Pixel Scroll 8/30/21 Riding Out On A Scroll In A Pixel-Spangled Rodeo

(1) DRAGON AWARDS DEADLINE. The deadline for requesting a ballot for the Dragon Awards is Friday. Their website says: “You may register to receive a ballot until 11:59 (EDT) on the Friday of Dragon Con”, which is September 3. Voting ends September 4.  The finalists are listed here.

(2) GET THE POINT. At the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Revel Grove, which is running weekends through October 24, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health is encouraging people to get Covid vaccinations by offering a souvenir pin.

HEAR YE! HERE YE! #LimitedEdition#VACCINATED for the Good of the Realm” pins when you get a #COVID19 shot at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in #Crownsville. #GoVAXMaryland

Revelers age12+ can get a #COVIDvaccine at the #Renaissance Festival weekends (through Oct. 24) 10am–6pm. No appointment required. For more vaccination locations, visit: covidvax.maryland.gov

(3) VARLEY HEALTH NEWS. Meanwhile, John Varley told readers of his blog that he and his partner Lee Emmett have contracted COVID-19. (Varley already had another major health issue earlier this year when he was hospitalized for heart bypass surgery.)

You do everything right, and still things go wrong. We are both double vaccinated and we’ve been masking up and social distancing since the pandemic began. Then last week after having lunch at a restaurant here in Vancouver where the vaccination rate is 54 percent we both started feeling very bad. Almost too weak to walk. I’ve been coughing horribly. Lee not so much, but neither of us have hardly been out of bed for almost week.

Went in to get tested, and sure enough. I’m positive for COVID-19. A so-called breakthrough case. They say symptoms will usually be milder. If this is milder, it’s easy to see why people are dying, unable to breathe. This is fucking terrible.

I don’t expect this is likely to kill us, but you never know. This short note is all the energy I have right now. You may not be hearing from us for a while. Wish us luck.

Stay safe and get vaccinated!!

(4) THINGS A CORPORATION CAN’T UNDERSTAND. Hadley Freeman interviews legendary puppeteer Frank Oz for the Guardian. Unsurprisingly, he, too, has issues with Disney: “Frank Oz on life as Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and Yoda: ‘I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me’”.

…Oz, 77, is talking to me by video from his apartment. It is impossible to talk to him without frequent reference to Henson. When I ask if he lives in New York he says yes, and adds that he’s lived there since he was 19, “ever since Jim [Henson] asked me to come here to work with him on the Muppets”. He talks about himself as Henson’s No2 – the Fozzie Bear to Henson’s Kermit.

Yet is it possible that Oz has made more of an imprint on more people’s imaginations than Henson and the Beatles combined. Even aside from the Muppets and Sesame Street, where he brought to life characters including Cookie Monster, Grover, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle and Bert, he is also the voice of Yoda, and yes, he coined Yoda’s formal yet convoluted syntax, all “Speak like me, you must not” and so on. “It’s funny you ask about that because I was just looking at the original script of The Empire Strikes Back the other day and there was a bit of that odd syntax in it, but also it had Yoda speaking very colloquially. So I said to George [Lucas]: ‘Can I do the whole thing like this?’ And he said: ‘Sure!’ It just felt so right,” says Oz….

(5) MIGHTY IN THE ANTIPODES. The Guardian spotlights obscure Australian superhero movies: “From Captain Invincible to Cleverman: the weird and wild history of Australian superheroes”.

… The phrase “nobody makes superhero movies like Australia” has, I dare say, never before been written. Our humble government-subsidised film and TV industry is no more than a lemonade stand in the shadow of Hollywood’s arena spectacular, unable to compete budget-wise with the deep pockets of Tinseltown or produce bombast on the scale of American studios.

But scratch the surface of Australian film and TV history and you will find a small but rich vein of super strange locally made superhero productions with their own – forgive me – true blue je ne sais quoi. Their eclecticism and off-kilter energy provides a refreshing counterpoint to the risk-averse kind falling off the Hollywood assembly line.

The first port of call is the riotously entertaining 1983 action-comedy The Return of Captain Invincible, a stupendously odd and original movie that proved ahead of the curve in many respects. From Mad Dog Morgan director Philippe Mora, and co-writer Steven E. de Souza (who co-wrote Die Hard) the film stars Alan Arkin as the eponymous, ridiculous, frequently sozzled hero, drawn out of retirement to combat his nefarious super-villain nemesis (the great Christopher Lee) who has stolen a “hypno-ray” with which he can take over the world….

