU? This Christmas only on Disney+, Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new feature film “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

(13) CREDENTIAL IN SPACE. “The Newest Star Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Is A Cat Named Grudge” reports TrekMovie.com.

…Grudge is a pet of Cleveland “Book” Booker, a new character for Discovery season 3 played by David Ajala. During the Star Trek Day Disco panel Ajala gave a description of Book’s cat:

“I can say the Grudge is a queen. She is feisty. She is cynical, cautious, and wary of people. But when she embraces you and it takes you in, she takes you in. It’s tough love! I’ve had to work my way up the ladder.”

Leeu’s handlers say the 2-year-old Maine Coon has taken to his new role, calling him a “one-take wonder.” His new castmates also praised their new feline costar during the Discovery Star Trek Day preview.

The official Star Trek Twitter account made the announcement today along with this very cute behind the scenes video:

(14) SPACE OPERA, BLIP BY BLIP. The serial Only You Will Recognize the Signal begins October 29.

Experience Only You Will Recognize the Signal, a serial space opera from the creators of the world’s first Zoom opera All Decisions Will Be Made By Consensus and the digital surveillance opera Looking at You. The series will release weekly 10-minute episodes as part of #stillHERE:ONLINE, culminating in a final 70-minute viewing experience.

…The travelers aboard the Grand Crew, a very massive luxury emigrant craft, expected to remain in therapeutic hypothermia until arrival at their new home planet. Unfortunately, the technology has been compromised. Isolated in their pods, the unfrozen migrants find themselves entangled in a shared phantasmagoria that smells like sour gummi worms. They are stuck in mid-transition between planet A and planet B, between the end of the old life and the beginning of the new life, between memory and amnesia. They can’t finish the job of erasing the past, and they can’t move into the tenebrous future. Don’t worry: the ship’s computer, Bob, has a plan.

…The team redefines the serial form with weekly 10 minute live revelations over 8 weeks culminating in a 80 minute world premiere increments each Friday October 29 – December 17, culminating in a full live stream showing on December 17 at 7pm as part of our HERE@Home Series. Formally, the eight-episode serial builds on the compositional flexibility, performer autonomy, and unexpected comedy for which the creators have been recognized.

(15) NON-GENRE MOMENT. But you might want to know. “Coffee Mate Is Making An M&M’s Creamer And It’s About To Make Your Coffee Better Than Dessert” claims Delish.

Coffee creamers are having a momentttt right now. We’ve gotten creamers that taste like everything from Funfetti to Cinnamon Toast Crunch to cookies & cocoa to…coffee itself! You can truly try a new one every week and never, ever get bored. But Coffee mate is here to let you know that they’re not done innovating. In fact, they clued us into one of their most exciting drops ever: M&M’s coffee creamer….

(16) HALLOWEEN DONUT. Whereas you might not want to know when “Dunkin’ Spices Up Halloween with New Ghost Pepper Donut” – but it has the word “ghost” in it, so it’s my contractual duty to report it.

…Launching today at participating locations nationwide, Dunkin’s new Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut is billed as “a classic yeast donut ring, topped with a strawberry flavored icing that features a bold blend of cayenne and ghost pepper, and finished with red sanding sugar for a sizzling look.” In case you need the clarification, the ghost pepper is a former record holder for world’s spiciest pepper, and is still insanely hot despite Guinness’s current title going to the Carolina Reaper. And good news for spice lovers: Though the “ghost” tie-in is clearly aimed at Halloween, this limited time only spicy donut is here to heat us up for the rest of the year, sticking around until December.

…But if you’re more about tricks than treats, Dunkin’ is fine with that, too. In fact, the brand is encouraging people to surprise their friends with a Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut and post the reactions on social media using the hashtag #DunkinSpicySide. 

(17) KILLER TOMATO SOUP. AndGood Housekeeping chimes in with a Halloween food report of its own: “Heinz launches Cream of Beanz soup for Halloween and it glows in the dark”.

In a throughly horrifying announcement, Heinz has revealed it has created a hybrid of the brand’s iconic baked beans and its classic tomato soup.

Cream of Beanz Tomato soup is described as: “The rich tomatoey taste of the classic Cream of Tomato Soup, and brimming with delicious Beanz.”

…Calling the hybrid a “Monster Mash-up”, the brand has embraced the scary sound of the combination; not only by releasing in time for Halloween, but also by making the cans glow in the dark.

(18) PAIR OF CHAIRS. In the latest episode of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg have fun talking about BIG objects in science fiction, from flying cities to spheres totally enclosing stars. “Episode 38: Big, bigger, biggest, bigly!”

(19) IF YOU WANT TO KNOW. Larry Correia told his readers today he’s “Back In Facebook Jail” [Archive link].

…Officially, the reason Facebook banned me was for a post on Oct 2 where I said “I try not to comment on violence or crime until all the facts are in… But in this case, whoever sucker punched Rick Moranis should be slowly fed feet first into a wood chipper.” EXCEPT Facebook already banned me for that last week for “inciting violence”, I hit the protest button and Facebook REVERSED the ban a couple hours later. (because it is obviously a stupid joke)

But then yesterday, right after I posted a couple of links to the forbidden New York Post articles about Hunter Biden’s goofy misdeeds (and me being me, the posts were super active, with lots of comments and shares), Facebook banned me for the Rick Moranis post AGAIN. Only this time, I’m not allowed to protest….

(20) THIS AUCTION IS LIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Let your childhood Christmas dreams take flight—along with the contents of your bank account. For a quarter mil or so you can give the Rudolph and Santa figures from the stop motion TV classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer a new home. And it’ll be just in time to save Santa from drowning as the last of the Arctic ice melts: “Rudolph and his nose-so-bright into auction will take flight”

Rudolph and his still-shiny nose are getting a new home, and it’s bound to be a lot nicer than the Island of Misfit Toys.

The soaring reindeer and Santa Claus figures who starred in in the perennially beloved stop-motion animation Christmas special “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” are going up for auction.

Auction house Profiles in History announced Thursday that a 6-inch-tall Rudolph and 11-inch-tall Santa used to animate the 1964 TV special are being sold together in the auction that starts Nov. 13 and are expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.

Collector Peter Lutrario of Staten Island, New York, thought they might be the only items he would never sell, but when he recently turned 65 he thought about having something to leave for his children and grandchildren.

“I always said I would die with the dolls,” he told The Associated Press. “I’m just putting the family first.”

The figures were made by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro and used for the filming of the show at Tadaito Mochinaga’s MOM Productions in Tokyo.

They’re made of wood, wire, cloth and leather. Rudolph’s nose, after some minimal maintenance through the years, still lights up. The realistic bristles of Santa’s beard are made from yak hair.

(21) ANIMANIACS. John King Tarpinian says this is why people will want to subscribe to Hulu – all new episodes of Animaniacs starting November 20. They’re also bringing back Pinky and the Brain.

(22) HOLIDAY SPECIAL MULLIGAN. Yahoo! News promises a full pantheon of iconic Star Wars voices will be heard in this holiday special: “Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels to Reprise ‘Star Wars’ Roles for Disney Plus Lego Holiday Special”.

Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels are venturing back to a galaxy far, far away for “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.” The animated adventure will debut on Disney Plus on Nov. 17.

Tran (Rose Tico), Williams (Lando Calrissian) and Daniels (C-3PO) have joined the voice cast of “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” and will reprise their roles from the venerable film franchise. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” actors Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker), Tom Kane (Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Dee Bradley Baker (clone troopers) are also lending their voices for the special.

“The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special” sees Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids as they celebrate Life Day, a joyous celebration on Chewie’s home planet of Kashyyyk that was first introduced in the 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special.” Set after the events of 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the new 45-minute special follows Rey as she journeys with BB-8 to gain a deeper understanding of the Force. Along the way, she encounters characters from all nine Skywalker saga films, including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda and Obi-Wan. It’s unclear if Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe) or Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) are returning.

The upcoming Lego-fied version is loosely inspired by the universally panned special that aired on CBS over 40 years ago.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Hades” on YouTube, Fandom Games calls the game “a retelling of Greek mythology that’s as awesome as it is totally unlike Greek mythology.”  Among the additions: machine guns!

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

Pixel Scroll 10/14/20 Don’t Need A Pixelman To Know Which Way The File Scrolls

(1) BALLOTS TO BEAM UP. The Guardian takes notes as “Biden campaign targets Trekkies with star studded Star Trek event”.

They did indeed boldly go.

Politicians are fond of telling the electorate that “every vote counts”, and Joe Biden’s campaign went far out on Tuesday night when it held a virtual rally targeting the Star Trek voting bloc.

Hosted by Democatic politicians Stacey Abrams, Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang, “Trek the vote to victory!” was an unusual campaign event – featuring a raft of Star Trek stars including Patrick Stewart, Mulgrew and George Takei, and apparently aimed firmly at Trekkies.

The rally offered the latest example of how Biden has attracted celebrities to his campaign, and it also provided a chance for whoever runs the Biden campaign Twitter account to do a joke.

…It was Yang, who ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination, who opened up the event, the self-professed “math nerd” proving himself to be a keen trekker.

Things didn’t go immediately to plan, however, when one of the Star Trek actors – 19 cast members, from five iterations of the show, appeared at the event – immediately praised a policy idea that Yang had championed, and that Biden has ignored.

“I just want to say thank you for bringing the idea of universal basic income into the mainstream of political conversation,” Will Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: Next Generation, told Yang.

“It’s super important and there’s no excuse for that not to go forward.”

Universal basic income – the idea of the government giving every adult a regular stipend – was Yang’s key issue during his presidential campaign, but it is not a part of Biden’s plans for government.

The awkwardness continued as Marina Sirtis, aka Counselor Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation, used the Biden event to offer very faint praise for the Democratic nominee.

