Pixel Scroll 3/3/21 The Pixels Are Due On Scroll Street

(1) TERRY AND THE WIZARD. [Item by rcade.] Twitter user Edgar Allen Doe shares the tale of the day he went to Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, California, and met the fantasy author Terry Prachett, who met a wizard. Thread starts here.

Doe writes, “I really cannot overstate the ‘full wizard regalia’ element of this person.”

Prepare to take a journey spanning six tweets that does not go the way you think it will, you jaded cynic.

One of the people who saw the tweets also witnessed the meeting, which based on a Petaluma Argus-Courier news search I did likely occurred on Oct. 15, 2006.

(2) THE HORROR. James Davis Nicoll chronicles “Five Fascinating Twists on Cosmic Horror” at Tor.com.

…Now in its seventh edition, Call of Cthulhu is the second most popular roleplaying game on Roll20. It reportedly dominates the roleplaying market in Japan. That’s interesting, because unlike most RPGs, Call of Cthulhu (or CoC for short) is set in a universe where humans are not top dog, where there are vast, incomprehensible entities who refrain from snuffing us out mainly because they’ve never noticed us, where First Contact is often Last Contact. Characters in CoC generally spend the adventure or campaign coming to grips with how out of their depth they are—before going mad. If they are very lucky, they’re eaten first….

What more do you need to cheer yourself up?

(3) THE UNKNOWN PAST. “Doctor Who’s The Timeless Children – Morbius Doctors confirmed”Radio Times knows this is a big deal and makes sure you don’t miss it.

Doctor Who’s series 12 finale The Timeless Children dropped a number of huge reveals – but one of these twists was actually first telegraphed by the show back in 1976.

The episode revealed that the Doctor is not a native Gallifreyan, but the latest incarnation of a mysterious being called the Timeless Child, from parts unknown.

The Child or ‘Foundling’ – the first being to ever regenerate – had many different incarnations, many of which were wiped from their mind by the Time Lords (specifically by a sect of Gallifreyans called The Division).

This means that there were in fact an unknown number of incarnations of the being we now know as the Doctor before the ‘first’ (as played by William Hartnell from 1963-66).

Huge reveal, right? But this twist is not without precedent – as RadioTimes.com previously predicted, The Timeless Children has links to the 1976 Doctor Who story The Brain of Morbius, starring Tom Baker as the Doctor.

And the article goes on to glean details of the 1976 episode.

(4) WHO, RAY? “Who Is R. A. Lafferty? And Is He the Best Sci-Fi Writer Ever?” WIRED reviewer Jason Kehe does all he can to provoke us into reading The Best of R. A. Lafferty, “which Tor published earlier this year to nonexistent fanfare.”

…OK, SO A select few actually have read Lafferty, a secret society of loonies whose names you probably do recognize. Neil Gaiman. Ursula Le Guin. Samuel Delany. Other sci-fi writers, in other words. R. A. Lafferty has always been, then, a sci-fi writer’s sci-fi writer—a blurry, far-out position to find oneself in. When comedians hang out, they famously have to commit acts of borderline criminality, usually involving nudity and great heights, to get each other to bust up. So just think what absurdities a sci-fi writer has to conjure forth to gobsmack his fellow sci-fi writers—sci-fi writers who actually are, by much wider consensus, some of the best in the world.

The descriptor they tend to resort to, as if by no other choice, is sui generis, dusty old Latin for “one of a kind.” It’s probably the most common phrase associated with Lafferty (incidentally a self-taught student of Latin), and it appears not once but twice in The Best of R. A. Lafferty, which Tor published earlier this year to nonexistent fanfare and which, in keeping with the man’s self-aggrandizing sense of humor, should’ve been called The Best (of the Best) of R. A. Lafferty. Each of the 22 short stories is introduced by a writer often far more famous than Lafferty, including Gaiman and Delany, and also John Scalzi, Jeff VanderMeer, Connie Willis, and Harlan Ellison (who’s dead; his piece was originally published in 1967). Ellison—whose fellow Ellison, Ralph, wrote Invisible Man—says this of Lafferty: “He is the invisible man.” Nice….

(5) CAVEAT EMPTOR. Mad Genius Club’s Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Time has come to talk of many things”, says a fashion style in sff book covers will rebound on publishers when readers find the books don’t deliver what’s on their jackets.

I want to talk about a new trend I’ve observed in covers, and how it applies to much of the greater world out there. I.e. how the new trend in covers is just a new way that traditional publishing has come up with to screw itself and the entire field of writing over.

… If you have been alive a long time, or even if you “just” read books for a long time, you’re probably aware that there are trends in covers, as there are in everything else. In covers, though, particularly in the era of mega-chain bookstores, that “look” not only tended/tends to be more uniform, but it changes completely….

And then…. I kept running into more of these covers from other houses. Covers that explicitly try to look like they’re at the latest in the 50s.

Look, as a marketing strategy it’s brilliant. And stupid as heck.

Why?

Well, because now people are getting used to looking at Amazon for books that they remember reading/used to read/etc. they will be drawn to covers that are what they remember when they fell in love with a genre.

The problem is this: for most of the mainstream publishing, the contents won’t match the cover.

And yes, I can see them totally preening and going “if we get the rubes to look at our much superior product, they’ll love it.”

Because, you know, in the industry, it’s never about publishing what people want to read. It’s about “educating” the public. Which has taken them from 100K plus printruns for midlist to 10k printruns for high list….

(6) DR. SEUSS’ WWII POLITICAL CARTOONS. At “Dr. Seuss Went to War”, UC San Diego hosts a searchable gallery of his editorial cartoons from before and during WWII. Having discussed just yesterday the criticisms levied against his imagery of nonwhites, it’s interesting to see that some of these 1940s cartoons go after America’s leading racists of the time such as Gerald L.K. Smith.

Because of the fame of his children’s books (and because we often misunderstand these books) and because his political cartoons have remained largely unknown, we do not think of Dr. Seuss as a political cartoonist. But for two years, 1941-1943, he was the chief editorial cartoonist for the New York newspaper PM (1940-1948), and for that journal he drew over 400 editorial cartoons.

The Dr. Seuss Collection in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego, contains the original drawings and/or newspaper clippings of all of these cartoons. This website makes these cartoons available to all internet users. The cartoons have been scanned from the original newspaper clippings in the UCSD collection.

Dr. Seuss Goes to War by historian Richard H. Minear (The New Press, 1999) reproduced some two hundred of the PM cartoons. That means that two hundred of the cartoons available here have received no airing or study since their original appearance in PM. The cartoons Dr. Seuss published in other journals are even less known; there is no mention of them in Dr. Seuss Goes to War. Dr. Seuss also drew a set of war bonds “cartoons” which appeared in many newspapers as well as in PM

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

[Double feature!]

  • March 3, 1965 — On this day in 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. (CE)
  • March 3, 1965 — On this day in 1965, Mutiny in 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 here and see what you think of it. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • 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.) (CE) 
  • 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 he played Phillip Bainbridge.  Doohan did nothing that I can find of a genre nature post-Trek. ISFDB notes that he did three Scotty novels co-written with S.M. Stirling. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1923 – Erik Blegvad.  Illustrated more than a hundred children’s books; as ever, opinions will differ on which we can count.  Apprenticed in a machine shop, left it when the Nazis took Denmark, imprisoned for distributing Danish Resistance literature, eventually translated for the British.  Self-Portrait 1979.  Three of Sharp’s Miss Bianca books (Miss B is a mouse); Bed-Knob and Broomstick – his cover, one of his interiors; his own translation of Hans Andersen. Washington Post appreciation here. (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1924 Catherine Downs. She’s in four Fifties grade B SF films: The Phantom from 10,000 LeaguesThe She CreatureThe Amazing Colossal Man and Missile to the Moon. All but the first film werewas the subject of a MST3K show. (Died 1976.) (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1928 – Paul Callé.  (“KAL-lee”.)  Known for NASA work, see this bookhere is an Apollo XI drawing; see more of his Space art here.  It is of course open to the rejoinder Not fiction.  Here is The Legion of Space.  Here is The Star Seekers.  Here is an interior from the Jul 50 Super Science Stories.  He did much with the American West (i.e. U.S. and Canada); see how each person is portrayed here.  His pencil book here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1936 Donald E. Morse, 85. 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. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1938 – Patricia MacLachlan, age 83.  A novel and four shorter stories for us; thirty other books, one winning a Newbery Medal, one about Matisse; still writing, most recently published last June.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1945 George Miller, 76. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road Warrior,  Mad 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 EastwickBabe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1955 – Greg Feeley, age 66.  Two novels, thirty shorter stories for us.  I keep heaing he’s turned in Hamlet the Magician, but not when we may expect it.  Here is a note on Robinson, Le Guin, Clute, Egan.  Here is a note on Thurber’s “Catbird Seat”.  Here is “Why I Love Laurence Sterne Scholarship”.  Four dozen reviews in FoundationSF Age, and like that.  Interviewed Waldrop for Interzone.  Himself interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1970 – John Carter Cash, age 51.  Indeed the son of that Cash and that Carter.  While mostly in music outside our field, he’s given us one book.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1982 Jessica Biel, 49. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw MassacreBlade: TrinityStealthThe Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and theanimatedSpark: A Space Tail. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1981 – Kiersten Fay, age 40.  Ten novels, one shorter story, of paranormal romance with demons and vampires.  She’s a USA Today best-selling author.  [JH]

(9) SINCE YOU ASKED. On Drew Barrymore’s show “Stephen King Confesses He Didn’t Like The Shining Movie”. He gives his opinion at about the 1-minute mark.

(10) A CLOSE SHAVE. Amazon’s new icon got an immediate re-iteration because the old “new” made people think of Hitler’s toothbrush mustache. CNN has the story — “Amazon quietly changed its app icon after some unfavorable comparisons”.

… “We designed the new icon to spark anticipation, excitement, and joy when customers start their shopping journey on their phone, just as they do when they see our boxes on their door step,” an Amazon spokesperson said. The app icon was tweaked based on user feedback.

Only iOS users in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Netherlands saw the Hitler-esque logo over the past few weeks. The updated logo rolled out worldwide for iOS users last week. Android users will see the new logo beginning this week.

(11) NAVIGATING LONELINESS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Best Wishes From a Guy Lashed to the Mast of Loneliness, Listening for So Far Silent Sirens — “Kristen Radtke Writes, and Draws, Our Loneliness” at Publishers Weekly.

When Kristen Radtke started writing about loneliness in 2016, she had no idea of what was to come. Writers are famously prescient, but who could have imagined the global pandemic of Covid-19 and the isolation it would generate? Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness (Pantheon, July), Radtke’s latest graphic nonfiction book, is a marvelous deep dive into that universal emotion, blending science, memoir, journalism, research, philosophy, and pop culture to explore isolation and our desire to be close to one another….

(12) HOPING TO PREDICT SOLAR WEATHER. “Origin of the Sun’s solar storms discovered in scientific breakthrough” reports Yahoo!

…In 1859, a large solar storm called the Carrington Event caused widespread issues with telegraph systems across Europe and the United States.

A repeat storm of such magnitude today could be far more devastating.

But now researchers at University College London (UCL) and George Mason University in the US believe they have located where on the Sun these particles come from, in a bid to better predict when they might strike again.

Their findings, published in Science Advances journal, indicate that the particles have the same “fingerprint” as plasma located low in the Sun’s corona, close to the middle region of the it’s atmosphere.

“In our study we have observed for the first time exactly where solar energetic particles come from on the Sun,” said co-author Dr Stephanie Yardley, from UCL….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Kill Your Idioms” on Vimeo, Grant Kolton takes aim at well-worn cliches.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/21 The Scroll Unvanquishable, Save By Pixels

(1) IT’LL COST MORE THAN A SOCK TO FREE HARRY POTTER. Episode 75 of Our Opinions Are Correct, the podcast by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, asks “Has JK Rowling destroyed Harry Potter fandom?”

JK Rowling has become an anti-trans activist on social media. This news has sent Harry Potter fandom — always full of queers and trans people — into mourning. We talk to author/publisher (and longtime Slytherin) Cecilia Tan about how to ignore Rowling and take back Harry Potter.

And the shownotes at the above link are compellingly illustrated with a panel from Maia Kobabe’s work on Trans-Affirming Magical Care.

(2) RSR COMPARES NOTES WITH LOCUS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual “Annotated 2020 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction”. Eric Wong explains: “Like the last two years, we’ve merged it with RSR’s Best SF/F list (highlighting stories from the Locus List in red) and grouped the stories by length and score. It includes some observations about overlooked stories, notable publications, outstanding authors, new writers, and translated stories.” Ten of RSR’s top-rated 2020 stories did not make the Locus list.

Eric adds, “The main takeaway is that non-free stories from Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, and Interzone are under-represented in the Locus list. It’s worse than last year and appears to be a trend for several years now.”

(3) FROM CULTURE WAR TO THE THREAT OF CIVIL WAR. With “Debarkle: Introduction” Camestros Felapton launches a series about “An epic story of politics, conspiracies, fans and rocket ships in which the political chaos of 2020 was presaged by a culture war for a literary award.”

