Pixel Scroll 9/13/20 Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mrs. Pixel?

(1) MINORITY REPORT? The Tampa Bay Times says “Pasco’s sheriff created a futuristic program to stop crime before it happens. It monitors and harasses families across the county.”.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco took office in 2011 with a bold plan: to create a cutting-edge intelligence program that could stop crime before it happened.

What he actually built was a system to continuously monitor and harass Pasco County residents, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

First the Sheriff’s Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.

Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.

They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

(2) STAR TREKKING WITH WILL SMTH? We Got This Covered’s source told them “Paramount Reportedly Eyeing Will Smith For Big Star Trek Role”.

…According to our intel – which comes from the same sources that told us Captain Pike would be getting his own spinoff long before Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was announced – the studio are keen to recruit Will Smith to play a Starfleet captain. Although, at this time, it isn’t yet clear exactly what movie they’re eying him for.

After all, the canonical Star Trek 4 and Noah Hawley’s unrelated take on the material are both still rooted firmly in development hell, and Paramount could realistically end up making none or both of those sci-fi blockbusters. Still, with Robert Downey Jr. and Brie Larson both having found themselves linked to Star Trek recently as well, it would certainly appear that the studio are actively seeking an injection of star power to ensure that the next installment in the franchise can make it into production sooner rather than later.

(3) MEET THE MAYOR. Dan Snierson, in the Entertainment Weekly story Family Guy taps Sam Elliott to succeed Adam West as Mayor: See the first photos” says that three years after Adam West’s death, Family Guy has named Sam Elliott to replace him as mayor of Quahog.  Elliott will voice Adam West’s cousin, Wild Wild West.  (Adam West’s character on Family Guy was named Adam West.)

…He’ll be playing a key role: the new Mayor of Quahog, a post that became vacant after Adam West — who played Mayor Adam West in more than 100 episodes — died in 2017. West remained a presence on the show into the following year, as several episodes recorded before his death made their debut. Family Guy paid tribute to West several times, but almost two years after the actor’s death, the show finally acknowledged his passing in an episode that saw the high school renamed after him.”We wanted to take the time to respect Adam,” executive producer Richard Appel tells EW. “In having a conversation about ‘How do you replace him?,’ the universal belief was: he’s irreplaceable. And then the next question is, ‘Do you find a new mayor?’ In the world of Family Guy, he had an important role, and a role that was necessary for a lot of stories.”

(4) READING THE TRACKS. Amal El-Mohtar’s latest New York Times Sunday Book Review column “Power and Passage: New Science Fiction and Fantasy” covers Elwin Cotman’s Dance On Saturday (Small Beer Press) and Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds (Del Rey).

The discourse about reading fiction during the pandemic has followed two broad tracks: There are those who take comfort in the activity, and those who have found reading impossibly difficult. I belong to the latter camp, but I’m all the more excited to share the following books, which, while very different in genre and mode, shook me out of listless distraction with their originality.

(5) FACES IN SFF. Camestros Felapton made a discovery.

So that’s James Schmitz! I never saw a photo of him before. Nor saw him in person, even though he lived in LA – he didn’t come to conventions, and I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer my invitation to be on a Westercon program, although I suppose I made the attempt because he did interact with a few fannish book reviewers, like Paul Walker. (FYI, there’s a whole website devoted to Schmitz and his works saved at the Internet Archive.)

(6) SHREK GENESIS. [Item by rcade.] Some audio was shared on social media of Chris Farley performing as Shrek with Eddie Murphy as Donkey.

Farley, who helped the movie become greenlit by signing on to star in the title role in 1996, had completed 80 to 95 percent of the voice work for the film when he died of a cocaine and morphine overdose. Mike Myers was brought in and the script was rewritten, turning Shrek from sweet and American under Farley to acerbic and Scottish under Myers.

More details at this archived Jim Hill Media link: “How ‘Shrek’ went from being a train wreck to one for the record books”.

…Of course, back then, “Shrek” was supposed to have had a very different storyline. It wasn’t a movie about an ogre who just wanted to be left alone in his swamp. But — rather — it was about a teenage ogre who wasn’t all that eager to go into the family business. You see, young Shrek didn’t really want to frighten people. He longed to make friends, help people. This ogre actually dreamed of becoming a knight.

This was the version of “Shrek” that Chris Farley was working on just prior to his untimely death in December 1997. According to folks that I’ve spoken with who worked on this version of the film, Farley’s voice work on the project was nothing short of heroic.

(7) YOU’RE THE TOP. The Guardian’s E Foley and B Coates rank “Top 10 goddesses in fiction”. Tagline: “In ancient myth – and novels by authors from Neil Gaiman to Toni Morrison – these ambiguous figures are sometimes repressive, sometimes inspiring.” Free registration required to read.

(8) SHORT CHANGED. Camestros Felapton finds out “Which Hugo story finalists don’t have a Wikipedia page”. But should they?

My capacity to generate (rather than just make-up) trivia increases every week. Today I get to tell you which Hugo Finalists in Novel, Novella, Novelette and Short Story do not currently have a Wikipedia page.

(9) CAMPAIGN BEGINS. “300 years on, will thousands of women burned as witches finally get justice?”The Guardian reports they might.

It spanned more than a century and a half, and resulted in about 2,500 people – the vast majority of them women – being burned at the stake, usually after prolonged torture. Remarkably, one of the driving forces behind Scotland’s “satanic panic” was no less than the king, James VI, whose treatise, Daemonologie, may have inspired the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Now, almost 300 years after the Witchcraft Act was repealed, a campaign has been launched for a pardon for those convicted, an apology to all those accused and a national memorial to be created.

“There should be an acknowledgement that what happened to these women was a terrible miscarriage of justice,” Claire Mitchell QC, the campaign’s founder, told the Observer. She pointed out that in Salem, the Massachusetts town where a series of infamous witchcraft trials took place in the 1690s, a formal apology for the 200 accused and 20 executed was issued in 1957. In Scotland – where 3,837 people were accused, two-thirds of whom are believed to have been put to death – there has been no such recognition….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2005 — Fifteen years ago at Interaction, Susanna Clarke‘s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell won the Best Novel Hugo. The other finalists were River of Gods by Ian McDonald, The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks, Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross and Iron Council by China Miéville. It would be her last novel for fifteen years with only her only other work then being a collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories with illustrations by Charles Vess. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is also available in audiobook form as narrated most excellently by Simon Prebble. A BBC television adaptation was done ten years after publication. In 2006, it was reported that she suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome which she very recently reported that she had recovered from. Her second and soon-to-be-released novel is Piranesi which is not follow-up to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 13, 1898 – Arthur J. Burks.   Served in the U.S. Marines during both World Wars, eventually retiring as lieutenant colonel.  Resigned after WW I, became a million-word-a-year man for the pulps, re-enlisted, wrote again afterward, perhaps 800 stories for us and others.  Interviewed in the May 33 SF Digest by Julie Schwartz and Mort Weisinger, later more famous than he.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1926 Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or that he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted the UK Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.  My favorite Dahl work is The BFG. What’s yours? (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1931 Barbara Bain, 89. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell. I will confess that I never watched the latter. Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1937 – Dick Eney.  Active fan from 1949, including fanzines, filking, cons; also our neighbor the Society for Creative Anachronism.  Program Books for Discon I and II the 21st and 32nd Worldcons.  Toastmaster at the first Conterpoint.  Published Fancyclopedia II.  Fan Guest of Honor at L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon.  Witty but pushed his prejudices; could be pithy and poisonous: earned applause, but we all knew It’s Eney’s fault!  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1943 – Mary Kay Bray.  Scholar whose work in the Black American Literature ForumExtrapolationFantasy ReviewThe Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the SF Research Ass’n Review led the SFRA in 2002 to establish the annual Mary Kay Bray Award for the best essay, interview, or extended review to appear in SFRA Review.  Filer Rich Horton is currently on the Award Committee.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1946 Frank Marshall, 74. Producer of Raiders of the Lost ArkPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Indian in the Cupboard to name but a few he’s produced; there’s an even a longer list of films that he’s been involved in as an executive producer. His upcoming projects are the animated Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous series and the Jurassic World: Dominion film. (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1947 Mike Grell, 73. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green ArrowThe Warlord, and Jon Sable FreelanceThe Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne. As Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth.” The Justice League Unlimited “Chaos at the Earth’s Core“ episode made use of this story. (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1960 – Bob Eggleton, F.N., 60.  Almost five hundred covers and eight hundred interiors.  Magic, the Gathering cards.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Many times a Guest of Honor, e.g. Loscon 27, Norwescon XXIV, Balticon 39, MidSouthCon 26, Lunacon 60 (with wife Marianne Plumridge); Chicon 6 the 58th Worldcon.  Artbooks Alien HorizonsGreetings from Earth, seven more.  Gaughan; Skylark; twelve Chesleys including Artistic Achievement; eight Hugos. International expert on Godzilla.  Here is Thrust 26.  Here is Why Do Birds.  Here is the Chicon 6 Souvenir Book (logograph “Chicon 2000” with Space ships at upper right).  Here is the Jul-Aug 08 Analog.  Here is A Bicycle Built for Brew.  Here is the Nov-Dec 19 F&SF.  [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1961 Tom Holt, 59. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, deeply into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it. (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1974 Fiona Avery, 46. Comic book and genre series scriptwriter. While being a reference editor on the final season of Babylon 5, she wrote “The Well of Forever” and “Patterns of the Soul” as well as two that were not produced, “Value Judgements” and “Tried and True”. After work on the Crusade series ended, she turned to comic book writing, working for Marvel and Top Cow with three spin-offs of J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars being another place where her scripts were used. She created the Marvel character Anya Sofia Corazon later named Spider-girl. (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1977 – Pola Oloixarac, 43.  One of Granta’s Best Young Spanish Novelists (2010).  Founding editor of bilingual Buenos Aires Review.  Savage Theories and Dark Constellations translated into English.  Has presented at Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Stanford, Univ. Toronto.  Of Theories she says “The book has sparked verbal violence and a sexist uproar precisely because it doesn’t deal with … issues … traditionally associated with ‘women’s literature’, but instead contains … traits solely reserved for men.”  [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1978 – Scarlett Algee, 42.  A dozen short stories for us; since Apr 2019 managing editor at JournalStone Publishing.  Has read nine of the sixteen Sheckley collections I know of, and ranks them, low to high: Divine Intervention (about even with How the Irish Saved Civilization), The People TrapShards of Space and Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?Pilgrimage to Earth and Notions UnlimitedCitizen in SpaceUntouched by Human HandsStore of Infinity (above Les Misérables).  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows the kind of episode you can end up with if you misspell Star Trek.
  • And is Ziggy witnessing the Prime Directive being applied to himself?

(13) STAY HOME. Some of the principals of an independently-produced genre movie are asking that you not go out to see it. Gizmodo/io9 has the story: “Directors of Synchronic Ask You to Please Not Go See Their Movie”.

In a statement posted on Instagram, the three creators say that, “at the time of writing this, we personally wouldn’t go to an indoor movie theater, so we can’t encourage you to.” They explain that the film’s distribution situation is out of their control, and assure audiences that the film will be available via on-demand “in a few months” for those who want to watch it without risking their lives.  

(14) ANOTHER THREE-LETTER WRITERS GROUP REPLACES MOST OF ITS BOARD. The International Thriller Writers are regrouping and electing a new board after an internal meltdown almost as bad as though less public than RWA’s – Publishers Weekly has the story: “International Thriller Writers Regroup After Resignations”.

Less than three months after the resignations of all but two members of the International Thriller Writers association’s board of directors, the organization is rebuilding to better serve its members with an eye towards avoiding the recent controversies that have plagued it and several other organizations serving writers. Like other organizations, including most recently, the National Book Critics Circle, ITW has been forced to confront charges of racial insensitivity. ITW is also dealing with the aftermath of charges lodged with the organization as well as with Dallas, Tex. police that a male author affiliated with ITW allegedly assaulted a female author during a conference in late fall, 2019.

ITW members recently voted on a slate of 11 mystery and thriller authors who will join its board beginning in mid-October, including such notables as Anthony Horowitz and C.J. Box. Half of the new members are female, including Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs, and Lisa Gardner. ITW has created a new committee, diversity and outreach, headed by incoming board member Alexia Gordon. Veteran board officer Heather Graham and incoming board member Gregg Hurwitz will serve as co-presidents of the 12-member board.

In addition, in July the 16-year-old organization established a security and safety committee to draft a comprehensive process for dealing with violations of its code of conduct policies. The six-member committee includes at least one survivor of assault, a law enforcement officer, a district attorney, a psychologist, and a victim’s rights lawyer.

(15) RETRO VISIONS CONTINUE. Cora Buhlert recently revisited the first two Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore, “Black God’s Kiss” and “Black God’s Shadow,” gaining insights into the sword and sorcery genre in the process:

As I said a few posts ago, I will be reviewing vintage SFF stories beyond the confines of the Retro Hugos as well, beginning with “Black God’s Kiss”, a sword and sorcery novelette by C.L. Moore that was the cover story of the October 1934 issue of Weird Tales and also introduced the swordswoman Jirel of Joiry to the world. The story may be read online here. This review will also be crossposted to Retro Science Fiction Reviews.

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! Also trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence.

…Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! Also trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence.

“Black God’s Shadow” takes place a few weeks or even months after “Black God’s Kiss”. Our heroine Jirel of Joiry is still haunted by the events in the previous story and it shows… 

(16) RAMMING SPEED. [Item by Contrarius.] The beginning of the rebellion of nature? A plot for a new movie — “The Orcas” instead of “The Birds”? “Scientists baffled by orcas ramming sailing boats near Spain and Portugal” in The Guardian.

In the last two months, from southern to northern Spain, sailors have sent distress calls after worrying encounters. Two boats lost part of their rudders, at least one crew member suffered bruising from the impact of the ramming, and several boats sustained serious damage.

The latest incident occurred on Friday afternoon just off A Coruña, on the northern coast of Spain. Halcyon Yachts was taking a 36ft boat to the UK when an orca rammed its stern at least 15 times, according to Pete Green, the company’s managing director. The boat lost steering and was towed into port to assess damage.

A second article in The Guardian — Whalemageddon! “‘I’ve never seen or heard of attacks’: scientists baffled by orcas harassing boats”.

…The pod rammed the boat for more than an hour, during which time the crew were too busy getting the sails in, readying the life raft and radioing a mayday – “Orca attack!” – to feel fear. The moment fear kicked in, Morris says, was when she went below deck to prepare a grab bag – the stuff you take when abandoning ship. “The noise was really scary. They were ramming the keel, there was this horrible echo, I thought they could capsize the boat. And this deafening noise as they communicated, whistling to each other. It was so loud that we had to shout.” It felt, she says, “totally orchestrated”.

The crew waited a tense hour and a half for rescue – perhaps understandably, the coastguard took time to comprehend (“You are saying you are under attack from orca?”). To say this is unusual is to massively understate it. By the time help arrived, the orcas were gone. The boat was towed to Barbate, where it was lifted to reveal the rudder missing its bottom third and outer layer, and teeth marks along the underside….

(17) D@MN ROBOTS. Abandon hope, all ye who own phones. Inverse reports a study: “Does ignoring robocalls make them stop? Researchers uncover 2 key findings”.

More than 80 percent of robocalls come from fake numbers – and answering these calls or not has no effect on how many more you’ll get. Those are two key findings of an 11-month study into unsolicited phone calls that we conducted from February 2019 to January 2020.

To better understand how these unwanted callers operate, we monitored every phone call received to over 66,000 phone lines in our telephone security lab, the Robocall Observatory at North Carolina State University. We received 1.48 million unsolicited phone calls over the course of the study. Some of these calls we answered, while others we let ring. Contrary to popular wisdom, we found that answering calls makes no difference in the number of robocalls received by a phone number. The weekly volume of robocalls remained constant throughout the study.

