Pixel Scroll 8/31/20 Inspired By Cordwainer Smith And Seeing
A Sign Backwards

(1) THE BROTHERS STRUGATSKY. “Striving to become: how a former officer changed Russian science fiction” at Pledge Times.

,,,,But it was Arkady Strugatsky who was the first to understand that if they really want to “break out, break through, ah,” then the last thing they need to do for this is to become normal good science fiction writers.

He formulates the credo of the Strugatsky writers back in 1959: “Our works should be entertaining, not only and not so much in their idea – even if the idea has been sucked by fools ten times before – but in a) the breadth and ease of presentation of scientific material; “Down with Zhulvernovshchina”, we must look for very precise, short, clever formulations designed for a developed student of the tenth grade; b) according to the good language of the author and the diverse language of the heroes; c) by the reasonable courage of introducing into the narrative the assumptions “on the verge of the possible” in the field of nature and technology and by the strictest realism in the actions and behavior of the heroes; d) by a bold, bold and once again bold appeal to any genres that seem acceptable in the course of the story for a better depiction of a particular situation. Not to be afraid of light sentimentality in one place, rude adventurism in another, a little philosophizing in the third, amorous shamelessness in the fourth, etc. Such a mixture of genres should give things an even greater flavor of the extraordinary. Isn’t the extraordinary our main theme? “

(2) MAGICAL POWERS. James Davis Nicoll asks the Young People Read Old SFF panel what they think about “The Putnam Tradition” by Sonya Hess Dorman.

Sonya Hess Dorman’s science fiction career lasted about a generation and produced enough short pieces to fill a collection, as a well as a fix-up. I first encountered Dorman via her ?“When I Was Miss Dow”, reprinted in Pamela Sargent’s ground-breaking Women of Wonder (as well as many other anthologies). ?“When I Was Miss Dow” was considered for a Nebula, although it didn’t make the finalist list, and it won a retrospective Tiptree. Odds on the favourite for inclusion in Rediscovery. That is not the call Journey Press made. Journey Press eschews the easy choices.

One wonders, therefore, what my Young People will make of the Dorman Journey did select.

(3) STAND AND DELIVERY DATE. ScreenRant looks for clues to the forthcoming series: “The Stand Trailer Teases the Aftermath of the Modern-Day Plague”. The limited weekly show will debut on CBS All-Access on December 17, 2020. ScreenRant adds:

King has reportedly written a new ending for The Stand, which isn’t surprising considering he has released multiple versions of the novel since its initial release in 1978.

(4) SFF EXHIBIT ARCHIVED ONLINE. “A Conversation larger than the Universe: science fiction and the literature of the fantastic” is a website that provides an illustrated record of the books and other materials displayed at the Grolier Club in New York City from January to March 2018. 

It suggests, among other things, a history of science fiction from its Gothic roots to the present. Items are arranged here chronologically and the labels are keyed to numbers in the exhibition checklist included in A Conversation larger than the Universe. Readings in Science Fiction and the Fantastic 1762-2017, published by the Grolier Club (and available here). 

In the original exhibition, the entries were grouped in four broad periods: from 1762 to 1912 (nos. 1-14); the interwar years (nos. 15-27); the late 1940s through 1980 (nos. 28-49); and from 1981 to the present (nos. 50-70); there are seven chronological headings here, and three additional headings offer new ways of making connections between the works. A very few items displayed at the Grolier Club are not reproduced on this website.

(5) IF YOU EVER ASKED, “WHERE IS MY FLYING CAR?” CNN reports “Japanese company successfully tests a manned flying car for the first time”.

A Japanese company has announced the successful test drive of a flying car.

Sky Drive Inc. conducted the public demonstration on August 25, the company said in a news release, at the Toyota Test Field, one of the largest in Japan and home to the car company’s development base. It was the first public demonstration for a flying car in Japanese history.

The car, named SD-03, manned with a pilot, took off and circled the field for about four minutes.

“We are extremely excited to have achieved Japan’s first-ever manned flight of a flying car in the two years since we founded SkyDrive… with the goal of commercializing such aircraft,” CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa said in a statement.

