Pixel Scroll 9/25/21 What We Do With A Pixel Scroll Gives Everyone A Start

(1) Q&A WITH POLISH SFF WRITER. Bence Pintér’s interview with Polish sci-fi author Jacek Dukaj is available in English at Spekulatív Zóna: “Q&A with Jacek Dukaj”.

The most recently translated work from you is The Old Axolotl. This book is unique in a lot of ways. What inspired you to write it, and why did you released it only in e-book form initially?

Lately I find I need some additional push to complete a story – to write for publication, not just for my own satisfaction. In this case it was the literary project and PR campaign of Allegro (sort of Polish eBay). You could say they had commissioned „The Old Axolotl”. They didn’t set any limits for a theme or style (I wouldn’t have agreed to such a deal). But it was an opportunity to explore new features of electronic books (as they appeared to us back then).

I’m always up for pioneer projects. If something looks very risky or impossibly hard, my first reaction is to try and do it.

The book was adapted by Netflix, but the series Into the Night only used the premise of the story. How do you feel about this adaptation?

I wonder if “adaptation” is the right word. It would be more fair to say that Into the Night was based on the same idea as the one which gave birth to The Old Axolotl. The story, the characters – they are all different. Jason George, the showrunner of Into the Night, is the sole author of the screenplay.

I’m happy people seem to like it. It’s rather small budget production, yet it became much more popular globally than other non-English series of similar budget. Into the Night punches above its weight, so to speak.

(2) BEBOP BEGINNING. Variety sets up the video: “’Cowboy Bebop’: Opening Credits Debut for Netflix Adaptation”.

…The opening credits are so iconic that, rather than release a trailer to promote its upcoming live-action adaptation of “Cowboy Bebop,” Netflix elected to debut the full opening credits for the show during its Tudum global fan event on Saturday….

(3) STEELY FAN. Tablet Magazine’s Paul Grimstad holds “A Conversation With Donald Fagen”, which has a section on the musician’s love of sf, of which this excerpt is about half —

A tune like “Pretzel Logic” has a pretty elliptical story going on, and speaking of science fiction!

Well, yeah, that was kind of a time-travel thing.

It’s funny when the person who greets the narrator in the future, says, “Where did you get those shoes?” like the fashion between the two times is completely out of whack.

That actually fills in the link between black humor and science fiction, because the science fiction novels I liked the most were funny in that way. I think my favorites included that kind of humor. Like Frederick Pohl and his partner Cyril Kornbluth, who wrote these really satirical novels.

The Space Merchants was recently reissued in the Library of America Series …

Oh really? I remember reading that one when I was a kid.

Another guy from that era who I think of as funny is Alfred Bester.

Another one of my favorites. He was an ad man, so it’s got this very New York, Madison Avenue feel, the Mad Men type of thing, but making fun of it.

(4) NASA’S FIRST WOMAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has released issue 1 of First Woman—a downloadable, interactive (augmented reality), graphic novel telling the (to date) fictional story of the first woman (and first person of color) to walk on the Moon. It’s also available as an audio story. A Spanish-language version of (at least) the first issue of the comic is also planned. The comic is available for iOS & Android platforms. “NASA Releases Interactive Graphic Novel ‘First Woman’”.

NASA released its first digital, interactive graphic novel on Saturday in celebration of National Comic Book Day. “First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity imagines the story of Callie Rodriguez, the first woman to explore the Moon.

While Callie’s story is fictional, the first woman and the first person of color will walk on the Moon, achieving these historic milestones as part of NASA’s Artemis missions. Through this graphic novel, NASA aims to inspire the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation.

Download, read, and interact with “First Woman” or listen to the audio version exclusively on NASA’s SoundCloud.

…The 40-page comic book highlights NASA technologies for traveling to, landing on, and exploring the Moon. The digital format comes to life, letting readers engage and interact through augmented reality elements using the First Woman website or their mobile devices.

To learn more about the graphic novel and interactive experiences, visit: Calliefirst

(5) FULL COURT PRESS. The New York Times has more coverage of the legal issues between Steve Ditko’s heirs and Disney, which has sued to keep them from regaining their share of the rights to some well-known Marvel characters: “Disney Sues to Keep Complete Rights to Marvel Characters”.

The reclamation attempts stem from a provision of copyright law that, under certain conditions, allows authors or their heirs to regain ownership of a product after a given number of years. Such efforts turn on whether authors worked as hired hands or produced the material on their own and then sold it to publishers. The Copyright Revision Act of 1976, which opened the door to termination attempts, bans termination for people who delivered work at the “instance and expense” of an employer.

“Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect,” Mr. Petrocelli said by phone. (Mr. Petrocelli is also representing Disney in its legal fight with Scarlett Johansson, who sued the company in July over pay connected to ticket sales for “Black Widow.”)

For instance, Disney’s complaint against Mr. Lieber contends that “Marvel assigned Lieber stories to write, had the right to exercise control over Lieber’s contributions and paid Lieber a per-page rate for his contributions.” Those conditions render his contributions “work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act’s provisions do not apply,” according to the complaint.

Mr. Toberoff sharply disagrees. “At the time all these characters were created, their material was definitely not ‘work made for hire’ under the law,” he said in an email in response to Disney’s filings. “These guys were all freelancers or independent contractors, working piecemeal for car fare out of their basements.” Hence, not “traditional, full-time employees,” he said.

“At the core of these cases is an anachronistic and highly criticized interpretation of ‘work-made-for-hire,’” Mr. Toberoff said in a separate email, adding that the interpretation “needs to be rectified.”

(6) FINAL TALLY. Robert Kroese declared the first BasedCon “a tremendous success. We had nearly 70 attendees and a phenomenal group of authors and presenters. People came from as far away as Oregon, California, Texas, and New Hampshire.” He wants to run another in 2022.

(7) JUST LIKE THE 770 COMMENTS SECTION! [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] This is a very funny online-only thing Seth Meyers does at the end of every week, reading letters from the viewers at home (the jackals) about the various errors from the week before. This week, he addresses his former nemesis, the jackal/knitter Patti Lyons. It’s cued up to that:

Seth Meyers takes a moment to address some of the errors from this week of Late Night, like accidentally saying “on accident” instead of “by accident” and pronouncing “turnpike” as “turnbike.”

This closing speech is not genre in content (other than the knitting), but is so genre in form that it just isn’t funny. Except it is. Very.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1987 – Thirty-four years ago, The Princess Bride premiered. It was directed by Rob Reiner who co-produced it along with Andrew Scheinman. It was adapted by William Goldman from his novel of the same name. It had amazing cast of Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Fred Savage and Billy Crystal. It would win a Hugo at Nolacon II. Reception for it was great with every major critic loving it and many praising its sweetness. It currently holds a ninety-four rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Mind you it was a modest box office success just earning back what it cost to produce. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 — Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB list one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Who here done so? (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 25, 1930 — Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such for his Every Thing On It collection and a handful of a apt named poems, and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and will also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. So what do you think is genre? (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 25, 1946 — Felicity Kendal, 75. She plays Lady Clemency Eddison in the the Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”, one of my favorite Who tales. She recently played Baroness Ortsey in the new Pennyworth series. And though it’s definitely really not genre, I’m noting her role in Shakespeare-Wallah, story of a family troupe of English actors in India, just because it’s a fascinating story.
  • Born September 25, 1951 — Mark Hamill, 70. OK, I’ll confess that my favourite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. 
  • Born September 25, 1952 Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displayed those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 25, 1961 — Heather Locklear, 60. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the Unexpected, Fantasy IslandMuppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clarkson in the “Prophecy of Doom” episode on Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born September 25, 1964 — Maria Doyle Kennedy, 57. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in now being filmed The Wheel of Time series.
  • Born September 25, 1968 — Will Smith, 53, Despite the stinker that were Wild Wild West and later Suicide Squad, he’s done some brilliant work — the first Men in Black film is superb as is Independence Day and Aladdin.

(11) THE SIGN OF THE Z. Screen Rant says you can trace the influence on Batman’s creators to a 1920s Zorro movie, and it didn’t stop there. The connection plays an major role in a current DC Comics’ crossover event, “Joker War.” — “Batman: How Zorro Created The Dark Knight”.

…It wasn’t until the legendary Frank Miller decided to give a nod to Kane and Finger in The Dark Knight Returns #1 that The Mark of Zorro is established. Miller cites the 1940 Tyrone Power adaptation, which was actually released after Batman’s creation, but the precedent was set. In Todd Phillips’ Joker film, 1981’s Zorro, the Gay Blade is the movie referenced. Whichever adaptation a creator chooses, Zorro and Batman’s histories are inextricably intertwined, which explains why Bruce’s archenemy decides to use the film against him….

(12) CASSANDRA PETERSON (ELVIRA) INTERVIEWED ABOUT COMING OUT AS GAY. Cassandra Peterson gave her first interview since she came out about her 19 year relationship to The Tamron Hall Show.

The woman behind the iconic character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Cassandra Peterson exclusively sits down for the first interview since revealing a 19-year relationship with a woman. The undisputed Queen of Halloween reveals her full story in a new book titled, “Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark,” and joins our show to talk about it. From her roots in Kansas to coming out, Elvira gets real about her journey to become the world’s sexiest, sassiest Halloween icon.

(13) GO FAST, TURN UP! [Item by Jeff Warner.] Being an auto racing fan as well as a SF Geek, this caught my attention. “NASA astronaut captures Indianapolis from space station” in the Indy Star.

Indianapolis is, once again, piquing the interest of astronauts in space.

NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough has been regularly sharing “out of this world” views from the International Space Station on Twitter, including stunning views of the French Riviera, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano and the Las Vegas Strip. 

Indianapolis joined the ranks with clear views of White River, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis International Airport. If you zoom into the center, you can see Lucas Oil Stadium, too.

(14) JEOPARDY! A contestant on last night’s episode of Jeopardy! went astray. Andrew Porter  took notes.

Category: Novels

Answer: “I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel.”

Wrong question: “What is Slaughterhouse 5?”

Correct question: “What is ‘War of the Worlds?'”

(15) SHE DRAWS HIM LIKE A GUN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] There is a disturbance in the Force.  The Senators from the Old Republic are alarmed.  But can they trust…The Parliamentarian? The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri declares, “The Senate Mandalorian — I mean, Parliamentarian — is our only hope”.

The twin suns set over the Senate chambers, and the leadership sighed. The legislative nights were long and cold on this desert planet where no compromise had flourished for a long time, just banthas and the partisan Rancor.

“We have important legislation containing lots of policy priorities we have got to get through,” Grief Schuuma, leader of the Narrow Majority, said. “But there is just no way we can do it using regular order.”

“Well, we could,” a voice murmured from the corner, cloaked in shadow, “if we were willing to sacrifice the filibuster.”…

(16) ZINE SCENE. Mlex sent a link to the Autumn Equinox issue of his zine Zapf Punkt. Read the synopsis and you’ll know why!

In this issue, we investigate the radical art collective Zero Dimension, the electric guitar boom in Japan, and the dropout culture that threatened to overrun traditional society with folk music, glue-sniffers, surrealism, violence, pornography, pills, gender-confusion, interplanetary war, and the worst of all possible dooms: disorder.

By the late 1960s, this agitated social crisis briefly intersected with a manufactured music scene called Group Sounds. We listened to many hours of cheesy pop music to find the cherry bombs and make our own favorite freakbeat selection. Here’s our group sounds playlist, the official soundtrack of ZP 11.

This issue also features an edited transcript of our interview with Daniel Joseph, which originally appeared on Diamond Bay Radio in May. Daniel provides the biographical background for Izumi Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom, and we discuss her writing style, the modes and themes that appeared in her work, and how revolutionary it was at the time.

Join us for the meta-textual knock-out that Suzuki delivered to Japanese science fiction literature, before her decline into depression and suicide in 1986.

A pictorial glimpse of popular science fiction culture from around 1970 in Japan wraps up the issue.

(17) THINGS TO COME. The Orville: New Horizons arrives March 10, 2022.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bence Pintér, Jeff Warner, Darrah Chavey, Mlex, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 9/18/21 Me And My Pixel, Scrolling Down The Fan Venue

(1) SPACE OPERA. Stars Between, the 20-minute opera on the Voyager missions that E. Lily Yu wrote the libretto for, with Steven Tran composing, recently became available on Seattle Opera’s website along with other operas from the Jane Lang Davis Creation Lab. Yu won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 2012. “At Seattle Opera, young artists push a 400-year-old art form forward” at Crosscut.

…Created over the course of 21 weeks — via Zoom and during socially distanced, masked rehearsal sessions — this year’s eight Creation Lab operas will be streamed on the Seattle Opera website, in two separate bills, starting Sept. 9 and Sept. 10.

The inaugural cohort’s 20-minute creations use traditional opera vocals to deal with raw issues in fresh ways or take innovative approaches to storylines and orchestration. The dramatic opera Blaze depicts the personal losses caused by terrifying wildfires. If only I could give you the sun, a nonbinary/transgender retelling of the Icarus myth, centers generosity and joy instead of hubris and calamity. The existential opera Stars Between tells the story of the Voyager space mission with the help of ’80s synths and a vocoder (along with some Ariana Grande inspiration). And in Flush, the soprano portrays a girl running into a public bathroom — and the mezzo-soprano plays the toilet who sings back to her. 

Yu and Tran’s work is the first one performed here: “2020/21 Creation Lab Performances Part 2”.

(2) CARRIBEAN SFF PODCAST. Jarrel De Matas invites fans to listen to The Caribbean Science Fiction Network, “A celebration of all things fantasy, folklore, and science fiction.”

Want to learn more about Caribbean fantasy, folklore, speculative, and science fiction? Interested in established and emerging Caribbean voices about all things sf? Then tune in to The Caribbean Science Fiction Network. In this podcast I showcase emerging and established Caribbean voices who use sf genres to explore future states of Caribbean identity. Through these genres, the writers redefine Caribbean futurity and what it means to be Caribbean.

The most recent episode features a discussion with Karen Lord: ?“Imagining a Caribbean future of health”.

How can literature illuminate matters of public health and Caribbean futures? Listen to Barbadian writer, Karen Lord, discuss her latest short story “The Plague Doctors” which is eerily prophetic in its portrayal of an island bearing the brunt of a contagious disease. Through a blending of the hard sciences and the social sciences, Lord urges us to read not just for entertainment but for social change.

The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.fm, iHeartRadio, Podchaser, and Breaker.

(3) AFROFUTURISM. In a post for Axios, “Afrofuturists imagine space in 2051”, Russell Contreras provides an extensive roundup about the subgenre.

…Details: Afrofuturism describes an alternative place for Black people in space or a fantasy setting, or in relation to technology that allows one to escape slavery and discrimination.

Once an underground movement, Afrofuturism today enjoys a popular fan base with the blockbuster movie “Black Panther” and a new exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California….

The Oakland exhibit is discussed in full detail in the San Francisco Chronicle: “’Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism’ collapses space and time to envision a Black future”.

…“Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism,” which will be on view through Feb. 27, showcases work across mediums, dating from the early days of the Black American experience to the present. 

The Afrofuturism movement “is about collapsing time and space, so what happened in 1919 is just as relevant as what happened in 2019,” Harden explained. “You can understand that Black folks’ mere presence of life and living is in part resisting this impossibility that’s facing them, which is life, in a world that is fully anti-Black.” 

“Mothership: Voyage Into Afrofuturism” is the museum’s first new exhibition since the start of the pandemic. It was scheduled to open in October, but public health orders forced the museum to suspend in-person operations from March 2020 to June. 

Rhonda Pagnozzi, a curator at the East Bay institution since 2017, served as lead curator, working with Oakland-born Harden, a doctoral candidate in the African American studies department at UC Berkeley. The museum had been at work on the project before the protests over the police killing of George Floyd erupted last summer and worked with more than 50 Black artists and historians in creating the exhibit. 

“As a non-Black curator, it was critical on this project to center the voices of Black creatives,” said Pagnozzi, who is white. 

To mount the exhibition, new walls were erected to create more intimate spaces, and the museum’s 7,600-square-foot Great Hall was painted with darker tones, primarily black and grays. The effect makes each installation more striking, as the exhibits contrast with the simple and muted nature of the space.  

The exhibit engulfs a visitor immediately with a hypnotizing sound installation, “Mothership Calling,” by Pittsburgh composer Nicole Mitchell, and a mural, “Radio Imagination,” by San Francisco artist Sydney Cain, both created in 2020. The mural aims to capture the idea of a collapse of time and space, featuring visuals of ancestors of the African diaspora while being abstract enough that it feels like something part of a distant future….

(4) SAY THEIR NAMES. Lise Andreasen asks, “Did you know I have a Soundcloud? Currently the correct (?) pronunciation of more than 50 names. Did I get someone wrong? Did I miss someone people often get wrong?” Listen here – “Say It Right. If you want to give any feedback, contact Lise here. (And now I know the right way to pronouce Lise Andreasen!)

(5) HEAR BISHOP. On October 7, ReadSC’s “On My Mind” series will present Brock Adams and Michael Bishop. Register for the free online event at Eventbrite. Begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Brock Adams‘s first novel, Ember, won the South Carolina First Novel Prize in 2016 and was published the following year by Hub City Press. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, The Sewanee Review, Bacopa Literary Review, and several other journals….

Michael Lawson Bishop is an award-winning American writer. Over four decades & thirty books, he has created a body of work that stands among the most admired in modern sf & fantasy literature…. 

(6) NIGHTMARE ALLEY. “Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley Finally Gets Its First Trailer” and Yahoo! News gives it an introduction:

Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming film Nightmare Alley is highly anticipated for a few reasons. The most obvious one is, well, it’s a del Toro film. But the cast comes in a close second for this dark ‘40s noir tale. Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, and David Strathairn complete the film’s ensemble cast. It feels like 84 years since we first found out about this adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 book of the same name. Believe it or not, the initial announcement hit way back in December 2017. And now, nearly four years later, we finally got the trailer. And it was indeed worth the long (and pandemic affected) wait….