(18) DAY GO SNOW, DAY GO SLEET, DAGOBAH. Starbuck’s “Been There” series of cups includes this souvenir of Dagobah. This one is “pre-owned.” I wonder when this series came out.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/27/20 Don’t Pixel Me, ’Cause I’m Scrolled To The Edge, I’m Trying Not To Get Outraged

(1) PAPERS PLEASE? Here in the future, an unpredictable surge in demand for books on paper has run afoul of a world-threatening pandemic: “Printer Jam: Serious Supply Issues Disrupt the Book Industry’s Fall Season” reports the New York Times.

This spring, when the pandemic forced bookstores across the country to close and authors to cancel their tours, many editors and publishers made a gamble. They postponed the publication of dozens of titles, betting that things would be back to normal by the fall.

Now, with September approaching, things are far from normal. Books that were bumped from spring and early summer are landing all at once, colliding with long-planned fall releases and making this one of the most crowded fall publishing seasons ever. And now publishers are confronting a new hurdle: how to print all those books.

The two largest printing companies in the United States, Quad and LSC Communications, have been under intense financial strain, a situation that has grown worse during the pandemic. LSC declared bankruptcy in April, and the company’s sales fell nearly 40 percent in the fiscal quarter that ended June 30, a drop that the company attributed partly to the closure of retailers during the pandemic and the steep fall of educational book sales. In September, LSC’s assets will be put up for auction. Quad’s printing business is also up for sale; this spring, the company had to temporarily shut down its printers at three plants due to the pandemic.

At the same time, there has been a surprising spike in sales for print books, a development that would normally be cause for celebration, but is now forcing publishers to scramble to meet surging demand. Unit sales of print books are up more than 5 percent over last year, and sales have accelerated over the summer. From early June to mid-August, print sales were up more than 12 percent over the previous 10 weeks, according to NPD BookScan. The surge has been driven by several new blockbuster titles, including books by Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer, John Bolton and Mary Trump. Publishers have also seen an unexpected demand for older titles, particularly books about race and racism, children’s educational workbooks and fiction.

“The infinite printer capacity hasn’t been there for a while, now enter Covid and a huge surge in demand, and you have an even more complex situation,” said Sue Malone-Barber, senior vice president and director of Publishing Operations for Penguin Random House, which is delaying titles at several of its imprints as a result of the crunch.

(2) DIAL M. A trailer dropped for Come Play, a horror movie about creatures that live inside a cellphone.

Newcomer Azhy Robertson stars as Oliver, a lonely young boy who feels different from everyone else. Desperate for a friend, he seeks solace and refuge in his ever-present cell phone and tablet. When a mysterious creature uses Oliver’s devices against him to break into our world, Oliver’s parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) must fight to save their son from the monster beyond the screen. The film is produced by The Picture Company for Amblin Partners.

(3) HUGO RULES PROPOSAL. Jay Blanc tweeted a link to their first draft of a proposed amendment to the WSFS Constitution that would provide a standing Advisory Committee for the Hugo Awards. See the text at Google Docs. Blanc’s commentary justifies the need for a new committee:

Commentary:

The intent of this amendment is to correct a point of failure in the current way the Hugo Awards are administered, a flawed institutional memory and a lack of any consistent infrastructure.

The innate problems of “reinventing the wheel” when it comes to infrastructure became obvious when the 2020 Hugo Awards online-ballot process failed to be ready for use for the ballot deadline. When it did become ready to use, after the ballot deadline was pushed back, it was discovered that it did not correctly register votes for some users. 

There had been a pre-existing online ballot system, used by Helsinki and Dublin, this system was robust and had an open development process. However it is unclear why this system was not used, or if it was why it was heavily modified and those modifications kept private and unreviewed. This is a clear failure of infrastructure that can be fixed by having standing advice on applying online balloting systems.

Further, there appears to have been some issue with confusion over information provided to Hugo Award finalists, and a lack of clear communication lines and recording of any complaints raised.

While the unique localised structure of the Worldcon is overall beneficial, these problems can only be addressed by having some form of standing committee. This amendment does not mandate this committee as replacement for the Worldcon Committee’s handling of the Hugo Awards, but does establish a weight of advice and infrastructure. I would expect Worldcon Committees to opt-in to accepting this advice and infrastructure, rather than continue to reinvent the wheel. But this amendment leaves it open to any individual Worldcon to choose to go it’s own way in the administration of the Hugo Awards if it decides that is correct….

(4) OPTIONS. “‘No aspect of writing makes you rich’ – why do authors get a pittance for film rights?” The Guardian tries to answer the question.

…Stephen King requests only a token amount from anyone optioning one of his novels; the “option” reserves a book for a limited time, usually a year, with the big bucks coming if and when that option is exercised. “I want a dollar,” King said in 2016, “and I want approvals over the screenwriter, the director and the principal cast.” That’s a snip until you realise that the back end is where he makes his real movie money: he got an eight-figure cheque from the recent adaptation of It.

More common are those tales of writers whose work takes an interminable time to reach the screen – Caren Lissner, for instance, whose book Carrie Pilby was optioned on several occasions between publication in 2003 and the film’s production in 2016 – or those that never get greenlit at all.

How realistic is it for writers to get rich from selling adaptation rights? “It’s just not,” says Joanna Nadin, whose YA novel Joe All Alone was adapted into a Bafta-winning 2018 television series. “It’s unrealistic to think any aspect of writing can make you rich.” Nadin confesses that she gets dollar signs in her eyes when she learns that a book of hers has been optioned. “For about 10 minutes, I revamp my Oscar acceptance speech, choose my mansion and dine out on imaginary caviar. Then I try not to think about it, knowing that, if anything happens, it won’t be for many years.”

(5) SCRIBE OF MARADAINE. The Austin Chronicle’s Wayne Alan Brennervisits “The Many Worlds of Author Marshall Ryan Maresca”.

Marshall Ryan Maresca’s debut novel, The Thorn of Dentonhill, came out from DAW Books in February of 2015. Five years later – now, in 2020, smack in the midst of a global pandemic – Maresca is publishing four different series of novels with DAW, each series already three books in, each one set in his originally devised city of Maradaine. And there are many more books on the way.

Even those of us who write almost creatively, day-in, day-out, to meet the relentless deadlines of journalism are like, “Maresca, how the hell? How do you write so much so quickly? And how do you sell novel after novel after novel when other writers we know can’t even seem to land a publisher?”

…”When I started this particular project,” says Maresca over a cup of java and safely distanced at a picnic table outside Thunderbird Coffee on Manor, “I’d already had the world stuff built out, but it wasn’t quite working for me. I thought that, since I’d done all the world-building, I needed to show all of it to the reader at once. Which was a terrible idea, and it didn’t work. But when I was working on that book – which is now sitting in a drawer and will never see the light of day – I had this sort of wild idea, that drew in part from inspiration from comic books.”

Note: Maresca’s favorites among comics are West Coast Avengers, Chris Claremont’s classic run of X-Men, and Mark Gruenwald’s many-charactered D.P.7 – all adding, he tells us, to the authorial influence of such unillustrated story cycles as Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Green Sky trilogy and David Eddings’ Belgariad. But, the wild idea?

“I thought, instead of trying to show everything,” says Maresca, “why don’t I just show one city, different aspects of that? And from there, I could tell different kinds of stories and have them be somewhat interconnected. And so, somewhere in my file cabinets, there’s a handwritten piece of paper, where I’ve written four story tracks: one vigilante-by-night, one old-time warrior, one two-brothers-heists, one two-cops-solve-murders. And that was the origin of everything. And so I slowly built up my outlines of what all these were – and part of that also came from just the way the publishing industry is. I wrote Thorn of Dentonhill first, and then, while I was shopping for agents, I was also like, well, I should just keep writing. But it’d be silly to write a book two of this series without knowing if I sold book one. So I wrote a different book one – the first book of a different series. And then, as I was looking for someone to buy Thorn, I got that second book one done. And I was like, okay, now that I have an agent interested, I’m gonna write another book one. So that, by the time my agent Mike Kabongo was shopping things around, and the editor at DAW was interested, I had the first book of each of the four series already done.”

 (6) ILLUSTRATING KINDRED. Artist James E. Ransome is interviewed by Aaron Robertson for LitHub in “An Illustrator Brings Realism into Octavia Butler’s Speculative Fiction”.

The Folio Society recently published a special edition of Octavia Butler’s 1979 novel Kindred, a time-travel narrative set between modern-day Los Angeles and a pre-Civil War US. I interviewed the book’s illustrator, James E. Ransome, about what it took to depict scenes of slavery, Ransome’s artistic influences, his dream projects, and more….

AR: Had you read the Damian Duffy/John Jennings graphic novel of Kindred before working on this?

JR: I hadn’t read it beforehand, but I came across it at a bookfair in the middle of working on this project. I was impressed. It was good to see a graphic novel with an illustration for every scene, and as a creator I enjoyed getting another take on the material.

AR: How did you decide which scenes to showcase?

JR: The Folio Society’s art director, Sheri Gee and I discussed it in a series of conversations. We were looking for dramatic scenes that would be interesting to capture. Things that were more dynamic than, say, two people sitting at a table talking. The very beginning scene, with the boy drowning, was a natural choice. Butler’s chapter titles—“The River,” “The Fire,” etc.—were also helpful leads.

(7) RUH-ROH. Scooby-Doo’s co-creator and former children’s TV mogul Joe Ruby passed away August 26. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Joe Ruby, Co-Creator of Scooby-Doo, Dies at 87”.

Ruby met Ken Spears when both were sound editors and then staff writers at the cartoon powerhouse Hanna-Barbera, and they created the supernatural kids show Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, which centered around a talking Great Dane and bowed on CBS in September 1969. All but four of the first 25 episodes were written and story-edited by them.

In the early 1970s, then-CBS president of children’s programming Fred Silverman hired Ruby and Spears to supervise the network’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup, and they followed the executive to ABC for similar duties in 1975. (Scooby-Doo joined that network’s lineup as well.)

Two years later, ABC set up Ruby-Spears Productions as a subsidiary of Filmways, and the company launched Saturday morning animated series around such characters as Fangface, Plastic Man, Mister T and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Ruby-Spears was acquired by Hanna-Barbera parent Taft Entertainment in 1981.

…In the 1980s, legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby was hired by Ruby to bring his vision to Ruby-Spears Productions. As a result, the Ruby family owns the rights to hundreds of original Kirby-designed characters and more than two dozen projects developed by Ruby. The intellectual property rights to those characters, artwork and projects are now being offered for sale.

(8) BOOK ANNIVERSARY.

  • In August sixteen years ago, Catherynne M. Valente published her first novel, The Labyrinth. Described by the publisher as “a journey through a conscious maze without center, borders, or escape–a dark pilgrim’s progress through a landscape of vicious Angels, plague houses, crocodile-prophets, tragic chess-sets, and and the mind of an unraveling woman”, it was published by Prime Books with an introductory essay by Jeff VanderMeer. It is not currently in-print. (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 27, 1922 – Frank Kelly Freas.  Three hundred covers, over a thousand interiors (I think; I lost count twice) for us; five hundred saints for the Franciscan Order; MAD magazine 1957-1964 with Alfred E. Neuman front, advertising-parody back covers; airplanes while serving in the U.S. Air Force; Skylab; comics; gaming.  Interviewed in GalileoInterzone, LighthouseLocus, PerigeeSF ReviewShadowsSolarisThrust.  Eleven Hugos; three Chesleys (with wife Laura).  LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) Forry Award (service to SF); Skylark; Inkpot; Phoenix; Frank Paul Award.  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Lifetime Achievement Award.  Fellow, Int’l Ass’n Astronomical Artists.  SF Hall of Fame.  Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 10, 14, 26; Boskone 10, Lunacon 34, Balticon 31, Loscon 27; Chicon IV (40th Wordcon), Torcon 3 (61st Worldcon; could not attend).  Eight artbooks e.g. A Separate StarAs He Sees It.  This famous image was adopted by the Judith Merril Collection in Toronto.  This famous image was adapted by the band Queen for its album News of the World.  Here is John Cross in Slan. (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born August 27, 1929 Ira Levin. Author of Rosemary’s BabyThe Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil. All of which became films with The Stepford Wives being made twice as well as having three of the television sequels. I’ve seen the first Stepford Wives film but not the latter version. Rosemary’s Baby would also be made into a two-part, four hour miniseries. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born August 27, 1942 – Robert Lichtman, 78.  Leading fanwriter, faneditor.  Fourteen FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) awards, as a correspondent and for his fanzine Trap Door.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Secretary-Treasurer of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n, our oldest and highest-regarded apa, founded 1937) since 1986.  Edited Ah! Sweet Laney! (F.T. Laney collection; named for FTL’s I’m-leaving-goodbye zine Ah! Sweet Idiocy!), Some of the Best from “Quandry” (Lee Hoffman collection; her zine Quandry so spelled), Fanorama (Walt Willis collection; his columns in Nebula); co-edited last issue of Terry Carr’s fanzine Innuendo.  Fan Guest of Honor, Westercon 55.  [JH]
  • Born August 27, 1945 Edward Bryant. His only novel was Phoenix Without Ashes which was co-authored with Harlan Ellison and was an adaptation of Ellison’s pilot script for The Starlost. The only short stories of his that I’m familiar with are the ones in the Wild Cards anthologies. Phoenix Without Ashes and all of his short stories are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born August 27, 1947 Barbara Bach, Lady Starkey, 73. She’s best known for her role as the Bond girl Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.  (A Roger Moore Bond, not one of my favored Bonds.) One of her other genre appearances is in Caveman which her husband Ringo Starr is also in. It’s where they first hooked up. (CE) 
  • Born August 27, 1952 – Darrell Schweitzer, 68.  Three novels; two hundred fifty shorter stories, as many poems; anthologist, bookseller, correspondent, editor, essayist, historian, interviewer, reviewer.  “Books” in Aboriginal, “The Vivisector” in SF Review, “Words & Pictures” (motion-picture reviews) in Thrust and Quantum.  Editor, Weird Tales 1987-2007 (sometimes with J. Betancourt 1963-  , G. Scithers 1929-2010).  If sandwich man were still a current expression one could pun that DS often serves dark and horror on wry.  A few essay titles: “Naked Realism versus the Magical Bunny Rabbit”, “Prithee, Sirrah, What Dostou Mean by Archaic Style in Fantasy?”, “Halfway Between Lucian of Samosata and Larry Niven”.  Two Best Short Fiction of DS volumes expected this year.  [JH]
  • Born August 27, 1955 – Steve Crisp, 65.  Two hundred twenty-five covers, a dozen interiors, for us; illustration, photography, outside our field.  Here is Best Fantasy Stories from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is The Worlds of Frank Herbert.  Here is a Fahrenheit 451.  Here is a Neuromancer.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 27, 1957 Richard Kadrey, 63. I’m admittedly way behind on the Sandman Slim series having only read the first five books. I also enjoyed Metrophage: A Romance of the Future and The Everything Box. I’ve got The Grand Dark on my interested in listening to list. (CE)
  • Born August 27, 1962 Dean Devlin, 58. His first produced screenplay was Universal Soldier. He was a writer/producer working on Emmerich’s Moon 44. Together they co-wrote and produced Stargate, the first movie to have a website.The team then produced Independence Day, the rather awful Godzilla rebootand Independence Day: Resurgence which so far I’ve avoided seeing. They’re also credited for creating The Visitor series which lasted just thirteen episodes, and The Triangle, a miniseries which I’ll bet you guess the premise of. (CE) 
  • Born August 27, 1965 – Kevin Standlee, 55.  Long active in San Francisco Bay Area fandom. Fan Guest of Honor at Baycon 1993, Marcon 43, CascadiaCon (8th NASFiC; North America SF Con, since 1975 held when Worldcon is overseas), Westercon 72 (with wife Lisa Hayes and her bear Kuma); co-chaired ConJosé (60th Worldcon; with T. Whitmore); chair of Westercon 74 (scheduled for 2022).  Has chaired World SF Society’s Hugo Awards Marketing Committee, Mark Protection Committee; has chaired Worldcon and other con Business Meetings, no small task, notably and heroically at Westercon 64, when no bid for Westercon 66 got enough votes and site selection fell to the Bus Mtg in a contentious 3-hr session.  Patient explainer of parliamentary procedure.  [JH]
  • Born August 27, 1970 – Ann Aguirre, 50.  Forty novels, a dozen shorter stories, some under other names, some with co-authors.  Honor Bound (with R. Caine) a Hal Clement Notable Young Adult Book for 2020.  Withdrew Like Never and Always from RITA Award consideration.  “Can you tell us a two-sentence horror story?”  “It’s just like the flu.  Don’t worry about taking precautions.”  [JH]
  • Born August 27, 1978 Suranne Jones, 42. Not a long genre performance history but she shows up on the Doctor Who spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures as Mona Lisa in “Mona Lisa”. Yes, that Mona Lisa. More importantly, she’s in “The Doctor’s Wife”, an Eleventh Doctor story as written by Neil Gaiman. She’s Idris, a woman hosting the Matrix of the TARDIS. She’s Eve Caleighs in The Secret of Crickley Hall series, an adaption of the James Herbert novel. (CE) 

(10) YOU ARE DEEP SIX. Camestros Felapton takes notes while “Timothy and I Watch Patriotic Submarines”.