From January 6 2021 to January 7 2015

….One person I was reading [on January 6] was a writer for the right-wing media outlet PJ Media/Instapundit, wrote in a comment on her own blog about her own anger seeing major conservative news outlets condemning the protestors:

“FUCK THEM.
Seriously, I think we should do the media next. Put the fear of Americans into them.
Saint Augusto bless us.
Anyone has helicopters?”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2021/01/06/we-will-work-until-we-cant/#comment-732567

Here “Saint Augusto” and “helicopters” being a reference to a far-right meme about the use by Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet of “death flights“, a form of extra-judicial killing by pushing victims out of aircraft.

The following day, ‘alt-right’ ethno-nationalist publisher Vox Day described Sarah Hoyt as the “only non-cuck at Instapundit” [archive link]. In this context “cuck” is derogatory term for mainstream conservatives referencing “cuckold” pornography. Day was applauding a post by Hoyt were she celebrated the actions of the protestors…

(4) THE LONG GAME. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson has a Q&A with an author who made the leap from fanfic to tradpub: “Interview: Everina Maxwell, author of Winter’s Orbit”.

NOAF: You published an early version of Winter’s Orbit online at Archive of Our Own. What was the experience like, going from publishing it online, to then working with a traditional publisher?

EM: Pretty terrifying, honestly! Throughout editing I was nervous of what the people who read it as original fiction on AO3 would think of the new version, which has more worldbuilding and a plot with a much wider scope. Also, on AO3 people were very kind and didn’t tend to ask awkward questions like “why is this thematically inconsistent” or “why haven’t you explained how this worked” or “can you please pick one spelling of this character’s name and stick with it” – which the traditional publishing process absolutely asks and makes you fix. I think it’s a much better book now; I certainly love the new material myself. I hope both old and new readers will enjoy it!

(5) SEMIPROZINE CLOSE-UP. R. Graeme Cameron reviews Hexagon Speculative Fiction Magazine #3 for Amazing Stories’ “Clubhouse” column.

[Editor JW] Stebner is very proud of the role of semiprozines (like Hexagon) “in the literary Magazine industry.” As publisher of the semiprozine Polar Borealis and the soon to be introduced Polar Starlight (devoted to Canadian Speculative Poetry) I have to say I agree with him. I’m quite keen on enthusiasts starting up such and thus am very pleased to have discovered Hexagon. (Actually, I was led to it by Robert Runté, who told me about it, for which I am grateful.)…

(6) WEEPING ANGELS VIDEO GAME. Digital Spy has some eye-opening news: “Doctor Who confirms return date for Weeping Angels in new trailer”.

…”Merciless as ever, the Weeping Angels are back with a vengeance. Will you be able to uncover the truth and avoid their clutches? Now that the Weeping Angels have the power to infiltrate technology, no device is safe,” the synopsis teases, with The Lonely Assassins described as “blurring the line between live-action footage and gameplay”.

The dark mystery game, which is available to pre-order now ahead of its March 19 release, will build on the events of ‘Blink’ as you find a phone belonging to Lawrence, who has seemingly disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

At the other end of the phone is another returning Who character, ex-UNIT scientist Petronella Osgood (Ingrid Oliver), who thinks that you are “the right person for the job” to track down Lawrence….

(7) PARTY OF FIVE, YOUR TABLE IS READY. Publishers Weekly reports Amazon is no longer the lone defendant in this consumer class action suit: “Big Five Publishers Now Defendants in E-book Price-Fixing Suit”.

The news comes after the initial complaint, first filed in the Southern District of New York on January 14 by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman, portrayed the Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—as “co-conspirators” in a bid to restrain competition in the e-book market, but had named only Amazon as a defendant. The amended complaint, filed on February 4, now pulls the publishers into the suit….

(8) NEW LIFE. Charlie Jane Anders tells Esquire readers “How The Expanse Transformed the Space Opera Genre For a New Generation of Sci-Fi Stories”. It all began when Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham ignored warnings that space opera was a dying genre.

…Now, of course, Leviathan Wakes has been followed by eight sequels and a TV show, The Expanse, whose fifth season ends tonight. And the shelves at your local bookstore are crammed with kickass space operas by authors like Valerie Valdes, Becky Chambers, Ann Leckie, Yoon Ha Lee, Arkady Martine, Kameron Hurley, Nicky Drayden, Karen Lord, Tim Pratt, John Scalzi, Nnedi Okorafor, and Karen Osborne.

A lot of these new space opera books share some of the same DNA as Corey’s Expanse series: they feature underdog characters, who are just trying to get paid, or survive, or get justice—they aren’t exactly crisp-uniformed explorers like Captain Kirk, or chosen ones like Luke Skywalker. These books also feature somewhat more realistic physics, with way less hand-waving—for example, faster-than-light travel is usually impossible without some kind of wormhole. And these books often have a touch of weirdness and body horror, along the lines of The Expanse‘s alien protomolecule….

(9) PLUMMER OBIT. Actor Christopher Plummer (1929-2021) died February 5 at the age of 91.

His genre roles included The Man Who Would Be King (1975, as Rudyard Kipling), Starcrash (1978), Somewhere in Time (1980), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, as a Klingon, General Chang), Harrison Bergeron (1995), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Dracula 2000 (2000), and voice acting in many animated films and several video games.

“How boring it would be to be just one thing — just a movie actor, or just a stage actor — when you can just keep going from one to the other. I think one also helps the other,” he told The [LA] Times in 1998. “I’ll go on doing it until I drop.”

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • February 5, 1994 — On this day in 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” aired. This episode which looked at lives of some of the junior officers is much beloved by Trek fans and is cited as the inspiration for the Below Decks animated series. If you’re interested in an in-depth discussion of this episode, Keith R.A. DeCandido did one at Tor.com.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 5, 1870 – Charles Brock, R.I.  Painter, line artist, illustrator of Austen, Defoe, Dickens, Eliot, Scott, Swift, Thackeray.  Member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors.  Here is an illustration for Ivanhoe.  Here is one for Emma.  Here are Frey and Freya from Keary’s Heroes of Asgard.  Here are Goliath and David.  Here is Gulliver with the Lilliputians.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of Frankenstein,  Ali Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s in Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. He was one of many Hollywood stars who appeared in the The Muppets Go Hollywood special. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1934 – Malcolm Willits, age 87.  Two novels, three shorter stories.  Co-edited Destiny; three poems, half a dozen interiors; here is his cover (with Jim Bradley) for the Spring 53 issue.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1942 – Dame Susan Hill, age 79.  Seven novels, as many shorter stories for us; threescore books all told.  Married a Shakespeare scholar.  The Guardian called her Woman in Black the most celebrated ghost story of modern times.  Somerset Maugham Award, Whitbread Award, Rhys Prize.  Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1957 – Margi Curtis, age 64.  Poet and musician.  She’s been in Spectral Realms, e.g. here.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 60. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him —  Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman BeyondStatic ShockJustice League in several series, and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 57. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. (CE)
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 47. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as Production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE) 
  • Born February 5, 1974 – Pablo Castro, age 47.  Four short stories, two available in English; for “Reflections” see Words Without Borders.  [JH]
  • Born February 5, 1991 – Sharona van Herp, age 30.  Gamer and graphic designer.  Here she is at DeviantArt.  Here she is at ArtStation.  Here is a cover.  I found this at Tumblr.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss knows there’s more than one well-paved road to Hell.

(13) HE’S A BIG FAN. “Schitt’s Creek Cast Q & A  With Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart” on YouTube is the last part of a discussion that Sir Pat Stew had with the cast of Schitt’s Creek, a show Sir Patrick likes a lot.

(14) OUI ARE FRENCH. Heavy shares “The French Accent Patrick Stewart Almost did for TNG”. Hear it on this clip from The Graham Norton Show.

…Stewart said that the producers of the show did want Picard to have a French accent. After they’d cast Stewart, they asked him to come in and read some of his lines with the French accent. Stewart continued, saying that he did his very best, but the producers were far from impressed with his attempt. After hearing the character with Stewart’s attempted accent, the producers decided to let him perform the character in his normal voice, and they came up with the canon explanation for why a Frenchman had a British accent.

When Stewart was done explaining why the French accent was rejected, he offered to let the audience hear exactly how bad his attempt had been. After they cheered at the offer, Stewart started reciting the lines from the voiceover synonymous with the show in the accent he’d attempted years before. The audience, and everyone on stage, immediately burst out laughing at how hilariously different the lines sounded.

(15) WADE’S NEXT. Paul Weimer has read a new book I wanted to hear more about: “Microreview: Trangressions of Power by Juliette Wade” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this brings us to Pyaras. Cousin to Nekantor and Tagaret, we got a look at him in Mazes of Power, but here he is “promoted to titles” and given a large section of the point of view. Pyaras comes off for a lot of the book as “upper class twit” in a textbook example of the form. His story is about learning better, and eventually doing better. I was dubious about him at the beginning of the book, but he does go on a journey of character that redeems and strengthens him by the end of the novel…. 

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. Ty Johnston revisits “Lords of Creation a tabletop RPG before its time” for Black Gate.

…Lords of Creation is very much a game of its time, but in many way it’s also a game ahead of its time. The D&D influence is obvious in the mechanics, especially concerning character and monster stats, but this game was one of the earliest to stretch beyond the boundaries of any single genre. Lords of Creation wasn’t just a fantasy tabletop rpg, but was meant to be a game for all genres, including science fiction, mythology, noir, and more. In fact, the back of the game box reads, “The ultimate role-playing game … a game of science, fantasy, science fiction and high adventure that explores the farthest reaches of your imagination! Splendid adventures take place throughout time, space and other dimensions.”…

(17) NUTRITIONAL ADVICE FROM MIDDLE-EARTH. From 2013, but it’s news to me: “The hobbit – an unexpected deficiency” from PubMed.gov:

Abstract

Objective: Vitamin D has been proposed to have beneficial effects in a wide range of contexts. We investigate the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency, caused by both aversion to sunlight and unwholesome diet, could also be a significant contributor to the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature….

(18) SPOT GETS AN UPGRADE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Boston Dynamics robotic dog, Spot, is now available with an integrated arm, and even has an available upgraded “Enterprise” version. The basic bot can be purchased for $74.5K direct from BD online. If you want the arm or anything from the Enterprise line, though, best be prepared for some real sticker shock—you’ll still have to contact a salesperson before they’ll divulge the price. Ars Technica has the story: “Boston Dynamics’ robot dog gets an arm attachment, self-charging capabilities”.

For the first time in the company’s 29-year history, Boston Dynamics actually started selling robots to the general public, and it’s pretty incredible that you can actually just head to the Boston Dynamics website, press the “add to cart” button, and have a robot dog shipped to your home. The company says it has sold more than 400 Spot units to date, and the robots are out there doing real work, usually monitoring hazardous work sites like “nuclear plants, offshore oil fields, construction sites, and mines.”

After a year of working with businesses and getting feedback, Boston Dynamics is launching a new Spot revision, a long-awaited arm attachment, and some new features.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Around The Block” by Jonnie Lewis on Vimeo is a brief portrait of how David Zinn draws cartoons on sidewalks and walls with chalk.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/21 I Will Scroll No Pixel Before Its Time

(1) LISTEN TO THE PICNIC. Podside Picnic is the place hosts Podside Pete, Karlo Rodriguez and Connor Southard engage with and discuss science fiction, fantasy and horror media. In addition to their Patreon subscriber content, they also feature interviews with SFF authors that are available to non-subscribers at Podside Picnic on Soundcloud – sample links below.

Podside Picnic is a show mostly about science fiction and fantasy, but more importantly, it’s about two guys exploring stories. Pete is a lifelong science fiction and fantasy fan with 40 years of ravenous reading under his belt. Connor is a writer and recovering literary snob on a mission to learn about science fiction, fantasy, and all the genres in between.

We like the phrase “literature of the fantastic” to encompass what most interests us, but our interests morph as we continue this journey and learn from each other and from our audience and guests. Much of our focus is on what’s long been called “genre fiction,” especially science fiction and fantasy, but curiosity is more important to us than marketing lingo. We believe the future of storytelling lies in crossing traditional boundaries. 

In which Pete and Connor are joined by a living legend of science fiction, Peter Watts. We discuss his contemporary classic novel Blindsight, but we also discuss love, legal misadventures, life itself… and sea cucumbers

Pete and Karlo are joined by author, Karen Osborne to discuss her novel “Architects of Memory” and how even in the far future, people will try their best and sometimes fail.

In which Pete and Connor are joined by writer Isaac Butler, who wrote this fascinating piece about unjustly forgotten fantasy and sci-fi writer John M. Ford: slate.com/culture/2019/11/john…n-fantasy-books.html

(2) GOTHAM BOOK PRIZE. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin is a nominee for the inaugural Gotham Book Prize.

As the city comes through COVID-19 and enters a challenging period ahead, recognizing what makes it special and unique is more important than ever. The Gotham Book Prize is awarded once a year to the best book (works of fiction and nonfiction are eligible) published that calendar year that either is about New York City or takes place in New York City. The winner will receive $50,000. Selections will be reviewed by an independent jury with the winner selected by the prize’s co-founders/ funders.

Jemisin’s book and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind are the lone two works of genre interest among the 10 nominees.

