Pixel Scroll 11/18/20 Am I Overlooking An Elephant?

(1) 55 YEARS AGO TODAY. Cora Buhlert has written an article about Franco-Belgian-Dutch comics for Galactic Journey“[NOVEMBER 18, 1965] HUMOUR, HEROES AND HISTORY: THE COMICS OF FRANCE, BELGIUM AND THE NETHERLANDS”. Cora did a lot of research: “While I read all of those comics as a kid (my Dad worked in the Netherlands and Belgium and while my Dutch was never good enough for novels, comics were no problem), I rarely paid attention to artists and writers nor did I have any idea what was published when and where.” She knows now!

…The comics heart of Europe undoubtedly beats in France and Belgium. For here, comics are considered not disposable entertainment for kids, but a genuine art form. Belgian comics artist Maurice De Bevere, better known as Morris, referred to comics as “the ninth art”.

US comic books only focus on a single character or group. The French-Belgian industry is different, since it focusses on anthology magazines, which contain several different serialised comic strips. The most popular comics are later collected in books known as albums.

Three comic magazines dominate the French-Belgian-Dutch market. The Belgian magazines Spirou (Robbedoes in Flemish) and Tintin (Kuifje in Flemish) and the French magazine Pilote. All three have their own distinct style and voice….

(2) WINDOW ON CHENGDU. At Black Gate Francesco Verso pulls out all the stops for the Chengdu in 2023 Worldcon bid: “Guest Editorial: Let’s Welcome the Future… in China”. A successful Italian sff author, Verso also is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Future Fiction, “a multicultural project, publishing the best SF in translation from 8 languages and more than 20 countries.” He has edited an international SF anthology for the Chinese publisher Guangzhou Blue Ocean Press that was to be distributed to Chinese high schools and universities in 2019.

…Reading Chinese SF gave me a feeling of freshness and cautious optimism; a unique “sense of wonder” permeated many of the stories I read. From climate change to inter-generational scenarios, from android caregivers to futuristic market forces, Big Data and of course the traditional Chinese culture updated to contemporary flavors, the ideas came from a rapidly changing society living them today. To quote Han Song, “You simply need to open a window in China to see a preview of the future.”

The same applies for Science Fiction Conventions. I’ve had the honor and privilege to attend many meetings organized by fandom in collaboration with various institutions (both public and private ones) from Beijing to Chongqing, from Shenzhen to Chengdu.

These conventions are nothing like we’ve seen and experienced in the West.

Thousands of passionate fans, hundreds staff, tens of Special Guests from China and the rest of the world displayed an expertise and enthusiasm which struck me from the very first time, at the 4th International SF Convention of Chengdu in 2017 (see Black Gate‘s report here). During many panels, there were real-time interpreters from Chinese to English and from English to Chinese to help with communication. No guest was left alone and a true sense of community (already strong in all SF conventions) was circulating from morning to night events.

Three years have since passed and I’ve visited China six times to participate in events like the first Asia Pacific SF Convention and the National Chinese SF Convention in Beijing (see Locus Magazine’s report here), the 5th International SF Convention of Chengdu (see Black Gate‘s report here), the opening ceremony of the Fishing Fortress Center of Science Fiction of Chongqing. I can fairly say the following without fear of being proved wrong: No other country can benefit from such a rich past and an innovative present as China.

No other country – from fandom to scholars, from magazine to publishing houses, from conventions to academic meetings – is investing so much energy and passion in Science Fiction as China.

No other country has the level of support – including public sector grants, private institutions funding and fan staff – as China.

That’s an incredible leverage to use for boosting Science Fiction in a highly-populated country that has come to realize that it will shape a relevant part of the future awaiting the whole world.

The committee of the Chengdu bid for the 2023 WorldCon is doing an excellent job to prepare for the event. They are showing the beauty of the city, its many historical traces, such as the Three-Star Piles, the Water Conservancy project of the Qin Dynasty, the poets of the Tang Dynasty and of course the pandas!

(3) SECOND, ER, SIXTH CHANCE. “Academy Museum Gives Debbie Reynolds Her Due as a Costume Conservator” – finally. The New York Times has the story. Tagline: “When the ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ actress was alive, the film academy turned up its nose at her fabled costume collection. Now it has gone to her son with hat in hand.”