  • Camestros: There is literally nothing I want to watch here…
    • Timothy: We could…
  • Camestros: No, no, we are not watching Cats again. Look, maybe it’s time to go outside?
    • Timothy: No way! It’s a hellscape out there! A seething dystopian nightmare! Woke mobs are cancelling cats for not wearing masks! It’s EU commissioners herding us inside our borders and stealing our holiday homes in the South of France and forcing us to use metric! It’s Attack on Titan but with giant buck naked Boris Johnsons eating people! There are SCOTTISH people about!

(11) PRESELLING LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. Variety delves into “How HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ Marketing Campaign Spotlighted the Blerd Community”.

…In late July and early August before the series aired, the network sent out stylized packages made up of “Lovecraft Country”-inspired items from Black-owned businesses, brands and creatives. The gift bag included a backpack from Life on Autopilot, sunglasses from Bôhten Eyewear, a “Sundon” candle by Bright Black, a Grubhub gift card for recipients to order from Black-owned restaurant; as well as the novels “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi, “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and “Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff (provided by Amalgram Comics & Coffeehouse).

For Gagne and her team, the creation of the kit was also about saluting “Lovecraft Country’s” creator Misha Green and the Black heroes of her story, so the package also included direct nods to the show with a “South Side Futuristic Science Fiction Club” sweatshirt from BLK MKT Vintage and a notebook which serves as a “field guide” to understanding the cultural context behind all of the items in the bag, as well as information on the businesses themselves.

With “influencer kits” and their focus on Black-owned businesses, Gagne says, “given everything that’s going on, I think that that’s something that people really embrace and honor and really want to support in a big way.”…

(12) READING TIMES. Amal El-Mohtar’s Otherworldly column for the New York Times deals with “Power and Passage: New Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

The discourse about reading fiction during the pandemic has followed two broad tracks: There are those who take comfort in the activity, and those who have found reading impossibly difficult. I belong to the latter camp, but I’m all the more excited to share the following books, which, while very different in genre and mode, shook me out of listless distraction with their originality.

DANCE ON SATURDAY (Small Beer Press, 318 pp., paper, $17) is Elwin Cotman’s third collection of short fiction. We tend to call fiction “short” when it’s not a novel, but the six stories in “Dance on Saturday” are long, deep and rich, each so thoroughly engrossing and distinctive in its style that I had to take long breaks between them…

Also praised:

THE SPACE BETWEEN WORLDS (Del Rey, 327 pp., $28) is Micaiah Johnson’s debut, but that word is utterly insufficient for the blazing, relentless power of this book, suggesting ballroom manners where it should conjure comet tails…

(13) THE HYDROGEN BOOM. “New Video Shows Largest Hydrogen Bomb Ever Exploded”  reports the New York Times.

Hydrogen bombs — the world’s deadliest weapons — have no theoretical size limit. The more fuel, the bigger the explosion. When the United States in 1952 detonated the world’s first, its destructive force was 700 times as great as that of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

And in the darkest days of the Cold War, the Soviets and the Americans didn’t only compete to build the most weapons. They each sought at times to build the biggest bomb of all.

“There was a megatonnage race — who was going to have a bigger bomb,” said Robert S. Norris, a historian of the atomic age. “And the Soviets won.”

Last week, the Russian nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, released a 30-minute, formerly secret documentary video about the world’s largest hydrogen bomb detonation. The explosive force of the device — nicknamed Tsar Bomba, or the Tsar’s bomb, and set off on Oct. 30, 1961 — was 50 megatons, or the equivalent of 50 million tons of conventional explosive. That made it 3,333 times as destructive as the weapon used on Hiroshima, Japan, and also far more powerful than the 15 megaton weapon set off by the United States in 1954 in its largest hydrogen bomb blast…

(14) THE EYES HAVE IT. Cora Buhlert shows off her handiwork.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Check out Klaatu on top of the Capital Records building (along with some other famous guy named Ringo)… From 1974.

[Thanks to David Doering, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title cedit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/20 All I Want Is A Scroll Somewhere, Filed Away From The Covid Air

(1) THE TOP OF THE WORLD. Rachel S. Cordasco is dedicating June to “Nordic SF in Translation” on her SF in Translation site and on FB and Twitter: “SFT From The Nordic Countries” . She’s looking for on-topic contributions, too.

Speculative fiction in English translation from the Nordic countries has been available as far back as the turn of the twentieth century. Since the beginning of the twenty-first, though, we’ve gotten a lot more, especially horror from Sweden and fantasy from Finland.

During the month of June, I’ll be spotlighting this little-known (in the Anglosphere) but important and often brilliant speculative fiction. Several stories listed here are available for free online.

(2) HONOURS. SFFANZ gets a head start on a royal story: “Elizabeth Knox & Taika Waititi – Queen’s Birthday honours”

Elizabeth Knox has been named a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in the Queen’s Birthday honours list announced today. We note that she describes her books as “literary non-realism”, but if you read them you will recognise science fiction and fantasy when you see it.

Taika Waititi picked up an ONZM in the same awards for services to film. He has been involved in many projects which fit in our genre description, although we note that the Stuff article about the awards fails to mention his role in the creation of what we here at SFFANZ news think is the best of them – Wellington Paranormal.

Stuff fills in Knox’s bibliography:

…The first book in the series, Dreamhunter, won the 2006 Esther Glen Award and the 2007 ALA Best Books for Young Adults award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and awarded a ‘White Raven’ by the International Youth Library in 2006.

Her most recent book, published in 2019, The Absolute Book, won the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.

(3) FELLOWSHIP REUNITED. Josh Gad has posted “One Zoom to Rule Them All | Reunited Apart LORD OF THE RINGS Edition.”

It’s the Return of the KINGS – Josh gathers the Fellowship and then some, to go on a very important mission…. quest…. thing.

FEATURING: Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellan, and many more!

(4) CHECKING IN. CoNZealand Fan Guest of Honour Rose Mitchell stays in touch —

(5) SOUTH GATE IN ’58. Fanac.org is adding folders of photos scanned from the collection of Elinor Busby, including today’s packet from the 1958 Worldcon. (Which, incidentally, was held at the Hotel Alexandria, whose marquee was in a helicopter view I saw of Friday night’s protests in downtown LA.)

Thanks to the scanning of Linda Deneroff, we’re putting up photos from Elinor Busby’s collection. Today, we’ve added the first 16 and these are from the 1958 Solacon, and parties thereafter. Find them at http://fanac.org/Fan_Photo_Album/b03-p00.html . There are more to come. Thanks to Linda for scanning and to Elinor for providing the photos. It’s a real treat to see these.

(6) BEST TRANSLATED BOOK. FYI, Dasa Drndic’s non-genre book EEG is the 2020 Best Translated Book Award Winner. There’s a review in The Guardian.

… The text includes long lists of suicidal chess players, war criminals and notable Latvian celebrities, from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Mark Rothko. There are also accounts of victims of the Nazis, from Ban’s uncle’s young love, a violinist, to Joseph Roth’s mentally ill wife, fatally institutionalised in the euthanasia clinic Schloss Hartheim, “the only killing centre in the second world war from which not a single person emerged alive”.

(7) CONTRACTUAL LANDMINES, At the Writer Beware blog, Victoria Strauss gives tips about “Evaluating Publishing Contracts: Six Ways You May Be Sabotaging Yourself”. Here’s an excerpt.

…These issues are as relevant now as they were years ago, if not more so (see, for instance, the ChiZine scandal, where authors accepted all kinds of abuse, including questionable contract language, because of the publisher’s then-stellar reputation). I hear all the time from writers who’ve been offered seriously problematic contracts and are using various rationalizations to convince themselves (sometimes at the publisher’s urging) that bad language or bad terms are not actually so bad, or are unlikely ever to apply.

Here are my suggestions for changing these damaging ways of thinking.

Don’t assume that every single word of your contract won’t apply to you at some point. You may think “Oh, that will never happen” (for instance, the publisher’s right to refuse to publish your manuscript if it thinks that changes in the market may reduce your sales, or its right to terminate the contract if it believes you’ve violated a non-disparagement clause). Or the publisher may tell you “We never actually do that” (for instance, edit at will without consulting you, or impose a termination fee). But if your contract says it can happen, it may well happen…and if it does happen, can you live with it? That’s the question you need to ask yourself when evaluating a contract….  

(8) CONTINUING A MOVEMENT. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “‘The Empire Strikes Back’ at 40: What the ‘Star Wars’ sequel’s iconic special effects owe to Ray Harryhausen”, interviews Dennis Muren, who handled many of the film’s special effects and discusses how Harryhausen’s stop-motion techniques made Empire stronger.

…Muren’s role also expanded with Empire, as he took point on directing the fleet of miniatures that play a major part of the film’s iconic opening set-piece on the ice planet, Hoth. With the advent of digital technology still many years away, Muren and his team brought the Rebel’s herd of tauntauns and the Empire’s squad of AT-AT walkers to life by hand. And through it all, he followed the example established by Harryhausen.

(9) BOOKSELLER OBIT. The New York Times’ series of tributes to people who died of coronavirus includes: “Steve Hann, Sidewalk Bookseller With a Brainy Following, Dies at 67”.

Even as scores of bookstores came and (mostly) went along the West Side of Manhattan in recent decades, Steve Hann endured.

He could be found through the dead of winter and the muggy heat of summer selling secondhand books on a sidewalk near Columbia University.

He drew a following from Columbia and NASA’s nearby Goddard Institute for Space Studies, with his fold-up tables proffering a well-curated array of mysteries, classics, art books and — his specialty — science fiction.

Mr. Hann began selling books and CDs in stores in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan starting at least in the early 1980s, before settling into his longtime spot on Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets.

To generations of Columbia students, he was part of the streetscape, as much a sidewalk fixture as the parking meter he leaned upon while almost invariably immersed in a sci-fi paperback.

But even when his head was in a galaxy far away, his tennis shoes were planted on New York streets, where life, he would remark, could often be stranger than anything dreamed up by Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov….

(10) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The name of the soft serve ice cream cart on the space force military base is named Meal Armstrong 

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 31, 1990 — Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall premiered. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. It’s rather loosely based on  Philip K. Dick‘s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” story. Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman Wrote the screenplay. It finished second at Chicon V for Best Dramatic Presentation to Edward Scissorhands.  Most critics liked it well-enough though a number of feminist critics thought it excessively violent towards women. It currently holds a 78% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 31, 1893 – Elizabeth Coatsworth.  Newbery Medal for The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930).  Four “incredible tales” for adults; four books of poetry; ninety in all; memoir Personal Geography.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1895 George R. Stewart. His 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. That was a British award and the first one was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1910 – Aubrey MacDermott.  Possibly the first fan.  He always said he was.  Unfortunately, the supporting evidence is thin.  He may well have founded the Eastbay Club in the San Francisco Bay area around 1928.  Anyway, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXXX (Oakland, 1987).  Here is his Origin Story as of 1990.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1921 – Arthur Sellings.  Six novels, fifty shorter stories, in FantasticGalaxyImaginationThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionNebulaNew WorldsNew WritingWorlds of Tomorrow; translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Russian.  Born in Kent, died in Sussex.  Antiquarian, book & art dealer.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1930 Gary Brandner. Best remembered for his werewolf trilogy, The Howling of which the first was very loosely made into a film. He wrote the script for Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf.  The fourth film of the Howling series, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, is actually almost an accurate adaptation of the first novel. He wrote a lot of other horror and penned the novelisation of Cat People. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1942 – Brian Burley.  Active fan in Ohio and New York.  In 1966, co-founder of Marcon.  In 1979 he was in FISTFA (Fannish Insurgent Scientifictional Ass’n); here he is (with S.H. Craig and Pat O’Neill) on “Fandom in New York” for the Lunacon XXII Program Book.  Co-founded (with John Boardman and Fred Lerner) the Beaker People Libation Front, which Fancyclopedia III mildly calls “not entirely serious”; see here.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1950 Gregory Harrison,70. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought It had. He was Logan 5 in Logan’s Run which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1961 Lea Thompson, 59. She’s obviously best-known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1968 John Connolly, 52. An Irish writer who is best known for his series of novels starring private detective Charlie Parker. According to ISFDB, these novels are well within the genre as some of the assigned tags are “zombies”, “alien invasion”, “supernatural thriller” and “dark fantasy”. So who has read these? (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1977 – Cat Hellisen.  Fantasy for adults and children; free-lance editing; also archery, aikidô, figure skating.  Here is a digital-art sketch of a chaffinch; here in ink are some vines and chrysalides.  First novel, When the Sea is Rising Red; four more; a dozen and a half shorter stories. “The Worme Bridge” won the Short Story Day Africa award.  More recently in Fife she likes the forests and the fields and the Forth.  [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1979Sophia McDougall, 41. She has a very well-crafted alternative history series, the Romanitas series, in which Rome didn’t fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novel — Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds of a Heinlein YA novel. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1995 – Jeremy Szal.  Two dozen short stories electronically and on paper, e.g. at Tor.comand in Nature.  Fiction editor at StarShipSofa 2014-2020 (Episodes 360-600).  First novel Stormblood scheduled for release in early June.  See his review of Predestination at Strange Horizons here.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GUESS WHO? Scott Edelman invites Filers who haven’t already seen this in his Twitter and Facebook feeds to identify the swordsman:

(15) TAKE A RIDE ON THE READING. Amal El-Mohtar’s “Otherworldly” column in the New York Times advises: “Visit These Science-Fiction Worlds to Make Sense of Our Own”.

…I experienced Tochi Onyebuchi’s RIOT BABY (Tor.com, 176 pp., $19.99) as one tightly held breath. Moving from South Central Los Angeles to Harlem to Rikers Island to a speculative near-future in short bursts of fierce feeling, “Riot Baby,” Onyebuchi’s first novel for adults, is as much the story of Ella and her brother, Kevin, as it is the story of black pain in America, of the extent and lineage of police brutality, racism and injustice in this country, written in prose as searing and precise as hot diamonds.

