Pixel Scroll 5/7/21 Anything You Can Grok, I Can Grok Better

(1) DOING MINISTRY WORK. Crooked Timber  is having an extended forum on Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry For The Future: Below are the posts that have been made so far as part of “The Ministry for the Future seminar”.

Over the next ten days, we’re running a seminar on Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent novel about climate change and how our political and economic system might have to change to stop it, The Ministry for the Future. We’re happy to be able to do this – it’s an important book. Since it came out, it’s had an enormously enthusiastic reception (see e.g. Barack Obama and Ezra Klein). What we want to do in this seminar is not to celebrate it further (although it certainly deserves celebration) but to help it do its work in the world. So we’ve asked a number of people to respond to the book, by arguing it through and, as needs be, arguing with it. Soon after the seminar finishes, we will publish a reply piece by Stan, and then make the seminar generally available under a Creative Commons license. As the pieces are published, I will update this post to provide hyperlinks, to make it easier for people to keep track.

And Adam Roberts didn’t want to be left out – in comments he linked to his review of the book at Sibilant Fricative: “Kim Stanley Robinson, ‘The Ministry for the Future’”.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dine with award-winning writer Aliette de Bodard in episode 144 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast. Edelman adds, ”And unless my anxiety overwhelms me, next week, I’ll record the first face to face episode in 14 months … with a fully vaccinated guest over takeout at a picnic table in a public park.”

Aliette de Bodard

It’s time to head off for a Vietnamese meal with the amazing Aliette de Bodard, who’s currently both a Hugo Award and Ignyte Award finalist for her story “The Inaccessibility of Heaven,” published last year in Uncanny.

She’s the author of the Hugo-Award-nominated series The Universe of Xuya, set in a galactic empire born out of Vietnamese history and culture. She’s also written the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in an alternate Paris devastated by a magical war, which includes The House of Shattered WingsThe House of Binding Thorns, and the The House of Sundering Flames.

Her short fiction has appeared in UncannyBeneath Ceaseless SkiesLightspeedSubterraneanTor.com, and other magazines. She’s won three Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, a European Science Fiction Association Achievement Award, and four British Science Fiction Association Awards, in addition to being a finalist for the Hugo and Sturgeon Award. She was a double Hugo finalist in 2019 for Best Series and Best Novella, and was also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2009.

We discussed how best to deal with imposter syndrome, the way the pandemic contributed to her completing a long-unfinished story, the phone call which sparked her to focus on more personal stories, when she realized she was building universes rather than single stories, how anger over Revenge of the Sith gave her insight into the kinds of universes she did and didn’t want to build, why the Shadow and Bone TV adaptation wasn’t the escapist entertainment she hoped it would be, how writers can fight back against the cliches popular culture puts in our heads, whether writers can control the effects of their stories when they have no idea what individual readers might bring to them, how best to use anger appropriately, the importance of a story’s final line, what she wishes she’d known about writing rules when she began, and much more.

(3) A MODEL FAN. Part 2 of Fanac.org’s Zoom session interview with Erle and Steve Korshak is now online. Erle is nearly 98. (Part 1 is here,)

Erle Korshak, founder of the legendary Shasta Publishers, instrumental in the second Worldcon in 1940 (Chicon I), very likely the first SF bookseller, and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon), sat with his son, Stephen, and fan historian Joe Siclari for a dive into his 80+ year SF fan career (April 2021). Part 2 of his interview is replete with entertaining anecdotes of well known fans and pros in the field such as Aldous Huxley, Charlie Hornig, and Bob Tucker. Erle recounts a sweet tale of Frank R. Paul drawing on stencil, and a charming story of how he himself came to be the model for the Hubert Rogers cover for Heinlein’s “Revolt in 2100”. You’ll also hear convention stories, art stories and more. Best of all, Erle paints a clear picture of what science fiction fandom was like in the early, early days.

(4) COSTUMERS’ IDEAS ABOUT BEST PRACTICES. Another of Fanac.org’s many recent additions is the Kennedy Masquerade Compendium – even in 1981, they thought it was time to stop reinventing the wheel every year.

…It occurred to me, among others, that more input by costumers would be a GOOD THING. Further, that assembling a consensus of opinion on various aspects of costuming and of Masquerade operation could be a help to future Masquerade Committees. With this in mind, I composed a few tentative rules and sent them out to those costumers whose addresses were in my book, asking for comments, criticisms, and suggestions. Some of the rules were deliberately provocative; and they did indeed provoke the production of enough material for another letter, and then another another. From the answers received, and from some personal discussions, I arrived at this present set of Guidelines. Not everything here is agreed to by every person who contributed, but I have tried to make sure that each suggestion is supported by enough experienced costumers to represent a respectable body of opinion….

(5) HAND-TO-BUTTON COMBAT. ScreenRant presents “The 10 Most Bizarre Weapons In Sci-Fi Movies, Ranked”.