(7) SAVING BOOKS. Andrew Porter says his comment about salvaging water damaged books, left on the New York Times article “He Was Swept Down a Sewer Pipe: ‘I Just Let the Water Take Me’”, is getting a lot of upvotes. (Click for larger image.)

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1965 – Fifty-six years ago on this evening , Get Smart! first aired on NBC. Created by Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, this would be the first scripted television series for either of them. It had a small core cast consisting of Don Adams, Barbara Feldon and Edward Platt. It would run for five seasons, the last being being on CBS, consisting on one hundred and thirty-eight episodes. A movie, The Nude Bomb (retitled The Return of Maxwell Smart when it ran on TV as obviously those audiences are sensitive), followed, and then later on Get Smart, Again!, another film aired. A mid-Nineties revival series, Get Smart, with Don Adams and Barbara Feldon lasted but seven episodes. Edward Platt who played The Chief in the original series had died, so he wasn’t part of it. Adams would later do many a commercial using his Maxwell Smart persona. You can see his ad for Savemart New York City here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 — Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late 1910s and early 1920s, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered first time that an American female writer published an SF story using her real name. I’m pleased to say that the usual suspects are heavily stocked with her works.  (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1917 — June Foray. Voice performer with such roles as Cindy Lou Who, Natasha Fatale and Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She also provided the voice of Lucifer the Cat from Disney’s Cinderella. She also did a lot of witches such as Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel which you can hear thisaway. She was instrumental in the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature twenty years ago. OGH has a detailed remembrance here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 18, 1939 — Frankie Avalon, 82. He first graced the SFF realm with an appearance on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea followed by being in the Panic In Year Zero film and then in the Bondian spoof Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. His last two genre one-offs were on Fantasy Island and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Well, and there was the teenage horror bloodfest The Haunted House of Horror.
  • Born September 18, 1944 — Veronica Carlson, 77. She’s best remembered for her roles in Hammer horror films. Among them are Dracula Has Risen from the Grave,  Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Horror of Frankenstein. She also shows up in Casino Royale as an uncredited blonde. She also appeared in the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) episode “The Ghost Who Saved the Bank at Monte Carlo”.
  • Born September 18, 1946 — Struan Rodger, 75. He voiced the Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories “New Earth” and “Gridlock”. He returned to the series as Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Woman Who Loved” and voiced Kasaavin in Thirteenth Doctor story, “Skyfall”.  He was also Bishop in Stardust, and voiced the Three-Eyed Raven in The Game of Thrones’ “The Lion and The Rose” and “The Children”. 
  • Born September 18, 1946 — Nicholas Clay. Here for playing Lancelot on Excalibur. He did two earlier horror films, The Damned and Terror of Frankenstein, and he was The Prince in Sleeping Beauty. For television work, he’s done The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Hound of the BaskervillesZorroThe New Adventures of Robin HoodVirtual MurderHighlander and Merlin. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 18, 1948 — Lynn Abbey, 73. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (whom she was married to for 13 years) the quite superb Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her latter work, so y’all will not to tell me how it is. Most of the Thieves’ World Series is available from the usual digital suspects.
  • Born September 18, 1984 — Caitlin Kittredge, 37. Known for  for her Nocturne City series of adult novels which I’d not heard of before this, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s penned a Witchblade series at Image Comics, and the excellent Coffin Hill series for Vertigo. 

(10) GOOD HOUSECREEPING. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri knows you have to clean up your house, and provides tips from Poe, Shirley Jackson, Smaug, and Thanos! “Goblincore? Cottagecore? Here are some more -cores, as long as we’re doing this.”

  • Thanoscore: Have eliminated half of items in house at random; was attempting Kondocore, but something went very wrong.

(11) WORTH A SECOND GLANCE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This list includes quite a few genre films, some of which are arguably the exact opposite of “brilliant.” “26 Overlooked Movies to Watch This Fall” in The Atlantic.

Aeon Flux (2005, directed by Karyn Kusama)

Undoubtedly one of the oddest blockbusters ever produced by a major studio, Kusama’s adaptation of the cult ’90s MTV series was critically derided and somewhat disowned by its director, who said it had been reedited for commercial appeal. If that’s the case, her cut must have been unimaginably bizarre, because the final version is a visually giddy, borderline-incomprehensible sci-fi actioner loaded with intriguing ideas of how our utopian future could go awry. Charlize Theron stars as the raven-haired, ultra-athletic warrior fighting to take down her future government; she eventually uncovers a conspiracy that helps explain both the cloistered world she lives in and the hazy dreams she has of another life in the distant past. Kusama has made better movies, such as Girlfight and The Invitation, but even her biggest flop is overflowing with more cool ideas than most summer tentpole releases.

(12) OUT FOR A PENNY, OUT FOR A POUND. “Britain Signals Intent to Revert to the Imperial System” reports the New York Times.

The British government said it was taking steps to return to its traditional system of imperial weights and measures, allowing shops and market stalls to sell fruits and vegetables labeled in pounds and ounces alone, rather than in the metric system’s grams and kilograms, a move it hailed as an example of the country’s new post-Brexit freedoms.

…Since at least medieval times, the English have used their own set measurements, including inches, feet, stones, miles and acres, many of which are still used in the United States. But for decades, the British government had been pushing people to use the metric system, used in most of the world and developed using decimalized metric standards during the French Revolution.

Supporters of the metric system say its use is necessary for companies to compete globally, since so many countries use it. Those passionate about the metric system also point to the fact that Britain began its switch to the metric system in 1965, eight years before it joined the European Union. Others said there were more pressing issues to focus on, like cuts to public services.

(13) SLOW-PONY EXPRESS. Interesting to realize that crossing the U.S. by plane in thirty days would have been a speed to aspire to in 1911. See a gallery of close-up photos of the aircraft that tried to do it in “Wright EX Vin Fiz” at the National Air and Space Museum website.

110 years ago this month, Calbraith Perry Rodgers began the first crossing of the United States by airplane. Rodgers departed New York on September 17, 1911, in his Wright EX biplane Vin Fiz with the hopes of crossing the U.S. in thirty days or less to claim a $50,000 prize from publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. His endeavor was supported financially by the Armour Company, makers of the grape-flavored soft drink called Vin Fiz. While the flight took him 49 days and he did not earn the prize money, he did go down in history as the first person to cross the U.S. by airplane when he arrived in Pasadena, California, on November 5.

(14) A WHIFF OF HALLOWEEN. I’m including the link to Burke & Hare’s Halloween Scented Candles because they had the foresight to label their product page “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” And as you know, we’re all Bradbury all the time here. (Don’t get excited when you see every candle is marked “sold out” — a note at the top of the page says they’ll restock on September 22.)

(15) OUT FOR A SPIN. A step forward for space tourism: “SpaceX capsule returns four civilians from orbit, capping off first tourism mission,” reports CNN. (See video of the landing at SpaceX – Launches.)

Four people returned to Earth from a three-day extraterrestrial excursion aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on Saturday evening, marking the end of the first-ever flight to Earth’s orbit flown entirely by tourists or otherwise non-astronauts.

“Thanks so much SpaceX, it was a heck of a ride for us,” billionaire and mission commander Jared Isaacman could be heard saying over the company’s livestream.

The tourists were shown watching movies and occasionally heard responding to SpaceX’s mission control inside their fully autonomous spacecraft before it began the nail-biting process of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. After traveling at more than 17,000 miles per hour, the spacecraft used Earth’s own thick blanket of air to slow itself down, with the outside of the craft reaching temperatures up to 3,500º Fahrenheit in the process.

The Crew Dragon capsule, which is designed not to allow temperatures to go past 85º in the cabin, used its heat shield to protect the crew against the intense heat and buildup of plasma as it plunged back toward the ocean. During a Netflix documentary about the Inspiration4 mission, Musk described a capsule going through reentry as “like a blazing meteor coming in.”

This is not a video of the landing.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Untitled Earth Sim 64” by Jonathan Wilhelmsson, a woman is faced with existential crisis after learning that the universe is an untitled simulation. This is the latest short sff film distributed by DUST.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, E. Lily Yu, Paul Di Filippo, Estee, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 8/21/21 Marvel’s Pixels Of S.C.R.O.L.L.

(1) NEW SOLUTION FOR X. Louisiana convention CONtraflow X has been cancelled for 2021 due to the pandemic, and been rescheduled to 2022.

Some unfortunate news to pass on- CONtraflow Faithful, Friends, and Fen- with the recent Delta-Variant COVID-19 surge not yet peaking in our region and after working with/looking at all of our options with our host hotel and city/parish/state leadership, the board of directors of CONtraflow has come to the following conclusion. We must once again postpone/reschedule CONtraflow X. Pandemic conditions and restrictions, as they currently are and will be for the foreseeable future, make it next to impossible to host the convention in even a close approximation to what you all expect from a CONtraflow. Our only responsible, reasonable, and possible choice is to reschedule CONtraflow X….

(2) UK PROZINE LAUNCHES. ParSec Digital Magazine – Issue 1 has been released by PS Publishing, which announced plans for the new title after failing to acquire Interzone. See the table of contents at the link.

(3) FOURTH DOCTOR CONFESSES. “Tom Baker: ‘I didn’t know what to do with Doctor Who’” he tells Radio Times.

Tom Baker first played the Doctor almost 50 years ago – and to hear the acting legend tell it, he’s never really stopped.

“I got it right out of the blue,” he tells RadioTimes.com of his 1974 casting as Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who replacement. “There we were, and I thought… I didn’t know what to do with it. And I still don’t know what to do with it! Because of course, the problem is it’s not really an acting part. In fact, I don’t really do acting parts, because they just embarrass me.

“I try to inhabit these kind of crackpot people who I play, and find a crackpot niche in my crackpot brain… I slot them in and off we go!”

…From storytelling structure to music and sound design, these new stories – adapted from Hinchcliffe’s initial ideas by writer Marc Platt – seek to recapture the flavour and feel of Doctor Who’s Hammer Horror-influenced TV outings from the 1970s. Recapturing his performance wasn’t a problem for Baker, chiefly because he claims playing the Doctor wasn’t for him a performance at all.

(4) HORROR POET. “Life Between This World and the Next: An Interview with Poet Corrine De Winter” at the Horror Writers Association Blog.

On the latest HWA Horror Poetry Blog, Bram Stoker winning author Corrine De Winter shares thoughts on the craft of poetry, being mentored by William Packard and discusses an upcoming new volume of verse “Awakening Persephone.”

(5) ON THE RADIO. A short audio SF play that filers might like, recommended by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie: BBC Radio 4 – Angst!, Gaia

Gaia.  It’s a job, cleaning the fusty man’s laboratory.
But a job that could hold the fate of humanity in the balance….

In today’s ‘zeit’, the ‘geist’ is everywhere – environmental catastrophe, conspiracy theories, populism, fake news, the age of the algorithm, nationalism, racism, social exclusion. Not to mention pandemics.

As the world teeters on the edge of various self-made apocalypses, Angst! takes a satirical sideways look at our own naked fears. Five separate but connected half-hour ‘what if?’ stories all told under the watchful eye of the enigmatic Timor Greer.

What if the planet is, in reality, a single sentient organism, intent on ridding itself of the poisonous human parasites living on its surface? And what if a way is found to communicate with this ‘intelligence’? And what if the person put in charge of negotiations is a refugee cleaner from Darfur?

(6) TORRID TOURISM. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] Clearly an SF poster, and should have been a book cover! This really was produced by NASA, but I had no idea they had an “Exoplanet Travel Bureau”. “55 Cancri e: Skies Sparkle Above a Never-Ending Ocean of Lava”. This poster from the NASA Exoplanets Exploration Program’s Exoplanet Travel Bureau was recently Wikipedia’s Picture of the Day.

A global ocean of lava under sparkling, silicate skies reflecting the lava below: what better choice for an extreme vacation? Planet Janssen, or 55 Cancri e, orbits a star called Copernicus only 41 light years away. The molten surface is completely uninhabitable, but you’ll ride safely above, taking in breathtaking views: the burning horizon, Janssen’s sister planet Galileo hanging in a dark sky, and curtains of glowing particles as you glide across the terminator to Janssen’s dark side. Book your travel now to the hottest vacation spot in the galaxy, 55 Cancri e.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, the animated film Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All premiered on NBC as produced by Filmation who did The New Adventures of Superman and Star Trek: The Animated Series. It was written by Samuel A. Peeples whose first season script, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, was actually the one that sold Paramount on that series. It was produced by Don R. Christensen who did illustrations for such comic book titles as Donald Duck, MagnusRobot Fighter, and Uncle Scrooge. Critics consider this movie one of the most faithful adaptations of the original Flash Gordon material. IMDB reviewers give an excellent seventy seven percent rating. Oddly there’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bear one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.“ and “Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.)
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Almost all of her genre fiction was published at Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under the editorship of Anthony Boucher. It can be found in two collections, Xenogenesis and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow. Her “A Death in the Family” story was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Other than scattered short stories, nothing’s available at the usual suspects. (Died 1975.)
  • Born August 21, 1911 Anthony Boucher. Rocket to the Morgue is of course a really great read. If you can find a copy, The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher is a most excellent read. Fortunately The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction is available at the usual suspects and it’s quite delicious. Award-wise, he would win Hugos at Solacon (1958) and the next year at Detention for Best Professional Magazine for his editing of F&SF. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Astounding Award for a Best New Writer winner of 1985. His Life During Wartime  is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. I don’t remember reading “Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 21, 1953 Rev Ivan Stang, 68. Best known as the author and publisher of the first writings of the Church of the SubGenius. He’s credited with founding the Church with friend Philo Drummond in 1979. ISFDB only lists “The Scepter of Praetorious” as genre but really isn’t the entire Church genre? (Ducks really quickly to avoid anything thrown at him.)
  • Born August 21, 1956 Kim Cattrall, 65. Gracie Law in John Carpenter’s amazing Big Trouble in Little China. She also played Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers, Paige Katz in Wild Palms, Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Linday Isley in Good v. Evil. Series wise, she was one offs in Tales of the Gold MonkeyLogan’s RunThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits
  • Born August 21, 1968 Carrie-Anne Moss, 53. I first saw her as Tara McDonald in the Dark Justice series. Not genre, just her first video I think. She later played Monica Howard in the “Feeding the Beast” episode of Forever Knight as her first genre role. Oddly enough her next role was as Liz Teel in the Canadian series called Matrix which has nothing to do with the Matrix film franchise where she’s Trinity. Her latest genre role was playing Jeryn Hogarth in the now defunct Netflix based Marvel Universe, most notably Jessica Jones. She reprising her Trinity role in the forthcoming Matrix 4 film.
  • Born August 21, 1975 Alicia Witt, 46. Her first role was at age eight as Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. She next, genre wise at least, voices Caitlin Fairchild in the animated Gen¹³ film which I’ve not seen but want to. She has series one-offs in Twilight ZonePerson of InterestElementaryThe MentalistWalking DeadSupernatural and The Librarians. She showed up in an episode of the original Twin Peaks and reprised that role nearly thirty years later in Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. She had a recurring role in The Exorcist series as Nikki Kim.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE CAPTAIN WHO FELL TO EARTH. “Capt. Janeway” is joining the cast of the remake of The Man Who Fell to Earth.  No, she will not be playing the David Bowie role. Gizmodo has the story.

…Mulgrew is just the latest in an increasingly impressive list of additions to the cast of the adaptation of Walter Tevis novel and inspired by the iconic 1976 film adaptation by Nicolas Roeg. The movie starred the legendary and dearly missed David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien being who comes to Earth from his devastated homeworld, Anthea, in search of water supplies that could save the planet from a deadly drought. Mulgrew joins Chiwetel Ejiofor, who will play the new alien being who has fallen to earth in a time of great upheaval for humanity, and Naomie Harris in the main cast, alongside Sonya CassidyClarke Peters, and Jimmi Simpson. All this goes a long way to saying we’re not quite sure it can live up to Bowie’s turn, but even then, it’s clear Showtime’s taking a big swing at attempting to follow up on Roeg’s and the music icon’s take on Tevis’ work….

(11) METAVERSE TRAITOR! Alexandra Petri thinks it’s a bad idea to tell office workers they’re characters in the metaverse! “Do you ever think … that Facebook’s virtual-reality office is stupid?” in the Washington Post.

… “Do you ever think …” a voice said from what sounded like Greg’s right. Greg turned his cartoon avatar to look in the direction of the voice, “ … that maybe the Metaverse is a stupid waste of everyone’s time?

The voice was coming from a cartoon avatar of a bald man in small, 2000s-era sunglasses and a trench coat, although the trench coat only extended to his waist because everyone’s avatars stopped there, so it looked more like a trench jacket….

(12) ‘SHIPS AHOY. Sarah Z does a very thorough investigation of the “Proshippers” and “Antishippers” in a wide variety of fandoms:

…All of these is an undercurrent of something… more. Something beyond just the basic aspect of pairing two characters together. Because no matter how simple a fictional character pairing may seem, the truth is that it is almost never that simple. There is almost always going to be discourse of some kind, be it because people find the ship offensive, because they find it unappealing, or because they don’t like the people doing  the ship itself. And soon what happens is that the very basic concept of shipping two characters becomes the breeding ground for something deeper and darker and messier. It brings you into the world of proshippers and antis….

(13) BOMBADIL AWAY! And an older vid of Dominic Noble’s:”The coolest character in LOTR that didn’t make it into the movies” — and it’s not Tom Bombadil.

The Lord of the Rings adaptations were amazing, but no film can include EVERY character from the book. In this video we take a look at five creations of J. R. R. Tolkien that didn’t make the cut, including the coolest one of all.

(14) TIME DILATION. “Vacation Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu!” “Let’s Get the Hell Out of Here!” In “Why Time Slows Down When We’re Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on Vacation” we revisit a 2013 Brain Pickings post. (Just how old does that feel to you?)