(6) IN THE TRASH. Alan Stewart’s report of site selection voting in CoNZealand Progess Report #4, released today,prompted a critical response from Cade. Thread starts here.

(7) SOMETHING NEW. As Variety notes, it may not be big as Hollywood measures things, it’s just the biggest thing going: “Box Office: ‘New Mutants’ Lands $7 Million Debut”

Superhero thriller “The New Mutants,” one of the first major movies to open since coronavirus forced theaters to close in March, launched to $7 million over the weekend. Though ticket sales were on the lower end of expectations, the Disney and 20th Century Studios title marks the biggest debut yet for a new release during the pandemic.

Around 60-70% of theaters have reopened across the U.S. and Canada, according to Disney. However, some of the biggest moviegoing markets, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, New Jersey and New York, still remain closed. In parts of the country where theaters have resumed business, venues are capping capacity and keeping space between seats to comply with social distancing measures. “The New Mutants” played in 2,412 theaters, making it the widest release in months.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 31, 1979 Time After Time premiered. (It would lose out to Alien for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon Two.)  It was directed by Nicholas Meyer who wrote the screenplay from a story by Karl Alexander and Steve Hayes, and produced by Herb Jaffe. The primary cast was Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen. Reception by critics was unambiguously positive, the box office was good and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 72% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 31, 1908 – William Saroyan.  This remarkable Armenian American gave us a short novel Tracy’s Tiger and a handful of short stories.  One was in Unknown Worlds!  Outside our field his play The Time of Your Life won a Pulitzer Prize, which he refused, saying commerce should not judge the arts; his screenplay for The Human Comedy, rejected as too long, he made into a novel and won an Academy Award for Best Story.  In 1991 the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. jointly issued postage stamps honoring him.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1914 Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born August 31, 1927 – Ted Coconis, 93.  Illustrates children’s books e.g. Newbery Award winner The Summer of the Swans.  For us, here is Camber of Culdi.  Here is Labyrinth.  Here is A Matter of Time.  Here is Dorian Gray.  Here is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 14.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1941 – Larry Schwinger, 79.  Six dozen covers, a handful of interiors.  Here is The Owl Service.  Here is Star Rangers.  Here is On Basilisk Station.  Here is the Jul 95 Burroughs Bulletin.  Here is Kindred.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1942 – Alan J. Lewis, 78.  Member of the leading apas of his day, FAPAOMPASAPS, he famously in the mid-1960s organized the Fanzine Foundation which shipped a ton of fanzines – really; more than 2,800 pounds – to Bruce Pelz, where they became part of his elephantine collection; this at BP’s death went to Univ. California at Riverside.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1949 Richard Gere, 71. He was Lancelot in First Knight starring Sean Connery as King Arthur, and  he was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it for genre video work. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honors, but he also was in live performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in the Sixties. (CE) 
  • Born August 31, 1968 – Néné Thomas, 52.  As it happens she was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at InCon the year I was Fan Guest of Honor; since then, Loscon 29, Windycon 37, MidSouthCon 29, ConQuesT 46.  Artbooks Parting the VeilThe Unwinding Path.  Here is Aveliad: the Forest done as a 1,000-piece puzzle.  Also she makes cross-stitch charts and decorative resin butterflies.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1969 Jonathan LaPaglia, 51. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favorite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in a really bad film called Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history as far as I can tell unless you count the Bones series as SF in which he’s in “The Skull in the Sculpture” episode as Anton Deluca. (CE)
  • Born August 31, 1974 Marc Webb, 46. Director of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as well as the forthcoming Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He’s also directed over ninety music videos over the past several decades with the first being Blues Traveler’s “Canadian Rose”.  (CE) 
  • Born August 31, 1982 G. Willow Wilson, 38. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Hugo Award winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list as well. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story: should I? (CE)
  • Born August 31, 1984 – Cassandra Khaw, 36.  Her work is horrible – I mean, on purpose.  Or we could call it horrific.  She knows and includes Southeast Asian images.  Hammers on Bone is one of four Re-imagining Lovecraft novellas.  Fifty short stories, half a dozen poems, in ApexDaily SFGamutThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionUncanny; interviewed in LightspeedMithila ReviewNightmare.  Ranks Oor Wombat’s Castle Hangnail above Lukyankenko’s Night Watch and Pratchett’s too.  [JH]
  • Born August 31, 1992 Holly Earl, 28. English actress who was Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, and Agnes in Humans. She also played the young Kristine Kochanski in Red Dwarf in the “Pete, Part One” as well as Lily Arwell in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor story, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.“ She was Céline in the “Musketeers Don’t Die Easily” episode of Musketeers, and played Hermia in the ‘18 A Midsummer Night’s Dream film. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DC IGNORES COMICS SHOPS. Cliff Biggers, owner of Dr. No’s Comics in Marietta, GA told Facebook followers today:

