Pixel Scroll 1/8/21 Riverworld Deep, Mount To-Be-Read High

(1) WHATES NEW INTERZONE EDITOR. The PS Publishing newsletter (which I haven’t seen) announces Ian Whates is taking over the editorial reins of Interzone, Jonathan Strahan confirms. Whates follows Andy Cox, who has run the UK zine for years.

(2) WHO WROTE THE BOOK. Joyce Reynolds-Ward in “Writing the Revolution” argues that sff helped fuel the mindset behind yesterday’s debacle in DC.

…For every nuanced, mindful, well-thought-out version of Writing the Revolution, there are at least three or four crudely sketched out wish-fulfillment fantasies that are no more realistic than a first-person-shooter video game or their real-life variant, the run-and-gun tacticool classes that are nothing more than jumped up paintball, that allow the participants to fantasize that they are Real Warriors. Hell, I see several of these books pop up every day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, either through ads or assorted promotional groups. And they’re churned out to fulfill a reader demand for romantic notions about what Rebellion or Revolution really is.

(Dare I mention Star Wars here? Um, maybe not.)

Couple that sort of romanticized view of revolution and warfare with the sort of political polemic dominating social media over the past five years (Um. Longer) and you end up with events like January 6th, 2021.

You end up with an angry mob seeking to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power because they’ve been fed lies about the legitimacy of the 2020 election and who view themselves as akin to their fictional heroes.

And the intersection of the two has created the foundation for that idealized conceptualization of revolution….

(3) FAAN AWARDS BALLOT AVAILABLE. Nic Farey, FAAn (Fanzine Activity Achievement) Awards Administrator, has published The Incompleat Register [PDF file] as a voters’ guide. The nominating ballot is within, and votes must be received before midnight PDT, Friday March 12, 2021. Voting is open to anyone with an interest in fanzines. Farey cautions that the Register —

should not be considered to be a definitive list of what you can and cannot vote for. My sources are primarily efanzines.com, Guy Lillian’s listzine ‘The Zine Dump’ and also paper zines personally received. As I can’t possibly be aware of everything, all votes received will be counted in good faith. A “fanzine”, for our purposes, is defined as an immutable artifact, once published not subject to revision or modification. The fanzine might not exist in a physical form. A pdf, for example, is an artifact.

And he adds —

  • You do NOT have to be a member of Corflu or anything else for that matter.
  • You do NOT have to have read or received any minimum number of fanzines to vote, although of course we encourage you to check out the contenders.

(4) BUTLER’S BEGINNINGS. “7 Surprising Facts About Octavia Butler” at Mental Floss.

2. A BAD SCI-FI MOVIE INSPIRED OCTAVIA BUTLER TO START WRITING.

It was a 1954 movie called Devil Girl from Mars, which Butler saw when she was about 12 years old, that ignited the future author’s interest in science fiction. “As I was watching this film, I had a series of revelations,” Butler said during a 1998 talk at MIT. “The first was that ‘Geez, I can write a better story than that.’ And then I thought, ‘Gee, anybody can write a better story than that.’ And my third thought was the clincher: ‘Somebody got paid for writing that awful story.’ So, I was off and writing, and a year later I was busy submitting terrible pieces of fiction to innocent magazines.”

(5) GIVE THEM YOUR ATTENTION. Alex Acks spotlights “6 of the Best Black Indie SFF Writers You Should Be Reading” at Book Riot. First on the list —

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ

A genre polymath who does crime, horror, and SFF, she brings a delightfully pulpy twist to everything she writes, whether it’s mashing up fantasy or science fiction with mystery or penning weird westerns. (Her website is here.) But if you give one book a shot…

KILL THREE BIRDS BY NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ

First off, I cannot get over this cover. (The cover for the sequel, A Theft Most Fowl, is also gorgeous.) Second, we have winged people following a Phoenix goddess, with a caste system that’s laid out as kind of birds. And our main character, Prentice Tasifa, is a Hawk, gifted with the supernatural ability to see things others can’t. And then it’s a well written procedural mystery where Prentice has to hunt down a serial killer.