(3) THE HELLUO YOU SAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Wikipedia word of the day [24 January GST]  is helluo librorum : (literary, archaic) An insatiable and obsessive bookworm (“avid book reader”). Here’s an example of the term used in a sentence:

[1720, [attributed to Jonathan Swift], The Right of Precedence between Phisicians and Civilians Enquir’d into, Dublin: […] [J. Gowan] for John Hyde […], and Robert Owen […], OCLC 1227582291page 16:

[A] Writers Stomach, Appetite, and Victuals, may be judg’d from his Method, Stile, and Subject, as certainly as if you were his Mess-fellow, and sat at Table with him. Hence we call a Subject dry, a Writer insipid, Notions crude, and indigested, a Pamphlet empty or hungry, a Stile jejune, and many such like Expressions, plainly alluding to the Diet of an Author, and I make no manner of doubt but Tully [i.e.Cicero] grounded that saying of Helluo Librorum upon the same Observation.]

(4) AMAZON ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS. Classaction.org has another rundown on the lawsuit and a link to the complaint: “Amazon.com, ‘Big Five’ Publishers Conspired to Fix Prices for E-Books, Class Action Alleges”.

…Through its most favored nation clauses with the Big Five, Amazon has required, and the companies have agreed to grant, “prices, terms, and conditions equal to or better” than those offered to the defendant’s competitors. Moreover, Amazon mandates that it be notified about such terms, a requirement that serves to restrict discounts to consumers and stifle innovation in the trade e-book market, the suit claims.

“Once notified of the availability of its co-conspirators’ e-books at lower prices, Amazon typically ‘requested’ that they charge the same prices on Amazon. If publishers did not comply, Amazon retaliated or threatened to retaliate by disabling purchases for one or several of the publisher’s e-books on its platform, by excluding the publisher’s e-books from all promotional activity, by removing the pre-order buttons for the publisher’s e-books, or by prominently displaying banners for other publishers’ e-books.”

The contractual requirements laid out by Amazon prevent “actual and potential retail competitors from introducing alternative business models, offering promotional advantages, or offering customers lower prices on their own,” the complaint says, summarizing that the agency price model in which Amazon and the Big Five operate has contractually obligated the publishers to more or less do what Amazon says with regard to setting prices or offering discounts.

Further, whereas one would think readers would benefit from the cost reductions related to the low printing and distribution expenses of e-books when compared to printed texts, the high commissions and other costs Amazon charges to publishers all but wipe out those savings, the complaint summarizes:

“Amazon increases the cost of selling e-books by tying its distribution services (e.g., helping consumers find and purchase e-books on the Amazon platform, processing payments, delivering e-books) to its advertising services, which are designed to optimize the placement of advertisements to consumers on its online platform. Amazon further raises the Big Five’s selling costs by manipulating e-book ‘discovery tools to make a publisher’s books difficult to find without the purchase of advertising or refuses distribution unless the publisher also purchases advertising.’”

(5) RESISTANCE IN RUSSIA. In the Washington Post, Robyn Dixon interviews Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of “a cult dystopian sf trilogy” beginning with Metro 2033, who said he was opposed to the Kremlin’s efforts to murder dissident Alexei Navalny and to suppress all opposition to Putin. “Kremlin warns Russians against pro-Navalny protests, drawing pushback”.

The first novel in Glukhovsky’s dystopian science fiction trilogy, “Metro 2033,” set in the Moscow Metro in a post-apocalyptic world, tells a dark story of fascistic leaders who construct a big lie to fool people to keep them trapped underground after a nuclear holocaust. He said he was not a particular Navalny supporter but that it was impossible to ignore the authoritarian turn after what he called “a chain of murderous poisonings,” not only of Navalny but of other Kremlin critics.

(6) NEXT AT BAT. CNN is getting clicks with this headline — “The man third in the line of presidential succession has been in five ‘Batman’ movies”. He’s Sen. Patrick Leahy.

For as many foes as the superhero fends off, Batman has a formidable team of supporters starting with his sidekick Robin, Gotham City Commissioner James Gordon and his ever-loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

But one of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent supporters lies not in a comic book, but in the US Senate, and he’s known the Bat for more than 80 years.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont and the longest-serving member of the current Senate, is a Batman aficionado who’s turned his fandom into philanthropy. He’s even used the comics to forward his legislative agenda.

Now President pro tempore of the Senate, Leahy is third in the presidential line of succession. Though it’s unlikely he’ll ever have to serve as President, his high-profile position shines a brighter light on his colorful resume — which includes multiple appearances in the “Batman” films….

Leahy’s first foray into screen acting — something he does strictly when Batman is involved — came in 1995, when he appeared in the critically reviled “Batman Forever.” The same year, he voiced a character billed as “Territorial Governor” in “Batman: The Animated Series.”

Since then, Leahy has appeared in nearly as many “Batman” films as the Caped Crusader himself. He usually appears as a scowling politician (though in “Batman & Robin,” which his son Mark also had a cameo in, he was allowed to enjoy a raucous party). He even met an explosive end as the curiously named Senator Purrington in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

(7) SIERRA OBIT. Actor Gregory Sierra (1937-2021) died January 4. Best known for non-genre TV roles in Barney Miller and Sanford and Son, his genre credits included TV’s The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Greatest American Hero, The X-Files, and the film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and Honey I Blew Up The Kid. He also appeared in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit scripted by Ray Bradbury.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 23, 1729 – Clara Reeve.  Reading Latin and Greek “at an age when few … of either sex can read their names” (W. Scott, Lives of the Eminent Novelists and Dramatists p. 545, 1870).  Two dozen books, including Plans of Education about women; The Progress of Romance a history of prose; The Old English Baron for us, an early Gothic novel influencing Mary Shelley.  Managed her own career rather than rely on male relations to do it for her.  (Died 1807) [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both from the usual suspects and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1935 – Tom Reamy.  First-rate fanzines TrumpetNickelodeon.  MidAmericon Program Book (34th Worldcon).  Co-founded first SF club in Texas; with the Benfords, brought first SF con to Texas, Southwestercon VI.  One novel, a score of shorter stories; I have somewhere his collection San Diego Lightfoot Sue (title novelette won a Nebula), just thinking of which still gives me the chills.  Campbell Award (as it then was).  Reviews in Delap’s.  Interviewed by Pat Cadigan and Arnie Fenner in Shayol 1.  Novella sold to Last Dangerous Visions.  Here is his cover for Trumpet 1.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1939 – Greg & Tim Hildebrandt (Greg, age 82; Tim, died 2006).  Did much together, like this and this and this.  Here is their cover for City of a Thousand Suns.  Here is Greg’s Peter Pan.  Here is The Fantasy Art Techniques of TH.  One novel, five dozen covers, six dozen interiors together; forty covers, a hundred thirty interiors by Greg; ninety covers, two hundred sixty interiors by Tim.  Greg, Lifetime-Achievement Chesley; Tim, Best-Artist World Fantasy Award; both, Society of Illustrators’ Gold Medal.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 78. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination regarding titles that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan-created Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer. Roy Batty In Blade Runner, of course, but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the very evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 57. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in Tales from Earthsea. (CE) 
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 71. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring genre role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well, Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah I really liked it. And damn it should’ve caught on. (CE)
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, age 67.  Ray Bradbury suggested he join LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is?  CM soon earned the LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Co-chaired Equicon ’74, Westercon 28, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon; chaired Loscon 12.  Fan Guest of Honor, Westercon 41, Loscon 27 (with wife Genny Dazzo), Baycon 2006, Boskone 55.  With Marv Wolfman co-created and produced Pocket Dragon Adventures.  Memoir of work with Lucasfilms Star Wars Adventures.  Three hundred television writer and producer credits.  Writers Guild of America West’s Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1962 – Hilary Robinson, age 59.  A Manxman (the suffix -man is not masculine).  Sixty books; radio, television.  Gillard Gold Award for Religious Programming.  Half a dozen short stories for us.  Essays, letters, in Crystal ShipFocusMatrix.  Patron of the Children’s University.  Her story.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1979 – Marko Djurdjevic, age 42.  A Serb living in Germany.  Penciller and concept artist.  Here is The Marvel Art of MD.  Here is a sketch of Batman.  Here is a contribution to Mark Hay’s Poker-Themed Sketchbook.  Here is The Examination.  Here is Kang the Conqueror.  Blogspot.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Herman has the lowdown on those unexplained sightings.
  • Alley Oop has a joke about quantum theory?
  • The Argyle Sweater has one of the more bizarre Star Wars parenting jokes.

(10) HOW SUPER ARE THEY? The Late Late Show with James Corden challenges Watchmen star and One Night In Miami director Regina King to a game of Superhero or Super Zero, in which she meets a lineup of six potential superheroes. After learning each character’s origin story, Regina must decide which are indeed real.“Which of These Are Real Superheroes? w/ Regina King”.

(11) THE GHOST OF BREAKFAST FUTURE. Delish is haunted by the possibility that “A New ‘Ghostbusters’ Cereal Is Coming Soon”.

… The cereal, which is brought to you by General Mills, hasn’t gotten a secured release date yet, but it has popped up as a listed product on Walmart’s website. Quite similar to the original 1980’s Ghostbusters cereal box, this new rendition—which may not be the finalized version—displays the infamous Ghostbusters logo alongside a bowl of reddish-orange crunchy cereal pieces. And, just like the original version, it includes ghost and Silmer-shaped marshmallow pieces to add more sweet nostalgia to your morning.

(12) HUSH A BOOM. National Geographic is “Remembering the night two atomic bombs fell—on North Carolina”.

… What the voice in the chopper knew, but Reeves didn’t, was that besides the wreckage of the ill-fated B-52, somewhere out there in the winter darkness lay what the military referred to as “broken arrows”—the remains of two 3.8-megaton thermonuclear atomic bombs. Each contained more firepower than the combined destructive force of every explosion caused by humans from the beginning of time to the end of World War II….

(13) WORMHOLES. This 2019 Astronomy.com article ponders the question “If wormholes exist, could we really travel through them?”

…Wormholes, thus, are the perfect way to bypass Einstein’s speed limit, and get your heroes and villains to travel the galaxy in a reasonable time frame. Plus, they allow for the element of time travel to enter the story, all without breaking any laws of physics.

So, the real question is: Can actual people take advantage of wormholes too? The answer is… maybe?

Wither Wormholes?

The first problem for any explorer determined to survey a wormhole is simply finding one. While Einstein’s work says they can exist, we don’t currently know of any. They may actually be impossible after all, forbidden by some deeper physics that the universe obeys, but we haven’t discovered.

The second issue is that, despite years of research, scientists still aren’t really sure how wormholes would work. Can any technology ever create and manipulate them, or are they simply a part of the universe? Do they stay open forever, or are they only traversable for a limited time? And perhaps most significantly, are they stable enough to allow for human travel?

The answer to all of these: We just don’t know.

(14) WORMS WHO MAKE WORMHOLES. “Mysterious, 20-million-year-old tunnels in the ancient ocean floor came from 6-foot-long carnivorous worms, a study found”Yahoo! has the story.

Scientists in Taiwan noticed odd, L-shaped burrows in a set of rocks eight years ago. Since the rocks once sat on the Pacific Ocean floor, they thought the tunnels had been made by shrimp, or perhaps octopuses. But the shape and structure of the burrows didn’t match those made by such creatures, and the mystery lingered.

Now, it’s been solved: The architects behind the tunnels were 6-foot-long worms that lived about 20 million years ago, according to a study published this week. Fossil evidence helped the study authors figure out how these predators hunted and built their undersea lairs.

According to their research, the ancient marine worms would lay waiting under the sand for unsuspecting prey; then when fish passed by, the worms would lunge out of their burrows, snag the swimmers in their gaping maws, and drag the victims under the seafloor…. 

(15) HINDSIGHT HISTORY. Here’s a video curiosity – the cast of the 1945 Armed Forces short “Time To Kill” [YouTube] about the educational benefits offered by the Armed Forces Institute includes George Reeves, plus DeForest Kelley and Betty White making their film debuts.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “First Look:  Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Web Slingers” on YouTube is a preview of a new Spider-Man ride coming to Disney’s California Adventure whenever the park is allowed to reopen.

[Thanks to Jeff Smith, John King Tarpinian, Elspeth Kovar, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer, with an assist from Orson Welles.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/21 I Was Deleted You Won The War, Pixel Scroll, Promise To Read You Forevermore

(1) LE GUIN IN PERSPECTIVE. “It’s not Jung’s, it’s mine: Language-Magic” at the London Review of Books, Colin Burrow offers an overview of Ursula Le Guin’s career.

…But in the hands of an author like Ursula Le Guin, science fiction ‘isn’t really about the future’, as she put it in The Last Interview. ‘It’s about the present.’ It changes one or two structuring facts about the world as it is and asks: ‘What would humans do if this and this were true?’ The questions Le Guin asked were big, and her answers to them were subtle. Half a century ago she wondered: ‘What if people were gender-neutral most of the time, but changed between male and female at random when they came on heat, so that you could write sentences like “The King was pregnant”?’ (as in her Left Hand of Darkness). Or, ‘what if a capitalist planet had a moon on which there was a society with no laws and no private ownership?’ (as in her Dispossessed). Alongside these large questions her fiction also poses less visible challenges to its readers. Are you so unconsciously racist that you didn’t notice this woman or this wizard was brown-skinned? Didn’t you realise that the person you thought was an alien is actually from Earth?