(6) TRILOGY CELEBRATED. Howard Andrew Jones continues his When The Goddess Wakes online book tour on Oliver Brackenbury’s So I’m Writing A Novel podcast (which Cora Buhlert recently featured in her Fancast Spotlight) — “Interview with Howard Andrew Jones”.

Author of the recently concluded Ring-Sworn trilogy, editor of the most excellent sword & sorcery magazine Tales of the Magician’s Skull, and teacher of a heroic fantasy writing class Oliver recently attended (the next session just opened to registration), Howard Andrew Jones has been a source of inspiration, knowledge, and encouragement for Oliver while our earnest podcast host has worked on his book.

(7) AGAINST ALL BOOKS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Works About Preserving or Destroying Books”. First on the list: Fahrenheit 451.

Recently, news went out that the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association is determined to reallocate the room currently occupied by the Clubs Library. Among the collections housed there: WatSFiC’s extensive science fiction and fantasy library, portions of which date back to the 1970s. One hopes that the library will find another home, or that other accommodations can be made before the collection is broken up or lost.

…Here are five works about books and libraries, their friends, and their bitter enemies.

This hits close to home because, says James, “I was watsfic treasurer for six terms.”

(8) HE DREW FROM THE WELL. Jack Chalker is remembered in this article at the Southern Maryland News: “Chalker literary career provided sci-fi fun”.

Sample reading list: “Well of Souls” series including “Midnight at the Well of Souls,” “Exiles at the Well of Souls,” “Quest for the Well of Souls,” “The Return of Nathan Brazil” and “Changewinds” books including “When the Changewinds Blow,” “Riders of the Winds” and “War of the Maelstrom.”

…His work won several Sci-Fi awards beginning with the Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award in 1979, a Skylark Award (1980), a Daedalus Award (1983), and The Gold Medal of the West Coast Review of Books (1984).

While Chalker loved Sci-Fi, he also had a great interest in ferryboats; so much so that he was married on the Roaring Bull boat, part of the Millersburg Ferry, in the middle of the Susquehanna River and then after his death had his ashes scattered off a ferry near Hong Kong, a ferry in Vietnam, and White’s Ferry on the Potomac River. His fans follow each other www.facebook.com/JackLChalker.

(9) GETTING READY. You could hardly ask for a more prepared Guest of Honor!

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, Raiders of The Lost Ark wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon IV where Marta Randall was Toastmaster.  It was, I think, a great year for Hugo nominated films as the other nominations were Dragonslayer, Excalibur, Outland and Time Bandits.  It would be the first of the two films in the franchise to win a Hugo as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would also win at ConFiction. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 30, 1797 – Mary Shelley. Author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818), her first novel. Another of Shelley’s novels, The Last Man (1826), concerns Europe in the late 21st century, ravaged by a mysterious pandemic illness that rapidly sweeps across the entire globe, ultimately resulting in the near-extinction of humanity. Scholars call it one of the first pieces of dystopian fiction published. (Died 1851) (OGH)
  • Born August 30, 1896 Raymond Massey. In 1936, he starred in Things to Come, a film adaptation by H.G. Wells of his own novel The Shape of Things to Come. Other than several appearances on Night Gallery forty years later, that’s it for genre appearances. (Died 1983.)
  • Born August 30, 1942 Judith Moffett, 78. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Nolacon II. Asimov wrote an introduction for her book Pennterra and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series. Her Holy Ground series of The Ragged World: A Novel of the Hefn on EarthTime, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: A Sequel to the Ragged World and The Bird Shaman are her other genre novels. The Bear’s Babys And Other Stories collects her genre short stories. All of her works are surprisingly available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born August 30, 1943 Robert Crumb, 78. He’s here because ISFDB lists him as the illustrator of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick which is likely they say an interview that Dick did with Gregg Rickman and published in Rickman’s The Last Testament. They’re also listing the cover art for Edward Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang as genre but that’s a very generous definition of genre.
  • Born August 30, 1955 Mark Kelly. He maintains the indispensable Science Fiction Awards Database, which we consult almost daily. He wrote reviews for Locus in the Nineties, then founded the Locus Online website in 1997 and ran it single-handedly for 20 years, along the way winning the Best Website Hugo (2002). Recently he’s devised a way to use his awards data to rank the all-time “Top SF/F/H Short Stories” and “Top SF/F/H Novelettes”. Kelly’s explanation of how the numbers are crunched is here. (OGH)
  • Born August 30, 1955 Jeannette Holloman. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Columbia Costumers Guild and she was a participant at masquerades at Worldcon, CostumeCon, and other conventions. Her costumes were featured in The Costume Makers Art and Threads magazine. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 30, 1963 Michael Chiklis, 58. He was The Thing in two first Fantastic Four films, and Jim Powell on the the No Ordinary Family series which I’ve never heard of.  He was on American Horror Story for its fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show as Dell Toledo. The following year he was cast as Nathaniel Barnes, in the second season of Gotham, in a recurring role. And he voiced Lt. Jan Agusta in Heavy Gear: The Animated Series
  • Born August 30, 1965 Laeta Kalogridis, 56. She was an executive producer of the short-lived Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like. 
  • Born August 30, 1972 Cameron Diaz, 49. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she was cast as an uncredited Bus passenger in Minority Report. (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1980 Angel Coulby, 41. She is best remembered for her recurring role as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived animated Thunderbirds Are Go series.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DEADLY CONSEQUENCES. “Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future, and 2021’s extreme heat”, Rebecca Onion’s Q&A with the author starts with his book’s intense beginning.