(6) HOMESTEADING ON TATTOOINE. “The Force (and a Lenient Disney) Is With ‘Star Wars’ Fan Filmmakers” says the New York Times. It’s definitely more encouraging when you don’t get sued.

…Moviemaking fans of other fantasy franchises have complex relationships with the companies that own them, and “Star Wars” fan films do walk a legal tightrope. Disney asks that they be clearly marked, not raise money through crowdfunding, omit copyrighted media, and not profit from ticket sales or online advertisements. The company doesn’t appear to discriminate between fan films made by professionals and those made by amateurs, provided they follow its rules. “There is a point where you do have to protect your copyright,” Hale said.

Not everybody complies. An Indiegogo campaign to finance “Kenobi” got help from James Arnold Taylor, who has voiced the character in “Star Wars” animated television shows. (He also plays the villain in “Kenobi.”) Others have turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund their work.

And some who try to observe the rules have run into trouble. Warner/Chappell, which shares some “Star Wars” music rights with Lucasfilm, in 2019 claimed copyright over a Darth Vader fan film, “Shards of the Past,” posted on YouTube. A torrent of online criticism followed, accusing the company of seeking to profit from fan work. Lucasfilm ultimately intervened to lift the claim. (Hale said she could not comment about copyright claims.)

As technology stretches the capabilities of fan storytelling, questions of propriety could become even thornier. Several films by Peter Csikasz, a Hungarian university student, combine digital assets from official “Star Wars” video games with original motion-capture animation. Csikasz said the games’ developers were aware of his work, even as fan-made “Star Wars” video games have been repeatedly shut down.

As these films grow technically more artful, they have also grown more expensive. A two-minute animated movie can cost more than $5,000 to produce. The budget for “Kenobi” approached $100,000, Satterlund said. (Costly expectations can be prohibitive: last month, Ortiz indefinitely suspended his project after failing to raise $20,000 through crowdfunding.)

Disney’s rules mean many fan movies are financial losses, but a well-executed production can drive YouTube subscribers, attract sponsors for future work or open doors to professional opportunities. “It greases the wheels,” Satterlund said of his short. “It’s helped get me in the room to talk to somebody.”

(7) PW STAFF PICKS OF 2020. Martha Wells’ Network Effect is one of the few sff works named by Publishers Weekly staff as “The Best Books We Read in 2020”.

Martha Wells’ cranky, TV-binging Murderbot, the star and narrator of four superb novellas before this novel, made for a perfect quarantine companion. Her SecUnit killing machine has favored a solitary existence ever since it hacked its way to sentience. It feels safest hunkered down in a storage bay, mainlining its favorite shows, far removed from the messy emotions and motives of people – a preference that only became more relatable as 2020 stretched on…. 

(8) MODEL CITIZEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In a December 31 piece in the Financial Times about the failures of polling, Christine Zhang and Courtney Weaver note a prediction Isaac Asimov made in 1955.

In a fictional America, elections are decided by Multivac, a supercomputer that requires only the input of one ‘representative’ voter to statistically model the outcomes of thousands of nationa1, state, and local contests.  This is the 2008 that science fiction author Isaac Asimov portrayed i his 1955 short story “Franchise,” published three years after Univac, one of the earliest commercial computers, successfully predicted Dwight Eisenhower’s landslide victory on US television network CBS.

Asimov’s dystopian democracy has not yet materialized.  As it turns out–particularly in the two most recent US presidential races–the electorate is not so easy to reliably predict.  Yet it is not from a lack of trying.

(9) KAPANY OBIT. “Narinder S. Kapany, ‘Father of Fiber Optics,’ Dies at 94” – the New York Times pays tribute.