For Le Guin these questions almost always led back to one core idea about people. They get stuff wrong even when they want to get it right, and the more they think they’re in control the worse the mistakes they’re likely to make. In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (first published in 1988 and now reissued with a thoughtful introduction by Donna Haraway), she described her writing as a ‘great heavy sack of stuff, my carrier bag full of wimps and klutzes … full of beginnings without ends … full of space ships that get stuck, missions that fail and people who don’t understand’. Her modesty downplays how deeply her fiction gets inside the darker parts of the human mind….

(2) CLASS ACTION. “Amazon.com and ‘Big Five’ publishers accused of ebook price-fixing” in a recently-filed class action lawsuit reports The Guardian.

Amazon.com and the “Big Five” publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster – have been accused of colluding to fix ebook prices, in a class action filed by the law firm that successfully sued Apple and the Big Five on the same charge 10 years ago.

The lawsuit, filed in district court in New York on Thursday by Seattle firm Hagens Berman, on behalf of consumers in several US states, names the retail giant as the sole defendant but labels the publishers “co-conspirators”. It alleges Amazon and the publishers use a clause known as “Most Favored Nations” (MFN) to keep ebook prices artificially high, by agreeing to price restraints that force consumers to pay more for ebooks purchased on retail platforms that are not Amazon.com.

The lawsuit claims that almost 90% of all ebooks sold in the US are sold on Amazon, in addition to over 50% of all print books. The suit alleges that ebook prices dropped in 2013 and 2014 after Apple and major publishers were successfully sued for conspiring to set ebook prices, but rose again after Amazon renegotiated their contracts in 2015….

(3) URSA MAJOR AWARDS. [Item by N.] The furries are at it again. No virus can hold them down. I mean this as a positive. Nominations for the 2020 Ursa Major Awards have opened and will continue until February 13. Click here to participate.

What’s eligible? Consult the Recommended Anthropomorphics List.

(4) A DISH NAMED WANDA. Camestros Felapton screens the latest Disney+ offering: “Review: WandaVision Ep 1 & 2”

…We are primed for an genre mash-up of superheroes, sit-com pastiche and surreal horror. On the one hand, that is a bold move and on the other hand what we have is essentially a kind of “holodeck episode” in which familiar characters are placed in a contrasting genre for sci-fi or fantasy reasons. Your tolerance for holodeck episodes may vary but they can be fun — the bold choice here is making it the premise of the series and centring two characters who have limited time to develop their characters in the movie…

(5) ROLE YOUR OWN. StryderHD presents Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown as Princess Leia in this #Deepfake video.

At some point in time we are going to either recast or totally CGI parts of actors if you ever want to see them younger or a prequel of a movie they were in or unfortunately great actors we have lost, maybe to ever see them again. In this specific video everyone voted to see who would play a good Princess Leia Organa in a possibly TV series/prequel in the Star Wars universe and you all picked Millie Bobby Brown from “Stranger Things” fame as well as being in “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and other things. What do you all think of her as playing the part?

(6) DIE BY THE DICE. SYFY Wire says to expect a “Dungeons & Dragons live-action TV series by John Wick creator Derek Kolstad”.

Tread carefully with torch in hand, because there’s a new Dungeons & Dragons TV series reportedly around the corner — and it’s coming from a creative mind with a whiplash action pedigree.

John Wick creator and screenwriter Derek Kolstad is reportedly rolling the 20-sided dice as the newly-recruited writer for a live-action D&D series from Hasbro & eOne, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Kolstad, who helped propel Keanu Reeves to new levels of action stardom as the mind behind John Wick’s fast-paced brand of slick secret-society infighting, will reportedly write and develop a pitch for the as-yet unnamed D&D series.

(7) MISSING INGREDIENT. Don’t hold your breath expecting it to happen, but Tim Allen would still like to do the film. “Tim Allen Offers Update on Galaxy Quest 2” at ComicBook.com.

…”It’s a fabulous script,” Allen said in an interview with EW, “but it had a hiccup because the wonderful Alan Rickman passed. So it all got very sad and dark because [the script] was all about [Lazrus] and Taggart. It was all about their story. It doesn’t mean they can’t reboot the idea, and the underlying story was hysterical and fun….I haven’t reached out to anybody in the last week, but we talk about it all the time. There is constantly a little flicker of a butane torch that we could reboot it with. Without giving too much away, a member of Alan’s Galaxy Quest family could step in and the idea would still work.”

Allen also maintained that the years between the film and now, or five years from now, wouldn’t have any huge effect on their ability to make the sequel either, adding: “[The sequel] could happen now or in five years and it doesn’t matter at all because when you travel at light speed, when you come back it can be like only 20 minutes, but 20 years have passed, right? That part is wonderful for the sci-fi freak in me. But right now it’s in a holding pattern.”

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2001 — Twenty years ago, Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio wins the Nebula Award and would also win the Endeavour Award. It was nominated for the Locus and Campbell Awards as well the same year. It was followed by a sequel, Darwin’s Children which would receive nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • January 16, 1895 – Nat Schachner.  Chemist, lawyer, author.  President of American Rocket Society.  Director of public relations, Nat’l Council of Jewish Women.  History and historical fiction e.g. The Mediaeval Universities, biographies of Burr, Hamilton, Jefferson, The Wanderer about Dante and Beatrice.  For us two novels, a hundred shorter stories.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus he wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.) (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen.” He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1945 – Russell Letson, age 76.  Journalist and technical writer.  Plays acoustic guitar, wrote about Hawaiian slack-key (Aloha Guitar, 2014).  Taught English awhile.  Book reviewer for Locus since 1990.  Introduced the Gregg Press edition of Leiber’s Wanderer.  Filer.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 73.  My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His gems include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is. (CE)
  • Born January 16, 1952 – Cy Chauvin, age 69.  Fan Guest of Honor at Fan Fair III, at Lunacon 27, see here.  Edited the Wayne Third Foundation’s clubzine.  Co-founded MISHAP.  Stippler.  Reviewed for Amazing.  Anthologies A Multitude of Visions (criticism), The Tale That Wags the God (Blish’s only).  Letters, essays, fanart, in AlgolJanusMatrixNY Rev SFRiverside QuarterlySF CommentaryVector.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1958 – Marla Frazee, age 63.  Illustrated It Takes a Village, three dozen more including eight Borrowers, wrote some of them.  Two Caldecott Honors, Boston Globe – Horn Book Award.  “Study the genre and the best books of the time.  Read all the time.  Read everything you can.  Be passionate and honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it.”  Has a little Free Library in her front yard.  Here is The Planetoid of Amazement.  Here is Bed-Knob and Broomstick.  Here is The Farmer and the Monkey.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1961 – Karen McQuestion, age 60.  Eight novels for us, a dozen others, sold a million copies.  “I believe in almost everything, which makes the world seem both miraculous & terrifying.”  Her home-office has a mahogany desk, a recliner, bookcases, framed prints from one of her illustrators, and an electric fireplace “which some of my family think is tacky, but I don’t care.”  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1968 – Rebecca Stead, age 53.  Lawyer, married another; spent a few years as a public defender.  Vassar woman (as was my grandmother).  Newbery Medal; The Guardian prize (first winner outside the Commonwealth).  For us, four novels including both of those prizewinners, one shorter story.  [JH]
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 51. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for  Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. What by him should I be reading?  (CE) 
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 47. Yes, she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here. (CE)
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 45. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok, I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner. (CE) 

(10) HOT SHOT. “Don’t Miss the Hot Fire Test for NASA’s Artemis Moon Missions” – Well, it already happened this afternoon, but the video will be replayed today at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on NASA Television. Which is probably just minutes away by the time the Scroll will be posted.

Editor’s note: This advisory was updated Jan. 16 to update the window for the hot fire test, as well as start time for NASA TV coverage. Because test preparation is running ahead of schedule, NASA TV coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. EST for a test start time of 4 p.m.

NASA is targeting a two-hour test window that opens at 4 p.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 16, for the hot fire test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage at the agency’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Live coverage will begin at 3:20 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed by a post-test briefing approximately two hours after the test concludes.

(11) JEOPARDY! John King Tarpinian proudly snapped this while watching Jeopardy! on Friday night.

(12) LOCAL CHOW. BBC Sounds has audio of The Food Chain episode “The arctic eating adventure”.  Andrew Porter urges everyone to listen to the show and watch the linked video.

When the only road into her town was blocked by a landslide, documentary filmmaker Suzanne Crocker was shocked by how quickly supermarket shelves went bare. It set her mind racing; would her remote Canadian town – just 300km from the Arctic circle – be capable of sustaining itself? She decided to undertake a radical experiment: an entire year of eating 100% local. 

Emily Thomas hears how she grew, hunted, foraged and negotiated her way through the seasons with a cupboard bare of salt, sugar and caffeine. How did she persuade three hungry teenagers to come on board, and what did a year of eating local do to family dynamics? 

Suzanne’s film about the experience is available on FirstWeEat.ca until February 1.

(13) THE PROGNOSTICATORS LOOK UP. At Literary Hub, Rob Wolf  interviews the author to find out “Why Kim Stanley Robinson Wrote a New Cli-Fi Novel… in Which Things Actually Get Better”.

Rob Wolf: The book opens with a heat wave in the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh. We see it unfold through the eyes of a Western aid worker, Frank May. Could you talk about what happens, what this disaster is and how it sets the story in motion?

Kim Stanley Robinson: I began to read about wet-bulb temperatures, which is a heat index that combines heat and humidity. Everybody who watches weather channels is already familiar with heat indexes, and everybody who lives in humid areas knows about the heat and humidity in combination. There’s been discussion amongst a certain portion of the people trying to think about climate change that maybe we just have to adapt to higher global average temperatures. They aren’t so worried about crossing the 2-degree centigrade Celsius rise in global average temperature and all that. We’ll go to three. We’ll go to four. We’ll just adapt.

But the problem is this wet-bulb 35 is only about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, plus 100 percent humidity, and human bodies can’t deal. They die. You would have to be in air conditioning. And in heat waves like that, power systems and grids often fail, in which case there would be mass deaths. There’s been a wet-bulb 34s all over the tropics and even in the Chicago area, and a few wet-bulb 35s have already been seen for an hour or two across the globe. They’re going to be more and more common.

What it suggested to me was that we can’t actually adapt to a three- or four-degree average rise because we’ll be getting these heat waves that will be deadly and power grids will fail and millions will die. So I thought, well, okay, let’s follow that thought into a novel where one of these happens and everything gets radicalized, everything goes crazy. What would that look like? And can I start from that and actually thirty years later come to a better place?

(14) TROLL BRIDGE ‘CAUSE WE’RE COMIN’ TO A TOWN. Snowgum Films has posted their 2019 Pratchett tribute Troll Bridge: The Moving Picture on YouTube.

Cohen the Barbarian was angry. Angry that he never died in battle, angry that the world had forgotten him, and angry that his knees were starting to play up in the cold. He was also angry that his faithful mount had been gifted the ability of magical speech. The horse was insisting that they had made a wrong turn back at Slice. He was also angry that the horse was probably right. This was not how it was supposed to end for the barbarian. This was not how the Discworld’s greatest hero imagined it at all.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla–The Soul of Japan” on YouTube, Kaptain Kristian says the original Japanese version of Godzilla was a powerful anti-nuclear allegory (Godzilla’s head is shaped like a mushroom cloud, and he has no scales so his skin looks like radiation burns) but the film was re-shot and censored for its substantially different American release.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/14/21 The Unpleasant Pixel Of Jonathan Scroll

(1) COSMIC RAY. The Waukegan Public Library is taking submissions to its Cosmic Bradbury Writing Contest through January 29. Complete guidelines at the link. The winning submission will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card and will be formally recognized on the library website.

…Venture into the deep expanses of space and the planets it contains. Show off your imagination and creativity by writing an original short story with the theme of space and space travel.

Does your universe have alien life forms or is it slowly being colonized by a vastly expanding human race? If you impress the judges and make Ray Bradbury proud, you will be beamed a $50 Amazon gift card!

Submission Deadline is January 29, 2021. For writers 14 years and older. Submissions limited to 5 pages (single-spaced, 12-point font).

(2) ANOTHER AGE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF reaches the end of its run through Journey Press’ Rediscovery anthology with Pauline Ashwell’s “Unwillingly to School.” 

Ashwell is an author whose work I have read before Rediscovery Vol 1. Less than entirely usefully, the sole work of hers I have read was 1992’s Unwillingly to Earth, which collects the Lizzie Lee stories, of which Unwilling to School is the first. I do not, therefore, have much sense of her skills outside this particular series. Unwillingly to Earth struck me a bit old-fashioned in 1992. Since the first instalment was written in 1958, that’s not terribly surprising.

Still, readers nominated Ashwell’s fiction enough to nominate her for the ?“Best New Author” Hugo. Twice. Not only that but twice in the same year, courtesy of a pen-name and the difficulty fans had discovering that Pauline Ashwell and Paul Ash were the same person. Will my Young People think as highly of her story? Let’s find out.

(3) MAKING CHANGE. Sarah Gailey talks about worldbuilding – building the one we’re in — at Here’s the Thing. “Building Beyond”.

Humans are built to imagine. That, to me, is one of our best qualities: the ability to hypothesize, to wonder, to create whole universes out of nothing at all. Whether or not you think of yourself as a writer, you can generate a world with your mind. Isn’t that just fucking amazing?

