Pixel Scroll 9/29/21 I Should Have Been A Pair Of Ragged Pixels, Scrolling Across The Floors Of Silent Files

(1) BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL. The Brooklyn Book Festival, running from September 26-October 4, has several virtual panels of interest to sff readers. Register at the links.

From creating slice-of-life cyclops and mermaid stories to horror-infused dramas and Afrofuturist epics, worldbuilding—complete with specific rules, cultures, and logic—is no small feat. Join creators Tim Fielder (Infinitum), Kat Leyh (Thirsty Mermaids), John Jennings (After the Rain), and Aminder Dhaliwal (Cyclopedia Exotica) as they discuss the unique challenges and joys of speculative storytelling and how fantastical worlds can say more about our own. Moderated by writer and editor Danny Lore (Queen of Bad Dreams, FIYAH Magazine). 

A dystopian London, a child caught in the midst of a deadly epidemic, and a grieving taxi driver in a ghostly Washington, D.C. Join the authors of A River Called Time (Courttia Newland), Phase Six (Jim Shepard), and Creatures of Passage (Morowa Yejidé) for a conversation on what draws them to speculative fiction, from world-building to the mechanics that make a story tick. Moderated by Carolyn Kellogg.

A Life of Crime (virtual) – Brooklyn Book Festival – October 3, 9:00 p.m. Eastern

Join award-winning mystery authors Naomi Hirahara and Walter Mosley for a discussion about their prolific and versatile writing livest. Hirahara’s latest mystery, Clark and Division, revolves around a Japanese American family building a new life in 1940s Chicago after their release from mass incarceration during World War II. Mosley’s indefatigable detective, Easy Rawlins, returns in Blood Grove, solving a new mystery on the streets of Southern California in 1969. Moderated by Dwyer Murphy, editor in chief of CrimeReads.  

The in-person programming includes “The View from the End of the World”, October 3, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

A cross-country road trip in an atomic-powered tunnel digger, when everything else has stopped working.. A scavenger hunt for extinct species set against the backdrop of environmental collapse.. Hollywood dreams literally going up in flames, amid nefarious corporate dealings.  Join Jonathan Lethem (The Arrest), Jeff VanderMeer (Hummingbird Salamander), and Alexandra Kleeman (Something New Under the Sun), as they discuss visions of our world and how we’ll manage to keep living in it. Moderated by Alice Sola Kim.

Jonathan Lethem and Jeff VanderMeer will be appearing virtually.

(2) FLAME ON. SF2 Concatenation’s Autumn 2021 issue weighed in on fan controversies from last spring in this incendiary Editorial Comment.  (The creators of this long-lived periodic sff news publication are The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation Team.)

EDITORIAL COMMENT

The 2021 Worldcon has a new Chair who deserves best wishes from all in the SF Worldcon community.  We need to remember, she has taken over following the successive resignations of the convention’s former co-chairs one of which was due to the continued abuse conrunners and others are receiving from a minority of self-righteous, perfervid, strident Worldcon fans.
          Of course, it is not just convention runners, this year one major author who has given much to the Worldcon community – in both time, effort and cash over many years – has received disparaging attention due to what is arguably a non-malicious misjudgement unfortunately made at last year’s Worldcon. The maltreatment this well-known author has received includes a nasty little article whose title uses profanity against its target (the article’s writer was unable to marshal her argument with calm logic). Sadly, there were enough of these strident fans for it to be short-listed for a Hugo Award to be presented at this year’s Worldcon. That the article contains both a profanity and the author’s name – the target of her abuse – means that it clearly runs contrary to the Worldcon convention’s own code of conduct, yet the Worldcon committee has decided to do nothing: the least it could have done would have been to censor the offending words and explain why.
          Such Worldcon abuse from a minority of fans is not new, in fact it seems to be increasingly regular.  Indeed the last time the Worldcon had been held in our neck of the woods in Brit Cit there was a volatile reaction to the proposed host for the Hugo ceremony that was both unwarranted and totally over-the-top that even spilled over into the mainstream press.
          And so it will be interesting this year to see whether the Hugo will go to a hate-mongering work or whether the majority of Worldcon’s Hugo voters will take a stand?
          The Worldcon is next likely to come to our neck of the woods in 2024; that is if the Cal Hab Worldcon bid for that year wins.  Let’s hope that by then the braying, vociferous minority will have moved on so that that event can be tantrum free.

(3) BIDDERS CALLED OUT. SF2 Concatenation – which is produced by a predominantly UK team – also challenged the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid to address crowding issues at the last three European Worldcons.

The 2024 bid for a British Worldcon in Glasgow is still on….  But given the increasing overcrowding problems at recent European Worldcons (London in 2013Helsinki in 2017, culminating in a jam-packed Dublin in 2019) it seems that the current generation of European Worldconrunners are unable or (worse?) unwilling to curb numbers to fit their venue’s size.  It would arguably be helpful if the Glasgow 2024 bid team gave a clear steer as to its planning policy on avoiding overcrowding so that those contemplating registering having attending the programme (as opposed to the socialising) as a big draw can decide whether or not to commit a four-figure investment in registration, travel, accommodation and food to attend.

(4) HOLLYWOOD ICON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this 2018 interview Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Rick Baker and his daughter Veronica Baker: Maltin on Movies: Rick and Veronica Baker. Rick Baker won seven Oscars for makeup and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  His daughter, Veronica, is a producer at DC Universe Infinite.

Rick Baker discovered his calling in 1958 when he was 8 and bought the third issue of Famous Monsters Of Filmland.  As a teenager, he discovered the home address of master makeup artist Dick Smith and sent him some photos of his work.  Smith realized that Baker had talent and then spent a day with the teenage Baker giving him tips and subsequently hired him as an assistant for The Exorcist.  Smith, Baker recalled, was a very nice guy who was really good at spotting talent, since three of the teenage monster enthusiasts he corresponded with became Baker, J.J. Abrams, and Peter Jackson.

Baker, who retired in 2015 because he was tired of dealing with the suits, had lots of stories.  He notes he was King Kong in the 1976 movie and played the pilot who killed Kong in the 2005 remake.  He still works on new designs and enthusiastically posts them on Instagram.

Cosplayers whose favorite holiday is Halloween will find Baker and his family simpatico because they spend three months a year prepping their  Halloween costumes. One year Baker, his wife, and their two daughters played four different versions of the Joker.  Another year they were characters from Beauty And The Beast with Baker playing the Beast.

I thought this was very enjoyable.

(5) ENJOYING ASIMOV’S BOOKS. Adam-Troy Castro tries to stick up for Asimov, though necessarily begins his Facebook post with a hefty list of concessions.

Thanks to the new TV adaptation of Asimov’s FOUNDATION, some people are rushing to the internet to make the clever observation that Isaac Asimov really wasn’t a great writer of fiction.

They are also talking about his disgusting personal conduct toward women at conventions, but let us put that aside, mostly because I absolutely agree that it was disgusting and have no reason to argue with you….

…When I was a kid of about 8-10, precociously picking up books that had been marketed to adults from a school library that had the whole set of Asimov and Clarke books, they were a godsend to me. I had no problem parsing the prose, any prose. But for a kid who had not yet even begun to decode adult interactions, beginning a process that I am still shaky on today, as are we all, it was helpful to have books that imparted the sense of wonder and provided drama that was pretty much all surface because anything more sophisticated was precisely the stuff that I would be confused by and get bogged down in. Through Asimov I learned the trick of reading a book. And from Asimov I moved on to writers capable of introducing, among other things, more elegant prose, more complex description, more sophisticated characterization, and the resonance of human interactions that were by their nature harder to navigate than math problems….

(6) PROPERTY IS THEFT. WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast interviews a professor who believes “Sci-Fi Is a Good Way to Learn Political Theory”. Listen to the complete interview with Joseph Reisert at the link.

…Reisert is currently teaching Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed to help students understand Marxist ideas of a society without private property. “It’s the one imagining of a society without property that seems reasonably plausible to me,” he says. “I love that novel, and I think the central insight there is that to make that society without property work, even apart from the organizational challenges, requires a kind of moral transformation that’s not easy to accomplish.”

Another advantage of science fiction novels is that they tend to be more entertaining than political treatises, meaning that students are more likely to actually read them. “One shouldn’t underestimate the importance of having a light, easy reading at the end of a long semester right before people take exams,” Reisert says.

(7) THEFT IS THEFT, EVEN MORE SO. A press release on Business Wire reports “Educational Publishers Obtain Preliminary Injunction Against 60 Illegal Websites that Use Online Ads to Sell Pirated Content”.

Educational publishers, Macmillan LearningCengage Group, Elsevier, McGraw Hill and Pearson,have obtained a Preliminary Injunction from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against 60 websites that sell illegal, unlicensed copies of eBooks. The publishers filed suit against the operators of these websites on August 9, 2021, and on the same date obtained a Temporary Restraining Order that required the immediate shutdown of the infringing activity on these websites, as well as the cessation of the services provided by intermediaries that support the websites. With the Preliminary Injunction, that injunctive relief has now been extended through the pendency of the litigation. This is the fourth suit in less than two years that the publishers have brought against pirate eBook websites, and the fourth time they have successfully obtained a Preliminary Injunction.

Like the prior lawsuits, the current lawsuit states that the operators of the pirate eBook websites use online ads—most notably ads on Google and Microsoft’s Bing—to attract customers searching for the publishers’ legitimate content to their illegal websites. In addition to Google and Bing, the websites rely on payment processors, web hosts, domain registrars, proxy service providers and other internet service providers, all of whom are required by the Court’s injunction to stop facilitating the pirate websites’ illegal activity.

The sale of pirated textbooks injures students, who do not receive legitimate copies of the products they seek to purchase. Piracy also causes publishers financial injury, creating a ripple effect impacting the ability to invest in the creation of new works and scholarly contributions that benefit education as a whole. The educational publishers’ enforcement efforts seek to stop online piracy.

(8) SANDMAN CLIP. IndieWire introduces “’The Sandman’ First Look at Neil Gaiman’s Netflix Series”.

Netflix’s logline for the dark fantasy show reads: “A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are seamlessly interwoven, ‘The Sandman’ follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.”

The preface at YouTube says —

The Lord of Dreams has been summoned, and captured, by mortal men. Once free from his captivity, this eternal ruler of Dreams will realize that his troubles are only just beginning. The Sandman is a Netflix series based on the groundbreaking comic book series created for DC by Neil Gaiman.

(9) LITERARY CHOCOLATE. Fine Books & Collections brings to fans’ attention a new Lovecraftian delicacy that will soon be available.

Open Book Chocolates, purveyors of handmade, literary-themed chocolates, has announced a Lovecraft-inspired dark chocolate bar infused with Nori seaweed, ginger spice, and candied ginger. It’s called ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ and a Kickstarter campaign is underway to launch this new flavor into the world. They’ve already met their funding goal, but potential backers can still get in on the action through October 12.

The Kickstarter still has 13 days to run: The Call of Cthulhu Chocolate Bar by G. E. Gallas.

…Our newest flavor, The Call of Cthulhu, is inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s 1926 short story about narrator Francis Wayland Thurston’s search for the truth behind his recently deceased great uncle’s papers. Cthulhu is an ominous, nightmarish, octopus-like creature that hibernates underwater until the time is right for him to emerge and cause havoc. Nori seaweed represents Cthulhu’s aquatic origins, while the spicy kick of ginger expresses the discombobulation he bestows on man….

Call of Cthulhu is just one of a whole line of book-inspired chocolate bars that includes Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Treasure Island, The Raven, Les Miserables, and A Christmas Carol.

