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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Lethem and Jeff VanderMeer will be appearing virtually.

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

EDITORIAL COMMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thought this was very enjoyable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The preface at YouTube says —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there are 15 more.

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

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

Etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/21 Second Stage Lesnerizer

(1) STARTING A STORY. This compelling thread starts here.

(2) BUTLER BIO ON THE WAY. Yesterday’s Oprah Daily acknowledged the author’s birthday with an excerpt from a new biography: “Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler: Excerpt”.

…But the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author who explored themes of gender fluidity, climate change, authoritarianism, and the rise of Big Pharma is perhaps more widely read now than ever, and that phenomenon is destined to grow with the publication Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi, due out in January of 2022.

Zoboi, who was a National Book Award finalist for her young adult novel American Street, is not just a Butler devotee, but was mentored by the writer. Now, she has written an ode to her told in poems and prose. Here, Oprah Daily shares an exclusive sneak peak of the forthcoming volume, just in time to say: Happy Birthday Octavia Butler.

(3) THE PLAY’S THE THING. (Except she’s talking about a different play than Hamlet.) Connie Willis shared “Some Midsummer Night’s Dreams for Midsummer Night” on Facebook.

…The first night of our film festival, we watched GET OVER IT, the teen movie with Ben Foster, Kristen Dunst, and Martin Short. Berke, played by Ben Foster, has been dumped by Allison for another guy, so he tries out for the school musical DeFores-Oates (Martin Short) is directing, to try to get her back. He’s helped by Kelly (Kirsten Dunst) who really likes him, but he doesn’t even see her because he’s completely obsessed with getting Hermia back. Sound familiar?

The movie doesn’t do the whole play–there’s no Pyramus and Thisbe and Bottom’s just a walk-on, but there are fairies (including the rapper Sisqo), and a stoned stage crew who double as Puck, and the movie’s surprisingly faithful to the play, except for the ending, when Berke takes things into his own hands. GET OVER IT captures even better than Shakespeare the agony you go through when you’re in love with someone who doesn’t even know you exist.

The second night we watched the 1999 A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM (or as I call it, the Ally McBeal version,) starring Calista Flockhart and Christian Bale, with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Stanley Tucci as Puck. It’s a good movie overall and lots of stuff I loved–the lovers flee to the woods on bicycles, Puck is very funny and as much of an annoyance to his boss Oberon, Michelle Pfeiffer makes a sexy and funny Titania, and Max Wright is beyond wonderful as the reluctant actor dragged into the play at the last minute to be the Man in the Moon, with a cigarette dangling from his lip and a dog getting into the act.

But there are three moments of true genius in the play…

(4) GOODBYE TO AMAZON. Amanda S. Greene continues her step-by-step explanation of everything involved in shifting her books away from the Amazon platform in “Moving Forward or Onward or Whatever” at Mad Genius Club. There are a lot of issues that require thoughtful decisions.

 …I knew when I started it more would be involved than just uploading my books to the various storefronts or 3rd party aggregator. I hadn’t anticipated having to retrain myself to think in ways I haven’t since going exclusively with Amazon. 

Without going into too much detail, I had to look at how to get my books into the various storefronts, which storefronts I wanted to go with, etc. Initially, I decided to upload direct to BN, Kobo and Apple. I’d use Draft2Digital for the rest. I’ve changed my mind. The time saved alone by using D2D for everything is worth the few pennies per sale I pay to D2D to handle things for me. All I have to do is upload a generic ePub of the book, fill in the blanks and they do the rest. 

There is an added benefit of allowing them to handle it. Draft2Digital has a “sister” site called Books2Read. I’ve mentioned the site before but I am really starting to appreciate how powerful of a tool it can be for a writer. For example, here’s the landing page for Witchfire Burning. It shows the cover, gives the description and below lists other books (showing covers) I’ve written. It’s a much more attractive landing page than the product page at Amazon. If you click on the “get it now” button, it will take you to a new page where you can choose which storefront you want to visit (and I need to update it to pull in the Amazon link). 

The great thing about something like this is you can use it as your landing page for the book on your website…. 

(5) WE INTERRUPT THIS KERFUFFLE. Michael Swanwick offered “A Few Quiet Words of Thanks for the People Putting on Discon III” at Flogging Babel.

Yesterday, I reserved my hotel room for Discon III. And that put me in mind of the first and only time I was on a con committee.

This was in the 1970s, before I made my first sale. I’d only been to a few science fiction conventions but I knew the guy in charge of putting on a con whose name I conveniently forget and, doubtless for reasons of fannish politics, he filled the committee with his friends, despite the fact we none of us had any experience at the tasks we were assigned.

Long story, short. I did a terrible job. And I’ve never volunteered to serve again. Because even if everything goes perfectly, your reward for putting on a convention is not getting to experience it.

So I’d like to express my gratitude to the Discon III staff, both present and past. That includes everybody who quit for reasons of principle and everybody who decided to tough it out, also for reasons of principle.

This has been a star-crossed year for the Worldcon. I won’t bother to list all the problems: Acts of God, acts of Man, acts of Fans. We all know them. It must have been maddening to be at the white-hot center of them all.

Which makes this a good time to say: Thank you.

(6) FINE DISTINCTION. And one of John Scalzi’s comments:

(7) VISIT FROM THE DOCTOR. Jo Martin will be a guest at Gallifrey One: Thirty Second to Midnight, to be held in LA in February 2022.

It’s with great pleasure that we can now announce that JO MARTIN will be joining us next February as a confirmed guest, for her very first Doctor Who convention appearance in North America!

Jo Martin became an immediately beloved part of Doctor Who mythology when she appeared as Ruth Clayton in series 12’s “Fugitive of the Judoon” opposite Jodie Whittaker… a woman who was, in fact, a previously unknown earlier incarnation of the Doctor herself!  As the landmark first Doctor of color to be shown in the long-running series, she also appeared in the season finale “The Timeless Children.”…

(8) ONLINE PROMETHEUS AWARDS TO INCLUDE LFS-REASON PANEL. The Libertarian Futurist Society couch plans for their online award ceremony in these terms:

In 2021, LFS members will have a rare opportunity to watch and enjoy the annual Prometheus Awards ceremony and an interesting related panel discussion for free online – without having to register for a Worldcon.

Reason magazine will be the media sponsor of the hour-plus panel discussion, which will immediately follow the online half-hour Prometheus Awards ceremony for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame). Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward and Reason’s book editor Jesse Walker will join LFS leaders, including board president William H. Stoddard, on the hour-plus panel discussion along with, we hope, the 2021 Prometheus Award-winning novelist (tba).

(9) VETERAN COMICS READER. James Bacon was interviewed by Football Comics Podcast Champ/We are United, as hosts Rab and Gull take a little break from all the footie and have a look at War Comics, covering classic titles like Battle, Commando, Victor, Warlord, and many more. “Champ/We Are United Episode 13: War Comics”.

(10) COSPLAY DATING. Yahoo! says “Singles Dress Up as Creatures for Blind Dates” is the premise of Sexy Beasts.

Given the popularity of The Masked Singer, we can ascertain that viewers enjoy watching people dressed up in strange costumes. And given the general state of reality television over the past two decades, we can also conclude that people enjoy watching people go on bizarre dates. Netflix has endeavored to combine these two irrefutable tenets in one convenient package. Thus, we have Sexy Beasts, in which elaborate-prosthetic-laden singles meet for a night of “nonjudgmental” romance. At least that’s how they’re touting it. Take a look at the trailer, which features dolphins, demons, canids, scarecrows, insects, bovines, and a handful of uncategorizables….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1976 — On this date in 1976, Logan’s Run premiered. It was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Saud David. The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman is based on the 1967 Logan’s Run novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It starred Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov. Though critical reception was at best mixed, it was a box success and is considered to have MGM from financial ruin. It was nominated at SunCon, a year in which no film was awarded a Hugo. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 76. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1951 — Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1953 — Russell Mulcahy, 68. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company really messed with production. He would later released this film in Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 64. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which in on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything genre worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 — Cixin Liu, 58. He’s a winner of a Hugo Award  for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, the Chinese State sponsored SFF Awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? Is it still on? 
  • Born June 23, 1964 — Joss Whedon, 57. I think I first encounter him with the Buffy tv series. And I hold that Angel was far better told. Firefly was a lovely series that ended far too soon. And don’t get me started on the Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 49. Liz Sherman in Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 21. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s cartoon for New Scientist.

(14) WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD. CrimeReads excerpts a new history of comic books by Paul S. Hirsch: “The Early, Wild, Exploited, and Sometimes Radical Days of the Comic Book Industry in America”.

The American comic book is inseparable from foreign policy, the great twentieth-century battles between capitalism and totalitarianism, and the political goals of the world’s preeminent military and cultural power. The history of the American comic book is a story of visual culture, commerce, race, and policy. These four fields are analogous to the four colors used to print comic books: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. They lie atop one another, smearing, blending, and bleeding to create a complete image. To separate them is to disassemble a coherent whole and to shatter a picture that in its entirety shows us how culture and diplomacy were entangled during the mid-twentieth century.

THE EARLY YEARS, 1935–1945

The period from 1935 to 1945 was defined by images of darkness and light. The comic industry itself—populated by otherwise unemployable immigrants, racial minorities, and political radicals—emerged from the shadows of the New York publishing world….

(15) BOOK RESURRECTION. “’Most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print’: the fight to rescue a nation’s lost books” in The Guardian.

…This is the unfortunate fate of most books, even literary prize-winners. In fact, of the 62 books that won Australia’s Miles Franklin Award between 1957 and 2019, 23 are currently not available as ebooks, 40 are not available as audiobooks, and 10 are not available anywhere, in any format whatsoever. They’re officially out of print. This is something that Untapped: The Australian Literary Heritage Project is trying to rectify.

“Untapped is a collaboration between authors, libraries and researchers, and it came about because most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print. You can’t find it anywhere,” says project lead, Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin from Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne. “Think about it. If so many Miles Franklin winners are out of print, you can imagine how bad availability must be for memoir, and histories, and other local stories.”

Untapped’s mission is to digitise 200 of Australia’s most important lost books, preserving them for future generations and making them available through a national network of libraries. They include books such as Anita Heiss’s I’m Not Racist, But … (2007) and Frank Hardy’s The Unlucky Australians (1968). “One exciting thing is that all these books will now be part of the National E-deposit scheme,” Giblin says, referring to the legal requirement for all publishers to provide copies of published works to libraries – a framework only recently extended to electronic publishing. “This means they’ll be preserved forever. These books will now be around as long as we have libraries.”

(16) WEIR Q&A. Suspense Radio, a thriller podcast, interviews Andy Weir: “LaunchpadOne: Interview with Andy Weir”.

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

(17) ROY HOWARD GOH SPEECH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Cromcast has a recording of Roy Thomas’ guest of honor speech at the 2021 Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains. Lots of interesting stuff about working at Marvel in the 1960s and 1970s, not just Conan related, though there is a lot of that, too. “Howard Days 2021 – When Conan Went Public!”

(18) BUILDING UP THEIR INVENTORY. James Davis Nicoll knows where the cargo in their holds came from — “Risky Business: Five Books About Interplanetary Trade” at Tor.com.

Humans have, starting in prehistoric times (with obsidian, red ochre, etc.), established vast trade networks that cross mountains, deserts, and oceans. Presumably, this will be true in the future as well, even as humanity expands out into SPAAACE. While there are reasons why larger concerns will tend to dominate, the little guys will often provide more engaging narratives. Thus, these five heartwarming tales of working traders enthusiastically engaging in commerce among the stars…

The Trouble Twisters by Poul Anderson (1966)

Hyperdrive gave humans the stars…also vast fortunes to Polesotechnic League merchant princes like Nicolas van Rijn. Great men cannot be everywhere, however, which is why this collection of short pieces focuses not on van Rijn but his employee, David Falkayn (don’t worry! David eventually gets into management by marrying the boss’s beautiful daughter). Whether upending religious prohibitions, obtaining state secrets, or intervening in bitter ethnic strife, Falkayn and his co-workers always find the solution that delivers profit.

Long after the events in this book, Falkayn would become disenchanted with the League’s conscience-blind focus on immediate profits. This would have regrettable implications for Falkayn’s relationship with van Rijn, but without actually saving the League or humanity from the consequences of the League’s short-sighted policies. But at least they generated lots of profit for the shareholders before the League-armed space barbarians descended from the skies….

(19) SPIDER-MAN BEYOND. A Marvel press release tells me – “Stay tuned tomorrow for information on this exciting new Amazing Spider-Man era from Kelly Thompson, Saladin Ahmed, Cody Ziglar, Patrick Gleason, and Zeb Wells!”

(20) MARVEL MARKETING. Did that previous item come from this guy? This video from Screen Rant, which dropped today, features Ryan George as master marketer Normantula McMan, who says, “I get butts in seats.  I influence butts in ways you can’t imagine.”  And McMan knows butts, because his grandpa came up with the idea that four out of five doctors recommended a particular smoke!

(21) ASTRONAUTS TO EXPERIENCE TIDE EFEFCT. Yep, here’s the science entry in today’s Scroll courtesy of the AP: “Dirty laundry in space? NASA, Tide tackle cleaning challenge”. It turns out there’s a simple reason why the International Space Station smells like an old gym sock.

How do astronauts do laundry in space? They don’t.

They wear their underwear, gym clothes and everything else until they can’t take the filth and stink anymore, then junk them.

NASA wants to change that — if not at the International Space Station, then the moon and Mars — and stop throwing away tons of dirty clothes every year, stuffing them in the trash to burn up in the atmosphere aboard discarded cargo ships. So it’s teamed up with Procter & Gamble Co. to figure out how best to clean astronauts’ clothes in space so they can be reused for months or even years, just like on Earth.