“I mean I lean very left,” Sirtis said. “But this time we had to just find someone who can beat Trump.”…

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLE’S. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune keeps shaking up foot-dragging bureaucrats who stand in the way of efforts to rebuild on the lot where Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore stood. “In Minneapolis, a parking dispute delays Chicago Avenue rebuilding project”.

… City officials did not reverse course until a Star Tribune reporter inquired about the stalled project. On Thursday, Barbarawi received an e-mail informing him that he can use the slab for parking, at least on a temporary basis.

“I apologize for the confusion,” wrote Brad Ellis, manager of zoning administration and enforcement for Minneapolis….

… Over the summer, Barbarawi struck a deal with Blyly to buy the bookstore property. With three large concrete slabs, the parcel offers ready-make parking for as many as 10 cars. But the plans hit a roadblock when Barbarawi shared his proposal with a city inspector, who insisted that all of the slabs be removed immediately.

[Steve Poor, the city’s director of development services] said the project was stopped because the Minneapolis City Council limited parking in the neighborhood years ago. Though Barbarawi’s building would normally be allowed to have up to 15 parking spaces, the code change brought that down to 12.

Barbarawi was told he could seek city approval for a new parking lot once he finalizes his expansion plans, but he and Blyly objected since it would cost another $25,000 to remove the slabs and meet the city’s other requirements, and even more money to rebuild the parking lot.

“It’s such a waste of resources that doesn’t need to be spent,” said Andy Ristrom, the project manager at Bolander who has been overseeing the demolition work.

Poor, who approved the temporary parking arrangement for Barbarawi, said the city will likely struggle with other rebuilding projects.

“We recognize that people need assistance to guide them through the government,” Poor said. “And right now we just have a lot more new and novel problems to try and address. I am not sure anybody was prepared to make this kind of pivot that we’ve all had to make in the last six months.”

Blyly said he’s glad the city found a way to compromise, but he’s not sure he will be rebuilding in Minneapolis. He’s considering a move to St. Paul or Richfield.

“It would be more convenient for me and a lot of my customers if I stayed in Minneapolis, but Minneapolis has felt very unfriendly toward businesses — especially after the riots,” Blyly said.

(3) STICK A FORK IN IT. LA Comic Con is now officially cancelled says SYFY Wire. While this seemed inevitable, they had announced plans to run in December. The con’s now rescheduled for September 24-26, 2021.

…”Last week on Oct. 7, Gov. Newsom finally gave an update on reopening plans for theme parks, which most people thought would precede event and convention guidelines,” reads the L.A. Comic-Con website. “In his announcement, the Governor said he had decided NOT to provide reopening guidelines yet for theme parks, and by extension, events. Without guidelines, there is no way for L.A. County, the City, or event organizers like us to know if the plans and changes we made to be safe will be right, or enough. So with that new direction from the State, we are rescheduling.”

(4) REMEMBERING A SFF PIONEER. Czech diplomat and sff fan Jaroslav Olsa Jr. commemorated the anniversary of Miles J. Breuer’s death (3 Jan 1889 – 14 Oct 1945) today by posting an excerpt of his forthcoming article “Pioneering Sf Writer Of Gernsback´s Amazing Stories Has Died Exactly 75 Years Ago”. “But do you know he was Czech? And do you know that he wrote many of his science fiction stories originally in Czech?”

…For its first nine issues, Amazing Stories [founded in 1926] contained classics from the likes of Verne, Wells and Edgar Allan Poe, supplemented by more modern works from speculative fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs and fantastic fiction writer Abraham Merritt, both of whom were already publishing their works in pulp magazines.

Only in subsequent years did Amazing Stories feature a new generation of writers. In 1928, Jack Williamson, whose career as a science fiction writer would span three-quarters of a century, published his first story in the magazine. A year earlier, Amazing Stories featured a story by David H. Keller, one of the pioneers of early technological “scientifiction”. However, the very first writer in this wave is the now largely forgotten Miles J. Breuer. His story “The Man with the Strange Head” was published by Gernsback in the January 1927 issue – as soon as the serialization of Wells’ The First Men in the Moon concluded.

Breuer was born in Chicago, studied in Texas, became a doctor in Nebraska and died in Los Angeles. At the turn of the 1920s and 30s, Breuer’s readers viewed this author, who was supposedly “discovered” by Gernsback, as a major star of the science fiction genre. However, Breuer’s career as a writer did not begin with Amazing Stories. Rather, his first genre tale had already been published almost two decades prior. Indeed, writing under the Czech version of his name as Miloslav J. Breuer, the author had already published numerous stories in the Czech language (which were subsequently published in English in early science fiction magazines)….

(5) FANS ON THE BOARDS. UK fanhistory site THEN host Rob Hansen has added a page listing “Dramatic Presentations By Fans At UK Conventions”.

…While produced by fans and sometimes including fannish references, the majority of these productions are not actually *about* fandom the main focus in most cases being the parody of other works, hence the FAN and SF/PARODY distinction. The line between the two is often a fine one, however, and some may disagree with the side of it on which some of these have been placed.

Most of these productions were humorous. The few that were serious have been labelled DRAMA. You’ll notice that one – and only one – production was also labelled ‘BALLET’. This was performed to the strains of ‘Danse Macabre’ and featured several male fans in panto drag, including Ted Tubb! Sadly, only two photos of this ‘ballet’ are known to survive….

Hansen adds: “I also recently discovered a pile of production photos the Liverpool Group took while filming ‘May We Have The Pleasure?’ in 1957. These can be found via the link on the above page.”

(6) MEADOWS OBIT. TeleRead’s main contributor Chris Meadows died today. He was 47. He had been seriously injured in an electric bike accident last week. TeleRead’s tribute is here.

…Chris has been ebooking since the late 1990s and, except for some time at The Digital Reader, has been writing for us since 2006. He has also run his own blogs, including That’s All I Have to Say, full of miscellaneous essays as readable as his TeleRead posts.

An SF fan, Chris is author of The Geek’s Guide to Indianapolis: A Tour Guide for Con Gamers and Other Visitors, well-received by Kindle readers.

Over the years Chris also left some fearless comments here, not the least being the time he called on me to furnish “A bit more precision in your writeup, please.” Something I probably need to be reminded of nearly every day.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty five years ago at Intersection, Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold would win the Best Novel Hugo. It would also win the Locus Award for Best SF novel, and was on the long list for a Nebula.  It was the ninth published novel in the universe of the Vorkosigan Saga.  It was published by Baen Books the previous year. Runner-ups were Mother of Storms by John Barnes, Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress, Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop and Towing Jehovah by James Morrow. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 14, 1829 – August Malmström.  Collected motifs from Norse mythology.  Professor at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, later its manager.  Bequeathed 650 watercolors and drawings, 26 sketchbooks to the Nordic Museum on Djurgården.  Here is Dancing Fairies; see this one too.  Here is King Heimer and Aslög.  (Died 1901) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1877 – Grace Wiederseim.  Pioneering woman cartoonist.  Invented the Campbell Soup Kids.  Also Dolly Dingle dolls.  Cartoonist for Hearst (first woman cartoonist he hired) drawing e.g. Dolly Dimples and Bobby Bounce).  For us e.g. Molly and the Unwiseman Abroad.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1893 – Lois Lenski.  Author, illustrator (of others’ work too, e.g. first ed’n of The Little Engine That Could; Hugh Lofting’s Twilight of Magic which puts her with us).  Prose, poetry, lyrics, plays, paper dolls.  Newbery Medal, two Newbery Honors; Regina Medal; three honorary doctorates.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1894 – E.E. Cummings.  (In fact he wrote his name with capital letters.)  Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Harvard, how do you like them apples, hey?  Master poet.  Distinctive, inimitable style (proof, many have tried and failed).  A nice question whether his poetry or Shakespeare’s is more attractive or more substantial – answer, yes.  Anyone wondering what he has to do with us may read this.  (Died 1962) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1910 – Marian Place.  A tireless researcher, a strong opinionated woman.  Fifty books for children and adults.  Four Golden Spur awards.  For us e.g. The First Astrowitches.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1926 1953 — Richard Christian Matheson. Son of fiction writer and screenwriter Richard Matheson. He is the author of over 100 short stories of psychological horror and magic realism which are gathered in over 150 major anthologies and in his short story collections Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks, Dystopia and ZoopraxisBest known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)  (CE) 
  • Born October 14, 1927 Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint for most of the Sixties, one hundred and eighteen episodes. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau! (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born October 14, 1935 – Dennis Hamley, 85.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories for us (including “Colonel Mustard in the Library with the Candlestick”).  Other fiction and nonfiction.  His first book was three medieval Mystery Plays in modern versions for schools, so a few years later he imagined a boy led back into the 14th Century.  DH talks about his life and work at his Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 14, 1946 Katy Manning, 74. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE)
  • Born October 14, 1953 Greg Evigan, 67. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes. Shatner was in it. He also shows up in DeepStar Six as Kevin McBride, as Will South in the horror film Spectre aka The House of The Damned, as Marcus Cutter in Cerberus: The Guardian of Hell, and on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents as David Whitmore in “In the Driver’s Seat”. (CE) 
  • Born October 14, 1956 Martin Millar, 64. Among his accomplishments was the novelization of the Tank Girl film. Apparently it’s even weirder than the film was! He won the World Fantasy Award for best novel with his book Thraxas, and the entire Thraxas series which are released under the name Martin Scott are a lot of not at all serious pulpish fun. (CE)
  • Born October 14, 1963 Lori Petty, 56. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The HungerTwilight ZoneStar Trek: Voyager, BrimstoneFreddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced Livewire in the DCU animated shows. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) RINGO FAN FAVORITES. The winners in the 2020 Ringo Award Fan Favorite categories, sponsored by Rocketship Entertainment, were announced today.