…Science-fiction and technology go hand in hand, with one influencing the other over the years. This had led to both fantastical imaginings and real-world applications. Sci-fi movies usually showcase this relationship using advanced spaceships, robots, and of course, weapons….

8. L.O.O.K.E.R. GUN

Michael Crichton’s Looker was an attempt at holding a mirror up to society’s obsession with media and beauty, while also presenting a mystery about a series of murders of recent plastic surgery patients. Looker was one of the first films to use computer-generated images to create a realistic human character.

The film also featured a truly odd weapon of choice for the killer, which was a gun that emitted pulses of light to hypnotize/blind its victims/give the bearer the illusion of invisibility. The gun was named the Light Ocular-Oriented Kinetic Emotive Responses, or L.O.O.K.E.R Gun, which means its vague purpose may be secondary to making the acronym work with the title of the film.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • May 7, 1933 — On this day in 1933, King Kong premiered. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose from an idea by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an astonishing ninety eighty percent approval rating. It has been ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as the fourth greatest horror film of all time.  You can watch it here as it’s very much in the public domain. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 7, 1861 – Rabindranath Tagore.  Five stories, two poems for us available in English.  Composer, painter, philosopher, playwright, poet, social reformer.  First lyricist to win the Nobel Prize.  Two thousand songs; two chosen as national anthems.  Still largely unknown outside Bengal; try this.  (Died 1941) [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories.  His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of they would publish was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. He’s won two Retro Hugos, the first at Worldcon 76 for “The Twonky” short story, the second at Dublin 2019 for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. (Died 1958.) (CE) 
  • Born May 7, 1918 – Walt Liebscher.  Fanziner best known for Chanticleer.  Harry Warner applauded “the incredible things Liebscher did with typewriter art.  He specialized in little faces with subtle expressions….  The contents page was frequently a dazzling display of inventive borders and separating lines.  Variety was imparted to some pages simply by running down one margin a repeated motif created from various characters”; here is C7 (PDF).  A score of short stories, half a dozen poems.  Correspondent of The Alien CriticAstounding, Fantasy AdvertiserVoice of the Imagi-NationLe Zombie.  Fan Guest of Honor  at Ambercon 2, Archon 6.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then she had the extended recurring role of Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born May 7, 1931 – Gene Wolfe.  Thirty novels, two hundred thirty stories, forty poems.  Correspondent of AlgolThe Alien CriticFantasy NewsletterNY Rev of SFSF ChronicleSF CommentarySF Review, Speculation.  Interviewed in ClarkesworldGalaxy’s EdgeInterzoneScheherazadeSolarisStarShipSofaThrustUnivers (so spelled, it’s French), Vector.  Two Nebulas, five World Fantasy Awards including Lifetime Achievement, Campbell Memorial Award, Skylark, Rhysling, British SF Ass’n and British Fantasy Awards, SF Hall of Fame, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master. Guest of Honor at AutoClave 1, Baycon ’82, DucKon VIII, Balticon 40, Chambanacon 45-47, Aussiecon Two the 43rd Worldcon.  I can’t omit “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories”, “The Death of Doctor Island”, “The Doctor of Death Island”, “Death of the Island Doctor”.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 82. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a redhead who was seriously into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of his include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that I’m betting almost no one here has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2. (CE)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant, if unsettling look at the theatre world. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born May 7, 1943 – Ned Dameron, age 78.  Fifty covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is Trumpet 12.  Here is Showboat World.  Here (and here) is Sailing to Byzantium.  Here is the Nolacon II Hugo trophy (46th Worldcon).  Here are facing interior pages from Charlie the Choo-Choo.  [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 70. SF reviewer for the LA Times,  the unfortunately defunct Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films. (CE)
  • Born May 7, 1966 – Rachel Ann Nunes, age 55.  A dozen novels for us (some under another name), half a dozen shorter stories, three dozen books all told.  She says she’s “married, mostly grown up, and has seven kids, so life at her house can be very interesting (and loud)….  Her only rule about writing is never to eat chocolate at the computer.”  [JH]
  • Born May 7, 1982 – Bec McMaster, age 39.  Two dozen novels.  She says, “raised on myth and legend … offered her younger siblings to the goblin king many a time.  Unfortunately, he did not accept.”  Has read Jane Eyre, five-sixths of the Lymond ChroniclesPride and PrejudiceRomeo and JulietThe Count of Monte Cristo.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

The Far Side has a clever Star Trek joke.

(9) BLACK CARTOONISTS. Never-before-collected comics from Chicago’s Black press: It’s Life as I See It curated by Dan Nadel and published by the New York Review Comics.