(10) ANOTHER TASTE OF HPL. Heritage Auctions has a big Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy auction coming up on October 14 when  The Gary Munson Collection of Horror and Fantasy Rare Books goes under the hammer. One example is this Lovecraft rarity:

…No discussion of genre-defining work is complete without a mention of H.P. Lovecraft. Though a somewhat controversial character, there can be no doubt that his curious mind, monstrous creations and bone-chilling descriptions of creeping madness continue to shape the horror genre — and will well into the future. There is a reason we describe the worst of our nightmares as Lovecraftian: because H.P. Lovecraft shined a spotlight on all the darkest corners of our world and our minds.

As rare and secretive as the Eldritch gods themselves is this copy of an autographed manuscript signed for the short story, Pickman’s Model. Featuring 16 leaves of Lovecraft’s spidery handwriting, the manuscript is not only signed by Lovecraft, but is also written on the backs of 15 letters written to the author himself. Purportedly, Lovecraft was no fan of typewriters and often used the backs of correspondence, notes and other scrap paper for getting down his ideas. These unique letters contain a laundry list of recognizable names of Lovecraft’s peers and provide unique insight into the publication timeline of the story and Lovecraft’s correspondence and interactions in the years leading up to publication…

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1963 – Fifty eight years ago this evening on CBS, My Favorite Martian first aired. It was created by John L. Greene who had absolutely no SF background. (Think The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.) It starred Ray Walston as “Uncle Martin” (aka the Martian) and Bill Bixby as Tim O’Hara. The first two seasons, seventy five episodes, were black and white, while the last thirty two episodes of season three were in color. It did very well for the first two seasons but ratings dropped significantly in the third season and it got cancelled. An animated series, My Favorite Martians, was made by Filmation and aired on CBS a decade later. It lasted sixteen episodes. Jonathan Harris voiced Martin. It would be remade in 1999 as a film with Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Martin and Ray Walston in a new role, Armitan/Neenert. It was a box office disaster. It currently has a twelve percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1873 — Theodore Lorch. He’s the High Priest in 1936 Flash Gordon serial. He also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial as well. (Died 1947.)
  • Born September 28, 1930 — Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes she was a redhead. Unless you can count her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. In 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 28, 1934 — Stuart M. Kaminsky. Though best remembered as a very prolific mystery writer for which I single out the Toby Peters series about a private detective in 1940s Hollywood and the Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov series about a Moscow police inspector,  he does have genre works. He did two Kolchak the Night Stalker graphic novels, plus wrote the scripts for two Batman stories, “The Batman Memos” and “The Man Who Laughs”. As an editor, he’s responsible for the On a Raven’s Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe anthology. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 28, 1942 — Ian McShane, 79. Setting aside Deadwood which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrayed Mr. Wednesday in American Gods. And it turns out, though I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. 
  • Born September 28, 1944 — Isla Blair, 77. Her first credited film appearance was in  Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. She’s Blaker in The Quatermass Experiment. Finally she has played a starring role as Sally in the BBC’s alternate history An Englishman’s Castle series.
  • Born September 28, 1959 — Scott MacDonald, 62. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next Gen,  Voyager,  Deep Space Nine, and  Enterprise. He’s also up on Space Above and BeyondBabylon 5X-FilesStargate: SG-1Carnivale and Threshold. He was also in Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a film which you can guess how bad the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is.
  • Born September 28, 1961 — Nicholas Briggs, 60. A Whovian among Whoians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Well not just them as he also voices the Judoon, the Ice Warriors, the  Nestene Consciousness, the Jagrafess and the Zygons.  Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he did act twice in the Whoverse. Once on Torchwood as Rick Yates on “Children of Earth: Day Four” andThe Sarah Jane Adventures as Captain Tybo in “Prisoner of the Judoon” episode.  Fourth he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
  • Born September 28, 1974 — Alexis Cruz, 47. He was Skaara in the Stargate film and  remarkably got to play the same character in the Stargate SG-1 series as well which is unusual indeed. He’s done a number of fairly obscure horror films (DarkWolfSpectres, Slayer and Altergeist).
Hayao Miyazaki

(13) LOVE FOR MIYAZAKI. {Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the September 21 Financial Times, former Financial Times film critic Nigel Andrews noted the 20th anniversary of Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spiritied Away, the only film in Andrews’s 46-year career he gave six stars to (Andrews judged on a 1-5 star scale).

Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is 20 years old. I saw it at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival, where it won the golden Bear for Best film.  Some months later it won the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Is it the best film I’ve ever seen?  Quite possibly.  I’d want it on a desert island.  Yes, my life would be poorer without it. And I never, during my 46 years as a practicing movie reviewer, bestowed that 6/5 rating on anything else; or even thought to….

…Maybe Miyazaki’s masterpiece is better seen as a movie to crown his own career than to coronate future directors.  He never followed it with a better one himself, though there are marvels in Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and The Wind Rises.  But then Welles never surpassed Citizen Kane, nor Hitchcock Vertigo.  Spirited Away is the great treasure of 21st century animation, and we may be saying that when the 21st century ends. 

(14) TRADPUB’S ANSWER TO THE $600 ASHTRAY. Amanda S. Green, in “Who can read your book?”, discusses news reports about the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee grilling publishers about library e-book contracts.  

…As an example, the article notes how a California school district had to pay $27/yr per student for access to e-books of The Diary of Anne Frank. In other words, if 100 students that year studied the book, the district paid the publisher $2700–and the district nor the kids “owned” that e-book. If they bought the paperback book directly from Amazon instead of through Baker & Taylor where they’d probably get a discount, they’d pay $11/copy or less. The e-book would cost $6.99. So why is the per student cost for the school library for this e-book so much more?

Why aren’t publishers trying to encourage school districts to invest more of their limited library funds in books and e-books–and giving them more for their money–than they are? After all, if we teach our youngsters to enjoy reading, that should be a win-win for publishers, right?

When publishers have politicians pointing out the obvious, there’s a problem….

(15) ON WRY. David Bratman’s report about visiting “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” in San Jose begins with a rather clever comment.

… You show your proof of vaccination – though they’re quite bewildered by the actual card, expecting it to be transferred to a phone – and nobody’s very interested in your ticket – and head down a clogged (because people read very slowly) passage by a series of panels with explanatory narration and quotes from Vince’s letters in English and Spanish. Finally, if you get around that and the arrow-bearing signs reading “Gogh This Way” which must be terribly confusing to anyone who doesn’t know how to mispronounce the name, you get to the main hall….

(16) REWRITING THE DICTIONARY. The WPM Invitational site has an archive of the results of two Washington Post competitions, among other things: “Word Play Masters”.

The Washington Post’s Mensa invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.   Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.                     
                                                                            
2. Ignoranus : A person who’s both stupid and an asshole….               

And there are 15 more.

The same site also has the 16 winners of a different challenge:

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.  And the winners are:
                                                                                                              
                                                                            
 1. Coffee , n. The person upon whom one coughs.                            
                                                                            
 2. Flabbergasted , adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained….             

Etc.

(17) LIVED IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. “Scientists Unseal Secret Cave Chamber Used by Neanderthals”Yahoo! has the story.

Scientists exploring a cave network inside of the Rock of Gibraltar—a monolithic limestone mass in the British territory of Gibraltar—have discovered a chamber that nobody’s seen for 40,000 years. The chamber, which measures about 42 square feet, not only offers insight into a pocket of Earth long untouched, but also, in all likelihood, an area where Neanderthals visited. And perhaps snacked on animal carcasses.

Gizmodo reported on the discovery, which the scientists recently announced. The team visited the Gibraltar cave network—known as Gorham’s Cave complex—in August of this year as a continuation of a nine-year-long effort to determine its true dimensions. The complex is of intrigue as experts consider it to be one of the last habitations for Neanderthals in Europe. The site’s so important for archaeology, in fact, it’s even a UNESCO World Heritage Site….

(18) ROBOTECH. Here’s a promotional video with footage the Amazon Astro mentioned in the Scroll the other day:

(19) AUTEUR’S DEBUT. Dementia 13, the 1963 horror film that marked Francis Ford Coppola’s debut has been released last week in a restored director’s cut.

Presented in HD and available on Blu-ray for the first time, Francis Ford Coppola’s director’s cut of Dementia 13 is quintessential gothic horror, wrapped in the twisted mysteries of a family’s deepest, darkest secrets. A widow deceives her late husband’s mother and brothers into thinking he’s still alive when she attends the yearly memorial to his drowned sister, hoping to secure his inheritance. But her cunning is no match for the demented, axe-wielding thing roaming the grounds of the family’s Irish estate in this cult favorite featuring Patrick Magee, Luana Anders, William Campbell, and Bart Patton.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Costume Designer Tutorial” on Screen Rant, Tyler Lemco plays costume designer Dode L.who took off Superman’s underwear for Man Of Steel and says “I knocked Thor’s dumb helmet off his dumb head and never looked back”  Among his suggestions:  black leather jackets always work and make sure all male superheroes have abs built into their costumes; but don’t ask him about “that credit card thing” that got him into trouble with Willem Dafoe. This was written by Seb Decter.  Ryan George has a brief cameo.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/21 Like A Mouse Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Scroll The File

(1) KOWAL ON WALLY FUNK. The New York Times has run an essay by Lady Astronaut author (and DisCon III chair) Mary Robinette Kowal on Wally Funk. “Wally Funk’s Launch With Jeff Bezos Defies 60 Years of Exclusion From Space”. (Registration may be required.)

Ms. Funk’s trip to space with Jeff Bezos is reason to celebrate. But the launch this week, decades after she was denied the opportunity, also raises questions about whom space is for.

(2) APEX APPEAL. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to fund Apex Magazine 2022. On the first day people have contributed $5,325 of its $10,000 goal. Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore says:

The last few years of Apex Magazine (including 2021), we’ve produced an incredible run of transformative and diverse fiction. We relaunched with Fargo Tbakhi’s “Root Rot,” a timely tale regarding colonization. “Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow threaded the needle between heartbreaking and hopefulness. Sam J. Miller celebrated the power of music in “A Love That Burns Hot Enough to Last: Deleted Scenes from a Documentary.”

We published back-to-back Hugo Award winners (2018 & 2019) in the category of Best Short Fiction (“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse and “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow, respectively) and the 2017 Hugo Award winner in the category of Best Novelette (“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon). Fiction from Apex Magazine has also won the Nebula Award, Locus Award, and numerous others.

In addition to our phenomenal fiction, every issue of Apex Magazine offers evocative cover art, thought-provoking nonfiction, author and  artist interviews, and a professional-quality podcast produced by KT Bryski.

All these wonderful things would exist if not for the community of readers, creators, and staff—the extended Apex family. Thank you so much for your love and continued support!

The Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter also promises: “Should we fund, we will commission new original fiction from five writers who we think embodies the type of bold, diverse work we seek to publish.” Those writers are: Gabino Iglesias, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Samit Basu, and Lavie Tidhar.

(3) THE OOPS DIRECTIVE. James Davis Nicoll makes you wonder if there would be a story if people followed the rules. There’s plenty where they don’t, as James shows in “Five SF Stories About Disobeying Non-Interference Directives” at Tor.com.

…For historical reasons—that throughout Earth history, first contact between dissimilar cultures was generally followed by vigorous efforts by whichever culture enjoyed a military advantage to strip-mine the other of goods and services—many science fiction authors (particularly during the mid-century period when various empires were winding down) gave their settings laws encouraging non-interference. One might call this a Prime Directive….

(4) HELP REQUESTED. The“Fundraiser by Adam-Troy Castro : In the Aftermath of Unexpected Death” is a GoFundMe brought on by the sudden death of his wife, Judi. It has raised $26,979 so far.