FAN FAVORITES

Favorite Hero: Clove from SubZero (WEBTOON)

Favorite Villain: John from unOrdinary (WEBTOON)

Favorite New Series: Fangs

Favorite New Talent: Sinran

Favorite Publisher: Tapas

The Mike Wieringo Comic Book Industry Awards will be presented virtually on October 24 as part of The Baltimore Comic-Con streaming presentation (baltimorecomicconlive.com).

(11) FAN ADAPTATION OF WATTS HUGO FINALIST. At Tor.com, Andrew Liptak urges readers to “Watch This Superb Fan Adaptation of Peter Watts’ Blindsight.

Peter Watts’ Blindsight looked at first contact with aliens in a different way when it was first published in 2006, and it’s been one of those books that friends have fervently recommended in the years since.

One fan [Danil Krivoruchko] has taken it upon himself to adapt as a short film, which he released this week: a short CGI short that looks absolutely stunning….

“Danil reached out to me pretty close to the start of the process,” Watts commented. “They were in the ‘Let’s make a tribute fan site’ phase, which as I understand it fell somewhere between the ‘let’s do a couple of CG illustrations for the rifters gallery’ and ‘Let’s blow off the doors with a trailer from an alternate universe where someone made a movie out of Blindsight’ phases.”…

(12) CAN’T SLEEP? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I’m not sure where “The 52 Stages Of Insomnia” by Marco Kaye at McSweeney’s fits in the File 770 categories but it’s definitely fannish!

(13) RIDING THE CIRCUIT. It’s looked cool in comics – will it look cool on you? “New Technology Allows Circuits To Be Printed Directly On The Skin”.

Sensors printed directly on the skin have been inching closer to commercial reality in recent years. The dream of highly sensitive sensors could have a wide array of applications, from robotics to medicine, but the field has been limited by its method of circuit printing. Currently, printing circuits directly on the skin requires a lot of heat – something the skin isn’t generally fond of.

Now, researchers believe they may have solved this problem. A team from Penn State University have developed a method of fabricating high-performance circuitry directly on skin without heat, according to a study published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

While flexible sensors already exist and have applications in future physiological monitoring, applying that technology to the skin has remained an issue for scientists. If this process is viable on a large scale, it may pave the way for the technology to help patients with various conditions. 

(14) CHANGE OF SHIFT. “Russian, US astronauts launch to International Space Station” – ABC News has the story.

A trio of space travelers has launched successfully to the International Space Station, for the first time using a fast-track maneuver to reach the orbiting outpost in just three hours.

NASA’s Kate Rubins and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled Wednesday morning from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.

…“We’re planning to try some really interesting things like bio-printing tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on sequencing DNA,” Rubins said.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Scream” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the 1996 film, from a more innocent time when people didn’t lock their doors and a cop could ask a teenager, “What are you doing with this cellular telephone, son?””

[Thanks to Howard Beale, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Rob Thornton, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/20 The Credential’s Door Into Summer

(1) NUANCES ERASED IN MARKETING DUNE. “In Dune, Paul Atreides led a jihad, not a crusade” – why that matters is the focus of Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s opinion piece at Al Jazeera.

….But fans familiar with the books noticed a major omission in its promotional materials: any reference to the Islam-inspired framing of the novel. In fact, the trailer uses the words, “a crusade is coming”, using the Christian term for holy war – something that occurs a mere three times in the six books of the original series. The word they were looking for was “jihad”, a foundational term and an essential concept in the series. But jihad is bad branding, and in Hollywood, Islam does not sell unless it is being shot at.

Dune is the second film adaptation of the popular 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Set approximately 20,000 years in the future on the desert planet Arrakis, it tells the story of a war for control of its major export: the mind-altering spice melange that allows for instantaneous space travel. The Indigenous people of this planet, the Fremen, are oppressed for access to this spice. The story begins when a new aristocratic house takes over the planet, centring the narrative on the Duke’s son Paul.

The trailer’s use of “crusade” obscures the fact that the series is full of vocabularies of Islam, drawn from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Words like “Mahdi”, “Shai-Hulud”, “noukker”, and “ya hya chouhada” are commonly used throughout the story. To quote Herbert himself, from an unpublished 1978 interview with Tim O’Reilly, he used this vocabulary, partly derived from “colloquial Arabic”, to signal to the reader that they are “not here and now, but that something of here and now has been carried to that faraway place and time”. Language, he remarks, “is mind-shaping as well as used by mind”, mediating our experience of place and time. And he uses the language of Dune to show how, 20,000 years in the future, when all religion and language has fundamentally changed, there are still threads of continuity with the Arabic and Islam of our world because they are inextricable from humanity’s past, present, and future….

(2) LEARNING HORROR. Sarah Gailey adds to her Personal Canons “Wayside School”, a tribute to Louis Sachar’s Wayside School series.

…In addition to tapping into the deep, gut-level instability of growing up, Sachar wrote some truly choice moments of horror into these books. It’s horror for children, in that it’s a little gross and a little ridiculous, but that doesn’t make it ineffective. …

These are all presented as genuinely frightening, and they land beautifully. When I read these books as a child, I was aware that they were funny and unrealistic — but I also felt a lingering sense of unease. The school was not a safe place, and the teachers were not safe or trustworthy people. The rules rarely made sense, but the consequences to breaking them were very real. Everything constantly seemed to be teetering on the brink of collapse.

These are the books that taught me to love being unsettled….

(3) STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES. Congratulations to the Strange Horizons’ reviews section which celebrated a milestone anniversary. Their twentieth-anniversary round table of reviewers past and present, featuring Rachel Cordasco, Erin Horáková, ML Kejera, Samira Nadkarni, Abigail Nussbaum, Charles Payseur, Nisi Shawl, Aishwarya Subramanian, and Bogi Takács, discusses “what reviewing is, why it matters—and why they bother with it.”

Abigail Nussbaum: I see my reviewing as an offshoot of fandom. In the late 90s and early 00s I was active in a few fandoms—X-Files and Harry Potter, mostly—but gravitated almost exclusively to what would now be described as “meta,” analysis and reviewing rather than fanfic. Around the mid-00s I was active on a message board called Readerville, dedicated to discussions of books, which helped me both to expand my reading and explore my impulse to talk about the things I’d read. I started a blog in 2005 basically because I had a lot to say and nowhere to say it—certainly not at the length I wanted. A few months later, Niall Harrison got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in writing for Strange Horizons, and the rest is history.

(4) TECH AND MORALITY. “Cory Doctorow: ‘Technologists have failed to listen to non-technologists’” – a Q&A conducted by The Guardian’s Ian Tucker about Doctorow’s new book, Attack Surface.

The protagonist in your new novel tries to offset her job at a tech company where she is working for a repressive regime by helping some of its targets evade detection. Do you think many Silicon Valley employees feel uneasy about their work?
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with technology knows the amount of control that it gives you. If you can express yourself well to a computer it will do exactly what you tell it to do perfectly, as many times as you want. Across the tech sector, there are a bunch of workers who are waking up and going: “How did I end up rationalising my love for technology and all the power it gives me to take away that power from other people?”

As a society, we have a great fallacy, the fallacy of the ledger, which is that if you do some bad things, and then you do some good things, you can talk them up. And if your balance is positive, then you’re a good person. And if the balance is negative, you’re a bad person. But no amount of goodness cancels out the badness, they coexist – the people you hurt will still be hurt, irrespective of the other things you do to make amends. We’re flawed vessels, and we need a better moral discourse. That’s one of the things this book is trying to establish.

(5) CONSEQUENCES OF IMAGINING THE WORST? Doctorow is also on tap at Future Tense in a first-person piece about “The Dangers of Cynical Sci-Fi Disaster Stories”.

When I moved to California from Toronto (by way of London), I was shocked by the prevalence of gun stores and, by their implication, that so many of my reasonable-seeming neighbors were doubtless in possession of lethal weapons. Gradually the shock wore off—until the plague struck. When the lockdown went into effect, the mysterious gun stores on the main street near my house sprouted around-the-block lines of poorly distanced people lining up to buy handguns. I used to joke that they were planning to shoot the virus and that their marksmanship was not likely to be up to the task, but I knew what it was all about. They were buying guns because they’d told themselves a story: As soon as things went wrong, order would collapse, and their neighbors would turn on them.

Somehow, I couldn’t help but feel responsible. I’m a science-fiction writer, and I write a lot of disaster stories. Made-up stories, even stories of impossible things, are ways for us to mentally rehearse our responses to different social outcomes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett’s conception of an intuition pump—“a thought experiment structured to allow the thinker to use their intuition to develop an answer to a problem”—suggests that fiction (which is, after all, an elaborate thought experiment) isn’t merely entertainment.*

That’s true. And it’s a problem….

(6) UNFORGOTTEN. Never mentioned by the actress, but Glorious Trash remembers Diana Rigg’s work in “Minikillers (1969)”.

German producers H.G. Lückel and D. Nettemann had an entrepreneurial idea: to provide entertainment for people getting their cars refilled at gas stations in Germany. The idea was to place TV sets by the pumps, so customers could watch a short film while their car was filled (this was before the days of self-service.)  They envisioned an espionage thriller to capitalize on the James Bond/Eurospy genre. Casting about for a famous lead, they eventually settled on Diana Rigg — fresh from her biggest role in the Bond film On Her Majestys Secret Service. After negotiating, Rigg agreed to appear in these films. 

Minikillers is a series of four short films, tied together into a coherent storyline: the idea was that customers would keep coming back to that particular gas station to see the conclusion. The series was shot on 8 millimeter and without dialog; sound effects and music were added later. In a way the project comes off like a silent film; all is relayed via movement, gestures, and facial expressions. 

Rigg apparently did not realize the uber-low budget of these films until the camera(s) started to roll. However true to her contract she shot each of them…and never mentioned them again. 