Ella has a “Thing,” a power that manifests variably as telepathy, precognition, telekinesis, but isn’t ever described in those terms; she experiences it as overwhelming grief and anger, as explosion and aftermath, and struggles with controlling and deploying it over the course of the book. Kevin, born in 1992 during the Los Angeles riots, grows up in Harlem in the shadow of Ella’s furious, repressed power — but when Ella vanishes after watching reports of the murder of Sean Bell on television, she takes her limited protection of him with her. Kevin’s adolescence consists of being harassed by the police and consistently steered away from education and prospects, before getting arrested on an attempted armed robbery charge and imprisoned on Rikers….

(16) ABOUT LOVE. Brain Picking’s Maria Popova discusses Edward Gorey’s illustrated 1969 poem about the secret of true love: “The Osbick Bird: Edward Gorey’s Tender and Surprising Vintage Illustrated Allegory About the Meaning of True Love”

…. For great love, as the Nobel-winning Polish poet Wis?awa Szymborska observed in her splendid meditation on its mystery, is “never justified” but is rather “like the little tree that springs up in some inexplicable fashion on the side of a cliff: where are its roots, what does it feed on, what miracle produces those green leaves?”

That improbable and inexplicable miracle is what Edward Gorey (February 22, 1925–April 15, 2000) celebrates with his signature faux-terse tenderness and soulful oddness in the vintage gem The Osbick Bird (public library).

(17) THE FULL LID. Aldasair Stuart tells what to expect in the new issue: “The Full Lid 29th May 2020”

This week in The Full Lid, Streets of Rage 4 teaches me how to crystallize my love for a good action scene. Louie Stowell’s wonderful The Dragon in the Library is a big-hearted and witty MG fantasy that has a lot for parents too while Doctor Who audio specialists Big Finish head into new SFnal territory with The Human Frontier. We’ve also got a look at some of the best indie tabletop RPGs on the market and a massive Signal Boost section, including several Hugo finalists and their voter packet material. If you’re a finalist and you have your material hosted online already, please get in touch and I’d be happy to link to that too.

The Full Lid is published every Friday at 5pm BST. You can sign up, and find an archive of the last six months of issues, here.

(18) HELLO, MR. CHIPS. It might not be the cuisine I expect to read about at Food and Wine, but news is where you find it — “Necco Wafers Are Officially Back”.

…Back in 2018, Necco—one of America’s oldest candy companies—went out of business, leaving a number of well-known but polarizing products in limbo, including Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, Clark Bars, Mary Janes, and the eponymous Necco Wafers. Nearly all of these brands have been snapped up by someone. For instance, Sweethearts are a Valentine’s Day classic, so Ohio’s Spangler Candy Company has been pushing to get them back into production. The Clark Bar has its roots in Pittsburgh, so Pennsylvania’s Boyer Candy Company decided to bring the bar home. Heck, even Mary Jane—those peanut butter chews that made it easy to decide which houses to T.P. on Halloween—found a new producer, according to CandyIndustry.com.

But what about Necco Wafers? The flavored discs are historically significant, first produced over 150 years ago in 1847, but they are also often unfavorably compared to chalk. Plus, with Necco unable to keep the lights on, was the writing on the wall for the company’s signature wafers?

(19) EXPANDING HORIZONS. NPR’S Samantha Balaban says “This Bedtime Book Helps Kids Find Their Place In The ‘Universe'”.

Imagining your place in the universe can make you feel pretty small and insignificant, and in the midst of a global pandemic? Well, even more so.

“I think this moment that we are living through reminds us how fragile our species is, living on this small rock in the vastness of the cosmos,” says astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana. But he doesn’t think that the universe should necessarily make you feel alone. It’s inspiring, he says, to remember the “intimate and enduring connections that we have with the rest of the cosmos.”

Jayawardhana, a professor at Cornell University, has written a bedtime story called Child of the Universe which helps parents talk with their children about some of those connections.

“The universe conspired to make you …” a dad tells his daughter as they look up at a full moon. “The iron in your blood, the calcium in your bones, are made up of stars that lived long ago.”

Jayawardhana drew from memories of looking up at the night sky with his father, when he was a child growing up in Sri Lanka. “I remember being awed by constellations of twinkling stars and bright planets like Venus and Jupiter in particular” Jayawardhana says. “One night, my father told me that people had been to the moon. I was just amazed. Suddenly, that bright light up above became a place that one could visit. At that moment, my sense of what’s possible expanded dramatically.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Memories from the National Book Festival Blog: “Best of the National Book Festival: John Scalzi, 2019”.

Enormously successful science fiction writer John Scalzi of the Old Man’s War series came to the Genre Fiction stage of the 2019 Library of Congress National Book Festival to discuss “The Consuming Fire,” book 2 of the Interdependency series. Phoebe Connelly, deputy director of video at The Washington Post, introduces Scalzi, who begins at 1:15 by telling the audience that his friend Joe is in the audience. “I actually killed him not once but twice in my books.” Q&A begins at 26:45.

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

2019 BSFA Awards

The British Science Fiction Association presented the 2019 BSFA Awards in a video ceremony on YouTube today.

The results ordinarily would have been announced at the 2020 Eastercon, Concentric, in April, but the convention was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The winners are:

Best Novel

  • Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children of Ruin (Tor)

Best Shorter Fiction

  • Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone – This is How You Lose the Time War (Jo Fletcher Books)

Best Non-Fiction

  • Farah Mendlesohn – The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein (Unbound)

Best Artwork

  • Chris Baker (Fangorn) – Cover for ‘Wourism and Other Stories’ by Ian Whates (Luna Press)

Pixel Scroll 2/29/20 Pixel, Dixel, File, My Scroll John, Did His Reading With His Sockses On, One Flew Off, One Stayed On, Does The Book Get A Hugo Nom?

(1) STÅLENHAG ARRIVES ON SMALL SCREEN. Amazon Prime dropped a trailer for Tales from the Loop.

Inspired by the wondrous paintings of Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.

(2) HUGO DEADLINE APPROACHING. CoNZealand sent members a reminder that the end of the Hugo nomination period is March 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (2:59 am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Irish time, and 8:59 pm March 14, 2020 New Zealand time.)

(3) IRISH COMICS AWARDS. The “Irish Comic News Awards Winners 2019” are out. Unfortunately Dublin 2019, nominated for Best Irish Comic-Related Event, did not win.  

BEST ARTIST (SMALL PRESS)

  • Kevin Keane (Nazferatu)

BEST WRITER (SMALL PRESS)

  • Wayne Talbot (Nazferatu)

BEST IRISH ARTIST (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Will Sliney (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge)

BEST IRISH WRITER (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Michael Carroll (2000AD)

BEST COLOURIST (SMALL PRESS)

  • Rebecca Reynolds (Plexus)

BEST COLOURIST (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Ellie Wright

BEST LETTERER

  • John Cullen (NHOJ)

BEST WEBCOMIC

  • Twisted Doodles

BEST IRISH CREATOR COMIC (SMALL PRESS)

  • Nazferatu

BEST IRISH CREATOR COMIC (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • 2000AD

BEST NEWCOMER / BREAKTHROUGH 

  • Cian Tormey

BEST IRISH COMIC RELATED EVENT

  • Enniskillen Comic Fest

BEST IRISH COMIC SHOP

  • Comic Book Guys

BEST IRISH ANTHOLOGY

  • Sector 13

OVERALL BEST IRISH COMIC

  • Nazferatu

BEST IRISH COMIC COVER

  • Nazferatu (Kevin Keane)

BEST PUBLISHER

  • Rogue Comics Ireland

BEST COMIC RELATED/FEATURED ONLINE CONTENT

  • Dublin City Comics Weekly Update

BEST IRISH WRITER (NON-FICTION)

  • Michael Carroll (Rusty Staples)

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The latest free read in the Future Tense series is Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm” a short story about humanity’s first encounter with a very disturbing alien.

And, as always, there’s a response essay – this time by Sarah Scoles, author of “Why Would the Government Lie About Aliens?”.

If you think the government has more information about UFOs than it’s letting on, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. A 2019 Gallup poll revealed 68 percent of people feel that way. Thirty-three percent of all respondents said that they believe UFOs were built by aliens from outer space.

The Venn diagram center of those two groups clings to one of the most enduring conspiracy theories: The Government (it’s always with a capital G for believers) is squirreling away information about alien spacecraft. This idea appears, and has for years, on internet forums, social media, TV shows, memes, movies, and, of course, fiction, like Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm.”

(5) FLAT PACK. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar tells us that “‘Finna’ Warns: Beware Of The Fuzzy Chairs”.

There isn’t a word wasted in Nino Cipri’s Finna. For a book about travelling through nightmarish labyrinths that cut and twist between worlds, it’s remarkably straightforward.

Ava works at LitenVärld, an IKEA-like giant box store where “the showrooms sat together uneasily, like habitats at a hyper-condensed zoo.” Her day begins with relatively minor inconveniences — being forced to come in on her day off, worrying about having to work with Jules, her ex as of a week ago — but these escalate significantly when a young woman reports that her elderly grandmother’s gone missing. It turns out that something about the haphazardly organized chaos of LitenVärld makes it an especially likely place for wormholes to open up between dimensions — to the point where there are corporate instructions (on VHS) on what to do when that happens. But corporations being what they are, the in-house division for wormhole-patrol was cut a decade ago as a cost-saving measure, so it falls to the two most junior members of staff — barely able to speak to each other, the wound of their breakup still raw — to venture into the other worlds themselves and retrieve the lost grandmother.

I tore through this book in knuckle-biting delight. The contrast between the wacky extra-dimensional (and often terrifying) hijinks and LitenVärld’s soul-depleting mundanity is fresh and lovely, and you’re never quite able to forget the fact that person-eating chairs and blood-drinking Hive Mothers are more enjoyable to spend time with than the grinding misery of minimum-wage work in our late capitalist modernity. But the shenanigans are not the point; they function best as a sly, winking backdrop to the deeply moving character work.

(6) MORE UNSEEN KUDOS. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports on “‘The Invisible Man’: When Danger Is Present — And Clear”.

Of the Universal classic monsters — Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, et al. — The Invisible Man is by far the most destructive, the most psychotic, and, not coincidentally, the most recognizably human of them all. (As played by Claude Rains, he’s also the wittiest.) When a man doesn’t have to look at himself in the mirror, he divorces himself from the moral accountability that curbs his worst instincts. Arrogance and contempt are his defining character traits, and invisibility has the effect of weaponizing them, because his scientific genius has both isolated him from other people and heightened his superiority complex.

With his ingenious updating of The Invisible Man, writer-director Leigh Whannell changes perspective from the mad scientist to the terrified victim he’s stalking, which effectively turns the film into Gaslight with a horror twist. And with an actress of Elisabeth Moss’ caliber in the lead role, the film has a psychological realism that’s unusual for the genre, with Moss playing a woman who’s withstanding a form of domestic abuse that may have a supernatural component, but feels sickeningly familiar in many respects. Invisibility has the effect of elevating a person’s worst instincts, so it follows that the manipulation and torment she experiences is just a more extreme version of common behaviors.

…As Cecelia gets pushed to the brink of madness — as much by not be believed as being stalked — Whannell gives the suspense set pieces plenty of room to breathe and take on a paranoid flavor. Moss and the camera are co-conspirators in horror: She imagines Adrian watching her silently from some empty corner of a room and the camera seems to affirm her worst fears, suggesting a presence through odd angles and pans across the space. Where another actor might look foolish swatting and wrestling thin air, Moss sells it as part of the overall choreography between an immensely powerful, destructive husband and a wife struggling to leverage control over a desperate situation.

(7) MORE ABOUT DYSON. Freeman Dyson, who passed away yesterday, gave a TED Talk in 2003 which can be viewed here — “Let’s look for life in the outer solar system”.

Physicist Freeman Dyson suggests that we start looking for life on the moons of Jupiter and out past Neptune, in the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud. He talks about what such life would be like — and how we might find it.

And Axios Future Issue #2 carried this information about him:

Dyson never won a Nobel Prize for his work. He never even bothered to earn a PhD. 

Instead, he spent the rest of his career pursuing whatever caught his interest, migrating from atomic reactor design to nuclear bomb-powered space exploration to the mathematics of baseball

He achieved popular renown as a gifted scientific writer, publishing his final book in 2018 at the age of 95.

A dedicated contrarian, later in his career he came under fire for doubting the danger of human-made climate change.

The bottom line: Few scientists can be said to have played as important a role in the making of our present than Dyson — and even fewer could so brilliantly envision the future.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 29, 1952 Tales Of Tomorrow first aired “The Children’s Room”.  A secret Children’s Room at a college attracts the attention of intellectual advanced youths. A professor uncovers that his son and other children are mutants being groomed to assist an alien race in a distant part of the galaxy. It was written by Mel Goldberg by a story by Raymond F. Jones who you’ll know as the author of This Island Earth novel. It starred Claire Luce, Una O’Connor and John Boruff. You can see it here.
  • February 29, 2000— Episode three, “Crunchy Munchy” of The Strangerers would air. This SF comedy about two plant beings who assume human form on Earth to accomplish their mission. The series was by Rob Grant, the creator of Red Dwarf. It would last nine episodes and unsurprisingly ends on a cliffhanger as it was canceled. Jack Docherty and Mark Williams played Cadet Flynn and Cadet Niven. You can see this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 29, 1920 Arthur Franz. He played Dr. Stuart Kelston in the early Fifties Invaders from Mars. He was also Jim Barker in Flight to Mars, and, on a much lighter note, Tommy Nelson in Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man. He’ll have six appearances on Science Fiction Theater in six roles, play a hideous monster in Monster on the Campus, and have one-offs on The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, Land of The Giants, Mission: Impossible and The Six-Million Dollar Man. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 29, 1928 Joss Ackland, 92. A very long history of genre involvement starting with Ghost Ship, an early Fifties horror film. He’d soon after play Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and makes a stop on The Avengers. (I’m skipping over a lot of horror he did.) he’s Sapten in Royal Flash but I’ll bet you won’t consider that genre though Kage loved that scoundrel. He shows up in Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, and he he’s in a Jekyll and Hyde film in that time period as well. I think I’ll stop with him voicing Black Rabbit in the Watership Down film…
  • Born February 29, 1948 Patricia A. McKillip, 72. If I was to recommend a short list of essential readings of her, I’d start with The Riddle-Master trilogy which is absolutely amazing, toss in the Cygnet series, and add in the linked novels of Winter Rose and Solstice. (The latter has the most cool stitching circle you’ll ever encounter.)  For her tasty short stories, there’s Harrowing the Dragon, Wonders of the Invisible World and Dreams of Distant Shores.
  • Born February 29, 1948 Yanti Somer, 72. Finnish-born actress who appeared in a spate of French and Italian genre films in the late Seventies: Star Odyssey, Battle of the Stars, War of the Robots and Cosmos: War of the Planets. She retired from acting in the early Eighties. 
  • Born February 29, 1952 Tim Powers, 68. He’s won the World Fantasy Award twice for Last Call and Declare, the latter of which I think is awesome. I’m also fond of The Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides.
  • Born February 29, 1952 Albert Welling, 68. He played Adolph Hitler in the Eleventh Doctor story, “ Let’s Kill Hitler”. It’s one of the stranger stories they told for that Doctor. He had one-offs on Tales of The Unexpected and Outlander.
  • Born February 29, 1984 Rakhee Thakrar, 36. She also plays the Eighth Doctor’s companion, Bliss, in Big Finish’s Doctor Who: The Time War audio dramas. Have I ever noted that what I admire about the Whoverse is how expansive the the definition of accepted storytelling is? Big Finish has done hundreds of hours of new stories, all adding to the original mythos. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JOHN SCHOENHERR MASTERPIECE. One of the most iconic magazine covers in sff history is on the new – in 1965 – issue of Analog. Tweeted by Galactic Journey:

(12) CONTINUOUS UPROAR. “Telescopes detect ‘biggest explosion since Big Bang'” reports the BBC.

Scientists have detected evidence of a colossal explosion in space – five times bigger than anything observed before.