… The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences turned her down — five times. Reynolds quoted an uninterested David Geffen in her 2013 memoir as once saying, “Why don’t you just sell that stuff?”

In debt, she finally had no other choice, auctioning Marilyn Monroe’s ivory-pleated halter dress that blew upward in “The Seven Year Itch” for $4.6 million and Audrey Hepburn’s lace Royal Ascot number from “My Fair Lady” for $3.7 million — prices that shocked moviedom’s aristocracy and proved Reynolds had been right. Also sold, in some cases to anonymous overseas collectors, were Charlton Heston’s “Ben-Hur” tunic and cape, the acoustic guitar Julie Andrews strummed in “The Sound of Music” and every hat that Vivien Leigh flaunted in “Gone With the Wind.”

Now, four years after she died at 84, there has been a plot twist in the Debbie Reynolds costume collection saga, one that she would undoubtedly find both maddening and satisfying: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, set to open on April 30 and costing $482 million, finds itself caring about her collection — at least the part that is left, which includes iconic costumes she wore in movies like “Singin’ in the Rain.” Also remaining are screen garments created for Mary Pickford, Deborah Kerr and Cyd Charisse, as well as rare memorabilia from classics like “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Maltese Falcon.”

… So far, Fisher has agreed to lend the Academy Museum one item from his own collection: a set of seven Bausch and Lomb Baltar lenses used by Gregg Toland, the fabled “Citizen Kane” cinematographer. But Fisher, 62, said more items would come, as long as the Debbie Reynolds Conservation Studio exists on the museum’s lower level next to the Shirley Temple Education Studio.

“My mother was one of the most forgiving people ever,” Fisher said. “She would never want me to hold a grudge just because I have knowledge of all the missed opportunities — how the people running the academy in the past were never willing to step up and support her. She would have wanted me to share these important artifacts with future generations. So, as long as they are properly recognizing my mother for her contribution to this discipline, I agreed to provide access to whatever I have access to.”…

(4) HELPING YOURSELF. Advice from the Milford SF Writers blog: “Launching a book during a pandemic: tips & tricks for doing your own PR/marketing by Tiffani Angus”.

Think beyond the obvious. Sure, you want reviews and other events, but there might be angles that you’re not considering. My book is historical fantasy set in a garden over 400 years. Our list included the usual outlets such as the British Fantasy Society, but we knew we could expand from there. Because the book is historical, we put organisations such as the Historical Novel Society on the list. I also remembered that I used to go to the Garden History Museum in London when I was a student and had a slight correspondence with the director, so I put him and the museum on the list along with National Trust houses near me with inspirational gardens and giftshops in hopes of maybe getting the book on those shelves.

Go local. Smaller towns (and some larger ones) love stories about locals. If your town has a paper, send a press release. If you work in a different town, send one there, too. Writing a release takes some practice, but there is plenty of advice on the ‘net. Small stories about me showed up in the paper where I live and the paper in my work-town, along with a magazine in my work-town. From those, I’ve sold several copies out of the local book shop….

(5) WW84. Lyles Movie Files says mark your calendar: “Wonder Woman 1984 arriving in theaters and HBO Max on December 25”.

Considering the sequel already cost $200 million, Warner Bros. likely expected a massive payday and was hoping to wait out the pandemic so audiences worldwide (specifically domestically) could pay for it.

But with another wave of COVID-19 predicted, the domestic theatrical window seems even more in jeopardy. This will be an interesting development and could signal further changes for delayed 2020 blockbusters like No Time to Die, Black Widow and Fast and Furious 9.

(6) AMY CARPENTER OBIT. Well-liked Pacific Northwest book dealer Amy Carpenter has died Filk Radio reported on Facebook:

Very Sad news. A friend Amy Carpenter, aka Amycat, has passed away. She was a fixture at convention dealer’s rooms selling books as Book Universes. She will be missed.

Many people are leaving warm personal tributes on her FB page.  

The cause of death was not posted. However, just two weeks ago Carpenter wrote on Facebook about a trip to the ER for “what seems to have been a small heart attack.”

(7) COCKROFT OBIT. “The Dice Man author George Cockcroft (aka Luke Rhinehart) dies aged 87”The Guardian pays tribute.