…She was also, through her own income, the chief support of our family. I am a writer and my money comes in irregularly, sometimes in decent sized chunks (like last week, but delayed for a year by COVID), sometimes in tiny little amounts. I am going to have to restructure my new life as a freshly minted widower, and I will, but in the interim our fragile climb back to solvency has been slammed back to the earth. I am in big, big trouble; destitute with debt still looming.

I damn the whims of fate.

I am not the kind of person who finds this easy. It hurts me to type these words, and I am intensely self-conscious about asking for help this soon after the last time. I can tell you that I did not want the prior worst period of my life to be followed so soon by another loss that is even more primal, even more destructive. I have had no time to think, just arranging the memorial — and I am sure that the bills for her time for the ICU, after insurance, will be coming, inevitable and unswayed by sentiment, even as we run late on bills that would have normally been her duty to pay. (She died in a distant city, in the home of a family we were pet-sitting for, so we are far from our records, from our mailing address, and…this is a pyramid, folks. It gets higher and higher.)

If you knew Judi at all, you loved her. If you know me at all, maybe you have some of that same feeling. I have to jettison pride. She has left me bereft. I will be deeply grateful for any help you can give,

(5) SPACE JAM RULES AT BOX OFFICE. Critical reviews did not keep Space Jam: A New Legacy from overtaking Black Widow in theater ticket sales last weekend.

The Hollywood Reporter starts the ball rolling:

Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring the basketball great [LeBron James], beat holdover Black Widow to top the chart with a better-than-expected domestic debut of $31.7 million from 3,956 theaters.

Marvel and Disney’s Black Widow fell to No. 2 in its second outing with $26.3 million. The superhero pic suffered a steep 67 percent decline, one of the biggest drops ever for a Marvel title, and the worst among the Marvel films released by Disney. The decline underscores that the box office recovery is far from over; also, the tentpole is available in the home via Disney+ Premier Access (piracy is another problem)….

Deadline notes that’s the steepest second-weekend drop ever for a Disney-distributed MCU title, beating Ant-Man and the Wasp (62 percent). They say piracy is a big problem: “’Black Widow’ Post Steep Box Office Drop For MCU Title; Disney Mum On PVOD”.

…Fact: Black Widow was the most-pirated movie last week on Torrent Freak, ahead of The Tomorrow War in the No. 2 spot. I understand from sources that have seen several piracy reports that apparently Black Widow might be the most-pirated title to date during the pandemic, ahead of Wonder Woman 1984.

Studios go to extra lengths to encrypt and watermark their movies before release. Pristine copies of a tentpole spell death at the box office, and they further spell death here on both the box office and Disney+ Premier side.

Many of these piracy sites dress themselves up with images from the film to make it look like they’re legit. One industry analytics source informed me over the weekend that in one study they did for a studio, it showed that these piracy sites were the No. 1 means for those at home to watch movies, not Disney+ or any other streamer….

The LA Times tries to account for this surprising showing: “’Space Jam’ sequel unseats ‘Black Widow’ at the top of the box office”:

…Not many expected “Space Jam: A New Legacy” to pull off this win. The poorly reviewed film was pegged for an opening in the $20-million range. But a sizable number of families and millennials who grew up with the original “Space Jam” left the house and went to a theater to see it, even though it’s currently streaming on HBO Max free for subscribers. Not only that, audiences also gave the film a promising A- CinemaScore, suggesting word of mouth could be strong….

(6) SPEAKING UP. In the Washington Post. Michael Cavna interviews Jeff Bergman, who voices Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, met Mel Blanc once, but only met LeBron James at the premiere when he shouted something to James in his Bugs voice. “’Space Jam: A New Legacy’: The Bugs Bunny voice actor has spent a lifetime perfecting the craft”.

…After the premiere, James was surrounded by layers of fans. What could Bergman do to get the NBA star’s attention despite the distance and din? “I yelled out from about 20 feet away and said in Bugs Bunny’s voice, ‘Hey, Doc, we really are family,'” Bergman said. “He heard and saw me.” Bergman was ushered through the throng to greet him.

“He was holding his daughter and we embraced and thanked each other,” Bergman said. Even amid the crowd, it felt like “a very private congratulatory moment.”

(7) VISION AND REVISION. “At times it’s hard to believe what you see” it says on the cover of Dragons Walk Among Us, source of “The Big Idea: Dan Rice” at Whatever.

Is there a world before our eyes that most people overlook? What are the ramifications for someone who can see the unseeable? This is the big idea behind my debut novel Dragons Walk Among Us.

I first became interested in the world that most people overlook through photography. For example, star trails illuminate landscapes that most people never experience except through photographs taken by others. What really started to fascinate me years ago are water droplets––on blades of grass, flower petals, leaves, windows, etc. Individual little worlds are scattered across the dewy grass, and most people never take the time to appreciate them. Sometimes I imagine each dewdrop is a microcosmos populated by strange creatures. I suppose on the infinitesimal scale of microbes, this is true….

(8) SALLY MILLER GEARHART (1931-2021). Author and academic Sally Miller Gearhart died July 14 at the age of 90. The Advocate has a profile about her activism and work as an educator: “Sally Gearhart, Veteran Activist and Academic, Dead at 90”.

…Gearhart, a Virginia native, taught for many years at San Francisco State University, where in 1973 she became the first out lesbian to be named to a tenure-track position (at the school and, apparently, in the nation). At SF State, she established one of the first women’s and gender studies programs in the nation. She was an author of feminist science fiction as well….

The Wikipedia entry synopsizes her sff career:

…In 1978, her most famous novel, The Wanderground, was published, exploring themes of ecofeminism and lesbian separatism. She wrote two books as part of the Earthkeep trilogy, The Kanshou, published in 2002, and The Magister, published in 2003. Both stories explore a dystopian world where women outnumber men, and humans are the only beings on the planet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1976 – Forty-five years ago, Roger Zelazny’s “Home is The Hangman” novella wins the Hugo at MidAmeriCon. The other nominated works that year were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys, and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. His Doorways in the Sand would be nominated for Best Novel that year, finishing second to Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 19, 1883 Max Fleischer. Animator, film director and producer. He brought such animated characters as Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman to the screen and was responsible for a number of technological innovations including the Rotoscope and Stereoptical Processes. You can see Betty’s first screen appearance here in the 1930 Cartoon, “Dizzy Dishes”. (Died 1972.)
  • Born July 19, 1924 Pat Hingle. He portrayed Jim Gordon in the Burton Batman film franchise. Genre wise, he had roles in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneCarol for Another ChristmasMission: ImpossibleThe InvadersTarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Amazing Stories and The Land Before Time. He would reprise his Gordon role in the Batman OnStar commercials. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 19, 1927 Richard E. Geis. I met him at least once when I was living out West. Interesting person.  He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice; and whose science fiction fanzine Science Fiction Review won Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine four times. The Alien Critic won the Best Fanzine Hugo once (in a tie with Algol), and once by himself. And yes, I enjoyed reading the Science Fiction Review. I’ve not any of his handful of genre novels, and certainly haven’t encountered his softcore porn of which there’s a lot. (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 19, 1938 Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, 82. He and Fred Hoyle developed the Hoyle–Narlikar theory, which Stephen Hawking would prove is incompatible with an expanding universe. He would write two genre novels, The Return of The Vaman (translated from Marathi) and The Message from Aristarchus. His autobiography is My Tale of Four Cities: An Autobiography.
  • Born July 19, 1957 John Pelan. Committed (more or less) the act of opening serial small publishing houses in succession with the first being Axolotl Press in the mid-Eighties where he’d published the likes of de Lint and Powers (before selling it to Pulphouse Publishing) followed by Darkside Press, Silver Salamander Press and finally co-founding Midnight House. All have been inactive for quite awhile now and he’d been editing such anthologies as Tales of Terror and Torment: Stories from the Pulps, Volume 1 for other presses though even that has not happened for some years as near as I can tell. As a writer, he had more than thirty published stories and he had won both a Stoker for The Darker Side: Generations of Horror anthology and an International Horror Guild Award for his Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium anthology. (Died 2021.)
  • Born July 19, 1963 Garth Nix, 58. Writer of children’s and young adult fantasy novels, to wit the Keys to the KingdomOld Kingdom, and Seventh Tower series. The Ragwitch which I read quite some time ago is quite excellent and being a one-off can give you a good taste of him without committing to a series. 
  • Born July 19, 1969 Kelly Link, 52. First, let me note that along with Ellen Datlow, she and her husband Gavin Grant were responsible for the last five volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. They all did a magnificent job. All of her collections, Pretty MonstersMagic for Beginners and Get in Trouble are astonishingly good. And she’s much honored having won a Hugo Award, three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, an Otherwise Award, a Sturgeon Award and received a MacArthur Genius Grant.
  • Born July 19, 1976 Benedict Cumberbatch, 45. Confession time: I really didn’t care for him in the Sherlock Holmes series as that series didn’t work for me, nor did I think his Khan In Star Trek Into Darkness was all that interesting but his Stephen Strange In Doctor Strange was quite excellent. He did do a superb job of voicing Smaug in The Hobbit, and his Grinch-voicing in the latter film was also superb. And yes, he’s the voice of Satan in Good Omens.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GETTING PAID. The Hollywood Reporter discovers that “Marvel, DC Offer ‘Shut Up Money’ As Comic Creators Go Public”.

… Multiple comic creators have publicly stated that DC’s payments for adaptations, in general, is higher. Comic creator Jim Starlin turned heads in 2017 when he publicly noted that Warner Bros. paid him more for a minor character that appeared in DC’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice than he received for Marvel’s major Guardians of the Galaxy characters Thanos, Gamora and Drax combined. After Starlin’s airing of grievances, Disney renegotiated his deal for Thanos, the villain of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Those films went on to gross $4.83 billion globally, and Starlin, while not sharing details of his deal, walked away happy. “The cliche is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Starlin tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The way these agreements are written up, Disney can be more generous if they want. It is written right there that they can change the terms to make it better.”

There’s no legal obligation to make additional payments for adaptations, with companies such as Marvel viewing these payments as thank-you gifts — and
a way to avoid the bad publicity of warring with a creator. “It’s ‘shut-up’ money,” as one Marvel creator who receives such payments, but also declined to share details of compensation, likes to call it. Even if companies have no legal obligation to compensate these writers and artists, paying more is akin to contract renegotiations with an actor. If a TV show or movie is a smash success, studios believe it makes sense to offer an actor more money for the sequel (or the next season of TV) to keep them happy. No one wants a bitter actor on set….

(13) THE SQUAD. DC dropped a Suicide Squad “In On The Action Featurette”. Comes to HBO Max on August 6.

Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.

(14) WILLIAM F. NOLAN & CO. At the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation website, a 1999 article about the many-named writing group Christopher Conlon likes to call the “Southern California Sorcerers”.

…Group member William F. Nolan, whose film credits include Burnt Offerings and Trilogy of Terror, explains: “We’d talk plot, read stories we’d finished for opinions, talk about markets and what was selling and who was buying, discuss character development and structure, and, yes, we’d argue, but in a constructive way. We all helped each other…and inter-connected on projects.”

“Sometimes, of an evening,” Ray Bradbury has written, “Richard Matheson would toss up there merest dustfleck of a notion, which would bounce off William F. Nolan, knock against George Clayton Johnson, glance off me, and land in [Charles Beaumont’s] lap. ..Sometimes we all loved an idea so much we had to assign it to the writer present who showed the widest grin, the brightest cheeks, the most fiery eyes.”