The huge release of energy is thought to have emanated from a supermassive black hole some 390 million light years from Earth.

The eruption is said to have left a giant dent in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster.

Researchers reported their findings in The Astrophysical Journal.

“I’ve tried to put this explosion into human terms and it’s really, really difficult,” co-author Melanie Johnston-Hollitt told BBC News.

“The best I can do is tell you that if this explosion continued to occur over the 240 million years of the outburst – which it probably didn’t, but anyway – it’d be like setting off 20 billion, billion megaton TNT explosions every thousandth of a second for the entire 240 million years. So that’s incomprehensibly big. Huge.”

(13) THEY’RE BACK. But under wraps ‘til the official unveiling next month: “Rocky And Bullwinkle Statue Returns To Its Home On The Sunset Strip”.

The WEHO TIMES reported the statute’s return today, capturing its image in a brief moment during installation before it was covered. An official unveiling is planned for the end of March, but no date has been set.

The spinning statue depicts Bullwinkle holding his friend Rocky. It stands on the corner where Sunset Boulevard splits into Holloway Drive. The statue was removed in 2013 for restoration work.

Today, a giant crane placed the 14-foot, 700-pound statue on its pedestal. The statue dates to 1961, but the original creator is not known. The statue was restored by Ric Scozzari with funding by Twentieth Century Fox and Dreamworks, and donated by the Jay Ward family for the City of West Hollywood’s Urban Art Collection. It was last seen at the Paley Center’s Jay Ward Legacy Exhibit in 2014.

(14) DEEP BLUE NOISE. BBC looks into the possibility of “Protecting whales from the noise people make in the ocean”.

There is a rising din in the oceans – and whales are having to struggle to compete with it.

“They’re spending more time or energy trying to communicate… by essentially screaming at each other – what we would have to do at a nightclub,” explains says Mark Jessopp at University College Cork.

Dr Jessopp was recently involved in a research project to study the effects of marine seismic surveys on animals such as whales and dolphins.

He and his colleagues found a “huge decrease” in sightings of such species when the work was going on, even when accounting for other factors such as weather.

Seismic surveys are carried out by a range of organisations, including oil and gas companies, as a means of mapping what lies beneath the seafloor.

Shockwaves fired from an air gun – like a very powerful speaker – are blasted down towards the seabed. The waves bounce off features below and are detected again at the surface. The signal that returns reveals whether there is, for instance, oil locked in the rock beneath.

The process creates a tremendous racket. “It’s like an explosion,” says Lindy Weilgart at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. She says that there is now plenty of evidence to show that many marine animals are negatively affected by the clamour.

…And yet a technology exists that could be far less harmful. It is called marine vibroseis and is a low-energy alternative to air guns. Instead of explosive blasts, vibroseis uses smaller vibrations to transmit waves down to the seabed. It actually emits a similar amount of energy overall but spreads it over a longer period, meaning the survey has a less “shocking” impact.

(15) BY THE NUMBERS. “Google asked to justify Toronto ‘digital-city’ plan” – maybe it’s not just the cats that need to be wary of this much curiosity.

The “appropriateness” of Google’s sister company’s plan for a “digital city” in Toronto has been questioned.

A panel set up to scrutinise Sidewalk Labs’s plan has asked it to explain what the benefits would be for citizens in collecting large amounts of data.

The company wants to build a sensor-laden, eco-friendly neighbourhood with all the latest technology innovations.

But it has faced opposition locally. A final decision on whether it can proceed is due next month.

Public asset

Sidewalk Labs’s plans for a “city… built from the internet up” include sensors to monitor traffic, noise, weather, energy use and even rubbish collection.

But now, the Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy advisory panel has questioned the “appropriateness and necessity” of some of its innovations and asked whether “sufficient benefits had been identified to justify the proposed collection or use of data”.

(16) THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE. “Coronavirus: Amazon removes overpriced goods and fake cures”.

Amazon has banned more than one million products which claim to protect against the coronavirus – or even cure it.

The online retailer told Reuters it had also removed “tens of thousands” of overpriced health products from unscrupulous sellers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern about some misleading Amazon listings earlier this month, including fake treatments.

The virus, which causes Covid-19, has killed about 2,800 people worldwide.

The WHO said fake coronavirus claims online were causing mass confusion, and urged tech giants to combat the spread of misinformation.

A search for “coronavirus” on Amazon brought up results for face masks, disinfectant wipes and newly-published books on viral infections, revealing how some sellers are cashing in on the health crisis.

It also offered results for vitamin C boosters – a fake cure for the virus that has been widely disseminated online.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Charles M. Schulz Interview on Peanuts (1997)” on YouTube is an interview Charles  Schulz did on The Charlie Rose Show.

[Thanks to Christian Brunschen, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Tolan, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew. Will this be the first time the title is longer than the Scroll?]

2019 Novellapalooza

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

By JJ:

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

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

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

The result of these reading sprees were

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 10/28/19 I Robot
— R U Robot?

(1) JUST LET ME GO NATURALLY. Naomi Booth gives an overview of eco-horror in her essay “For Some Horror Writers, Nothing Is Scarier Than a Changing Planet” in the New York Times.

“Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world?” asked the novelist Amitav Ghosh, writing in The Guardian in 2016. “Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration?”

…Yet the idea of a world in crisis is fundamental to horror, a genre historically devalued by the gatekeepers of high culture as, well, outlandish and unserious. Horror has always sought to amplify fear. It works against false comfort, complacency and euphemism, against attempts to repress or sanitize that which disturbs us. Inevitably, the climate crisis has given rise to a burgeoning horror subgenre: eco-horror. Eco-horror reworks horror in order to portray the damage done to the world by people, and the ways the world might damage or even destroy us in turn. In eco-horror, the “natural” world is both under threat and threatening.

The best-known work of eco-horror might be Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy (2014), about a beautiful and deadly exclusion zone known as Area X. The first book, “Annihilation,” which was made into a Hollywood film last year, is narrated by a biologist on a mission to explore the area. She records her initial impressions of the abandoned landscape, including a “low, powerful moaning” audible at dusk. Her team discovers a structure in the earth, an inverted tower. The biologist is lowered into it. There is a smell like rotting honey. The walls are covered with words, the writing system of some kind of fruiting body. She hears a heartbeat. The structure turns out to be a living organism, a “horror show of … beauty and biodiversity.” The biologist leans in close and is sprayed with golden spores — infected….

(2) A LOT OF GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS. The Hugo Book Club, an unofficial blog about its namesake, has tweeted a long, thoughtful thread about the Best Fan Writer Hugo category, probing how meaningful it is — or isn’t — that any given fan has previously heard of all the finalists. Thread starts here.

(3) IT’S MONEY THEY HAVE. Got $30,000? Then you could make the required minimum bid on this “Apollo 11 Flown and Crew-Signed Beta Cloth Mission Insignia Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, Signed and Certified”, a lot coming up in Heritage Auctions’ Armstrong Family Collection IV sale November 14-16.

(4) PUBLISHING NEWS. This year’s Hugo-winning Best Editor – Long Form, Navah Wolfe, is surprisingly available after a shakeup at Saga Press.

(5) GOVERNMENT FIGURE KNOWS GENRE. France’s new EU Commissioner is a science fiction fan and author according to Politico’s summary “4 things to know about Thierry Breton”.

He’s into sci-fi

Back in 1984, Breton co-wrote a science fiction novel called “Softwar” based around the National Software Agency (which in no way resembles the U.S. National Security Agency). Billed as a “technology thriller,” the novel’s plot is centered on an American cyberattack on Soviet computers. “At the time no one was speaking about viruses, the word didn’t exist,” Breton said, according to Liberation.

However, his co-author Denis Beneich later claimed Breton “never wrote a word of this novel” although “he had the idea for it.”

Breton, whose Commission portfolio would include the space industry, wrote two other novels in the mid to late 1980s — “Vatican III” and “Netwar” (all three of his books are worth checking out, if only for the cover art).

His love of sci-fi doesn’t stop with books, however. Breton also helped come up with the idea for a high-tech theme park called “Futuroscope” in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, just north of Poitiers in western France. Its tag-line is “Expect the unexpected,” which sounds like good advice ahead of a hearing before the European Parliament.

(6) MILFORD. The New York Times reintroduces people to Milford, PA’s publishing and film history in “A Cabin With a Literary Pedigree”.

Charlie Chaplin slept here. So did Sarah Bernhardt, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Franz Liszt, Warren Harding, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Wolfe, Cloris Leachman and Arlene Dahl. Likewise, D.W. Griffith, who, in 1912, shot two movies — “A Feud in the Kentucky Hills” and “The Informer” — in this dot of a town in the foothills of the Poconos.

Josh Sapan has slept here too — as often as his schedule permits. But 33 years ago, when Mr. Sapan learned of Milford’s many charms from a friend, he knew nothing about the town’s past. Still, he was sufficiently captivated to buy a waterfront cabin.

It was enough that he could look out his windows after dark and see no illumination but the moon, enough that the Delaware rolled along mere steps from his door. “I just love houses on rivers and I really love this house,” said Mr. Sapan, 67, the president and chief executive of AMC Networks, a Manhattan-based company that owns and operates cable channels including AMC, BBC America and SundanceTV. “I don’t know what it is. I find it quite magical, if that’s the right word.”

Mr. Sapan had yet to learn that the novelist Stephen Crane had camped out for a summer in Milford with friends, and published a satirical newspaper during his stay, that Milford was the birthplace of the conservation movement, and that in the 1950s and 1960s, it was the red hot center of the science fiction writers’ universe, even figuring in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” because several big names in the genre, notably the literary agent Virginia Kidd, had settled in town….

Andrew Porter left a comment there filling in more of the “big names” only alluded to in the article:

Milford is associated with many science fiction writers. Authors Damon Knight, James Blish and Judy Merrill also lived there. It was the setting for the annual Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference for many years, starting in the 1950s, which spun off other “Milford” conferences, most notably in the UK and Seattle, as well as the “New Wave” in SF in the mid-1960s. Also in Milford, the foundations were laid for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an active organization which presents the annual Nebula Awards. For more information about how Milford looms so large in the science fictional universe, see the Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milford_Writer’s_Workshop

(7) EVANS OBIT. “Robert Evans, colorful Paramount boss behind Rosemary’s Baby, dies at 89” reports SYFY Wire.

…Given the reins of Paramount Pictures with little experience in 1966 thanks to a friendship with corporate owner Gulf & Western’s Charles Bluhdorn, Evans turned the company around thanks to a string of critical darlings that would eventually become classics. During his tenure as production VP, he oversaw genre fare like Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Moving on from leading the studio, Evans personally produced movies like the adaptation of William Goldman’s Marathon Man (starring Dustin Hoffman), Popeye (with Robin Williams), and early comic book film The Phantom. Some hit higher highs than others, but Evans was a constant presence in the industry.

(8) BRETT OBIT. “Robin Brett, NASA scientist who studied ‘moon rocks,’ dies at 84” – the Washington Post has the story.

Robin Brett, a NASA scientist who 50 years ago was among the first to study and direct research on lunar samples — popularly known as ‘‘moon rocks’’ — from the Apollo space missions, died Sept. 27 at his home in Washington. He was 84.

The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Jill Brett.

From 1969 to 1974, Dr. Brett was chief of the geochemistry branch at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. In July 1969, he was among a select four scientists present for the opening of a sealed box containing the first moon rocks from the initial Apollo lunar mission.

…When the lunar samples were first brought to Earth, they were kept for a period in a quarantined and sterile environment, lest they contain or exude a noxious substance that might be harmful in earth’s atmosphere.

Dr. Brett doubted the necessity of this precaution, which he demonstrated, he said, by becoming the first man on Earth to lick a moon rock.

What did it taste like?

‘‘A dirty potato,’’ he answered.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

[Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Zombieland: Double Tap, which delivers if you want a pretty gory zombie movie with many good jokes.  Early in the film the four main characters are hiding out in the ruins of the White House.  They exchange Christmas presents even though it’s November 17 because they don’t have anything else to do.  Emma Stone gives Jesse Eisenberg a copy of the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.  (We don’t know why the White House has first editions of Tolkien.

“Why thank you,” Eisenberg says, “and look, you’ve ruined the book by scribbling on the first page.”

Of course, it isn’t really a Tolkien book but they did fake the original cover…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 28, 1951 — The Out There series premiered. It was one of the first SF anthology series. It lasted a mere twelve episodes. Some of the SF writers it adapted were Heinlein, Sturgeon, Bradbury,  Bissell and Long. Heinlein in particular was a favorite source for them. 
  • October 28, 1994 Stargate premiered. Starring Kurt Russell and James Spader, critics intensely hated it, and it rated 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. It of course spawned Stargate SG-1 series franchise.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Ray Bradbury originally wrote “Merry Christmas 2116” to be performed by Lanchester and her husband Charles Laughton. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 William H. Patterson, Jr. Author of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, a two-volume look at Heinlein which arguably is the best biography ever done on him. He also did The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This Tribute to Bill Patterson by Mike with comments by Filers is touching indeed. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 68. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep is a American comedy horror film starting Bruce Campbell is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and  Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1952 Annie Potts, 67. Janine Melnitz in the still-best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She is listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters 2020 which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 61. Writer of four novels in a decade twenty years ago including Virtual Girl which won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1958 Kristin Landon. Though she was working on a fourth novel in the series at the time of her death, the published novels will comprise the Hidden Worlds trilogy: The Hidden Worlds, The Cold Minds, and The Dark Reaches. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 28, 1962 Daphne Zuniga, 57. Her very first was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labelled a Video Nasty in the UK.  You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare Classics, Batman BeyondHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 52. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think…
  • Born October 28, 1974 Joaquin Phoenix, 45. Currently The Joker. He hasn’t done much genre acting setting aside being Max in SpaceCamp when he was twelve, and being Billy Hercules in the “Little Hercules” episode of Superboy. Well he did a Shyamalan film but I refuse to consider them genre. 
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 37. The Eleventh Doctor, also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. Nor likely will. He’s also Jim in The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.

(12) EL-MOHTAR REVIEWS. Amal El-Mohtar, in a book review column for the NYT, “Dark Books for Dark Times”, opines about His Hideous Heart, a collection edited by Dahlia Adler, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga, and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

… Conceptually “The Future of Another Timeline” is breathtakingly brilliant, and part of a constellation of time-travel stories this year that wed present-day activism to a willingness to change the past. But as I read, I found myself far more affected by the smaller, fiercer story of Tess and Beth’s early years — the story of feral friendships formed in extreme circumstances, of surviving abuse and finding the power to seek revenge or walk away from it. Everything about that story clutched at my heart, while the broader time-travel stakes and narrative diminished in effect; I became less concerned with the overarching conceit than with the story of these young women arguing over what love and honesty demand. But time travel creates the space for that story to happen — and Newitz’s book is, more than anything else, about the importance of fighting for such spaces. In that, it’s entirely successful.

(13) POWER OFF. Californian Abraham Lustgarten addressed the New York Times about the state’s power shutdowns: “Letter of Recommendation: Mandatory Blackouts” .

…The blackouts solved nothing, of course. De-energizing the electrical grid is a bludgeon: imprecise, with enormous potential for collateral damage as people deal with a darkened world. It doesn’t even eliminate fire risk. What it largely does is shift responsibility away from Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility company, whose faulty transmission lines had been found to have caused some of the most destructive wildfires on record.

In fact, cutting power can exacerbate some fire risks. In a blackout, more people rely on home generators, many of which have been installed without permits and might be no less faulty than the utility’s own equipment. Detours and gridlock force more cars into vulnerable places. (Sparks off roadways are another top cause of wildfire.) The blackout makes it harder for the public to respond to fire emergencies even as it does little to prevent all the other factors that cause them — from careless barbecues to tossed-out cigarette butts to plain old arson. One of the state’s most serious fires so far this year was ignited by burning garbage.