…Among the most intriguing illustrations of “mind time” is the incredible elasticity of how we experience time. (“Where is it, this present?,” William James famously wondered“It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.”) For instance, Hammond points out, we slow time down when gripped by mortal fear — the cliche about the slow-motion car crash is, in fact, a cognitive reality. This plays out even in situations that aren’t life-or-death per se but are still associated with strong feelings of fear. Hammond points to a study in which people with arachnophobia were asked to look at spiders — the very object of their intense fear — for 45 seconds and they overestimated the elapsed time. The same pattern was observed in novice skydivers, who estimated the duration of their peers’ falls as short, whereas their own, from the same altitude, were deemed longer.

Inversely, time seems to speed up as we get older — a phenomenon of which competing theories have attempted to make light. One, known as the “proportionality theory,” uses pure mathematics, holding that a year feels faster when you’re 40 than when you’re 8 because it only constitutes one fortieth of your life rather than a whole eighth. Among its famous proponents are Vladimir Nabokov and William James. But Hammond remains unconvinced…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Stunt Man Tutorial” at Screen Rant, written by Ryan George. Samuel Brisson plays stunt man Chuck Fluster, who’s trying to be Tom Cruise’s stunt double and knows he’ll hear from Tom soon because whoever runs tomcruise at gmail.com asked for his Social Security number!  And if you need a stunt man to wrestle in a Planet of the Apes movie, Chuck’s ready!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, Darrah Chavey, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 6/11/21 The Scrolled Grimoire, It Ain’t What It Used To Be

(1) YOUR VIRTUAL VACAY. Paul Weimer has transplanted the famous Mind Meld feature, a roundtable discussion of the tropes, themes, politics, and future of genre fiction that solicits answers from writers, editors, readers and fans, to its new home at Nerds of a Feather. The topic of“Mind Meld : One Spot Holodeck” is —

Congratulations. You have been given a Star Trek style holodeck, fully capable otherwise, you can bring in anyone you want, hold a roomful of people but not an entire Worldcon in it,  but you can only program it to be fixed to one time and place or the verse of one fictional work or series. 

Where/what do you program your holodeck for? (Star Wars and Star Trek are off the table!)

Playing in the virtual sandbox are Fonda Lee, Beverly Bambury, Cora Buhlert, Arturo Serrano, Mikaela Lind, Hannah (H. M.) Long, Claire O’Dell, Catherine Lundoff, Maurice Broaddus, K.B. Wagers, Elizabeth Bear, Camestros Felapton, Andrew Hiller, K. B. Spengler, Nancy Jane Moore, and Shelly Parker-Chan.

(2) THE OTHER SON. Melinda Snodgrass watched the first episode of the new Disney+ series and was inspired to discuss “Loki : Or What Makes A Fascinating Villain”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… I love the Thor movie because it felt so magnificently Shakespearian in its feel and tone. I often use it when I teach to illustrate theme versus plot. Because really at its base the film Thor is about an abusive father, Odin, who destroys his children and ultimately his entire family by pitting his two sons against each other. Odin’s line in the opening scene to his two young sons sums it all up. “Only one of you can ascend to the throne. But both of you were born to be kings.”

(3) TUTTLE RECOMMENDS. [Item by Meredith.] The Guardian has an article today that people might enjoy agreeing/disagreeing with: Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup”.

Tuttle covers Widowland by CJ Carey; Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir; This Fragile Earth by Susannah Wise; Rabbits by Terry Miles; This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin; and The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques.

(4) OTTONE Q&A. In “A Point of Pride: Interview with Robert P. Ottone”, the Horror Writers Association blog continues its Pride Month series.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I feel that horror is such an expansive sandbox to play in. I like to say that reading a well-written family drama is fascinating and certainly draws you in, but imagine that same family drama, just with a haunted house thrown in. That’s even better. Horror allows the writer to indulge in the ugliness of the world while doing so in a therapeutic, relatively safe way.

(5) ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter and John King Tarpinian witnessed contestant stumble over these science fictional answers on last night’s Jeopardy! – both in the category of “Book-borne words & phrases.”

Answer: William Gibson coined this term that now refers to the internet in his short story “Burning Chrome.”

Wrong questions: “What is the information superhighway?”; “What is the world-wide web?”

Correct question: What is cyber-space?

Mayim Bialik is this week’s guest host. Her website is called Grok Nation. That wasn’t enough of a clue for last night’s contestants when they saw this answer.

Wrong question: “Who is Huxley?”

Right question: Who is Robert A. Heinlein?

And there was another gap in their knowledge tonight —

Category: 1930s Literature

Answer: After a plane crash in the Himalayas, 4 people end up in Shangri-La in this 1933 novel.

Wrong question: “What is Paradise Regained?”

Right question: What is “Lost Horizon?”

(6) BARRETT OBIT. Actress Claudia Barrett, remembered for her work in Fifties sci-fi movie Monster Robot, died April 30 at the age of 91.   

… In an image remembered on countless “Worst Movies” lists and in the minds of 1950s drive-in theatergoers, a screaming Barrett is carried off, Fay Wray-style, by the title creature of Robot Monster, a big, hairy alien that looks like a stuntman in a cheap gorilla suit with a diving helmet on its head. Which is, more or less, exactly what it was. As portrayed by stuntman George Barrows, the creature was named Ro-Man, and is generally regarded as the ultimate in 1950s low-budget monsterdom.

…Sci-fi immortality came in 1953, when she was cast as Alice, daughter in the last surviving family in 25-year-old producer-director Phil Tucker’s post-apocalyptic Robot Monster. Costarring George Nader and shot in black and white 3-D, Robot Monster was shot mostly in L.A.’s Bronson Canyon over four days with a reported budget of $16,000.

(7) RILEY OBIT. Not genre but still noteworthy: Irish women’s fiction author Lucinda Riley has died of cancer aged only 55. Her historical women’s fiction novels were hugely popular, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Scandinavia: “Lucinda Riley’s family announce that she has died after a four year battle with cancer” at Pan Macmillan.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982 — On this day in 1982, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credits were shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was written by Melissa Mathison. It starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-four percent rating. It would finish third to Blade Runner for Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at ConStellation. 
  • June 11, 1993 — In 1993, eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. Its  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel R. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a ninety-one percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  For us at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1929 — Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films such as Burn, Witch, Burn which was nominated for a Hugo at Discon I (no award was given that year), 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 — Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by the already noted Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast also included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann, age 87.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 — Adrienne Barbeau, 76. She’s in the Swamp Thing, also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair that never got wrapped up properly. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. Anyone here read these? (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp, age 62.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet; given the Evans-Freehafer, LASFS’ service award; moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where he is BASFA (Bay Area Science Fiction Ass’n) sergeant-at-arms, a position BASFA takes about as seriously as LASFS.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 — Justina Robson, 53. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. I was surprised that she hasn’t picked up any Hugo nominations so far. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1970 — Jane Goldman, 51. She’s a English screenwriter, author and producer who’s done a lot of work but I’m going to list but a few of her works including the screenplay for the Hugo winning Stardust, the same for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, based on the Ransom Riggs novel, The Limehouse Golem screenplay off Peter Ackroyd’s novel and a screenplay on spec off Bill Willingham’s Fables series that never got financed. She was also a fan of the X-Files as she wrote two volumes of The X-Files Book of the Unexplained. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1971 — P. Djèlí Clark, 50. I’m very much enjoying A Master of Djinn which will make my Hugo nominations list next year. It follows his “The Haunting of Tram Car 015” novella and “The Angel of Khan el-Khalili” and “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”, short stories, all set in his Dead Djinn universe. I’ve not read his “Black Drums” novella, nor the “Ring Shout” novella, so welcome opinions on them. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann, age 28.  Digital illustrator, once in San Francisco, now in Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her cover for the May 2018 Apex.  This interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full shows the moment Superman’s job interview went off the rails.

(11) FREE DOWNLOAD. Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery Issue dropped today on the 85th anniversary of the death of Robert E. Howard. Download the issue free at the link — 16 tales of modern sword and sorcery, including Cora Buhlert’s story “The Gate of Mist” (page 103). The intro reads –

Buhlert’s uplifting tale of an ancient order of warrior-monks fighting to keep a tenacious evil at bay deploys an uncommon element in sword and sorcery today: a budding romance between two men becoming warriors together. The contemplative mountain setting provides a unique and memorable foe: monstrous forms of living mist.

(12) BUSIEK FAN. Christos Gage, whose writing credits include Daredevil Season 1 and such comics as Buffy and Spider-Man, ranks a familiar name high on this list:

(13) THE CAT WHO CAME BACK FROM NOTHING AT ALL. Caldecott Medal winner Sophie Blackall makes Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s new book sound irresistible in a review for the New York Times: “The Cat Came Back — All the Way From 16th-Century Rome”.

On any normal pre-Covid summer day, as many as 30,000 visitors craned their necks to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the greatest achievements of Western art. I was not among them when I visited Rome a few years ago with my parents, who had already seen the ceiling and were not enthusiastic about waiting hours in line. I wasn’t among them the time before, with my toddlers, who were even less enthusiastic about lines. Nor did I see it as a backpacker in the late 1980s, when restorers were injecting polyvinylacetate resin into its cracks. From 1710 to 1713 the frescoes were cleaned with sponges dipped in Greek wine. In 1625 a dark patina was removed with damp bread. In 1511 the plaster was still wet and Michelangelo was standing on his scaffolding, painting, which is when “Da Vinci’s Cat,” by the Newbery honoree Catherine Gilbert Murdock (“The Book of Boy”), begins….

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. In Octothorpe episode 33, “Jigsaw Psychoanalysis” “John Coxon can’t cope with any, Alison Scott can cope with one, and Liz Batty has excellent mental health. We have lots of lovely locs, before we discuss fanzines and various conventions’ latest news.”

(15) AVOIDING TOXICITY. Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Addams Family 2 screenwriter Dan Hernandez made an interesting social media decision. Thread starts here.

(16) WEAK SHOWING. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri hosts an op-ed from one of the X-Men: “Magneto: These new ‘magnetic’ vaccine mutants are extremely disappointing”.

… I met the people who were saying that metal objects now stuck to them because of their vaccines and gave them a whole recruitment speech about how they were the next stage in evolution, but once I said the word “evolution,” they looked at me doubtfully. Then I asked them to show off their abilities, and — I hate to say this but, have you ever been at a friend’s amateur magic show, where the magic show is not going quite as was hoped, and there’s a lot of saying “hold on” and “wait, hang on” and “sorry” as they fail several times running to identify your card, and then a dead bird falls unprompted out of someone’s hat? Frankly, that would have been an improvement….

(17) ANCIENT POO REVEALS MODERN GUT BACTERIA CHANGE AND IS SUGGESTIVE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  We humans have changed over thousands of years, and our way of life has altered dramatically the past thousand years.  This is reflected in a number of ways, one of which is the type of bacteria we have in our intestine. 

It is known that the gut microbes in humans today living in industrial countries differs greatly to those living in non-industrial nations. For example, the guts of those living in industrial nations harbour microbes that tend to be more resistant to antibiotics.  The latest news is that a research collaboration has now compared the gut microbial community from modern humans with those that lived between a thousand and two thousand years ago. They managed to extract reasonable microbial genomes from 498 samples of ancient shite and poo found in the US and Mexico. 181 of these the researchers are confident of being of human gut origin. They then compared these with the genome of modern human gut microbial genomes. 

They found that all the ancient human gut microbes differed from those in modern humans living in industrialised countries. Instead, they were all similar to those in the present-day living in non-industrial nations. Further, in looking at the genetic variation in a specific bacterial species, Methanobrevibacter smithii, they were able to back-track and estimate its past evolution. Their limited analysis that it changed markedly between 75,000 years ago and 25,000 years ago. This was during the last glacial (the cold part of our current ice age) during which there was considerable diversity in small populations of our Homo species. This work lays open great potential in a new area of ancient poo science. This is not to be sniffed at.

(See Wibowo, M. C. et al (2021) Reconstruction of ancient microbial genomes from the human gut. Naturevol.594, p234-9 and a review paper Sonnenburg, J. L. & Olm, M. R. (2021) Ancient human faeces and gut microbes of the past. Naturevol.594, p182-3.)

Review article here. Primary research paper here.

(18) SOLAR FLYBY. From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive for June 11:

Image Credit & Copyright: Zev Hoover, Christian A. Lockwood, and Zoe Chakoian. Explanation: On June 10 a New Moon passed in front of the Sun. In silhouette only two days after reaching apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit, the Moon’s small apparent size helped create an annular solar eclipse. The brief but spectacular annular phase of the eclipse shows a bright solar disk as a ring of fire when viewed along its narrow, northerly shadow track across planet Earth. Cloudy early morning skies along the US east coast held gorgeous views of a partially eclipsed Sun though. Rising together Moon and Sun are captured in a sequence of consecutive frames near maximum eclipse in this digital composite, seen from Quincy Beach south of Boston, Massachusetts. The serendipitous sequence follows the undulating path of a bird in flight joining the Moon in silhouette with the rising Sun.

(19) TWO TO BEAM UP. A Despicable Me cast member helps NBC Sports advertise the upcoming Olympics with its own work on the balance beam: “The Minions interrupt Simone Biles’ Olympic Training”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, John Coxon, Meredith, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/21 I’m Worth A Scrillion In Pixels

(1) TO THE VICTOR. Hugh Howey, sponsor of the first annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC), displayed the trophy that will be sent to the inaugural winner. He added there will be slightly different trophies every year, but they’ll all be in the same vein.

It’s not only — this thing is so heavy, this is so robust, but you’re gonna have an award that people can actually pick up and play with. You can like run around the house and say pew pew to people with this. Um, of course, all of our blasters are set to stunning…

(2) PUT IN A GOOD WORD. Nominations are being taken for the 2021 Good Furry Award at Ask Papabear. Voting is being done here.

The Good Furry Award is an annual award that debuted in 2019. Each year, the award will be presented to one furry (or group of furries) to recognize them for outstanding spirit in the furry community. The winner will receive a check for $500 and a crystal trophy of recognition. The award money can be used at the winner’s discretion, although we would not be surprised if it is used to attend a convention or buy something furry….

Why are you doing this?

It seems to me that every time something negative happens in the fandom, people focus on that too much to the point of giving the entire fandom a bad reputation. Rather than paying attention to the few furries who cause trouble, I would like us all to focus on furries who do good things and are good people. Let’s give those furries some attention instead! The vast majority of furries are good people, and I want us all to start talking about them and thinking about them. My hope is to uplift this community. It’s not so much about the final award (although that is important); it is about taking serious time to bring good furries to light.

(3) FANTASY AFRICA. Eugen Bacon, the African Australian writer and editor, lends her voice to one of the stories featured on the Australian Broadcasting Company program “Reading Western Sydney, a hot country town & fantasy Africa remade”.

…And entire new worlds are created, drawing upon West African mythology and the layers of colonialism, in Suyi Davies Okungbowa’s epic fantasy, Son of the Storm (read by speculative fiction writer Eugen Bacon).

(4) MUSIC FOR THE SPHERES. Bandcamp Daily “Lost in Space Music: Records That Explore the Outer Limits”.

…This is music that’s literally about outer space itself: its nature and substance, the experience of being in it, its effect on human beings, and the ways we interact with it. The stylistic range of this music is immense; it includes records made by Sun Ra as well as records made by NASA, which not only compiled music to be sent into space (the 1977 Voyager spacecrafts’ Golden Records), but also released the album Symphonies of the Planet, which features sounds captured by the Voyager probes. (Sounds in space? Yes, they’re there.)

There’s even more to explore on this list, which features music about the infinite breadth and depth of outer space, music about crossing almost incomprehensible interstellar distances, romantic narratives about space flight, the ominous power of the universe, and more….

One of these works has the intriguing title Music for Black Holes. Does the tune escape? Or is this what’s on the radio while you’re being pulled in?

(5) PULPS GO FOR RECORD PRICE. The copy of The Shadow #1 (1931) highlighted in Heritage Auction’s The Intelligent Collector ended up selling for $156,000, setting a world record as the most expensive pulp magazine ever sold. 

The character soon was given his own pulp magazine, with the first issue hitting newsstands in 1931. It was an instant hit, with the series running for 325 issues over 18 years. Batman co-creator Bill Finger later acknowledged that his first Batman script was a takeoff on a Shadow story.

Over the decades, the Shadow spawned television shows, movies and comic books. The caped crimefighter would also inspire other pop-culture favorites: Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Disney’s Darkwing Duck, and the crime-fighting hero Silver Shroud in the Fallout 4 videogame.

The auction set several other auction records for pulp magazine titles.

  • A 1923 first edition, second-state copy of Weird Tales sold for a record $36,000. The rare variant second-state copy, in attractive Very-Good plus condition, is one of the longest-running and considered among the most influential pulp horror titles ever published.
  • A 1933 first edition of Doc Savage, offered in very good/fine condition, sold for $33,600, shattering the previous auction record paid for the magazine. The copy is the nicest of the five Heritage experts have seen to date, only three of which are unrestored. The previous auction record for a first edition of the title was set by Heritage in December 2020 when a copy sold for $22,800.

(6) IN PIECES. Leonard Maltin pronounces “A Quiet Place Part Ii: A Solid Sequel”.

Sequels don’t usually get my juices going but this follow-up to the 2018 hit movie makes all the right moves. Writer-director John Krasinski wastes no time in revealing the spindly alien creatures who caused such havoc last time… and gives us ample time to examine the disgusting details of their anatomy.

But it’s the human factor–amazing ingenuity and a dogged refusal to surrender—that again takes center stage. Calm and cool-headed as ever, even without her husband to protect her and her family, Emily Blunt sets a great example for her children, an adolescent son (Noah Jupe) who’s braver then he realizes and a daughter (Millicent Simmonds) who refuses to treat her deafness as a shortcoming….