Direct collaborations between Group members were common. And no wonder. In those early days, most of them, particularly the “inner circle” of Nolan, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and novelist John Tomerlin, were men in their twenties who were just beginning their careers. They found strength, encouragement, and a sense of solidarity in the company of other struggling young writers. Because of the Group, says Nolan, “We were not alone; we had each other to fire us creatively, to bounce ideas around, to solve plot problems. It was the best kind of writing class that could ever be imagined.”…

(15) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says that Facebook has come up with new software that lets robots walk like toddlers, which might be a good first step in letting robots walk like human adults. Especially if it lets robots learn to do so without falling down all the time, for which they’re less prepared than toddlers. “Facebook reveals AI development to help robots move in uncharted territory”

Facebook developed what it calls a foundational “breakthrough” in the race to create more humanlike robots: software that enables machines to learn to walk like toddlers.

Humans are very efficient at maneuvering. As kids, we figure out how to adjust our stride and cadence to trek through mud, water, and up and down hills with ease. Through trial and error, we adapt, figuring out the best ways to move our feet according to real-time situations. And we can do this while toting a variety of objects, either in our hands or on our backs.It’s tough to program robots to make instantaneous adjustments to their legs and feet to accommodate such a variety of tasks, mainly because it’s hard to train themto deal with corner cases, or objects and environments they’ve never seen before….

(16) CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN. Sure, that’s easy for you to say. According to Gizmodo, “Neutron Stars Have Mountains That Are Less Than a Millimeter Tall” but that would be one big step even for Barlennan.

A team of astrophysicists recently used new models of neutron stars to map the mountains—tiny raised areas—on the stars’ otherwise perfectly spherical structures. They found that the greatest deviations were still extraordinarily small due to the intense gravitational pull, clocking in at less than a millimeter tall.

Neutron stars are the dead cores of once-huge stars that collapsed in on themselves. They are the densest objects in the Universe aside from black holes. They’re called neutron stars because their gravity is so intense that the electrons in their atoms collapse into the protons, forming neutrons. They’re so compact that they pack a mass greater than that of our Sun into a sphere no wider than a city.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival, Creature Features and La-La Land Entertainment present a virtual panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of Arachnophobia with director Frank Marshall and special guests.

Recorded in November 2020, moderator Mike Matessino hosts a lively and informative discussion with ARACHNOPHOBIA’s director / executive producer Frank Marshall, co-producer Richard Vane, actor Peter Jason, production designer James Bissell and entomologist Steve Kutcher.

No stranger to delighting audiences worldwide for decades, Mr. Marshall, producer of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, POLTERGEIST and JURASSIC WORLD, made his directorial debut with ARACHNOPHOBIA in 1990, bringing rapt audiences to the edge of their seats with laughter and shrieks in equal measure. The film has remained a beloved fan favorite to this day and its appreciation continues to grow as it connects with a new generation. Now, Mr. Marshall and special guests take you behind the film, its production, and its astounding spider effects and action!

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, Joel Zakem, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 11/4/20 With A Goldfinger In My Eye

(1) JEMISIN FEATURED. “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: N.K. Jemisin” has a video of her talk with a companion post by Guy Lamolinara, communications officer in the Center for the Book. (The video is also available on YouTube.)

Although N.K. Jemisin’s “The City We Became” (Orbit) is a fantasy novel set in New York City, its message is anything but a fantasy.

Jemisin says in her video recorded for the 2020 National Book Festival: “I think the thing that people will hopefully begin to take from the book, if they want to take anything from it, is that when people work together they are literally able to do just about anything — and that’s the struggle that we’re having right now as a country.”

(2) FINANCAL HELP NEEDED. Adam-Troy and Judi Castro say they have been “Wiped out by Identity Theft” and have launched an appeal for help through GoFundMe. At this hour, $15,990 of the $20,000 goal has been raised. Judi Castro explains:

Over the past year or so, Adam and I have been slapping out little embers here and there as our credit and debit cards were attacked. Usually little things that the banks quickly fixed.

The little attacks ended a few months ago.

Suddenly, large amounts were being transferred out of our accounts (multiple) seemingly as fast as they were deposited. We sat with the bank, took all the steps to protect ourselves. Reported to all the right agencies, filed reports with the authorities etc. We’ve changed accounts, banks and debit cards multiple times. But. They. Kept. Finding. Us.

Now the home has been taken and we are being forced to move.

It’s all been too much so we are turning to our friends and neighbors for help.

We thank you all for listening and will keep updates flowing.

(3) HUMBLE BUNDLE FOR SFWA. The new Humble Bundle campaign to benefit SFWA, Stars Of Sci-Fi & Fantasy By Open Road Media, is heavy on Shatner and Piers Anthony, but there are also many other authors including Jane Yolen, Tim Powers, Timothy Zahn, and Pamela Sargent.

(4) WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND? James Davis Nicoll is looking for your sf suggestions – add them in the comments section of “Reviving a 15 yr old John Scalzi thread in modified form”.

(Modified because the thread is 15 yrs old):

Good, recent science fiction for people who don’t read science fiction.

A: Audience is adult, intelligent, and literate.
B: No YA
C: No books before 2010.
D: Book has to be primarily SF, not fantasy.
E: Recommend a book that you would actually recommend to someone.

(5) BOTH SIDES NOW. In The Press and Journal: “Lost letters: The friendship between JM Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson”.

…And although JM Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson never met, they developed a warm friendship, engaged in a long-distance exchange of letters between Britain and the Pacific Islands, and have left behind a treasure trove of playful and poignant missives.

… The latter is a particularly evocative piece because he had intended to travel to Samoa to meet Stevenson, only for the latter to suffer a fatal cerebral haemorrhage at the age of just 44 in 1894.

Yet, as Dr Shaw revealed, all this material had lain in an American library for decades until he carried out some detective work which was worthy of one of Barrie’s contemporaries – and cricket teammates – Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

…In one letter, Stevenson writes that Barrie had the second-worst handwriting he had ever encountered, but that’s as far as the criticism goes.

Elsewhere, the tone is, by turns, witty, competitive, enlightening, analytic and often highly personal in nature.

Dr Shaw said: “I was initially intrigued by the length of their letters, especially towards the end of correspondence and some of them run to around 3,000 words.

“Stevenson’s friend, Sidney Colvin, described one of them as a ‘journal letter’ which is a good description.

“I was also intrigued by Barrie including a playlet in four acts in one letter – where he imagines his visit to Samoa – and a humorous family tree, showing that his and Stevenson’s characters were related….”

(6) STOP HELPING. A trailer has dropped for the sff film Parallel.

A group of friends stumble upon a mirror that serves as a portal to a “multiverse”, but soon discover that importing knowledge from the other side in order to better their lives brings increasingly dangerous consequences.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 2006 In the Night Garden, the first volume of Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales was published by Bantam Spectra. The novel and its sequel, In the Cities of Coin and Spice, would both win the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. Both volumes are copiously illustrated by Michael Kaluta. She would also win an Otherwise Award that year. It would also be nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Both volumes are available at the usual digital suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 4, 1897 Lionel Britton. Actor who’s best remembered for the “Spacetime Inn” play, a genre pub tale which, because one of the characters is Queen Victoria, was denied a UK theatre performance license. It was however performed by him playing all the parts in the House of Commons on the 10th of June 1931. Really. Truly. It’s the only play ever done there. (Died 1971.) (CE)
  • Born November 4, 1912 – Wendayne Ackerman.  Born in Germany, spoke French, German, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish.  Dubbed Wendayne by husband Forrest J Ackerman (no period after the J; so far as I know, no United Kingdom or Commonwealth fan, where this punctuation mark has a different name, ever asked “Forry, where’s the point?”).  Taught French and German twenty years at East Los Angeles Junior College.  Translated many Perry Rhodan books.  With Forry, Fan Guests of Honor at Rhocon and Fantasy Faire VII.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born November 4, 1917 Babette Rosmond. She worked as an editor at the magazine publisher Street & Smith, editing Doc Savage and The Shadow in the late Forties. Rosmond’s first story, co-written by Leonard M. Lake, “Are You Run-Down, Tired-“ was published in in the October 1942 issue of Unknown WorldsError Hurled was her only genre novel and she only write three short genre pieces. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born November 4, 1934 – Greg Calkins.  Long in FAPA, served a term as its President, succeeding Our Gracious Host.  Fanzine, The Rambling Fap.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 29.   (I believe he died 2014-2015, but haven’t yet been able to confirm.)  [JH]
  • Born November 4, 1946 – Mike Shupp, 74.  Aerospace engineer.  Chaired Loscon 7.  Five novels. Biographers beware, he is neither the singer-songwriter MS nor the retired colonel of U.S. Marines.  [JH]
  • Born November 4, 1953 Stephen Jones, 67. Editor, and that is putting it quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in anthologies edited quite some time ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for seventeen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated HistoryBasil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such, showing up, well, just about everywhere. (CE) 
  • Born November 4, 1953 Kara Dalkey, 67. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of SagamoreSteel RoseLittle Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Otherwise Awards. (CE)
  • Born November 4, 1955 Lani Tupu, 65. He had two roles on the Farscape series (arguably the best SF series ever done), one visible and one not. He was Peacekeeper  Bialar Crais  and the voice of Pilot as well. Genre wise, he also showed up on Time TraxThe Lost World and Mission: Impossible. He was also in the first Punisher film. (CE) 
  • Born November 4, 1959 – Alan Winston, 61.  Chaired Loscon 6.  Learned English Regency ballroom dance from J. Hertz, was one of the Avengers; moved to San Francisco Bay; taught (almost) JH Regency-style choreography “Mutual Promises” at a Playford Ball; active in that hobby.  Has been in every mailing of LASFAPA since the first, a commendable string of 529 months so far.  [JH]
  • Born November 4, 1960 John Vickery, 60. In Babylon 5, he played Neroon which is where I remember him from as he was a Right Bastard there.  His major Trek universe role was as Rusot, a member of Damar’s Cardassian resistance group, appearing in the DS9 episodes “The Changing Face of Evil”, “When It Rains…” and “Tacking Into the Wind”.  He also played a Betazoid in Next Gen’s “Night Terrors” and a Klingon in Enterprise‘s “Judgment” episode. (CE)
  • Born November 4, 1964 – Kerry Kyle, 56.  Daughter of David, the Man in the Red Jacket as he became in recent years.  KK and Brian Pearce run Red Jacket Press; you can see Dave’s fanhistory articles in Mimosa and get some of his and related books (his fine Pictorial History of SF and Illustrated Book of SF Ideas & Dreams are available, used, from Amazon and from Powell’s Books, as also shown here).  [JH].  
  • Born November 4, 1986 – Kristin Cast, 34.  A score of books, four novellas with her mother; three novels, two novelettes alone; a NY Times and USA Today best-seller.  Born on a U.S. Air Force base in Japan.  “Writing is the most difficult job I’ve had…. it all comes down to one person – YOU….  Read.  Read.  Read….  Think of each book … as a lesson….  I highlight words I love or don’t know, figurative language that inspires me….  I know … authors who don’t outline…. who handwrite their first drafts.  Outline, chart, crazy math equations, I’ve seen it all.”  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SAVE THE DALEKS? Comicbooks.com tees up the “Doctor Who Time Lord Victorious Trailer”.

Doctor Who: Time Lord Victoriousthe epic Doctor Who transmedia event, is in full swing. Titan Comics released a trailer for its part in the story. Titan’s trailer spotlights the Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious graphic novel, collecting issues #1 and #2 of the Time Lord Victorious comic book that began the event. The comic features the most beloved Doctor, the Tenth Doctor (portrayed by David Tennant), for a story written by Jody Houser and featuring artwork by Roberta Ingranata. The tale is titled “Defender of the Daleks.” As the title suggests, the story finds the Doctor in a most unusual position: coming to the aid of his greatest enemies, the Daleks. 