As they are up on YouTube: 

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2010 — Terry Pratchett won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement from the Mythopoeic Society. It was his second Award from them as five years earlier he’d won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature for A Hat Full of Sky, the second of the novels involving the young witch Tiffany Aching. That novel would also garner the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. The series as a whole would later be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature but the Award went to Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 13, 1872 – Boris Zvorykin.  Designer and illustrator; illustrated books, decorated churches, worked for Tsar Nicholas II.  Left at the Revolution, eventually went to Paris, in 1930 translated & illustrated four Russian fairy tales, also did porcelain for Porzella later incorporated in Villeroy & Boch.  In 1978 Jacqueline Onassis found and produced his book, The Firebird (in English).  Here is a print illustrating Boris Godounov.  Here is one for Tsar Saltan.  Here is “The Snow Maiden”.  Here is a set of his V&B plates.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1906 – William Morrison.  Four novels, eighty shorter stories; “The Science Stage” in F&SF; memoir in Greenberg, Olander & Pohl’s 1980 thirty-year Galaxy anthology; posthumous collection The Sly Bungerhop (2017).  Ph.D. research chemist under another name.  Comics, credited with creating J’Onn J’Onzz the Manhunter from Mars.  Wrote about archeology, ballet, opera, theater, Rome.  (Died 1980)  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1923 – Iona Opie, C.B.E.  Folklorist, anthologist, with her husband Peter; their collection of children’s books and ephemera 16th-20th Centuries is in the Bodleian Lib’y (20,000 pieces; two-year public appeal raised the £500,000 cost); audiotapes of children’s games & songs in the British Lib’y.  Oxford Dictionary of Nursery RhymesLore & Language of Schoolchildren; two dozen stories for us in The Classic Fairy Tales; two dozen more books.  Coote Lake Medal jointly.  Iona made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1926 Lenny Bruce. Yes, the foul-mouthed stand-up comic. ISFDB lists him as having co-authored three essays with Harlan Ellison in Rouge magazine in 1959 all called “Bruce Here”. Rogue also printed SF stories as well from Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Mack Reynolds and Harlan Ellison to name some of their writers. It lasted but six issues. (Died 1966.) (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 64. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium which I think is far better than X-Files was, but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled. The Lone Gunmen managed to last thirteen episodes before poor ratings made them bite the bullet. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1959 Wayne Pygram, 61. His most SFish role was as Scorpius on Farscape and he has a cameo as Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith because he’s a close facial resemblance to Peter Cushing. He’s likely best recognized as himself for his appearance on Lost as a faith healer named Isaac of Uluru. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1967 Kate Walsh, 53. She has the recurring role of The Handler in The Umbrella Academy series. Walsh starred as Sandra Anderson in the biblical horror film Legion, and was a sexy waitress in the Bewitched film. She was Amal Colb in Scary Movie 5, the fifth and final installment in the Scary Movie franchise. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1967 – Petri Hiltunen, 53.  Cartoonist and illustrator.  Puupäähattu award.  His Praedor comics led to a role-playing game of the same name.  In his comic strip The Return of Väinämöinen, the Eternal Sage of Kalevala ends his self-imposed exile to find he might have been gone too long, e.g. these newfangled “potatoes” are now considered a traditional food.  PH contributes to the SF magazine Tähtivaeltaja (“Star Wanderer”); he’s well known in Finnish fandom e.g. at Finncon.  Here is an illustration for Knight of the Cursed Land.  Here is the cover for his graphic-novel version of Macbeth.  Here is an illustration for the board-game Aegemonia.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1969 Aaron Rosenberg, 51. He’s written novels for Star Trek, StarCraft, Warcraft, Exalted, Stargate Atlantis, and Warhammer, as well as other franchises. He’s even written a novel set In the Eureka ‘verse, Eureka: Roads Less Traveled, under the house name of Cris Ramsay. Eureka novels sound fascinating but this is the only one that I found so far. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1975 – Jana Bauer, 45.  Her Witch Vanisher is available in English; the publisher says she has a deviously humorous narrative style.  She edits Exchanges, short prose from different countries, and Forget-me-nots in Slovenian and English for the children of Slovene emigrants (I’ve left out the Slovenian titles because of software character trouble).  In the Land of Gingerbread was the first Forget-me-not (see p. 2 of this newsletter).  For Scary Fairy in the Fearful Forest see here.  A dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1976 Jennifer Sky, 44. Lead character conveniently named Cleopatra in Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2525 series. (Opening theme “In the Year 2525” is performed by Gina Torres who’s also a cast member.) She’s had guest roles on Seaquest DSVXenaCharmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she was Lola in The Helix…Loaded, a parody of The Matrix which scored 14% at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1983 – Lesley Nneka Arimah, 37.  Nat’l Magazine Award, O. Henry Award, Commonwealth Short Story Prize.  “Skinned” (Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories, Machado ed. 2019) and four more for us in her collection What Does It Mean When a Man Falls from the Sky?, Kirkus Prize and don’t miss its last review at her Website, where also she says she is working on a novel about you.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CEL GROWTH. Vulture has “The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation From Bugs Bunny to Spike Spiegel to Miles Morales, the history of an art form that continues to draw us in”, which provides a deep dive into animation history for people who want to know more about animation.

(11) GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT. Cat Rambo reads a story for Halloween.

This short urban fantasy story originally appeared in Stamps, Tramps, and Vamps, edited by Shannon Robinson. It takes place in Durham, North Carolina, and involves a tattoo artist who’s got a different purpose in mind than her latest client does. It seemed like it would be a fun Halloween story to share!

(12) STATE OF THE NATION. There’s a lot more to think about than I expected in Zippia’s “Map Of Each State’s Favorite Halloween Candy (Spoiler: Some States Have Really Bad Taste)”. Here are first three of nine bullet points.

  • Starburst is a favorite with 6 states loving the fruity squares above all else
  • The winner is in, and between chocolate and non-chocolate candy it’s a…toss-up.
  • 25 states prefer chocolates candies while 25 prefer gummies, fruit-flavored candies, and other non-chocolate candies.

(13) TUNING UP. Genre adjacent, at least. “Delia Derbyshire Documentary Gets New Trailer: Watch” at Pitchfork.

…Derbyshire, an early electronic music pioneer, worked at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, where she composed the theme for the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who. Written and directed by Caroline Catz, the film features archival materials, interviews with Derbyshire’s colleagues and collaborators, and dramatizations starring Catz herself as the composer. Derbyshire’s original compositions are featured alongside a soundtrack by Cosey Fanni Tutti, constructed from samples Derbyshire’s posthumously released “Attic Tapes.”

(14) UNCLE WALT. Defunctland is “the show about the past…of the future!” Here are two of its episodes devoted to Walt Disney’s landmarks Disneyland and EPCOT.

In this episode, Kevin finally reaches the opening of Disneyland, focusing on the development and history of Tomorrowland 1955, the first, hastily-made version of the famous theme park land, including attractions such famous attractions as Rocket to the Moon, Autopia, Space Station X-1, the Matterhorn, the Skyway, Submarine Voyage, and the Monorail.

Walt Disney made ambitious plans for a City of Tomorrow named E.P.C.O.T. just before his death in 1966, but the plans were soon abandoned. What were Walt’s ideas for his city of the future, what happened to the project, and would it have worked?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Twilight:  Eclipse Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says the third Twilight movie has a very strange title, because “Why would you spend two hours looking at an eclipse?”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/12/20 Petronius Tiberius Tirebiter

(1) ASU CSI PODCAST. The initial episode of the second season of The Imagination Desk podcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University is live now, featuring an interview with Ytasha Womack, author of the book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. The next episode will be with sff author and editor Troy L. Wiggins

The Imagination Desk is a series of interviews with authors, scholars, and technologists about how we can harness creativity and imaginative thinking to inspire new work and build better futures. As this long, strange year wanes, we’re launching new set of podcast episodes featuring deep conversations with fascinating collaborators to think about ways we can move forward together.

For the first installment of Season 2, we sat down with Ytasha L. Womack. Ytasha is a Chicago-based filmmaker, dancer, fiction writer, scholar, and the author of the 2013 book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. In this chat, CSI’s Joey Eschrich and Ytasha discuss how culture, art, and storytelling help us to understand the complexity of Black life in the present, as well as transformative prospects for the future.

This conversation with Ytasha is part of our observance of Black Speculative Fiction Month, which takes place every October. Started by authors Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis, Black Speculative Fiction Month honors the role that Black people have played in shaping the culture of speculative fiction and charting the course toward vibrant and equitable futures. We’ll continue to explore these themes in future events and upcoming episodes of The Imagination Desk. Follow along on our website and subscribe to the show on SpotifyApple Podcasts, or RadioPublic.

(2) SHOSHANA EDWARDS Q&A. Conducted by Cat Rambo:

I interviewed Shoshana Edwards, author of Death Lives in the Water: A Harper’s Landing Story from Ring of Fire Press and A Roman Wilderness of Pain. We talk about her writing, neurolinguistics, and current political rhetoric. Shoshana Edwards was born in rural Oregon, attended Portland State University and California State University, Los Angeles. She later earned advanced degrees in English and Rhetoric. Now retired, she lives near Portland, Oregon where she continues to write.

(3) ADA PALMER’S EXOTERRA GAME CRITICIZED. Ashlyn Sparrow’s op-ed “A Game that Threatens Student Intellectual Property”, in the Chicago Maroon, the independent newspaper of the University of Chicago, contends “Ada Palmer’s ExoTerra game has colonial themes and undermines students’ creative freedom.”

During the 2020 fall quarter, Ada Palmer (Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago) launched ExoTerra. The WordPress website for this project describes ExoTerra as “an online collaborative research role-playing game (RPG) community, in which students from all disciplines, from physics to literature, pool their expertise to design a new world.” The game incorporates students via several university courses, including “Self, Culture, and Society 1,” “America in World Civilization I,” and “Europe’s Intellectual Transformations.” What appears like a well-intentioned pedagogical experiment, however, turns out to make lazy narrative choices and, more importantly, undermines the creative labor and intellectual property of University of Chicago undergraduate students.