“I feel like my circles have divided between those who’ve read the opening chapter of The Ministry for the Future and those who haven’t,” wrote novelist Monica Byrne on Twitter earlier this month. This book, by beloved science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, came out in 2020, and has haunted my summer in 2021. Ministry opens in a small city in Uttar Pradesh, India, where the character Frank May, an American who works for an unidentified NGO, just barely survives an extreme heat wave that kills millions of people in the country. This opening is so viscerally upsetting that, for days after reading it, I worried at it in my mind, turning it over, trying—and failing—to get it to go away.

Rebecca Onion: This opening brutalized me. (And I know I’m not alone.) I read it without any preparation—I hadn’t been warned—and it gave me insomnia, dominated my thoughts, and led me to put the book down for a few months. Then I picked it back up and found that the remainder of it is actually quite optimistic, for a book about a rolling series of disasters! What were you aiming for, when it comes to readerly emotional response, in starting the book this way?

Kim Stanley Robinson: I wanted pretty much the response you described. Fiction can put people through powerful imaginative experiences; it generates real feelings. So I knew the opening scene would be hard to read, and it was hard to write. It wasn’t a casual decision to try it. I felt that this kind of catastrophe is all too likely to happen in the near future. That prospect frightens me, and I wanted people to understand the danger….

Robinson also tried a different approach, the carrot instead of the stick, in this TED Talk in July: “Kim Stanley Robinson: Remembering climate change … a message from the year 2071”.

Coming to us from 50 years in the future, legendary sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson tells the “history” of how humanity ended the climate crisis and restored the damage done to Earth’s biosphere. A rousing vision of how we might unite to overcome the greatest challenge of our time.

(14) SAND, NOT DUNE. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer checks out “6 Books with John Appel”, author of Assassin’s Orbit.

4. A book that you love and wish that you yourself had written.

I’d give up a redundant organ to have written Roger Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand, about a young man named Fred Cassidy whose uncle left him a generous stipend as long as he pursues a college degree – a process which Fred has stretched out for over a decade. Fred gets caught up in the disappearance of an alien artifact on loan to Earth as part of a cultural exchange and hijinks ensue. Fred’s narration of events is done with incredibly deadpan hilariousness and at times a Douglas Adams-esque absurdity, and Zelazny’s usual brilliant touch with language and imagery. 

(15) MANIFEST’S DESTINY. Whacked by NBC, the show will get to finish its story elsewhere reports USA Today. “’Manifest’: Netflix revives drama for fourth and final season”.

We haven’t heard the last of the passengers of Flight 828. 

Netflix announced the popular TV series “Manifest” will return for its fourth and final season. The news came Saturday (8/28) in a nod at the show’s plot which centers around the mysterious Montego Air Flight 828. 