Between the 1940s and 1980s, Chicago’s Black press—from The Chicago Defender to the Negro Digest to self-published pamphlets—was home to some of the best cartoonists in America. Kept out of the pages of white-owned newspapers, Black cartoonists found space to address the joys, the horrors, and the everyday realities of Black life in America. From Jay Jackson’s anti-racist time travel adventure serial Bungleton Green, to Morrie Turner’s radical mixed-race strip Dinky Fellas, to the Afrofuturist comics of Yaoundé Olu and Turtel Onli, to National Book Award–winning novelist Charles Johnson’s blistering and deeply funny gag cartoons, this is work that has for far too long been excluded and overlooked. Also featuring the work of Tom Floyd, Seitu Hayden, Jackie Ormes, and Grass Green, this anthology accompanies the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s exhibition Chicago Comics: 1960 to Now, and is an essential addition to the history of American comics.

(10) WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS. For-profit conrunner Creation Entertainment is revving up an anniversary celebration: “Creation Entertainment’s 55-Year Mission Convention in Las Vegas”. It will take place August 11-15.

The year 2021 marks the 50th Anniversary of Creation Entertainment, the 55th Anniversary of Star Trek, the 20th Anniversary of our convention in Las Vegas, Gene Roddenberry’s 100th birthday year and William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy’s 90th birthday years. It’s the perfect time to celebrate and no city is better than Las Vegas to do just that!

With over 100 celebrity guests, we’ll have multiple tracks of non-stop programming, contests, music, cosplay and surprises, plus partying galore. We’ll immerse our attendees into the positive and loving atmosphere with thousands of other fans, as we all celebrate Gene Roddenberry’s legacy.

(11) PRIVATE ASTRONAUTS. “NASA, Axiom Space to Host Media Briefing on Private Astronaut Mission” says a NASA press release.

NASA and Axiom Space have signed a mission order for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station and will host a teleconference with media at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 10, to discuss more details about the mission.

NASA has opened up the space station for commercial activities, including private astronaut missions, as part of its plan to develop a robust and competitive economy in low-Earth orbit. NASA’s needs in low-Earth orbit – such as human research, technology development, and in-flight crew testing – will continue after the retirement of the International Space Station. Commercial industry will help meet these needs by providing destinations and transportation capabilities to continue these services as part of a broader low-Earth orbit economy. Enabling private astronaut missions to the station is an important step to stimulate demand for commercial human spaceflight services so that NASA can be one of many customers in low-Earth orbit.

The spaceflight, named Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), is scheduled to launch no earlier than January 2022 for an eight-day mission aboard the orbiting complex. The Axiom Space crew will launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida…

(12) A FULLY-OPERATIONAL PLAYTHING. Eric Diaz, in “Kick Off Summer with a Giant Inflatable Death Star Beach Ball” at Nerdist, says that Star Wars fans will want to take this Giant Inflatable beach ball and kick it around the pool, pretending that Stormtroopers inside are flailing because of the powers of the Force!l

…Just think of all the fun you’ll have, imagining the stormtroopers inside. Each rolling around and hitting their dumb helmets on the walls. And all while kicking this Death Star across the park. Or better yet, throw it in your backyard pool. It’s just like when Death Star II crashes on the planet Kef Bir, the ocean moon of Endor. However you decide to play with it, or even just display that big sucker, it sure feels like the past year owes us all a giant inflatable battle station of our own….

(13) UP ALL NIGHT. Netflix dropped a trailer for Awake, a future where people can’t sleep. Airs June 9.

Chaos ensues after a global event wipes out all electronics and takes away humankind’s ability to sleep. But Jill (Gina Rodriguez), an ex-soldier with a troubled past, may hold the key to a cure in the form of her own daughter.

(14) RESCUED ROMERO FILM.  Another trailer dropped for The Amusement Park, a film George Romero directed in 1973 which has been suppressed until now, that has been released on Shudder.

An elderly gentleman goes for what he assumes will be an ordinary day at the amusement park, only to find himself in the middle of a hellish nightmare instead. Shot by George A. Romero between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, The Amusement Park is a bleak, haunting allegory where the attractions and distractions of an amusement park stand in for the many abuses that the elderly face in society. 4K digital restoration commissioned by the George A. Romero Foundation and carried out by IndieCollect.

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

22 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/7/21 Anything You Can Grok, I Can Grok Better

  1. (4) Peggy and Pat Kennedy were beloved friends and are greatly missed.
    One of the pieces of business accomplished at the recent International Costumers Guild (virtual) Annual Meeting was the approval of a new, greatly expanded version of the ICG Masquerade Guidelines, intended as a new resource in the tradition of the Compendium. The work of a multigenerational team of ICG members, It’ll be coming online later this year.

  2. (13) An ironic doom – 8 hours more to doomscroll and no electronics to doomscroll with.

  3. (7) A fun correction tonight (to help counteract my one-day-later Pfizer shot symptoms): The first Gene Wolfe story in the sequence is “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories,” hence the title of his 1980 collection “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” and Other Stories.