DC’s latest slap in the face to comic shops: in all their promotional information about Batman Day, they don’t mention anything about comic shops or what they intend to do for our market (probably because, as in years past, they don’t intend to do ANYTHING for our market). Short of beating us up and stealing our lunch money, there isn’t much more that DC can do to show their contempt for comic shops that would surprise me any more.

(12) BATMAN NEWS. This is from U.S. News: “Batman Prowls Streets of Santiago Delivering Food to Homeless”

There is a masked crusader on the streets of Santiago, Chile this summer.  But rather than fighting criminals, Solidarity Batman delivers hot meals.  Months of lockdown have caused hardship in Chile, where unemployment has reached a record 12 percent.  Recently, an unidentified man has been donning a full Batman suit, plus a surgical mask for coronavirus protection, and travelling through the capital city sharing sympathy and plates of food.  Almost anybody can be like him, the everyday superhero says.  ‘Look around you, see if you can dedicate a little time, a little food, a little shelter, a word sometimes of encouragement to those who need it.

(13) NUMBER FIVE, NUMBER FIVE. James Davis Nicoll counts up ”Five SFF Stories Featuring Truly Terrible Parents”.

Parents! Pesky narrative roadblocks when writing books centred on young people. Common, garden-variety parents want to make sure their offspring are healthy and happy, which is a problem for writers who want to send young protagonists off into danger. Authors can, of course, dispatch parents to a location too distant for them to interfere or simply kill them off—both very popular choices—but there is another alternative: Simply have the parents themselves (or their equivalent) be part of the problem….

(14) STRANGE AUCTION ITEM: Heritage Auctions is taking bids on a fragment salvaged from the Hindenburg wreckage. Current bid is $5,000.

Graf Zeppelin Hindenburg: Large Section of Aluminum Framework. 28″ long section of the strut or framework used to construct the famous dirigible Hindenburg, destroyed in a catastrophic & dramatic explosion on May 6, 1937, while attempting to dock at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey. The scene was captured on film and broadcast live via radio. The reason for the explosion remains elusive and controversial, even to this day. It is thought that a spark of static electricity might have ignited the flammable outer skin. Various relics from the event come on the market from time to time, but none are as sought-after as sections of the strut work. This example is covered in deep emerald and black carbon deposits. It is accompanied by a July 14, 2020 Letter of Provenance that indicates a workman in the clean-up crew, Harry Manyc, was permitted to take home a large section of the “ribbing” as a souvenir, from which pieces, like this, were parceled out over the years.

(15) WHERE HE GOT HIS LICENSE. At BBC Sounds, a 9-minute “Witness History” segment: “Inventing James Bond”.

The author Ian Fleming created the fictional super-spy, James Bond, in the 1950s. Fleming, a former journalist and stockbroker, had served in British naval intelligence during the Second World War. Using interviews with Fleming and his friends from the BBC archive, Alex Last explores how elements of James Bond were drawn from Ian Fleming’s own adventurous life.

(16) BE THE ENTRÉE. We ran an item before about what visitors can eat here – now read about something there that’s ready to swallow them: “Godzilla Museum Allows You to Zipline Into the Kaiju’s Mouth”.

The Godzilla Museum located in Japan is now open. The Attraction features tons of Godzilla memorabilia, interactive sections and a themed menu. Most notably, the upcoming giant true-to-size statue that allows you to zipline into Godzilla’s mouth to perform a mission.