But a mandatory blackout does have one radically positive effect. By suddenly withdrawing electrical power — the invisible lifeblood of our unsustainable economic order — PG&E has made the apocalyptic future of the climate crisis immediate and visceral for some of the nation’s most comfortable people. It is easy to ignore climate change in the bosom of the developed world. But you can’t fail to notice when the lights go out.

…In the American West, our climate will only get hotter and drier, our wildfires worse. Every year more places are going to burn, and we will, repeatedly, be horrified by the losses. But we should not be shocked by them. The blackouts have laid bare the uncomfortable fact that the infrastructure we’ve built and maintained over the course of many decades isn’t matched to the threats we face in our rapidly unfolding climate emergency….

(14) THAT HAWAIIAN BURGER JOINT. Eater: Los Angeles says this non-genre yet irresistible film reference will come to life on October 30 and 31 (only): “Big Kahuna Burger From ‘Pulp Fiction’ Pops Up in Hollywood Next Week”

Fat Sal’s, the overstuffed sandwich makers in Hollywood, have gotten into the mix before, and now for Halloween the group is transforming its corner address off Highland into a Big Kahuna Burger from the movie Pulp Fiction.

Much like in years past, Fat Sal’s plans to its dining area to fit the new temporary theme. Expect a grassy Hawaiian-tinged awning and overt nods to the 1994 film everywhere, including slogans (“Now that is a tasty burger” or “That’s that Hawaiian burger joint”) and an image of Jules Winnfield, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Tarantino flick. A separate area will be turned into the pawn shop from the film as well, and diners will be able to check out merchandise in that space…

Fat Sal’s Hollywood. 1300 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles.

(15) ANOTHER TRIUMPH. BBC finds thumbs up all over: “Seven Worlds, One Planet: ‘Gorgeous’ nature series gets five-star reviews”.

Sir David Attenborough’s latest nature series has received five-star reviews from critics, one of whom says it may be the BBC’s “best wildlife show ever”.

Seven Worlds, One Planet, the Mail’s Christopher Stevens says, is “visually magnificent” and has photography that is “almost abstract in its beauty”.

The show, says the Telegraph’s Michael Hogan, is “another landmark series” from “the indefatigable Sir David”.

(16) IPO. “Virgin Galactic: Branson’s space firm set for stock market launch”.

Virgin Galactic, the space venture backed by Sir Richard Branson, is ready to launch – not into space but on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Shares in Virgin Galactic are set to start trading on Monday, a first for a space tourism company.

The move follows Virgin’s merger with publicly-listed Silicon Valley holding firm Social Capital Hedosophia.

That deal brought $800m (£624m) to Virgin as it rushes to meet its goal of sending customers to space in 2020.

Taking the firm public will “open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts,” Sir Richard said at the time.

…The company, founded in 2004, has spent more than $1bn developing its programme, which is years behind schedule and took a hit after a fatal accident in 2014.

However, Virgin has told investors it hopes to make 16 trips to space with customers as soon as next year.

In a presentation, it predicts that revenue will skyrocket as the number of flights increases.

In 2023, the expects to make 270 trips to space, bringing in nearly $600m and generating profit of more than $430m.

About 600 people, including pop star Justin Bieber, have already put down deposits for the 90-minute experience at a price of about $250,000 per ticket, according to the company.

(17) AROUND THE WORLD IN A LOT OF DAYS. NPR takes note when “Secret Air Force Space Plane Lands After More Than 2 Years In Orbit”.

After a record-breaking 780 days circling the Earth, the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B unmanned space plane dropped out of orbit and landed safely on the same runway that the space shuttle once used.

It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company’s Phantom Works.

“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing,” Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our team has been preparing for this event, and I am extremely proud to see their hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”

As in previous missions, many of the details about the vehicle’s activities in the past two years are being kept under wraps. One experiment was to “test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment,” according to the Air Force statement.

Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the latest X-37B mission “successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”

“The statement that this @usairforce X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming, since the US has not reported those deployments in its UN Registration Convention submissions,” McDowell tweeted. “This would be the first time that either the USA or Russia has blatantly flouted the Convention.”

[Thanks to Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/13/19 One Pixel, One File and One Scroll, Well, My Fandom, She Gone, She Gone Tonight

(1) A CLASSIC. Deadline reports Clifford D. Simak’s novel Way Station, a 1964 Hugo winner, will be developed for Netflix: “Matt Reeves’ 6th & Idaho To Turn Sci-Fi Tale ‘Way Station’ Into Netflix Movie”. In years gone by this was my #1 favorite sf book!

Here’s the logline on Way Station: For more than 100 years Enoch Wallace has been the keeper of a Way Station on Earth for intergalactic alien travelers as they teleport across the universe. But the gifts of knowledge and immortality that his intergalactic guests have bestowed upon him are proving to be a nightmarish burden, for they have opened Enoch’s eyes to humanity’s impending destruction. Still, one final hope remains for the human race.

(2) GRRM WILL CO-AUTHOR GOT TV PREQUEL. “‘Game of Thrones’: Second Prequel in the Works at HBO”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

A second Game of Thrones prequel is in the works at HBO.

Sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter that the premium cable network is near a deal for a pilot order for a prequel set 300 years before the events of the flagship series that tracks the beginnings and the end of House Targaryen. Ryan Condal (Colony) and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin will pen the script for the drama, which is based on Martin’s book Fire & Blood.

(3) COPING WITH CHANGE. M.L. Clark provides a deeply thoughtful analysis of the conversation about award names in “Letting Go of Our “Heroes”: Ongoing Humanist Training and the (Ex-)James Tiptree, Jr. Award” at Another White Atheist in Colombia.

…I asked myself three questions, then, to challenge my knee-jerk defense of the status quo–and I’d encourage you to employ similar the next time a group decision focussed on harm-reduction finds you, initially, “on” or “on the other side of” the fence.

1. To whom are you listening in this debate?

In the wake of my defensiveness, I had to make a concerted effort to read counterpoints to my perspective. Lots of them. And as I did, I took note of the times when I felt the greatest urgency to seek out both-sides-ism, to return to the security of others whose initial reactions were the same as mine: folks reluctant to change the name of this award, to own up to the pain Sheldon’s story has left in the hearts of many living human beings.

Critically, too, I didn’t then seek out those arguments when I wanted to–because what need did I have of them? They’d be sheer preaching to the choir, like the reading of apologetics for some Christians when faced with doubts. But I did note the contexts in which I most wanted to dive for shelter… and those contexts? They were usually when someone said something that challenged me to reason from empathy, to recognize the humanity of other people marginalized by Sheldon’s prominence at potential cost to the value of her disabled husband’s life. At those points most of all, I felt the urge to hide behind the presumption of neutrality, in superficial phrasing like, Well, no one can say for sure what happened that night! 

Which, sure, is true… but then why was I still automatically favouring one interpretation–the more convenient interpretation–over another that people were actively telling me did harm to their sense of full and safe inclusion in SF?

(4) EX-MEN. Cian Maher helps Polygon readers remember “That time the X-Men’s humanity was put on trial in a real court of law”. Because the Toy Biz company could get a lower tariff rate if the figurines were deemed nonhuman.

…Toy Biz’s motion acknowledged that the X-Men “manifest human characteristics at varying degrees,” but argued that most are more of a mixed bag of human and non-human aspects. For example, the document specifically calls out Wolverine (rude!) for having “long, sharplooking [sic] claws grafted onto his hands that come out from under his skin along with wolf-like hair and ears.”

Don’t body-shame Wolverine! He tries very hard!

Judge Barzilay’s official ruling, in which Toy Biz prevailed, states “the action figure playthings at issue here are not properly classifiable as ‘dolls’ under the HTSUS by virtue of various non-human characteristics they exhibit.”

(5) THESE THINGS HAVE TO BE DONE CAREFULLY… Vance K offers advice to parents in “Let’s Frighten Children! Vincent Price & Scooby-Doo” at Nerds of a Feather.

You’re a parent. You love horror. But horror is scary. So how to share this love of horror with your young, innocent, in-love-with-the-world child?

…For me and my family, the first step to introducing horror was to introduce the language of scares without, really, the fear. It’s hard to be a little kid. You are tiny, and surrounded by giants. Nothing makes sense, and every outcome is uncertain. Mom’s leaving…Will she come back?! How long is an hour?! It’s unknowable. And worse, there might actually be a monster under the bed. Or in the closet — you just don’t know.

This is where Vincent Price and Scooby-Doo came in handy. It’s pretty unlikely any kid is going to be legitimately frightened by an episode of Scooby-Doo. And yet, there are ghosts, goblins, witches, vampires, werewolves, creepers, and more, all running about. I’m actually not a huge Scooby fan, but I found the Cartoon Network Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated series to be excellent. I watched a big chunk of it with my kids, who were five and seven at the time. They loved it, and still do. We re-watch episodes regularly. In a world where asking a kid who has grown up with an iPhone to watch Bela Lugosi’s Dracula seems like a bridge too far, this is a show that is fast-paced, conversant in horror tropes, dabbles in grotesque/frightening imagery, and is funny, smart, and good. It’s also a show that prominently features Vincent Van Ghoul, who is a not-at-all-disguised representation of Vincent Price.

(6) ALA ADDRESSES MACMILLAN CEO. Publishers Weekly covers an American Library Association press conference where “Librarians Launch National Campaign to Oppose Macmillan’s Library E-book Embargo”.

…So far, that action includes two rather modest initiatives, unveiled on Wednesday. One is an online petition (eBooksForAll.org) urging Sargent and Macmillan to reconsider the publisher’s recently announced embargo. The other is a new online book club, in partnership with OverDrive. The “Libraries Transform Book Pick” will offer library users unlimited access to a selected e-book for two weeks, with no holds list and no waiting. The first pick is Kassandra Montag’s debut novel After the Flood (HarperCollins), which will be available for unlimited e-book checkouts at public libraries from October 7-21.

(7) WORDS OF A FEATHER. Paul Di Filippo’s F&SF column “Plumage from Pegasus” tells all about a collaboration by two of the genre’s founders that was largely unknown ‘til a couple of years ago: Flora Columbia: Goddess of a New Age, by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

In the year 1901, with the publication of his ninth novel, The First Men in the Moon, H. G. Wells, then a thirty-five-year-old wunderkind, cemented his reputation as the leading purveyor of “scientific romances.” The acclaim accorded to this British upstart, however, did not sit well with the aging lion of the nascent genre, Jules Verne—then an ailing seventy-three and just a few years away from his own death. Verne did not care for Wells’s less-stringent approach to scientific speculation, nor for his wilder imagination. In fact, Verne was so perturbed that he gave vent to his famous direct criticism of the novel: “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does M. Wells find his cavorite? Let him show it to me!”

So much is a matter of historical record. But what came next remained secret until just recently.

Both irked and disappointed by the jab from this venerable figure who had done so much to pioneer imaginative literature and whose respect he would have relished, Wells did a daring thing. On a mission both conciliatory and confrontational, he journeyed to France to confront the Master. In Amiens, at 44 Boulevard de Longueville, he was received with a wary hospitality. But after some awkward conversation over a lunch of calvados and choucroute garnie, the two writers found a shared footing in their mutual love of “science fiction,” a term they would not even have recognized. And then, impulsively, they decided to seal their tentative new friendship in a manner befitting their shared passion.

They would collaborate on a short novel….

(8) COLLINS OBIT. Charles Collins (1935-2019) died August 26 at the age of 83. He worked as a Publisher’s Representative, eventually becoming co-owner of Como Sales Company. Also, with Donald M. Grant, he co-founded Centaur Press, later renamed Centaur Books, a small press active from 1969 through 1981.

With Donald M. Grant, left, and Robb Walsh at the launch of Kingdom of the Dwarfs, 1980. Photo by © Andrew Porter

It was primarily a paperback publisher, though one of its more successful titles was reissued in hardcover. It was notable for reviving pulp adventure and fantasy works of the early twentieth century for its “Time-Lost Series.”

Authors whose works were returned to print include Robert E. Howard, Arthur O. Friel, Talbot Mundy, H. Warner Munn, and William Hope Hodgson. In the sole anthology it issued, the press also premiered a new work by Lin Carter. In later years it also published longer works by contemporary authors, including Carter, Galad Elflandsson, and Robb Walsh. Its books featured cover art by Jeff Jones, Virgil Finlay, Frank Brunner, Stephen Fabian, Randy Broecker, and David Wenzel.

The family obituary is here. Collins’ own history of Como Sales Company is here.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 13, 1969 – CBS introduced Scooby Doo, Where Are You? 50 years ago this week: Quoting the Wikipedia —

The first episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! “What a Night for a Knight” debuted on the CBS network Saturday, September 13, 1969. The original voice cast featured veteran voice actor Don Messick as Scooby-Doo, radio DJ Casey Kasem (later host of radio’s syndicated American Top 40) as Shaggy, actor Frank Welker (later a veteran voice actor in his own right) as Fred, actress Nicole Jaffe as Velma, and musician Indira Stefanianna as Daphne.[15] Scooby’s speech patterns closely resembled an earlier cartoon dog, Astro from The Jetsons (1962–63), also voiced by Messick.[2] Seventeen episodes of Scooby-Doo Where are You! were produced in 1969–70.

  • September 13, 1974  — Planet of the Apes debuted as a weekly television series with the  “Escape from Tomorrow” episode. Roddy McDowall was once again Galen. Due to really poor rating, CBS canceled the series after 14 episodes. 
  • September 13, 1999 — On this day, in the timeline inhabited by the crew of Space: 1999, the events told in the “Breakaway” premier episode happened.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1898 Arthur J. Burks. He  sold his first stories to Weird Tales in 1924. He became one of the “million-word-a-year” men in the pulp magazines by dint of his tremendous output. He wrote in the neighborhood of eight hundred stories for the pulps. Both iBooks and Kindle have some of his fiction available for free if you care to see how this pulp writer reads. (Died 1974.)
  • Born September 13, 1926 Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or that he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted the UK Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.  My favorite Dahl work is The BFG. What’s yours? (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 13, 1931 Barbara Bain, 86. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell. I will confess that I never watched the latter. Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! 
  • Born September 13, 1932 Dick Eney. Most notably, in 1959 he published Fancyclopedia 2, an over two hundred page encyclopedia of all things fandom. He worked on committees for Discon I, Discon II, and Constellation and was the Fan Guest of Honor at L.A.Con II, the 1984 Worldcon. He served as OE of FAPA and SAPS and was a member of The Cult and the Washington in ’77 Worldcon bid. He was toastmaster at Conterpoint 1993. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 13, 1936 Richard Sapir. Pulp writer in spirit if not in actuality. Among his many works is The Destroyer series of novels that he co-created with Warren Murphy. (Murphy would write them by himself after death of Sapir starting with the seventy-first novel until the series concluded with ninety-sixth novel.)  And the main character in them is Remo Williams who you’ll no doubt recognize from  Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins where Fred Ward played Remo which I’ve watched but remember nothing of thirty years on. (Died 1987.)
  • Born September 13, 1939 Richard Kiel. He’s definitely  best remembered  for being the steely mouthed Jaws n The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Now let’s see what other SFF films he’s been in… His very last genre work was voicing Vlad in the animated Tangled with first his being The Salorite in The Phantom Planet. He was Eegah in the low budget horror film Eegah,  a giant House of the Damned, Dr. Kolos in The Human Duplicators, Psychiatric Hospital Patient in Brainstorm, Bolob in the Italian L’umanoide, internationally released as The Humanoid, and he reprised his Jaws character in Inspector Gadget. Series wise, he’s shown up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Twilight Zone,  Kolchak: The Night StalkerThe Wild Wild West (where he working in a recurring role with Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Loveless), I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, Land of The Lost and Superboy. (Died 2014.)
Richard Kiel, right, in Wild Wild West
  • Born September 13, 1944 Jacqueline Bisset, 75. I never pass up a Bond performance and so she’s got on the Birthday Honors by being Giovanna Goodthighs in Casino Royale even though that might have been one of the dumbest character names ever. As near as I can tell, until she shows up in as Charlotte Burton in the “Love the Lie” episode of Counterpart that’s her entire encounter with genre acting.
  • Born September 13, 1947 Mike Grell, 72. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green Arrow, The Warlord, and Jon Sable Freelance. The Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth .
  • Born September 13, 1961 Tom Holt, 59. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, truly into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it. 
  • Born September 13, 1969 Bob Eggleton, 50. He’s has been honored with the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist eight times! He was guest of honor at Chicon 2000. There’s a reasonably up to date look at his artwork,  Primal Darkness: The Gothic & Horror Art of Bob Eggleton  which he put together in 2010 and was published by Cartouche Press.

