Pixel Scroll 5/8/21 And Strange At Ecbatan The File Takes Scroll By Scroll The Pixel Strange

(1) WHO? Gizmodo finds a new star in the constellation of talent around this production of Pratchett’s tale: “Terry Pratchett’s Amazing Maurice Animation Adds David Tennant”.

The animated adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Carnegie Medal-winning 2001 children’s book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents has already commandeered a huge celebrity voice cast, but apparently there’s always room for more. Now Doctor Who’s David Tennant has joined the ranks, alongside Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and House’s Hugh Laurie, among many others.

The Amazing Maurice novel is a comedic adaptation of the tale of the Pied Piper, who legendarily led the rats out of the town of Hamelin with his magic pipe, only to lead the town’s children away as well after the townsfolk failed to compensate him for his work. Pratchett’s book, which is part of his beloved Discworld series, is vastly different, featuring a sentient cat named Maurice, a pack of equally sentient rats, and a boy named Keith as they try to trick the town of Bad Blintz into hiring Keith to lead a newfound “rat infestation” away. Instead, they run into more malicious ratcatchers, a rat king with psychic powers, and more….

(2) THE ANSWERS. Rich Horton has posted the answers to his “Quiz about SF Aliens” on Strange at Ecbatan.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

Answer: SKRULL 

(3) LONELY PLANET. James Davis Nicoll has read about how cold it is out there on your own: “Far From Any Star: 5 Stories About Rogue Worlds” at Tor.com.

It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…

(4) BACKLOG. “Wondering How Much Your Pokemon Cards Are Worth? You May Need To Wait” reports NPR.

There has been a trading card accreditation bonanza that is leading to massive backlogs, hiring shortages, and big money as people seek to determine the worth of their Pokemon cards.

… SIMON: A trading card bonanza. These card-grading businesses are getting more cards over a couple of weekends than they used to get in an entire year. People are sending other cards, too. Baseball cards, of course, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh. But Pokemon is still the main attraction.

KOEBLER: Many of these companies have been overwhelmed to the point where they’re no longer even accepting the cards because they have wait times of between, like, 10 months and a year for new cards that are mailed to them….

(5) TAKE THE 101 TO THE 451. Bradburymedia’s Phil Nichols has released another episode of his YouTube series Bradbury 101: “Fahrenheit 451”.

We’ve now reached the year 1953, and the release of Ray Bradbury’s first true novel, Fahrenheit 451. Except…

The first appearance of Fahrenheit was actually a collection rather than a novel!

Confused? You will be! Watch and learn below.

(6) MUPPET VISITS OLD HAUNT. SYFY Wire hypes the “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ special coming to Disney+ this fall”.

…To ring in Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products’ “Halfway to Halloween” campaign, the Mouse House dropped a short teaser for Muppets Haunted Mansion, which arrives on Disney+ sometime this fall. The comedic announcement, made by Gonzo and Pepe the King Prawn, was short on details, but the official release promises “a star-studded Muppets cast, celebrity cameos, all-new music, and spooky fun for families to enjoy together.”

In terms of story, the plot revolves around Gonzo being challenged to spend one night in the scariest place on Earth: Disney’s Haunted Mansion….

(7) KITAEN OBIT. [Item by Dann.] Actress Tawny Kitaen died May 7 at age 59.  The cause of death was not revealed.

Her early fame came from appearing in Whitesnake and Ratt videos. Her first genre role came in Witchboard in 1986 and was followed by an appearance in one episode of the short-lived They Came From Outerspace.

Tawny’s most prominent genre role was taht of Deianeira in the Hercules series.  She appeared in all three Hercules movies (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys – Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules in the Underworld, Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur) as well as in the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys from 1995 to 1997.