…When Narinder S. Kapany was in high school in the 1940s in Dehradun, an Indian city in the Himalayan foothills, his science teacher told him that light travels only in straight lines. By then he had already spent years playing around with a box camera, and he knew that light could at least be turned in different directions, through lenses and prisms. Something about the teacher’s attitude, he later said, made him want to go further, to prove him wrong by figuring out how to actually bend light.

By the time he entered graduate school at Imperial College London in 1952, he realized he wasn’t alone. For decades researchers across Europe had been studying ways to transmit light through flexible glass fibers. But a host of technical challenges, not to mention World War II, had set them back.

He persuaded one of those scientists, Harold Hopkins, to hire him as a research assistant, and the two clicked. Professor Hopkins, a formidable theoretician, provided the ideas; Dr. Kapany, more technically minded, figured out the practical side. In 1954 the pair announced a breakthrough in the journal Nature, demonstrating how to bundle thousands of impossibly thin glass fibers together and then connect them end to end.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 8, 1891 – Storm Jameson.  Suffragette, took part in the Women’s Pilgrimage.  World War II led her to recant pacifism.  Four novels and a shorter story for us; forty other novels, novellas, criticism, history, memoirs.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor when Doctor Who firstaired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years, leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death.  I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listing for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1926 – Bob Pavlat.  Co-founder of WSFA; chaired Disclave 4-5.  Among his fanzines, BobolingsContour.  With Bill Evans, the monumental Evans-Pavlat Fanzine Index.  Had the good taste to marry Peggy Rae McKnight; Big Heart (our highest service award) given to both; after his death she found no one worth remarrying for sixteen years.  Appreciations here.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking, Ph.D., F.R.S.  Physically active in college, coxed a rowing crew; in graduate school contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease, with which he lived, defying all, for fifty years.  Fellow of the Royal Society.  Lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – although an atheist; as Pope John Paul II said, “Both believing scientists and non-believing scientists are involved”.  U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.  A score of other substantial awards.  Masterly communicator of science, e.g. best-seller A Brief History of Time.  Appeared on Star Trek (The Next Generation), FuturamaThe Big Bang Theory; foreword to The Physics of ”Star Trek”; five George’s Secret Key novels with daughter Lucy Hawking.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1945 – Nancy Bond, age 76.  Newbery Honor and Tir na n-Og Award for A String in the Harp.  Two more books for us, five others.  Lived in Boston, Concord, London, and Borth.  “Each of my books has a firm geographical setting.”  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger, an erotic and kinky film worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him.  From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries, a role which was his last role when he appeared later in the Twin Peaks series. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel. Ok, what did I am leaving y’all to mention? (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born January 8, 1954 – Sylvie Germain, Ph.D., age 67.  Six novels for us translated into English; two dozen others, biography, a children’s book, essays.  Prix Femina, Moncrieff Prize, Prix Goncourt des LycèensPrix mondial Cino del Duca.  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1977 Amber Benson, 44. Best known for her role as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her post-BtVS genre credits are scant with a bit of work on Supernatural, a web series called The Morganville Vampires and, I kid you not, a film called One-Eyed Monster which is about an adult film crew encountering monsters.  She is by the way a rather good writer. She’s written a number of books, some with Christopher Golden such as the Ghosts of Albion series and The Seven Whistlers novel which I read when Subterranean Press sent it to Green Man for review. Her Calliope Reaper-Jones series is quite excellent too. As an audiobook narrator her credits include works by Seanan McGuire and John Scalzi. (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1979 Sarah Polley, 42. H’h what did I first see her in? Ahhhh she was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen! Let’s see what else she’s done… She’s been in the animated Babar: The MovieExistenzNo Such Thing (which is based very loosely on Beowulf), Dawn of the DeadBeowulf & Grendel (well sort of based on the poem but, errr, artistic license was taken) and Mr. Nobody. (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1983 – Michael Ziegelwagner, age 38.  Fifty short stories, e.g. “On the Unreality of Our Forests”, “Bee, Wasp, Bumblebee, Fish”, “New Rules for the Robot Car”. Mostly in German.  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1965 Michelle Forbes, 56. Best remembered as  Ensign Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation, she also showed up in the Battlestar Galactica: Razor film as Admiral Helena Cain, and the pilot of Warren Ellis scripted Global Frequency as Miranda Zero. She played Maryann Forrester on True Blood as well. (CE)