The author of the cult classic novel The Dice Man, in which a bored psychiatrist travels to some very dark places when he lets “the dice decide” his options, has died at the age of 87.

George Powers Cockcroft, who published The Dice Man in 1971 under the pseudonym Luke Rhinehart, died on 6 November, his publishers confirmed to the Guardian.

…The author of 11 books, most recently Invasion, a novel in which furry aliens come to Earth to have fun, Rhinehart remains best known for The Dice Man. Published in 1971, it was seemingly an autobiography, telling of a psychiatrist named Luke Rhinehart who decides to roll a dice each time he has to make a decision.

I knew a guy at LASFS who said he did this for awhile, too.

(8) LONG OBIT. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Artist and author Duncan Long (b.1949) died on December 31, 2016. His death was unreported here at the time.  Long wrote the Spider Worlds trilogy and three other novels. His art appeared on the covers of Asimov’sThe Leading Edge, and the Steven Barnes collection Assassins and Other Stories. He also served as the art director for the revamped Amazing Stories.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

1980 — Forty years ago, Ray Bradbury was given the Gandalf Grand Master Award for life achievement in fantasy writing. The Gandalf Award was created and sponsored by Lin Carter and the Swordsmen and Sorcerers’ Guild of America, an association of fantasy writers including John Jakes, Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber, C. J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee and Roger Zelazny to name but a few of the members. (Much of their work is collected in the Flashing Swords! anthology series.)  J. R. R. Tolkien, recently deceased, was given the first such Award, and the other recipients were Fritz Leiber, L. Sprague de Camp, Andre Norton,  Poul Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin and C. L. Moore. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 18, 1922 – Edward C. Connor.  Known as “Ecco”.  Took over the Fanewscard from Tucker in the mid-1940s, ran it for a year with Frank Robinson.  Famous for a Post Office (as it then was) adventure with Ecco’s zine S.F. Echo; that and more here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1923 – Alan Shepard.  First American in Space.  Piloted the Apollo lunar module Antares to the most accurate landing of the Apollo missions.  Hit two golf balls on the Moon.  Moon Shot with Deke Slayton and two journalists.  Two (nonconsecutive) terms as Chief of the Astronaut Office.  Not fiction, but the right stuff.  More here.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1936 – Suzette Elgin.  Founded the SF Poetry Ass’n; its Elgin Awards (one for chapbook, one for full-length, annually) named for her.  Edited Star*Line three years.  SF Poetry Handbook by her, with Mike Allen & Bud Webster helping; an SF Site review here.  A dozen novels, another of shorter stories (“Lo, How an Oak E’er Blooming” was translated into German as Siehe, die Eiche blüht ewig, another time as Und ewig blühet die Eiche, both titles missing the allusion to Es ist ein Ros entsprungen), three dozen poems; many essays in Star*Line and elsewhere.  If SF prose is hard, SF poetry is harder.  Or easier.  Or – let’s go to the next birthday notice.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 74. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so were superb. Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his Stars Wars work as I never got into it. (CE)
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 70. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction is quite excellent, and I see both Apple Books and Kindle have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collectionwith this lovely cover. (CE)
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 70. I’d say that he’s best known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all tell me about. (CE)
  • Born November 18, 1952 – Doug Fratz.  Aerosol scientist and fan.  Known for his zine Thrust, later renamed Quantum, then merged with SF Eye. Many reviews there, on SF Site, and in NY Rev SF.  More about him here.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 67. His best book is Voice of the Fire. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very close. Pity about the film. His worst work? The Lost Girls which is genre in an odd manner. Shudder. I’m also fond of The Ballad of Halo Jones and Swamp Thing as well. (CE) 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 59. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards. (CE) 
  • Born November 18, 1966 – Madelyn Rosenberg, 54.  A dozen books, plus articles, poetry (this one has butter-shined stars).  Outside our field, here frinstance is an interview with Doc Watson.  “I write because I love telling other people’s stories as well as my own.”  [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1972 – Lisa Olstein, 48.  Four books of poetry and a chapbook The Resemblance of the Enzymes of Grasses to Those of Whales Is a Family Resemblance.  Hayden Carruth Award.  Guggenheim Fellowship.  Pushcart Prize.  Here is “Radio Crackling, Radio Gone”.  [JH]
  • Born November 18, 1981 Maggie Stiefvater, 39. Writer of YA fiction, she currently has three series, The Dreamer trilogy, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, and the quite superb Raven Cycle. With her sister, Kate Hummel, she writes and records a piece of music for each novel she releases. These are released in the form of animated book trailers. (CE) 

(11) HOLIDAY SPECIAL. “C-3PO actor: Original ‘Star Wars’ special was ‘gentle nightmare'” — Anthony Daniels remembers. (There’s video of the interview at the link.)