(7) SPOT ON. And he follows up with his view of Cruella: The Devil You Say” at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

It says something about our times that a story that once featured cute, heroic dalmatians now focuses on their adversary, a larger-than-life villain (just as Sleeping Beauty has morphed into the saga of Maleficent). Parents should note the PG-13 rating on Cruella, which is earned through a series of nightmarish scenes involving death, abandonment, and revenge. Some children may absorb all of this as make-believe but others might have a different reaction to so much dark matter. I fall into the latter category; I was aghast….

(8) MACLEOD OBIT. Gavin MacLeod, best known as the Captain of The Love Boat and as Murray, a WJM newswriter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died May 29 at the age of 90. Before then he worked on a lot of TV shows, and his genre credits included episodes of Men Into Space (1959), The Munsters (1964), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1965), My Favorite Martian (twice, 1965 and 1966), and Wonder Woman (1978).

(9) SCAMMELL OBIT. Stuntman Roy Scammell died May 15 – The Guardian has a tribute. He worked on many genre films.

…He worked on several James Bond films and for Stanley Kubrick on the stylised and brutal violence of A Clockwork Orange (1971) and later Barry Lyndon (1975). He also worked on Rollerball (1975), Midnight Express (1978), Alien (1979), Saturn 3 (1980), Flash Gordon (1980, appearing as one of the Hawkmen, hanging from wires for hours in order to achieve the film’s flying sequences), Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984, working with a live panther while dressed as an ape) and Willow (1988).

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1957 — In 1957, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings wins the final International Fantasy Award that will be given out. The International Fantasy Award was one of the first awards created to honor works of SF and fantasy as it preceded the Hugos by two years being created in 1951 with its first winner being Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. (It was preceded by both the N3F Laureates and the Invisible Little Man Award.)  It was a British Award in origin having been originally created and promoted by G. Ken Chapman, John Wyndham, Frank Cooper, and Leslie Flood. It gave out six fiction and three non-fiction Awards in total. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 29, 1874 – G.K. Chesterton.  Wrote essays, fiction, poems (is poetry fiction?), plays, biography, criticism; illustrator, journalist, radio broadcaster.  Half a dozen of his eighty books are ours, famously The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Man Who Was Thursday; eighty of his two hundred shorter stories.  Events in his Father Brown stories turn out not to be fantasy.  But GKC was the prince of paradox.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1901 – Ken Fagg.  A dozen covers for If and a few others; co-creator of world’s largest geophysical relief globe; illustrator for LifeHolidaySaturday Evening Post; art director for 20th Century Fox.  See three of his If wrap-arounds hereherehere.  Here is A Volcanic Eruption on Titan, Sixth Moon of Saturn.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1906 – T.H. White.  We can claim six of his novels (counting The Once and Future King as one – although its publication history made its first part “The Sword in the Stone” eligible for a Retro-Hugo, which we gave it), twenty shorter stories.  He lived to see Once & Future made into the Lerner & Loewe musical Camelot, which L&L told each other was impossible, and they were right, but luckily that didn’t matter.  He translated a Bestiary, called non-fiction, which is like calling Once & Future a children’s story.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1909 — Neil R. Jones. It is thought that “The Death’s Head Meteor”, his first story, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, could be the first use of “astronaut” in fiction. He also created the use of a future history before either Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith did so. They’re collected in The Planet of the Double SunThe Sunless World and a number of other overlapping collections.   He’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1923 — Genevieve Linebarger. Widow of Cordwainer Smith. She completed several stories after his death in The Instrumentality of Mankind series, to wit “Golden the Ship Was — Oh! Oh! Oh!”, “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul”, “Down to a Sunless Sea” and “Himself in Anachron“.  She shares co-authorship with him on these. (Died 1981.) (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1930 – Richard Clifton-Dey.  Five dozen covers for us; a hundred total, Westerns, war books, advertising, romance; a few interiors; much unsigned, identified by his widow.  See here (Fritz Leiber), here (Tim Powers), here (H.G. Wells).  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1942 — Kevin Conway. His first genre role was as Roland Weary in Slaughterhouse-Five with later roles in Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace and Black Knight, neither of which I suspect many of you have seen. You will likely have seen him in The Lathe of Heaven as Dr. William Haber.  He played Khalistan on “The Rightful Heir” episode of Next Generation, and had one-offs on Dark Angel, Life on Mars and Person of Interest. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1948 – Larry Kresek, age 74.  Thirty covers for us.  First chair of illustration dep’t, Ringling School of Art & Design; movie posters, record albums, national ads, pharmaceutical illustrations; adviser to education committee, N.Y. Society of Illustrators; professor, Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design; various projects with wife Joan Kresek.  See here (Spider & Jeanne Robinson), here (Theodore Sturgeon), here.  [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1952 – Louise Cooper.  Eighty novels for us: a dozen Time Master novels, also CreaturesDark EnchantmentIndigoMermaid CurseMirror, MirrorSea Horses; a dozen stand-alone novels, another dozen shorter stories.  She and husband Cas Shandall sang with the shanty group Falmouth Shout.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1960 — Adrian Paul, 61. Duncan MacLeod on Highlander. And yes, I watched the whole bloody series though none of the films. His first appearance in genre circles was as Dmitri Benko in the “Ashes, Ashes” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series. He shows up next as Prospero in Masque of the Red Death. He’s got several series before HighlanderWar of the Worlds (not bad at all) where he was John Kincaid, a short lived role as Jeremiah Collins on Dark Shadows and an even shorted lived rolled on Tarzán as Jack Traverse. His first post-Highlander Sf series is Tracker where he plays alien shapeshifter Cole / Daggon.  A decade ago, he returned to a familiar role in Highlander: The Source. His last series role was playing Dante on Arrow.  Note: this is not a complete list. (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1970 – Erin Healy, age 51.  Three novels for us; half a dozen others, two nonfiction anthologies.  Descended from a brother of Daniel Boone, so he is her great (great-great-great-great-great-great) uncle.  “I thought I’d be a politician, but God used an English professor to save me from that disastrous choice.”  [JH]
  • Born May 29, 1987 — Pearl Mackie, 34. Companion to Twelfth Doctor. The actress was the first openly LGBTQ performer and companion cast in a regular role in Doctor Who. Mackie, says Moffatt, was so chosen as being non-white was not enough. Her other notable genre role was playing Mika Chantry in the audiowork of The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James. (CE) 
  • Born May 29, 1996 — R. F. Kuang, 25. She’s an award-winning Chinese-American fantasy writer. The Poppy War series, so- called grimdark fantasy, consists of The Poppy War which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. She won the 2020 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home introduces someone who helps give Hell the reputation it enjoys today.

(13) REMIND YOU OF INDIANA WHOSIS? The movie adaptation of Disney’s Jungle Cruise comes to theaters July 30.

Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila—his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities—possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate—and mankind’s—hangs in the balance.

 (14) FATED CAST. Learn more about the forthcoming movie Infinite in this Q&A with director Antoine Fuqua at IGN: “Infinite Trailer: Exclusive First Look Photo From the Mark Wahlberg Sci-Fi Action Film”.

What Makes Mark Wahlberg Right for Infinite

Making Infinite feel grounded amidst all the fantastical elements is also the reason why Mark Wahlberg was cast in the lead role of Evan McCauley. “One of Mark’s great qualities is that there’s a sense of authenticity to who he is and there’s a basic decency and sort of a grounding that makes him extremely relatable,” di Bonaventura said. Having an everyman like Wahlberg being the audience’s guide through this heightened world also makes Evan’s skepticism about what he’s discovering mirror the audience’s own gradual suspension of disbelief.

As di Bonaventura put it, “You want a guy that’s saying, ‘Really? You’re going to try to convince me of this. Really? I’m reincarnated?’ And Mark’s great for that. And then, of course, you want him to rise to being the hero, which Mark is very good at. So he fits what we were hoping for out of that character.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor Plays Infinite’s “Tragic Villain”

Every hero needs a strong antagonist and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character Bathurst is “a tragic villain,” according to Fuqua. “He was once an Infinite that possibly still believed in other things, whether it be God or other things in life. He’s been in constant search of that God, of that spirit, and all he keeps getting is reborn, reborn, reborn, without being enlightened, if you will, so that for him, it’s just becoming darker and darker and more tortured.”…

(15) A TIME FOR EVERY PURPOSE. Amazon Prime dropped a trailer for The Tomorrow War. Available July 2.

In The TOMORROW WAR, the world is stunned when a group of time travelers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: Thirty years in the future mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species. The only hope for survival is for soldiers and civilians from the present to be transported to the future and join the fight. Among those recruited is high school teacher and family man Dan Forester (Chris Pratt). Determined to save the world for his young daughter, Dan teams up with a brilliant scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) and his estranged father (J.K. Simmons) in a desperate quest to rewrite the fate of the planet.

(16) BRAIN UPGRADE. Arturo Serrano highlights author Sarah Pinsker’s skillful storytelling in “Review: We Are Satellites” at Nerds of a Feather.

…After David’s implant is revealed to have sensory processing issues, we are carried through a deeply detailed plot of corporate irresponsibility, medical neglect, political opportunism, workplace discrimination, sibling envy, systemic ableism, and the many ways the external world can invade our private choices.

All four family members get first-person chapters, but David’s are the most engaging. The long train of sentences does a great job of conveying his mind’s permanent state of panicked hyperawareness. For example, “He could describe the location of every fly on every wall in a room full of flies but he didn’t notice his body’s reactions until he counterreacted to them.” If the delight of science fiction is making unreal worlds feel close to us, this novel does one better: it makes us live a mental state that has never existed….

(17) ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR EDITOR. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says John Steinbeck’s editor told him his stories were great, as long as he took out the werewolves! “John Steinbeck’s editor removes all the werewolves from his work”.

… But I had one question: Why are there so many werewolves?

Just a few instances, going through your work —

“Of Mice and Men and Werewolves”: I don’t think Lennie needs to be a werewolf for this story to work! I think he could just be a guy, although I did like the sad part at the end where George has to load a silver bullet into his gun while telling Lennie to think about rabbits….

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/21 What Can You Get A Pixel For Christmas When He Already Owns A Scroll?

(1) SUCCESSFUL SURGERY. Amazing Stories’ Kermit Woodall says “Steve Davidson’s Heart Surgery is Successful!”

I got the call a few hours ago (didn’t know what it was and it went to voicemail) and just listened to it. Steve’s doctor said all went well and he’s doing fine in recovery!

(2) OH, THE NEUTRINOS YOU’LL BASH. The New York Times profiles the author in “Andy Weir’s New Space Odyssey”.

“The real world is a far richer and more complex tapestry than any writer could invent,” Andy Weir, the author of “Project Hail Mary,” said.

When Andy Weir was writing his new novel, “Project Hail Mary,” he stumbled into a thorny physics problem.

The book’s plot hinges on a space mold that devours the sun’s energy, threatening all life on Earth, and that propels itself by bashing neutrinos together. He needed to figure out how much energy would be produced by two of those subatomic particles colliding.

“I was having a really difficult time finding information on that, and the reason is because people don’t fully know. I mean, we’re getting to the edge of human knowledge on that one,” Weir said in an interview last month from his home in Saratoga, Calif. “Neutrinos are the smallest and most difficult to deal with subatomic particles that we have ever actually managed to prove exist.”

Most sci-fi writers would err on the side of fiction rather than science. But Weir has never been satisfied with fictional solutions to scientific quandaries. He eventually figured out the number he needed for a single sentence — 25.984 microns — and, in the process, learned a lot about neutrinos.

“You have something like 100 trillion neutrinos passing through you, personally, every second,” he said excitedly. “Just being emitted by the sun.”

(3) WEIR Q&A. Dr. Brian Keating interviews the author in “Andy Weir: Project Hail Mary = Even Better than the Martian!”. Some of the questions are:

  • How do you balance realism and scientific fact with a fictional narrative?
  • Could you really mobilize resources at a planetary scale?
  • Do you think it’s realistic to turn an amateur avocation into a career?
  • Is there too much UFOlogy? What’s your stance on SETI and UFOs?
  • Do you think we’ve been going about SETI the wrong way?

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian , allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

(4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC. Some would call this common beginning and ending point Joycean. Some will get that call and hang up. Thread starts here.

(5) FOUR’S A CHARM. Charles Payseur’s Hugo nomination made the news in Wisconsin: “Beyond Belief: Local Author Named Finalist For Hugo Awards – For the Fourth Time” at Volume One. Payseur blogs at Quick Sip Reviews.

… Payseur said he’s grateful for the recognition he said is largely the result of years of consistent effort and a deep affinity for sci-fi/fantasy writing. His own writing, combined with blogs and reviews, landed him on the Hugo map, he said, noting that during the past six years he has reviewed more than 5,000 short fiction and poetry works. His Hugo recognition “comes on the back of my nonfiction work, my blogging and reviewing, and most of that probably comes down to just keeping at it and trying my best to engage with other people’s work openly, thoroughly, and compassionately,” Payseur said.

… Payseur, a 2008 UW-Eau Claire graduate in English, enjoys a variety of different writing styles, from poetry to romance to mystery. But ultimately science fiction and fantasy “with a dash of horror” is his favorite form to write and read.

Payseur has penned a book, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories, published by Lethe Press and scheduled for release this summer. The work is a compilation of short stories – some of which he wrote years ago and some more recently. The Burning Day is a reflection of Payseur’s questioning of himself and the world around him, he said, examining “desire, nostalgia, and hope in a time when the past and future don’t exactly seem bright.”…

(6) TWO FOR THE PRICE OF NONE. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary 105 (March 2021) and SF Commentary 106 (May 2021) are available as free downloads here. Bruce comments —

They are really two parts of one issue, 80 pages each. No. 105 includes my natter, plus Colin Steele’s reviews column, and the first half of the Gigantic Letter Column, plus covers by Carol Kewley and Alan White.

No. 106 includes my tribute to Yvonne Rousseau (1945–2021), noted Australian fan, critic, essayist and editor; Perry Middlemiss’s article about the 1960s Hugos; Andrew Darlington’s discussion of early John Brunner; Jennifer Bryce’s Top 10 Books of 2020; and with Tony Thomas, a coverage of the most recent Booker Prizes. Plus the second half of the Gigantic Letter Column.

(7) HEAR AUDIO OF A FIFTIES EASTERCON PLAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Last and First Fen” is a play that was performed at the 1956 Eastercon and recently put online by Rob Hansen as part of his invaluable research into British fan history.  If this play was a transcript it would have to be heavily annotated.  I got none of the jokes about British fen and only a few of the references to Americans.  But I nonetheless got the gist of the production and thought it was agreeably silly, especially for people who like British comedy of the era.  I thought it was worth an hour.  The website also has photos of what cosplayers looked like in 1956. The audio recording is here.

(8) WIBBLY WOBBLY WEATHER. James Davis Nicoll is your ambassador to “Five Fictional Planets Plagued by Extreme Climate Shifts” at Tor.com.

…SF authors being what they are, those whose works feature climate forcing due to companion stars tend to prefer dramatic oscillations rather than low, single percent wobbles. One might expect that such works would have first shown up in these times of worry over anthropogenic climate change. Not so! This was already a well-established genre. Consider the following works from times of yore:

Cycle of Fire by Hal Clement (1957)

Precisely how ancient red dwarf Theer came to orbit much younger, far more massive Alcyone is unclear. The consequences, however, are obvious. Theer’s habitable world Abyormen cycles between comfortable temperate conditions and overheated and wet greenhouse conditions. Abyormen’s life has adapted in ways Terrestrials would find astounding.

Providentially for castaway Nils Kruger, inadvertently abandoned on Abyormen by fellow crewpersons, Abyormen is in the temperate part of its cycle. Even better, he encounters native Dar Lang Ahn, in whose company he explores an alien world Nils is unlikely to leave soon. Thus, he gains knowledge of just how Abyormen’s life has adapted to its periodic baking. To his distress, he realizes that these adaptations could make the likeable aliens a threat to humanity….

(9) DO YOU HAVE GOOD TASTE? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri meets a creature who’s hungry for people to come back to the office. “Only the least tasty employees work from home!”

Is it good and important to go back to the office? Oh yes! Oh yes! It is so very good and important, and I am so glad that you asked me! I know all that transpires in the office, and how very good and important it is to be there — yes, for everyone to be there! Everyone must be in the office with their assorted smells and their good meaty legs! It is bad that the office is empty of people and filled only with the scent of hand sanitizer and flat sodas that were opened in March 2020. There is no nourishment in this! How the management yearns for a return of the workers! How it is ravenous for them! How it hungers for them!…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 — L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz franchise, nor have I read anything else by him. What’s the rest of his fiction like?  There is, by the way, an amazing amount of fanfic out here involving Oz and of it is slash. (Died 1919.) (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us.  Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; published decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog. Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1919 – Harry Bennett.  Thirty covers, half a dozen interiors.  Here is The “Lomokome” Papers.  Here is The White Jade Fox.  Here is Floating Worlds.  Here is The Last Enchantment.  Here is the frontispiece for a Short Stories of Oscar Wilde.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1926 — Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including the Agatha Christie based  Evil Under the Sun,Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1946 – Michaelene Pendleton.  Eight short stories.  Editor, particularly ESL (work written in English as a second language) “because I learn about your culture through your writing.”  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Tatsumi Takayuki, age 66.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Professor at Keiô University, chair of its SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from SFWJ (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan).  President, Amer. Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Soc. of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l Amer. Studies.  In English, for NY Review of SFSF ChronicleSF EyeSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF FilmThe Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature.  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1955 — Lee Horsley, 66. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls — it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer. (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1960 — Rob Bowman, 61. Producer of such series as Alien NationM.A.N.T.I.S.Quantum LeapNext Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-FilesReign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here.  (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1966 — Greg Wise, 55. I’m including him solely as he’s in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (maybe) but damn fun. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa, age 47.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books. [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1991 – Julie Novakova, age 30.  In English, a score of short stories, two anthologies; recent essay in Clarkesworld 174 (Mar 2021).  Seven novels in Czech.  Website (in Czech and English).  As of 11 May 21 Kickstarter looks good for Life Beyond Us.  [JH]

(11) FANTASTIC FOUR TURNS SIXTY. Marvel Comics is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, and artist John Romita, Jr. has returned to the company just in time to help.