The drama follows a group of passengers who land on what seems like a routine flight from Jamaica back to the states. However, once the wheels touch the tarmac the travelers deplane into a world that has aged five years since when they first boarded. 

(16) CHINA CUTS DOWN VIDEO GAMING. Not quite a Prohibition yet: “Three hours a week: Play time’s over for China’s young video gamers”Reuters has the story.

China has forbidden under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week, a stringent social intervention that it said was needed to pull the plug on a growing addiction to what it once described as “spiritual opium”.

The new rules, published on Monday, are part of a major shift by Beijing to strengthen control over its society and key sectors of its economy, including tech, education and property, after years of runaway growth.

The restrictions, which apply to any devices including phones, are a body blow to a global gaming industry that caters to tens of millions of young players in the world’s most lucrative market….

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Dann, Mlex, Red Panda Fraction, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Dann.]

41 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/30/21 Riding Out On A Scroll In A Pixel-Spangled Rodeo

  1. Glad to contribute…editorially speaking. The big credit goes to Mr. Campbell. Glenn, that is. And Larry Weiss!

    Regards,
    Dann
    Reality simply consists of different points of view. – Margaret Atwood

  2. 14) That’s mine! John is a good friend, a great guy and has an excellent debut novel.

  3. 2
    Neat!

    3
    Merde.

    Mark Kelly has provided me with years of infotainment: an idol. Kudos! You made another orbit!

    Diaz is delightful in the surely genre-adjacent Knight and Day. It’s nobody’s idea of a great film, probably, but I love it to pieces.

    13
    I’ve been hectoring unwary bystanders about our wet bulb “situation” for years. I’ve always imagined Pakistan waking to a Karachi-wide massacre, kind of like that village overcome by volcanic gas a few decades ago. Definitely a gripping use in Ministry, a tremendous work. I’m a bit of a skipping record, but I’m heartened by all this attention from the Outside World on KSR.

  4. 8) I remember seeing various Well of Souls paperbacks at the library but never actually picked any of them up (maybe because I couldn’t assemble a full set?), so I think the only Chalker I ever read (probably at too young an age) was Web of the Chozen.

    Riding the scroll out
    Waiting for the file out
    On a full moon night
    On a Rocky Mountain pixel

  5. 16) GO AHEAD CHINA, show us how its done…
    (Runs to the supermarket for MORE popcorn.)

  6. 8) I know I read at least three or so of the Well of Souls series when they came out over forty years on so, I can’t say that I remember a lot about them other than they weren’t memorable enough that I felt like I needed to re-read them, or continue reading the series further.

  7. (2) Nice badges! (Too bad I’m already vaxxed and on the other side of the country!)

  8. 2) Yes, those badges are cool. Of course, I already am vaccinated and nowhere near Maryland, but anything that increases the vaccination rate is good. And I find neat badges a lot more enticing than sausages are coupons for free drinks, which are two tactics that have been tried in Germany.

  9. 8) I read a fair number of Jack Chalker’s books back in the day. His themes of bodily and mental transformation got a bit repetitive after awhile, so I slowed down reading his books in the later part of Chalker’s career. But I think there are Chalker books that stand out and still worth reading:

    — MIDNIGHT AT THE WELL OF SOULS. I read the second book in the Well of Souls series, but didn’t feel inclined to continue. But this first book stands pretty well on its own, and the Well World is an intriguing concept.

    — DANCERS IN THE AFTERGLOW. Inspired by the Khmer Rouge takeover in Cambodia, it’s a pretty harrowing read. (Not surprising, considering the source inspiration.)

    — AND THE DEVIL WILL DRAG YOU UNDER. I recall it as pretty funny, a change for Chalker, poking some fun at fantasy tropes.

    — THE DEVIL’S VOYAGE. Historical novel, set in the last days of WW2, and the secret voyage of the USS Indianapolis to deliver components of the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan, and the ship’s subsequent sinking, with hundreds of surviving sailors adrift in the water, with the Navy unaware of the sinking until days later, after massive losses among the survivors. Got some attention from SF fandom for its opening chapter set in ASTOUNDING editor John Campbell’s office.

    — DANCE BAND ON THE TITANIC. Collection of Chalker’s shorter fiction.