ANTHONY DANIELS: Here’s the thing, go to YouTube and watch a bit of it, because it’s there. You will be amazed and not in a good way. And go to the back end of it, the end. That’s when myself and Carrie and Mark and Harrison came on. That’s the Star– that’s the real Star Wars. But go through some of the other bits, and you will be astounded that the producers were brave enough to use the title “Holiday Special” because it’s normally– it sets off sirens and heart attacks.

Such a weird experience that you had to laugh at it. And it’s in my book “I am C-3PO– The Inside Story,” where I talk about, in fact, I detail what it was like on the set with these Wookiees, basically treading on things because they couldn’t see in the dark and the dry ice, and how I was only there for three or four days. And I just laughed and laughed as we drove away from the studio because it had been a kind of very gentle nightmare.

(12) THE KERFUFFLE YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT. A little like Macy’s Santa in that movie, KTLA tells people to watch their PBS stations for these: “Charlie Brown holiday specials return to free TV after uproar; here’s how to watch”.

…Last month, Apple TV+ became the new home to the beloved Peanuts holiday specials. That sparked an outcry from viewers who were accustomed to annually tuning in on network TV. Apple offered each special to stream for free for a handful of days, but that didn’t stop online petitions from gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures.

On Wednesday, Apple bowed to the backlash, announcing it had teamed up with PBS for ad-free broadcasts of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (on Nov. 22) and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (on Dec. 13).

Both specials will also be available for free during three-day windows on Apple TV+ (Nov. 25-27 for “Thanksgiving” and Dec. 11-13 for “Christmas.”) For subscribers, the specials will be available beginning Nov. 18 and Dec. 4, respectively.

(13) INCIPIENT MOTHERHOOD. We first met her singing about Ray Bradbury. Now — “Rachel Bloom Shares Footage of Herself Singing ‘Space Jam’ — While Giving Birth to Her Daughter” reports People.

During an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers this week, the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star, 33, shared footage from her delivery room when she gave birth to her daughter in late March with husband Dan Gregor. In the video, Bloom sings the lyrics to “Space Jam” (by the Quad City DJ’s for the 1996 movie of the same name) while laying on her hospital bed.

“You know, I was making a labor playlist, and I was like, ‘What’s going to make me happy? And what’s going to make my vagina muscles wanna push a baby out?’ There was only one answer,” she joked to Meyers.

(14) TIL DEATH. Yahoo! Entertainment shares details about how “Jamie Lee Curtis officiated wedding of ‘Halloween’ superfan moments before his death”. (Curtis also discussed it on The Talk.)

Jamie Lee Curtis made a terminally ill fan’s dream come true.

The actress virtually officiated the wedding of 29-year-old Anthony Woodle and his girlfriend, Emilee, one hour before he passed away. Woodle, a horror movie fanatic who loved the Halloween franchise and holiday, was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer last year. Emilie opened up about her late husband’s final moments to Charleston’s The Post and Courier.

Woodle, an aspiring director, was diagnosed with cancer on Halloween 2019, three years after proposing to Emilee on his favorite holiday. As his condition worsened over the last year, Woodle got connected to Curtis through Rough House Productions, the local South Carolina based production company reviving the Halloween franchise. They talked about the new movie, his health and how he planned to get married soon. Curtis said that she’s ordained and offered to officiate their wedding, per the paper. Arrangements were made for Sept. 13.

On the day of the ceremony, Woodle turned for the worse. Curtis got on the phone and Woodle’s family gathered around. He was unconscious in bed with Emilee by his side. The actress expressed joy, sadness and said she felt honored as she began the ceremony at 10:30 p.m.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Honest Game Trailers: Plasmophobia” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Plasmophbia lets you pretend to be a ghost hunter from a cheap cable series of 20 years ago and thrill to having a ghost take you over and make your body act “like a baby who’s failed depth perception.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/31/19 The World of Scroll-A

(1) CUTTING CAPERS. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures picked a highly suitable day to announce they have added an important item to their collection.