Part of why I love this ability we all share is because it can be used to change the shape of reality. When we let ourselves imagine new worlds, we start to realize that the world we live in is just as mutable as the worlds we imagine. When we start to believe that change is possible at all, all the doors fly open, and we start to believe that we can make change happen.

I think we could all use some of that belief right now, in a world where things are different. In a world we can build, together….

(4) READ AGAIN. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar signal boost several authors whose novels deserve a new look in “Let’s talk about fantasy and science fiction books that have fallen off the radar” at the Washington Post.

…Tanith Lee was a literary great: She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for a novel. I loved her Secret Books of Paradys, a series of Gothic, interlinked stories set in an alternate Paris, but she worked in all kinds of modes. Alas, she eventually had trouble selling her work. Her titles came out from smaller and smaller presses and were difficult to find. Lee died in 2015 and recently DAW/Penguin began reissuing her catalogue. You can now find titles such as “The Birthgrave,” “Electric Forest” and “Sabella.”

(5) WORLDCON LAWSUIT UPDATE. Jon Del Arroz today reported he gave a deposition in his lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation.

In February 2019, the court tossed four of the five causes of action, the case continues on the fifth complaint, defamation. (Not libel.)

(6) STATE HAS EYE ON AMAZON. “Connecticut probes Amazon’s e-book business” according to The Hill.

Connecticut is probing Amazon’s e-book distribution for potential anticompetitive behavior, according to the state’s attorney general. 

“Connecticut has an active and ongoing antitrust investigation into Amazon regarding potentially anticompetitive terms in their e-book distribution agreements with certain publishers,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) said in a statement. 

Tong noted that Connecticut has previously taken action to protect competition in e-book sales. 

When the Justice Department sued Apple in 2012 alleging it conspired with major publishers to raise the price of e-books, Connecticut was among states that filed their own lawsuit against Apple, The Wall Street Journal noted. The Journal was the first to report on Connecticut’s Amazon probe…

(7) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. In “Nine Great Science Fiction Thrillers” on CrimeReads, Nick Petrie recommends novels by Heinlein, Dick, and Leckie that are based on crimes.

The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch (2018)

The Gone World was recommended to me by my local indie bookseller and I was immediately smitten.  The protagonist is Naval investigator Shannon Moss, who is chasing the killers of a Navy Seal’s family and trying to find his missing teenage daughter. 

The wrinkle is here is a secret Navy program sending astronauts forward in time to solve the riddle of the impending end of the world that gets closer with each attempt to solve the problem. The storytelling is complex, lyrical, and metaphysical without sacrificing intensity—I could not turn the pages fast enough.  Sweterlitsch is very, very good and I can’t wait for his next book.

(8) REACHING THE END OF THE UNIVERSE. The Horn Book has “Five questions for Megan Whalen Turner” who’s wrapping up a series.

Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (with that never-to-be-bettered twist at the end!) was published in 1996. Now, after six books set in that unforgettably detailed world, full of political machinations, double crosses, dubious motivations, and familial obligations, the series comes to a close with Return of the Thief (Greenwillow, 12 years and up).

1. You’ve spent almost twenty-five years in the universe of Attolia. What will you miss most about writing about it?

Megan Whalen Turner: This has been such a bewildering year, I’m not sure of my own feelings anymore, but I think the answer is…nothing? I know that other authors have gotten to the end of their long-running series and felt a sense of loss, but I don’t. Very much to the contrary. I feel like I hooked a whale twenty-five years ago, and after playing the line for so long, I’ve finally landed it — maybe because, for me, finishing this book doesn’t mean shutting the door on the whole world. There’s room left for more storytelling — if I ever want to go back and write about Sophos’s sisters and their mother, or to follow up any number of loose threads left to the imagination. It’s this one narrative arc that has finally reached its conclusion, and that’s just immensely satisfying.

(9) MARVEL PRIMER. Vanity Fair tutors readers in “WandaVision: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to the New Marvel Show”. Useful for people like me who mostly know about the kind of comics found on tables at the barber shop. (Need to know anything about Sgt. Rock?)

Who Is Wanda? Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, has a long history in Marvel comics. She officially joined the film franchise in 2015, with Avengers: Age of Ultron. As you may or may not recall, that movie was a Joss Whedon joint—so if you’re a fan of his non-Marvel work, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, it may come as no surprise that his version of Wanda was an angsty, troubled, superpowered teen girl with a tragic backstory. Think of her as Buffy Summers meets River Tam meets Willow Rosenberg. She also sported an outrageous Eastern European accent, which the MCU, in its infinite wisdom, decided to randomly drop without ever really mentioning it again. 

So yes: Wanda hails from a fictional Eastern European country called Sokovia. In much of her time in the comics she’s a mutant, like the X-Men (you know, Wolverine, etc?). But because Marvel Studios did not, at the time of her film debut, own the rights to the X-Men, the films instead called her—vaguely—a “miracle.” (More on that in a bit.) Wanda had a twin brother named Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who could run very fast—but died, tragically, in Ultron…. 

(10) SPREADING THE WORD. E. Everett Evans, for whom the Big Heart Award was originally named, was responsible for what may have been the first appearance of the word “fanzine” in a newspaper, when he was interviewed for this Battle Creek [Mich.] Enquirer article published on October 5, 1941 (p.26) about the “Galactic Roamers” organization. The word had been coined only a year earlier by Louis Russell Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine, Detours

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 14, 1981 Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy 64% rating. 
  • January 14, 2007 — The animated Flatland film was released on DVD.  It was directed by Ladd Ehlinger Jr., the animated feature was an adaptation of the Edwin A. Abbott novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The screenplay was written by author Tom Whalen with music was composed by Mark Slater.  It starred Chris Carter, Megan Colleen and Ladd Ehlinger Jr.  It was well received by critics snd currently has a rating of seventy percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 14, 1915 – Lou Tabakow.  Founding Secretary-Treasurer of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group, then its long-time head (“Dictator”).  Co-founded Midwestcon, chaired many, also Octocon (the Ohio one, not e.g. the Irish one).  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon I, Dubuqon II, Rivercon V.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  At SunCon the 35th Worldcon entered the Masquerade (our costume competition) with Joan Bledig as “TAFF and DUFF, visitors from the planet FIAWOL”, winning Best Aliens and Best Presentation.  Wrote “The Astonishing Adventures of Isaac Intrepid” stories with Mike Resnick; MR’s appreciation here.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1921 – Ken Bulmer.  First (honorary) President of British Fantasy Society. Guest of Honor at Eastercon 19, Novacon 3, SfanCon 5, Shoestringcon I, BECCON ’83, Cymrucon 1984.  TAFF delegate.  Fanzines e.g. Steam and the legendary Nirvana.  A hundred novels, as many shorter stories; eighty “Kenneth Johns” science essays with John Newman; historical fiction.  Edited Foundation and New Writings in SF.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1921 – Don Ford.  Chaired Cinvention the 7th Worldcon.  Co-founded Midwestcon and chaired the first one.  Collector.  CFG long celebrated the Tabakow-Ford birthday.  TAFF delegate; first U.S. TAFF Administrator.  Ron Bennett’s appreciation here – note, Skyrack the RB fanzine is skyr ack the shire oak.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series.  (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1931 – Joe Green, age 90; hello, Joe.  Guest of Honor at Palm Beach Con, Necronomicon ’97.  Phoenix Award.  Opened his home to pilgrim fans watching the Apollo launches.  Eight novels, five dozen shorter stories (two with Shelby Vick, two with daughter Rosy Lillian a second-generation fan, one in Last Dangerous Visions).  Appreciation of Ray Lafferty in Feast of Laughter 4.  [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other SFF creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1950 – Arthur Byron Cover, age 71.  Fifteen novels, a score of shorter stories including one for Wild Cards, one in LDV; also television.  Long career with the Dangerous Visions bookshop in Los Angeles.  Interviewed Dick, Ellison, Spinrad for Vertex.  Essays, review, letters in Delap’sNY Rev SFOmniSF Eye.  [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1964 Mark Addy, 57. He’s got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost, followed by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Games of Thrones, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1967 Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow is in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1973 – Jessica Andersen, Ph.D., age 48.  A dozen novels for us, twoscore all told.  Landscaper, horse trainer.  Has read a score of books by L. McMaster Bujold.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd has rules for living in a 1/10,000th scale world. Very helpful for people who are taller than Godzilla.

(14) TINTIN ON THE BLOCK. If the late Fred Patten had a few million Euros to spare he’d have bought this. “Tintin cover art sells for record breaking €3.2m”The Guardian tells why it went for so much.

A rejected Tintin cover illustrated by Hergé that was gifted to a child and kept in a drawer for decades has set a new world record as the most expensive comic book artwork, selling at auction for €3.2m (£2.8m) on Thursday.

Le Lotus Bleu was created in 1936 by the Belgian artist, born Georges Remi, using Indian ink, gouache and watercolour. It had been intended for the eponymous cover of his fifth Tintin title, which sees the boy reporter head to China in order to dismantle an opium trafficking ring.

Hergé was told the painting would be too expensive to mass produce because it featured too many colours, so he painted another version with a black dragon and a blank red background, which became the cover. He then gave the first artwork to Jean-Paul Casterman, the seven-year-old son of his editor, Louis Casterman. It was folded in six and put in a drawer, where it stayed until 1981, when Jean-Paul asked Hergé to sign it….

(15) POWDER MAGE. [Item by Paul Weimer.] I’ve read and really enjoyed these novels, so I do hope this come to fruition. “Joseph Mallozzi To Adapt Fantasy Novel ‘Powder Mage’ As TV Series”Deadline has the details.

…The drama series will take place in the Nine Nations, a fictional world in which magic collides with 18th century technology against the backdrop of political and social revolution. At the heart of the story are Powder Mages, unique individuals who gain magical abilities from common gunpowder.

The series is a fight for survival as mythical gods return to battle for a world that has changed in their absence. It will feature epic battles, gritty magic, heart-stopping duels, cunning political maneuvers, intrepid investigators, and shocking betrayals.

The Powder Mage trilogy was first published in 2013 and has sold over 700,000 copies. Mallozzi will exec produce with No Equal’s J.B. Sugar, Frantic’s Jamie Brown, and McClellan….

(16) DRILL ENDS. Part of NASA’s InSight lander was unable to perform its mission: “RIP: Mars digger bites the dust after 2 years on red planet”.

NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.

Scientists in Germany spent two years trying to get their heat probe, dubbed the mole, to drill into the Martian crust. But the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter) device that is part of NASA’s InSight lander couldn’t gain enough friction in the red dirt. It was supposed to bury 16 feet (5 meters) into Mars, but only drilled down a couple of feet (about a half meter).

Following one last unsuccessful attempt to hammer itself down over the weekend with 500 strokes, the team called it quits.

… The mole’s design was based on Martian soil examined by previous spacecraft. That turned out nothing like the clumpy dirt encountered this time.

InSight’s French seismometer, meanwhile, has recorded nearly 500 Marsquakes, while the lander’s weather station is providing daily reports. On Tuesday, the high was 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 degrees Celsius) and the low was minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 49 degrees Celsius) at Mars’ Elysium Planitia, an equatorial plain.

The lander recently was granted a two-year extension for scientific work, now lasting until the end of 2022.

(17) NUMBER NINE. Running online from February 13-18, the “I Heart Pluto Festival 2021 – Celebrating the 91st anniversary of Pluto’s discovery” is organized by the Home of Pluto, Lowell Observatory.

The I Heart Pluto Festival is going virtual! Show your love for our frosty ninth planet that was discovered in cold and snowy Flagstaff, Arizona by Clyde Tombaugh 91 years ago on February 18, 1930.

(18) THE NEW NUMBER ONE. In “Video games have replaced music as the most important aspect of youth culture” at The Guardian, Mike Monahan argues that video games are as central to the lives of today’s teenagers as music was to earlier generations.

It would be incorrect to say video games went mainstream in 2020. They’ve been mainstream for decades. But their place in pop culture feels far more central – to gamers and non-gamers alike – than ever before. In part, this is due to desperate marketers hunting for eyeballs in a Covid landscape of cancelled events. Coachella wasn’t happening, but Animal Crossing was open was for business. Politicians eager to “Rock the Vote” looked to video games to reach young voters. (See: Joe and Kamala’s virtual HQ and AOC streaming herself playing Among Us.) The time-honored tradition of older politicians trying to seem young and hip at a music venue has been replaced by older politicians trying to seem young and hip playing a video game. Yes, quarantine was part of this. But, like so many trends during the pandemic, Covid didn’t spark this particular trajectory so much as intensify it. Long before the lockdowns, video games had triumphed as the most popular form of entertainment among young people.

(19) STEP IN TIME. Dick Van Dyke is one of the “2021 Kennedy Center Honorees”NPR has the story.

…Master of pratfalls, goofy facial expressions and other forms of physical humor, 95 year old Dick Van Dyke danced on rooftops in Mary Poppins, tripped over the ottoman on The Dick Van Dyke Show and wise-cracked with his fellow security guards in the Night At the Museum movies “with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, says Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter. To join the “illustrious group” of just over 200 artists who’ve received Kennedy Center Honors, says Van Dyke in a statement, “is the thrill of my life.”