(17) UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS. In these homes, it’s not the staff you’ll find below stairs: “Truly, madly, deeply: meet the people turning their basements into secret fantasy worlds” in The Guardian.

…Shron needed the perfect basement because, for nearly 30 years, he had dreamed of building a life-size replica of a 1970s Canadian VIA Rail railway carriage inside his house, the exact train that took him from Toronto to Montreal to visit his grandmother when he was a little boy.

Step inside Shron’s basement today and you will be greeted by a 200lb blue-and-yellow train door. As you pass through it, an MP3 player will hiss the sounds of air circulation accompanied by the squeaking of gangway connections. Inside the carriage there are rows of vintage reclinable red-and-orange-striped seats, luggage racks, a real VIA garbage can removed from a scrapped train and a metal sign instructing passengers that smoking is indeed permitted. What Shron couldn’t find on the scrap heap, he made. He printed out orange litter bags, custom-printed napkins and engraved wine glasses.

“The great thing was it ended up looking exactly as I’d envisioned it,” the 45-year-old says of his basement train, which took him four-and-a-half years to build and cost $10,000 (the scrapped carriage alone cost $5,000). “I fell in love with VIA trains from the age of two – I became madly obsessed, it’s all I would talk about, all I wanted.” Shron recreated the train that he took to visit family to tap into “that very warm, comfortable, positive energy” he felt as a child. “I get a little bit of that every time I go down to the train.”

Shron’s basement is an unusual thing, but it is perhaps a little more common than you’d expect. A number of people have created their own “worlds” underneath their homes. In late May, the listing for a Maryland mansion went viral after a Twitter user discovered a fake town inside the basement. The basement features cobbled streets, 15 shopfronts, fake flowers and real vintage cars. But even this isn’t unusual. More than a decade ago, a YouTube video documented the basement of John Scapes, an Illinois man who had built an 1890s street under his home.

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

65 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/31/20 Inspired By Cordwainer Smith And Seeing
A Sign Backwards

  1. I know who Cordwainer Smith is, but other than that, I don’t understand today’s Scroll title. Is it an allusion to something?

  2. It’s from the introduction to Le Guin’s story “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” (I’ve forgotten which of her books this was in). “Where do you get your ideas?…Forgetting Dostoyevsky and reading road signs backwards.”

    The name “Omelas” is the backwards of “Salem, O[regon].”

  3. Typically this means that the would-be domain owner delegated the task of registering the domain to another party (in this case the publisher), and the other party made itself Registrant (domain owner of record) — a classic domain mistake that almost inevitably blows up later.

    That’s what happened in the project I talked about. The website publisher registered the domain and originally intended to switch it to the organization. He never got around to it, there was a disagreement and he refused to give the organization its domain name. It took two years to get the domain in the rightful hands.

    An old WHOIS registration for wsfs.org from 2013 has an individual as the registrant. Here’s the data with the address and phone redacted by me in case it’s a personal address:

    Registrant Name:Michael Scott
    Registrant Organization:World Science Fiction Society
    Registrant Street1:[redacted]
    Registrant Street2:[redacted]
    Registrant Street3:
    Registrant City:London
    Registrant State/Province:
    Registrant Postal Code:SE16 6PW
    Registrant Country:GB
    Registrant Phone:[redacted]

    This makes me wonder what would happen if the named registrant on a WSFS domain refused to hand it over at some point to the organization. It would be prudent to have a signed agreement with that person stating the domain is owned by the WSFS and the registrant does not own it. Perhaps this is already happening or there’s a better solution, but I wanted to inquire.

  4. rcade: A slightly different approach would be to use a role name rather than a person, e.g., ‘Registrant name: Chair, Mark Protection Committee’, ‘Registrant Organisation: World Science Fiction Society’. The registrars don’t actually give a fig whether the named personage is a featherless biped, a role name, a furry creature from Alpha Centauri, or a pastrami sandwich.

    Silicon Valley Linux User Group lists as Registrant for domain svlug.org ‘President, SVLUG’ or something along those lines, which is slightly awkward because the presidency has been vacant for a decade. In the event of dispute, probably whoever has the most impressive letterhead prevails.