The Cincinnati company announced Tuesday that it will send a pair of Tide detergent and stain removal experiments to the space station later this year and next, all part of the galactic battle against soiled and sweaty clothes….

(22) RETURN TO SENDER. Yahoo! draws our attention to a remarkable working model: “Fan-Made Captain America Shield Actually Bounces Back”.

…We have to give big props to the YouTuber here. Unlike other “make your own Cap shield” videos, he didn’t go the drone route. Which is kind of cheating. The MCU shield bounces after all, it doesn’t fly. According to their own description, the shield they made was created with carbon fiber with a fiberglass ring, to provide bounce while keeping maximum strength. The shield also magnetically connects to the user’s wrist, and can be thrown overhand just like Cap. We think the final results are pretty darn impressive….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/21 Scroll With A Pixel Earring

(1) LET THERE BE LIGHT. Besides the Le Guin stamp coming out this year, the United States Post office has announced they will release a series of stamps highlighting images of the Sun captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

…The 20-stamp set features ten images that celebrate the science behind NASA’s ongoing exploration of our nearest star. The images display common events on the Sun, such as solar flares, sunspots and coronal loops. SDO has kept a constant eye on the Sun for over a decade. Outfitted with equipment to capture images of the Sun in multiple wavelengths of visible, ultraviolet, and extreme ultraviolet light, SDO has gathered hundreds of millions of images during its tenure to help scientists learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields create the solar activity we see.

(2) IN DEMAND. How many Hugo winners have AO3’s problem? “People Are Reading So Much Fanfiction It’s Crashing the Biggest Fanfic Website”Vice has the story. (Well, I used to have that problem, however, it only took 15 people doing a certain thing for it to happen, and now that it’s fixed I don’t need to raise my hand.)

Over the weekend fanfiction website Archive of our Own went down, to the dismay of fanfic readers everywhere. While it’s not the result of any one fic, despite what some fans thought, it’s a reflection of how much the pandemic has changed our fanfiction reading habits.

Archive of our Own is a website to archive transformative works, also known as fanfiction. Fanfiction uses the fictional boundaries of someone else’s fiction in order to tell new stories with those characters and in those universes. While fanfiction is mostly associated with lovesick, teenage Twilight fans who insert themselves into their favorite novels, fanfiction and the associated cultural force of fandom has become the default view of what it means to be a fan. For some fans, especially in particularly online fandoms, reading fanfiction and reacting to it is a huge part of how they express their fandom. Over time, Archive of Our Own has been recognized as both a very popular website and a culturally important one, eventually winning a Hugo Award for best related work.

Over the weekend, Archive of Our Own went down, much to the surprise and chagrin of people who were in the middle of their fics. The beleaguered posting from people who were hoping to relax with the two new chapters of fanfiction like the Mandalorian fic “Rough Day” were funny enough. I only knew about the outage because Kotaku writer Ash Parrish was lamenting that she’d planned an entire night of relaxing with fanfiction, only for the site to go down…. 

(3) DISCON III. K. Tempest Bradford had one of the more thorough critical responses to Colette H. Fozard’s post about resigning as DisCon III co-chair. Thread starts here.  

(4) RENAME THE SPACE FORCE? Once reports circulated that the Biden administration will retire the “Operation Warp Speed” name for its push to vaccinate Americans for the coronavirus, Twitter answered with a suggestion to also eliminate the Space Force name – or the military branch itself.

C. Stuart Hardwick, Analog writer and six-time Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award finalist, offered this defense.

(5) NEW TABLET. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green, in “The ReMarkable Tablet–First Impressions”, reviews a tool that some writers will find helpful.

After watching the tablet make its way from Hong Kong to various states around the country before reaching the DFW area, I finally have my ReMarkable tablet….

… I’m one of those writers who has to resort to pen and paper from time to time to work through plot problems, etc. I’ve been using my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil 2 when I’ve reached that point, taking advantage of the handwriting to text apps. It worked but it never really “felt” right. I knew I wasn’t putting pen to paper. That, in turn, kept reminding me all I needed to do was open an app or the internet and . . . shiny!

The ReMarkable is an e-ink tablet. It doesn’t have a web browser. There are no games. It is a productivity tool only. You can set up folders and notebooks and take notes or draw. You can convert your notes to text. Using the desktop or phone app, you can sync your work between your tablet and your other devices. You can also email your work to yourself or someone else….

(6) A DIVE INTO THE TANK. Cora Buhlert has her second installment of “Fanzine Spotlight: The Drink Tank”.

Today’s featured fanzine is The Drink Tank, a seven-time Hugo finalist (if I’ve counted correctly) and Hugo winner for Best Fanzine in 2011.

And now I’d like to welcome Christopher J. Garcia of The Drink Tank.

Tell us about your site or zine.

I started doing The Drink Tank is in 2005. That series ended in 2015, and I took a 3 year break and started back up with two new co-editors. The concept this time around is that we take a different theme for every issue. Some aren’t SFF, like our issues on The Tower of London or Musicals, but many are, like our look at Science Fiction Comics and Universal Monsters. Our issues range anywhere from 12 to 50-ish pages and tend to be from a wide-range of writers and artists. We’ve been lucky enough to get some amazing material from some amazing people.

(7) WILL GET PAID. SF critic Paul Kincaid shares some good news — he got results after contacting a publisher that had announced a volume containing a reprint of his essay which they did not have permission to use.

It looks like the saga of the Routledge volume is drifting towards a conclusion. Routledge have offered me compensation, which I have accepted. And it looks like a couple of science fiction journals at least are reconsidering their policy on copyright, which is the real principle of the thing. But we do need to be wary about copyright on our essays and reviews from now on.

(8) AURORA AWARDS. The Eligibility Lists for the Auroras are now open for submissions from members of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association.

To view works already submitted, you can view our public eligibility listings. Keep in mind that these will change throughout the eligibility submission period.
You need to be logged in to submit works to the eligibility lists.
If you do do not wish to vote in the Aurora Awards but wish to submit works to the Eligibility lists, please contact us to request a non-voting account.
Eligibility closes February 28, 2021.

(9) CONSTANTINE OBIT. British sff author Storm Constantine (1956-2021) died January 14 at the age of 64. She was primarily known for her Wraeththu series. The author of over 30 published novels and non-fiction books, Constantine’s novel Scenting Hallowed Blood was a British Fantasy Award finalist in 1997. Her story “Priest of Hands” was a nominee for the British SF Association Award in 1993, and “The Oracle Lips” was shortlisted for the Otherwise Award in 1998. Constantine also headed Immanion Press, an independent publishing company she founded in 2003.

 Storm Constantine, at the 1995 Glasgow World SF Convention. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

(10) RICHMAN OBIT. Many, many genre roles. He was even the Voice of God once —“Peter Mark Richman Dies: Versatile Actor For Broadway, Film, TV Was 93”Deadline remembers:

Peter Mark Richman… died [Jan 14] in Woodland Hills, Calif. of natural causes. He was 93. Born on April 16th, 1927. …film roles in …Friday the 13th Part 8. In television, … over 500 guest star appearances on such shows as  The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Fantasy Island, and Star Trek the Next Generation. 

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 15, 1995 Star Trek: Voyager premiered on UPN. It originally aired from January 1995 to May 2001 on UPN, lasting for one hundred seventy-two episodes over seven seasons. The fifth series in the Star Trek franchise, it served as the fourth sequel to Star Trek: The Original Series. Voyager would be the first Trek series to feature a female captain, Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), as the lead character. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-seven percent rating overall. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 15, 1860 – Eleanor Hull.  Co-founder of the Irish Texts Society, honorary secretary thirty years.  President, Irish Literary Society.  Eight books, some ours e.g. Folklore of the British Isles.  Hard to say how much the tale of Cuchulain is fantasy; anyway, see here.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, but  I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed because it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.) (CE) 
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville, 93. She played the Romulan commander in Trek’s “The Enterprise Incident” episode.  She previously starred in the Twilight Zone’s “The Passersby”, and been in two episodes of One Step Beyond as Aunt Mina in “The Dead Part of the House” episode and as Karen Wadsworth in the “A Moment of Hate” episode. She’d have later one-offs on The InvadersI-Spy and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.(CE)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 86. I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. So what should I have read by him that I haven’t? (CE) 
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if I find sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read his Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 76. A fan who was one of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well. Played the barbarian alongside Jerry Jacks in the immortal Worldcon masquerade entry “Fafhrd & the Gay (sic) Mouser”. (CE)
  • Born January 15, 1963 – Bruce Schneier, Ph.D., age 58.  He was in Minneapa during its last years, as in a way was I through the Minneapa – APA-L combination (can an apa belong to another apa? why not? of course Tom Digby thought this up).  With Karen Cooper he co-authored the Minicon 34 Restaurant Guide, which placed 5th for the Best-Related-Book Hugo.  Eventually his interest, and expertise, in electronic security dominated.  [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 56. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role. (CE) 
  • Born January 15, 1974 – Shaun Tan, age 47.  A score of short stories; mostly known for visual art.  Six dozen covers, two hundred interiors.  Guest of Honor at Swancon 2004, at Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon.  Five Ditmars, two Hugos, one Oscar.  Lindgren Award.  Greenaway Medal.  Here is Lost and Found.  Here is The Arrival.  Here is City of Birds.  Here is Moonfish.  Here is The Bird King.  Here is A Bear and Her Lawyer.  [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1986 – Rosamund Hodge, age 35.  Seven novels, as many shorter stories.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Has read The Yellow WallpaperThe Man Born to Be KingFuenteovejunaAs I Crossed a Bridge of DreamsThe Divine ComedyHide Me Among the Graves, four by Trollope, two by Hambly, one by Heyer (and it’s A Civil Contract, yay).  [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1989  – Kaveh Akbar, Ph.D., age 32.  Two Pushcart Prizes.  Levis Reading Prize.  Zacharis First Book Award.  Medwick Award.  Poetry Editor of The Nation.  Some of his poetry seems ours; anyway, strange.  Here is “The Perfect Poem”.  [JH]
  • Born January 15, 1999 – Arula Ratnakar, age 21.  Two short stories for us, but rather than give you a thousand words I recommend seeing her at Portfolio Lounge.  [JH]

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC. It’s time to savor spanakopita with writer/editor Nick Mamatas in Episode 136 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nick Mamatas

Nick has published fiction in genre publications such as Asimov’s Science Fiction and Tor.com, literary journals including New Haven Review and subTERRAIN, and anthologies such as Hint Fiction and Best American Mystery Stories 2013. His fiction and editorial work has been nominated for the Bram Stoker award five times, the Hugo Award twice, the World Fantasy Award twice, and the Shirley Jackson, International Horror Guild, and Locus Awards.

His novels include Under My RoofThe Damned Highway (cowritten with Brian Keene), Love is the LawThe Last Weekend, and I Am Providence, while his fiction has been collected in You Might SleepThe Nickronomicon, most recently, The People’s Republic of Everything. His writing guide Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life has prevented many a beginning writer from, well, starving, and I suspect also convinced a few to seek a different line of work. Upcoming in 2021, Solaris will be publishing his novel The Second Shooter, and The Planetbreakers Son will appear as part of the Outspoken Authors series from PM Press.

We discussed why there’s a generational divide when it comes to what potential readers might think his upcoming novel The Second Shooter is about, our joint Brooklyn heritage and history with professional wrestling, why he threw away the first dozen stories he wrote, the reason Marvel Comics was always better than DC, his encounters with the famed monologuist Brother Theodore, the first bad book he ever read, the way having been a journalist helps him collaborate without killing his co-writers, why work for hire assignments can be difficult, how we feel about our refusal to pick a genre lane, and much more.

(14) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1996 – Twenty-five years ago at L.A. Con III in Anaheim where Connie Willis was the Toastmaster, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age as published by Bantam Spectra the previous year wins the Hugo for Best Novel. The other nominated novels were The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer, The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, Brightness Reef by David Brin and Remake by Connie Willis. It would also be chosen by Locus as their Best SF Novel of the Year, and garnered a John W. Campbell Memorial Award as well. It was nominated for a number of other Awards as well. 

(15) VAMOOSING THROUGH THE VACUUM. James Davis Nicoll brings us “Five Thrilling SF Stories About Patrolling Space” at Tor.com.

After a painstaking process that apparently consisted of determining from which movie/comic books they wanted to lift a name, members of the US Space Force have officially been dubbed “Guardians.” Whether this is in reference to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or the interfering blue dome-heads from Green Lantern is unclear. Either way, please enjoy five exciting stories about space patrols patrolling… SPACE!

(16) TOMORROW PRIZE. “Celebrity Guests Read Stellar Sci-Fi by Young Writers” is an online event happening January 16 to raise awareness for The Tomorrow Prize teen sci-fi writing competition. Runs 11:00am – 12:00pm PST. FREE (donation requested). RSVP for the link: B5events.com.

Celebrity guests return to B5 Events for a reading of original sci-fi by young writers! These stories — all finalists of The Tomorrow Prize for short sci-fi competition — are riveting. They’ll make you laugh and they’ll break your heart and you’ll love them all.

The Tomorrow Prize was founded in 2014 to inspire the next generation of sci-fi writing talent and motivate teens to explore today’s pressing issues through the sci-fi lens. The Tomorrow Prize 2021 entry deadline is February 1. 

(17) PLAYING THE LOTTERY. “Home inventor accidentally multiplies cat in New York Lottery ad”Campaign US has the story. Video at the link.