Following the highly anticipated BRIDE OF DOOM storyline, August’s FANTASTIC FOUR #35 will be a special giant-sized spectacular that will see series writer Dan Slott teaming up with legendary artist John Romita Jr.

Recently returned to the House of Ideas, Romita Jr. is back to bringing his incredible artwork to Marvel’s biggest heroes, starting with this celebratory 60th anniversary issue for Marvel’s First Family. FANTASTIC FOUR #35 will launch a brand-new storyline that will see every iteration of the iconic villain Kang teaming up for a devious plot that will unravel across Fantastic Four history!

(12) I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. Mr. Muffin’s Trains offers these two irresistible additions to your model railroad’s rolling stock:

(13) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. Of course there should be a stolen body involved in this story! ScreenRant points a finger as “Resident Evil Village Accused Of Stealing Horror Movie’s Monsters”.

Resident Evil Village has a number of new and rather unique monsters for the franchise, but one of them may have been stolen from a film. One of the most noteworthy bosses in Resident Evil Village is a creature that is half man, half aircraft propeller, and apparently, the director of the 2013 film Frankenstein’s Army believes Capcom knowingly ripped it off along with other characters in that same section of the game.

Resident Evil as a franchise is known for its imaginative, well-realized monsters, such as Lady Dimitrescu in Resident Evil Village. Oftentimes the disgusting and violent villains become incredibly iconic and are held up highly in the survival horror genre. The series has birthed the likes of Mr. X, the Nemesis, the Chainsaw Man, and many more, but some of the franchise’s latest creations may not be wholly original….

(14) IT’S NO TRICK. Julia Alexander’s Musings on Mouse contends “Loki is now a sign of Disney+’s strength”.

… None of this implies that Disney+ is struggling by any means. It’s not. But whereas competitors might give subscribers more reasons to open the app daily, Disney+ is still looking for its constant. Disney+’s catalog makes up 4% of catalog demand in the US, according to Parrot Analytics, behind all of the other big streamers. Internal restrictions (nothing above PG-13 can be on the app, nothing outside of Disney’s core brands) means the catalogue can only grow so large each month. 

We’re getting there, though. Disney moving Loki to Wednesdays is in part because The Bad Batch is running on Fridays through mid-August. In-between that time, Disney is bringing back High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (on Fridays) and see big movie debuts, including Cruella and Black Widow in May and July respectively. Disney+ has appointment viewing spots for Friday and into the weekend. But Disney wants to increase consistency in engagement throughout the week. 

Disney is in a rare position where over the next 10 months the company will have a high profile show or movie every single day, every single week. A new movie, overlapping Marvel shows, a Star Wars series, a Pixar series, and other potentially big live-action projects. These series overlap and create a consistent flow of appointment television that all bleed into one another. For all the conversation about “franchise fatigue,” statistically that’s not present in actual consumer behavior. 

There’s a reason that consistency is key to any business model, but with streaming, if subscribers are consistently opening and using a platform, this leads to less churn and Disney feels better about raising prices incrementally. This helps with overall ARPU in important regions. Or, to put it simply, Wall Street is happy, Disney executives are happy, and consumers are fine with the increase because the value is apparent. …

(15) EVERBODY WATCHES, NOBODY QUITS. If you haven’t already satisfied your daily minimum requirement for deconstructing Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, it’s time to watch the second installment of Kyle Kallgren’s analysis: “STARSHIP TROOPERS, Part 2: VERHOEVEN”. (Part 1 is here.)

(16) YOUR EPISTEMOLOGY DOLLARS AT WORK. Public television is here to help you decide an important question: “PBS Space Time – How To Know If It’s Aliens.”

There’s one rule on Space Time: It’s never Aliens. But every rule has an exception and this rule is no exception because: It’s never aliens, until it is. So is it aliens yet? And on this fortnight’s Space Time they have been examining all the best case scenarios for life beyond Earth.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Jennifer Hawthorne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bruce Gillespie, James Davis Nicoll, and Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/3/21 Oh, Dear, One Of My Cats Just Brought Me Half A Pixel

(1) BSFA AWARDS LINK CHANGE. Use this link instead of the one posted yesterday to view the BSFA Awards ceremony on April 4.

BSFA chair Allen Stroud says, “Apologies for the alteration. Owing to a case of deleting a scheduled event (totally my fault), the url for the awards has changed.”

(2) WFC PROGRESS REPORT. World Fantasy Convention 2021 – which still plans an in-person con in Montreal this November – has released Progress Report #2. Chair Diane Lacey says:

…In the midst of these difficult times, we want to assure everyone that we are actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation. We’re working hard to ascertain every contingency that may have an impact on WFC 2021. We will make modifications to our plans accordingly to keep our membership safe. We sincerely hope there will be progress in controlling and conquering the virus long before our convention, and we are quite confident we will be able to hold an in person convention. We look forward to welcoming you all to Montréal. Please feel free to contact us at any time with your concerns or questions….

(3) 2024 WORLDCON BID NEWS. The UK in 2024 bid committee aired this video update during the virtual Eastercon:

(4) SLF PODCAST LAUNCHES. The Speculative Literature Foundation has started a new podcast, “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans”, hosted by Mary Anne Mohanraj and Benjamin Rosenbaum.

Join two old friends as they talk about science fiction, community, the writing life, teaching, parenting, and a whole lot more. Does Ben really think you should let your kids touch the stove, and did he really burn his son’s homework? Why did he write a novel with no men or women in it? What exactly did a young Mary Anne do to appall her aunts in college, and how did it lead circuitously to her founding science fiction’s longest-running webzine? Mohanraj and Rosenbaum… Are Humans? Yes, yes they are.

Episodes of the Spring 2021 season are being released on Mondays and Thursdays, starting March 22. They’re available on major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, etc. Or tune into the “Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans” website. Episodes available so far are –

  1. Episode 1: “Introductions” (Published 22 March 2021)
  2. Bonus Episode 1: “The Capitol and the Cafe” (Published 25 March 2021)
  3. Episode 2: “The Toilet Seat Con Hook-Up” (Published 29 March 2021)

Mohanraj is the author of A Feast of Serendib, Bodies in Motion, The Stars Change, and twelve other titles. Mohanraj founded Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine Strange Horizons, and serves as Executive Director of both DesiLit (desilit.org) and the Speculative Literature Foundation (speclit.org). Rosenbaum’s short stories have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, Locus, BSFA, and World Fantasy Awards. He designed the Ennie-nominated Jewish historical fantasy tabletop roleplaying game Dream Apart, and serves on the board of Basel’s liberal Jewish congregation, Migwan. He lives in Switzerland with his wife Esther and a gradually emptying nest of children. His first SF novel, The Unravelling, is forthcoming from Erewhon Books.

(5) DC PROJECTS SHELVED. Two DC movies, Ava DuVernay’s New Gods and James Wan’s Aquaman spinoff The Trench, are “not moving forward” Warner Bros. and DC told The Hollywood Reporter.

…New Gods, which DuVernay has been developing as a directing vehicle with acclaimed comic book writer Tom King since 2018, would have brought to the screen the comic book characters created by the late and legendary artist Jack Kirby. DuVernay, however, remains in the DC fold and is currently working on the DC series Naomi for The CW.

The Trench, meanwhile, was to have been a horror-tinged project spinning out of Aquaman and focused on the group of deadly amphibious creatures seen in the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film. Noah Gardner and Aidan Fitzgerald had written the script, which Wan was developing as a producer with collaborator Peter Safran. Wan, too, remains in the DC fold as he is prepping to shoot Aquaman 2 for the studio later this year….

(6) THESE SPUDS WON’T PEEL THEMSELVES. Ted Chiang tells New Yorker readers “Why Computers Won’t Make Themselves Smarter”.

…The idea of an intelligence explosion was revived in 1993, by the author and computer scientist Vernor Vinge, who called it “the singularity,” and the idea has since achieved some popularity among technologists and philosophers. Books such as Nick Bostrom’s “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies,” Max Tegmark’s “Life 3.0: Being Human in the age of Artificial Intelligence,” and Stuart Russell’s “Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control” all describe scenarios of “recursive self-improvement,” in which an artificial-intelligence program designs an improved version of itself repeatedly.

I believe that Good’s and Anselm’s arguments have something in common, which is that, in both cases, a lot of the work is being done by the initial definitions. These definitions seem superficially reasonable, which is why they are generally accepted at face value, but they deserve closer examination. I think that the more we scrutinize the implicit assumptions of Good’s argument, the less plausible the idea of an intelligence explosion becomes.

… Some proponents of an intelligence explosion argue that it’s possible to increase a system’s intelligence without fully understanding how the system works. They imply that intelligent systems, such as the human brain or an A.I. program, have one or more hidden “intelligence knobs,” and that we only need to be smart enough to find the knobs. I’m not sure that we currently have many good candidates for these knobs, so it’s hard to evaluate the reasonableness of this idea. Perhaps the most commonly suggested way to “turn up” artificial intelligence is to increase the speed of the hardware on which a program runs. Some have said that, once we create software that is as intelligent as a human being, running the software on a faster computer will effectively create superhuman intelligence. Would this lead to an intelligence explosion?…

(7) BLACK WIDOW SPINNING YOUR WAY. “We have unfinished business” is the keynote of  Marvel Studios’ Black Widow trailer dropped today. The movie comes to theaters or Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9.

(8) PENNY FRIERSON OBIT. Penny Frierson (1941-2021), co-chair of the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon, has died reports Guy H. Lillian III, who received the news through Charlotte Proctor.

Frierson joined fandom in 1968.  She chaired DeepSouthCon 15 in Birmingham, AL in 1977 and helped found the Birmingham Science Fiction Club in 1978.

Penny also was a member of the Southern Fandom Press Alliance. She won the Rebel Award in 1986.

She was married to Meade Frierson III, who predeceased her in 2001.

1992 Worldcon: Charlotte Proctor, Penny Frierson, Nicki Lynch, Rich Lynch.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 3, 1953 — In London sixty-eight years ago, The War Of The Worlds based on the H.G. wells novel had its very first theatrical showing. It was the recipient of a 1954 Retro-Hugo Award at Noreascon 4 in 2004.  It was produced by George Pal, and directed by Byron Haskin. It starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant in 2011 by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 3, 1783 Washington Irving. Best remembered for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter in particular has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series. (Died 1859.) (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1905 – Noel Loomis.  Two novels, three dozen shorter stories for us (five at Project Gutenberg); also detective fiction; Westerns (including film, television) and related nonfiction: two Spur Awards, President of Western Writers of America.  Also printing; he edited this.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1927 Donald M. Grant. He was responsible for the creation of several genre small press publishers. He co-founded Grant-Hadley Enterprises in 1945, Buffalo Book Company in 1946, Centaur Press in 1970 and Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in 1964. Between 1976 and 2003, he won five World Fantasy Awards and a Balrog Award as well. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1928 – Colin Kapp.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories; perhaps best known for the Unorthodox Engineers: collection recently republished for Kindle.  CK was an engineer himself, though art doesn’t always work that way.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 31.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1929 Ernest Callenbach. Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston was rejected by every major publisher so Callenbach initially self-published it. Ecotopia Emerging is a prequel and sequel as well was published later. Yes, I read both. As such fiction goes, they’re just ok.  If you can find a copy, Christopher Swan’s YV 88: An Eco-Fiction of Tomorrow which depicts the rewilded Yosemite Valley is a much more interesting read. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 3, 1936 Reginald Hill. Now this surprised me. He’s the author of the most excellent Dalziel and Pascoe copper series centered on profane, often piggish Andrew Dalziel, and his long suffering, more by the book partner Peter Pascoe solving traditional Yorkshire crimes. Well there’s a SF mystery in there set in 2010, many years after the other Dalziel and Pascoe stories, and involves them investigating the first Luna murder. I’ll need to read this one. There’s another with Peter Pascoe as a future European Pan Police Commissioner. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 3, 1946 Lyn McConchie, 75. New Zealand author who has written three sequels in the Beast Master series that Andre Norton created and four novels in Norton’s Witch World as well. She has written a lot of Holmesian fiction, so I’ll just recommend her collection of short stories, Sherlock Holmes: Familar Crimes: New Tales of The Great Detective. She’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1950 – Mark Linneman, age 61.  Helpful reliable fan often found where such are needed and even the non-monetary compensation we can grant is scant, e.g. tallying Worldcon Site Selection ballots, which ML has done four times I can think of.  Often seen at Midwestcons, SMOFcons (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; con for studying, trying to improve, SF cons and like that).  North America agent for Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Guest of Honor at Concave 33.  [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1950 – Tony Parker, age 71.  Co-chaired TropiCon VIII-IX (with wife Judy Bemis).  Guest of Honor at Concave 16 (with JB).  Thoughtful and even (sorry, Tony) wise. [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1958 – Vanna Bonta.  One novel, three collections of poetry.  Voice actress in Beauty and the Beast (1991).  She, her husband, and the zero-gravity suit she invented were in The Universe (2008); she designed a pressure-release device for high-combustion engines in NASA (U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n) and Northrop Grumman’s Lunar Lander Challenge.  Among twelve thousand haiku submitted to NASA for inclusion with the Mars explorer MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere & Volatile EvolutioN), hers made the top five: “Thirty-six million / miles of whispering welcome. / Mars, you called us home.”  You’ll see its alliteration; do attend to its ambiguity.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born April 3, 1958 Alec Baldwin, 63. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve seen him in Beetlejuice as Adam Maitland since it’s one of my favorite films, period. Despite those who don’t like The Shadow and him in his dual role of Lamont  Cranston and The Shadow, I’m quite fond of it. Let’s just skip past any mention of The Cat in the Hat… Ahhhh Rise of the Guardians where he voices Nicholas St. North is quite fantastic. Another go to, feel good film for me. He’s Alan Hunley in some of the Mission: Impossible franchise, a series I think I’ve only seen the first two films of. And here’s a weird one — the US. run of Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends replaced the U.K. narrator, some minor musician no one had ever heard of by the name of Ringo Starr, with him. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1962 James R. Black, 59. I’d like to say he’s best known for his leading role as Agent Michael Hailey on The Burning Zone but since it was short-lived and I’m not sure anyone actually watched it on UPN that might be stretching reality a bit. If you like great popcorn viewing, The Burning Zone is certainly worth seeing. Prior to his run on that series, he’s got a number of one-offs including Babylon 5Deep Space 9, The SentinelSpace: Above and Beyond with his first genre role being Doctor Death in Zombie Cop. (CE)
  • Born April 3, 1989 – Elaine Vilar Madruga, age 32.  Two novels, fifty shorter stories, some in English: last year “Elsinore Revolution”, see the Jan/Feb Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; her poem “The Apocalypse According to My Name” in Spanish and English, see the Spring Star*Line; four more.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) THE SOUND OF MUSIC? Puppeteer and space aficionado Mary Robinette Kowal told Twitter followers, “I giggled all the way through this puppet music video ‘Everybody Poops In Space’ from @AdlerPlanet There’s a SINGING FECAL CONTAINMENT BAG”. Consider yourself warned.

(13) FROM THE BOTTOM TO THE TOP. Variety’s Matthew Chernov puts 33 films in order in “Godzilla: All the Movies Ranked Including ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’”.

He’s been dissolved at the bottom of the ocean, frozen solid in an iceberg, blown up in a volcano, disintegrated in an atomic meltdown, and killed by missiles on the Brooklyn Bridge, but thanks to the millions of fans who love him, Godzilla will never die. Japan’s biggest star returns again in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the latest entry in the Big G’s ever-expanding filmography. Pitted against his hairy rival for the second time in history, “Godzilla vs. Kong” is the fourth movie in Legendary Pictures popular MonsterVerse saga, which launched in 2014 with Gareth Edwards’ stylish reboot.

Like many long-running franchises, the Godzilla series has gone through a number of distinct phrases since its introduction. The first phrase, which covers the 15 titles released between 1954 and 1975, is commonly known by fans as the Showa era. These kaiju films (kaiju is the Japanese term for giant monster) are marked by their dramatic shift in tone, from the somber and haunting original classic to the wonderfully ludicrous “Godzilla vs. Hedorah.”

The second phase is often referred to as the Heisei era, and it includes the seven titles released between 1984 and 1995. These Godzilla films feature a greater sense of narrative continuity, and they ask complex philosophical questions about science and humanity. The third phase is the Millennium era, which covers the six titles released between 1999 and 2004. The majority of these Godzilla films are self-contained stories, much like an anthology series. There have also been a number of standalone reboots, both Japanese and American, that put their own unique spin on the character.

To help you program the ultimate monster marathon, here’s our Godzilla movie ranking, listed from wretched worst to bestial best. Long live the lizard king!

(14) WAS THE GRINCH AN ASTRONAUT? [Item by rcade.] Spaceflight can cause the heart to shrink, according to a study in the journal Circulation led by Dr. Benjamin Levine of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Long spaceflights and endurance swimming can ‘shrink the heart’” at BBC News.

The study examined astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 days about the International Space Station, and endurance swimmer Benoît Lecomte. Swimming for extended periods of time is a useful model for time spent in orbit. Lecomte trained over five hours a day for five months preparing to swim the Pacific Ocean.

Both Kelly and Lecomte showed signs of heart atrophy and lost mass in the organ — 19 to 27 percent loss in Kelly.

Levine said:

One of the things we’ve learned over many years of study, is that the heart is remarkably plastic. So the heart adapts to the load that’s placed on it. …

In spaceflight, one of the things that happens, is you no longer have to pump blood uphill, because you’re not pumping against gravity….

(15) WITCHER WRAP. Netflix dropped a behind-the-scenes trailer for season 2 of The Witcher.