(11) OUT OF THE PARK EXPERIENCE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Michael Clair, in “Seven Baseball Movies Perfect For a Midnight Marathon” on MLB.com, recommends seven off-trail baseball movies most of which combine the great game of baseball with fantasy and horror.  These include The Battery, in which a pitcher and catcher flee a zombie apocalpyse, and the anthology film Body Bags (1993), whose third segment, directed by Tobe Hooper, has Mark Hamill as a minor-league player about to be called up to the majors, except he has an accident and needs an eye transplant… and the eyes come from a serial killer!

SJWs will want to see Rhubarb, a 1951 film in which the owner of the Brooklyn Loons dies and leaves the team to his cat.  The film features a very early appearance by Leonard Nimoy.

Clair notes that Twilight, for some reason, has six minutes of baseball in it.

(12) SAD PUPPY LOCKED OUT OF HOUSE. Sff author, Sad Puppy, and Libertarian Party candidate Lou Antonelli has lost his bid for election to the U.S. House to represent Texas’ 4th Congressional District. He placed third in the general election on November 3, 2020.

(13) MANDALORIAN MATCH. “Quiz: Which Character From The Mandalorian Are You?” — the Star Wars blog invites you to find out.

I’m Greef Karga. (Hey, don’t look like that’s a bad thing!)

To celebrate the all-new episodes of the live-action Star Wars series, we’ve created a new quiz to help you determine your place in the story so far. Are you the hero of it all, masked and mysterious, with armor that conceals a heart of gold? A kid at heart no matter your age? Do you follow the rules of the Empire or stick to the bounty hunter’s code?

(14) PWNED TO KING FOUR. Deep Blue: Down the Rabbit Hole is an in-depth documentary on the Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov computer chess matches of 1996-7

After an electrical engineer enters the field of computer chess, his creation captures the attention of the world as he attempts to defeat the world chess champion.

(15) MAG FORCE. “Not aliens: Mysterious burst of radio waves traced to a magnetar reports the LA Times.

…Scientists have known about these energetic pulses — called fast radio bursts — for about 13 years and have seen them coming from outside our galaxy, which makes it harder to trace them back to their source. Making it even harder is that they happen so fast, in a couple of milliseconds.

Then in April, a rare but considerably weaker burst coming from inside our own Milky Way galaxy was spotted by two distinct telescopes: one a Caltech graduate student’s set of handmade antennas, which included actual cake pans, the other a $20-million Canadian observatory.

They tracked that fast radio burst to a weird type of star called a magnetar that’s 32,000 light-years from Earth, according to four studies published Wednesday in the journal Nature….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “All things Fall–3D Printed Zoetrope” on Vimeo is a 2015 interpretation by Mat Collishaw of a nineteenth-century form of animation. WARNING: Shows violence against women.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Dann, N., Lise Andreasen, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Darrah Chavey, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Good as Gold” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/12/20 Seems To Lack The Necessary Imaginative Elements

(1) BRADBURY’S 1986 WORLDCON GOH SPEECH AND OTHER TREATS. History site Fanac.org has two segments of video highlights from the 1986 Worldcon in Atlanta.

ConFederation, the 44th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Atlanta, GA in 1986, with Ray Bradbury and Terry Carr as Guests of Honor. Hosted by Eve Ackerman, this is “ConFederation (1986) Worldcon – Best of Confederation w/ Ray Bradbury Guest of Honor speech – Part 1” and includes candid scenes around the convention, an excerpt of a (very funny) performance on the recent history of SF, a little filk, and a little programming. Best of all are long excerpts from the Guest of Honor speeches. Terry Carr talks about his fannish past, and after that there are 20+ minutes of Ray Bradbury’s captivating Guest of Honor speech. Ray touches on fandom, Ray Harryhausen, John Houston, EPCOT Center and more, ending with a stirring affirmation. This is an outstanding talk by Ray Bradbury.” Thanks to Ron Zukowski, co-chair of ConFederation for permission to put this online.

“ConFederation (1986) Worldcon -Best of Confederation w/Bob Shaw, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison-Part 2″ includes candid scenes around the convention, a salute to Julius Schwartz, Toastmaster Bob Shaw at the Hugos, Harlan Ellison on the Manly Wade Wellman auction (and accepting his Hugo), scenes of the Masquerade and hall costumes. There’s also the memorable non-acceptance of Judy-Lynn del Rey’s award. The video ends with the traditional closing ceremonies and thanks to the committee (including Joe Siclari who now runs the Fanac.org).

OMG – I’m in this one just after the 17-minute mark

(2) AFROFUTURIST YA PREVIEW. Gizmodo/io9 teases a preview chapter for Last Gate of the Emperor, a new Afrofuturist YA adventure from coauthors Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen. The book is due to be released May 4, 2021. “A Look Inside Last Gate of the Emperor, a YA Future Adventure Defined by Augmented Reality”.

In Cake Literary’s upcoming middle grade novel Last Gate of the Emperor—from co-authors Kwame Mbalia (Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky) and Prince Joel Makonnen—a young boy living in a technologically dense near-future grapples with the reality that while the world’s arguably become a more advanced and developed place, its bounty still isn’t exactly available to everyone.

(3) TARDIS MUST DODGE THE SUPER BOWL. The pandemic has forced Los Angeles Doctor Who convention Gallifrey One to call off its 2021 edition. The postponement to 2022 was announced today. The exact date in 2022 remains open, as the NFL has committed to play the Super Bowl in February in LA’s new stadium and has not fixed its own date yet.

It is with deep sadness that today we must announce that we are officially postponing the 2021 Gallifrey One convention to the first quarter of 2022, due to the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic emergency.

Gallifrey One has run successfully every year since our first event in 1990, and we’ve never intended to take a year off.  But these are extraordinary times: infection rates are climbing, there are unknown factors regarding safety and community exposure, and there have been ongoing edicts from local and county officials in our area prohibiting all mass gatherings, so this news should come as no surprise to anyone.  There is simply no way we can continue planning our event for next February with the same goals in mind, given that it’s very likely our lives won’t return to any semblance of normalcy until after a vaccine is proven effective and is widely circulated to the general population… which according to the medical community won’t be happening until at least sometime in the middle of next year.

(4) MIND IF I SMOKE? A satellite has traced smoke from the US wildfires over Northern Europe reports the German-language site Wetteronline. Here is a computer translation to English:

….For days, the smoke has been billowing over the skies of the US West Coast. In San Francisco, the sky turned into a deep red in the middle of the day. The column of smoke from a fire in California reached a record height of 17 kilometers. So far up, the particles with the jet stream can shift particularly quickly to the east, which has now happened.

A NASA satellite analysis shows how particles were transported from the west coast, first over North America and then across the Atlantic with a low pressure area. According to an analysis by the European Meteorological Satellite organization, the particles reached Central Europe on Friday.

(5) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 12, 1993 seaQuest DSV premiered on NBC. Created by Rockne S. O’Bannon who was also responsible for Defiance and Farscape, it counted Steven Spielberg among its legion of executive producers. The actual producers were Steve Beers, Gregg Fienberg and Oscar L. Costo. The cast was large and included Roy Scheider, Jonathan Brandis, Stephanie Beacham, Don Franklin and Michael Ironside. It lasted three seasons and fifty-seven episodes but it never had great ratings and was canceled. Three novels were written during the first season, two by Diane Duane and David Bischoff. There were also comics, action figures, replica badges and even t-shirts but a seaQuest DSV never made it out of the prototype stage alas.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Bon September 12, 1897 Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his creating and being the first and main writer of the pulp character The Shadow. Using the pen-name Maxwell Grant, he wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born September 12, 1917 – Han Suyin.  (Han is the family name.)  She never liked Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (H. King dir. 1955; she is portrayed by Jennifer Jones) which she felt distorted her novel.  The Enchantress, her last, is ours; eight others; eight memoirs; seven historical studies including two of Mao and one of Chou (or as mainland China now prefers, Zhou).  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Bon September 12, 1921 Stanislaw Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. The latest film made off a work of his is the 2018 His Master’s Voice. Both iBooks and Kindle have generous collections of his translated into English works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Bon September 12, 1922  John Chambers. He’s best known for designing Spock’s pointed ears, and for the prosthetic make-up work on the Planet of the Apes franchise. Some of those character creations, including Cornelius and Dr. Zaius from the Planet of the Apes series, are on display at the Science Fiction Museum. He worked on the MunstersOuter LimitsLost in SpaceMission mpossibleNight Gallery and I Spy along with uncredited (at the time) prosthetic makeup work on Blade Runner. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Bon September 12, 1940 John Clute, 80. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read in digital form) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) that I use every day for these Birthdays, and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction.and I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.(CE) 
  • Bon September 12, 1942 Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror.” Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” short garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye” novella. And  “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. The usual digital suspects have decent but not outstanding selections of his works including a few works of Oxrun Station, his core horror series. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born September 12, 1942 – Marge Simon, 78.  Edited Star*Line 1991-2011.  Three Rhyslings, second woman to be named a Grand Master; two Elgins, one Dwarf Star, three Stokers, one Lord Ruthven.  One novel, seven dozen shorter stories, four hundred fifty poems, a hundred twenty covers (see herehere), three hundred interiors (see herehere).  Various co-authors including husband Bruce Boston.  [JH]
  • Born September 12, 1946 – Don Brautigam.  Eighty covers; here is Michaelmashere is the Feb 83 Asimov’shere is Virtual Light.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born September 12, 1957 – Deb Vanasse, 63.  No Returns (with Gail Giles) for us, three other novels; six picture books, two nonfiction, about Alaska, where DV lived for thirty-six years.  A Distant Enemy a Junior Literary Guild selection; it and Out of the Wilderness in John Gillespie’s Best Books for Young Teen Readers.  DV and Andromeda Romano-Lax founded the 49 Alaska Writing Center.  [JH]
  • Born September 12, 1958 – Jean-Pierre Normand, 62.  Seven dozen covers, seventy interiors.  Here is Solaris 100.  Here is the Apr 04 Analog.  Here is the Anticipation (67th Worldcon) Souvenir Book.  Here is Orbiter.  Here is Polar Borealis 6.  Artbook Science Fiction Illustrations.  [JH]
  • Bon September 12, 1962 Mary Kay Adams, 58. She was Na’Toth, a Narn who was the aide to G’Kar in the second season of Babylon 5, and she would show up as the Klingon Grilka in the episodes “The House of Quark” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” in Deep Space Nine. (CE)
  • Born September 12, 1989 – Jorge Jacinto, 31.  Seven covers for us; much else.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 112.  Here is Le monde du fleuve.  Here is Bücherköning.  Here is his card for Invoke Prejudice.  He’s Portuguese, so here is a a port and here is a ship.  Website here.  [JH]

(7) SFF-INSPIRED MUSIC. Bandcamp, which is a site for selling music from independent musicians and labels, has highlighted nine Asian electronic musicians who have been inspired by speculative fiction.

Electronic music has historically had an uneasy relationship with narrative. While rock was elbowing its way into the category of “serious music” with the concept album, house and techno preferred to emphasize the kinesthetic utility of organized sound. Early producers often avoided the album format entirely, focusing instead on 12’’ singles that could be easily slotted into DJ sets, prioritizing emotional resonance over cerebral stimulation.

One notable exception, however, is electronic music’s association with speculative fiction, the system of literary genres that imagine alternate futures and realities. From the mystic Alvin Toffler-inspired futurism of techno progenitor Cybotron to the cli-fi storyline that underpins Grimes’ most recent album, there’s a rich tradition of computer-made music meditating on the technology that made it. Considering that electronic music almost by definition sounds futuristic, it’s perhaps unsurprising that its creators are so often interested in what that future will look like.