She also provided the voice of Annabelle in the animated series Eek! The Cat.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 8, 1955 — On this night in 1955, X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition”.  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there as well. The cast includes  Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill   Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 8, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  Active fan from 1936; drifted away in the late 1950s, happened across Yandro and returned.  His own fanzine Dynatron.  Bruce Pelz managed to get him nicknamed HORT so we’d be cued to pipe up, when we heard it explained as Horrible Old Roy Tackett, “Oh, I know Roy Tackett.  He’s not that old!”  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 22, MileHiCon 12, LoneStarCon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter  Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1945 – Stanislaw Fernandes, age 76. Fourscore covers, a dozen interiors for us; much else.  Here is Reach for Tomorrow.  Here is the Feb 87 Omni.  Here is the Mar 88 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wheel of Darkness.  Elsewhere, here is e.g. the 15 Jan 79 Business Week.  I picked these from the past for a sense of scope; don’t think he hasn’t been busy.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1947 – Ron Miller, age 74.  Five novels; a hundred seventy covers, a hundred thirty interiors; a dozen artbooks.  Here is the Apr 74 Amazing.  Here is The Grand Tour.  Here is the Jan 01 Asimov’s.  Here is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Here is The Art of Chesley Bonestell (with F. Durant; cover by CB; Hugo for Best Related Book).  Here is Up the Rainbow.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. Stephen is dead, damn it all. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill-prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage as the copyright objected according to several sources. It’s available at all the usual digital suspects. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1957 – Jenny Blackford, age 64.  Co-edited Australian SF Review.  A score of stories, two dozen poems; essays, letters, reviews in FoundationNY Rev SFSF Commentary.  Elsewhere, e.g. 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel.  “I have forgotten more Sanskrit than I ever learned, but I still recite Catullus, and my favorite playwright is of course Euripides.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1968 – LeAnn Neal Reilly, age 53.  Five novels.  Has read The SilmarillionIvanhoe, Norwich’s Short History of ByzantiumCrime & PunishmentCatch-22, Chesterton’s St. Augustine and 2 vols. of Father Brown stories, all six Jane Austen novels, The Sound and the FuryThe Little Prince.  She writes, says Kirkus Reviews, “about resilient women caught in magical, otherworldly circumstances.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1982 – Leah Bobet, age 39.  Two novels, twoscore short stories, two dozen poems.  Founding editor of Abyss & Apex; edited Ideomancer.  Aurora, Sunburst, Copper Cylinder Awards.  Makes jam, climbs mulberry trees, plants gardens in back alleys, and contributes to access-to-democracy initiatives. [JH]

(10) HEAR ME ROAR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Now this is some cool crap. For the first time ever, one spacecraft has been used to record a “talkie” of another spacecraft.

The Mars rover Perseverance took a video of Ingenuity — the helicopter — during a test flight with sound. The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released the video which can be seen on YouTube. The sound is pretty low frequency (~84 Hz) so it’s recommended you watch the video on something with speakers that have decent base response. 

The AP has the story — “NASA Mars helicopter heard humming through planet’s thin air”.

… NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California released this first-ever audio Friday, just before Ingenuity made its fifth test flight, a short one-way trip to a new airfield.

During the fourth flight a week earlier, the low hum from the helicopter blades spinning at more than 2,500 revolutions per minute is barely audible. It almost sounds like a low-pitched, faraway mosquito or other flying insect.

That’s because the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter was more than 260 feet (80 meters) from the microphone on the Perseverance rover. The rumbling wind gusts also obscured the chopper’s sound.

Scientists isolated the sound of the whirring blades and magnified it, making it easier to hear….

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. Kris Vyas-Myall reviews the film adaptation of Modesty Blaise for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 6, 1966] BLAISE-ING WRECKAGE (MODESTY BLAISE).

…After Romeo Brown finished, Peter O’Donnell decided to create a more serious strip where a woman would be a capable hero rather than simply an object of desire or a damsel for the man to rescue. Apparently inspired by an orphan girl he met when stationed in Persia during the war, he teamed up once again with Holdaway to create Modesty Blaise.