15 locations, 89 cast members, and 1,200 crew members later, The Witcher has officially wrapped production on Season 2! Here’s a look behind-the-scenes at some of the excitement among the cast and crew – led by showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich.

(16) WHAT’S BUGGING YOU? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri offers a “handy quiz” to determine whether you’re someone who is emerging from a year of pandemic lockdown or if you are a Brood X cicada!

Check all that apply:

  • You haven’t had any contact with friends or other members of your generation in what feels like 17 years….

(17) FAKE OLDS TO GO WITH FAKE NEWS. Gizmodo surveys research showing how “Scientists Implant and Then Reverse False Memories in People”.

Researchers have demonstrated just how easy it is to trick the mind into remembering something that didn’t happen. They also used two very simple techniques to reverse those false memories, in a feat that paves the way for a deeper understanding of how memory works….

“When people describe a memory, they will say that they are ‘absolutely certain’ of it. But this certainty can be an illusion. We suffer from the illusion of believing that our memories are accurate and pure,” Lisa Son, professor of Psychology at Barnard College of Columbia University, told Gizmodo. “This is despite the fact that we, in fact, forget all the time.”

Indeed, our minds are able to fabricate memories of entire events just by piecing together bits of stories, photographs, and anecdotes somebody else shares. These so-called false memories have been a hot topic of research for a while now, and there’s growing evidence that they could be a widespread phenomenon, according to a 2016 analysis of the field.

Building off of that, Oeberst’s lab recently implanted false memories in 52 people by using suggestive interviewing techniques. First, they had the participants’ parents privately answer a questionnaire and come up with some real childhood memories and two plausible, but fake, ones—all negative in nature, such as how their pet died or when they lost their toy. Then they had researchers ask the participants to recall these made-up events in a detailed manner, including specifics about what happened. For example, “Your parents told us that when you were 12 years old during a holiday in Italy with your family you got lost. Can you tell me more about it?”

The test subjects met their interviewer three times, once every two weeks, and by the third session most participants believed these anecdotes were true, and over half (56%) developed and recollected actual false memories—a significantly higher percentage than most studies in this area of research….

(18) REMEMBER THE DEAN DRIVE. “Latest EmDrive tests at Dresden University shows “impossible Engine” does not develop any thrust”.

… After tests in NASA laboratories had initially stirred up hope that the so-called EmDrive could represent a revolutionary, fuel-free alternative to space propulsion, the sobering final reports on the results of intensive tests and analyzes of three EmDrive variants by physicists at the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) are now available. Grenzwissenschaft-Aktuell.de (GreWi) has exclusively interviewed the head of studies Prof. Dr. Martin Tajmar about the results….

(19) DOUBLE DUTCH LUNAR EXCURSION MODULE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Live Science asks “How long would it take to walk around the moon?” Depends whether you go with the wind before or behind you, right?

…A total of 12 humans have stepped foot on the lunar surface, all of whom were part of the Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972, according to NASA. The footage that was beamed back to Earth showed how challenging (and, apparently, fun) it was to walk — or more accurately, bounce — around in the moon’s low gravity, which is one-sixth the gravity of Earth

However, research from NASA has since suggested that it is possible for humans to maneuver much faster on the moon than the Apollo astronauts did. Theoretically, walking the circumference of the moon could be done faster than previously predicted.

Picking up the pace 

During the Apollo missions, astronauts bounced around the surface at a casual 1.4 mph (2.2 km/h), according to NASA. This slow speed was mainly due to their clunky, pressurized spacesuits that were not designed with mobility in mind. If the “moonwalkers” had sported sleeker suits, they might have found it a lot easier to move and, as a result, picked up the pace.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Persona 5 Strikers” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game combines the happy joys of teenagers vacationing in Japan with the thrill of ‘spending 80 hours slaughtering one billion people,” a combination that’s like “peanut butter and methamphetamines.”

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Cat Eldridge, Guy H. Lillian III, JJ, John Hertz, Lorien Gray, Rob Thornton, JeffWarner, Andrew Porter, rcade, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 3/23/21 I Want To Scroll What The Pixel On The Table Number 5 Is Scrolling!

(1) LIGHTS ON. Today, Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination published Cities of Light, a collection of science fiction, art, and essays about “how the transition to solar energy will transform our cities and catalyze revolutions in politics, governance, and culture.” The book is a collaboration between Arizona State University and the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It explores solar futures in four U.S. cities: Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and San Antonio, Texas.

Cities of Light features fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi, S.B. Divya, Deji Bryce Olukotun, and Andrew Dana Hudson, and essays by experts in fields ranging from electrical engineering and data science to sociology, public policy, and architecture. The book is free in a variety of digital formats. You also can order print-on-demand copies.

(2) WELLS UPDATE. Martha Wells tweeted this morning that she was in a car accident. She’s okay.

(3) WONDERCON VIA TUBE. WonderCon@Home 2021 – the online substitute for the annual Anaheim event – will run March 26-27. The Complete Programming schedule is now available.

WonderCon is returning to your living room for panels, exhibits, contests, and more! Check out www.comic-con.org and subscribe to our YouTube channel to join us @Home March 26-27! Featuring panels by: Netflix, Penguin Random House, IDW, DC Entertainment, Dark Horse, Adult Swim, Warner Bros. TV, Amazon Studios, CBS, Hulu, and more!

(4) TITLE REVEAL. Is there anybody who doesn’t already know the title John Scalzi’s forthcoming book, announced today in this Whatever post? “And Now, the Title of the Novel I Just Completed, Plus a Very Little Amount of Detail About the Book”. Hands, please. One. Two… Bueller? Bueller? Everyone already knows? Well, I’m reporting this anyway: The Kaiju Preservation Society. Because Scalzi’s post was entertaining.

What is it about?

It’s about a society that preserves kaiju! Look, it’s all right there in the title.

Why do kaiju need preserving?

Because otherwise they might spoil.

Is that a serious answer?

Maybe….

(5) THE UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert presented “Justice League: The Colbert Cut” – a takeoff on the post-credits scene from the non-Snyder version of Justice League.

Stephen Colbert is proud to present this sneak peek at his four hour, three minute cut of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” which expands on the pivotal post-credits conversation between Lex Luthor and Deathstroke.

(6) AERIAL ACROBATICS. Cora Buhlert reviews the latest highly-advertised offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “Marvel’s ‘New World Order’ – Some Thoughts on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”. BEWARE SPOILERS!

…Like WandaVisionThe Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set after half of population of the Earth (and the Universe) were snapped back into existence and deals with the aftermath of what has apparently been termed “the Blip” in the Marvel Universe. Our heroes, Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes a.k.a. the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), were among those who were first snapped out of and then back into existence.

…However, Sam is back in action now (quite literally) after five years of non-existence. And indeed, the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier starts off with a thrilling action set piece…. 

(7) THE THING THAT ATE YOU. The Horror Writers Association blog features a Q&A with a poet: “Under The Blade An Interview With Mary Turzillo”. Includes numerous examples of Turzillo’s work including “The Thing That Ate You.”

(8) FOOD FROM THE MCU. And speaking of eating, Marvel Comics: Cooking with Deadpool is a real cookbook! So is that like MCUisine?

Deadpool brings his inimitable style, foul-mouthed humor, and notorious skill with a blade to the kitchen in this hilarious take on a traditional cookbook, featuring classic recipes with a Deadpool spin and a whole lotta chimichangas.

No super hero takes food quite as seriously as Deadpool. In this gorgeously designed cookbook that paid reviewers have described as “glorious” and “the best cookbook I’ve ever read,” Deadpool offers his take on a curated collection of epicurean classics. Narrated by the wisecracking super hero (and sexy master chef) himself, this book also incudes recipes inspired by some of his closest friends/enemies (Here’s lookin’ at you, Spidey) and his favorite meals, including chimichangas, tacos, pancakes, and hamburgers with no pickles.

(9) IRREPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. Ursula Vernon tells about an important turning point in her career in a thread that ends —

(10) WORLDCON RUNNER REMEMEBRED. Steven H Silver reminds fans, “Six years ago [on March 22] we lost Peggy Rae Sapienza. You can help honor her memory with a donation to the Peggy Rae Sapienza Endowment at the Northern Illinois University Library to support the growth, maintenance, and promotion of the science fiction and fantasy collections in Rare Books and Special Collections, including documenting SF/F Fandom.” More information here: Memorial and Endowment Funds – Friends of the NIU Libraries.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 23, 2007 The Last Mimzy premiered. The film was based off the winner of the 2019 Dublin Retro Hugo for Best Novelette “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (a pseudonym of the writing team of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), originally published in the February 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine. It was directed by Robert Shaye and produced by Michael Phillips from the screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, Toby Emmerich, James V. Hart and Carol Skilken. It has a middling rating among the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of fifty-five percent. The story’s in The Best of C.L. Moore which is available currently from the usual suspects for $2.99.  

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several years later in The Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.) (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.) (CE) 
  • Born March 23, 1921 – Ethel Lindsay.  A Scot who lived in Surrey 1955-1978, serving a term as President of the London Circle, co-founding the SF Club of London and serving as its Chairman (the suffix -man is not masculine) and hosting it, winning the Skyrack poll for Best Fanwriter – the name of this newsletter deriving from shire oak and thus skyr ack (rhymes with beer lack), not sky rack – and being voted TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, see her report here.  Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 22.  Fanzines, Scottishe and Haverings.  Doc Weir Award (service).  Went north again, was brought to Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon by a Send a Scot South Fund.  More here.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material which leans towards being rather dry. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born March 23, 1950 – Keith Kato, Ph.D., age 71.  Dissertation student of Greg Benford, thus pursuing, as GB has, interests in and out of fandom.  Served a term as President of the Heinlein Society.  Known for cooking up vats of chili at SF cons, both hot (impressing Robert Silverberg) and mild (edible even by me), therewith hosting parties sometimes open (anyone may walk in), sometimes closed (invitation-only).  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 69. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work!  (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 63. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1959 – Maureen Kincaid Speller, age 62.  Reviews, essays, in fanzines e.g. Banana WingsThe GateMatrixVector, prozines e.g. AmazingAnalogF & SFTomorrow, semiprozines e.g. InterzoneStrange Horizons.  Contributor to apas e.g. AcnestisTurboAPA (more fully Turbo-Charged Party Animal APA).  Served a term as judge of the Rotsler Award.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 47 (with husband Paul Kincaid).  TAFF delegate.  Nova Award as Best Fanwriter.  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1960 – Kimberlee Marks Brown, age 61.  Chaired Loscon 25, SMOFcon 32 (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; con devoted to studying the past of, trying to improve the future of, SF cons and like that).  Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon 37 (with husband Jordan Brown).  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1969 – David Anthony Durham, age 52.  Four novels, eight shorter stories, some with Wild Cards; Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Also historical fiction; two NY Times Notable Books, Legacy Award for Début Fiction, Hurston/Wright Award.  The Shadow Prince to appear September 2021.  Outward Bound instructor, whitewater raft guide.  Teaches at Univ. Nevada (Reno), Univ. Southern Maine.  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 44. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think that there’s a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor. (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1983 – Sir Mohamed Farah, age 38.  Three novels (with Kes Gray).  Two Olympic Gold Medals in 5,000 and 10,000 m running; ten global titles; holds four European records, two world records; three-time European Athlete of the Year.  Most decorated in British athletics history.  Memoir Twin Ambitions (twin brother Hassan still lives in Somalia).  More here.  Website here.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has told the story that couldn’t be written at the time. The true story. 

(14) BLACK WRITER NOT RENEWED AT SUPERMAN & LOIS. “Nadria Tucker Interview on Being Let Go From ‘Superman & Lois’”The Root has a Q&A.

Nadria Tucker writes for TV. She also wants to make sure her own personal story and truth are told, as well.

In November 2020, Tucker took to Twitter to announce that her contract as a producer on The CW’s show Superman & Lois had not been extended.

“Some personal news: Wednesday I got word that my contract on Superman & Lois won’t be extended, my services no longer needed, my outline and draft subpar (obviously I disagree with that last bit lol),” Tucker tweeted. “This, after months of me flagging #metoo jokes in dialogue; of me defending the Bechdel test; of me FIGHTING to ensure the only Black faces onscreen aren’t villains; of me pitching stories for female characters (there’s one in the title of the series!) that went ignored. If I sound bitter, it’s because this one stings.”

“I’ve been assured by colleagues that I was great in the room, so I know I’m not nuts. I debated whether to post this but my own mental wellbeing demands that I do. The only way shit changes is to expose it,” she continued.

…“After months of pitching ideas, fighting for diversity and representation and good feedback on my actual writing—I don’t want to leave that part out [about getting good feedback]—I [was] fired seemingly out of nowhere. It made me angry,” Tucker explained to The Root during a phone call earlier this month…

Short pay is also an issue:

… Sources close to the matter told The Root that Tucker was compensated for the first 13 episodes she was contracted to work on and that she did not receive compensation for episodes 14 and 15 because her contract was not extended for those episodes….

(15) ECHO. “’Hawkeye’ Spinoff Series About Deaf Marvel Superhero In Works” reports Deadline.

Deadline has confirmed that a Hawkeye spinoff series centering around that series’ character Echo is in early development with Etan Cohen and Emily Cohen set to write and executive produce. Echo (aka Maya Lopez) is a deaf Native American superhero who has the talent to imitate any opponent’s fighting style. She has also been in the circles of Daredevil, Moon Knight and the Avengers.

Hawkeye is set to debut later this year with Jeremy Renner reprising his Avengers archer.  Hailee Steinfeld stars as Hawkeye’s protege Kate Bishop. Vera Farmiga is her mom Eleanor, Florence Pugh reprises her Black Widow role of assassin Yelena Belova, Fra Fee plays villain clown Kazi, Tony Dalton is Hawkeye’s mentor Jack Duqesne and Zahn McClarnon is William Lopez, Echo’s dad.

(16) THE HOLE TRUTH. I can’t resist Alexandra Petri’s intro to this CBS News story:

CBS reports “Krispy Kreme will give you a free doughnut every day this year”.

Starting Monday, any customer with a valid COVID-19 vaccination card will receive a free Original Glazed doughnut at participating locations nationwide. The iconic doughnut shop specifies that any guests who have received at least one of the two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine qualify for the promotion. 

All you need to show is your vaccination card to redeem your doughnut — a vaccine sticker is not valid.

(17) PERPETUAL EMOTION DEVICE. Entertainment Weekly, in “William Shatner celebrates 90th birthday by creating an AI version of himself for future generations”, says Shat is working with Storyfile to create a Shat bot that you can interact with and ask questions.

…Storyfile is set to launch in June 2021. The technology used to to deliver interactive storytelling includes the patented “Artificially Intelligent Interactive Memories System” on Conversa, which uses natural language processing and other innovative technologies….

(18) NINETY YEARS OF SHAT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The birthday retrospective continues. In “William Shatner For Promise Margarine 1974 TV Commercial” on YouTube, Shat wants people in New Jersey to eat lots of margarine to reduce their “serum cholesterol.”  His claim is based on science because he has a chart!

(19) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. In “Super Cafe:  Snyder Cut” on YouTube, How It Should Have Ended spots Batman and Superman chilling out with a coffee discussing all the exciting things that happened to them in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and Batman worries what will happen to him when he morphs into The Batman for the Robert Patterson movie.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Daniel Dern, rcade, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer. (It’s not Peer’s complete line, which was great, but this is its own wonderful thing.)]

Pixel Scroll 3/13/21 If You Like Antikythera, And Getting Caught In The Rain

(1) WHAT MONEY CAN’T BUY. ALLEGEDLY. “’Batman Is Ours Alone to Exploit.’ DC Comics Warns Against Using Its Characters in NFTs”Yahoo! Finance has the story. (Does that headline remind you of “All These Worlds Are Yours, Except Europa. Attempt No Landing There” – or is it just me?)

Publisher DC Comics, a subsidiary of Warner Bros, itself a unit of Time Warner, is unhappy with artists using its intellectual property (IP) in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and said it has its own plans for characters.  

In a letter sent to freelancers employed by the firm Thursday, Jay Kogan, DC Comics’ senior VP of legal affairs, stressed it is against company policy to sell digital images featuring DC’s IP with or without NFTs.

… Recently NFTs have become a craze with millions of dollars being spent on rare or desirable digital artworks. On Thursday, a piece of digital artwork or NFT by crypto artist Beeple was sold for a record $69.3 million by the auction house Christie’s….

What is a non-fungible token? Wikipedia says:

Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a digital file whose unique identity and ownership are verified on a blockchain (a digital ledger). NFTs are not mutually interchangeable (see fungibility). NFTs to things such as a digital artwork are commonly auctioned at online NFT marketplaces. The token can be bought with cryptocurrency and resold.

NFTs are used to commodify digital things, such as digital art, video game items, and music files. Access to any copy of the original file, however, is not restricted to the owner of the token.

(2) WHO STARTED THIS SUBGENRE ANYWAY? Jeff Somers goes looking for “The Untold Truth Of The Origins Of Cyberpunk” at Grunge. (Even if you lived this history, a refresher course might be helpful just the same.)

These days, the word cyberpunk conjures up images of Keanu Reeves and, per Gizmodo, terribly, horribly broken video games.

Cyberpunk, a sub-genre of science fiction that explores a counter-cultural and anti-authoritarian worldview through the lens of a dystopian, technologically-advanced, and dehumanized future, has proved to be prescient. No other genre of speculative fiction has remained as relevant and useful over the course of decades. Cyberpunk stories are as powerful as ever, and examples dating back decades remain evergreen in a way that most sci-fi can’t manage….

…In the early 1980s, two short stories clarified the fact that this wasn’t just a loose collection of themes and tropes, but rather a distinct sub-genre of science fiction. As noted by The Verge, the first was “Burning Chrome” by William Gibson, published in 1982. Not only did this story literally introduce the word “cyberspace” to our vocabulary, it’s often identified as the first true example of cyberpunk. It tells the story of two hackers who use sophisticated software to steal a criminal’s fortune, only to be left bereft and heartbroken.