This tradition is being made richer by the recent explosion of electronic music created by East and Southeast Asian artists. Forward-thinking labels like CHINABOT and Do Hits have established brilliant rosters of producers either living in or hailing from Asia, all of whom are putting their own stamp on the genre’s decades-long dialogue with speculative fiction. In contrast to their more Eurocentric peers, these artists often incorporate components of Asian folklore and spirituality into their work, which are as likely to feature guzheng or suona samples as they are drum machines and synthesizers….

(8) BLOCKED FOR A REASON. Adam-Troy Castro is among those rejecting the Facebook Unblock Challenge:

Lots of people are saying, “Hell no,” to the “Facebook Unblock Challenge,” this widely spread meme that insists we should unblock all the people we barred from our Facebook activities and then apologize to them.

The thing is, people seem to be treating this as if it’s merely someone’s piss-poor Utopian idea.

No. It is not that. It is worse.

It is trolling.

It is a stone attempt, possibly connected with the election, to gaslight those of us who didn’t want racists or trolls or abusive pieces of shit in our lives

…Well over a hundred people who I quite rightly decided, for one reason or another, I didn’t need on my page. And that is not all that many. I cited the number to Stonekettle’s Jim Wright once and he told me that it was downright adorable.

I’ll tell you what “Unblock and Apologize” is all about. It is an attempt — possibly Russian — to get good people to self-gaslight, to wonder if they were truly fair in all those cases where they had to dropkick people, to delete their asshole filters and to endure all that bullshit ALL OVER AGAIN. There is a reason it is taking place before the election. It is so the piece of shit you barely remember, who you blocked for advocating genocide, or something of equal vileness, can have access to you again. It is an attempt to break you.

This is not just a stupid idea. This is a disinformation campaign.

(9) WINNING ASTRONOMY PHOTOS. The Guardian published a gallery: “Astronomy photographer of the year (2020) winners – in pictures”.

Images of the Milky Way, California nebula and Andromeda galaxy are among the winners of the Insight Investment astronomy photographer of the year award. An exhibition of the winning pictures can be viewed at National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, south-east London, from 23 October

(10) THE LAST TAKEOFF OF JONNY QUEST. StrucciMovies makes a case that “Adult Swim just cancelled the best show on television.” CONTENT WARNING.

“What if a raunchy parody of Jonny Quest and other old school adventure cartoons grew into one of the richest, funniest, and most human shows on television? What if two pop culture geniuses and their tiny crew spent 17 years and seven seasons crafting a show that quickly grew tired of making fun of its world and instead chose to invest in it with layered mythology, complex characters, and fascinating mysteries? What if the crude animation of the early seasons evolved into quietly beautiful work, showcasing stunning action, brilliant character designs, and a downright cinematic framing? The Venture Bros. was the quiet miracle of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up, an always-evolving magic trick that was never content to sit still. A silly cartoon that learned to let its characters, and stakes, matter.”

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A tribute to the late Diana Rigg.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cora Buhlert, N., Rob Thornton, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/20 I Been In The Right Pixel—But It Must Have Been The Wrong Scroll

(1) THE COUNT OF MOUNT TSUNDOKU. “100 Most Popular Fantasy Books on Goodreads”. I’ve read 16 of 100 – I’m not a voracious fantasy fan. See how well you do. Here’s what ranks at the top of the heap:

Dragons, demons, kings, queens, and the occasional farm boy (with a special destiny, of course): Fantasy literature has it all! To celebrate our favorite fictional worlds and characters, we went on a quest for the 100 most popular fantasies of all time on Goodreads, as determined by your fellow members.

Of course, as fantasy readers know, the journey itself matters just as much as the destination. To create our list, we first sought out the most reviewed books on our site. Additionally, each title needed at least a 3.5-star rating to join our fellowship of titles. And, since fantasy is known for its epic sagas, in the case of multiple titles from the same series we chose the one with the most reviews.

Here are the top fantasy books on Goodreads, listed from 1 to 100.

(2)  VIRTUAL SPACE AND SFFCON. CosmoQuest, a citizen science research organization, is holding a virtual con Friday, July 17 through Sunday, July 19 focused on space and science fiction. CosmoQuest-a-Con’s main events are free to watch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx, but you can also buy a $20 ticket for other space talks, author readings, concerts, and demos. The funds go to providing benefits to CosmoQuest’s part-time staff. The con’s home page is here.

(3) HARASSMENT REPORTED. Extreme horror author Tim Miller was called out as a harasser by M.M. Schill and others. Thread begins here. Miller’s social media is no longer available (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). His website remains online. (Note: It’s not the director of the same name.)

Schill also indicated this callout could be shared.

(4) AFROFUTURISM. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will offer “Sheree Renée Thomas and Friends on Afrofuturism and the Magic of Storytelling and Music” on July 18. Register at the link.

Sheree has more knowledge on the topic of the history of Afrofuturism than anyone we ever met, not to mention an incredible ability to bring it to life through nothing less than magic and wonder. Also coming on the show will be Andrea Hairston, Pan Morigan, and Danian Darrell Jerry. This Saturday, the 18th of July.

We will explore the magic of storytelling and music, and the power of community and art to affect personal and prophetic change.

(5) NOTHING UP MY SLEEVE. James Davis Nicoll comes up with “Five Strategies for Hiding a ‘Lost’ Civilization” at Tor.com.

Suppose for the moment that one is a science fiction or fantasy author, and further suppose that one wanted to posit a past great civilization whose existence comes as a complete surprise to modern folk. Let us also suppose that one wanted overlooking this lost civilization to be plausible… How might one go about this?

I’d tend to reject the “a secretive cabal always knew but kept it secret” explanation. People gossip. People love to show off their insider knowledge. People sometimes accidentally cut and paste entire sections of texts they’d really rather the world not know about into their tweets. Even valuable trade secrets tend to leak out given enough time. So where to hide a lost civilization? Here are five possibilities, to be used together or in concert….

(6) SOME TRUTH IS OUT THERE. “I recently discovered that—unlike in my twenties—at 46 years old I am able to spend innumerable hours watching The X-Files unassisted by marijuana.” “I don’t want to believe” at Affidavit.

… Over the last three months, two things have happened to me. Firstly, I’ve come to recognize my younger self in the character of Agent Fox Mulder, and feel shame appropriate to such an identification. Secondly, I’ve entered that most dangerous of all psychological terrain: nostalgia.

(7) PRO TIP. Ligtspeed’s “Author Spotlight” is on Adam-Troy Castro:

You reference Chekhov’s Gun, but adhere more scrupulously to the original quote than commonly seen: What’s your favorite advice to writers? Is there advice you commonly flout?

My favorite advice to writers is to wring the emotional reaction from yourself, first. When writing humor, you need to barely stand how witty you’re being; when you’re writing tragedy, you need to weep; when writing horror, you need to be appalled that this monstrous stuff is coming out of you. Hell, if you’re writing a thriller, you need to fear for your characters. Honestly, if you don’t react yourself, if it’s just a technical exercise, no one else is going to care either.

(8) IMAGINARY PAPERS 3. Today the Center for Science and the Imagination published the third issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. This issue features writing from SF author Troy L. Wiggins and the science writer Kate Greene. Here is a direct link, and here is a link to subscribe for future issues.

(9) GÖRG OBIT. Galyn Görg, a dancer and actress who appeared on such shows as Twin Peaks and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and in films including Point Break and RoboCop 2, has died of cancer at the age of 55.

… Görg starred as police detective Leora Maxwell on the 1994-95 Fox sci-fi drama M.A.N.T.I.S., co-created by Sam Raimi, and played Nancy O’Reilly, the sister of One Eyed Jacks madam Blackie O’Reilly (Victoria Catlin), on three episodes of ABC’s Twin Peaks in 1990.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe serial first aired. This black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures, originally began life as a proposed syndicated television series. It was written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman, and was directed by Harry Keller,  Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon. The cast was Judd Holdren as Commando Cody, Aline Towne as Joan Gilbert, William Schallert as Ted Richards and Richard Crane as Dick Preston . There would be twelve twenty five episodes. You can see the first episode, ‘Enemies of the Universe” here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 16, 1723 –  Sir Joshua Reynolds.  First President of the Royal Academy of Arts.  Famed as a portraitist.  Intellectual enough to keep company with Burke, Goldsmith, Johnson.  Painting mythological subjects calls for fantasy: here is Juno Receiving the Cestus from Venushere is Diana Disarming Cupidhere is Theory.  (Died 1792) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1882 Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in  “The Deadly Years” episode. 0ther genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man,  The Twilight ZoneFrankenstein’s Daughter, The Munsters, House of the DamnedThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1916 – Paul Freehafer.  Joined the SF League in 1934, thus part of First Fandom (active at least as early as the first Worldcon, 1939) although 1F was not organized, if the word may be used, until much later.  So helpful to his local club the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) that its service award is the Evans-Freehafer (after E. Everett Evans and PF).  Fanzine, Polaris.  More here. (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1920 – Stan Woolston.  Printer and fan.  Life member of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n (N3F), edited Tightbeam, served on Welcommittee, earned the Kaymar.  Lifelong friend of Len Moffatt (published SF Parade with him), Rick Sneary.  Big Heart (our highest service award, community-wide).  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) and Babylon 5: A Call to Arms being my favorite works by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the aKindle store but not in the iBook store. H’h. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1943 – Bruce Boston, 77.  Two novels; a hundred shorter stories in AmazingAsimov’sRealms of FantasySF AgeStrange Horizons; poems dusting our skies like strange stars.  Seven Rhyslings; Pushcart Prize; first Grand Master of the SF Poetry Ass’n.  Has chaired the Nebula Award jury for novels, the Philip K. Dick Award jury.  [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1951 – Sue Thomas, 69.  Coined the term “technobiophilia” and wrote a book about it.  Two novels; anthology Wild Women.  Correspondent, reviewer, in FocusFoundationMatrix, Paperback InfernoVector.  [JH]
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 69. She’s won the Nebula Awards for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She’s better stocked in the Kindle store than in the iBooks Store. (CE) 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one is depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 57. Ok, do her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It’s two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 53. His last film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favorite Award, Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. He also was in two of the Austin Powers films as well. (CE)
  • Born July 16, 1975 – Lucian Dragos Bogdan, 45.  Author, caricaturist (the ”s” in his name should have a tiny comma under it for the sound English spells ”sh”). Likes rock music and the Tao Tê Ching (or, if you’d rather, Daodejing).  A dozen novels, thirty short stories, in our field; also mystery & thriller, romance.  Website in EnglishFrenchRomanian. [JH]

(12)COMICS SECTION.

(13) NOW A SHADOW OF ITS FORMER SELF. Silvia Moreno-Garcia sketches “A Brief History of Mexican Horror Comic Books” at Tor.com.

When people ask me if I like comic books I always have a split-second reaction. The answer is no. But it’s a nuanced no. I don’t like superhero comic books, but I grew up reading plenty of other stuff.

While in the United States “comic book” can be read as a synonym for “superhero,” such a correlation has not traditionally existed in Mexico. Mexican artists during their Golden Age were more interested in other kinds of content. This doesn’t mean there weren’t any superheroes—Fantomas, El Santo and Kalimán come to mind—but you were more likely to find other sorts of local comic books. And when people thought comic books, they probably thought historietas, monitos, una de vaqueros, all of which conjure something very far from Superman, Batman or the X-Men….