(20) BIT OF A MYSTERY. Keith Thompson, a longtime 770 subscriber, says he got a strange result when he searched for Chuck Tingle’s new book.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In his latest appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Neil Gaiman explained

that a previous appearance’s aphorism that “Writers need to find their way to boredom to inspire creativity,” only applies if you’re not actively terrified at the same time. Calling living under stifling COVID precautions like “being locked in the cellar with a bomb—and several poisonous snakes,” Gaiman said that he’d been talking more about being stuck on the tube when the world isn’t embroiled in self-devouring madness so that your creative mind can wander, happily untroubled that it might be killed at any moment.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4/20 The Rest Of The File, To Scroll Man, It’s… It’s A Filkbook!

(1) SFPA OFFICER ELECTIONS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association announced the outcome of its recent elections. Incumbent President, Bryan Thao Worra, was voted in to continue.The new Vice President is Colleen Anderson, and the new Secretary is Brian U. Garrison.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. “Chow down on pizza with Ignatz Award-winning Alison Wilgus” in episode 133 of Scott Edelman’s Eating The Fantastic podcast.

Alison Wilgus

Alison Wilgus is a writer and cartoonist who’s been working in comics for more than a decade, and whose latest work is Chronin, a science fiction duology published by Tor. Their first professional gig was as a colorist and staff writer for Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door, and since then has been published by Scholastic, Del Rey, DC, Nickelodeon Magazine, Dark Horse, and First Second Books. They’ve also written works of graphic non-fiction, including The Mars Challenge (illustrated by Wyeth Yates) and Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared (illustrated by Molly Brooks). Alison is also co-host of Graphic Novel TK, a podcast about graphic novel publishing.

We discussed how their life might have gone an entirely different way if not for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, why they describe themselves to people as “a feral nerd,” how an unsolicited pitch on a Post-it note led to selling their first script, what fanfic taught them about writing professionally in other people’s universes, the best way to interact with sensitivity readers, why they’ve retired from Hourly Comics, what would have happened with Odo and Kira if their Deep Space Nine spec script been accepted, the big surprise about the way they made their first sale to Analog, and much more.

(3) HOPE FOR LIBRARIES. Publishers Weekly has learned “Amazon Publishing in Talks to Offer E-books to Public Libraries”.

In what came as a surprise to many librarians and industry observers, a report in The Hill this week revealed that the nonprofit Digital Public Library of America has been in discussions with Amazon Publishing on a potential a deal to make Amazon’s e-book content available in public libraries. And in a call with PW, DPLA officials confirmed that a deal could be done soon.

“I don’t want to get too far out over my skis,” said Michele Kimpton, director of business development and senior strategist for the Digital Public Library of America, when asked to characterize how close a potential deal was to completion. Kimpton told PW that talks with Amazon have been ongoing since spring, adding that the discussions have gone well and that the parties were making “good progress.” And while she expressed hope that Amazon titles could be available to libraries on the DPLA Exchange sometime in early 2021, she also tempered expectations, stressing there were still details to be worked out….

(4) GROGU ENCOURAGES READING. “Baby Yoda stars in new READ® poster and bookmark from the American Library Association”.

Star Wars fans, book lovers, and collectors from around the universe can use their powers to help libraries this holiday season. The Child (a.k.a. Grogu or Baby Yoda), the breakout star of Disney+’s hit series The Mandalorian, is featured in several new must-have products from the American Library Association (ALA), a 501c3 non-profit. All proceeds will fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.

ALA’s READ® campaign, supported by ALA Graphics, celebrates the joy of reading and the importance of lifelong learning. For more than 30 years, the iconic READ® posters have featured celebrities, musicians, award-winning authors and illustrators, and library advocates who’ve lent their star power to support our nation’s libraries.

Reminiscent of the original Yoda poster ALA Graphics offered in the early 1980s, The Child’s poster and bookmark continue the tradition of previous Star Wars™ READ® collaborations, including with C3PO and R2D2, as well as other timeless characters.

(5) ARECIBO ENDING. “Analyzing Video Footage Of Collapse of Massive Arecibo Telescope” a 13 minute video and analysis.

The collapse was on Tuesday morning, but yesterday the NSF made video of the catastrophic collapse available, and so many viewers asked I continue my long tradition of ‘coping by analyzing failure’ and document what I see in this footage. It’s hard to watch because this magnificent structure has always been part of the world of astronomy for me.

Ars Technica’s text article also explains how the video was obtained: “NSF releases footage from the moment Arecibo’s cables failed”.

The video of that collapse comes from a monitoring system put in place in the wake of the cable failures. Due to the danger of further cable breaks, the NSF had instituted no-go zones around each of the three towers that supported the cables. With no personnel allowed to get close enough to inspect the cables, the staff started monitoring them using daily drone flights, one of which was in progress during the collapse. In addition, a video camera was installed on top of the visitor’s center, which had a clear view of the instrument platform and one of the support towers.

(6) ANSWERS FROM DAW BOOKS. Keystroke Medium hosted a “Behind-the-Scenes Look at Traditional Publishing” with Betsy Wollheim.

What do Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, Mercedes Lackey, C.J. Cherryh, and Nnedi Okorafor all have in common? Besides being A-List fantasy wordcrafters, all were published by DAW Books. Tonight we meet the woman behind one of science fiction and fantasy’s most beloved publishing houses, DAW Books’ President, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief, Betsy Wollheim. Betsy’s here to pull back the curtain on what goes into the traditional publishing process, give you tips on how to get published, and discuss where she thinks the publishing world is headed.

(7) VIDEO GAME DOCUMENTARY PREVIEW. “Chicago was a video game powerhouse in the ’90s. ‘Insert Coin’ looks at the company behind ‘Mortal Kombat’”MSN.com.

…Midway was among the first to use digitized actors — walking, running, punching, all of it — in its games, giving them a simulacrum of reality unique to the time.

“Up until that point, in most games the artwork was hand-drawn,” said Tsui. “Japanese video game development houses back then were huge and had teams of artists drawing beautiful artwork. So what Midway brought in was this ability to digitize actors and get them into the game and make them look really great” — plus it was cheaper and faster than employing artists.

The documentary captures a moment in time when a homogenous workforce prompted nary a second glance in the world of video games, and it is a harbinger of many of the same issues that the industry is still working through today. More on that in a bit.

Tsui remains off-camera throughout the film, but his connection to Midway is personal. After attending Columbia College for film school, he worked at Midway from 1993 to 1999. “They hired me as a video artist. We couldn’t use a blue screen or green screen background to key out the actors, so for every frame of a character we would hand cut them out, pixel by pixel, to keep the image as clean as possible. That was one of my first jobs when I started working there and it was painstaking. But the teams working on a game were so small back then, usually about five people — nowadays it’s hundreds of people — so everybody had to multitask.” he said.

“The amount of hours we worked was just crazy. But it was almost like being in a secret society, where everybody had this passion for what they were working on. So even though we had these long hours, we would work all day for 10 or 12 hours, and then after work we would stay and play games with each other well into the night and then go home, sleep for a bit and rinse and repeat.”

(8) NEWSTEAD OBIT. Automata creator Keith Newstead has died reports The Guardian:

Keith Newstead, who has died aged 64 of cancer, was the UK’s pre-eminent maker of automata – artistic mechanical devices that are built to look like human or animal figures and which give the illusion of acting as if under their own power.

Newstead had a straightforward, even humble relationship with his chosen artform. Although his work drew on a rich tradition of makers of kinetic art from Leonardo da Vinci to Jean Tinguely, he considered himself an entertainer as much as an artist, and was unconcerned with raising the status of automata as sculpture. Instead he wanted, as he put it in 2015, to “bring enjoyment and entertainment to both young and old alike.”

An example of his work is the Gormenghast Castle Automata.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2010 — Ten years ago, Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making wins the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy with Kage Baker’s Hotel Under the Sand coming in second and Sarah Beth Durst’s Ice placing third. Valente’s novel was first published online at her website, so it was the first book to win the Norton award before traditional publication by Feiwel & Friends. It would also win a Nebula. The series would eventually reach five novels. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 4, 1886 – Lawrence Stevens.  Seventy covers, two hundred eighty interiors.  Here is the Mar 44 Famous Fantastic Mysteries (note “The Man Who Was Thursday”).  Here is a 1948 interior.  Here is the Jan 49 Super Science.  Here is an interior for “The Eye of Balamok”.  Here is the Jul 52 Amazing.  Outside our field, newspaper cartoonist, designer & illustrator for General Motors.  Knew Conan Doyle in Belgium.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1937 David Bailie, 83. He played Dask in “The Robots of Death,” a Fourth Doctor story, and also appeared in Blake’s 7 as Chevner in the “Project Avalon” story. Also he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Intriguingly he shows up in The Creeping Flesh film which starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. (CE) 
  • Born December 4, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by the author.  He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman who I think is in as many as thirty novels by Wagner. Anyone here read all of them? Rhetorical question I know as I’m someone here will have. I ask because I don’t think I’ve read more than a few. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. Anything I left off that folks should know about him? (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born December 4, 1945 – Bill & Dick Glass, age 75.  Of these two too little-known now fans I can tell too little now. Bill’s interior for Double:Bill 13 (thus triple Bill?) was just reprinted in Afterworlds; he had reviews in Delap’sShangri-L’AffairesSF ReviewThrust.  Dick had a graphic-novel treatment of “The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm” (The Fellowship of the Ring Bk. 2 ch. 5) and an essay about doing it in I Palantir, a short story in Nova 3.  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Richard Lynch, age 71.  In the famous misspelling of Rick Sneary (rhymes with very; most of us didn’t realize the “Snearyisms” were unintentional, bad health kept him out of school, although brilliant he never learned to spell), a publishing jiant.  RL and wife Nicki Lynch did Chat for their local club in Chattanooga, then won six Best-Fanzine Hugos with their remarkable Mimosa , see here.  Rebel Award for both, Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon XI, Chattacon XV, DeepSouth Con 40, Conucopia the 7th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  RL edited the Souvenir Book for Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon; he now and then publishes My Back Pages.  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1951 Mick Garris, 69. Best remembered  for his work in the horror genre. He has worked with Stephen King several times, such as directing Sleepwalkers, written by King and starring Mädchen Amick, and on the Bag of Bones series. Garris was also the co-screenwriter and executive producer of Hocus Pocus, and he’s  the creator of the Masters of Horror series. (CE)
  • Born December 4, 1954 Tony Todd, 66. Let’s see… He was a memorable Kurn in  Next Gen and Deep Space Nine, he plays Ben in Night of the Living Dead, he’s of course the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy, William Bludworth in the Final Destination film franchise, Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Those are just selected highlights. He reprises the lead role in the forthcoming Candyman. (CE)
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Sally Kobee, F.N., age 66.  Bookseller and filker.  See here for her and her late husband Larry Smith.  SK & LS chaired World Fantasy Con in 2010, SK chaired in 2016 and also Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 & 10.  Both were Fan Guests of Honor at Windycon XXVII; elected Fellows of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1957 – Kathryn Reiss, age 63.  A dozen novels for us, nine others.  Fulbright Scholar.  American Lib’y Ass’n Best Book for Young Adults award, three YA Lib’y Services Ass’n awards.  Professor of English at my mother’s alma mater, Mills.  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 63. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia, she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carr-led workshop. And she’s an editor as well having edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. She’s won three Ditmar Awards, an A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed!  I’ve not heard of her before now, so I’ve not read her, so who has read her? (CE) 
  • Born December 4, 1974 – Anne Gray, age 46, the Netmouse.  Poet and physicist.  Five years working with Cheryl Morgan on Emerald City.  Chaired ConFusion 30-31 & 35.  Fan Guest of Honor at Apollocon 2008.  Reviews in Subterranean Online.  Born Anne Gay, became Gray with husband Brian Gray, jointly TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates.  She was Murphy for a while, and seems to have been in Yellow Springs, Ohio, during November 2009; speaking of which, Netmouse, how’s Wellspring?  [JH]
  • Born December 4, 1989 Nafessa Williams, 31. She had only two genre roles but with the first being the revival series of Twin Peaks where she was Jade. The other is what gets her Birthday Honors — She’s Anissa Pierce who is the Thunder superhero on the Black Lightning series. Superb series, great character! (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side can tell the difference between Frankenstein and Fred Astaire.
  • The New Yorker has a weekly Cartoon Caption Contest. Bruce Arthurs noticed: “This week’s has two dinosaurs (I think?) conversing; one is wearing a rainbow-striped propeller beanie, which reminded me of Ray Nelson’s beanie cartoons in old fanzines.” The cartoon is here.
  • The online webcomic “Could Be Worse” offered their take on paleontology today 

(12) FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says NASA sold rights to several companies for mining concessions for the Moon, including one to Lunar Outpost for $1 because NASA believed the company had the capacity to launch mining efforts. “NASA names companies that will mine moon”.

NASA announced Thursday that several companies had won contracts to mine the moon and turn over small samples to the space agency for a small fee. In one case, a company called Lunar Outpost bid $1 for the work, a price NASA jumped at after deciding the Colorado-based robotics firm had the technical ability to deliver.“You’d be surprised at what a dollar can buy you in space,” Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations, said in a call with reporters.

But the modest financial incentives are not the driver of the program. Nor to a large extent is the actual lunar soil. NASA is asking for only small amounts — between 50 and 500 grams (or 1.8 ounces to about 18 ounces). While there would be scientific benefits to the mission, it’s really a technology development program, allowing companies to practice extracting resources from the lunar surface and then selling them.It would also establish a legal precedent that would pave the way for companies to mine celestial bodies in an effort blessed by the U.S. government to help build a sustainable presence on the moon and elsewhere.