    [Until recently when they became too musty, I was a fan of John O’Hara’s short stories and novellas; the final story collection he published was And Other Stories (1968).]

  4. (10) Notice that Creation’s Las Vegas convention is no longer the “Official Star Trek Convention”. CBS has dropped Creation and signed with ReedPop for their official conventions. The first under the new arrangement will be in Chicago in Spring 2022.

  5. 9) I’m proud to say I created and repeatedly expanded the Wikipedia article on Jay Jackson, who worked for five years on Ray Palmer’s Amazing and Fantastic, apparently the first black artist to do any extensive work in our field.
    He then turned the Chicago Defender‘s long-running Bungleton Green comic strip into science fiction and Green himself into a superhero.

  6. 1) Glad to hear that Ministry Of The Feature is getting the attention it rightfully deserves. Honestly, Ministry should have a Hugo nomination.

  7. 10) Outfits like Creation Con are parasites on fandom, not legitimate conrunners, and should be treated with the disdain accorded Vox Day and Bernard Madoff.

  8. @Michael Lowrey, I absolutely agree. I’m just pointing out that Creation’s event is no longer allowed to call itself the official Star Trek convention and that CBS has shifted their affiliation from one parasite for-profit outfit to a different parasite for-profit outfit.

  9. Dennis Howard says I absolutely agree. I’m just pointing out that Creation’s event is no longer allowed to call itself the official Star Trek convention and that CBS has shifted their affiliation from one parasite for-profit outfit to a different parasite for-profit outfit.

    Are we saying that all for profits parasites? If so, I must say that’s a really broad statement as one who’s been involved in for profit festivals and concerts. It’s not a bad thing to make money as long as everyone involved has a good time.

  10. @Cat Eldridge, I remember a time back in the late 1980s/early 1990s when everv time there was a local con in the Detroit area that a for-profit con would suddenly arrive, complete with radio and TV announcements, either the same weekend as the fan-run con or a week earlier. The for-profits, Creation and some others now defunct, regarded fan-run cons as the enemy to be defeated and assimilated. So yes, parasites.

  11. (7) It was also Darren McGavin (b. 1922) birthday. Carl Kolchak in the Night Stalker and Night Strangler made for TV movies and Kolchak: The Night Stalker series. One of his early TV roles was in “The Duplicates” on Tales of Tomorrow where he plays an engineer sent to a mirror universe to kill his counterpart before the two worlds destroy each other. Probably now best remembered as The Old Man from A Christmas Story.

    Also David Tomlinson (b. 1917) who was the father in Mary Poppins. He completed his Disney trifecta with The Love Bug and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Also made a Wombles movie (Wombling Free) and finished up his career with The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.

    Has anyone ever heard “A Liter and a Gram?” It’s Tom Lehrer’s unit variations on “A Bushel and a Peck” and probably never recorded. I’m guessing it’s something from his student days, possibly grad school, but for all I know it might be from the Electric Company or his days teaching musical theatre.

  12. 9) Grass Green’s name is a blast from the past for me. Before I found traditional SF fandom via Dick Geis’ SF REVIEW, I dabbled around the edges of comics fandom, including reading some of the comics fanzines being published. One of those fanzines was STAR-STUDDED COMICS, to which Grass Green was a frequent contributor. Here’s his cover for Star-Studded Comics #8.

    Somehow it had never crossed my radar before today that he was a Black comics artist. Huh.

  13. (6) It’s far from clear that Kong is in the public domain – there’s a long history of legal wrangling over this, and while there are clearly ways one can go about making Kong-related works, one of the few things that seems clear is that the copyright on the original film hasn’t lapsed. Here is one recent attempt to summarize the situation.

  14. 5) My favorite strange weapon is probably the Blamethrower from Mystery Man.

    @Eli: Thanks for the link! I knew that there were various tries from the makers of the 70s film to establish that King Kong is in the public domain, which made it a bit weid that they sued Nintendo in the famous “Case of the two gorillas” over Donkey Kong.

  15. Meredith moment: Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing is available from the usual suspects for three dollars and ninety nine cents today. This is the later book, not the original chapbook.

  16. I can Grok a Vorlon with a Risan Horgon
    I can Grok The Sparrow with a Miocene Arrow
    I can warp with Cheddite Cheese
    And only with that?
    Yes.
    Can you twishers Platt?

  17. Eli: That was a really interesting link to the complex state of King Kong rights. Thanks for the link!

  18. (5) The “Looker” Gun was memorable enough (or suggestive enough) that DC Comics created a superheroine named Looker with glowing blue eyes (the same as could be seen in the “Looker” mind-control commercials) and telephatic mind control and telekentic powers.

    Wikipedia write-up

  19. Re David Tomlinson, it is also worth mentioning The City Under the Sea.

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