(11) ROLLING ON THE RIVER. Kelly Lasiter recommends a book at Fantasy Literature: “Mapping Winter: A character and a world that will stick with me”.

Mapping Winter (2019) is Marta Randall’s reworking of her 1983 novel, The Sword of Winter. (Randall talks more about the story behind the book here.) Its release as Mapping Winter was followed shortly by the all-new sequel The River South, with the two novels making up the RIDERS GUILD series. It’s a secondary-world fantasy, but without magic; I was about two-thirds of the way through the book when I realized, “Huh, I don’t think there’s been any magic!” What it does have is a nation poised between feudalism and industrialization.

(12) SCHOOL DAZE. James Davis Nicoll rings up our magic number: “Five SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

Kazuma Kamachi’s ongoing series of short novels and their associated manga and anime (A Certain Magical Index, A Certain Scientific Railgun, A Certain Scientific Accelerator, etc.) is set in Academy City. The city is home to over two million students, most of whom have some degree of reality-breaking Esper power. Some can control electromagnetism; some can keep objects at a constant temperature. Imagine the Xavier School for the Gifted with the population of Paris, France. Unlike the leadership of Xavier’s school, however, the people running Academy City are ambitious people entirely unfamiliar with the concepts of consent or ethics….

(13) ABOUT THAT DEAD HORSE. Good point – after all, how many people would watch a channel that mostly runs commercials?

(14) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Paul Weimer says people who like a character-focused story will love it: “Microreview: This Is How You Lose The Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In a world of twitter, and direct messages, and texts, and instant social media, long form letters are a delightful retro technology and form. Epistolary novels and stories, never the most common of forms even when letters were dominant as a means of communication, are exceedingly distinctive just by their format in this day and age. It’s a bold choice by the authors to have the two agents, Red (from a technological end state utopia) and Blue (from a biological super consciousness utopia) to start their correspondence and to have their letters (which take increasingly unusual forms as described in the narrative) be the backbone of the action. Every chapter has one of the principals in action, and a letter from the other principals, giving a harmonic balance for the reader as far as perspective. But it is within the letters themselves that the novella truly sings and shows its power.

(15) BOG STANDARD. Nina Shepardson reviews Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss at Outside of a Dog.

The theme of Sarah Moss’s latest novel, Ghost Wall, can be summed up by a William Faulkner quote: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even really past.” Sylvie’s father plans an unusual vacation for their family: joining a local college professor’s project to spend a couple of weeks living the way British people did in the Bronze Age. This involves some of the physical discomforts you would expect, such as foraging for food in the summer heat and living in huts. But things take a darker turn as Sylvie’s father’s fascination with the period deepens into obsession. And not all the hazards of the era were natural ones; there’s evidence that a nearby bog was a site of human sacrifice….

(16) ALASDAIR STUART. It’s Full Lid o’clock!

(17) THE MESSAGE. Joseph Hurtgen has just released his second sff novel with a theme chosen for reasons he explains in “Why I Wrote an Anti-Gun, Anti-Trump, Environmental Science Fiction Novel “. “This novel is an exercise in hoping our democracy outlasts this election cycle, hoping our generation doesn’t destroy the planet, and hoping that we could rise above greed to make our nation safe for our children. What better place to do all this hoping than in the pages of science fiction?”

The book follows William Tecumseh Sherman as he time travels around America’s history, talking to presidents that like their guns and aren’t interested in instituting environmental protections. 

I realize that it’s a bit of stretch that Sherman would get involved politically. Sherman once said if he was elected, he wouldn’t serve. But isn’t that precisely the kind of leader America needs? Someone disinterested in leadership wouldn’t likely have ulterior motives for holding a position of power: no Putins to please, no buildings to build in Moscow or the Middle East.

But the reality of American politics is that those willing to profit from power are rewarded for it. In 2019, the emoluments clause might as well be struck from the record. It clearly isn’t taken seriously. But emoluments are only the tip of the ugly iceberg.

(18) “THE SCREAM”. “Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2019: Here are the finalists” — minimal text, great photos.

(19) THEATER AS GAME. “Variant 31: ‘Pushing the boundaries’ of immersive theatre”.

It’s being promoted as the biggest live immersive game yet. Variant 31 is theatre – there are 150 real-life performers involved. But its creator is hoping it will bring in video gamers – and people who like jumping out of aircraft.

If you heard reports of reanimated cadavers roaming at will beneath New Oxford Street you might suppose London had been having a particularly bad day for public transport.

But producer Dalton M Dale is proud to stand in a slightly musty former shop basement and talk of the malevolent band of marauding zombies he’s adding to the growing world of immersive theatre.

He’s from North Carolina but in 2017 he came to London after a few years working on immersive shows in New York.

“London is the place to push the envelope of what immersive storytelling can do: the point about Variant 31 is that as you move through our really large site you get actively involved in the story. That’s instead of standing at a slight distance and observing and admiring, which has often been the case with even the best immersive experiences.”

…”You start at Patient Intake at Toxico Technologies,” Dale explains. “Toxico 25 years ago has manufactured strange and nefarious materials for chemical warfare. You are given a piece of wrist technology which at key points across 35 floors will allow you to do various things: you can alter the lighting and open hidden passages and even change the weather.

“Creatures emerge as you move through. From the moment you step into this world the hunt is on and someone wants to catch you. Oh, and always bear in mind: the only way to kill a zombie is to aim for the head.

Players score points by killing the creatures and at the end of the experience there will be just one winner from your group. “We claim this is the first truly immersive experience: it’s not spoon-fed like some other shows. Your presence matters and genuinely changes what goes on.”

(20) DATA SAVED BY DEFNESTRATION. BBC tells how “Russian activist saves data from police with drone”.

A Russian activist used a drone to get his data out of his high-rise flat when police came to search it.

Sergey Boyko says he sent hard drives to a friend by drone when police banged at his door at 10:00 local time, to avoid them getting hold of the data.

The search was part of a nationwide crackdown on the opposition.

Around 200 raids have been carried out in the past few days after the ruling party suffered major losses in local elections in Moscow.

A YouTube video taken (in Russian) by a female companion shows Mr Boyko, who lives in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, releasing a drone from his flat in a tall apartment block as police wait to be let in.

Mr Boyko heads the local branch of the movement of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who campaigned for voters to defeat candidates of the United Russia party using tactical voting in Sunday’s city council election.

The activists say the raids are a form of revenge by the authorities for the setbacks.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In A Month of Type on Vimeo, Mr Kaplin animates the alphabet.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Joseph Hurtgen, IanP, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 8/31/19 A Scroll Title Named Desire

(1) TIPTREE AWARD CONTROVERSY. While I can’t say I located the ultimate roots of the discussion, I found Carrie Cuinn’s thread, which starts here.

There are more comments in Natalie Luhrs’ thread, starting here.

Today Sweden’s John-Henri Holmberg countered challenges raised about continuing the James Tiptree Award under its existing name in his review of the history of the award and its namesake on Facebook. He asks in conclusion:

…What has changed in the last few months? As far as I know, nothing. The award given not even in her own name, but in the name of her pseudonym, celebrates work of imaginative fiction exploring the territory she made her own over her twenty-years long writing career. She explored it more deeply, searchingly, critically and imaginatively than anyone before her had ever come close to doing, and her work remains startlingly fresh, moving, and thoughtful. We owe it to her to celebrate her heritage, not to obliterate it. Her death, as that of her husband, was a tragedy, but not by any reasonable standard an erasure of her life or her literary heritage.

(2) CARRYING THE BANNER. Travis Corcoran’s Prometheus Award acceptance speech has been posted on the Libertarian Futurist Society blog:

Here is the acceptance speech by Travis Corcoran for 2019 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Causes of Separation.  (Corcoran could not attend the Dublin Worldcon but wrote this acceptance speech to be read there at the ceremony.)

…Chapman’s essay and Pournelle’s and Conquest’s laws are three observations of a single underlying phenomena: the collectivists always worm their way in and take over. We know THAT this happens, but WHY does it happen? How can we model it and understand it?

(3) WHAT, IT’S NOT CHEESE? Space.com reports “China’s Lunar Rover Has Found Something Weird on the Far Side of the Moon”.  

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover has discovered an unusually colored, ‘gel-like’ substance during its exploration activities on the far side of the moon.

The mission’s rover, Yutu-2, stumbled on that surprise during lunar day 8. The discovery prompted scientists on the mission to postpone other driving plans for the rover, and instead focus its instruments on trying to figure out what the strange material is.

…So far, mission scientists haven’t offered any indication as to the nature of the colored substance and have said only that it is “gel-like” and has an “unusual color.” One possible explanation, outside researchers suggested, is that the substance is melt glass created from meteorites striking the surface of the moon. 

(4) EL-MOHTAR REVIEW. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar says “‘Palestine + 100’ Explores Contested Territory, Past And Future”

A few years ago I reviewed Iraq + 100, a project which invited its contributors to write stories set 100 years in Iraq’s future. It was conceived as an imaginative springboard for Iraqi writers to potentially launch themselves beyond the enduring trauma of waves of invasion and devastation — but because science fiction stories set in the future are always in some way about our present, the collection became a multi-voiced testament to the fact that you can’t project a future without first reckoning with the past.

Comma Press has followed that collection up with Palestine + 100, an anthology edited by Basma Ghalayini in which twelve Palestinian authors write stories set 100 years after the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — during which, as Ghalayini writes in her moving, thoughtful introduction, “Israel declared itself a new-born state on the rubble of Palestinian lives.” Thus where Iraq + 100 looked towards the year 2103, the stories in Palestine + 100 look towards 2048, and the bulk of the work isn’t about extrapolating a future so much as recognizing, fighting, and establishing narratives about the past. The choice of subtitle — “stories from a century after the Nakba” — exemplifies this, drawing attention to the fact that for Palestinians (and many Israelis), May 15, 1948 is not a date to celebrate, but to grieve.

In Palestine + 100, memory and imagination are contested territories. Samir El-Youssef’s “The Association,” translated by Raph Cormack, kicks off with the murder of a historian; the narrator observes that “Since the 2028 Agreement, the people of the country — all the different sects and religions, Muslim, Christian and Jewish — had decided that forgetting was the best way to live in peace.” In Saleem Haddad’s “Song of the Birds,” a young girl lives in a beautiful simulation haunted by the vicious, broken reality it obscures. In Ahmed Masoud’s “Application 39,” two young men imagine a Palestinian bid for the Olympics as a joke — and find themselves in the tormented midst of trying to make that a reality, with all the consequences it entails. In Tasnim Abutabikh’s “Vengeance” the plot is evenly divided between one man’s elaborate pursuit of revenge against a neighbor he thinks has wronged him — and that neighbor’s heartbroken revelation that the man had the past all wrong. In almost all these stories there is a doubled, troubled vision, that never resolves so much as it fractures further.

(5) MICHAELS OBIT. Melisa Michaels (1946-2019) died August 30 of complications amid efforts to treat her lung cancer. (Condolences to filer Xtifr, her nephew.)

Michaels was known for her series about Skyrider, a woman space combat pilot. She also wrote urban fantasies including “Sister to the Rain” and “Cold Iron.” Her novel Skirmish was nominated for a Locus Award for Best First Novel in 1986. SFWA presented her with a Service Award in 2008.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1914 Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. (Died 1984)
  • Born August 31, 1933 Robert Adams. He’s best remembered for the Horseclans series which became his overall best-known works though he wrote other works.  While he never completed the series, he wrote 18 novels in the Horseclans series before his death. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 31, 1949 Richard Gere, 70. Lancelot in First Knight starring Sean Connery as King Arthur. And was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honours!  
  • Born August 31, 1958 Julie Brown, 61. Starred with Geena Davis in the cult SF comedy, Earth Girls Are Easy. She’s actually been in genre films such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Bloody Birthday (a slasher film), Timebomb and Wakko’s Wish. She’s had one-offs in TV’s Quantum Leap and The Addams Family. She’s voiced a lot of animated characters included a memorable run doing the ever so sexy Minerva Mink on The Animaniacs. She reprised that role on Pinky and The Brain under the odd character name of Danette Spoonabello Minerva Mink. 
  • Born August 31, 1969 Jonathan LaPaglia, 50. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favourite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in a really bad film called Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history.
  • Born August 31, 1971 Chris Tucker, 48. The way over the top Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a film I really, really like. His only other genre credit is as a MC in the Hall in The Meteor Man.
  • Born August 31, 1982 G. Willow Wilson, 37. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Hugo Award winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story but will soon.
  • Born August 31, 1992 Holly Earl, 27. She’s been in a number of British genre shows such as playing Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Agnes in Humans, and yes, Doctor Who in the “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, an Eleventh Doctor story in she was Lily Arwell.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro lives up to its name with this idea about collaborative effort.

(8) ONE TO BEAM UP. Camestros Felapton’s incredible “tweetfilk” of Star Trek and Bowie, featuring science officer Ziggy!! Thread starts here.

(9) PLEASE DON’T JOKE ABOUT THIS. Variety: “‘Joker’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying”.

Critics are raving for Warner Bros. latest comic book installment.

Todd Phillip’s “Joker” opened Saturday at the Venice Film Festival to effervescent reviews, with many critics highlighting an Oscar-worthy appearance from star Joaquin PhoenixVariety‘s own Owen Gleiberman praised Phoenix’s performance, emphasizing his physical acting and emotional control:

“He appears to have lost weight for the role, so that his ribs and shoulder blades protrude, and the leanness burns his face down to its expressive essence: black eyebrows, sallow cheeks sunk in gloom, a mouth so rubbery it seems to be snarking at the very notion of expression, all set off by a greasy mop of hair,” he wrote. “Phoenix is playing a geek with an unhinged mind, yet he’s so controlled that he’s mesmerizing. He stays true to the desperate logic of Arthur’s unhappiness.”

(10) VERY LEAKY ESTABLISHMENT. NPR asks “Have You Seen Any Nazi Uranium? These Researchers Want To Know”. (The photo makes it look like a Borg spaceship.)

Timothy Koeth’s office is crammed with radioactive relics – old watches with glowing radium dials, pieces of melted glass from beneath the test of the world’s first nuclear weapon.

But there is one artifact that stands apart from the rest: a dense, charcoal-black cube, two-inches on a side. The cube is made of pure uranium metal. It was forged more than 70 years ago by the Nazis, and it tells the little-known story of Germany’s nuclear efforts during World War II.

“From a historical perspective this cube weighs a lot more than five pounds,” Koeth, a physicist at the University of Maryland, says as he holds it in his hand.

…At the time of Hitler’s rise, Germany was actually at the cutting edge of nuclear technology. “Nuclear fission was discovered in Berlin in late 1938,” says Alex Wellerstein is a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. “They were the first team of people who figured out how to split the atom, and figured out that when you split the atom, a lot of energy was going to be released.”

That basic idea of splitting atoms to release energy is what’s at the heart of all of today’s nuclear power plants and all the world’s nuclear weapons.