(2) KNIVES OUT AT JPL. No gourd is safe when “NASA-JPL Holds Its Annual Pumpkin-Carving Contest”.

In a dark conference room, a pumpkin gently landed on the Moon, its retrorockets smoldering, while across the room, a flying saucer pumpkin hovered above Area 51 as a pumpkin alien wreaked havoc.

Suffice to say that when the scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compete in a pumpkin-carving contest, the solar system’s the limit. Now in its ninth year, the contest gives teams only one hour to carve (off the clock, on their lunch break), though they can prepare non-pumpkin materials – like backgrounds, sound effects and motorized parts – ahead of time….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour Cthulhu with World Horror Grandmaster Ramsey Campbell – serving is in progress in Episode 108 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ramsey published his H. P. Lovecraft-inspired first book of stories The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants in 1964 when he was only 18, and hasn’t stopped since. He’s a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, a four-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and a TWELVE-time winner of the British Fantasy Award. He’s also received lifetime achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards, and was named a World Horror Grandmaster. Previous guest of the podcast T. E. D. Klein called his collection Demons by Daylight “perhaps the most important book of horror fiction since Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others.” High praise indeed!

We got together on the final day of Worldcon, long after the 4:30 p.m. closing ceremonies had ended. So instead of traipsing around to the usual dead dog parties, we had dinner at Rosa Madre, which I found via Eater’s list of the 38 Essential Dublin restaurants — where at one point as I looked across the table, it seemed as if he was nibbling on Cthulhu! (And sure, I know it was only baby octopus, and not the the Great Old One … but we horror writers like to dream.)

We discussed his early relationship with Arkham House editor and publisher August Derleth, who he might have been had he never discovered H. P. Lovecraft, how this master of unease is able to keep the sense of dread going for the length of a novel (hint: he’s not entirely sure himself), why he loves The Blair Witch Project, what it was like writing novels in the Universal monsters universe, how he felt when The Times listed The Doll That Ate its Mother as one of the silliest titles of 1987, how Twilight Zone editor T. E. D. Klein changed his life, our shared memories of the 1979 World Fantasy Convention, why he feels his attempts to write science fiction have been “clumsy,” the way he was made speechless on his first meeting with J. G. Ballard, why he admires Vladimir Nabokov, and much more.

(4) DO THE POSTER MASH. Space.com points to some free downloads: “‘Galaxy of Horrors!’ NASA Posters Highlight Spooky Alien Planets”.

This Halloween season, NASA wants to open your eyes to the glorious spookiness all around us in the Milky Way galaxy.

The space agency has just released two new “Galaxy of Horrors” posters, which highlight a few of the most bizarre and inhospitable alien planets that scientists have discovered. And NASA created a fun 2-minute video, styled like a trailer for a 1950s horror movie, to promote the posters. 

You can download the posters for free here.

(5) PAST TOMORROWS. Barbara Kiser’s book reviews for Nature touch on Sarah Cole’s study of H.G. Wells, Inventing Tomorrow.

H. G. Wells was, asserts scholar Sarah Cole, a pioneer adept at “rescaling the cosmos and humanity’s place in it”. He straddled the border between science and literature, but not all his complexities were benign: he both repudiated racism and for some time shamefully ascribed to ideas on eugenics. Cole adroitly captures Wells, from his mould-breaking books (such as the 1895 science-fiction classic The Time Machine and 1920 Outline of History) to his unlikely intellectual kinship with subtle modernists such as Virginia Woolf.

(6) GRADE INFLATION. Morning Consult attempts to answer the question: “Rotten Tomatoes Scores Continue to Freshen. What Does This Mean for Movies?”

In recent years, Rotten Tomatoes has been ripe for the picking by movie marketers that want to tout a film’s high critics score from the website in their advertising. But as the Tomatometer’s average score continues to increase, experts are divided on why this is happening and how the industry will harvest Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings going forward.

David A. Gross, a movie consultant that runs Franchise Entertainment Research Inc., found that scores for wide-release films have been fluctuating since 1998’s recorded average of 46. However, averages have been increasing every year since 2014, with this year’s average coming in at 59.3, as of Oct. 28, 1.4 points higher than 2018’s 57.9.