McCann New York’s creative spot dreams up a hilarious invention gone wrong.

New York Lottery brought the laughs in a hilarious new spot featuring an inventor, who unveils a clunky contraption in his garage called “The Multiplier.” His wife tries to get him to play the Lottery X Series scratch off card instead, where he can multiply his winnings. But the man,  enthralled by his invention,  accidentally clones the family cat, Professor Bunsen. Oops.

(18) REFUGE 31. The Faith in Imagination Series is a three-part series being produced by Refuge 31.  The first part, already released, is The Fantasy Makers. The second part is forthcoming, The Science Fiction Makers: Rousseau, Lewis and L’Engle. “This feature documentary examines the unique story of the Christian Science-Fiction sub-genre and three writers that played a role in its emergence.” Diana Pavlac Glyer, one of the scholars interviewed for the documentary, appears in this trailer.

(19) THE GREEN GIRL. That there is a documentary about actress Susan Oliver may be news to you, too, even if it was released in 2014: “The Green Girl Official Trailer (2014)”. She was a qualified commercial jet pilot and a television director as well as an actor. She died of colorectal cancer at age 58.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/17/20 When You Get Caught Between The Moon And New Scroll City, The Best That You Can Do Is File In Love

(1) VIRTUAL PHILCON. Philcon 2020 will be taking place online the weekend of Friday November 20 through Sunday, November 22, 2020. It’s free. Information about how people can participate and navigate in Philcon using Zoom and Discord can be found at www.philcon.org and at https://konopas.philcon.org/#info

There will be no charge for joining Philcon 2020. It will be necessary to sign up for each program item, which may be done even while the program item is underway  The program schedule is set, subject to changes, and can be reviewed at https://konopas.philcon.org/

There will be five program tracks, a reading track, a filk and music track and social gatherings in Zoom and Discord.

The massive Filk program begins at 11 a.m. Friday. Concerts, open filk and a songwriting contest will run day and night until Sunday night.

The panels, readings and workshops start at 5:30 p.m. Literary panels cover topics for fans and writers. Science and technology, fandom, media, anime, gaming all have substantial coverage.

There are currently plans for 157 program items.

For those of you who knew and loved Hugh Casey, we will be holding a memorial get-together on Saturday at 5:30.

We hope to have an in person Philcon back at the Cherry Hill Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 2021. The dates will be November 19 to 21, 2021.

(2) VIRTUAL CONTRAFLOW/DEEPSOUTHCON. Also this coming weekend, on November 21 there will be a free one-day virtual 2020 DSC/SFC CONference put on by the CONtraflow committee.

As most of you already know, we had to postpone our 2020 convention due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While we were able to work out most of those details for a Convention next year, we are not able to postpone an actual Deep South Con. In lieu of what would have been our event this year, we would like to offer to the Fen at the Southern Fandom Confederation a virtual day of the community, creativity, and fun the Fans of the Southern Louisiana region can offer with a small taste of a virtual CONtraflow’s 2020 Deep South Con. We are calling it The 2020 DSC/SFC CONference. 

This one-day event will be completely virtual and totally free and begins at 10 am Saturday November 21.  It is an invitation for you to join us on ZOOM for panels on some of your favorite topics: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Film, TV, SMOF subculture, and much more. 

…We will also be hosting a virtual Southern Fandom Confederation meeting, gaming on the Discord Platform (including the annual DSC Hearts event) and evening programming.  Again, all the events are free- but since it is free, the space/seats are limited.  Interested Fans should be sure to drop us an email at http://www.contraflowscifi.org or find/message us on Facebook to make sure there are seats still available before November 20.  Also, while the event will be free, CONtraflow will be selling 2021 memberships during the day for the absolute lowest price that weekend on Eventbrite.com

We will also have a donation page available for those who’d just like to help out since we have expenses accrued for 2020, even without holding a convention, and the costs of this weekend’s CONference….

(3) CARNEGIE MEDALS SHORTLIST. The six shortlist titles for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence — three each for the fiction and nonfiction medals — were announced on November 17. The winners will be named online on Thursday, February 4, 2021.  

I believe none of these are genre, but you may still be interested.

FICTION FINALISTS

  • A BurningMegha Majumdar (Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC)
  • Deacon King KongJames McBride (Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC)
  • Homeland Elegies — Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.)

NONFICTION FINALISTS

(4) THE BIG PICTURE. Kaaron Warren told Facebook followers her novel The Grief Hole has scored a development grant to be made into a movie. “Imagine Sol Evictus in real life…and all those ghosts.”

It’s one of seven projects to be supported by Screen Canberra.

THE GRIEF HOLE– Fiction Feature Film – Development loan Writers: Joshua Koske, Kaaron Warren When an embattled social worker with the ability to see how people die discovers her cousin’s suicide was influenced by a seductive and powerful celebrity, she must overcome her own personal tragedies and work with other gifted individuals to put a stop to his reign of terror before they become the next in a long line of willing victims.

Two of the other announced projects are also of genre interest:

PARANORMAL BLACKTIVITY Writers: Benny Eggmolesse, Jacob Keed, Nakyua Gorrie, Romina Accurso Producers: Benny Eggmolesse, Joe Weatherstone, Catherine Nabauer and Scott Wilson Development Loan, TV Series (horror) Rival siblings must team up to investigate bloody murders, strange disappearances and super weird stuff they suspect are caused by ancient Aboriginal monsters, woken by an imbalance in the natural world.

GIRL ON THE MOON – Television Series Fiction – Development loan Writers: Georgina Jenkins, Sue McPherson In 2069, Aboriginal Australian girl Luna (17), the only child ever born on the Moon, dreams of travelling to Earth to connect with her unknown father and her culture. But she knows her weak Moonling body would never survive. Luna is about to discover she is more powerful than any Earthling.

(5) CAREER WISDOM. “Questions for: David Burnett” – the former Gollancz publisher — at BookBrunch [PDF file.]

Who has been the most influential person in your career?

There have been a few, including Paul Elek [of Paul Elek Publishers]. He taught me to go out there and find authors and projects and pictures when you have small resources (in his case, it was a crushing bank overdraft). Liz Calder was the greatest. Victor Gollancz was a publishing genius and one man tornado. He could dine on sardines if the going got difficult, otherwise it was the Savoy Grill.

(6) PANIC IN THE YEAR TWO-OH-TWO-ZERO. I usually don’t get my cancel culture news from Mad Genius Club, but here is Amanda S. Green with two scoops concerning The Mandalorian: “A Swab, A Huh? And A You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me”.

…But I do think we will see more pressure from the Left to try to delist our work if it doesn’t meet the cause du jour. We’ve already seen how Target overreacted to a single tweet about a book and removed it from its shelves last week. It’s apologized and, iirc, returned the book. But this knee-jerk reaction to the woke crowd is more than a little disturbing.

The idiocy seems to grow with each week that passes. Just this month, Baby Yoda was “cancelled” by the woke crowd because he dared eat the eggs of a sentient being. How dare this “Child” do that! Bad Baby Yoda.

But that’s not the only scene from The Mandalorian to catch the eye of the woke crowd this month. In a more recent episode, cries of outrage were heard through the interwebz because of a character’s armor. 

Boobz armor is bad according to Anita Sarkeesian.

Why do I think she’d have been outraged if the lady Mando armor was exactly the same as Mando’s was? After all, then they could be accused of trying to erase the female form. 

But, but, but it’s not “real”, as one commenter points out. No shit, Sherlock. It’s a fucking show. It’s fiction. Not that the Sarkeesians of the world care as long as they can show their woke card.

And, yes, they will come for those writers they feel aren’t giving out the right message–especially those more successful than they are. And that presents a danger to all of us. Will the venues we’ve been using to sell our books remain open to us in their current forms or will we have to start tailoring our books to their demands?

(7) VICTORY AT SEA. Harry Turtledove, dubbed “The Master of Alternate History”by Publishers Weekly, has written a number of classics in the subgenre, including How Few Remain, The Guns of the South and The Man with the Iron Heart. His new novel Salamis was released November 11.

Salamis is the fifth (standalone) novel in Harry Turtledove’s critically acclaimed Hellenic Traders universe, detailing the adventures of two cousins, Menedemos and Sostratos, who work as seaborne traders following the death of Alexander the Great. This time the stage is one of the greatest sea battles ever fought in ancient times; the Battle of Salamis of 306 BC.

The small, free, and independent polis of Rhodes is trying to stay neutral between the local great powers, each ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s marshals: Asia Minor, controlled by one-eyed Antigonos, and Egypt, under the rule of Ptolemaios.

As tensions between the great powers escalate, Menedemos and Sostratos are trying to resolve their own problems, oblivious to the fact that one of the greatest navel fleets in ancient history is about to set sail. Ptolemaios, needing shipping to carry weapons for the army he intends to land, coerces Menedemos into bringing their ship, the Aphrodite, along as part of his expeditionary force. And so, very much against their will, Menedemos and Sostratos become small parts of one of the ancient world’s most significant naval battles.

Turtledove uses his study of history (with a Ph.D in Byzantine history) to create alternate worlds in intricate detail, crafting enthralling adventures that have garnered him high critical praise as well as making him one of the most successful bestselling authors in alternate history.

(8) YOUNG AUTHORS’ CLUB. SFFAudio tweeted a graphic of this story by 13-year-old Philip K. Dick published in a Berkeley paper in 1942.

(9) ZACK’S CUT. HBO Max dropped a trailer for what is now called Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 – Raymond F. Jones.  Sixteen novels, six dozen shorter stories.  Son of the Stars was I think the first science fiction I read, at about age 8.  Also I like “The Person from Porlock” – which Groff Conklin, one of our finest anthologists, put in his Treasury, one of our finest anthologies.  RFJ entitled a story “I Tell You Three Times” a year before Heinlein put that Hunting of the Snark allusion in The Rolling Stones.  When I agree with Clute and Nicholls it’s a frabjous day – oops, wrong Carroll poem: RFJ wrote “solid, well-crafted … adventures … in a … transparent style…. one of the carriers of the voice of SF.”  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1925 Rock Hudson. Best known genre role was as Col. John Wilder in The Martian Chronicles series off the Ray Bradbury work. He also played President Thomas McKenna in the World War III miniseries which you may or may not consider SF. That’s it. He was by the way yet another of the uncredited guest performers on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (Died 1985.)  (CE) 
  • Born November 17, 1936 – John Trimble, 84.  He and wife Bjo (the software won’t show the caret over her j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”), two of our great fans, are also omnifans: fanwriting, fanart, clubs, costuming, conventions, Star Trek, our neighbor the Society for Creative Anachronism.  I’ve been Master of Ceremonies for our onstage costume competition the Masquerade, a wondrous and sometimes terrifying task; JT was MC for possibly the greatest, certainly the longest, at L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon: over a hundred entries: you couldn’t leave, the next one would be even better: two-thirds through, when a voice cried “How many more, John??” he answered I won’t tell you.  I can’t quite remember this panel, but it was fun.  JT chaired Westercon 23 and an Equicon; he & Bjo were Guests of Honor at Westercons 66 & 70, at the 13th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas; in the photo, JT & BT with daughter Kat), at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1952 Robin McKinley, 68. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version  of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are SunshineChalice and Dragonhaven.  Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015, they lived together in Hampshire, England where she still lives. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed! (CE) 
  • Born November 17, 1954 –Kevin E. Johnson, 66.  A hundred forty covers, a few interiors; one short story.  Here is Gods of Riverworld.  Here is Firebird.  Here is The Toynbee Convector.  Here is Throne of Fools.  Here is Ciara’s Song.  Artist Guest of Honor at RustyCon 2, Valleycon 11.  [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1956 – Rebecca Moesta, 64.  Half a dozen novels, three shorter stories; thirty more novels, half a dozen more shorter stories, two pop-up books, with husband Kevin Anderson.  Interviewed together in SF Chronicle 224, Shimmer 4.  The only continent they have not visited together – yet – is Antarctica.  Devout gadgetologist.  [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1965 Sophie Marceau, 54. Elektra King, the villain opposing our hero In The World Is Not Enough, the 19th Bond Film. Also Eloïse d’Artagnan in Revenge of the Musketeers, Hippolyta in that version of A Midsummer Night’s DreamandLisa / Belphegor in Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre. She’s also one of the voice actors in Nature is Speaking, a Gaian series. (CE) 
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 54. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The AuthorityBatmanCaptain AmericaDaredevil, Catwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series which has been rumored to in developed as a tv series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. He’s a member of the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan. (CE)
  • Born November 17, 1976 – Shawna Yang Ryan, 44.  Four novels for us, one other.  Fulbright scholar.  Ass’n for Asian American Studies Best Book Award in Creative Writing, Elliot Cades Emerging Writer Award, American Book Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 17, 1978 Tom Ellis, 42. Currently playing Lucifer Morningstar in the rather excellent Lucifer series created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg from The Sandman series. It’s quite good. Also had roles in Doctor Who as Tom Milligan in the Ten Doctor story, “Last of the Time Lords”, Once Upon a TimeMessiahThe Strain and Merlin. (CE) 
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 37. He is the author of the most excellent Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance. Several years ago, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published. A film version of the first novel came out sometime ago but I’ve not seen it. And his first SF novel, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, was just published. (CE)
  • Born November 17, 1993 – Andrew Melvin, 27.  Sixteen short stories so far; they are all horrid – I mean, literally – and so collected in Horror Tales; see this cover.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro is there to witness Dracula’s day in court.

(12) URBAN SPACEMAN. Sprudge invites you to “Meet Covidisor, A Practical COVID Helmet That Lets You Drink Coffee”.