To do that, NASA says it needs its astronauts, like the western pioneers, to “live off the land,” using the resources in space instead of hauling them from Earth. The moon, for example, has plenty of water in the form of ice. That’s not only key to sustaining human life, but the hydrogen and oxygen in water could also be used as rocket fuel, making the moon a potential gas station in space that could help explorers reach farther into the solar system….

(13) LEAKAGE. “Leaked reports from Pentagon UFO task force discuss ‘non-human technology,’ mysterious objects”FOX News has the story.

Two classified reports from the Pentagon’s task force used to “detect, analyze and catalog” UFOs have been leaked, both of which include photos of unidentified objects….

The leaked photo, taken off the East Coast of the U.S. by a “pilot’s personal cell phone,” was a part of the 2018 position report, one source told the news outlet. This report discussed what the unidentified silver “cube-shaped” object could be, with a list of possible explanations discussed, including the fact it could be “alien” or “non-human” technology.

The 2020 photo, which has been leaked but is not widely available yet, is described as a triangle with white lights in each corner. This may be the more interesting photo, Nick Pope, a former employee and UFO investigator for Britain’s Ministry of Defense, told Fox News.

“I’m more interested in the fact that this first photo has been leaked, and in the related leaking of information about the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Task Force, where serving intelligence community personnel have shared insights from two intelligence position reports,” Pope said via email. “With my own defense background in this subject, three things stand out. Firstly, the description by one insider of the reports as ‘shocking’ — a word that begs the question what about UAP do these people find shocking. Secondly, the fact that the intelligence reports seem to have been given a surprisingly wide distribution in various intelligence agencies, and thirdly, the fact that the extraterrestrial hypothesis seems genuinely not to have been taken off the table.”

Pope added he expects further leaks, noting he believes there is “a faction within government clearly wants this information to be released to the public.”

(14) NICE TRY. “Man’s Wife Makes Him Sell His PlayStation 5 After Realizing It Wasn’t an Air Purifier” reports Yahoo!

A Taiwanese man was forced to part with his PlayStation 5 last month after his wife discovered that he had lied to her about it being an air purifier, Taiwan News reports.

This heartbreaking story comes courtesy of Jin Wu, who turned out to be the lucky recipient of Sony’s next-gen console. Wu detailed his interaction on Facebook, claiming that one day after agreeing to buy the PlayStation 5 from a reseller in person, he called the individual he believed to be a man on the phone only to hear a woman pick up.

After his brief conversation with the mysterious woman, Wu could ascertain that she didn’t know much about the PS5, but was adamant about selling it, even at a remarkably low price…

(15) LUKE TREETALKER. Tree communication is posited in “The Social Life of Forests”, a New York Times Magazine article.

…Now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. Her initial inklings about the importance of mycorrhizal networks were prescient, inspiring whole new lines of research that ultimately overturned longstanding misconceptions about forest ecosystems. By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors….

(16) PUSS IN MORE THAN JUST BOOTS. Credentials suit up!“Cosplay costumes for cats earn former teacher a living” – video at MSN.com.

(17) SUPERPOSITIONED CREDENTIALS. “Schrödinger’s Cat Explained: Does Schrödinger’s Cat Really Exist?” asks Popular Mechanics.Tagline: “But don’t worry—they’re not going to harm any cats.”

For the first time, scientists believe they might be able to show that Schrödinger’s cat could exist in real life—not just in thought experiments. With larger and larger quantum objects, they say, a superpositioned cat seems inevitable. In the meantime, the scientists only have to figure out what’s preventing superpositioning at all in the largest quantum objects.

This one gets a little wavy gravy, so let’s first go over what Schrödinger’s cat even is. It’s a thought experiment, or what cognitive philosopher Daniel Dennett might call an intuition pump, that leads people to a new understanding of quantum mechanics. First, you put a hypothetical cat in a box. Then you basically flip a coin, and either the cat is killed or not killed inside the box.

The box remains closed and opaque the entire time, and there are no weasely workarounds like listening to the cat or seeing the box move. Is the cat alive or not? Since there’s no possible way to tell, the cat is effectively both alive and dead. Like a quantum particle, it’s superpositioned in two states at once.

From this description, you can see why the idea of a “real” Schrödinger’s cat is so stupefying. If a complex mammal could experience superpositioning, that would unlock far-out ideas like teleportation.

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

Amazon’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2020

Amazon released its picks for the twenty Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Year on November 23. N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became was named the best sff book of 2020.

Here’s the complete list:

  • Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
  • Battle Ground by Jim Butcher
  • The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
  • The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
  • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
  • Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Scarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
  • Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie
  • The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
  • Network Effect by Martha Wells

Two books in this category also ranked among the Amazon Editors’ 20 Best Books of the 2020, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab.

[Via Locus Online.]

How Audible’s Returns Policy Exploits Writers

Audible, the audiobook publisher/distributor, stands accused of attracting readers to pay its monthly membership premium by encouraging customers to exchange a book they’re done with for another they want to listen to – becoming in effect a rental library. By treating the first sale as a return, Audible deprives the author of what they should have earned on a work that was bought and enjoyed.

Even worse for some authors, depending on the circumstances discussed below, their audiobooks will remain subject to Audible’s distribution scheme for years to come.  There’s a colloquial version of the laws of thermodynamics that seems to apply: “You can’t win. You can’t break even. And you can’t get out of the game.”

Susan May, Scott Baron, and Cory Doctorow are three writers who have been focusing the spotlight of publicity on these issues.

Scott Baron defined the key problem on Facebook:

Recently Audible has been actively promoting “exchanging” titles. Treating it as a library rather than a book store. The issue is, they literally take every exchange and treat it as a RETURN for authors.

That means authors are now taking HUGE hits on that platform. Every exchange takes a sale out of an author’s pocket. We don’t see one penny if it is exchanged.

Cory Doctorow synopsizes how Amazon’s companies ACX and Audible do business in this series of tweets.

Susan May educated her readers about how authors create audiobooks and offer them for sale, and what the attraction had been for going exclusively with Audible – or was, before this financial abuse was uncovered — in “Audiblegate! The incredible true story of missing sales”.

First, May describes the business basics.

Audible has their own publishing/distribution company where you can produce your book and then that book is distributed to Audible, Amazon and Apple. If you choose to “go exclusive” and distribute only to these three, you are granted the princely profit split of 40%. This is after spending sometimes upward of $6 to $8k on an audiobook. To give you an idea, my last audiobook Destination Dark Zone cost me $US6,200 to produce.

If you’re not exclusive to Audible and decide to distribute your book to other retail stores such as Kobo, Scrib’d and local libraries, then you only receive twenty-five percent of your sales or your share of the pot from memberships.

Oh, that’s right, I didn’t mention that. There’s three ways an author is paid. When an Audible member uses a monthly credit which they receive as part of their membership, a rights holder receives a share of the pot created by the number of memberships paid, minus Audible’s profit. This pot varies each month. So we never know how much this per download share will be until the day we are paid, but it’s something close to $US5, while members pay $14.95 for a membership with one credit per month to use on a book.

When you pay, say, $7.49 on Amazon for an add-on audiobook when you’ve purchased the eBook, we are paid $2.99 on the forty percent split. Should you buy an audiobook as a member from Audible and not use a credit, according to my reports, members pay $9.15 for most of my books, and I receive $3.61.

Some rights holders don’t have an exclusive deal with Audible. Many don’t because they believe in not putting all their eggs in Amazon’s basket. Well, they get less. So, just go right ahead and nearly halve these payments because they only receive twenty-five percent. It’s not much is it compared to what readers and members pay for each book or monthly subscription fee?

… So, this whole system seems a little unfair, right? Authors pay for everything, take all the risk for a smaller cut of the profits, while the richest man in the world’s company keeps the lion’s share and controls everything.

But that’s only the background, so readers can picture the injustice that May explains next:

Even more insidious than the low royalty rates paid us by Audible is something I call #AudibleGate, of which you may not be aware. Audible is promoting returns of any audible book for “any reason, no questions asked,” even if the person has listened to the whole Audible book and enjoyed it. The return is permissible up to 365 days and in some countries it’s been reported that it’s infinity. What??? Hey now, no, Susan May, how would that work? Surely not. That would be objectively unfair to the author. Might even be illegal.

Why, yes, it is unfair and morally wrong and possibly even theft by stealth. You’re so smart to realize that. Do tell Audible because they don’t seem to get it.

Audible are actively promoting this “benefit” to their members as a way of incentivizing them to stay locked in each month because you can only return audiobooks if you’re a member. Hmm, that’s clever marketing. Audible even sends emails encouraging users to return a book, screens pop up after you finish reading suggesting a return, and there is even an obvious “return” button on the app which changes wording depending on whether you’ve finished the book or are part way through. Part-finished it’s “RETURN TITLE”. Finish the book and it changes to “EXCHANGE.”

Who loses when I return a book? readers think.

Audible! Surely, Audible? Surely not authors? And who cares anyway? Audible’s owned by the world’s richest man, so, it’s not big deal to return a book. It’s my right. It’s part of being an Audible member.

Well, you’re favorite authors lose, my wonderful reader. Our accounts are debited for that returned book, sometimes a year later. We, the hard-working content creators and narrators eat this loss, not Amazon. Let me repeat this for impact. Authors pay for this “benefit” and many times we are not earning any money for the sale of an audiobook even if it is thoroughly enjoyed by the reader. Audible though, they don’t miss out, they still get your monthly subscription payment. Authors weren’t asked if we wanted to offer this “benefit” or if we agreed to it or were happy to pay for it. Audible just did it for their own commercial benefit.…

Then, May quantifies how prevalent this abuse is.

How many readers, I hear you ask, are returning books? Surely everybody is honest and wouldn’t do this unless the book is absolutely terrible and you’ve only listened to an hour or so?

Ah, ah, ah, nearing fifty percent returns for many authors. Some less, but not by much. My number is fifty per cent. Think on that now. They’re halving my sales to prop up their business. My books can’t be that bad. If they were that bad, they should kick me off the platform for poor customer experience.

We don’t know how long they’ve been doing this but we feel it could be the past eighteen months or longer, maybe a lot longer, maybe even years but growing slowly as more people spread the word about how to easily return books.

The true state of affairs was not readily apparent to authors because of the timing of the return transactions and the format of Audible’s earnings statements. Then, in October, authors got some shocking news when something caused several weeks’ returns to be reported collectively:

… So, until a recent glitch occurred (which they’re “sorry for the confusion”, or because they finally got found out) where ACX clawed back three weeks of returns in one day on the 20th October, many authors had no idea this was even happening.

Authors simply awakened to see they had lost ten, twenty, thirty, and in some cases hundreds of sales. That was for those who’d been keeping tally of their sales to date for the month (quite a few don’t). Some had suspected something was amiss, like myself, but didn’t know how many were being returned exactly. We only saw the minus figures and zeros on a regular enough basis to know there was an issue.

Susan May is taking what action she can:

…Many authors, myself being one, are not creating any more audiobooks until this is resolved. We don’t get paid much per sale, the lion share is kept by Audible, even though we pay up to anything around $8k to create an audiobook, and then add marketing on top of that. Now they are also stealing up to half of our small percentage return to bump up their own profits.

WHY DON’T WE LEAVE AUDIBLE AND ACX?

Yes, we are all leaving Audible to go wide, if we haven’t already, but they still represent a large chunk of the pie, and even if you place your books through another distributor to deliver to Audible, you’re still losing via the returns on the Audible platform.

There is also the annoying detail of a lock-in contract of seven years which prevents authors from leaving even if they are unhappy and bonded into a feudal farming-style, unfair practice literally cheating them.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

If you’ve been returning audiobooks and misusing the system, whether you were completely unaware of the implications to an author or not, please STOP. JUST STOP. In the physical world, this is akin to eating at a restaurant, enjoying the food and then a month later asking for your money back because you fancy eating at the restaurant again and can’t afford to pay, or don’t want to pay, or want to eat at another place because you’ve already tried their food but you want them to pay by refunding your money. We will never know who you are, we authors, but we will be grateful if you stop doing this.

May asks:

Please spread the word to your friends and family how the system works at Audible…

In compliance with her request about half of what she has to say is quoted here. There’s even more you can learn by reading her complete post — “Audiblegate! The incredible true story of missing sales”.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 10/30/20 Stories That Should Have Scrolled The Pixel

A bit under the weather, so a short Scroll today.

(1) GOES OVER THE TOP. Good news about the Constelación Magazine Kickstarter:

The biggest news we have to share is that our Kickstarter has fully funded! Thank you so much to all of you who have supported us either by backing or by sharing. We are so grateful! 

We’re well on our way to our first stretch goal, which increases the pay for our translators by 50%. If you can, please spread the word and help us close strong.

(2) AS CLEAR AS IS THE SUMMER SUN. “Timothy Explains The Electoral College” at Camestros Felapton.

…However, an electoral college is a university where you study to pick the leader of your republic. Like any university it has a library and over-priced places to eat which the students avoid because they can’t afford to eat on campus but that’s OK because all their lectures are online now and they can eat toast at home. In America, the electoral college is in a big tree all covered in ivy and so probably doesn’t have a lot of room for over-priced places to eat, maybe only a gift shop selling t-shirts with the university name on them.