ExoTerra is a game where “participating students play the crew of a space colony ship traveling from Earth to a newly-terraformed exoplanet.” Sparrow thinks narratives should focus on improving the Earth.

… But as I looked closer at ExoTerra and began to discuss it with colleagues, I grew increasingly concerned. Some of my initial concerns had to do with a narrative frame that focuses on a colonization narrative at a historical moment when Black and Brown people continue to be exploited in the aftermath of global empire in so many ways. In focusing on the creation of a “new civilization,” this game rests on a colonization and Earth escape fantasy that is being celebrated by tech billionaires such as Elon Musk. Rather than improving the Earth, such a narrative takes us further from facing the ills of climate change, unprecedented income inequality, systemic racism, and global pandemic. This is problematic even at an allegorical level or via the cognitive estrangement characteristic of the science fiction genre. There are so many better narrative arcs and fresher sub-genres from which to choose, especially in our current world.

Sparrow points out that participants sign away to Palmer the rights to what they create in the game.

…Palmer (who is also a published science fiction novelist) reserves the right to take any intellectual property that students might contribute to this allegedly collective storytelling game and use it for her own purposes, including fiction she publishes in the future. To be clear, this is not a video game that students play. It is instead a roleplaying and world building game that they are creating together. Yet the material benefits of this shared effort return to a single person: Ada Palmer.

(4) WHAT SPACE LETS CREATORS DO. Dwayne Day reviews the second season of For All Mankind at The Space Review. “In the paler moonlight: the future’s past in ‘For All Mankind’”.

…Setting a program in the near future restricts the writers and what they can do. In contrast, as Hale noted, setting a science fiction show in the far future (or, alternatively, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”) can free up the writers from having to reference—and be limited by—historical or current events that the audience is familiar with. Setting a story in a far distant future can be liberating in terms of storytelling. But it also restricts the writers’ ability to use the show to make social commentary, and their ability to use familiar historical and cultural reference points in their storytelling.

“For All Mankind” has a different set of challenges in terms of storytelling—it is both about our past, and our future, while also inevitably being a commentary about the present. The show’s setting in the 1960s and, for season two, the 1980s, represents a time decades in our past, but still within the living memory of many people. Yet the stories depict a space program that never happened, but still might happen in some way. The Jamestown lunar base in the show is not that different from concepts NASA and its contractors are currently studying. Perhaps in the coming decades, NASA could build something that looks a lot like Jamestown….

(5) WALT WILLIS’ TASFIC SPEECH. Fanac.org announced on FB that thanks to the fan history researches of Rob Hansen in Vince Clarke’s papers, they can present the final draft typescript of Walt Willis’s speech at the 1952 Worldcon, which Willis was able to attend because of the “WAW with the Crew in ’52” fan fund started by Shelby Vick. Here is Joe Siclari’s introduction to the speech:

Although Walt Willis was prolific, the quality of his writing remained very high because he was diligent. In several articles, Walt Willis described some of his writing procedures. Despite what so many people thought was his facile and relaxed style, he worried over pieces and rewrote them. See Warhoon 12, p 22.

Walt’s quality writing was why Shelby Vick created the first really successful campaign to bring a foreign fan to a US Worldcon, “WAW with the Crew in ’52”. You can imagine the excitement when this was successful. You might also imagine the stress when Walt realized that he would have to speak at the TASFiC/Chicon II.

So it seems he wrote a speech beforehand. Not only did he work on it in advance and rewrite and edit it, but it seems he sent it to at least one friend. During his research into Vince Clarke’s papers, Rob Hansen discovered this presentation that you are about to read. It’s probably the closest we will get to what Walt Willis said at the TASFiC. As Rob indicated in a note: “What *isn’t* included, obviously, is whatever off-the-cuff thanks he added after he’d finished reading.”

Not seen in close to 70 years, here is what Rob has called: “The Harp Speaks”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1987 — Thirty-three years ago, the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Novel went to Peter Beagle‘s The Folk of the Air which had been published that year by Ballantine Del Rey. The main character is Joe Farrell, who first appeared as the hero of a short story called “Lila the Werewolf”, making a sequel of sorts to that story. The League for Archaic Pleasures, here described as a group dedicated to the pleasures of the medieval period, is very obviously modelled after the SCA. Thirteen years later, Tamsin would garner him a second Mythopoeic Award, and The New Voices of Fantasy anthology three years ago would get him his third. He also received their Lifetime Achievement Award as well. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.) (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1905 – William Kolliker.  Moved from Switzerland to New York at 16.  Illustrated for newspapers e.g. NY AmericanBaltimore News & American.  Art director & editor of The American Weekly 25 years.  Moved to Texas, resigned from business, taught at El Paso Museum of Art; Conquistador Award from El Paso 1963.  A hundred twenty interiors for us.  Here is an interior for “The Weapon Shop” (Astounding, Dec 42).  Here is one for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”.  Here is one for “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon”.  Here is a 1979 etching “The Graduate”.  Here is a mid-1970s abstract landscape.   (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1943 – Daphne Patai, Ph.D., 77.  Feminist dissenter, see e.g. What Price Utopia? (2008); Oral History, Feminism, and Politics (2010, in Portuguese).  Outstanding to us for discovering that the author of Swastika Night, published under a pseudonym 1930, was Englishwoman Katherine Burdekin.  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1949 – Barclay Shaw, 71.  A hundred twenty covers, thirty interiors.  Here is The Glass Teathere is I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.  Here is The Shockwave Rider.  Here is The Ringworld Throne.  Here is the Mar 01 F&SF.  Chesley for three-dimensional Wonderland.  Artbooks The Art of Barclay ShawElectric Dreams.  Website here (includes 3D animation).  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1951 – Taral Wayne, 69.  Fanartist, pro artist, fanwriter.  Many covers and interiors for fanzines; here is Torus 2; here is File 770 116 (PDF); see more in the cover gallery at his efanzines.com page.  Here is his logograph for IguanaCon II the 36th Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at Anticipation the 67th.  Co-founded Ditto (fanziners’ convention, named for a brand of spirit-duplicator copying machine); Special Guest at Ditto 8.  Toastmaster at Corflu 4 (fanziners’ con, named for mimeograph correction fluid).  CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegate; his CUFF history here.  Numismatist.  Collections Old ToysThe Great White Zine.  Eleven-time Hugo finalist.  FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) award.  Rotsler Award.  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1956 Storm Constantine, 63. Writer with her longest-running series being the Wraeththu Universe which has at least four separate series within all of which are known for their themes of alternative sexuality and gender. She has also written a number of non-fiction (I think they are) works such as Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System and The Grimoire of Deharan Magick: Kaimana. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1961 – Susan Power, 59.  Enrolled member of the Standing Rock Tribe (Dakota).  Law degree from Harvard.  Hemingway/PEN Award for first novel The Grass Dancer (ours); several more novels; shorter fiction in The Atlantic MonthlyParis ReviewPloughsharesStory, a dozen for us in collection Roofwalker.  Voices from the Gaps interview with her here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 55. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine,  but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Tirchworch universe as great looks at him as a writer. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1966 Sandra McDonald, 54. Author of some sixty genre short stories, some of which are collected in Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (which won a Lambda Award for LGBT SF, Fantasy and Horror Works) and Lovely Little Planet: Stories of the Apocalypse.  Outback Stars is her space opera-ish trilogy. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1968 Hugh Jackman, 52. Obviously Wolverine in the Marvel film franchise. He’s also been the lead character in Van Helsing as well as voicing him in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. One of his most charming roles was voicing The Easter Bunny in The Rise of The Guardians. And he played Robert Angier in The Prestige based off the World Fantasy Award winning novel written by the real Christopher Priest. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1974 Kate Beahan, 46. Her best remembered role is as Sister Willow Woodward in the remake of The Wicker Man. In the same year, she was Michell in The Return, a horror film. She showed up on Farscape as Hubero in “Fractures”, and on Lucifer as Justine Doble in “All About Her”. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1992 – Melanie Vogltanz, 28.  Austrian author and translator.  European SF Society Encouragement Award, 2016; shortlisted for several prizes e.g. Kurd Laßwitz.  Five novels, plus six in a Black Blood series; shorter stories collected in On Dark Wings (in German).  I have not yet found translations into English.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) WHAT CHILD IS THIS. Disney released posters for season 2 of The Mandalorian, including a sad Baby Yoda!

(10) DISNEY DISAPPOINTS EURO MOVIE HOUSES. Naman Ramachandran, in the Variety story “Disney’s ‘Soul’ Decision Upsets European Cinemas” says the European trade association the International Union of Cinemas is mad at Disney because they say they operate safe cinemas and would love to have exhibited Soul.

…“There is compelling evidence that where audiences have returned, they have found the experience both safe and enjoyable,” the UNIC statement said. “But it is also clear that it is the release of new films that will make all the difference in encouraging people back to the big screen.”

“Indeed, across Europe, many cinemas have — since re-opening successfully — screened countless local releases, underlining that first-run titles are now more important than ever.”

(11) SAINTHOOD FOR J.R.R.? Daniel Cote Davis, a promoter of J.R.R. Tolkien Cause for Canonization, will speak in New Zealand on October 31 reports the Tolkien sainthood Facebook group. (See more information about the movement in “Tolkien: An Unexpected Sainthood”.)

Should J.R.R. Tolkien be made a Saint? In this film we explore the Catholic virtue of one of England’s most renowned authors and look beyond the trolls and goblins at what the Lord of the Rings is really trying to say.

(12) IT ALL GOES AROUND. CrowdScience answers the question “Why do planets spin?” in an episode available at the BBC Sounds archive.