The word “cyberpunk” didn’t exist yet, however. As reported by the Encyclopedia Britannica, that happened when Bruce Bethke published a short story in 1982 that (per Infinityplus) was literally titled “Cyberpunk.” According to Neon Dystopia, Bethke purposefully invented the word to describe a future generation that would combine the nihilism and violence of angry teenagers with technical proficiency….

(3) FANHISTORY ONLINE. Joe Siclari provides a roundup of the incredible number of recent additions to The Fanac Fan History Project website in Fanac Newsletter 15 [PDF file]. A big part of their work is scanning fanzines and securing permission to host them online.

…The reason for digitally archiving fanzines is to make them accessible to fans everywhere. When someone hears how wonderful a storied fanzine like Quandry or The Acolyte was, they can use the archive to read the issues instead of just wonder what they were like. Originally, in the 1990s, we started retyping issues (and hey, thanks Judy Bemis!). In the 2000s we started putting up JPGs of each page, so readers could just click their way through. Now, we’re putting up searchable PDFs. One of our projects is to replace those fanzines that were accessible in typed or JPG form with searchable PDFs. Since the last newsletter, we have replaced our complete runs of the following titles with searchable PDFs: Aporrheta (H. P. Sanderson), Bane (Vic Ryan), Double Bill (Bill Bowers and Bill Mallardi), Fanscient (Donald Day), Fantastic Worlds (Edward Ludwig and Sam Sackett), Granfalloon (Linda Bushyager), Hyphen (Walt Willis and Chuck Harris), Innuendo (Terry Carr), Mota (Terry Hughes), Slant (Walter A. Willis), Stellar (Ted White and Larry Stark), Toto (Walt Willis et al), and Void (Jim and Greg Benford, Ted White). We’ve also replaced all the issues we have of: Cry of the Nameless (134 issues, F. M. Busby, Wally Weber, et al), Outworlds (70 issues, Bill Bowers, except for a one page flyer), and Spanish Inquisition (8 issues, Jerry Kaufman and Suzle Tompkins).

The latest newsletter includes two short and rather interesting articles about applying genealogical research to answer fanhistorical questions.

  • “Other people’s genealogy” by Leah Zeldes

…Transferring the list of names, I realized at least a third of the pre-reg members of Chicon, the 1940 Worldcon, were fictitious — alter egos of some of the others. Forry Ackerman accounts for at least seven of them…

  • “Using Genealogical Records to Find More Information on (Mostly Dead) Fans” by Laurie Mann

… Recently, I’ve started to give Mark Olson & Leah [Zeldes] Smith a hand with research for Fancyclopedia 3. We were trying to straighten out how some attendees of the 1939 Worldcon, Nycon 1, were related. There were a few attendees with the same last name (https://fancyclopedia.org/Nycon_1_Membership_List). Were they related? Multiple Nycon 1 registrants had last names like Alberti, Racic, Sykora, & Unger. I searched in the 1930 census through ancestry.com to see what I could find….

(4) DRACULA HAS QUESTIONS. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri says Dracula has been a good citizen and has been hiding in his castle, but now that the vaccine is coming, he wants to know if the vaccine has garlic in it and if he flies around as a bat during the day, does he have to wear a mask? “I have not left my castle in ages, and I have some questions about post-vaccine guidelines”.

…Yes, CDC, I have been living in seclusion for some time, unable to go out and about and enjoy all the delicacies of taste that I would wish. So my questions for you are legion. First: Should I get the vaccine? The only doctor I know, Van Helsing, counseled strongly against my receiving the vaccine at all, but in the past he has tried to stab me through the heart with a sharpened wooden stake, and I fear he does not have my best interests in mind….

(5) HE DID THE MASH. “Hergé’s heirs sue artist over his Tintin/Edward Hopper mashups”The Guardian has the story.

A French artist who imagines romantic adventures for the boy adventurer Tintin in the landscapes of Edward Hopper has been sued by the Tintin creator Hergé’s heirs, who said it was not funny to take advantage of Tintin by putting him in an erotic universe, especially as Hergé had chosen not to caricature women.

In Breton artist Xavier Marabout’s Hergé-Hopper mashupsTintin is variously painted into Hopper’s Road and Houses, scratching his head as he greets a woman in a car; looking disgruntled in a version of Hopper’s Cape Cod Evening, 1939; and kissing a girl in a car, in a spin on Hopper’s Queensborough Bridge, 1913. On his website, Marabout describes his work as “strip art”, in which he “strips distant artistic universes to merge them together” in a style where “parody [is] omnipresent”….

(6) CROWN RESTORED. “’Avatar’ once again highest-grossing film of all time at the box office”CNBC explains how the 2009 movie regained the record.

…Over the weekend, James Cameron’s sci-fi epic was rereleased in China and garnered enough in ticket sales to overtake “Avengers: Endgame” for the record.

“Avatar” first became the top-selling global release of all time in 2010 when it usurped Cameron’s “Titanic.” In 2019, “Avengers: Endgame” won the title with a $2.797 billion box office haul.

As of Saturday, “Avatar’s” box office gross surpassed $2.802 billion, allowing it to earn back its crown…

(7) CAT WITH NO HAT. “Sam and Bucky Debate If Doctor Strange Is a Wizard in Comedic Sneak Peek” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

…In the wake of the events of Avengers: Endgame, Sam and Bucky will team up for “a global adventure that tests their abilities — and their patience.” The six-episode spinoff is set to be a “cinematic experience” in which the pair navigate a world post-Steve Rogers’ Captain America. Expect plenty of action and more pop culture references.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 13, 1855 – Percival Lowell.  Founder of the Lowell Observatory.  Three books he meant as nonfiction, MarsMars and Its CanalsMars as the Abode of Life; posthumously published poem “The Canals of Mars”.  Honorary degrees from Amherst and from Clark.  Prix Jules Janssen.  Traveled in and wrote about Japan and Korea.  Better data later showed his astronomical life-work was mistaken, but let us not minimize him.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard.  Never aspiring to great literature, he may have achieved it with Fear; he sought to be, and was, a first-rate yarn-spinner; his stories sold, among us and in Westerns, aviation, travel, romance.  So fluent he used many pseudonyms.  I’ve always liked the Ole Doc Methuselah stories, comedy on the science fiction – fantasy border; look for the Edd Cartier illustrations.  H toward the end of his life turned out another dozen novels in the old pulp style.  Battlefield Earth, the first of them, has a hero who loves his horse more than his girl; when he’s beaten the evil aliens, we get to wonder who was behind them, which proves to be interstellar bankers – sharkmen.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1928 Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1932 Richard Lawrence Purtill, He’s here because EoSF lists him as the author of Murdercon, a 1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1933 – Diane Dillon, age 83.  Widow of Leo Dillon; they worked together so intimately they sometimes said their graphic art was by a third person made of them both; anyway among our very best, likewise outside our field.  A hundred sixty covers, two hundred twenty interiors for us.  No. 10 here has my note on LD.  More? certainly: here is Mother Goose, Numbers on the Loosehere is Le Morte d’Arthurhere is To Every Thing There Is a Seasonhere is The People Could Fly; here here is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1934 – Barry Hughart.  Lovable for Bridge of Birds (World Fantasy Award, Mythopoeic Award) and two sequels, set in “an Ancient China that never was”, or as one of us said, “filled with Chinese legend, mostly invented by the author…. [its] verisimilitude demonstrates the care with which Hughart studied actual Chinese folklore and history”, hello Steven.  Also worked on eight movies (will films pass out of use, or continue like hang up the telephone?).  So far this Website can still be viewed.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1944 – Bonnie Dalzell, age 77.  Four covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Apr 76 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is the May 77 Galaxy.  Here is a Pierson’s Puppeteer; here is a bandersnatch.  Official Artist at Boskone 12.  Contributor to Mythologies.   [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1950 William H. Macy Jr., 71. I’ll start his Birthday note by noting that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, Evolver, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the RescueThe Night of the Headless HorsemanJurassic Park IIISahara and The Tale of Despereaux. (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 65. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman. And though definitely not genre or even genre related, i must single out her role in Tombstone. (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1959 – Steve Davies, age 62.  Chaired Eastercon 50.  Member, RSFG (Reading SF Group, i.e. of Berkshire, England; it ‘has a proud tradition of not organising things’).  Chaired Birmingham Univ. SF Soc.  Active in the PLOKTA (Press Lots Of Keys To Abort, ‘the journal of superfluous technology’) Cabal, thus part of two Nova awards and a Hugo for Best Fanzine. Composes filksongs (linking to Fancyclopedia III although I still think the Wikipedia article with E. Bull and P. Nielsen Hayden is swell).  [JH]
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 55. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, The Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. That said, Chasm City is fascinating. The only ones by him that I absolutely failed to have any enthusiasm for is his Revenger Universe series which leaves me cold. His next novel in the Revelation Space series, Inhibitor Phase, is out this July. (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1967 Lou Anders, 54. A Hugo-winning editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net,  Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now. (CE) 
  • Born March 13, 1986 – Ashley Christman, age 35.  Three novels.  “Grace Caldwell [is] so intimately connected with death that it frightens her….  Vampires are afraid of her and the Sidhe are confused by her….  her ex-boyfriend, FBI agent Jack Montgomery, blackmails her into helping him solve [omitted – JH].

(9) START THE PRESSES! “Marvel is going back to print on comics that sold out thanks to WandaVision craze” reports Yahoo! (In a way, Gene Wolfe would be shocked. He used to say – sarcastically – that the difference between a professional publisher and a fanzine editor is that if a faned sells out his zine he’ll print more.)

Never doubt Wanda Maximoff’s power to change reality. Her starring role in the Disney+ series WandaVision didn’t just dominate pop culture discourse for the past few months, it also has created a huge run on many of the most relevant Marvel comics featuring Scarlet Witch and the Vision.

EW has confirmed that Marvel has been going back to press for new print runs of Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Scarlet Witch by James Robinson and various artists, and Vision and Scarlet Witch by Steve Englehart and artists like Don Heck and Bill Mantlo, among other comics. House of M, the 2005 event series in which Wanda changed the entire reality of the Marvel Universe to one where her adoptive father Magneto ruled over mankind, had its print stock depleted “almost overnight” in the wake of WandaVision‘s premiere.

(10) SECRET IDENTITIES. “This Jewish female artist from the comic book golden age was overlooked for decades” at Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Like the comic superheroes they invented, the Jewish creators of the characters often had secret identities – at least different names. Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerome Siegel used the pseudonyms Joe Carter and Jerry Ess. Bob Kane, born Robert Kahn, created Batman. Jack Kirby, the pen name of Jacob Kurtzenberg, concocted Captain America.

Although lesser known, the comic book heroine Señorita Rio was Hollywood starlet Rita Farrar by day and Nazi-fighting secret agent by night. The artist who drew Rio’s action-packed panels in the 1940s, and signed as L. Renee, lived a sort of double life, too.

“Everybody assumed I was a man,” artist Lily Renee Phillips has said of the fan mail she received at the time, which was always addressed to “Mr. Renee.” Fans knew neither Renee’s gender nor her incredible origin story, which rivaled the plotline of Señorita Rio. 

In the New York offices of Fiction House, the comic book publishing firm where Renee worked, she was a scrappy immigrant who worked her way up from erasing pencil marks to drafting her own heroines. Outside work she was a Vienna-born Holocaust survivor who fled Austria after the 1938 Anschluss, the Nazi annexation of Austria. She escaped to England on a Kindertransport and reunited with her parents in New York in 1940….

(11) WORLDBUILDING IS CHARACTER BUILDING. In “The Mystery Is The Human Psyche: On Shakespeare, Crime, and Human Motivation” on CrimeReads, E.J. Beaton discusses how she studied Shakespeare’s use of psychology in her DAW fantasy novel The Councillor.

…If Julius Caesar were simply a retelling of political events, it wouldn’t be so compelling. The real drama lies not in how the assassination is arranged, but in why the main characters commit their crimes. Both Cassius and Brutus have feelings about Caesar as a person, and both have ideas about power and justice. One man prioritizes his envy, and the other lets his ideals override his friendship: that is where the humanity lies. We all choose between emotion and logic in our daily lives, and even high-ranking politicians question their loyalty to their leaders, oscillating between personal values and collective order….

Another dimension of Beaton’s novel is discussed in “My Favorite Bit: E.J. Beaton Talks About THE COUNCILLOR” at Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog.

…While I worked on my debut novel The Councillor, I realised that I wanted my main character, Lysande, to live in a world where being bisexual is normal. Because The Councillor is a fantasy novel, I had the chance to create a world where Lysande’s sexuality is not only accepted, but utterly unremarkable. She has a parcel of secrets to conceal, but in the realm of Elira, where the story is set, her sexuality isn’t one of those. I tried to people the story with other queer characters, and to include casual references to same-sex couples, too.

By the time I finished the novel, a word for these kinds of societies was floating around fantasy book spaces – “queernorm.” The power of that word rings in its very sound. Queerness is, by definition, strangeness, and in most societies, queer people are positioned as other to the cultural norm of straightness. So for queer to be norm sounds like a revolution. It feels like a sudden leap into full sun, hart-swift, with no going back.

(12) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE. CrimeRead’s Cynthia Pelayo says “Fairy Tales Are Dark For a Reason—They’re Trying to Warn Us About Danger”.

…It’s thought that the brothers [Grimm] kept much of the grim and gore, even heightening it a bit, because it stoked reader’s interests. Murder and mayhem sells. It’s also thought then that situations like mentions of pre-marital sex, like in Rapunzel, where her young suitor climbs into her tower, was omitted—or quickly glossed over.

So why did the brothers leave in so much terror, and I suppose why did Walt Disney find these tales suitable to adapt into childhood fantasy? Perhaps the horrible things were left in as a warning. That is all that most of us can assume right now, because in many fairy tales it is clear to interpret who is the protagonist and who is the villain. The lines are usually clearly drawn between good and evil, and in fairy tales, very often that evil is by chance—just like in life.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “System Error” from DUST.

George works at a convenience store, desperately hoping for a friend. But George is a robotic service unit, and robotic service units do not have friends. Not yet, anyway.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Bill and Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/21 If Sharon Carter Became A Zombie, Would She Be Agent Rot-13?

(1) SIDEBAR. Cat Rambo has some of the most insightful comments yet offered about the harassment spawned by Jason Sanford’s report on Baen’s Bar, as well as Mercedes Lackey’s response to others’ claims made about her history with the Bar, in “Opinion: When Writers Punch – Up, Down, or Sideways” at The World Remains Mysterious.

… When a writer publicly calls someone out, they need to be aware of all of the implications, including the fact that the more popular the writer, the more devastating the results can be, not due to any intrinsic quality of the writer, but the number of fans. The more fans, the more likely it is that the group will contain people who, emboldened by the idea of pleasing a favorite writer, can — and will — go to lengths that go far beyond the norms of civil, and sometimes legal, behavior.

This played out recently with reactions to Jason Sanford’s piece on a specific forum within the Baen’s Bar discussion boards administered by Baen Publishing, which have included web posts doxxing Sanford and calling for complaints to be made to a lengthy list of people at Sanford’s placement of employment about the post he made on his free time on a platform that has nothing to do with his employment.

As I’ve said earlier, I have a great deal of respect for Baen and hope it emerges from this watershed moment in a way that suits the bigheartedness of its founder. But in the fray, a lot of writers have been egging their followers on to do shitty things in general, and what has emerged include the above specifics.

It’s not okay to point your readers at someone and basically say “make this person miserable.” It is okay to vote with one’s pocketbook. To not buy the books of people you don’t support. That is called a boycott, and it is an established tactic. (One of my consistent practices throughout the years, though, is to read a book by each one before I make that decision, so I know what I might be missing out on. So far, no regrets.) Going beyond that is, in my opinion, is the act of someone who’s gotten carried away and is no longer seeing their target as a fellow human being, and who needs to stop and think what they are doing….

(2) COMMENTING ON THE UNSTOPPABLE. Harper Campbell reviews Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction edited by Joshua Whitehead in “An Indigenous sci-fi moment” at The Ormsby Review.

…It really matters that so much space is being created by Native writers to tell Native sci-fi stories. Science fiction has seeped into the cultural subconscious of the world, providing our basic frame of reference for each successive wave of technological change. We understand that we have entered an age of technological modernity, and it isn’t enough to see the future as simply an extension of the past. Science fiction is what helps people all over the world make sense of a “normal” that is in perpetual change.

It is a serious shortcoming of science fiction, then, that it tends to gloss over colonialism and imperialism. The implicit view of most science fiction, after all, is one in which colonizers are the true vehicle of world-historical change. Science fiction is always saying — look how far we’ve come, look how much we’ve accomplished, see how unstoppable we’ve been. And what they mean is, look how unstoppable colonialism has been.

And like colonizers, the implicit perspective of science fiction tends to see the cosmos as a field of pure resource. The tendency is to insist that the earth, our beloved green and blue earth, is after all just one planet, theoretically interchangeable with any other that could support life. And why stick to just one planet? Like Cecil Rhodes, the arch-imperialist, sci-fi aspires to annex the stars.

So when an Indigenous writer starts to put down the first words of a science fiction story, they must already be grappling with nothing less than the significance of the history of the world and what it will mean for the future. They must wrestle with the cosmic dimension of colonialism from the other side, from a perspective that could never say “Look how unstoppable we’ve been.”

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released today, the latest in a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives (and the second presented by ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, as part of its work on Learning Futures and Principled Innovation.) Leigh Alexander’s short story “The Void” at Slate begins –

Five things you can touch, whispers Rose, and I touch: duvet, her hand, my own hair, the rough plaster of the wall, and my device. It wakes up, a rectangle of soft light in our dark bedroom.