…But what the Covidisor has that puts it head and shoulders above the Air is a special swivel-mounted port on the front of the face shield that allows the wearer to consume any beverages via a straw. No longer will you have to make your face available to the outside world in order to enjoy that extra hot no foam latte. At last we can be safe, and caffeinated.

Available in eight different color options for the hard hat, the Covidisor retails for $275. And if you’re not sold on it yet, this snazzy music video by Vedra might change your mind. They’re walking all over a plague-ridden NYC, singing and wearing the Covidisor and just having the time of their life as though everything is fine. Everything is going to be fine…with Covidisor.

(13) SUPERMAN DOCUMENTARY MINI-REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Amazing Story of Superman on YouTube is a 2006 documentary, directed by Kevin Burns and narrated by Kevin Spacey, about Superman from Siegel and Shuster’s creation through Superman Returns.  It wouldn’t surprise me if this was originally a bonus feature for the Superman Returns DVD, because there’s too much of a hard sell for both that movie and “Smallville” which makes both productions out to be imaginative masterpieces, even though Superman Returns is average and “Smallville” got pretty soapy pretty quickly.  But there’s lots of interesting Superman stuff in it, such as the photos of Superman from the 1939 World’s Fair, ads for Superman Bread from the 1940s, and commercials from around 2004 with Jerry Seinfeld and an animated Superman.  The most interesting discovery is that after George Reeves killed himself in 1959, the people behind the Superman TV show did a pilot for The Adventures of Super Pup with characters in animal suits.  This of course went nowhere.  I still think it’s worth watching provided you know you’re getting a hard sell for about a third of the film.

Forrest J. Ackerman is in it briefly explaining what fanzines are and how Siegel and Shuster got their start in sf fandom.

(14) SPACEX ISS MISSION SUCCESSFUL. “SpaceX capsule with 4 astronauts reaches space station”WDRB has the story.

SpaceX’s newly launched capsule with four astronauts arrived Monday at the International Space Station, their new home until spring.

The Dragon capsule pulled up and docked late Monday night, following a 27-hour, completely automated flight from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The linkup occurred 262 miles (422 kilometers) above Idaho.

“Oh, what a good voice to hear,” space station astronaut Kate Rubins called out when the Dragon’s commander, Mike Hopkins, first made radio contact….

(15) WHERE NO GREEN TOY HAS GONE BEFORE. “‘Star Wars’ Fans Notice An Adorable Addition To The New Space Station Crew”Yahoo! News has details.

…Eagle-eyed “Star Wars” fans spotted an adorable addition to the crew that launched into space on Sunday: The Child, better known as Baby Yoda.

The four astronauts onboard used a plush toy of the beloved character from the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” to determine whether they had reached zero gravity:

(16) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Songbird takes place in week 215 of the national lockdown, where people quarantined under Covid-23 have to be placed in camps.  Good times!  Produced by Michael Bay.

(17) ACQUISITION. Publishers Lunch reports:

Richard Kadrey and Cassandra Khaw’s THE DEAD TAKE THE A TRAIN, about a freelance psychic operative tracking an ever-morphing supernatural serial killer in New York City, to Diana Gill at Nightfire, with Kelly Lonesome editing, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown for Kadrey, and by Michael Curry at Donald Maass Literary Agency for Khaw.

(18) ITTY BITTY TEENY WEENY BACTERIAL SPACE MINERS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The New York Times reports “These Microbes May Help Future Martians and Moon People Mine Metals”. (May be paywalled.)

An experiment aboard the space station showed that bacteria were effective at extracting rare earth elements from rocks.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Toy Story 4” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the fourth Toy Story movie has Keanu Reeves in it because we all love Keanu Reeves and has “many beloved character actors getting paid only to say ‘Woody’ or ‘Buzz.'”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/3/20 And Was The Corny Cry Of ‘Fifth’ On The File’s Pleasant Comments Seen?

(1) NEW HORROR “RADIO NETWORK.” Brian Keene announced yesterday on Facebook that The Horror Show with Brian Keene will become the flagship podcast for the new Brian Keene Radio Network, which will also include Defenders Dialogue, Cosmic Shenanigans, and Grindcast. From the statement, it looks like the split from Shelly and Armand Rosamilia is amicable.  They are all still friends.

The Horror Show with Brian Keene started out on the Project iRadio Network. During our second year, we became part of the Project Entertainment Network.

Beginning April 1, (in the midst of our sixth year on the air) The Horror Show with Brian Keene will become the flagship podcast for the new Brian Keene Radio Network,…

Listeners will not be impacted by this change. You’ll still be able to hear episodes of each podcast for free via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Google Play Music, and all other platforms. You’ll also be able to hear them for free on a new 24/7 live-streaming venture (a rebooted and revamped Brian Keene Radio) beginning in April. Old shows will still be accessible, as well. You may notice some changes to the structure of each show — new theme music, new title cards, advertising presented in a different way — but otherwise, it’s business as usual….

(2) DEAR JEFF BEZOS. While Amanda S. Green had some unfortunate problems uploading her new book via Kindle Digital Publishing, thereby missing a deadline and forfeiting pre-orders, she got a hell of a good post out of it for Mad Genius Club: “Not How I Expected Today To Go”. A lot to learn here.

…Lesson #1: Check the Terms of Service on a regular basis.

Amazon has updated the Terms of Service and did so on Feb. 20, 2020. How many of you have read them since then to see if there are any changes you need to be aware of? I hadn’t–at that point. I guarantee you I have since then.

…In the meantime, I have set a recurring alarm on my phone’s calendar to remind me to check the ToS every month. Yes, I’m being obsessive about it. But I am convinced the fact I knew what the ToS said and could prove it was at odds with the FAQs helped me plead my case and get my pre-order privileges restored. (As did being professional in my dealings with Amazon).

This writer will not be the unhappy writer on what should be release day ever again.

Fingers crossed.

(3) ONWARD. Vanity Fair fills readers in about “The Heartbreaking True Story Behind Pixar’s Onward”. Tagline: “A lost father. A found tape. A voice a filmmaker thought he would never hear.”

Dan Scanlon didn’t have a sad childhood; he just grew up with a hole in it.

It was in the shape of his father, who died in 1977 when Scanlon was only one year old. Neither he nor his brother, who is about three years older, remember their dad. They tried to construct some sense of him from pictures, from stories, from glimpses of the few soundless reel-to-reel home movies they had.

That’s what inspired Scanlon, a veteran Pixar creative team member and director of Monsters University, to pitch the idea for Onward, an animated fantasy about two brothers who do the same. These siblings—younger, shy Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and older, boisterous Barley (Chris Pratt)—are blue-skinned, pointy-eared elves in a suburban sword-and-sorcery world who harness magic to bring their late father back for one single day together. 

(4) LONDON CALLING, FEWER ANSWERING. Coronavirus is taking its toll of book events. Publishers Lunch asserts “Reed Is Holding the London Book Fair, Dubbed ‘The Nightmare of Epidemiologists,’ without All of You”

The UK government is not ready to ban public events of scale yet, and Reed Exhibitions is apparently not ready to face the costs of a voluntary cancellation and continues to vow that the London Book Fair will proceed next week. The show is an increasing outlier, with the big Leipzig Book Fair canceling next week’s show.

More companies have announced that they will skip the fair and protect their employees, now including a number of UK-based companies and divisions. Penguin Random House, which officially had only made the show optional for US employees — most of whom opted out — has followed other large trade publishers in withdrawing entirely. Their spokesperson said, “The London Book Fair is an important moment in the global publishing calendar but given the fast moving situation around the Coronavirus, Penguin Random House has come to the difficult decision to withdraw from the fair in the interest of the health and wellbeing of our employees, authors, and partners.”

The post continues for another couple of paragraphs naming businesses that have pulled out of the London event. Nevertheless, Publishers Weekly says “London Book Fair Will Still Go Ahead”.

(5) CALL FOR ARTICLES. Steven H Silver will be co-editing an issue of Journey Planet and would like contributions that fit in with its theme —

I don’t believe in the supernatural, but when I was walking amongst the ruins of Kenilworth Castle back in 1984, I had the feeling that if ghosts existed, I was about to meet one.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I’m not much for wandering around outdoors. Allergies have had a tendency to make me favor climate controlled areas, so it came as a huge surprise to Elaine when we saw Thingvellir in Iceland that I commented “I want to come back here and spend three or four days hiking and camping.”

While it is true that travel broadens the mind, it is also true that it opens us up to the magic of the world around us. This year, I’ll be co-editing an issue of the Hugo Award wining fanzine Journey Planet with James Bacon and Christopher J Garcia that looks at “the most magical place you’ve visited.”

We’re leaving it up to the authors and artists whose work will appear in this issue to define what “most magical” means in this context. It could be a place that took your breath away, a place that actually made you believe that magic or ghosts or the supernatural existed, a place that has significant meaning for you, or something else entirely.

Artwork and photos based on the same prompt are also very welcome.

If you are interested in participating, please drop me an e-mail at shsilver@sfsite.com and we can discuss appropriate topics and article length.

The deadline is June 20.

(6) AO3/CHINA UPDATE. Two English-language publications that focus on China have news stories from their perspective.

South China Morning Post: “Archive of Our Own, one of the internet’s biggest fanfiction sites, blocked in China amid new censorship rules”

…Outraged internet users took to social media Weibo to voice their anger, accusing Xiao’s fans of being compliant in China’s censorship machine.

“China has succeeded in getting people accustomed to self-censorship in the past decade, and in using public power to eliminate those with different opinions. The idea has been deeply rooted in everyone’s head,” Weibo user Frunzzi wrote in one of the most popular comments.

Another user with the handle ChaofanDouxiansen wrote: “Why would you hurt the already limited space for creation? Shame on you.”

Also, Radii reported: “A03 Fanfiction Drama Sparks High-Stakes War of Boys’ Love Fandom”

…Some Sean Xiao fans went so far as to organize a coordinated assault against the website, posting a message that encouraged others to report AO3 and LOFTER (China’s equivalent of Tumblr) for unlawful and homoerotic content.

Unfortunately, it seems that the spiteful act has yielded results. AO3 is now blocked in China, leaving a massive base of displaced fanfiction authors and readers. In turn, that community has started to launch similar attacks against Xiao’s fanbase.

The whole thing is a huge and unnecessary mess, and the fan who organized the assault has admitted to working with Sean Xiao’s management team in order to control the situation on Weibo.

(7) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Daniel Braum and Robert Levy on Wednesday, March 18, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Daniel Braum

Daniel Braum is the author of the short story collections The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales, The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic and the Dim Shores Press chapbook Yeti Tiger Dragon. His third collection, Underworld Dreams is forthcoming from Lethe Press in 2020. The Serpent’s Shadow, his first novel, was released from Cemetery Dance eBooks in 2019. He is the editor of the Spirits Unwrapped anthology from Lethe Press.

Robert Levy

Robert Levy’s novel The Glittering World was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, while shorter work has appeared in Black Static, Shadows & Tall Trees, The Dark, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, and more. Anaïs Nin at the Grand Guignol, a speculative novella written in the style of the literary icon’s legendary diaries, was released in October by Lethe Press.

(8) LUNNEY OBIT. Fanzine fan Frank Lunney died February 28 due to a coronary event. Early on, Lunney’s Beabohema was competitive with the very best sercon zines of its day, gaining a Best Fanzine Hugo nomination in 1970 when it shared the ballot with Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review, Charlie Brown’s Locus, Leland Sapiro’s Riverside Quarterly, and Peter Weston’s Speculation. Wikipedia says his contributors included “a then-obscure fan named ‘Gene Klein’ who would later become famous as Gene Simmons of KISS.”

In the early Seventies he switched over to publishing Syndrome, the reasons for which he explained in an interview published by Dan Steffan and Ted White in Blat! (See the full text here.)

…But the real thig that made me decide to change was being at the Boston woldcon in 1971 with the Katzes and the Kunkels. They had some hashish that made me hallucinate. (laughs) And they loaned me A Sense of FAPA with Ah! Sweet Idiocy in it, and I read and I realized that not writing about science fiction was a lot more interesting than being concerned with science fiction at all….

Although he considered what he was doing before to be fannish, from that point on other fans also identified his output as fannish. Or even faannish. In later years he would often attend Corflu. Indeed, Lunney is credited with originating the Corflu practice of paying $20 to have one’s name removed from the choosing hat, taking away any risk of being drafted to give a GoH speech at the Sunday banquet.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 3, 1965 Mutiny in Outer Space premiered. It was, produced, directed and written by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (although the latter was not credited as directing). It starred William Leslie, Dolores Faith, Pamela Curran and Richard Garland. The word “meh” would best sum up the reaction critics at the time had to this film. It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes so you’ll need to watch it and see what you think of it.
  • March 3, 1965 The Human Duplicators premiered. It was produced and directed by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (without a credit for the latter as director). The film stars George Nader, Barbara Nichols, George Macready and Dolores Faith. It was the color feature on a double bill with the black-and-white Mutiny in Outer Space. It wasn’t well received by critics, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 gave it their usual treatment. It currently holds a zero percent audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 3, 1863 Arthur Machen. His novella “The Great God Pan” published in 1890 has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as “Maybe the best horror story in the English language.” His The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations 1895 novel is considered a precursor to Lovecraft and was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books in the Seventies. (Died 1947.)
  • Born March 3, 1920 James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E.film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which in played Phillip Bainbridge, during the first season of Trek.  Doohan did nothing of genre nature post-Trek. ISFDB notes that he did three genre novels co-written with S.M. Stirling. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 3, 1924 Catherine Downs. She’s in four Fifties grade B SF films: The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, The She Creature, The Amazing Colossal Man and Missile to the Moon. All but the first film was the subject of a MST3K show. (Died 1976.)
  • Born March 3, 1936 Donald E. Morse, 84. Author of the single best book done on Holdstock, The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction which he co-wrote according to ISFDB with Kalman Matolcsy. I see he also did two books on Kurt Vonnegut and the Anatomy of Science Fiction on the intersection between SF and society at large which sounds fascinating.
  • Born March 3, 1945 George Miller, 75. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road WarriorMad Max 2Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome andFury Road.  He also directed The Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of the Twilight Zone film, The Witches of Eastwick, Babe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming
  • Born March 3, 1977 Sarah Smart, 43. She’s Jennifer in the two part Eleventh Doctor story, “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”. She’s Magda Cribden on The Secret of Crickley Hall, and played Carl Gruff in the “Billy Goat” episode of the Fairy Tale series. 
  • Born March 3, 1982 Jessica Biel,  38. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw MassacreBlade: Trinity, StealthThe Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and the animated Spark: A Space Tail.
  • Born March 3, 1980 Katherine Waterston, 40. She’s Tina Goldstein in the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which she reprised in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. And she was Janet “Danny” Daniels in Alien: Covenant. Finally I’ll note that she was Chrisann Brennan in the Steve Jobs film.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FOWL TRAILER. Artemis Fowl hits U.S. theaters May 29.