    11) Probably worth mentioning that Raymond Massey also appeared as murderous brother Jonathan in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, a long-time favorite I’ve watched numerous times. (I recently described the film, in an apazine, as “…a lot like a French bedroom farce, but with dead bodies instead of lovers.”)

  10. Bruce Arthurs says Probably worth mentioning that Raymond Massey also appeared as murderous brother Jonathan in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, a long-time favorite I’ve watched numerous times. (I recently described the film, in an apazine, as “…a lot like a French bedroom farce, but with dead bodies instead of lovers.”)

    Interesting. I missed that one. It’s a fine line in the Birthday write-ups as to how much of their non-genre work that I’ll include. I’ll admit I’m always tempted to include more than gets left in as I’m a big fan of the the mystery genre, particularly stuff like this.

    Now listening to The Maltese Falcon

  11. Ref Raymond Massey, who wrote for radio and tv as well as acting, he was also in one 1966 episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

  12. Steve Green: It would be too much to hope that Napoleon and Ilya were consulting Dr. Gillespie. But right time frame, possibly.

    Oops, that would be April Dancer wouldn’t it…

  13. Meredith moment: The Topps Company‘s Wacky Packages available from the usual suspects for a buck ninety nine. They were affectionately known among collectors as Wacky Packs, the Topps stickers that parodied well-known consumer brands and were a phenomenon in the Seventies when they were available. This book includes an interview with their creator Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus.

  14. I’m with Bruce Arthurs on Jack Chalker. His stuff was fun and generally easy to read, but it got repetitive after a while. He raised fascinating questions about the nature of personal identity–but then he kept raising those same questions in book after book. But they were definitely good in moderate-sized doses.

    That said, it’s been a while, and I do vaguely remember there being some problematic issues in some of his books–even for the time. So I can’t unreservedly recommend them.

    On the other hand, I think some of his ideas about body image and dysmorphia/dysphoria might be seen as somewhat ahead of their time. I dunno–as I say, it’s been a while. But there were definitely some elements of his books that might be ripe for a more modern treatment.

  15. We should note Raymond Massey’s appearance as the soul of lawyer Abraham Farlan in the wonderful 1946 fantasy movie, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (U.K. title; U.S. title, STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN). The British Film Institute ranks it number 20 in its list of the 100 best British films.

  16. @Kyle McAbee:

    I saw “Stairway to Heaven” when I was a kid and enjoyed it quite a bit – looks like its available to stream on Amazon. Hmmm

  17. Kyle McAbee: We should indeed — I actually watched that a few months ago. It must have run on Turner Classic Movies one day.

  18. I just got a reminder that voting in the Dragon Awards will close at 11:59PM on Saturday, September 4. I hadn’t voted, so I just did. Other than the games related categories, I actually was able to easily nominate a work in all categories.

  19. (2) GET THE POINT. I’m happy Maryland’s working with the Maryland Ren Faire to offer vaccinations, but it’s a weird contrast to the Faire’s non-policy re. COVID-19. It mostly boils down to “do what you like, but you may catch COVID-19 here and you can’t blame us.” That’s probably why the header image on the FAQ page is a guy shrugging.

    Well, at least they let (?) independent shop-keepers/attractions make their own rules re. masks and social distancing.

    One day, perhaps, I’ll go to a Ren Faire again, but not this year and not there, though it’s “my” (local) Faire.

  20. Re. birthdays: Robert Crumb did Fritz the Cat, which I’m pretty sure counts as genre, as well as the Mr. Natural comics, which definitely veered off into the realm of the fantastic on occasion.

  21. Varley does have a lot of good pixelscrollable titles.

    And then there’s the “Pixel” trilogy: “Pixel”, “Scroll¨, and “File”.

  22. I found out a few years ago that I graduated from the same high school as John Varley (decades after he did though). I hope he gets well soon.

  23. Seconding the recommendations for Jack Chalker; I worked my way through so much of his work as a teen, and he always delivered something satisfying. Planning on going back to MIDNIGHT AT THE WELL OF SOULS sometime to see how well it’s aged.

  24. Once upon a time, long long ago, when people still thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea, I was having some trouble getting a magneto-optical drive set up to work with Windows 3.1. So I asked a question on the appropriate Compuserve forum, and got a very useful answer from none other than Jack Chalker. I suspect he helped a lot of people that way.

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