(11) FREUDIAN SPACE. Stephen Colbert makes a couple of (possibly NSFW) genre references in this installment of “Quarantinewhile…” on The Late Show.

(12) GENRE JIGSAW. Brooks & Wyman offers the  “Vintage Science Fiction Magazine Covers 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle”. That’s pretty cute!

Jigsaw Puzzle 1000 Pieces for Adults: This collage of vintage sci-fi magazine covers is nearly 28? across. Our thick cardboard construction and high-quality paper laminate makes for a durable and beautiful puzzle image. Includes puzzle image insert to help you complete the puzzle without the box image.

(13) FAME ON THE MENU. Here’s another of those food places that gives celebrity names to its fare. The Atomo minimart in Los Angeles:

jean luc batard

made with fresh brewed earl grey, oat milk and a touch of agave. make it so.

peter sprinklage

a moist vanilla cake with almond and rum notes, bedazzled with rainbow sprinkles and frosted with a vanilla butter cream. make everyday your birthday.

(14) HAPPY UNBIRTHDAY. “New Observations Agree That the Universe is 13.77 Billion Years old”Universe Today has the story.

The oldest light in the universe is that of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). This light was formed when the dense matter at the beginning of the universe finally cooled enough to become transparent. It has traveled for billions of years to reach us, stretched from a bright orange glow to cool, invisible microwaves. Naturally, it is an excellent source for understanding the history and expansion of the cosmos.

The CMB is one of the ways we can measure the rate of cosmic expansion. In the early universe, there were small fluctuations of density and temperature within the hot dense sea of the big bang. As the universe expanded, the fluctuations expanded as well. So the scale of fluctuations we see in the cosmic microwave background today tells us how must the universe has grown. On average, the fluctuations are about a billion light-years across, and this gives us a value for the rate (the Hubble parameter) as somewhere between 67.2 and 68.1 km/sec/Mpc….

(15) WHAT MOORCOCK’S WORLDS LOOK LIKE. If you followed Michael Moorcock’s career in the UK, or were impatient enough to buy these paperbacks as imports like I was, you likely know these covers.“The master of Moorcock: The psychedelic sci-fi book covers and art of Bob Haberfield” gets discussed at Dangerous Minds.

Sci-fi author Michael Moorcock has published a dizzying array of books since getting his start editing a Tarzan fanzine when he was still a teenager. In addition to his extensive literary career, Moorcock has also had some pretty praiseworthy experiences in the world of rock and roll including having played banjo for Hawkwind (as well as writing lyrics for the band) and penning three songs for Blue Öyster Cult. However, as excellent as Mr. Moorcock is, this post is about a man whose art adorned countless covers of books by Moorcock and others in the genre of fantasy and sci-fi for years, Bob Haberfield. If you are of a certain age you will very likely remember being in a store (especially in the UK) catching yourself staring right at one of Haberfield’s many contemplative psychedelic book covers that were staring right back at you…

See a whole gallery of these covers here: “20 Bob Haberfield – Moorcock book covers ideas”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Random lessons Learned From Making Films” on Vimeo, director David F. Sandberg offers lessons he’s learned from making his three sf/fantasy films, including the complexity of having multiple actors in a scene (he had 14 in one scene in SHAZAM, and camera angles had to be plotted for all of them) and why good sound is more important in a film than good images. BEWARE SPOILERS.