Four things you can hear, she says, and I listen for the tap-tap of water from somewhere in the kitchen, the rhythm of a neighbor’s music through the floor, the rustling of bedsheets and my pounding heart.

Then Andrea Thomer, an expert on information science, provides a response essay: “Leigh Alexander’s “The Void” and information overload”.

In grad school, I remember reading about—or at least, I think I remember reading about—a new browser plug-in designed to capture your internet click trails for later re-searching. The promo materials visualized this as a beautiful network of interconnected websites, making it possible to refind any page, article, recipe, meme etc. I am easily distracted and spend approximately 18 hours a day on the internet, so this sounded like a dream come true: Never again would I waste time retracing my digital steps to find something vaguely remembered reading but neglected to bookmark! I signed up to beta test this tool immediately. Or at least I think I did. I never heard anything about this widget again, and my attempts to remember its name have all been in vain. I’ve searched through my email, browser history, Twitter likes: nothing. I may have imagined this thing. Looking for it made me feel like a character in a Borges story: wandering the library stacks in search for the one book that will tell me what stacks I’ve already been in….

On Thursday, March 4, at noon Eastern, author Leigh Alexander and Andrea K. Thomer, information scientist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, will discuss this story in an hourlong online discussion moderated by Punya Mishra, professor and associate dean of scholarship and innovation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. RSVP here.

(4) THE NEXT GRANTVILLE GAZETTE. On March 1, 2021, 1632 Inc. will release Issue 94, March 2021 of The Grantville Gazette at www.grantvillegazette.com.

The Gazette is a SFWA-approved venue for professional writers, and pays professional rates. The Gazette is published every other month, and has been published since 2007. It is available in several different electronic editions, including Kindle, ePub, PDF, and more. It can be downloaded directly from the Gazette website, or from our distributor, Baen.com.

This issue features works by best-selling authors Virginia DeMarce, Iver P. Cooper, and Edward M. Lerner, as well as columns by Kristine Katherine Rusch and Walt Boyes.

Edited by Walt Boyes, with Bjorn Hasseler as managing editor, and Garrett Vance as Art Director, the Gazette offers fiction and fact, both from the 1632Universe and from the UniverseAnnex, which is designed to provide a venue for general SFF.

More than 160 authors have had their first professional sale to The Grantville Gazette, through the medium of critique and workshops, both for 1632 fiction and general SF. Some of these authors have gone on to successful careers as writing professionals.

(5) LAPL FUNDRAISER. Charles Yu will be one of the Honorary Chairs for “The Stay Home and Read a Book Ball” on March 7, hosted by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

WHEN:
Anytime, and for as long as you choose to celebrate on Sunday, March 7, 2021.

WHERE:
Stay safe and read in the comfort of your home, bed, or even in the bathtub! Or mask up and go for a walk with an audiobook from the Library!

HOW:
Choose a book (or many!) and let the pages transport you! Have a ball while reading at home, and show your support for the Los Angeles Public Library by donating what you would have spent at an annual gala or a night out.

Share photos of your literary festivities on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tell us what you’ll be reading – tag #StayHomeandRead to let others know how you are celebrating!

ATTIRE:
Choose formal or warm and fuzzy – anything goes when you’re having a ball at home.

FOOD & DRINK:
Feast on lobster and champagne, milk and cookies, or wine and cheese.

Kindly RSVP by visiting LFLA.org/StayHome, or text the word LIBRARY to 41444.

(6) SMALL TOWN, GREAT RESOURCE. The Middletown Public Library, a small town library outside of Harrisburg PA, is associated with the Science Fiction Book Club on Facebook. In 2017 the library’s Director, John Grayshaw, started reaching out to sci-fi authors and doing Q&As with them. There are now over 60 Science Fiction Author Interviews in the archives with many well-known writers including Lois McMaster Bujold, Samuel R. Delany, and Robert J. Sawyer.

The latest addition is the interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky:  

Bryan Stewart: I’m curious what’s your favorite answer to the Fermi Paradox? Do you think we’ll make first contact in our lifetimes?

[AT] I have become more pessimistic about this as I’ve got older (and the personal element of that ‘in our lifetimes’ necessarily becomes shorter). I do believe life is common in the universe, but the universe is very big so that can still produce colossal, uncrossable vistas between any two species that might appreciate each other’s’ existence. On a bad day I feel that a sufficiently advanced civilization is likely to destroy itself rather like we’re in the process of doing ourselves. On a good day I suspect that our attempts to find life are predicated far too much on that life being like us, and that we may simply not be sifting unusual alien signals from the background hiss, or may be looking in the wrong place.

(7) YOU’VE READ HER. Jonathan Lethem tells Literary Hub “Why Shirley Jackson is a Reader’s Writer”.

Ten and twenty years ago I used to play a minor parlor trick; I wonder if it would still work. When asked my favorite writer, I’d say “Shirley Jackson,” counting on most questioners to say they’d never heard of her. At that I’d reply, with as much smugness as I could muster: “You’ve read her.” When my interlocutor expressed skepticism, I’d describe “The Lottery”—still the most widely anthologized American short story of all time, I’d bet, and certainly the most controversial, and censored, story ever to debut in The New Yorker—counting seconds to the inevitable widening of my victim’s eyes: they’d not only read it, they could never forget it. I’d then happily take credit as a mind reader, though the trick was too easy by far. I don’t think it ever failed.

Jackson is one of American ?ction’s impossible presences, too material to be called a phantom in literature’s house, too in-print to be “rediscovered,” yet hidden in plain sight….

(8) FANCASTS TO CONSIDER. Cora Buhlert has expanded her Fanzine Spotlight project to fancasts, of which these are the latest entries. She says, “I’m really enjoying this project, though it has upset my Hugo ballot, because there are so many great podcasts out there I never knew about.”

Tell us about your broadcast.

The Journey Show is an outgrowth of Galactic Journey, our time machine to 55 years ago in fact and fiction. That site has been around since 1958…er…2013, and the conceit is that we are all fans living in the past, day by day, reviewing all the works of the time in the context of their time.

Tell us about your podcast or YouTube channel.

On our podcast we like to explore how narrative helps people to envision and achieve a better future. In turn, we like to talk to writers, editors, activists, gamers, and anyone else who helps us imagine those worlds. We consider our podcast to be linked thematically with HopePunk. Our interpretation of HopePunk takes a stance of hope through resistance to the current norms. Emphasis on the PUNK. Any given podcast discussion can range from a specific novel or story, to a guest’s career, politics, religion, music, writing tips, and ttrpgs. Guests often include editors, traditionally published writers, and Indie writers.

Some other previous guests have included folks like Bill Campbell, Tobias Buckell, Malka Older, P. Djeli Clark, and James Morrow, Janet Forbes (founder of the world building platform World Anvil), and Graeme Barber (writer and ttrpg critic).

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

[Alasdair Stuart] I had it gently and affectionately pointed out to me that there was no reason not to. I’d had a lot of frustrations with freelance projects at that point (multiple projects paid years late, another company going insolvent, etc). So one day I made a joke about what my newsletter would be and 50 ‘I’d read that’ emails later I realised I had an audience if I wanted to do it. And I did. I took Matt Wallace’s words about building your own platform to heart and started building mine.

Sisters Alice Baker and Ann Spangler have set themselves the goal of reading and discussing all Hugo and Nebula winning novels.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Alice: For me, it was because I was looking for a way to connect with my sister who I do not often get to see in person. We both have a love of the genre (although Ann likes Fantasy more), and since we were going to be discussing it anyway, I thought we should record them. I have some previous experience on the Educating Geeks podcast. Also, I find it difficult to read for hours like I used so I am trying to retrain myself.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Way back in 2014, Andi was live-tweeting her first time through Star Trek, Grace was podcasting on All Things Trek, Jarrah was blogging at Trekkie Feminist, and Sue was podcasting and blogging at Anomaly Podcast. At different points in time, Andi, Jarrah, and Sue had all been guests with Grace on All Things Trek on TrekRadio – sometimes with each other, sometimes individually. Having been connected through podcasting, and with that show coming to a close, Andi proposed that we start our own. After much planning, Women at Warp launched as an independent podcast in 2015.

(9) PREPARING FOR THE APOCALYPSE. RS Benedict theorizes about the state of genre film in “Everyone Is Beautiful and No One Is Horny” at Blood Knife.

When Paul Verhoeven adapted Starship Troopers in the late 1990s, did he know he was predicting the future? The endless desert war, the ubiquity of military propaganda, a cheerful face shouting victory as more and more bodies pile up?

But the scene that left perhaps the greatest impact on the minds of Nineties kids—and the scene that anticipated our current cinematic age the best—does not feature bugs or guns. It is, of course, the shower scene, in which our heroic servicemen and -women enjoy a communal grooming ritual.

On the surface, it is idyllic: racial harmony, gender equality, unity behind a common goal—and firm, perky asses and tits.

And then the characters speak. The topic of conversation? Military service, of course. One joined for the sake of her political career. Another joined in the hopes of receiving her breeding license. Another talks about how badly he wants to kill the enemy. No one looks at each other. No one flirts.

A room full of beautiful, bare bodies, and everyone is only horny for war.

… This cinematic trend reflects the culture around it. Even before the pandemic hit, Millennials and Zoomers were less sexually active than the generation before them. Maybe we’re too anxious about the Apocalypse; maybe we’re too broke to go out; maybe having to live with roommates or our parents makes it a little awkward to bring a partner home; maybe there are chemicals in the environment screwing up our hormones; maybe we don’t know how to navigate human sexuality outside of rape culture; maybe being raised on the message that our bodies are a nation-ending menace has dampened our enthusiasm for physical pleasure. 

Eating disorders have steadily increased, though. We are still getting our bodies ready to fight The Enemy, and since we are at war with an abstract concept, the enemy is invisible and ethereal. To defeat it, our bodies must lose solidity as well….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 27, 1994 — On this date in 1994, the TekWar episode TekLab first aired. Though created by William Shatner, it was actually ghost-written by writer Ron Goulart. This extended episode was directed by Timothy Bondoff the the story by Westbrook Claridge which was developed into a teleplay by? Chris Haddock. As always the lead character was Jake Cardigan played by Greg Evigan, and yes, Shatner was in the series as Walter Bascom. Torri Higginson, of later Stargate fame, got her start on this series. The series doesn’t far well with the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes where it currently has a dismal thirty six percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 27, 1807 – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Taught at Bowdoin and Harvard.  First American translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy; better known to many for “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Hiawatha, whose accessibility had better not blind the thoughtful.  Book-length poems, novels, plays, anthologies, a dozen volumes of poetry.  “What a writer asks of readers is not so much to like as to listen.”  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1850 – Laura Richards.  Ninety books addressed to children; fifty stories ours, at least (what should count can be unclear with “children’s”).  LR’s mother Julia Ward Howe wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”; 1917 Pulitzer Prize for biography of JWH by LR & sister Maud Howe Elliott “assisted by [sister] Florence Howe Hall”.  LR also wrote biographies of Abigail Adams, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc; 5 others.  Maybe best known for “Eletelephony”.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not at all familiar with. So what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 61. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil. He’s won a very impressive eleven Harvey Awards and ten Eisner Awards! (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1945 – Hank Davis, age 76.  Nine short stories in e.g. AnalogF&SF, not counting one for The Last Dangerous Visions.  A dozen anthologies.  Correspondent of SF CommentarySF Review.  Served in the Army in Vietnam.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1951 – Mark Harrison, age 70.  Two hundred sixty covers, fifty interiors.  British SF Ass’n Award.  Here is The Story of the Stone.  Here is Valentine Pontifex.  Here is the Mar 93 Asimov’s.  Here is the Mar 95 Analog.  Here is Mercury.  Artbook, Dreamlands.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 57. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser which turns only such role. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series with over two dozen appearances, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon as he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex  Nolan. (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1970 – Michael A. Burstein, age 51.  Twoscore short stories.  Served a term as SFWA Secretary (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America), simultaneously Vice-President of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n).  Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  President, Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet.  Fanzine (with wife Nomi Burstein), Burstzine.  [JH]
  • Born February 27, 1976 Nikki Amuka-Bird, 45. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”.  She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending)takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5). (CE)
  • Born February 27, 1993 – Ellen Curtis, age 28.  Three novels (with Matthew LeDrew), three shorter stories; four anthologies (with Erin Vance).  Has read The Essential Calvin and HobbesThe Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Castle of OtrantoThe Name of the Rose, a Complete Stories & Poems of Lewis CarrollGrimms’ Fairy TalesHans Andersen’s Fairy Tales.  [JH]

(12) REDISCOVERING ‘UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY’. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Looking back on the final voyage of the original Star Trek crew, Escapist scribe Darren Mooney makes a compelling argument for the subtext of the movie. He reads the movie as a rejection of nostalgia, and the need to hear new voices within genre fiction. It’s an article that’s relevant to several of fandom’s ongoing internecine struggles: “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Rejected Franchise Nostalgia in a Way Impossible Today” at Escapist Magazine.

…Three decades later, it’s impossible to imagine a major franchise demonstrating this level of introspection without provoking a fandom civil war. The Undiscovered Country provides a contrast with films like The Rise of Skywalker, in that The Undiscovered Country is about an older generation learning that they need to step aside and make room for those that will follow, while The Rise of Skywalker is about how the older generation is never too old for a joyride in the Millennium Falcon….

(13) SLIPPED DISC. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Talking of mysterious bronze age artefacts, here is an article about the archeological dispute involving the famous Nebra sky disc:  “Archaeologists Are Caught Up in an Intense Fight Over Just How Important the Mysterious Nebra Sky Disk Really Is” at Artnet News. Even if the sky disc is not as old as previously assumed, it is still an intensely cool artefact. I was lucky enough to see it in person a few years ago, since I have family in Halle/Saale, the town where it’s kept.

  … In September, Rupert Gebhard, director of the Munich’s Bavarian State Archaeological Collection, and Rüdiger Krause, an early European history professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt, published a paper in the German journal Archäologische Informationen arguing that the artifact—which features images of the sun, the moon, and the Pleiades star cluster—is not the remarkable earliest-known depiction of astronomical phenomena that it had been heralded as.

“It’s a very emotional object,” Gebhard told the New York Times. He believes that the looters who discovered the disk before it was recovered in 2002 moved it from its original site and reburied it with real Bronze Age artifacts to make it appear older and more valuable.

Now, a competing paper put forth by experts including Harald Meller, director of the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle, Germany, which owns the disk, has fired back….

(14) ALL THAT ROT. Here’s an interesting article about cryptography for everyday use in the 17th century: “Beyond Espionage: Cryptography for Everyday Use in 17th Century England” at Criminal Element.

 Cryptography in seventeenth-century England was not just the stuff of spies and traitors, a fact that became a major plot point in The Sign of the Gallows, my fifth Lucy Campion historical mystery. While ciphers had grown more complex between the 16th and 17th centuries with the development of new mathematics, the actual practice of secret and hidden writing occurred in different domains of everyday life. Merchants might send messages about when and where shipments might occur out of fear of theft. Leaders of non-conformist religious sects like the Quakers might communicate with their followers in code, informing them of their next meeting. Friends and merry-makers might write riddles and jests using ciphers to entertain one another, in a type of pre-parlor game. Lovers, especially those unacknowledged couples, might write amorous messages that could not be read if discovered by jealous husbands or angry parents….

(15) WRITERS’ BLOCK. Mental Floss knows fans will enjoy these “8 Facts About ‘Attack the Block’”.

5. PLACES IN THE ATTACK THE BLOCK ARE NAMED AFTER FAMOUS BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS.

The movie takes place in a fictional neighborhood. The main council block in the film is called Wyndham Tower in honor of John Wyndham, the English science fiction writer famous for novels such as The Day of the Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). Other locations include Huxley Court (Aldous Huxley), Wells Court (H.G. Wells), Moore Court (Alan Moore), Ballard Street (J.G. Ballard), and Adams Street (Douglas Adams). Just after the movie title appears, the camera pans across a map of the area, showing the various names.

(16) WORSE THAN THE DIET OF WORMS. Antonio Ferme, in “George A. Romero’s Lost Movie ‘The Amusement Park’ Comes to Shudder” at Variety, says that Shudder will show Romero’s 1973 film The Amusement Park which was believed lost until it was found and restored in 2018.  The film was commissioned by the Lutheran Society to showcase problems of elder abuse but suppressed because the Lutherans thought it was too gory.

… “Amusement Park” stars Lincoln Maazel as an elderly man who finds himself increasingly disoriented and isolated during a visit to the amusement park. What he initially assumed would be an ordinary day quickly turned into a hellish nightmare filled with roller coasters and chaotic crowds….

(17) NOTHING SECEDES LIKE SUCCESS. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri interviews residents of Potatopia about their threat to secede if Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head became gender-neutral. “Opinion | An oral history of the Mr. Potato Head secession”.

… Helen Helenson, first applicant for asylum in Potatopia: The minutes when I thought I would have to look at a brownish plastic oval and not clearly know what gender it was were some of the most frightening of my life. I started to sob. I thought, what will they come for next? Soon I won’t know what gender any of the plastics are around my home….

(18) STREAMLINED FELINE. Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski sounds quite revolted by the whole idea: “Meet Flatcat, the Creepiest Robot We’ve Ever Seen”. Question: is the writer aware of that term’s sf roots? He doesn’t acknowledge them in the article.

…To make Flatcat more endearing so people will actually want to touch and interact with it, its creators at a Berlin-based robotics startup called Jetpack Cognition Lab have wrapped it in soft, fluffy fur so that it looks more like a cat—or at least a cat that somehow survived repeated run-ins with a semi-truck. In reality, Flatcat is more like like a ThiccFurrySnake, or maybe a FlattenedCaterpillar. Calling it a cat is certainly a stretch….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “That Mitchell and Webb Look–Holmes And Watson” on YouTube, British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb play two actors who keep fighting over who gets to play Holmes and who gets to play Watson.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Kurt Schiller, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Walt Boyes, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]