Disney’s “Artemis Fowl,” based on the beloved book by Eoin Colfer, is a fantastical, spellbinding adventure that follows the journey of 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl, a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds, as he seeks to find his father who has mysteriously disappeared. With the help of his loyal protector Butler, Artemis sets out to find him, and in doing so uncovers an ancient, underground civilization—the amazingly advanced world of fairies. Deducing that his father’s disappearance is somehow connected to the secretive, reclusive fairy world, cunning Artemis concocts a dangerous plan—so dangerous that he ultimately finds himself in a perilous war of wits with the all-powerful fairies.

(13) REALISM. In “How To Write Believable, Realistic, and Responsible Violence” on CrimeReads, Ed Ruggero offers seven tips for making violent scenes in fiction plausible.

1. People have strong reactions to violence.

Here is retired Marine Randy Hoffman describing combat to young men and women in training. “Your heart rate is uncontrollable,” he tells them. “Your pulse goes up so much that your ears kind of stop up. Everything goes kind of in slow motion. Your brain focuses on minute details to help you get through engaging the enemy before he can kill you.” [Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2019]

There are also delayed physiological effects. Here is the late Paul Russell, a combat medic in Vietnam, describing his reaction after he crawled under incoming fire to rescue wounded GIs, an action for which he would be awarded the Silver Star. “I threw my guts up all the next day. Adrenaline.”

(14) PRESSING ON. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus is full of good news about their affiliated venture, Journey Press. He begins the “State of the Press, March 2020 edition” with news that their flagship release, Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963), is in over 300 bookstores (besides being available as an ebook.) Here’s what else they have coming up —

Old Masters sign on with Journey Press

It is our great honor and privilege to announce that Journey Press will be working with Hugo Finalist and SF veteran Tom Purdom to bring back his classic, I Want the Stars. We chose to bring back this particular book for several reasons. For one, it is a timeless work, with a unique vision of the human condition nearly a thousand years from now. For another, it may well be the first science fiction novel ever to explicitly star a Black man. That’s unusual for today, forget 1964. Finally, it’s just a great book. It comes out in June.

Also, we are bowled over with delight to announce our collaboration with Robin Brown, son of the late, great Rosel George Brown. Ms. Brown was one of science fiction’s brightest lights from the mid ’50s until her untimely death in 1967 (two of her best stories are in Rediscovery). Just before she passed away, she wrote Sibyl Sue Blue, the novel that features the first galactic woman space cop. If ever there were a genre we need to have more books in, it’s that one!

Look for Sibyl Sue Blue next year, timed to coincide with coverage of the book at Galactic Journey.

New Talent on the Horizon

In less than two weeks, we will be releasing Kitra, our first work of new fiction. It’s already gotten some great advance reviews, and we think it’ll be a hit. Well, we hope so: there are nine more planned books in the series! Don’t worry, though. Kitra stands alone.

We’re particularly excited about this release, not only because it’s a revival of the space adventure yarns of the mid-20th Century (think Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton), but it also features illustrations by the talented Lorelei E. Marcus. Last, but certainly not least, Kitra has a queer woman of color as its protagonist — again, something we think there should be more of!

(15) WATERWORLD IS REAL. Or at least it Was. Maybe. According to Futurism com: ”Scientists Say Ancient Earth Was Completely Covered In Water”.

Scientists at Iowa State and the University of Colorado say they’ve found compelling new evidence that the ancient Earth was an unbroken expanse of water, without a single continent. Yes: “Waterworld.”

The research, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, examined ancient samples of sea floor found in Australia and found chemical clues that Earth used to be a completely blue planet — a discovery, the scientists say, that could have deep implications for the history of life itself.

(16) GAME TECH. “Half-Life: Alyx – Hands on with Valve’s virtual reality game-changer”, a BBC video.

In 1998, Half Life changed first-person shooters forever.

It combined cinematic storytelling, taut and tense combat and extra-dimensional bad guys.

A successful sequel followed, but it’s been nearly 13 years since the last release.

Now the series has returned in the form of a virtual reality title.

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak was one of the first people in the world to play it, and he suggests it could be VR’s first killer app.

(17) PLOT POINT. “Mulan: Disney drop character following #MeToo movement” – BBC has the story.

A Disney producer says the character Li Shang is missing from the live-action remake of Mulan, as his storyline is not “appropriate” in the #MeToo era.

The film tells of a woman who disguises herself as a man to fight in place of her father in China’s imperial army.

In the 1998 animated original, based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, General Li Shang developed a bond with Mulan’s male warrior alter-ego Ping.

After her true identity was revealed, she and Li Shang have dinner together.

Given recent revelations in Hollywood, however, producer Jason Reed confirmed they were uncomfortable with the power dynamics in their relationship.

“I think particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate,” Reed told Collider.

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

Courtney Milan Controversy Decimates RWA Leadership

News that Romance Writers of America suspended Courtney Milan from membership and imposed on her a lifetime ban from leadership as the result of two ethics complaints has triggered protest resignations by numerous RWA directors and local leaders, the departure of two responsible officers, and the creation of a petition to remove the incoming president-elect, Damon Suede.

Doubt has been raised that RWA officers adhered to the rules for handling ethics complaints in Milan’s case. The questions were serious enough that leadership was forced to respond, and on December 24 Carol Ritter, RWA’s Deputy Executive Director, informed Milan they had found a “gap between policy and process” and rescinded the penalties – “pending a legal opinion.”   

Saying that they were going to get a legal opinion meant this was neither a genuine reversal nor an apology — was, in fact, nothing more than an attempt to pump the brakes on a runaway car.

One surprising revelation has been that the people who issued the Ethics Committee Report weren’t the members empaneled as the RWA Ethics Committee. Milan had, until a few months ago, chaired that committee and according to (now former) Ethics Committee member Ruby Lang, “RWA did have to get new committee members who weren’t appointed to the ethics committee under Courtney in order to avoid conflict of interest, however, the way they went about this and the way they presented the findings leave a lot to be desired.”

Not only were they bypassed, the original ethics committee members were not even informed that RWA officers had created a separate panel just to handle the Milan case. The upshot is that RWA’s entire original Ethics Committee reportedly has resigned – with announcements on Twitter by former members Ruby Lang, Mia Sosa, and Dee Davis.

The result has been a widespread loss of faith and confidence in the organization, symbolized by additional resignations among the RWA’s dozen Directors-at-Large, including Chanta Rand, someone who had voted against accepting the Ethics Committee report.

Adrienne Mishel wrote about the directors’ resignation in a thread that starts here.

The identical resignation statement was posted by Seressia Glass, Tracey Livesay, Pintip Dunn, Priscilla Oliveras, Farrah Rochon, Erica Ridley, and Denny S. Bryce.     

Milan has pointed out some of the defects in the complaint process that was used. Thread starts here.

Some of the early reactions on Twitter included —

As the conversation developed there were more expansive comments, like these —

  • Felicia Grossman
  • Alexa J. Day
  • Brina Starler, in a thread that starts here.
  • Alexis Daria

The dustup attracted the attention of mainstream media. The New York Post’s article quoted extensively from Twitter

Writer Hillary Monahan summed up the debacle: “Chinese American author critiques white woman’s portrayal of Chinese Americans, white woman calls her a neo-nazi for it, RWA backs white woman and censures author, -BACKLASH-, RWA rescinds censure, everyone eats a giant holiday meal, RWA roils in own vomit. Missing anything?”

A rare voice speaking in favor of the RWA’s actions is Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green (“RWA and Courtney Milan, Pt. 2”):

Here’s the thing. She [Milan] might have done all this with the best of intentions. But she did them in the wrong way. She should have known it would blow up. She reasonably should have foreseen complaints being filed. Most of all, she should have thought long and hard before hitting the post button with accusations phrased in such a way any reasonable person would know they would bring derision on the person they were aimed at.

I applaud RWA for taking the allegations seriously and not sweeping them under the rug. That’s certainly more than SFWA did when certain members (including past and future officers) attacked members of the Sad Puppies and did their best to ruin careers….

Meanwhile, the Milan controversy has drawn attention to corollary issues about other marginalized groups. Thread starts here.

CIMRWA, the Cultural, Interracial, and Multicultural Special Interest Chapter of RWA, has condemned the Milan proceeding and called for RWA’s top leadership to resign. Thread starts here.

A letter signed by 28 RWA members, many of them officers of local organizations, also calls for top officers to resign.

…This board and the staff of RWA misused the policies and procedures of this organization to punish a woman of color who has done nothing but stand up for those that RWA has historically kept out and mistreated. The handling of this situation is shameful.

In October, for the first time, RWA had a board that was a majority of people of color that we felt represented our membership. This leadership has failed them so completely that after barely two months they have lost all faith in the organization and been forced to resign.

The president, the president-elect, and the executive director of RWA need to take responsibility for what has happened and step down. It is unfair to ask local chapter leaders to represent an organization that conducts itself in this way. All of us feel personally failed by all of you.

It appears two one of the targeted officers have vacated their positions. The RWA webpage has been updated, with Carolyn Jewel removed as the President together with Executive Director Carol Ritter. [Ritter’s information appears on the RWA Staff page.]

Also, “A Message to RWA Members” has been posted as a response to the crisis. The message concludes –

…It was never the intent of the Board to suggest that members cannot and should not discuss, call out, or criticize instances of racism or other forms of discrimination. Indeed, we have tried to provide opportunities for members to do just that, and again, we apologize that we have caused members to think otherwise. Many of you have asked about the procedure surrounding the handling of the complaints against Courtney Milan. A second statement will follow with more information. 

As it stands now, the organization is at a turning point. 

We have lost the trust of our membership and the romance community and we must find a way to rebuild that. It’s going to be a hard road, maybe one of the most difficult we’ve traveled since our inception. We know it’s a lot to ask, and that not everyone will travel this road with us–for that we are sad, and we are sorry, and we understand. We hope that you will be able to join us on this journey again one day, and for those of you who continue with us, we hope that we may prove worthy of your loyalty. 

We are also in the position of having to fill open leadership roles. President Carolyn Jewel, as well as Board Members Denny S. Bryce, Pintip Dunn, Seressia Glass, Tracey Livesay, Adrienne Mishel, Priscilla Oliveras, Erica Ridley, and Farrah Rochon have resigned their positions. To them, and to the committee leaders who have resigned, we offer our sincere gratitude for your service to the organization. President Damon Suede and the remaining board will be looking for a strong, diverse group of new leaders who have the ability to think strategically and believe in the mission of the organization. 

It’s going to be really difficult in the coming years to restore the trust we have lost, but we’re going to work hard to match our words with our actions as we focus on the mission of the organization–to promote the professional and common business interests of romance writers. We will strive to uphold the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that we do….

However, Courtney Milan says President Damon Suede should go, too.  Thread starts here.

Examples follow.

And Alyssa Cole alleges Suede has a conflict of interest about an issue where writers have tried to enlist RWA’s help.

A petition was launched today to recall and remove President/President Elect – Damon Suede

Milan encourages eligible RWA members to participate in the recall.

Some who tweeted about quitting answered that they were going to try and stay in RWA long enough to vote for the recall.

[Update 12/27/19: Corrected to show that Carol Ritter is still listed by the RWA webpage as being on staff.]

Pixel Scroll 12/3/19 The Three Things Fans Collected Most, The Pixel, File And Holy Scroll

(1) NAVIGATING THE MAZES. Clarkesworld’s Arley Sorg interviews Juliette Wade — “Caste in Blood”.

The Mazes of Power copy calls it “sociological science fiction.” What does this mean exactly, and how does this term apply to Mazes? What are a few of your favorite sociological science fiction novels and how are they similar or different from Mazes?

Sociological science fiction, sometimes also called social science fiction, is science fiction that sets its major focus on society and its impact rather than on other elements like gadgets, technologies, or frontiers. This is not to say that those other things are not involved! The term definitely applies to Mazes of Power, which features a complex caste system with seven different levels, each of which has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture. Members of the castes struggle to cope with the expectations of their caste identities just as people in our world struggle with the identities that are placed on them. My favorite past work of sociological science fiction is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which was one of the works that inspired me to explore characters’ culturally grounded judgments and flout readers’ underlying expectations. (The other major work that had the same effect was not science fiction, but the diary of Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book.) I also consider Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series an example of sociological science fiction, though it’s more typically categorized as space opera. I love how Leckie keeps her focus tight and examines characters’ social and cultural expectations even as she works with the larger politics of the Radchaai Empire.