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

13 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/8/21 Riverworld Deep, Mount To-Be-Read High

  1. 10) When we talk about Bowie and SF, the first thing I think of is Space Oddity. A brief search indicates that the song was primarily inspired by 2001.

  2. Storm Jameson was the subject of an essay-review in the December HARPER’S MAGAZINE by Vivian Gornick that might be worth looking up for people who would want to know more about her work.

  3. (10) Michelle Forbes was excellent in Steven Barnes’ 1996 Outer Limits episode “A Stitch in Time,” also starring Amanda Plummer.

  4. (5)
    Several of those look interesting. (Not all available on Kobo, and maybe not on the Large South American River.)

  5. (2) One of the best reads on the revolutionary theme in SF remains (for me) Heinlein’s “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.” That revolution has a far different cause from any other I’ve studied (including our own, the French, and the Russian). RAH posed an intractable problem: mass starvation in seven years, if nothing were changed. However, much of it was rooted in history. The revolution was libertarian in its principles, but Leninist in its strategy–when I studied the Russian Revolution in college, what Lenin did looked awfully familiar. Professor de la Paz was clearly based on Benjamin Franklin (and Manuel O’Kelly on John Adams), but his revolutionary strategy, from the initial organization of the cabal through the final stages of the war for independence, was based solidly upon Lenin. No matter what we may think of Lenin’s ultimate aims, or his political ideology, his strategy, tactics, and organization worked.

    Thankfully, Trump was too lazy to study Lenin (just as he was too lazy to learn American Civics). Otherwise, what happened last Wednesday would have succeeded–when the news came through to me, I had horrid visions of the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917.

  6. 2) I wasn’t expecting “the deleterious effect of cheap novels on the moral fabric of the nation” to make a comeback this year – or any other year really – but here we are.

  7. 10) “Ok, What am I leaving y’all to mention?”
    That he played Ziggy Stardust on stages around the world for two years?

    Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson “had horrid visions of the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917.” For me, seeing smoke exuding from the Capitol Building reminded me of the Reichstag Fire.

  8. 2) While Reynolds-Ward’s assessment of the juvenile nature of various Blows Against the Empire tropes of SF/F is apt, I am less certain than she is about where the Trumpist yahoos encountered them. They do not strike me as recreational readers. I would look instead at the movies–I’d bet on Red Dawn (especially the re-make) and any number of Chuck Norris/Sylvester Stallone shoot-em-ups. Note the semiotics of their getups (tactical everything) and the iconography of some of their banners. Our most prominent local whackjob flies a giant Trump-as-Rambo flag on his pickup. If these guys read anything, it’s the guns & ammo magazines–or, more likely, websites. The more literate/literary (and scary) might have read The Turner Diaries.

    (FWIW, I suspect that Antifa and black-bloc types might be slightly more book-oriented–though maybe comics/comix. Or maybe just V for Vendetta.)

  9. Re 2), and @ Sophie Jane and Russell Letson:

    My first thought was that video games are more likely than are sf books though claiming video games cause violence is also dubious.

    Her claim also requires her to ignore all the work that’s being done on the radicalization of people into white supremacist modes via the internet (but allows her to talk about her own books!). I am less than impressed.

  10. (12) A friend asked why there was no Astounding on the puzzle. I asked that, and also how the images were selected. I received a very thoughtful answer from Wyman & Brook, the puzzle maker:

    “Hi, sounds like you’re a real aficionado of that genre. The decisions were based on subjective aesthetic judgments about the artistic interest of the images, as well as image quality and availability. These covers were preserved in various states, and all images needed to be repaired to create a consistent look and feel to the covers for the puzzle, like they were all new. This took many hours of work, as some covers were in quite poor shape. We also made the decision to create a collage of 10 issues each from five serials, and so Astounding missed the cut just based what we had from that series. We might attempt a v.2 version of this puzzle at some point, and Astounding will be looked at again if we do that.”

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