Modesty reassures Willie’s girlfriend Marjorie that she has no romantic feelings for him.

Starting in 1963, Blaise feels like a totally new type of hero. Both Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin (her loyal sidekick) are both former criminals neither from privileged backgrounds. Modesty grew up in refugee camps in Persia and other Middle Eastern countries, whilst Willie is very much a working-class character. There is also no suggestion that she has any romantic interaction with Willie, instead they are loyal professional colleagues.

An excellent action sequence where Willie rams a lorry into Gabriel’s mansion

It is not just the initial concept that is fresh, the quality of the strip feels ahead of anything else I could easily pick up. O’Donnell’s plots feel fresh and complex, varying significantly from story to story. One week she will be investigating drug running in the Vietnam war, the next dealing with psychic espionage. These are combined with characters that feel deep and real. O’Donnell’s writing and Holdaway’s art also come together to give a really cinematic presentation with a real eye for direction….

(12) SCIENTIFIC CREDENTIALS. Gizmodo has discovered that “Cats Love to Sit Inside Squares—Even Fake Ones”.

…Cats, like people, can be fooled by optical illusions, nifty new research out this week suggests. The study, based on experiments conducted by pet owners at home, found that cats tend to sit inside 2D shapes that only look like squares about as often as they’ll sit inside a real square. The findings might give us a little more insight into cat cognition.

Whether they’re big tigers or domestic felines, cats just seem to love wedging themselves into boxes, crates, or other four-sided objects. This fascination doesn’t stop at 3D objects either, as the social media hashtag #CatSquare showed a few years ago; even using tape to make the outline of a square on the floor will entice cats ready to plop down at a moment’s notice….

(13) OVER THE WAVES. “UK Sci-Fi Series Intergalactic Gets Trailer and Peacock Release”. Io9 knows:

…The entire eight-episode first season debuted across the pond on April 30 to little fanfare, but streaming services are so hungry for content that was clearly not the issue…. 

The YouTube intro says —

Written by award-winning showrunner, Julie Gearey (“Prisoners’ Wives,” “Cuffs,” “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”), the series tells the story of fearless young cop and galactic pilot, Ash Harper (“Savannah Steyn”), who has her glittering career ripped away from her after being wrongly convicted of a treasonous crime and exiled to a distant prison colony. But on the way there, Ash’s fellow convicts stage a mutiny and seize control of their prison transfer ship. With the flight crew dead, mob leader Tula Quik (“Sharon Duncan-Brewster”), is intent on reaching the free world – Arcadia – with her gang; and Ash is the only pilot who can get them there. Ash is forced to join them on the run towards a distant galaxy and an uncertain future.

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

42 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/8/21 And Strange At Ecbatan The File Takes Scroll By Scroll The Pixel Strange

  1. First!

    I’m really looking forward to this animated version of Terry Pratchett’s Amazing Maurice as this is the only way to it justice. Pratchett’s more often than not suited to animation than to live action in my opinion.

  2. (12) I’ve seen photos of cats sitting in circles, also (the circles are social-distancing markings).
    But if they fits, they sits. (Favorite version: a box with a tiger in it. The box is marked “free kitten”.)

  3. (13) OVER THE WAVES. Io9 has no idea how vast Peacock is, nor how stupid a statement they’re making in claiming that they’re running an eight episode series because they’re hungry for content. I’m watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit which has run four hundred and ninety episodes so far.

    Someone at Peacock obviously liked the series which is why it’s running there. I’ll binge it soon.

  4. Stephen Furst! Oh come on, how can you omit his turn as Flounder in Animal House?!

  5. James Reynolds asks Stephen Furst! Oh come on, how can you omit his turn as Flounder in Animal House?!

    Ok, now I’m curious. How is Animal House considered genre? Or even genre adjacent? It’s been so long since I’ve seen that film that I don’t remember him in it. Nor the film for that matter.