    Anyway, I rather suspect something like the agreement you speak of is in place, if only because WSFS would not wish to need to deal with heirs and assigns should the illustrious Mr. Scott not prove immortal.

  5. A slightly different approach would be to use a role name rather than a person, e.g., ‘Registrant name: Chair, Mark Protection Committee’, ‘Registrant Organisation: World Science Fiction Society’. The registrars don’t actually give a fig whether the named personage is a featherless biped, a role name, a furry creature from Alpha Centauri, or a pastrami sandwich.

    That’s a great suggestion. I didn’t realize that it could be a role.

  6. rcade on September 1, 2020 at 1:46 pm said:

    The domains owned by WSFS came up in a recent discussion. Could someone who knows this information share the domain registrant and address used on thehugoawards.org, wsfs.org, worldcon.org, nasfic.org and any other domains WSFS controls?

    See the 2020 WSFS Business Meeting Minutes, Mark Protection Committee report (page 38 of the minutes), which gives the list except for TheHugoAwards.org, which inadvertently got left off the list. (It was done by another person working on behalf of the MPC who we consider extremely trustworthy and we’ve been too lazy to go clean up the registrations and get them all under one roof because what we have now works, and shifting registrations around can break things.) Also not listed is worldcon.fi, which is held by Worldcon 75 on behalf of WSFS the same way worldcon.ie is held by Dublin 2019.

    I ask because I was involved in a domain dispute at a volunteer effort between the website publisher and the organization president. The publisher controlled the domain registrar account and it took years to get the domain back. I’m curious how WSFS is protected against that kind of trouble.

    Generally through assuming that the people doing the relatively thankless groundwork for the society won’t behave badly, I think. Mind you, I’m one of those people (there’s a reason the Gandi.net handle is KS2182), so I would think that way, wouldn’t I? Also, more than one MPC member has the credentials. We’ve been burned before (by gafiation, not malice), and having single points of failure worries me.

  7. @Vicki:

    (I’ve forgotten which of her books this was in).

    It was The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. (This just came up in the Le Guin reread on tor.com, as it happens.)

  8. @Kevin Standlee: Might I suggest MPC un-hide from public view the domains’ contacts? An example of what the public now sees can be viewed on the Web, using wsfs.org as an example. (Scroll down to see results.) You’ll notice all details for Registrant and Admin Contact are now concealed.

    I would be very surprised if this was at MPC’s initiative. gandi.net, although IMO excellent, did a massive flipping to ‘private’ of domain contacts a couple of years ago, without consulting the customers. They claim this action was for GDPR reasons, and (quoting) “we are committed to ensuring that we no longer publish personal data within our WHOIS domain lookup service unless the person specifically wishes it to be public”. So, basically reverting gandi.net’s change occurs if and only if the domain customer logs into the admin WebUI and toggles off the (now-default) option “Hidden WHOIS Data”, separately for each of the domain’s contacts.

    Why? Two reasons. One, because MPC almost certainly didn’t choose the hidden setting. So, reverting gandi.net’s change reasserts MPC’s original wish to let fandom and others see who’s handling these matters and how to reach them. Two, because making domain contacts ‘private’ defeats an important domain-protective function served by having a public whois service, that of assisting the public in contacting the right responsible party if there’s a problem or concern.

    Separately, I would recommend MPC move domain thehugoawards.org over to gandi.net. I agree that shifting registrars can break things, but pretty much solely if you attempt it just before domain expiration/renewal, because, gosh, bottom-dweller registrars like GoDaddy somehow become clumsy when you put them on notice you’re trying to leave, and often the domain then “accidentally” expires rather than being transferred. Obvious lesson: Don’t ever attempt to move any domain within a month from pending expiration. Pay the renewal first, then move it. (No, you don’t lose any registration runtime by renewing first.)

  9. Yes. Yes I am! I like Blackmore, but even he didn’t cover himself in glory there.

    Which ZZ Top song was it that you guessed correctly?

  10. 9) G. Willow Wilson
    I recommend Invisible Kingdom (art by Christian Ward). Vol. 1 was one of my Hugo nominees this year for Best Graphic Story. I haven’t read Vol. 2 yet though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.