(2) UNCOMMON SENSES. Ad Age made me want to see it – perhaps you will too: “This adorable Star Wars-themed ad has an ending we didn’t see coming”.

The spot, created by Wunderman Thompson Philippines, depicts a pair of kids working on a mysterious building project. We see them going around town collecting items such as a tire, cardboard, plastic toys and tinsel, as well as a whole bunch of mobile phones, but it isn’t clear exactly what they are doing. (One thing is for sure — these kids are more creative and enterprising than the pair in the Apple holiday ad and their parents, rather than trying to keep them quiet with an iPad, are quite happy for them to wander on railway lines by themselves.) 

Finally, they invite a friend into their home to watch “Star Wars” in the special 4D viewing experience they’ve rigged up — and there’s an even more heartwarming twist that we definitely weren’t expecting. The final reveal is that the friend is actually deaf and they’ve created the whole thing just for her to be able to experience the movie without sound.

(3) GETTING SQUEEZED. In a guest post for According to Hoyt, Leigh Kimmel says dealer’s think it doesn’t look that good from ground level — “The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel”.

…Overall, the figures show a troubling picture that squares with reports I’m hearing from a number of other convention dealers. Some of the decline in sales and profitability can be ascribed to a saturation of the convention market as more and more promoters, especially for-profit companies who have the financial reach to rent large venues and sign large numbers of high-ticket media guests, move into the business. Whereas a decade ago there might be only one or two conventions each year in a region, now there are often a dozen or more. Furthermore, very few of these conventions are old-school fan-run science fiction conventions where the membership can hang out with the guests of honor at the con suite. Instead, more and more of them are focused primarily on media celebrities and formal encounters with them, to the point that attendees (a significant difference in terminology) spend as much or more time and money on getting autographs and photo-ops with the celebrities as they do on buying things from the dealers and artists in the vendor hall.

Because these extremely celebrity-focused shows (often referred to as “autograph mills”) draw such large crowds, they can sound like great possibilities to a dealer accustomed to lower-key shows. However, they often prove to be a double whammy to the unsuspecting dealer’s bottom line: not only are the large crowds not spending on the dealers’ wares, but the large crowds are also used to justify much higher booth costs to vendors, leaving the vendor with a much higher break-even point….

(4) GOING TO THE WELLS AGAIN. Steve J. Wright reviews The War of the Worlds, the three-part TV adaptation recently shown on the BBC in “Martians Go Home”.

…Harness takes that time to create and expand on the characters, who are mostly just names in the novel – in fact, the narrator and his wife aren’t even named.  The domestic situation of George (Rafe Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) is drawn from H.G. Wells’s own turbulent personal life; the adaptation also codes astronomer Ogilvy (barely more than a name in the book) as gay, which attracted some criticism from the usual suspects…. One twerp apparently complained that the story was being made “too political”, which, since the book was written as a massive up-yours to colonial imperialism by one of the twentieth century’s foremost socialist pundits, makes me wonder what he was expecting.  (Again, because contemporary Victorian-Edwardian political references aren’t necessarily accessible to the modern audience, the adaptation takes the time to make the anti-colonial message explicit.)

(5) MCU LIVES ON. Marvel dropped the Black Widow teaser trailer yesterday.

(6) IN MEDIA RES. The BBC says origins are just short flashbacks in “Black Widow: Seven talking points from the new trailer”.

The character first appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and has since then been a significant figure in the Marvel cinematic universe.

The new film, starring Scarlett Johansson, isn’t an origin story, but it does come before the events of the last two Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame.

It may not be out until May, but while we wait here’s seven talking points from Tuesday’s new trailer.

1) Just like Budapest!

The opening shot of the Hungarian capital Budapest teases that we’ll finally uncover more about an event briefly mentioned in the first Avengers movie back in 2012.

In that film, during the intensity of the battle of New York, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow – firing off gun shots – casually says to Hawkeye: “Just like Budapest, all over again.”

Hawkeye responds: “You and I remember Budapest very differently!”

It’s a reference that has intrigued and excited fans ever since. But there is a complicating factor. This movie is set after, not before The Avengers. It actually follows the events of Captain America: Civil War. So is Budapest here a flashback, or is Black Widow revisiting it after traumatic events in the past?

(6) DEVISING LANGUAGE. Juliette Wade’s Dive into Worldbuilding recently featured “S. Qiouyi Lu and As Dark as Hunger”. View the video or read the synopsis – or both! Toward the end they also discuss whether there should be a Hugo award for translations.

… In “As Dark as Hunger,” the main character lives a simple humble life fishing, but then her former lover comes to the village. Her lover wants to hunt mermaids, because people pay handsomely for them, but to find a humane way of doing it that won’t kill them. S. told us that part of this conflict came from the conflicted feelings they have about shark fin soup. It’s a celebratory dish, but cruel because it kills sharks.

S. told us that they struggle with xenophobia in the US, where there is an anti-China climate. They want to be able to defend their personhood without feeling obligated to defend Chinese politics they don’t approve of.

In the story, there is a contrast between the village and the city. The village is downstream from the city, which pollutes its water. Talented people seek opportunity in the city, and children and the elderly are left behind. The city drains away the village’s people. The main character has an ethical objection to hunting mermaids, but she does want a better life than the stinking river.

One of the major themes of the story is diaspora, of being removed from the motherland. While, in this story world, foxes can shapeshift back and forth many times, mermaids can only shapeshift from tail to legs once, and then can’t change back. Their children are human. This is a metaphor for immigration and assimilation. One of the main character’s ancestors made this change in order to keep her descendants from being hunted, but in so doing, closed a door that could not be re-opened.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 3, 2000Frank Herbert’s Dune three-part series premiered on the SciFi Channel. Directed by John Harrison, its cast starred Alec Newman as Paul Atreides, William Hurt as Duke Leto, and Saskia Reeves as Jessica. The first Dune miniseries and this sequel are two of the three highest-rated programs ever to be broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel. Weirdly, it has no viewer rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but has a very healthy 71% rating among critics there. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 3, 1918 Polly Freas. Fan and wife of SFF artist Frank Kelly Freas with whom she had 3 children. She was much loved in fandom. She and Kelly co-edited Wonderworks: Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Michael Whalen, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Nonfiction Book. She was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was given a Special Award by Southern Fandom. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 3, 1922 Donald Tuck. Australian fan and writer of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968 which he revised twice. SFE in the form of a lure says “among the most extensive produced since the pioneering work of Everett F. Bleiler.” It earned him A Special Hugo at Chicon III. Back in time, he found other fans in Hobart where he lived and they produced the first Tasmanian fanzine, Profan which had just three issues between April and September 1941. Bertram Chandler who visited the couple frequently honored Hobart by naming one of the spaceship bases in his novels after it. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 3, 1937 Morgan Llewelyn, 82. Ok, so what have I read by her… The Horse Goddess is wonderful as is Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas and Lion of Ireland which I read a long time ago because the now closed Brian Born Pub had just opened here and I was interested in his story. I later booked uilleann piper Paddy Keenan there…
  • Born December 3, 1948 Ozzy Osbourne, 71. Yes, he has a history in SFF films — most of it is in voicing characters though he did show up as himself in the recent Ghostbusters film. His first appearance in our genre was as himself (“Famous Rock Star“) along with Simmons in Trick or Treat (also known as Ragman and Death at 33 RPM. He’s the voice of The Vicar in Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters Of The Herd Kind, and Fawn in Gnomeo & Juliet and Sherlock Gnomes
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 61. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year, she has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Bram Stoker Award, and The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an  editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here.
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 59. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear which by being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated  for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she that bad in it? Last latest genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing. 
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 51. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Doom Patrol  series that that airs on DC Universe.
  • Born December 3, 1969 John Kenneth Muir, 50. I really adore niche non-fiction writers with genre focus. He did write a novel, Space: 1999: The Forsaken, but horror is his passion as he’s written Horror Films of the 1970s, Horror Films of the 1980s and Horror Films of the 1990s, all on Macfarland. He’s also authored A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television which covers the classic Who and yet more horror in Horror Films of the 1990s.
  • Born December 3, 1980 Jenna Lee Dewan, 39. She portrayed Freya Beauchamp on the Witches of East End and played Lucy Lane in The CW version of Supergirl. She’s Tamara, complete with bloody axe, in the horror film Tamara. She’s Sophia Loomis in the unsold Dark Shadows pilot. It was commissioned by The WB and produced in 2004, but not picked up for a series. You can see that pilot here.
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 34. She plays Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds here playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis in In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s living Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd helps you figure out if it’s Christmas yet.

(10) MORE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. NPR’s Book Concierge filters the year’s titles into many categories, such as the Best Geek Books of the Year and Best Genre Books of the Year. Chip Hitchcock tried out the links and forwarded them with a note on his experience: “Thanks to recommendations from Filers and others, I’ve read 13/63 of the genre books, including 1 I’d disrecommend and 2 I’d recommend only with serious caveats. I’ve read only 1 of the 15 geek books not on the genre list — I know I should read more nonfiction….”

(11) CHINESE SF. Alexandra Alter tells New York Times Magazine readers “Why Is Chinese Sci-Fi Everywhere Now? Ken Liu Knows”. The profile extensively covers Liu’s work as a translator and curator as well as his own fiction, and repeatedly probes the constraints on Chinese sff at home.

…“The political climate inside China has shifted drastically from when I first started doing this,” Liu says. “It’s gotten much harder for me to talk about the work of Chinese authors without putting them in an awkward position or causing them trouble.” Liu usually travels to China at least once a year to network and meet new writers, and has attended the Chinese Nebula and Galaxy Awards, the country’s most well known science-fiction prizes. But this year he was denied a long-term visa, without explanation, prompting him to cancel his planned trip.

In another alarming setback, when his American publisher tried to send copies of his recent translations to writers in China, the shipments failed to arrive. It was unclear whether the books were seized or simply disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. Liu finally managed to get copies distributed through visiting Chinese friends, each of whom carried a few copies back in their suitcases. In April, when I met Liu at the Museum of Chinese in America, he seemed irritated by the cumbersome workaround, which he called “preposterous.”

But later, when I asked if he felt he was being blacklisted by the Chinese government because of his translation work, Liu deflected and declined to speculate. “I don’t want to magnify the problem,” Liu told me, as we sat in a cafe a few blocks from the museum. “If the authors want to say something daring, then I will honor that, but I’m not going to impose my own politics on them. There’s a lot of room to say what you want to say if you leave things ambiguous.”

 (12) HELP THE PKD AWARD. Gordon Van Gelder says to raise money for the award there is an annual Philip K. Dick Award auction at World Fantasy Convention. This year, they had too many books to put all of them up for bids at the con, so the’re holding a score of auctions on eBay. Many signed books.

(13) UNKISSED TOADS ASSEMBLE. Amanda S. Green, who also writes under the name Sam Schall, says her friend Sarah A. Hoyt used her larger platform to recommend one of Schall’s works – an imprimatur which still didn’t deter some negative comments left by people who hadn’t even read the book: “A Cyber-Monday Promo and a Few Thoughts”.

…No matter how hard you try to write the best book possible, find the best cover you can and present your work in the best shape, someone is always going to hate. I learned long ago from a dear friend the dangers of reading reviews on Amazon, etc. All too often the person writing it never read the book or only read far enough to be offended. I was reminded of that this morning.

That same friend shared a link to the book. I made the mistake of checking the comments. Let’s say my first response was to beat my head against the desk. One person said not to read it because it was a book about a woman written by a male. Yep. I suddenly have a penis. You see, this person never bothered to look beyond the cover. They didn’t follow the link to Amazon and see not only the pen name listed but my real name as well. But, because they read the blurb on the page where the link was listed and saw “Sam Schall”, they just knew it had to be bad — and probably written by a white male deep into the patriarchy (okay, they didn’t quite say that last part but it was pretty clear).

Others hated the cover. That’s fine. That’s their right. The thing is, it does cue the genre and that is the important thing.

Then there was the one (or maybe two) who had a few words to say about how it is basically stupid to think there will be women in the military in fighting roles. Yep, they went there.

And here’s the thing. Each and every one of them were condemning the book without reading it. They were making judgments based solely on what they saw in the blurb and on the cover. Again, that’s their right. But it is also my right to point and laugh (or beat my head against the table).

(14) GENRE AND GENDER FLUID. The Lily’s Lena Felton says we should not be surprised: “A ‘Star Wars’ actor came out as ‘gender fluid.’ Women have been using sci-fi to explore gender and sexuality for centuries.”

Lisa Yaszek, a professor of science fiction studies at Georgia Tech, describes the feminist appeal of science fiction like this: “We can imagine spaces that radically break from our own world and from what we know or at least believe to be scientifically or socially true about sex and gender.”

The conversation around science fiction and gender recently broke out on the national stage, when Esquire published an interview with 82-year-old Billy Dee Williams, who’s best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). He’ll be reprising the role for the first time since 1983 in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which comes out Dec. 20.

In his Esquire interview, Williams said he uses both “him” and “her” pronouns. “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” he said. “I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”

The moment was seized on by fans, with many applauding Williams’s “gender fluid” approach. But the discussion of gender in the context of “Star Wars” isn’t new; last year, Donald Glover, who played the same character in 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” said he had a non-binary approach to his Lando, too.

(15) PICKING UP THE PIECES. Pixel-sized pieces at that — “Chandrayaan-2: Indian helps Nasa find Moon probe debris”.

Nasa says one of its satellites has found the debris of India’s Moon rover which crashed on the lunar surface in September.