    Now watching season one of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

  6. 7) Kitaen was also in the 1984 Gwendoline, which is definitely genre, but also very nearly soft-core porn.

  7. David Shallcross says Kitaen was also in the 1984 Gwendoline, which is definitely genre, but also very nearly soft-core porn.

    Kitaen was actually in a number of films where she did a lot of nude work.

  8. 4) The idea of using a card-grading service for that seems odd to me. Really, all you need to do is google the names of the cards. If you have one that seems to be selling for a lot (or isn’t selling at all, since that can be a sign of ultra-rarity), then the card-grading service can come in, if it’s selling as a collectible and not because people are playing a lot of Pokemon.

    @Cat Eldridge: Eh; I’ve found Peacock to have not very much depth or variety. It’s the only streaming service for which I can say that the only thing I’m interested in is one series.

  9. James Davis Nicoll: Alas? I’m not seeing a problem in pointing to it.

  10. Todd Bennett: Thanks for the update. I have added the information.

  11. (12) I know it’s pointless to expect more than casual editing in a Gizmodo article, but I can’t help giggling a little at how they managed to screw up summarizing a straightforward statement about cats sitting in flat squares that only look like boxes, by saying “cats tend to sit inside 2D shapes that only look like squares about as often as they’ll sit inside a real square”. A real square… is a 2D shape.

  12. (8) That is a terrific picture of three crewmen, their rocket parked on the lawn of a small town, that made me say, “It must be illustrating ‘Mars Is Heaven'” before I read your text.

    I went hunting and found that it’s a two-page spread by Lew Keller for the December 1950 issue of Esquire.

    Two surprises:

    First, slick Esquire was willing to reprint a story that had already appeared in Planet Stories two years earlier.

    Second, I am unable to find this publication of “Mars Is Heaven” in the otherwise fabulously detailed Internet Science Fiction Database.

  13. 9) If I recall, Moebius’ designs for The Abyss were rejected along with a note saying basically “this is beautiful and exactly what we do not want.”.

    9bis) I managed to score a copy of the risqué version of Killing Time the other year…

  14. (12) SCIENTIFIC CREDENTIALS.

    I don’t have access to the images right now, but about 15 years ago, I bought a room-sized geometric tapestry rug to cover a hardwood floor in the place I was going to be moving into. To avoid damaging it by keeping it rolled up, I had it spread out on top of a bare section of the living room carpet in the current place before the move, with no furniture on top of it. It looked something like this.

    It took a few days before I twigged to the fact that one of my Siamese credentials was frequently sitting on the darkest square – but nowhere else – on that rug, and then I started taking a photo every time I saw it happen. I got a whole sequence of photos with the cat sitting in various poses on that particular square. I am intrigued to see that this is a documented behavior of credentials.

  15. Todd Bennett says Della Van Hise sadly passed away on March 3rd.

    Damn. I didn’t catch that as I used her Birthday from last year and forgot to check to see if she had passed on. She was young enough that my brain apparently assumed she hadn’t. I’m getting depressed by young deaths I must admit.

  16. @Cat Eldridge–As I slide deeper and deeper into my sixties, I find that deaths that would once have had me saying, “Gee, that’s kinda young, isn’t it?”, now have me saying, “Damn, that’s way too young!”

  17. Lis Carey says As I slide deeper and deeper into my sixties, I find that deaths that would once have had me saying, “Gee, that’s kinda young, isn’t it?”, now have me saying, “Damn, that’s way too young!”

    Yeah. I’ve reached the age where I’m noticing these deaths all too often. Babylon 5 was the first series where I kept noticing the cast kept dying off far too young.

  18. Paul Weimer says that is one of the true tragedies of the show, agreed

    It certainly had an unusually high number of performers die younger than they should including Mira Furlan who just passed on. I can’t think of a comparable series which had such a bad run.