(7) MORE REACTIONS TO SCORSESE, COPPOLA. Michael Ordoña asks “If comic-book movies aren’t emotional and psychological cinema, why are we crying?” in the Los Angeles Times.

… The director of “The Godfather” and “Captain EO” added: “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

Andrea Letamendi, associate director of mental health training, intervention and response at UCLA, sees more in the best of these films than these giants of cinema do.

“Superhero films are giving us a way to practice and explore really important emotional processes that we may not be able to examine in our everyday lives. In ‘Endgame,’ the more fantastical, the better, because that gives us the supportive safety net to be open and vulnerable and curious about these things,” she says.

“Not to pat ourselves on the back,” says Christopher Markus, co-writer (with Stephen McFeely) of six MCU movies including the three-hour “Endgame,” “but we snuck an hourlong movie about loss and grief into the [start of the] biggest movie of all time. That’s a lot of people who sat with that issue in their heads for an hour.”

He says of villain Thanos’ cataclysmic action, “We wanted the Snap to be as profound as we could make it. The way to do that was to have all the characters sit with the impact, the unfixability of it, rather than scrambling around. We were interested in seeing what happens to these people whose sole purpose in life is solving problems, faced with a problem they did not solve.”

… Clinical psychologist Letamendi agrees. ”It’s a truly sophisticated portrayal. … How different characters cope with that loss really matters in terms of how we relate to them and how we might relate to our own losses.

“The term for that is ‘parasocial relationships’ — non-delusional emotional connections with fictional characters. I know Tony Stark isn’t real, but I’ve formed a long-lasting relationship with his character, so when we see him go through these difficult changes: the adversity, his self-doubt and, ultimately, his death, this is, in our world, difficult to deal with. The grief, the confusion, sometimes the anger — those feelings are real. I think there’s some value to that.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 31, 1962 First Spaceship On Venus premiered In the Eastern Bloc. It’s a 1960 East German/Polish film based on the 1951 Stanis?aw Lem novel The Astronauts. Lem did not like it at all and ask his name to be removed as he hated the strident politicization of the story. IMDB still lists him as the story source. Mystery Science Theater 3000 would lampoon it in 2008. 
  • October 31, 1964 Doctor Who returned to BBC with the premiere of its second season.  The first arc was titled “Planet of Giants.” William Hartnell Was the First Doctor with three companions present: Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) and William Russell (Ian Chesterton). Episodes 3 and 4 are for the most part missing in the Great BBC Purge. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 Arthur W. Saha. A member of the Futurians and First Fandom who was an editor at Wollheim’s DAW Books including editing the Annual World’s Best SF from 1972 to 1990 and Year’s Best Fantasy Stories from 1975 to 1988. And he’s credited with coming up with the term “Trekkie” in 1967. (Died 1999.)
  • Born October 31, 1936 Michael Landon. Tony Rivers inI Was a Teenage Werewolf. (That film made two million on an eighty thousand dollar budget. Nice.) That and playing the lead as Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven are I think his only genre roles. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 31, 1946 Stephen Rea, 73. An extensive genre history including V for Vendetta, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Underworld Waking, The Werewolf Among Us and Counterpart.
  • Born October 31, 1950 John Candy. Best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs but he also played Wink Wilkinson in Frank Oz’s  Little Shop of Horrors, Kalishak in Boris and Natasha: The Movie, and was the narrator of the “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” of Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. (Died 1994.)
  • Born October 31, 1959 Neal Stephenson, 60. Some years back, one of the local bookstores had an sf book reading group. One of the staff who was a member of that group (as was I) took extreme dislike to The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. I don’t remember now why but it made re-read that (which was good) and Snow Crash (equally good). My favorite novel by him is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. 
  • Born October 31, 1961 Peter Jackson, 58. I’m going to confess that I watched and liked the first of the Lord of The Rings films but got no further than that. I was never fond of The Two Towers as a novel so it wasn’t something I wanted to see as a film, and I like The Hobbit just fine as a novel thank you much. Now the Adventures of Tintin is quite nice indeed. 
  • Born October 31, 1979 Erica Cerra, 40. Best known as Deputy Jo Lupo on Eureka, certainly one of the best SF series ever done. She had a brief recurring role as Maya in Battlestar Galactica, plus one-offs in pretty much anything you’d care to mention in roles such as Pretty Girl. 
  • Born October 31, 1993 Letitia Wright,  26. She co-starred in Black Panther playing Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda.  (Yes, she is in both Avengers films.) Before that, she was Anahson in “Face the Raven”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and was in the Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” episode. 
  • Born October 31, 1999 Danielle Russell, 20. She played Hope Mikaelson in The Originals, a spin-off of The Vampire Dairies. In something I’ve never seen before, she went on to portray that character in Legacies, a spin-off of The Originals which makes it a spin-off of a spin-off!  