The space agency released a picture showing the site of the rover’s impact and the “associated debris field”.

Nasa has credited an Indian engineer, Shanmuga Subramanian, with helping locate the site of the debris.

Mr Subramanian examined a Nasa picture and located the first debris about 750m north-west of the crash site.

…”We had the images from Nasa [of] the lander’s last location. We knew approximately where it crashed. So I searched pixel-by-pixel around that impact area,” the 33-year-old Chennai-based engineer told BBC Tamil.

Mr Subramanian said he had always “been interested in space” and had watched the July launch of the rocket.

(16) CRAWL OF THE WILD. “Raiders Of The Lost Crops: Scientists Race Against Time To Save Genetic Diversity”NPR has the story.

Call it a tale of science and derring-do. An international team of researchers has spent six years fanning across the globe, gathering thousands of samples of wild relatives of crops. Their goal: to preserve genetic diversity that could help key crops survive in the face of climate change. At times, the work put these scientists in some pretty extreme situations.

Just ask Hannes Dempewolf. Two years ago, the plant geneticist found himself in a rainforest in Nepal, at the foot of the Himalayas. He was riding on the back of an elephant to avoid snakes on the ground — and to scare away any tigers that might be lurking about. Then all of a sudden came an attack from above.

“There were leeches dropping on us from all directions,” Dempewolf recalls — “bloodsucking leeches.”

Now, this is far from where he thought he’d be when he got his Ph.D. But as a senior scientist and head of global initiatives at the Crop Trust, Dempewolf has been overseeing an ambitious international collaboration. More than 100 scientists in 25 countries have been venturing out to collect wild relatives of domesticated crops — like lentils, potatoes, chickpeas and rice — that people rely on around the world. The Crop Trust has just released a report detailing the results of this massive effort, which secured more than 4,600 seed samples of 371 wild relatives of key domesticated crops that the world relies on.

(17) THE TOK ISN’T CLICKING. More trouble for the PRC-based service: “TikTok suppressed disabled users’ videos”.

Videos made by disabled users were deliberately prevented from going viral on TikTok by the firm’s moderators, the app has acknowledged.

The social network said the policy was introduced to reduce the amount of cyber-bullying on its platform, but added that it now recognised the approach had been flawed.

The measure was exposed by the German digital rights news site Netzpolitik.

Disability rights campaigners said the strategy had been “bizarre”.

And the BBC adds: “TikTok sent US user data to China, lawsuit claims”.

Video-sharing app TikTok has been hit with a class action lawsuit in the US that claims it transferred “vast quantities” of user data to China.

The lawsuit accuses the company of “surreptitiously” taking content without user consent.

Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok has built up a keen US fan base.

TikTok, which is thought to have about half a billion active users worldwide, has previously said it does not store US data on Chinese servers.

However, the platform is facing mounting pressure in North America over data collection and censorship concerns.

(18) TUNING IN. DJ Baby Yoda?

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

Pixel Scroll 11/19/19 Bleary-Eyed Pixeling, Bah

(1) KING OF FUNKO. Entertainment Weekly rejoices: “Bloody Hell! Stephen King (finally) gets his own Funko figure”. In fact, two of them.

Countless characters from Stephen King‘s lexicon of horror works have shrunk down to Funko Pop! vinyl form, from The Shining‘s “Here’s Johnny” Jack Torrance to It‘s Pennywise the shape-shifting clown. Now, King himself joins the list of auteurs immortalized in plastic.

Funko unveiled the acclaimed author in toy form on Monday through two new figures. One is a more standard King, dressed in black and holding a book. The other pays homage to two of his literary creations.

…King joins the likes of fellow author-to-Funko figures George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Dr. Seuss, and Edgar Allen Poe (“The Raven”).

(2) THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Adam Roberts thinks “The Fix-Up” novel’s importance to sff as been underestimated.

…But my suggestion, which, come the Greek kalends, I’ll write up into a proper academic paper, is this: the ‘fix-up’ has had a much larger, perhaps even a shaping, effect on the entire later development of SF than is realised. I don’t just mean those occasional SF novels today that are made up of discrete elements tessellated: Simmons’s Hyperion say, or Jennifer Egan’s Visit From the Goon Squad—it’s also in the way TV shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek assemble mega-texts out of lots of short-story-ish discrete elements, something (as per the MCU) increasingly mimicked by cinema. Only die-hard fans read new SF short stories today, but the form of the short story feeds directly into contemporary SF in several key ways. Speaking for myself, I find these formal possibilities really interesting: the jolting dislocation of it, the quasi-modernist experimentation; textual tessellation but in a pulp, populist idiom. That’s entirely my bag.

(3) LECKIE REMODELS. Ann Leckie has unveiled her new website and blog — https://annleckie.com/

(4) CHEATER WHO PROSPERED. Jesse Pasternack argues that Psycho Invented the Spoiler Alert as We Know It”. And used the one Hitchcock revealed in pre-release publicity to trick audiences into falling for the rest.

This is how Psycho operates—by outlining rules beforehand, it seems to promise to play by them. All of Psycho’s advance press materials were designed to manipulate audiences. The rules that Hitchcock set for watching it acted as extra-cinematic devices that would help further jolt audiences. Psycho breaks every rule it sets up. It doesn’t stick to a single genre (it goes from realistic crime story to psychological thriller to murder mystery). It kills its main character. Its main villain turns out not to exist. The character who takes over the plot is revealed to have been taken over by another force, a long time ago.

(5) WARTIME SERVICE. Rob Hansen has added a photo gallery to his fanhistory site THEN that shows British fans in uniform from WWII. Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Jeeves are in the mix: “WWII: BRITISH FANS IN THE FORCES”.

(6) THE FUR FLIES. The second trailer for CATS has dropped. USA Today provides the intro: “You have to see Taylor Swift (and Judi Dench’s fur coat) in the new ‘Cats’ trailer”.

Are you ready to see Judi Dench as a cat wearing a gangster-sized fur coat?

The new “Cats” trailer released Tuesday delivers such epic Dench moments, more Taylor Swift shimmying as Bombalurina and plenty of new jokes, thanks to the internet.

“Tonight is a magical night where I choose the cat that deserves a new life,” Dench’s Old Deuteronomy ominously intones.

“Judi Dench giving us @JLo in Hustlers,” tweeted Marc Malkin of The Hollywood Reporter, sharing an image of Dench in a full fur (on fur) coat.

(7) MANDALORIAN RECAP. Dean E.S. Richard warns you before the spoilers begin in his column “Mondays on Mandalore: A New New Hope” at Nerds of a Feather. Before he gets that far, Richard says —

…Going back to its roots, back in the actual New Hope days, that is what Star Wars is. Even amidst galactic conflict and high stakes, there is silliness and, well, life.

All of this is to say that The Mandalorian is Star Wars. There are tons of moments that make you laugh – even at its most tense. The stakes don’t seem high, at least until the end of the first episode, even for our helmeted protagonist. In my semi-humble opinion, that is where stories are the best – we know the Mandalorian himself will survive, but what will that cost?

(8) RESOURCES AND GOALS. Amanda S. Green has some advice about covers for indie authors in “What happens when you are avoiding NaNoWriMo” at Mad Genius Club.

Each of these images comes from Adobe Stock. If I broke down the monthly fee for a subscription, we’re talking about my having spent approximately $5 per image. When you consider how much a lot of authors pay for covers, that’s nothing. The fonts are all open source or free to use. Yes, the font work and text placement needs work. These are mock-ups to see if I liked what I was doing. That means there will be changes before the books go live.

Here’s the thing. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered a couple of things where book covers are concerned. First, it is important to review your covers every year or two. You need to see if they are still cuing genre and sub-genre properly. In other words, are they in line with what newer books are doing?

(9) AU REVOIR. Adri Joy covers the end of a trilogy in “Microreview [Book]: The Forbidden Stars by Tim Pratt”.

With so many action sequences to pack in, an entire system to liberate, and the overall arc with the Axiom to tie up, it’s almost inevitable that the ending of The Forbidden Stars gets a bit rushed. There’s nothing particularly unsatisfying about the events that transpire, but once things kicked off for the finale I found myself looking sceptically at the number of pages I had left to go, and one character in particular gets the short end of the stick when it comes to revealing their ending.

(10) LEND ME YOUR EARS. BGR’s Mike Wehner wonders why so few people – including him – ever heard of this station, which is definitely better than its ad: “NASA has a rock radio station, and the promo video is hilariously cringey”.

As the name implies, Third Rock Radio is a radio station that plays rock music. The “third rock” thing is a nod to Earth being the third planet from the Sun. The station plays a variety of rock tunes that often have some casual link to science or space. Basically, if a rock song has “Moon,” “Sky,” or “Rocket” in the title, it’s going to get played.

… NASA’s promotion of the station, on the other hand, has obviously been lacking. Even the promo video for the station has a mere 50k views despite being published over four years ago.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 94. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike, of course, has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015)
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 66. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually, only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation.
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 64. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1961 Meg Ryan, 58. I won’t say she’s been in a lot of SFF films but overall she’s been in some really great ones. There’s Amityville 3-D which we’ll ignore but that was followed by the terrific Innerspace and that segued into Joe Versus the VolcanoCity of Angels I’ve not seen but it sounds intriguing. Kate & Leopold is just plain charming. Oh, and she was the voice of the villain Dr. Blight for several seasons on Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades that Beltran is listed in. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MAY NOT RISE AGAIN. “Is UK Based Phoenix Conventions Out of Business?”Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn wants to know if this outfit is really and sincerely dead.

So it really looks like UK based Phoenix Conventions (and their parent company KJ Events) may truly be dead. We think. We’d be shocked if they aren’t at this point. Probably. Let me explain.

Yesterday we were forwarded a tweet from twitter user QuickInSilvr which declared that the company was filing for bankruptcy. While we haven’t been able to independently verify that claim, the company has entirely blanked out both their Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events websites. While the Facebook pages are still up, the Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events Twitter accounts have also been deleted.

(14) THE BLOB. This one’s a bit bigger than Steve McQueen’s adversary: “Supernova 1987A: ‘Blob’ hides long-sought remnant from star blast”.

Scientists believe they’ve finally tracked down the dead remnant from Supernova 1987A – one of their favourite star explosions.

Astronomers knew the object must exist but had always struggled to identify its location because of a shroud of obscuring dust.

Now, a UK-led team thinks the remnant’s hiding place can be pinpointed from the way it’s been heating up that dust.

The researchers refer to the area of interest as “the blob”.

“It’s so much hotter than its surroundings, the blob needs some explanation. It really stands out from its neighbouring dust clumps,” Prof Haley Gomez from Cardiff University told BBC News.

“We think it’s being heated by the hot neutron star created in the supernova.”

(15) A MULLIGAN. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer reconsiders his first Hugo ballot, beginning with The Big One (as GRRM calls it): “The Hugo Initiative: The Novels of 1999: A Retrospective: A Preview of My Genre Future (2000, Best Novel)”.

At the time that Hugo voting had ended, I had read four of them, and voted on that basis. (I had not yet read any Harry Potter and did not feel inclined to read through the series, I would feel different several years later) 2000 was about the first time I started to dip my toes into getting review copies, but it would be many more years before I got my “break” in that regard. I fondly remember getting an ARC of Darwin’s Radio, it was quite the surprise and delight.

(16) SPACEPORT FAIL. Space exploration is supposed to fill the skies, not the jails: “Putin’s pet space project Vostochny tainted by massive theft”.

Russia’s new Vostochny space centre has lost at least 11bn roubles (£133m; $172m) through theft and top officials have been jailed.

So what went wrong with President Vladimir Putin’s pet project?

Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee (SK) says it is handling 12 more criminal cases linked to theft in this mega-project, which Mr Putin sees as a strategic priority for Russia, because of its huge commercial potential.

The longest jail term handed down so far was 11-and-a-half years for Yuri Khrizman, former head of state construction firm Dalspetsstroy.

Prof Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC the Vostochny scandal highlighted the scale of corruption in Mr Putin’s huge state bureaucracy.

“How can you deal with it without declaring war on your own elite? He’s not prepared to do that. This dependency on mega-projects almost invariably creates massive opportunities for embezzlement,” Mr Galeotti said.

(17) SOME PEOPLE. BBC wants to know “Why some people are impossibly talented”.

Polymaths excel in multiple fields. But what makes a polymath – and can their cross-discipline expertise help tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges?

If it weren’t for an actress and a pianist, GPS and WiFi might not exist.

In the late 1930s and early 40s, Hedy Lamarr was the already the toast of Hollywood, famed for her portrayals of femme fatales. Few of her contemporaries knew that her other great passion was inventing. (She had previously designed more streamlined aeroplanes for a lover, the aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.)

Lamarr met a kindred spirit in George Antheil, however – an avant-garde pianist, composer and novelist who also had an interest in engineering. And when the pair realised that enemy forces were jamming the Allied radio signals, they set about looking for a solution. The result was a method of signal transmission called ‘frequency-hopping spread spectrum’ (patented under Lamarr’s married name, Markey) that is still used in much of today’s wireless technology.

It may seem a surprising origin for ground-breaking technology, but the story of Lamarr and Antheil fits perfectly with a growing understanding of the polymathic mind.

Besides helping to outline the specific traits that allow some people to juggle different fields of expertise so successfully, new research shows that there are many benefits of pursuing multiple interests, including increased life satisfaction, work productivity and creativity.

Most of us may never reach the kind of success of people like Lamarr or Antheil, of course – but the research suggests we could all gain from spending a bit more time outside our chosen specialism.