(14) TIME AFTER TIME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Garry Trudeau about his new book Lewser! More Doonesbury In The Age Of Trump.  Trudeau discusses how he satirizes Trump, including how he draws the president’s hair, and how “for the most part, I’ve stayed away” from satirizing Trump’s children “and I’m not sure why.” “Garry Trudeau is spoofing the Trump presidency by treating it as ‘a hostile takeover’”.

… “There has been never the slightest danger of running out of inspiration — Trump serves up a banquet of lies, obfuscation and cruelty almost daily,” says Trudeau, whose new material runs every Sunday. “Steve Allen once said that comedy is tragedy plus time, but in Trump’s case, the passage of time is wholly optional.”

(15) THEY HAVE A LITTLE LIST. “So which comics companies got PPP loans?” ComicsBeat will satiate your curiosity on this score.

… Back when this pandemic thing first began, several economic relief packages were floated as part of the CARES Act, including small business loans known as PPP (Payment Protection Program) loans. The loans were to help with payroll to keep people employed – with the loans forgivable if 60% of the money went to payroll.

… It’s also not anything to be ashamed of – applying for aid during an economic shutdown is a smart move to keep people on the payroll and keep companies afloat, and it’s good that these comics companies were able to receive aid.

Now, we did hear that many actual small businesses, including comics shops, had a harder time getting loans, and there are lots of stories about billionaires getting payouts, from Kanye West to Soho House. And of course there was fraud, like using PPP money to pay for a new house in the case of the CEO of Wendy’s. Nice one!

(16) HEROES ASSEMBLE. In “Chris Evans Sends Captain America Shield to Young Boy Who Saved His Sister From Dog Attack”, Variety reports that Evans joined a bunch of other actors who play superheroes to cheer up Bridger Walker, a nine-year-old who got 90 stitches after protecting his four-year-old sister from a charging dog.

…“I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot over the last couple of the days, but let me be the next one to tell you: Pal, you’re a hero,” Evans said. “What you did was so brave, so selfless, your sister is so lucky to have you as a big brother. Your parents must be so proud of you.”

(17) IG NOBEL NOMINEE. Snakes! It has to be snakes – who can out-eat hot dog chugging humans. “Scientists Have Finally Calculated How Many Hot Dogs a Person Can Eat at Once”.

The world’s best hot dog eaters could outeat a grizzly bear or a coyote, but would fall far behind a wolf or a Burmese python, a new study finds.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, with streams of sweat pouring down his face, Joey Chestnut broke his own world record for hot dog eating, by downing 75 hot dogs (with buns) in 10 minutes at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. It was his 13th win at the annual contest. And Miki Sudo set a women’s record, 48.5 hot dogs, to grab her seventh straight Nathan’s win.

Because of the coronavirus crisis, the event was held virtually this year, and Dr. James Smoliga was glued to his screen, rooting for new records. For the past few months, Dr. Smoliga, a veterinarian and exercise scientist, had been working on a mathematical analysis of the maximum number of hot dogs that a human could theoretically consume in 10 minutes.

“The answer is 83,” said Dr. Smoliga, a professor at High Point University in North Carolina.

He has now published the full analysis, which calculated this number based on 39 years of historical data from the Nathan’s contest, as well as on mathematical models of human performance that consider the potential for extreme athletic feats.

“It’s a great paper,” said Dr. Michael Joyner, a physician at the Mayo Clinic who studies human performance, adding that the analysis shows the classic fast rise in performance followed by more gradual improvements that happen when an event becomes professionalized. The best part, he said, is that Dr. Smoliga wrote it with a straight face.

(18) SPACE: 1999 REDUX. “Nuclear blast sends star hurtling across galaxy”. Looking for a gas station?

A star has been sent hurtling across the galaxy after undergoing a partial supernova, astronomers say.

A supernova is a powerful explosion that occurs when some stars reach the ends of their lives; in this case, the blast was not sufficient to destroy it.

Instead, it sent the star hurtling through space at 900,000 km/hr.

Astronomers think the object, known as a white dwarf, was originally circling another star, which would have been sent flying in the opposite direction.

When two stars orbit each other like this, they are described as a “binary”. Only one of the stars has been detected by astronomers, however.

The object, known as SDSS J1240+6710, was previously found to have an unusual atmospheric composition.

Discovered in 2015, it seemed to contain neither hydrogen nor helium (which are usually found), appearing to be composed instead of an unusual mix of oxygen, neon, magnesium and silicon.

(19) WRINKLES IN TIME. “Desert telescope takes aim at ageing our Universe” – BBC has the story.

Another telescope has entered the debate about the age and expansion rate of the Universe.

This topic has recently become the subject of an energetic to and fro among scientists using different astronomical facilities and techniques.

The new entrant is the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile.

It’s been studying the “oldest light” on the sky and has concluded the Big Bang occurred 13.77 billion years ago, give or take 40 million years.

That’s almost exactly the same number we got from Europe’s flagship Planck space observatory mission, which mapped the ancient light in the early 2010s.

But therein lies the problem because other telescopes using different methods have come out with ages that are a few hundred million years younger.

What they’ve all been trying to do is measure what’s known as the Hubble Constant – the value used by astronomers to describe cosmic expansion.

(20) OLD GUARD, NEW LOOK. The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday interviews The Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood, the first Black director of a superhero movie, about what it was like to direct the film and the choices she made in directing women that were different than what male directors would do. “Gina Prince-Bythewood is the first black woman to direct a major comic-book movie. It looks like the future.”

… When she began tackling the material, she adds, her identity as an African American woman informed nearly every decision she made. “The things that I influenced, that I noticed, that I corrected, that I amplified, absolutely come from a black female lens,” she says firmly. Although she was thrilled with Rucka’s original script, she asked him to flesh out Nile’s backstory, adding layers having to do with her family and experience in the military (where, not incidentally, her colleagues are women of color, much like the institution itself). Even the film’s many fight scenes bear the signature of someone who is coming from a different angle than the usual white male gaze. One in particular, between Andy and Nile on a cargo plane, was particularly sensitive for Prince-Bythewood.

(21) COGNITIVE DISSONANCE TIME. What’s gotten into Tor.com’s headline writers? “Let Henry Cavill Show You Parts You’ve Never Seen Before… As He Assembles This Gaming PC”. But Emmet Asher-Perrin says —

It’s not what you think, promise.

In fact, Cavill used this opportunity to play some very sexy music while he… assembled his gaming PC…. 

Does it seem strange to see such humor in a headline after reading one of the items above?

(22) DEBUT NOVELIST. From Goodreads: “Lindsay Ellis: How Science Fiction Makes Sense of the Present”.

Until this summer, Lindsay Ellis was mainly known as a super smart and witty film critic and YouTube essayist… This month, Ellis’ debut science fiction novel, Axiom’s End, arrives….

I was eight years old when Lois Lowry’s The Giver was released in 1993, and it became an instant turning point for me, not only for my relationship to books in general, but to science fiction in particular. Anti-authority narratives for children are extremely common—it’s pretty much the basis for all of Nickelodeon’s marketing—but narratives for young children tend to have cartoonishly evil authority figures who are obviously in the wrong. The Giver, in contrast, presents us with what appears to be a utopia, challenging the young reader with a simple, comforting authority structure that over the course of the narrative the protagonist Jonah learns not only has sapped his community’s members of their humanity, but does monstrous things in its bid to maintain control.

One of the main hallmarks of science fiction is the use of social constructs, technologies, and futures that do not yet exist—and may never exist—as a means of exploring our present. In the case of The Giver, it was the first book I read that used science fiction to create (to an eight year old, anyway) mind-blowing revelations about the nature of society and the individual’s relationship to it. The Giver is one of those books that serves as a perfect gateway for children who are just beginning to learn that change is inevitable, that well-meaning people can be wrong, and that solutions to problems are not always obvious. …

(23) LEFANU ON TV. “Carmilla–Official UK Trailer” on YouTube is a trailer for a “reimagined” version of J.S. LeFanu’s great horror novella which is now being streamed in the U.S.

Isolated from the outside world, fifteen-year-old Lara (Hannah Rae, “Broadchurch”, Fighting with My Family) lives in seclusion on a vast country estate with her father and strict governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine, “Patrick Melrose”, “Jericho”). Late one evening, a mysterious carriage crash brings a young girl (Devrim Lingnau) into their home to recuperate. Lara immediately becomes enchanted by this strange visitor who arouses her curiosity and awakens her burgeoning desires.

[Thanks to Stephen Granade, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Michael Toman, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

2019 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / pjgon71

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Continue reading

Asimov’s Reposts Spinrad Column with Statement

Asimov’s has put Norman Spinrad’s “On Books” column back online.

It’s now preceded by this statement from editor Sheila Williams:

We took the Norman Spinrad column down from our website because we heard many concerns from readers. I’m putting it back up now with some thoughts from me. Norman Spinrad has been a provocative voice in Asimov’s for thirty years, but his opinions do not represent the magazine anymore than James Patrick Kelly’s opinions in his On the Net column represent us. However, Norman does appear to speak for us when he writes:

“Compare this with what has been awarded Nebulas by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and what Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 reveals all too clearly as the current state of its membership and the state of their art. The literary inheritors of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, what this very magazine is trying to maintain in his name, and novels like Red Moon.

Which side are you on?”

This is in no way the editorial position at Asimov’s. I am much more in agreement with the writer, Karen Osborne, who says: “Modern genre writers write everything— SF *and* fantasy. We play with literary forms. We push boundaries, because where we’re going, we don’t need old, restrictive rules of who can & who can’t. I’m going to quote James Joyce when I say that modern SF is HERE COMES EVERYBODY.”

Asimov’s is a magazine that welcomes literary speculative diversity. We are delighted to publish new authors and the innovative and imaginative work that they are producing. We whole-heartedly support SFWA and the provocative new writers who are celebrated by recent Nebula Awards.

Karen Osborn’s Twitter thread was linked by File 770 yesterday. In the meantime, more writers have reacted to the column or the initial decision to remove it.

Adam-Troy Castro launched a discussion on Facebook that has almost 200 comments. John Scalzi, Roby James, Nick Mamatas, Erika Satifka, Alma Alexander, Michael Burstein, Rev. Bob, Jason Sanford, and Beth Meacham are in the mix.

Alex Acks’ thread starts here.

Vernonia Schanoes’ thread starts here.

Aliette de Bodard wrote:

Dan Simmons Criticized for Remarks About Thunberg

Dan Simmons’ Facebook comment mocking teenaged environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who recently spoke at the U.N., is now removed, however, screencaps were shared and many sff writers and fans have tweeted their dismay.

Simmons is a World Horror Grandmaster and past winner of the Hugo (for Hyperion), World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, British Fantasy Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

Here is a full screencap.

Here is a sampling of the reaction.

  • Jeff VanderMeer
  • Stina Leicht
  • Ilana C. Myer
  • Adam-Troy Castro
  • Paul Tremblay
  • Robin Johnson (the game developer, not the Australian fan)
  • Sarah Pinborough
  • Richard Webb
  • April A. Taylor
  • Paul Weimer
  • Ellen Datlow

Kinda surprised so many people are just now figuring out that Dan Simmons is a crank. He’s never hidden the fact.

Pixel Scroll 5/9/19 Get Your Clicks On Scroll 6-6-6!

(1) DEALING WITH DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS. Chuck Wendig, who doesn’t want people using social media to shove their negative reviews of his work in his face – point taken – goes on to make an unconvincing distinction between customer complaints about his fiction and everything else: “Hi, Definitely Don’t Tag Authors In Your Negative Reviews Of Their Books”.