  19. Meredith Moment:

    A trip through Amazon’s SF/F Kindle Books section revealed that Zen Cho’s “The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water” is currently $2.99 and K.B. Wagers’ “A Pale Light In The Black” is $1.99. They may be on sale elsewhere.

  20. @Cat
    Claudia Christian has been quoted as saying something to the effect that “It almost looks like Somebody is putting together a B5 cast reunion the hard way.”

  21. Michael J. Lowrey notes Claudia Christian has been quoted as saying something to the effect that “It almost looks like Somebody is putting together a B5 cast reunion the hard way.”

    Sadly true. It’s also true that it was a large ensemble cast so it should be expected to have quite a few deaths over the years. And the acting world does tend to have a higher than average number of early deaths, doesn’t it?

    In contrast, Farscape which has been off the air nearly twenty years has if I recall correctly had only one major cast death in Jonathan Hardy who voiced Dominar Rygel XVI.

  22. @ P J Evans

    (Favorite version: a box with a tiger in it. The box is marked “free kitten”.)

    Link

    @Cat Eldridge

    How is Animal House considered genre?

    Senator Blutarsky. Alternate history.

    @David Shallcross

    Kitaen was also in the 1984 Gwendoline, which is definitely genre, but also very nearly soft-core porn.

    That would be a “win-win”.

  23. Ok, I must have been really somewhere else during the Eighties. I’ve been skimming the newsfeeds on Tawney Kitaen and I just discovered that she was a Major Player on the rock music scene during the Eighties. According to her fans, she was one of the great musicians of that period. WTF?

  24. @ Cat Eldridge

    Tawny was best known for her modeling/acting on videos for 80s glam band Whitesnake (“Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love”). As someone who was an adolescent male during those times, she was definitely an American 80s sex symbol. Tawny married Whitesnake singer David Coverdale at one point.

  25. 12) is interesting, because I just read in the (German) Max-planckh-institute-magazine that the Müller-Lyer optical illusion doesnt work for all people – there seems to be a cultural factor playing a role (some cultures dont mistake the lines of being of different sizes). So it will be interesting to see which optical illusion are “universal” across cultures – or even species.

  26. Rob Thornton says Tawny was best known for her modeling/acting on videos for 80s glam band Whitesnake (“Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love”). As someone who was an adolescent male during those times, she was definitely an American 80s sex symbol. Tawny married Whitesnake singer David Coverdale at one point.

    Coverdale would later file protection from abuse orders against her. Her post music vid period was littered with serious drug charges and a lot of other problems.

  27. (13) I watched Intergalactic over the past week or so. Overall I enjoyed it: there are definitely characters (including among the group of protagonists) whom I don’t like but who are nevertheless quite interesting – and there is clear character development (for some of the characters at least). The world-building and science-y aspects could be better (or at least a lot more fleshed out / explained) but I am willing to put on my suspenders of disbelief.

    The first season’s ending did feel a bit strange – but it turns out <a href=”there’s a reason for that:

    “We then got a call saying actually they were really lucky because we’d shot nine episodes and it just so happened that the end of eight, narratively, was a really neat finish,” she explained. “So they said we’re going to use eight, and then we’ve got nine and a bit of ten in the bag if we come back for season two.”

  28. 2) I never remember which are the Skrull, and which are the Kree. Or sometimes, the Krull and the Skree.

  29. “To unsubscribe from our mailing list, use the Laxian Key.”

  30. @Cat Eldridge Um. I fall back on the Mad Hatter via John Meyers Meyer: “Well, actually, I dont know that it is genre. But if you don’t think about it, it will not worry you!”
    Yeah, I got it wrong. But I get Silverlock into the apology!

  31. James Reynolds says Um. I fall back on the Mad Hatter via John Meyers Meyer: “Well, actually, I dont know that it is genre. But if you don’t think about it, it will not worry you!”
    Yeah, I got it wrong. But I get Silverlock into the apology!

    Yeah that you did. Kudos for that.

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