Crowdscience solves a range of listeners’ cosmic mysteries, from the reason we only ever see one side of the moon, to why planets spin, and discover the answer can be found in the formation of the solar system. We talk to astronomer Dr Carolin Crawford to understand how stars are made, and investigate the art of astronomy with journalist Jo Marchant, hearing how the ancient Greeks came up with a zodiac long before the invention of a telescope, revealing an intimate relationship between humans and the night sky.

(13) WOMEN OF SFF IN THE SIXTIES. Fanac.org has posted to its YouTube channel a recording from Boskone 6 in 1969, “The Feminine Viewpoint,” moderated by Hal Clement, with Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Larry Niven. NESFA and Rick Kovalcik provided the recording.

Moderated by Hal Clement, this audio recording (illustrated with dozens of images) is a 1960s view of feminism and the female viewpoint in SF by two of SF’s most successful women writers of the day. It is uncomfortable in parts by today’s standards, with comments like “you can’t be a feminist if you like being a woman”, and remarks about fanzines that discount female writers solely because of their sex. Hal Clement is the neutral moderator, and Larry Niven provides a male perspective. This panel is dominated by MZB and Anne McCaffrey, who express their views on women in the field, on the differences in fiction written by woman and men, and on the disadvantages attendant on being a female science fiction writer. Remember, Anne McCaffrey was born in 1926 and MZB in 1930. Their opinions were shaped by the times. It’s a fascinating snapshot of the times.

The audio recording is accompanied by contemporary photos, including one of Walter Breen and MZB, just so you know.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/11/20 If Pixels Be The Food Of Love, Scroll On

(1) CHERRYH NOW CANCER FREE. C.J. Cherryh updated fans about her battle with colon cancer in a public Facebook post yesterday.

Long story in short, I’ve had cancer. I don’t, now, and scans show I’m well and truly rid of it. Found out in February, had surgery (colon cancer), started chemo in March, and thanks to a really great medical staff and good insurance, I finished chemo successfully, had a raft of scans and another round with my excellent GI doc, and am now clean and clear—not to be cavalier about it all. Chemo is rough. It’s done a number on general strength and it does age you a bit. Or more than a bit. So I know I’ve been in a fight and I look older than I did before this started, but I refuse to settle down and act older. I’ll be exercising to get my strength back.

I owe an immense amount to Jane, who’s had to do everything from cat box to general cookery and bottlewashing and all this with the handicap of Covid restrictions, while she’s had her own issue with a ferociously painful hip problem. I’d have been in a heckuva mess without her taking care of me.

Kudos to local friends who have brought us stuff and fixed stuff that was broken. Without you, we couldn’t have kept isolation and safety. One of us exposed is both of us in danger.

So Jane and I both had a forced hiatus from writing, and everything is about 8 months behind. Our publisher has been enormously understanding. We are officially getting back to work. We had the next Alliance book 3/4 finished when this happened, and we will likely be working together, too, on the next Foreigner book, just to get our heads firmly back in the game. So we’ll be late, but we do have a hall pass.

I kept this illness under wraps because there’s nothing anybody not in reach could do, and I had no ready answers to give anybody. But the outcome is the very best. And I would urge anybody out there to go get that postponed colonoscopy. This kind can be dealt with and prevented during a colonoscopy, so go do that, eh? I was lucky. Real lucky. A clinic NP, one of my regular docs and another NP combined saw my shortness of breath as, yep, something that had to be seen to….

(2) MOTHER. In the midst of the pandemic with kids stuck at home, Lydia Kiesling considers “The Aspirational Android Parenting of ‘Raised by Wolves” in The New Yorker.

… Though I watched “Raised by Wolves” to escape—tearing through the first five episodes in a single weekend—it threw my terrestrial problems into stark relief. I find the show transporting, corny, and unexpectedly relatable. As I watch, I can’t stop thinking about how much better a job the androids are doing than my husband and I and our own machines. “Mother is killing it,” I whispered admiringly during one episode, my fretful firstborn grinding her teeth in her bunk bed upstairs. Never mind that almost all the original children perished, that they eat fungus and sinister spuds and sleep under burlap. Never mind that Mother murders a lot of humans in Episode 1. It doesn’t matter. Mother and Father are there for the kids, and, in their android way, for each other….

(3) RARITIES. In 1965, Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes records three firsts in the Doctor Who series: “[OCTOBER 10, 1965] DOCTOR WHERE? (DOCTOR WHO: MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN)”

…No, really. That’s it. That’s the whole story. This is the first Doctor Who story to be a single episode long. Not only that, it’s the first one in which neither the Doctor nor his companions make an appearance. I suppose he got his day off after all!

And to top it all off, this is the only episode so far in which the baddies win…

(4) HORROR U. The Horror Writers Association’s Horror University workshops, formerly only accessible in-person at StokerCon, are available online this fall at $50 for non-members and $40 for members per session. Coming up on the calendar:

  • 2020 October 19 — Writing and Selling Short Stories

The short story market has never been healthier, and it can not only build your career and increase your professional income, it can also help you stretch as a writer. Short stories offer more creative opportunities than any other form of writing. We’ll discuss the short story structure, tips on finding killer opening hooks and powerful endings, strategies for finding paying markets, and much more.
Recording? No

Instructor: Jonathan Maberry

  • 2020 October 26 — Poetry Forms Workshop for All Writers

Not just for poets: a workshop to play with the different poetry forms to use less words to say more; heighten readers’ emotional reaction, clarify your style/voice and handle writing blocks. We will explore several poetry shapes and their rules to understand how they are created. Time will be available for attendees to practice writing, including creating writing “seeds.”
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Linda D. Addison

  • 2020 November 2 — The History of Ghosts

Are you ready to write a ghost story, but wish you knew a little more about the history of your spectral protagonist? Lisa Morton, author of the acclaimed Ghosts: A Haunted History and Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances is here to help, with a one-hour illustrated presentation that looks at the classical history of ghosts, ghosts in the Middle Ages, paranormal beliefs around the world, and modern hauntings. You’ll hear some chilling real-life ghost stories, and probably learn a few new things about these visitors from beyond.
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Lisa Morton

  • 2020 November 9 — Done to Death

With novels on the bestseller lists and movies winning Academy Awards, the horror genre is hotter than ever. But if you want your fiction to stand out from the pack, you need to do more than offer readers retreads of well-worn stories of monsters, ghosts, and demons. You need to write horror that’s original and captivating – horror only you can write. This workshop will teach you how to avoid clichés when writing horror and dark fantasy and create stories that are fresh and exciting.
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Tim Waggoner

(5) MANY TRIALS. In “Truths Too Terrible: On Arthur Schnitzler and Franz Kafka”, LA Review of Books presents an excerpt  from Adam Kirsch’s The Blessing and the Curse: The Jewish People and Their Books in the Twentieth Century.

… It would be wrong to say that The Trial is “really” about antisemitism, as if the work’s many other theological and political dimensions were unreal. But it was his experience of being a modern European Jew at a time of profound Jewish crisis that gave Kafka such an immediate experience of the alienation and isolation, the helplessness and guilt, that would become central to the experience of so many people in the 20th century. Jewishness, he suggests, is not a unique fate but an extreme one, which equips the writer — at least, when the writer is Kafka — to see truths too terrible for most people to recognize until it is too late.

(6) MAPPING DYSTOPIA. BookRiot recommends “8 Science Fiction Novels By Authors Of Color For The End Times”. Up first –

RIOT BABY BY TOCHI ONYEBUCHI

Onyebuchi’s first book for adults is about police brutality, being Black in the United States, and family. It begins with the 1992 L.A. Riots (which give the book part of its title), but it doesn’t stop there. Instead, it plows right past us into a near-future alternate reality. With its multifaceted exploration of incarceration and systemic racism, it couldn’t be more timely. It’s a beautiful and powerful book that uses sci-fi to address the very dystopian elements of today’s sociopolitical landscape. You should read it. Now. 

(7) SPEAKING OF. “Powell’s Books Presents Rebecca Roanhorse in Conversation With Tochi Onyebuchi” on October 14. Register at the link.

…Roanhorse has created an epic adventure [Black Sun (Gallery/Saga), the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy] exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade. Roanhorse will be joined in conversation by Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Riot Baby and War Girls.

 (8) JANET FREER OBIT. Janet Freer, a literary agent for leading New Wave sf writers and others, has died at the age of 89. Her daughter wrote in The Guardian:

…Janet began work as a commercial artist before starting her publishing career in London around 1962. She spent several years in the sales department at Panther Books and then joined Scott Meredith Literary Agency for a short while before setting up her own agency. Janet Freer Literary Agency specialised in SF/fantasy and represented new-wave SF writers such as Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison, Christopher Priest and Thomas M Disch, and others associated with the SF magazine New Worlds in the60s.