…You might note also that negative reviews are one of the ways we communicate with creators of products and arbiters of service in order to improve the quality of that product or that service — which is true! If someone at American Airlines shits in my bag, I’m gonna say something on Twitter, and I’m going to say it to American Airlines. If the dishwasher I bought was full of ants, you bet I’m going to tag GE in that biz when I go to Twitter. But books are not dishwashers or airlines. You can’t improve what happened. It’s out there. The book exists. You can’t fix it now. And art isn’t a busted on-switch, or a broken door, or a poopy carryon bag, or an ant-filled dishwasher….

(2) THE PERIPHERALS WHISPERER. Ursula Vernon has many talents – this is another one.

(3) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Simon Strantzas and Kai Ashante Wilson on Wednesday, May 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, NY, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Simon Strantzas

Simon Strantzas is the author of five collections of short fiction, including Nothing is Everything (Undertow Publications, 2018), and is editor of the award-winning Aickman’s Heirs and Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 3. His fiction has appeared in numerous annual best-of anthologies, in venues such as Nightmare, Postscripts, and Cemetery Dance, and has been nominated for both the British Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards. He lives with his wife in Toronto, Canada.

Kai Ashante Wilson

Kai Ashante Wilson won the Crawford award for best first novel of 2016, and his works have been shortlisted for the Hugo, Nebula, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy awards. Most of his stories are available on Tor.com. His novellas The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey may be ordered from local bookstores or online. Kai Ashante Wilson lives in New York City.

(4) FAT ISSUES IN ENDGAME? Adam-Troy Castro rejects complaints about Thor’s character in Avengers: Endgame. Beware Spoilers.

I am a fat guy. I will likely always be a fat guy.

Fat Thor is not fat-shaming.

Fat Thor is character humor: the man has given up. Tony Stark went in one direction, the Odinson went in another. He’s a binge-drinking, binge-eating, emotionally fragile shell of himself, and while some of the other characters make unkind (and, dammit, funny) remarks, it is his diminishment and not his enlargement that is the source of the humor.

Sure, bloody explain it to me now.

I don’t know, I don’t understand.

Fvck you, I’m a fat guy. I do know, I do understand. I have been mocked for my weight, sometimes viciously. I know it all.

(I haven’t personally encountered these complaints, I can only assume there must be some, else why Castro’s post.)

(5) JUNE SWOON. It’s 1964. the prozine pendulum is swinging, and apparently it’s getting away from Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus: “[May 8, 1964] Rough Patch (June 1964 Galaxy)”.

I think I’ve got a bad case of sibling rivalry.  When Victoria Silverwolf came onto the Journey, she took on the task of reviewing Fantastic, a magazine that was just pulling itself out of the doldrums.  My bailiwick consisted of Analog, Fantasy and Science Fiction, IF, and Galaxy, which constituted The Best that SF had to offer.

Ah for those halcyon days.  Now Fantastic is showcasing fabulous Leiber, Moorcock, and Le Guin.  Moreover, Vic has added the superlative Worlds of Tomorrow to her beat.  What have I got?  Analog is drab and dry, Avram Davidson has careened F&SF to the ground, IF is inconsistent, and Galaxy…ah, my poor, once beloved Galaxy

(6) TERRAIN TERROR. Laird Barron now writes crime novels set in Alaska.  But he used to be a horror writer, and “In Noir, Geography Is a Character” on CrimeReads, Barron has anecdotes about Michael Shea and the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose.

…A decade ago, bound for the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, I stared out the window of a light commercial plane swooping in low over the Central Valley. Low enough I made out details of oak trees covering big hills and the rusty check patterns of the yards of individual homes. Country roads radiated like nerves from a plexus. Cars crawled along those snaking roads through golden dust. The rumpled land subtly descended toward the haze of the Pacific. I realized this was where Michael Shea got his flavor. This “obvious” revelation slapped me in the face.

Michael left us too soon five years later in 2014. His memory looms large in the weird fiction and horror fields as the man who wrote the landmark collection Polyphemus. A deep vein of mystery and noir travels through his work, grounding the fantastical tropes. I’d read him since my latter teens, absorbing the unique cadence of his prose without giving conscious thought to how echoes of the natural world inflected his grimiest urban settings, how the superstructures and sprawl of his version of LA and San Francisco were influenced by the ancient earth they occupy….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

This was a big date in sff history.

May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered.

May 9, 1986 Short Circuit debuted in theatres.

May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element arrived in movie houses.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. Author of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, which I’ve read a number of times. Of the movie versions, I like Steven Spielberg’s Hook the best. The worst use of the character, well of Wendy to be exact, is in Lost Girls, the sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie. If you’ve not read it, don’t bother. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn was the pen name of Philip Klass. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago — will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Ottman Neville. His most famous work, the novella Bettyann, is considered a classic of science fiction by no less than Barry Malzberg. He wrote four novels according to ISFDB over a rather short period of a decade and a number of short story stories over a longer period. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 9, 1951 Geoff Ryman, 68. His first novel, The Unconquered Country, was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. I’m really intrigued that The King’s Last Song during the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, grim times indeed for an SF novel. 
  • Born May 9, 1979 Rosario Dawson, 40. First shows as Laura Vasquez in MiB II. Appearances thereafter are myriad with my faves including being the voice of Wonder Women in the DC animated films, Persephone in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and her take as Claire Temple across the entire Netflix Marvel universe.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) INTERZONE BEGINS. SFFDirect downloads the history of a famed sf magazine from one of the founders: “Early years of Interzone, told by Co-Ed Simon Ounsley”.

In 1981, Eastercon was held in Leeds. Four attendees were David Pringle, Simon Ounsley, Alan Dorey (then chairman of the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA)) and Graham James. David Pringle was a co-chairman of the convention and Simon Ounsley was assisting with the finances. The convention made a profit of £1,300, which Simon states was completely unintentional and purely down to cautious budgeting. At Graham James’ suggestion, the committee agreed to use the money to launch an SF magazine. Simon recalls how controversial this decision was at the time, but in any event, the four men teamed up to start a magazine.

At the same time, four friends in London were also trying to get an SF magazine off the ground. They were Malcolm Edwards, who worked for SF publisher Gollancz, and SF critics John Clute, Colin Greenland, and Roz Kaveney. They had asked the BSFA if they would publish the magazine and it had declined. However, Alan made David aware of the London proposal and the two groups got together.

As Simon says, this was an ideal match because the Leeds contingent had the money and the London team had the connections. The name of the magazine was suggested by David. It was an imaginary city in the William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch

(11) THE HOST WITH THE MOST. Stephen Colbert helped fans get a head start watching the new biopic: “Stephen Colbert Hosts First ‘Tolkien’ Screening With Cast and Director” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Moviegoers across the country were able to see Tolkien ahead of its release this Friday, along with a Q&A moderated by Lord of the Rings super-fan Stephen Colbert, even if they weren’t at the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey on Tuesday for the first-ever screening of the movie.

The panel, featuring the Fox Searchlight film’s stars Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins with director Dome Karukoski, was simulcast to select theaters following special screenings. In Montclair, Karukoski revealed what goes into a film like Tolkien, which chronicles the formative years of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life as he forms friendships, goes to war and falls in love….

To close out the Q&A, Colbert praised Karukoski’s efforts and Tolkien itself. “Thank you for the film you created. It reminds me of the power of story, and how it can give us hope,” the late-night host said before citing one of Tolkien’s quotes from The Return of the King: “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Continued Colbert, “I cried many times watching this film, and I want to thank you for those tears of pain and of those tears of joy and thank you for what you have given me of his [Tolkien’s] life and for your beautiful performances.”

(12) CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE. “Australia’s A$50 note misspells responsibility” – time to get the appertainment flowing Down Under.

Australia’s latest A$50 note comes with a big blunder hidden in the small print – a somewhat embarrassing typo.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) spelled “responsibility” as “responsibilty” on millions of the new yellow notes.

The RBA confirmed the typo on Thursday and said the error would be fixed in future print runs.

But for now, around 46 million of the new notes are in use across the country.

The bills were released late last year and feature Edith Cowan, the first female member of an Australian parliament.

What looks like a lawn in the background of Ms Cowan’s portrait is in fact rows of text – a quotation from her first speech to parliament.

(13) HEAVY METAL. Alas behind a paywall at Nature: “Collapsars  forming black holes as a major source of galaxy’s heavy elements” [PDF file]. Here scientists report simulations that show that collapsar accretion disks (in black hole formation) yield sufficient heavy elements to explain observed abundances in the Universe.

Although these supernovae are rarer than neutronstar mergers, the larger amount of material ejected per event compensates for the lower rate of occurrence. We calculate that collapsars may supply more than 80 per cent of the r-process heavy element content of the Universe.

(14) HE CALLED FOR HIS BOWL. BBC calls “Southend burial site ‘UK’s answer to Tutankhamun'”.

A royal burial site found between a pub and Aldi supermarket has been hailed as the UK’s answer to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Workers unearthed the grave, which contained dozens of rare artefacts, during roadworks in Prittlewell, near Southend, Essex, in 2003.

Tooth enamel fragments were the only human remains, but experts say their “best guess” is that they belonged to a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince.

It is said to be the oldest example of a Christian Anglo-Saxon royal burial.

Now, after 15 years of expert analysis some of the artefacts are returning to Southend on permanent display for the first time.

When a team from the Museum of London Archaeology (Mola) excavated the site, they said they were “astounded” to find the burial chamber intact.

(15) STAR BLECCH. Matt Keeley encounters one of the earliest Star Trek parodies while revisiting a Sixties issue of MAD: “Not Just a Classic Issue, MAD #115 (December 1967) Predicted the Future”.

…Mort Drucker’s art is exquisite as always, and DeBartolo’s writing is top notch, loaded with puns and hilarious jokes. (Spook: “That’s what your MIND says! What does your HEART say?” Kook: “Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat! Pit-a-pat — just like everybody else’s!”) But one of the most interesting things about this parody is the way the story wraps up — the solution is for the Boobyprize to reverse orbit and go back in time. You might recognize this plot device from the first Superman movie. Somehow DeBartolo ripped it off, despite “Star Blecch” coming out 11 years before the film.

(16) IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S A MARVEL. Nerds of a Feather panelists Adri Joy, Mike N., Phoebe Wagner, and Vance K assemble for a “Review Roundtable: Avengers: Endgame”.

Today I’ve gathered Brian, Mike, Phoebe and Vance to chat about our Endgame reactions: what made us punch the air in glee and what had us sliding down in our seats in frustration. Needless to say, all the spoilers are ahead and you really shouldn’t be here unless you’ve had a chance to see the movie first.

Adri: So, Endgame! That was fun. Even more fun than I expected after, you know, all the dead people and the feelings about them.

Brian: First impressions are that I thought this was a great conclusion to all of the movies that came before it. The MCU could stop here (it won’t, but it could) and I would be completely satisfied.

Vance: The woman seated next to me — and I’ve never experienced this in a movie theater — started taking deep, centering breaths the moment the lights went down. And I love her for it. Infinity War was a gauntlet for fans, yet she was there opening day for whatever came next, no matter how gutting. Turned out the movie was a lot of fanservice, so she made it through. As did I!

(17) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. (If you see that sign, it won’t lead you to a fabulous new alien, I guarantee!) The LA Times tries to find out — “After hyping a $1-billion Star Wars land, how does Disney get visitors to leave?”

…Once a time window expires, park employees dressed as “Star Wars” characters will politely tell parkgoers that they need to leave the land to make way for new visitors.

Disneyland representatives say they expect that most guests will abide by the courteous directions to move on. But they remain mum about what will happen if guests ignore the requests.

“Four hours is a long time in the land,” said Kris Theiler, vice president of the Disneyland Park. “Most guests are going to find that they’re ready to roll after four hours.”

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]