(10) FAN FICTION BLOSSOMS. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles the horror fan fiction site Nosleep, whose alumni have sold novels and gotten writing gigs on the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House: “Inside the horror website that’s freaking out millions of people”.

…Druga is the top administrator on Nosleep, whose indistinguishable mixture of the real and merely realistic (weighed heavily toward the latter, most likely) has helped it grow into the Internet’s main source of amateur horror stories — with more than 13 million subscribers and hundreds of thousands of posts along the lines of “My neighbor has been mowing his lawn for 12 hours straight” and “My granddad used to come to my room at night wearing a mask. Now I know why.”

(11) MORE JEOPARDY! WRONGNESS. Andrew Porter would hate for you to miss another fabulously bad guess by a Jeopardy! contestant.

Category: Fictional Flags Flying.

Answer: After arriving by submarine, this character claims the South Pole with a black flag baring a gold “N”.

Wrong question: “Who is Bugs Bunny?”

Right question: “Who is Nemo?”

(12) THE DEATH OF FRANCHISES? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Dueling articles in today’s Guardian offer arguments against two major franchises, as Ben Child argues that it’s no longer possible to make a ‘good’ Star Wars movie, and Stuart Heritage proclaims bluntly that Game of Thrones should die. While each of them makes some good points about the flaws that seem to be plaguing the subjects of their respective ire, they might go a little far. 

Ben Child challenges: “Spent force: why is making a good Star Wars film so hard?”  

Star Wars’s directors must feel like the Hollywood equivalent of all those unfortunate Imperial admirals in the original trilogy. One misplaced Rebel fleet and it’s instant death by studio chokehold.

Stuart Heritage says “It’s time for the Game of Thrones universe to die”.  

Television is littered with the corpses of unnecessary spinoffs, from Caprica to AfterMASH, Baywatch Nights to Joey. … At this point, with a tainted brand, an irritated fanbase and a pilot that’s proved a colossal waste of effort,perhaps the sensible thing would be for HBO to ditch Game of Thrones altogether.

Overall, the articles do beg the question: under what circumstances should a franchise be left to die, or at least be abandoned to lie fallow before they can be rediscovered by a new generation? It’s a question that’s worth discussing in an era of nonstop franchise maintenance. 

(13) ION STORM AHEAD CAPTAIN. Nature tells of “A 100-kiloparsec wind feeding the circumgalactic medium of a massive compact galaxy”. From the abstract —

…Theory points to galactic winds as the primary source of the enriched and massive circumgalactic medium3,4,5,6. Winds from compact starbursts have been observed to flow to distances somewhat greater than ten kiloparsecs7,8,9,10, but the circumgalactic medium typically extends beyond a hundred kiloparsecs3,4. Here are observations of the massive but compact galaxy SDSS J211824.06+001729.4 of a 100-kiloparsec wind.

(14) JAVA IN WESTEROS. BBC delves into “Game of Thrones’ coffee cup and 6 other TV and film bloopers”.

Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke has revealed who was responsible for the show’s infamous coffee cup scene.

In one episode of the eighth season, eagle-eyed viewers spotted a coffee cup on the table in the great hall, as Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen sat, more appropriately, with goblet in hand.

Now, Clarke has revealed her co-star Conleth Hill, who portrayed master of spies Lord Varys, admitted to being responsible for the error during a pre-awards show party in September.

(15) DEAD PERFECT. Google Nest was holding auditions for its Nest doorbell, you see….

She was born to die to play this role. Obvi. It wasn’t easy, but we found an actual ghost to record spooky, Halloween sounds for the Nest Hello doorbell.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]