But back during World War II, it was all theoretical. To find out how it could work, the Germans devised strange looking experiment. Scientists strung together 664 cubes of uranium with aircraft cables and suspended them. The result looked “kind of like a very strange modernist chandelier of cubes,” Wellerstein says.

The chandelier was dipped into a cylindrical tank of heavy water, which contains special isotopes of hydrogen that make it more conducive to nuclear reactions.

The setup was known as the B-VIII reactor. The Germans were experimenting with it inside a cave in the southern town of Haigerloch. They were still trying to get it to work when the allied invasion began. As Allied forces approached, the German scientists disassembled the reactor and buried the cubes in a field.

The first wave of Allied troops to arrive included a task force known as Alsos, which was seeking to seize as much of the Nazi program as they could.

The Nazi scientists quickly disclosed the location of the buried cubes to the Allies, Wellerstein says. The Alsos team boxed up the cubes, to send them back to America, but what happened after that is not entirely clear.

(12) UK BIOBANK. “Geneticists To Cooperate, Not Compete”NPR has the story.

There’s an astonishing outpouring of new information linking genes and health, thanks to the efforts of humble Englishmen and women such as Chritopeher Fletcher. The 70-year-old man recently drove 90 miles from his home in Nottingham to a radiology clinic outside the city of Manchester.

He is one of half a million Brits who have donated time, blood and access to their medical records to a remarkable resource called UK Biobank. The biobank, in turn, has become a resource for more than a thousand scientists around the world who are interested in delving into the link between genes, behaviors and health.

Popularity of the resource is snowballing. Just this week, a major study using the data explored the genetics of same-sex sexual behavior. And as researchers discover the biobank’s value, there’s a strong incentive to add to the database to make it even richer.

…What makes UK Biobank valuable is not only the half-million volunteers, whose health will be followed for decades, but also its community-spirited scientific strategy. Chief scientist Dr. Cathie Sudlow says the organizers, in a break from their usual ways, aren’t out to answer their own scientific questions, but to serve their colleagues.

“I’ll freely admit that when I first started out in the biobank I couldn’t really believe that we were all going to work really hard to make data available for other people,” she says. “And that is because I came from this traditional, kind of slightly paranoid, somewhat territorial, academic background.”

The scramble for research funds creates competitive incentives in much of academic science today. This biobank is different.

(13) JUST A FEW MORE HOURS. Readers of Camestros’ Felapton’s blog have entertained each other today with some last-minute speculation about the winners: “Just for fun, some Dragon Award predictions”.

Best Science Fiction Novel: A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad Torgersen is a plausible winner. If it does then we can assume other works in the Brad Puppies list got lots of votes. I think Tiamat’s Wrath is a likely winner given the popularity of The Expanse TV series and the Dragon Con audience. However, Becky Chambers has a wide and devoted set of fans and I wouldn’t be astonished if Record of a Spaceborn Few won. If any of the others won, that would be interesting but I don’t know what it would mean.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 8/9/19 Jonathan Scrollaston Pixel

(1) ON THEIR WATCH. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mohtar answers the question “Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?” Tagline: At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten.

…Mascarenhas has said of her novel that time travel “[makes] you constantly think of what stories people leave behind”. Every time we recover a female author, scientist, doctor, activist, every time we affirm that black people lived in medieval Europe, that queer people have always existed and often led happy lives, we change history – not the past, crucially, but history, our story about the past, our narratives and paradigms. And as we change history, we change the future. I’d worried that our book wouldn’t be relevant – it turns out all of us were right on time.

(2) WORLDCON DINING. Now is when this massive project pays off – Dublin 2019 Eats – compiled by Guest of Honour Diane Duane and Peter Morwood.

…For a lot of years now, SFF conventions have often had local restaurant guides to help their attendees find out what the local food options were. With this concept in mind, and as a way of assisting our thousands of convention visitors in finding their way around the Dublin food scene, in 2018 we came up with the concept of this casual online guide to food that’s either in the immediate area of the Dublin Convention Centre, the Worldcon’s main venue, or accessible from that area via public transport. Your two site managers — locally-based science fiction and fantasy novelists and screenwriters Peter Morwood and Diane Duane — have between them some seventy years of experience at the fine art of tracking down and enjoying great Dublin food.

For the purposes of this guide, our attention is focused mostly on food located near the city’s fabulous Luas tram system — mainly the Red Line that serves the DCC, but also the Luas Green Line that connects to it.

We have a focus on affordable food — because we, like a lot of our Worldcon guests, have often had to spend enough just getting to the venue to make the cost of eating an issue.

(3) INTERESTING TIMES. Abigail Nussbaum returns to the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with a commentary on Russell T. Davies’s recent miniseries about the times to come: “A Political History of the Future: Years and Years”.

…The result is a show suffused with anxiety. When discussing Years and Years, I’ve found that people tend to reference its big dramatic moments, such as the ending of episode 1, in which an air raid siren alerts the gathered family to the fact that the US has dropped an atomic bomb on a Chinese military base (Davies doesn’t try too hard to ground his predictions in carefully-reasoned reality, but his speculation that Donald Trump would do something like this on his final day in office is scarily plausible). Or that of episode 4, in which Daniel and Viktor board an overloaded inflatable raft in a desperate attempt to cross the handful of miles separating Calais from England. But I think the scene that will hit a lot of viewers where they live is actually the end of episode 2, in which Stephen and Celeste race to their bank to try to retrieve even some of their money, and find themselves in a crowd of people hoping to do the same, all equally doomed. The first two are things that you can imagine happening, but maybe not to you. The second feels like exactly the sort of calamity that the comfortably middle class people the show has been aimed at are most likely to experience in the coming decades….

(4) SENDAK FOR THE STAGE. A major exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s work runs until October 6 at The Morgan Library in New York City: “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet”.

Renowned for his beloved and acclaimed children’s books, Maurice Sendak (1928–2012) was also an avid music and opera lover. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful second career as a designer of sets and costumes for the stage. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet will be the first museum exhibition dedicated to this aspect of his career. It will include storyboards, preparatory sketches, costume studies, luminous watercolors, and meticulous dioramas from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Janá?ek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and an opera based on Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

The exhibition will include nearly 150 objects drawn primarily from the artist’s bequest to the Morgan of over 900 drawings. Sendak borrowed gleefully from a personal pantheon of artists, some of whom he encountered firsthand at the Morgan. Several such works, by William Blake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Domenico and Giambattista Tiepolo, will be displayed alongside his designs. Although less well known than his book illustrations, Sendak’s drawings for the stage embody his singular hand, fantastical mode of storytelling, keen—sometimes bawdy—sense of humor, and profound love of music and art history.

(5) “VERTIGINOUS TASK.” Jordy Rosenberg writes “In Praise of Samuel R. Delany” for the New York Times.

…The emotional dynamism of Delany’s sentences has been perhaps less acknowledged than his world-building, or the sweep of his vision. But when asked to speak about writing as a practice, Delany himself often turns to the art of sentences, and of how to imbue words with such “ekphrastic force” that they summon the material presence of an imagined world. When Korga and Marq return to themselves they are awe-struck, struggling to narrate the intensity of their own transformative experience. It is impossible not to hear in that a metatextual echo of the obsession of Delany’s practice: that of creating the most immersive possible aesthetic experience for us, his readers and devoted enthusiasts….

(6) COMMON SCENTS. James P. Blaylock shares “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” at Poets & Writers.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975. My wife, Viki, and I took off on a road trip a few days later in our old Volkswagen Bug, and I brought the book along. It mysteriously disappeared early one rainy morning in central Canada, and I didn’t find it again until a year later, after the car’s battery died. The VW’s battery was under the back seat, and when I pulled out the seat to get at the battery, there was Dr. Bloodmoney, its cover partly eaten by battery acid. I was monumentally happy to find it. The book is inscribed to “Jim Blaylock, a hell of a neat dude,” the only existing written evidence of that allegation….

(7) IN THE SPIRIT. The Tonopah Westercon committee (2021) hurried to tell Facebook followers that “Our headquarters hotel for Westercon 74 is in the running for ‘Best Haunted Hotel’” as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Built in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel in haunted Tonopah has many spirits supposedly roaming its halls, including Rose, a prostitute murdered by a jealous gambler. Guests report items that mysteriously move and an old elevator whose doors randomly open and close.

(8) EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING. GQ’s Tom Philip argues that “Horror Movies Can Be Great, Even When They’re Not ‘Scary’”.

…Also, I’ve only ever seen one scene from the entire movie, when a hooded figure wielding a hook stabs a dude in the stomach and blood starts coming out of that man’s mouth. I have watched hundreds of horror films since, but stop me in the street and ask me: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? and I will unwaveringly answer “I Know What You Did Last Summer, because I was a seven-year-old wuss who had never seen a grown man run through with a sheep hook in a gas station lot before.”

What I’m saying is, “scary” is a silly metric by which to measure a horror movie’s quality, especially if it’s the only one you use. Not to get all “I own a thesaurus” on you, but there are distinct differences between something that’s scary, spooky, threatening, shocking, dreadful, et cetera. The new big horror release, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, for example, writes a check the movie needs to cash. It’s right there in the title…

(9) TODAY’S DAY. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Moomin Day today:

But not everyone is happy. Here are demonstrators from last weeks manifestation against the placement of a new Moomin theme park in the Swedish city of Karlstad. Anti-Moonin feelings are running high. The picture says it all: “Flera hinder för Mumin”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop debuted in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 1989 — James Cameron’s The Abyss premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 P.L. Travers. Yes, she’s genre. A flying nanny is certainly fantasy. Did you know there are total of eight books? I’m sure I’ve seen the film but it’s been so long that I remember ‘nought about it. Anyone here seen the new film? (Died 1996.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Fannish song-writing (before the term “filk” was coined) and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned and that I remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 75. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits,  Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 72. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 70. Author of two novels in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 51. The ever-skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Currently playing Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMIC. “Clevelander Joe Shuster’s Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel” at IdeaStream — I missed this when it came out last year.

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would’ve taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in “The Joe Shuster Story” by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi…. 

(13) POSSIBLE SAINT. Paul Weimer tells how the fight against tyranny is progressing in “Microreview [book]: The Queen of Crows, by Myke Cole” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In Queen of Crows, author Myke Cole explores the burning question: Now what? A blow for freedom has been struck, yes, but the Sacred Throne, and in particular, the Inquisition-like Order is not going to take this lying down. Heloise may well be a saintly figure, possibly even a holy  Palatinate, but her actions are not an unalloyed good. The Empire will, indeed, Strike Back, and it is only a question of time before overwhelming force is brought to bear on Heloise and the people she has sworn to protect. This leads to Heloise and her people going on the road, meeting others who have not done well under the Empire’s tyranny, and asking hard questions about oppression, revolt, tyranny, resistance, prejudice, and at the same time providing solid medieval fantastic action….

(14) SILENCE OF THE TWEETS. Jon Del Arroz is in Twitter jail again.

JDA’s version: “Suspended On Twitter For Defending A Woman From Harassment” [Internet Archive link].

(15) AT GEN CON. Brian’s “Pop Up Gen Con!” report for Nerds of a Feather begins with an intriguing summary of “We’re Doomed, a game where the world is ending and the governments of the world (each government is a player) need to jointly construct a rocket ship.”

(16) CHOW QUEST. In “Military Logistics for Fantasy Writers” at the SFWA Blog, Mollie M. Madden, holder of a Ph.D. in medieval history, challenges authors to explain how the big armies of their imaginations avoid starving to death.

We all know ‘an army marches on its stomach,’ but it’s not like Napoleon discovered something new. Vegetius (De re militari) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) were well aware of this concept, as was Alexander the Great (Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, 1980). And it wasn’t news to them, either. Pre-modern military commanders knew this; they planned for this. They paid attention to logistics.

Fantasy writers should, too.

(17) FACE THE MUSIC. NPR reports “Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Software, Court Rules”. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel, and Facebook plans to contest the result by asking for an en banc hearing by the full court.

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can sue the company over face recognition technology, meaning a class action can move forward.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Thursday. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s the first decision by a U.S. appellate court to directly address privacy concerns posed by facial recognition technology.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook told NPR that the company plans to ask the full circuit court to review the decision of the three-judge panel. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. Information about its facial recognition technology is available in the company policy online.

The case concerns Facebook users in Illinois who accused the social media giant of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Facebook argued that the users had experienced no concrete harm. But the 9th Circuit panel noted that intangible injuries can still be concrete, and it noted the Supreme Court has said advances in technology can lead to more personal privacy intrusions.

The appeals panel decided that Facebook’s technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”

(18) THE NEW ZARDOZ? “Mark Hamill: Darth Vader balloon makes Luke Skywalker’s week” – BBC has the story

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has hailed the uplifting impact of a Darth Vader hot air balloon.

Hamill, who plays Vader’s son in Star Wars, posted on social media after spotting a video from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

He said the giant balloon of Vader’s mask had “raised his spirits” after a “horrible, no good, terrible week”, adding “thanks dad”.

(19) SWEATSHOP. “Amazon Echo devices made by Chinese teens ‘working through night’ – reports” – at BBC.

Amazon has pledged to investigate allegations that hundreds of teenagers are working illegal hours at a Chinese factory producing its Echo devices.

A new report by China Labor Watch claims more than 1,500 “interns” were manufacturing the smart assistants at a factory run by supplier Foxconn.

The teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, were reportedly pressured into work 60 hours a week and night shifts.

Foxconn has blamed local managers and vowed to improve monitoring of staff.

The company, which makes products for a number of technology giants, has allegedly fired two senior staff members at the site in Hengyang, Bloomberg reports.

It is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding working conditions at the manufacturer, which is headquartered in Taiwan.

(20) RADICAL COMFORT FICTION. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy finds something lacking in the latest Becky Chambers novel: “Microreview [book]: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers”.

…On one level, this constant release of tension from individual incidents is quite nice – no need to worry about Chekov’s gun on the mantlepiece, in this universe it’s going to stay right where it is. However, it also means that the link between individual incidents and the emotional arc of the novella – as the characters grapple with their place in the universe, without a link to Earth calling them back – is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how generous one feels….

(21) WALK INTO LEGEND. “Controversial and late, Tintagel footbridge in Cornwall to open”: The Guardian says, “After 650 years – and four months – visitors can follow in Uther Pendragon’s footsteps.”

A £5m footbridge to a dramatic, wind-battered headland that is at the heart of Arthurian legend will this weekend finally open to the public.

The bridge, one of the most ambitious, complicated and at times controversial heritage projects seen in the UK in recent years, will, says English Heritage, restore the lost crossing of Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

(22) LE GUIN NEWS. Paul Di Filippo asks whether he’s found a unique item: “ISFDB does not record the existence of this Le Guin essay from TV Guide, making me think it’s never been reprinted.” Read it at the Internet Archive: “’The Lathe of Heaven’ When facts look crazyyou’re your imagination shivers, — that’s science fiction at its best” (Jan. 5, 1980). 

(23) THE EATIN’ OF THE GREEN. Delish experienced a sugar rush just thinking about it: “FunkO Is Making Oogie Boogie Cereal Just In Time For Halloween”.

Sugary cereal, toys inside the box, Disney characters—does it get any more nostalgic than this? FunkO has announced the latest additions to its cereal portfolio, and my inner child is pumped.

Disney fanatics will want to get their hands on the Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) cereal, a purple version of the FunkO multigrain O’s. Tim Burton devotees and former mall goths will obviously need to try the Oogie Boogie—of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame—version, a green take on the breakfast treat. Insider reports that both cereals will come with Pocket Pop! versions of the characters’ figurines. Considering that FunkO’s Pop! figures are established as cool collectibles, these cute minis are a pretty great prize to get in your cereal box.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Top Elf, PhilRM, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]