In the early 70s, Janet joined Michael Bakewell and Diana Tyler at MBA Literary Agents. She represented an impressive list of authors during that time, including Anne McCaffrey, Anne Perry and Ursula K Le Guin for the UK market.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Sixteen years ago, Kage Baker’s “The Empress of Mars” novella won the Theodore Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novella (Vernor Vinge‘s “The Cookie Monster“ would win) as well as the Nebula Award for Best Novella which was won by Eleanor Arnason’s “The Potter of Bones”. It was first published in the July 2003 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It would be expanded into a novel five years later. You can hear Kage reading it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 11, 1782 – Steen Blicher.  Pioneer of the novella in Danish; “the first of Danish literature’s great storytellers … one of [its] few tragic poets” (Baggesen, Blicher’s Short Stories, 1965) (in Danish).  “The Rector of Veilbye” (1829, English 1907, named to the Cultural Canon of Denmark 2006) has implied supernatural elements, see here.  (Died 1848) [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1922 – Garry Edmondson.  A dozen novels for us, as many shorter stories.  Also Westerns.  Wrote under several names besides his own José Mario Garry Ordoñez Edmondson y Cotton.  A Marine in World War II.  Spoke six languages.  Gardner Dozois called The Ship That Sailed the Time-Stream a classic.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1944 – Julek Heller, 76.  Eighty covers, fifty interiors.  Here is The Titus Books.  Here is a Robinson Crusoe.  Here is a Sleeping Beauty piano picture-book.  Here is an Enchanted Horse.  Here is an interior for Jack and the Beanstalk.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1945 – Gay Haldeman, 75.  Master’s degrees in Spanish Literature and in Linguistics.  Taught thirty years at the Mass. Inst. Tech. Writing Center.  Toastmaster at ConFusion 1981 (“Nine Billion Names of ConFusion”), 1992 (“Hardwired ConFusion”).  Guest of Honor (with husband Joe) at e.g. Finncon 2007, ICON 43.  Skylark award.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  Here she is on a panel at the 60th Worldcon looking back at the 26th.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1949 Sharman DiVono, 71. She was the primary writer of the Star Trek comic strip from a year in the early Eighties.  She’s written a number of other strips such as Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm The Man from Planet X and Tarzan. She has written for three animated series — G.I. JoeBill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Star Wars: Droids. She’s written one genre novel, Blood Moon. (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 60. Well-known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course, she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. (CE)
  • Born October 11, 1965 Sean Patrick Flanery, 55. I think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. It certainly wasn’t as Bobby Dagen in Saw: The Final Chapter, a film best forgotten. He appeared as Jake Greyman in Demon Hunter, a low budget horror film, and as John in The Evil Within.  (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1972 —  Claudia Black, 48. Best remembered for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in the Containment series. (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1972 – Nir Yaniv, 48.  Author, editor, musician, filmmaker.  Founded the Webzine for the Israeli Society for Science Fiction & Fantasy.  A novel, ten shorter stories.  See this Strange Horizons interview with him about The Universe in a Pita.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 43. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. (CE)
  • Born October 11, 1984 – Jaymin Eve, 36.  Eight novels with Leia Stone (Anarchy USA Today Best Seller), five and a novella with Jane Washington, a score solo, in nine universes.  Paranormal fantasy.  More outside our field.  “I grew up in a little country town [in Australia], and the library was my favorite place in the world.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. So we expect, when Shift, the new UK anthology comic, is launched in newsagents and comic shops around the UK on October 29.

Featuring the best in independent creator owned stories from new talent and seasoned veterans (including Jim Krueger, Brian Haberlin, Steve Yeowell, Simon Furman, Scott Morse and many more) – there’s something for everyone with a a diverse array of exciting and thought-provoking stories

Seven stories, ongoing titles, creator interviews, articles and more..

Foot Soldiers – Jim Krueger (Earth X, Justice, Marvels X), Steve Yeowell (Zenith, The Invisibles, Sinister Dexter)

To The Death – Simon FurmanGeoff Senior. Acclaimed Transformers creative team, and creators of Marvel’s Death’s Head

Kora – Chris Geary (Ace’s Weekly)

Soulwind – Scott Morse (Littlegreyman, Elektra: Glimpse and Echo, Catwoman, Sam and Twitch)

Shifter – Brian Haberlin (Witchblade, Aria), Brian Holguin (Spawn), Skip Brittenham, Geirrod van Dyke, Kunrong Yap

Tiny Acts of Violence – Martin Stiff (The Absence)

Hungerville – Warwick Fraser-Coombe (The Shadow Constabulary, Interzone)

Pre-order at The Shift Store, or add to a subscription at GetMyComics.com where 5 or 10 issue pre-pay subscription offers are available.

(13) D&D LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. The Believer has posted on its site “Destroy All Monsters” by Paul La Farge, first published in 2006, which combines a history of Dungeons and Dragons with a report on the 2005 Gen Con and an interview with D&D co-creator E. Gary Gygax.

…The appeal of D&D is superficially not very different from the appeal of reading. You start outside something (Middle Earth; Dickens’s London; the fascinating world of mosses and lichens), and you go in, bit by bit. You forget where you are, what time it is, and what you were doing. Along the way, you may have occasion to think, to doubt, or even to learn. Then you come back; your work has piled up; it’s past your bedtime; people may wonder what you have been doing.

Once you set foot inside the cave, however, you see very quickly that D&D is quite different from a book, or movie, or soap opera. For one thing, there are a lot more rules….

(14) A SHORT HISTORY. In “The Hugo ceremony 2020, notes”, Lise Andreasen has extracted the chronology of what happened during this year’s virtual ceremony. Use it the next time you need to find something in the 3-1/2 hour Hugo video.

(15) THE REVIEWER’S ART. Links to several dozen reviews of sff from last week at Sweet Freedom in “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books And More”.

(16) BLOCH RADIO SERIES. Now back in circulation at Audiophile Archive, two episodes ofRobert Bloch’s Stay Tuned For Terror radio drama series.

As a huge fan of old time radio and Robert Bloch, this series has been my white whale for years. 39 fifteen-minute episodes, all adapted by Bloch himself from his own short stories? Sounds amazing — but unfortunately there’s been no episodes in circulation — until now! Huge thanks to OTR collector/historian David Lennick who discovered two episodes on a disc he got decades ago and was generous enough to send me the programs in WAV. 

More information on the series in these notes at the Internet Archive:

…Bloch prepared 39 short stories with accompanying radioplay scripts, Johnny Neblett formed his first production company to produce it, and Bloch’s friend Howard Keegan–director of many of the Lights Out productions–signed on to direct the program. Neblett and Berle Adams persuaded Weird Tales Magazine to provide a tie-in to the magazine and promoted the new program as Weird Tales’ Stay Tuned for Terror, so as to leverage Bloch’s considerable fame and popular success with that print publication.

With corrections in a comment by reseacher Karl Schadow:

Enthusiasts of both Robert Bloch and radio horror programs are elated by the posting of this audio, the quality of which is superb. However, the history of this series as presented above contains some factual inaccuracies. For example, individual episodes were recorded at station WBBM and not WMAQ. This is important as producer Johnnie Neblett had established a rapport with WBBM via his first series So The Story Goes which had been broadcast by that station since 1943, the year Neblett Radio Productions was founded. Thus, his firm had been in existence two years prior to the recording and subsequent release of Stay Tuned for Terror.

There was no conspiracy regarding the Wisconsin newspaper radio logs of Stay Tuned for Terror. The series was recorded during the early months of 1945 and released late in the spring of that same year. The newspapers accurately printed details provided to them by Chicago station WMAQ which broadcast the program for thirteen weeks.

Despite the death of Johnnie Neblett in September of 1946, Stay Tuned for Terror continued to be distributed throughout the remainder of the 1940s and into the 1950s by various firms headed by James Doolittle (Craig Dennis), Berle Adams and Rush Hughes. Neblett had sold out his share of the enterprise to James Doolittle in October of 1945….

(17) ACTION! Someone on eBay will be happy to sell it fo $4,200: “2003 Clapperboard For – Lord Of The Rings – Return Of The King” .

(18) VIDEO OF THE WEEK. “The Joker:  Put On A Happy Face” on YouTube is a 2020 documentary that includes interviews with four actors who played the Joker (Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix) and many writers of Joker scripts, including the Joker’s co-creator, Jerry Robinson, Frank Miller, and Denny O’Neil.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Karl Schadow, Todd Mason, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/20 Schrödinger’s Box Remains Both Ticked And Unticked At The Same Time Until You Pixel It

(1) A NOT-SO-LITTLE LIST. BookRiot concocted a way of assessing an interesting question: “How Do Readers Rate The New York Times Best-Selling Books?”

…For their research, the organization pooled all titles on the NYT List from June 22, 2008 to March 29, 2020. They then determined the top 100 titles from the NYT list based on the number of times it appeared on the lists in that time frame, and each of those titles was subtracted from its average ranking on the list. This made for a total of 716 unique titles.

Once those titles were identified, the top 100 reviews on Goodreads—the reader’s view of books—were pulled. The researchers looked at how many times those titles appeared on the NYT List, then subtracted this from the average list ranking. A book’s total score was calculated using this number, as well as the average Goodreads starred rating for the title….

READERS RANK THE BEST BESTSELLERS

Using the methodology laid out above, which books that landed on the NYT List were among the most well-reviewed by readers on Goodreads? The researchers calculated 20 titles among the top.

… The top ranking best seller for readers was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. The book appeared on the bestseller list over 600 times, ranking at an average of #3, and readers gave it an average rating of 4.1 stars on Goodreads.

Interestingly, 11 of the titles on this list are children’s, middle grade, or YA books, and of the remaining titles, six are self-help/productivity books. Given that the NYT List has primarily featured white authors until more recently—and it’s still primarily white in some categories—it’s not a surprise to see that only a small number of the top 20 books are by authors of color…

(2) HOW HUMANS RELATE TO PROGRAMS. Future Tense ran a piece by Torie Bosch about “Shouting at Alexa”.

… For years now, commentators have reminded us that the gendered dynamics of digital assistants are troubling. In September, Future Tense ran an excerpt from The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot by Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy . “Friendly and helpful feminized devices often take a great deal of abuse when their owners swear or yell at them. They are also commonly glitchy, leading to their characterization as ditzy feminized devices by owners and technology commentators—traits that reinforce outdated (and unfounded) gendered stereotypes about essentialized female inferior intellectual ability,” they write.

That’s me, swearing and yelling at my feminized device even though it only wants to be friendly and helpful.

What I tell myself, though, is that I’m really trying to avoid anthropomorphizing the Echo and the rest of the tech in my life. It’s a tendency I’ve had ever since I got to know ELIZA, the chatbot created by an MIT researcher in the 1960s. ELIZA was designed to mimic Rogerian therapy—which basically means that this simple program turns everything you say into a question. For some reason, it was installed on some of the computers in my middle-school library in the ’90s. Most of the time, I tried to get her—I mean it!— to swear, but I also spilled my tweenage heart out occasionally. And I’m not the only one. As a Radiolab episode from 2013 detailed: “At first, ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum thought the idea of a computer therapist was funny. But when his students and secretary started talking to it for hours, what had seemed to him to be an amusing idea suddenly felt like an appalling reality.”…

(3) THE WRITER’S CRAFT. Delilah S. Dawson on how to write a synopsis. Thread starts here. (H/t to Cat Rambo.)  