…As David Epstein has also reported in his recent book Range, influential scientists are much more likely to have diverse interests outside their primary area of research than the average scientist, for instance. Studies have found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. They are also 17 times more likely to create visual art, 12 times more likely to write poetry and four times more likely to be a musician.

(18) THE FLAGON WITH THE DRAGON. Bookworm Blues’ “Ten Mini-Reviews of some Great Nonfiction Books” includes Sarah Chorn’s rave for The Poisoner’s Handbook.

I have to admit, if you tell me to go read a book about forensics, I am not going to be excited. I don’t know why, but while that sort of thing may interest others, it does almost nothing for me. So, going into this, I read this book because of the poison, not because of the forensics.

That being said, holy crap was it interesting. The chapters are broken up by poisons, and the author tells readers how the poisons were used, some specific cases of said poisoning/incidents, and how this incident transpired and impacted the evolution of NYC’s forensic medicine, and all of this happened during prohibition.

So, selling points: prohibition, poisonings, forensics.

(19) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] When dealing with little green men, sending and receiving signals involves a relatively simple technological achievement — harnessing radio waves.  Making first contact with an extraterrestrial, or them making first contact with us, initiates what will prove to be a very challenging conversation.  “Language is all based on culture and requires a common frame of reference.  If you told an alien, ‘I’m taking an Uber to buy some coffee at Starbucks,’ you’d have to explain what Uber is, then explain what a car is, then explain what the Internet is, what a phone is, an app, coffee, Starbucks, stores, the monetary system.  All stuff that is intuitive to modern humans.  Translating the words of an extra terrestrial civilization is just the first step.  Understanding what they’re saying is the more challenging task.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/15/18 Pixel sCrola. It’s The Refreshing Cola With The Scrolling Taste You Love!

(1) ENCHANTED PORCH. Comics writer Gail Simone found something unexpected with the rest of the deliveries on her porch. Hilarious thread – starts here.

(2) HIDING INSIDE CHUCK TINGLE? The actor, appearing in disguise on a South Korean TV show, let people discover “Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds is a surprisingly great singer”.

Deadpool is a natural performer, the superhero that’s as good at wisecracking as he is at battling villains. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds can not only act, he can sing like a rock star.

While promoting Deadpool 2 in Asia, Reynolds entered a singing competition on Korean TV while dressed liked a unicorn.

 

(3) DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS. Ansible Links pointed to the amazing cover design for Oregan Publishing’s Kindle edition of Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, released May 7.

(4) UNSUBTLE. NPR’s Glen Weldon on new releases: “‘Solo’ Makes The Jump To Light-Speed … Eventually”.

…You get the picture: Should you harbor burning questions about infinitesimal details of Han Solo’s backstory that are entirely and hilariously immaterial to the Star Wars saga’s broader tale, or if you’re prepping for a Han Solo-themed pub quiz, know that fan service doesn’t get more serviceable than Solo: A Star Wars Story.

For everyone else: Donald Glover’s Lando is really, really smooth and funny!

Inasmuch as Solo is, expressly and unambiguously, an origin story, it contains numerous winks to the more well-versed members of the audience (as when a character demands of Han, “Do you know what it’s like to have a price on your head?” har har har). Actually, wink implies subtlety — which is not, for director Ron Howard and screenwriters Jonathan and Larry Kasdan, a going concern….

(5) IN HOT TRIVIAL PURSUIT. NPR’s Glen Weldon has also taken in the weekend’s other blockbuster release: “Grim ‘N’ Gritty Is Out, Glib ‘N’ Smarmy Is In: ‘Deadpool 2′”.

…There are, it is only fair to note, actual jokes in Deadpool 2 — sincere, crafted, legitimately funny gags that are clearly the product of human thought and loving effort. There’s … not a lot of those, but they’re there if you look, and should you happen across one, it will very likely delight you.

Because what’s taking up most of the room that would otherwise be occupied by jokes in Deadpool 2‘s screenplay are those many, many, many references.

It’s Family Guy: The Movie.

Or, technically I suppose, it’s Family Guy 2: Here Are Some More Mentions Of Other, Tangentially Related Things You Recognize And Like.

… And it’s gonna make a kabillion dollars….

(6) BBC DEADPOOL ROUNDUP. The BBC also finds a mixed bag: “Deadpool 2: What the critics thought”.

Many have welcomed the return of Reynolds’ wise-cracking vigilante and his X-Force team, but it wasn’t all five-star reviews.

Some felt that while the sequel stayed true to its predecessor’s style of quickfire edgy jokes and send-ups of the superhero genre, it was starting to feel a bit cynical….

(7) VORKOSIVERSE. The cover was just revealed at Lois McMaster Bujold’s Facebook page.

(8) EARTHSEA. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak, in his art-filled post “This illustrated collection of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books finally does the series justice”, says The Books of Earthsea will be in stores October 23.

Saga Press’ editorial director Joe Monti tells The Verge that the project was something he wanted to do from “day one,” when he joined Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press in 2013. Last November the imprint released several collected editions of the late author’s work under his supervision. (Library of America likewise released an omnibus edition of some of her work with The Hainish Novels & Stories, Volume One and Volume 2 last year, as well.) While they had long wanted to tackle a comprehensive volume of Le Guin’s Earthsea stories, something in the vein of the many omnibus editions of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Monti says that “Ursula was reticent” to the idea, having “been burned over the last several of decades” by creative partners that never listened or accepted her creative vision.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 15, 1968 Witchfinder General with Vincent Price is released.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mark Hepworth spotted this horrific vision:

(11) CORREIA. Larry Correia expanded on yesterday’s Facebook statement in today’s blog post at Monster Hunter Nation: “Statement Concerning My Being Disinvited as the Guest of Honor for Origins Game Fair” [Internet Archive}. This included a fresh spin about Sad Puppies:

…Up next, there was much outrage about how I was a Sad Puppy. Correction, I was the original Sad Puppy, and I’m proud of that. Now, the way these people portray it, this was my evil scheme to rig the sainted Hugo awards, to get myself an award, and to also simultaneously keep women and minorities out of publishing.  Which is ironic, since by “rig” they meant I got more fans to participate in the voting, I turned down my nomination, and since the other people I got nominated included a bunch of women and minorities (as well as authors of various sexual orientations and belief systems) I must really suck at this bigotry thing. But keep in mind, the people slandering me over Sad Puppies are the same folks who the year before hailed 14 white liberals and 1 Asian liberal winning as a huge victory for diversity.

In reality, it was my attempt to demonstrate that the Hugo awards were not in fact an award to represent all of fandom, but were actually extremely politically biased, and dominated by a few small insular cliques. They went out of their way to prove I was right….

(12) INDUSTRY INSIDERS. Posted on Reddit, this is reportedly the text of a message sent by John Ward, Executive Director of Origins Game Fair, to the Game Manufacturers Association:

(13) A PIUS FINN. Declan Finn recommended some ideas for harassing Ward in “Correia was Ringoed”.

…Though to be honest, I was sort of surprised this even worked once, on Ringo. He’s a bestselling author. He doesn’t need the PR by going to cons. He goes to have fun and hang out. Larry too is also at the level where con appearances can only help the con, not himself.

But hey, it makes the SJWs feel good. It makes them think that they’re getting something done. I suppose that pointing out to people that this will only force Larry to have more free time is a waste of time.

Now, I’m not going to suggest sending an email to GoDaddy about how the originsgamefair.com site is being used by John Ward to defame Larry Correia.

….Though you can email at abuse@godaddy.com, and send something like, oh, I don’t know….

(14) CRITICAL CORRESPONDENCE. Jason Cordova’s post “Origins” quoted the entirety of his letter to John Ward, which says in part:

…Mr. Correia had always shown grace, been polite, and worked with the concom of every convention he has attended. Those who seek to discredit and destroy him are abusing the rules of your convention in a manner which they were not meant for and raising enough of an outcry that your convention, undoubtedly, feels compelled to respond to. Unfortunately, instead of speaking with Mr. Correia, it appears that you have reacted in a manner which can only be described as “knee-jerk”. You have allowed concern trolls to dictate your guest list while alienating you from a fan base which both pays to see their favorite author and supports other commercial endeavors at conventions as well.

Conventions such as Origins are supposed to be for all fans. However, with outward appearance of appeasement to the vocal minority who seek to undermine all of Mr. Correia’s hard work as well as alienate his fan base from any future conventions you might host, it behooves me to suggest that you are hurting nobody but yourselves with this move….

(15) VOICE OF VOX. Vox Day’s reaction “Larry Correia banned from Origins” [Internet Archive] largely consists of quotes:

This is almost unbelievable. SJWs are running completely amok.

[Screencap of John Ward’s FB announcement]

It just goes to show that they will come for you eventually, no matter how minor your offenses against the Narrative may be.

[Text of Larry Correia’s original response (without expanded text linked above)]

One gets the impression that Larry is simply too worn out with the Culture War to feel like fighting the SJWs anymore. And, let’s face it, like John Ringo, he is too independently successful for their antics to do him any real harm. For now, anyhow.

(16) INTERNET TOXICITY. James Patrick Kelly made these posts at the end of February. I spotted them while doing some Google searches today.

It was possible at the time to read this as a tongue-in-cheek PR stunt that failed, since despite Correia’s lobbying, Monster Hunter Legion did not make the Hugo ballot. However, the next year he returned with reinforcements, birthing the insurgency known as the Sad Puppies. (The self-deprecating name refers to this ASPCA commercial www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO9d2PpP7tQ. It’s meant to compare pulp writers who provide entertainment to the masses, but get no recognition, to abused pets.) Not only did Correia have a new novel to flog, but he also posted a slate www.monsterhunternation.com/2014/03/25/my-hugo-slate of twelve works of fiction and non-fiction that he urged his Puppy minions to nominate. As an act of provocation, he included a novelette by one Vox Day, a pseudonym for a notorious internet troll www.time.com/4457110/internet-trolls named Theodore Beale. As Correia blogged, “. . . one of my stated goals was to demonstrate that SJWs would have a massive freak out if somebody with the wrong politics got on. So on the slate it went. I nominated Vox Day because Satan didn’t have any eligible works that period.” What’s a SJW, you ask. Wikipedia explains http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice_warrior: “‘Social justice warrior” is a pejorative term for an individual promoting  socially progressive views, including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics.”

A follow-up installment, “Troll Bridge”, takes a broad look at internet culture:

In 2018, the challenge of internet governance looms large. Last year the Pew Research Center www.pewinternet.org issued a report called The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online www.pewinternet.org/2017/03/29/the-future-of-free-speech-trolls-anonymity-and-fake-news-online. The researchers asked 1,537 technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners, and government leaders, “In the next decade, will public discourse online become more or less shaped by bad actors, harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust?” Forty-two percent of the respondents said they expected no major change for better or worse in our current troubling online culture, while 39 percent thought that the next decade would see even more negative activity. Just 19 percent were hopeful that online interactions would be “less shaped” by harassment, trolling, and distrust.

These experts were invited to expand on their replies by considering how social media might evolve. Are there technologies on the horizon that might discourage trolling and encourage inclusive behaviors? How might these solutions impact free speech?

Their extended responses are well worth a look, although they fill some eighty pages in the PDF version, and, alas, reach no consensus. They fall into four broad themes.

(17) HOW’S YOUR SPANISH? Morgan Blackhand’s Spanish-language blog post “Polémica en la Origins Game Fair” is highly critical of Correia and complimentary towards Origins Game Fair’s decision to revoke his GoH invite.

(18) HOW’S YOUR ENGLISH? Meanwhile, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green defends and praises Larry Correia at length in “It is time to fight back”  [Internet Archive.]

…Now, how many problems can you see with this statement by John Ward? I see a number. First, it is all about him. He didn’t know. He wasn’t aware. He felt it necessary re “recend” Larry’s invitation. No mention that he discussed it with the rest of those folks involved with the running of the con. No mention that he did due diligence ahead of time to see who his guest of honor was or what he did. Note also there is no mention of the fact Larry is an avid gamer. Nope, Ward was told Larry was a bad man and knee-jerked his reaction. Now he is running and hiding and refusing to answer simple questions like “exactly how are Larry’s views specifically unaligned with the philosophy” of the con?

I find it amazing Ward could issue this statement within an hour or so of first announcing Larry would be GoH and then the revocation of his invite and yet he couldn’t be bothered to answer the many questions about why?

Oh, there’s more.

Even as the con removed the thread on their Facebook page about Larry, they left this thread up. [Now removed] For those not wanting to go there, here’s the image you need to be aware of.

Now, if you had seen this yesterday before Larry was uninvited, his name would have been included as one of the tagged authors. In fact, if you look at the book cover, you see him listed as the third author. So the con has no problem making money off of him. He’s just not good enough to attend their con. Needless to say, there are a number of folks asking how long before this image is changed as well, possibly with the con organizers blacking out Larry’s name or even asking for volunteers to help tear out the pages on which his story is printed. After all, we mustn’t risk letting his annoying and dangerous ideas out into the gaming public.

(19) MORE PRO-CORREIA RESPONSE. Victory Girls Blog begins “Origins Game Fair Caves to SJZ Brownshirts” like so:

The usual purple-haired, hairy armpitted, androgynous, “mayonnaise is a gender,” social justice landwhales swung into action, whining about how upset they were that Larry was invited as Guest of Honor. They maligned him as a racist (he’s actually a person of color), misogynist (despite the fact that Larry spent years teaching self defense to women), they claimed he was a terrible, awful person who made them feel unsafe (even though Larry has attended numerous conventions, and by every account was charming, bright, funny, friendly, and polite), and they demanded that Origins rescind the invitation, because SAD PUPPIES!

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