(4) IT’S A NOPE. The Mary Sue checked the social media response from two people whose opinions we’d like to hear: “Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch.  

…Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

… Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

(5) VINTAGE DARKNESS. “25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime” as told by the author in The Guardian.

It was 1993 when I thought of Lyra and began writing His Dark Materials. John Major was prime minister, the UK was still in the EU, there was no Facebook or Twitter or Google, and although I had a computer and could word-process on it, I didn’t have email. No one I knew had email, so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. If I wanted to look something up I went to the library; if I wanted to buy a book I went to a bookshop. There were only four terrestrial TV channels, and if you forgot to record a programme you’d wanted to watch, tough luck. Smart phones and iPads and text messaging had never been heard of. The announcers on Radio 3 had not yet started trying to be our warm and chatty friends. The BBC and the National Health Service were as much part of our identity, of our idea of ourselves as a nation, as Stonehenge.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still writing about Lyra, and meanwhile the world has been utterly transformed.

To some extent, my story was protected from awkward change because I set it in a world that was not ours. It was like ours, but different, so I could take account of the real-world changes that helped my story, and ignore those that didn’t. 

(6) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. “One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling” – a review at Vox.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about what happens after its first few chapters….

(7) AFTERGLOW. The Guardian’s Matt Kamen asks — “Cancel culture: is Netflix killing off series too soon?”

Another day, another cancellation – or at least, that’s how it’s starting to feel when it comes to Netflix. Having culled the likes of Sense8, The OA, Santa Clarita Diet and Altered Carbon in recent years, all after two or three seasons and often leaving viewers on major cliffhangers, the streaming service has turned its bloodlust on to Glow, which had already started filming its fourth season before the pandemic hit, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

The latter, a prequel to the cult-favourite 1983 Jim Henson movie, produced and performed entirely with staggeringly intricate puppets and animatronics, and featuring an all-star cast, premiered on Netflix in August 2019. It garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, and a slate of awards nominations – including, crucially, picking up a 2020 Emmy for outstanding children’s program. Yet even awards success hasn’t spared it the axe, with the executive producer, Lisa Henson, confirming it won’t be returning….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-seven years ago, The Flash Girls released their first album, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. The Minneapolis based band consisted of Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland, also known as The Fabulous Lorraine. Garland is notable as being Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant. Among the songwriters were Jane Yolen, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Bull and Garland adopted the names Pansy Smith and Violet Jones as their alternate personas and would become characters in the DC Sovereign Seven series where they run a coffee shop. They would release two more albums, Maurice and I and Play Each Morning Wild Queen. Bull and Shetterly moved to California which broke up the band and Garland formed Folk Underground which also had songs written by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 10, 1895 – Lin Yutang, Ph.D.  Author, editor, translator, gifted popularizer (yes, it’s possible).  One SF novel.  Built a working Chinese typewriter (yes, it’s –) never developed commercially but pivotal in machine-translation research.  My Country, My People a best-seller.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1931 – Jack Jardine.  Writing under another name, four Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels, three others.  Indeed many other names.  Radio disc jockey, humorist.  See Bill Mills’ appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1942 – Wojtek Siudmak, 78.  More than seven hundred covers, seventy interiors.  Six artbooks (in French).  Two Chesleys.  Here is Double Star.  Here is a volume of Norman Spinrad.  Here is Dune.  Here is The Return of the King.  Here is Expansion.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, 63.  (Names would be reversed in Japanese style.)  Manga artist with 200 million copies of her work in circulation.  Two Shogakukan Awards, two Seiun Awards.  Inkpot.  Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame.  Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, second woman and second Japanese to win.  Scottish rock band named for Urusei Yatsura, her first to be animated.  This cover reprinting vols. 1&2 of Ranma 1/2 shows Ranma’s dad changed into a panda and Ranma into a girl.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1959 Kerrie Hughes, 61. Anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings. Favorite titles for me for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s written short fiction and essays as well. It looks like almost all of her anthologies are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1968 Mark Bould, 52. British academic whose done a number of interesting genre-related works including Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, co-edited with China Miéville, Parietal Games: Critical Writings by and on M. John Harrison with M. John Harrison and Michelle Reid, and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction written with Andrew M. Butler and Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1976 Marjan Neshat, 44. Best remembered for her recurring role as Samar Hashmi on Quantico which is at least genre related. She’s also had roles in the Robocop reboot, FringeElementaryNew Amsterdam and Person of Interest. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1971 – Jeff Miracola, 49.  Magic, the Gathering (over a hundred cards) and Shadowrun; children’s books e.g. The Book of Impossible Objects; Electronic Arts video game Mini-Golf.  In eight issues of Spectrum so far (2-5, 15-16, 19-20); Advanced Photoshop magazine; 30 Years of Adventure (Dungeons & Dragons).  Here is a cover for Tower of Babel.  “Continue to work on your craft.  Draw, paint, and create always.  Consider getting together with other artists…. actually creating and feeding off each other’s energy.”  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1984 Jenna Lê, 36. Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnam War refugees, her genre poetry is collected in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora along with other poems. That collection placed second for an Elgin Award. You can find an excellent interview with her here. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. This weekend, the New York Comic Con managed to run a cosplay competition despite being a virtual event: “Sew And Tell! Virtual Championships Of Cosplay Winners Announced At NYCC 2020” at SYFY Wire.

… The Beginners victor was Commander Poptart, a U.S. entrant who dressed as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “This was an incredible build for a beginner. Well, done, Commander Poptart,” said JediManda, who was dressed as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

No runner-up was announced.

The runner-up in Needlework was Demorafairy from the U.K., who dressed as Little Red Ashe from Overwatch. “We loved this costume, the letterwork is so impressive on it. All her engineering, like the vest, was done in three different layers, so every piece would lay correctly,” said Yaya Han. “I thought that was just really genius and it just has such a great balance of different techniques used. All her sewing was very clean and the skirt was the right length and everything was finished.”

Sewcialist Revolution from the U.S. nabbed the top honor for the Needlework category with her Claire Fraser costume inspired by Outlander. She spent five years learning how to make 18th-century clothing and then hunkered down for an extra six months putting the dress together. “This is needlework in its best representation,” Han added. “She used period-accurate methods, so much of it was hand-done … We really appreciated all of the efforts that she went into.”…

And more.

(12) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EFFECTS. “Making the Monsters of ‘Lovecraft Country’” is discussed in the New York Times.

…Consider the monstrous, man-eating Shoggoths of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” last seen decimating a squad of racist police officers on Sunday night. They may not be the mind-bending series’s most terrifying menace — that title goes to vintage, 1950s white supremacy — but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Shoggoths are hideous to look at — pale, bulbous, covered in scabby, asymmetric eyes — and deadly to encounter, with concentric rows of gnarled teeth that turn trespassers into tartare. H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about blob-like creatures called Shoggoths in the late ’20s in a series of sonnets, and they appeared in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.”

But the original Shoggoths, described by Lovecraft as “normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles,” bear little resemblance to the fast-moving, gorilla-like beasts that first terrorized Tic, Leti and co. in the series premiere.

(13) IN SPACE THEY CAN HEAR YOU SING. Earlier this year NPR’s “Science-Fiction Music: Monsters, Aliens In ‘Filk'” covered all pop music, including work by fans.

As science fiction spread within music, fans began to share songs with one another, and the movement became known as Filk. It took its name from a 1950s article about these unusual songs, which misspelled “Folk” as “Filk.” Bill Sutton is the president of Interfilk, an organization that helps fans and musicians attend Filk conventions. Sutton says otherworldly ideas in popular music, combined with excitement about the space program, made people believe that technology could save everything.

(14) 007, MUNSTER, AND RIPLEY, OH MY! Want to buy the Green Hornet’s car? At Profiles in History’s “The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction” on November 12-13, many extraordinary costumes, props and relics are going under the hammer. 

Following is just a glimpse of the items awaiting you in these pages that left indelible marks in Hollywood history: 

  • John Travolta “Tony Manero” screen worn signature leather jacket from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio “Jack Dawson” poker game/boarding costume from Titanic.
  • Roger Moore “James Bond” Royal Navy uniform jacket from The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • Jane Seymour “Solitaire” psychic medium cape and headdress from Live and Let Die.
  • Orson Welles “Charles Foster Kane” coat from Citizen Kane.
  • Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” fantasy tiger gown from The Seven Year Itch.
  • Gene Kelly “Don Lockwood” legendary rain suit from the Singin’ in the Rain.
  • Gary Cooper “Lou Gehrig” Yankee uniform from The Pride of the Yankees.
  • James Dean “Jett Rink” tuxedo from Giant.
  • Elizabeth Taylor “Leslie Benedict” arrival to Reata ensemble from Giant.
  • Vivien Leigh “Scarlett O’Hara” traveling dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Fred Gwynne “Herman Munster” signature costume from The Munsters.
  • Tina Louise “Ginger” signature glamor dress from Gilligan’s Island.
  • Sir Richard Attenborough “John Hammond” signature cane from Jurassic Park
  • Sigourney Weaver “Ripley” signature Nostromo jumpsuit from Alien.
  • Hero “ramming” Chestburster with articulating jaw and “whiplash” tail from Alien
  • Hero “Ra” Cheops class Pyramid Warship filming miniature from Stargate.
  • Hero X-71 Shuttle “Independence” filming miniature from Armageddon.
  • Zed’s “Grace” Harley chopper ridden by Bruce Willis “Butch Coolidge” in Pulp Fiction

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