(3) OMEGAVERSE LITIGATION. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is “Defending Fair Use in the Omegaverse”. (New developments in the story linked in May 24 Pixel Scroll item #2.)  

Copyright law is supposed to promote creativity, not stamp out criticism. Too often, copyright owners forget that – especially when they have a convenient takedown tool like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

EFF is happy to remind them – as we did this month on behalf of Internet creator Lindsay Ellis. Ellis had posted a video about a copyright dispute between authors in a very particular fandom niche: the Omegaverse realm of wolf-kink erotica. The video tells the story of that dispute in gory and hilarious detail, while breaking down the legal issues and proceedings along the way. Techdirt called it “truly amazing.” We agree. But feel free to watch “Into the Omegaverse: How a Fanfic Trope Landed in Federal Court,” and decide for yourself.

The dispute described in the video began with a series of takedown notices to online platforms with highly dubious allegations of copyright infringement. According to these, one Omegaverse author, Zoey Ellis (no relation) had infringed the copyright of another, Addison Cain, by copying common thematic aspects of characters in the Omegaverse genre, i.e., tropes. As Ellis’ video explains, these themes not only predate Cain’s works, but are uncopyrightable as a matter of law. Further litigation ensued, and Ellis’ video explains what happened and the opinions she formed based on the publicly available records of those proceedings. Some of those opinions are scathingly critical of Ms. Cain. But the First Amendment protects scathing criticism. So does copyright law: criticism and parody are classic examples of fair use that are authorized by law. Still, as we have written many times, DMCA abuse targeting such fair uses remains a pervasive and persistent problem… 

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 30, 1919 – Walt A. Willis.  One of our finest fanwriters.  The success of “WAW with the Crew in ’52”, bringing him from Belfast to Chicago for Chicon II the 10th Worldcon, laid the foundation for TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund), of which he was the first Administrator.  Fanzines HyphenSlant.  Two Hugos (Outstanding Actifan i.e. active fan, 1958; Best Fanzine, for Slant, Retrospective Hugo, 2004).  Fan Guest of Honor at MagiCon the 50th Worldcon (Orlando).  See more here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born October 30, 1923 William Campbell. In “The Squire of Gothos” on Trek — a proper Halloween episode even if it wasn’t broadcast then — he was Trelane and in “The Trouble With Tribbles”, he played the Klingon Koloth, a role revisited on Deep Space Nine in “Blood Oath”. He appeared in several horror films including Blood BathNight of Evil, and Dementia 13. He started a fan convention which ran for several years, Fantasticon, which celebrated the achievements of production staffers in genre films and TV shows and raised funds for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charitable organization which provides assistance and care to those in the motion picture industry with limited or no resources, when struck with infirmity and/or in retirement age. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born October 30, 1935 – Don A. Thompson.  Pioneer of comics fandom.  With Dick Lupoff, co-edited All in Color for a Dime and The Comic-Book Book.  With wife Maggie Thompson, wrote “Beautiful Balloons” column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom, and edited the Guide after it changed hands in 1983; with her, an Inkpot, a Kirby, an Eisner, Diamond Lifetime Fan Award (1991).  DT & MT were Fan Guests of Honor at Penulticon ’79.  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born October 30, 1947 –Tim Kirk, 73.  One of our finest fanartists; five Hugos.  His Master’s thesis illustrated The Lord of The Rings, still among the best; Ballantine published thirteen images as the 1975 Tolkien calendar.  Senior designer for Tokyo DisneySea.  Designed Paul Allen’s SF Museum (Seattle).  Here is an interior from Science Fiction Review.  Here is the May 74 Algol.  Here is “The Riddle Game”.  Here is a drawing used for Loscon 46.  Here is Not All a Dream.  [JH]
  • Born October 30, 1951 P. Craig Russell, 69. Comic illustrator whose work has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards. His work on Killraven, a future version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, collaborating with writer Don McGregor, was lauded by readers and critics alike. Next up was mainstream work at DC with I think his work on Batman, particularly with Jim Starlin. He also inked Mike Mignola’s pencils on the Phantom Stranger series. He would segue into working on several Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné projects. Worth noting is his work on a number of Gaiman projects including a Coraline graphic novel.  Wayne Alan Harold Productions published the P. Craig Russell Sketchbook Archives, a 250+-page hardcover art book featuring the best of his personal sketchbooks.
  • Born October 30, 1951 Harry Hamlin, 69. His first role of genre interest was Perseus on Clash of The Titans. He plays himself in Maxie, and briefly shows up in Harper’s Island. He was Astronaut John Pope in the genre adjacent Space miniseries. On the stage, he’s been Faust in Dr. Faustus. (CE)
  • Born October 30, 1958 Max McCoy, 62. Here for a quartet of novels (Indiana Jones and the Secret of the SphinxIndiana Jones and the Hollow EarthIndiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs and Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone) which flesh out the back story and immerse him in a pulp reality. He’s also writing Wylde’s West, a paranormal mystery series. (CE) 
  • Born October 30, 1962 – Lisa Major, 58.  Co-editor with husband Joseph of the fanzine Alexiad.  Fan of horse races, including trotting, pacing.  From October 2020 (Alexiad 113): “September is International Month.  Normally we of the libraries get assigned a country in order that we may display books … and have programs….  This year … not open to the public … I decide that I will have my own….  a bakery owned by a woman from Uganda … has a marvelous display….  I walk out with … a decorated little bowl … gives me something of the … serenity I got … when my library was assigned Japan.”  [JH]
  • Born October 30, 1972 – Tammy Coxen, 48.  Chaired Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Hugo Administrator for CoNZealand the 78th Worldcon. Wrote this guide “So You Want to Bid for a Worldcon”.  Cocktail enthusiast and Chief Tasting Officer of Tammy’s Tastings.  [JH]
  • Born October 30, 1972 Jessica Hynes, 48. Playing Joan Redfern, she shows up on two of the most excellent Tenth Doctor stories, “Human Nature” and “ The Family of Blood”. She’d play another character, Verity Newman in a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, “The End of Time, Part Two”. Her other genre role was as Felia Siderova on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) in the “Mental Apparition Disorder” and  “Drop Dead” episodes. (CE)
  • Born October 30, 1974 – Libia Brenda, 46.   Part of the Mexicanx Initiative Experience at the 76th Worldcon and thus a Hugo finalist for Best Related Work.  “Sea Wings” (in English) in the Jul 19 Argonaut.  Two anthologies, A Larger Reality being speculative fiction “from the bicultural margins”, and A Timeline in Which We Don’t Go Extinct being A Larger Reality 2.0, each in English and Spanish.  [JH]

(5) SHINY. If Santa ever has to give Rudolph the year off, how about adding a monotreme to the team? “As If the Platypus Couldn’t Get Any Weirder” in Gizmodo.

…It’s not enough to be a mammal who lays eggs, sports a duck-like bill and webbed feet, hunts using electroreception, and wields venomous spurs. The platypus also glows green under ultraviolet light. Because of course it does. Details of this unexpected discovery were published earlier this month in the science journal Mammalia.

The platypus now joins a very exclusive club, as it’s one of only three known biofluorescent mammals, the other two being opossums and flying squirrels. That said, the platypus does stand alone as the only known monotreme, or egg-laying mammal, capable of pulling off this trick (the only other extant monotremes are four species of echidna). Of course, biofluorescence is seen in many other organisms, such as fungi, fish, phytoplankton, reptiles, amphibians, and at least one species of tardigrade.

But wait – if they’re delivering in sunlight they still won’t need one, will they….

(6) BUY IT AGAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] So the Amazon Shopping app on my phone just recommended (Samuel R Delany’s) BABEL-17, including via Kindle Unlimited.

Given some of my browsing I guess that’s not completely out of the blue, although it feels like I’d been doing some (research) lookups for Heinlein but not Delany.

If Amazon were a person, I’d respond with a picture of my $0.50 Ace paperback with the “Nebula winner” sticker on the cover design. I’m not sure if I have any older copies. If I have an autographed one, it’s in a different stack, not worth fishing for just for an item. So there, Mr Bezos — you may know what I look up online, but you don’t (yet) know what is one my shelves. (If I ever scan for inventorying, no doubt that will change.)

(7) CAT TREK. Somebody must need this – maybe it’s you! you can get a cardboard figure of Grudge the Cat. “Star Trek: Discovery Grudge Standee” at Star Trek Shop.

(8) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dr. Sanjay Gupta Rates Halloween Masks – a segment on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

Halloween is coming up and with the coronavirus, it’s more important than ever for everyone to stay safe. That’s why CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is here to make sure your Halloween masks are as safe as your regular mask!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Ben Bird Person, Danny Sichel, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/1/20 Consider a Spherical Scroll

(1) COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND LEADERSHIP TURNOVER. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced June 22 that they had accepted the resignation of Charles Brownstein as Executive Director, effective immediately.  According to Publishers Weekly, Brownstein’s resignation comes after the resurfacing of allegations of sexual assault brought against him in 2006. An account of the situation and its aftermath was reported in the Comics Journal in 2006.

The CBLDF subsequently posted this update:

First and foremost, the CBLDF is grateful that Kris Simon has come forward. We also want to recognize Taki Soma for what she endured and for bringing this to light. Both have our full support. We are releasing Shy Allot from the NDA she signed in 2010 when she left the organization so that her story can also be heard.

CBLDF’s Board is undergoing a complete review of management practices and where we have fallen short. We are examining our mission to ensure it meets modern industry needs, and will do so with input from our full-time staff, expert third parties, and the comics and manga community.

And on June 29, more retirements/resignations followed.

The CBLDF announced today that Paul Levitz is retiring from our Board of Directors. In addition, the Board has accepted the resignations of Katherine Keller and Jeff Abraham.

We respect the decisions that Paul, Katherine and Jeff have made to leave the Board. We realize it will be a long path to earning back the trust of our members, supporters and the industry. We recognize that it’s been our inability to react, or act at all, that’s been the cause of  pain in our community.

Even last week, when we took the necessary action in accepting Charles’s resignation, our communications were stilted and clumsy. To everyone who has come forward, we haven’t done justice to your bravery and we are truly sorry. We vow to be better….   

(2) VIRTUALLY THERE. Locus Online has posted a highly informative report about the 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference

The 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference morphed mid-COVID from an in-person conference into an impressive online event, held May 29-31, 2020. There were 808 members from 33 countries, a record, up from 2019’s record-breaking 475 registered members.

(3) LISTEN IN ON FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of its audio recording of the “Fans Into Pros” panel at IguanCon II, the 36th Worldcon, held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. (The link to Part I is here.) The participants are Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Terry Carr, Richard Lupoff and Ted White. 

This audio recording (enhanced with many images) is Part 2 of that panel. More serious than part 1, this segment talks about becoming a writer, and provides straightforward, candid insights about selling in the field. There’s less byplay but lots of good discussion. Note two things – the recording does not go to the end of the panel but stops abruptly (source material ends), and there is a section where members of the audience are speaking and you can’t hear them on the recording.  

Please be patient – the responses from the panel are worth hearing. This recording courtesy of IguanaCon chairman Tim Kyger.

(4) BRITAIN IS FINE. Rob Hansen has added a section about the 1979 Worldcon bid to his website THEN, with publications, photos, etc. Rob says, “I’ll eventually get around to tackling the con itself, but in the meantime here’s the tale of how it came to be.”

The story of how the idea of holding a UK Worldcon in the 1970s emerged, and how things came together and the bid then evolved, is worthy of its own entry. The bid also had its own series of progress reports independent of the eventual convention, all of which are included here.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

(5) NOBODY MUST GET STONED. The recent launch of Avengers: Infinity War on Disney+ was promoted by a short video on Marvel’s Instagram account highlighting the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s six Infinity Stones.

(6) HEARD THAT SOMEWHERE BEFORE. A.V. Club will point you to the video: “It’s some kind of supercut of every time someone says “some kind of” on Star Trek”.

Pretty much everyone has some kind of vocal tic, some sort of repeated phrase or word they use without necessarily even realizing it in their day-to-day conversations. Pointing it out in each other is generally considered an asshat thing to do, but that doesn’t change how damn annoying it can be for all of us. On that note, here’s some sort of supercut of all 214 times someone says “some sort of” or “some kind of” on some sort of show called Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot was born. Or so claims the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that would release Forbidden Planet where he had his first screen appearance on March 4, 1956. He would go to be part of a number of series including Lost in SpaceThe Addams FamilyThe Twilight Zone and Holmes & Yo-Yo to name but a few of his appearances. His latest appearance was on The Big Bang Theory with other movie props in “The Misinterpretation Agitation” episode. (CE)
  • July 1, 1984 — William Gibson’s Neuromancer was published. It would win a Hugo for Best Novel at Aussiecon II. It was the first novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award for a paperback original. The novel opens with the new famous line of “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Deadpool director Tim Miller was chosen three years ago to direct a live-action film adaptation, and Neuromancer the Opera was written but a quarter of a century later has not been staged. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz believed in the feud theory, Richard Lupoff wrote an articl debunking the idea. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1923 – Jean Hougron.  Indochina (as it then was) 1947-1951; a score of novels.  Two for us, The Sign of the Dog, translated into German, Italian, Portuguese; and Naguen, winning the Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction.  Grand Prix du roman de l’Academie française for Death and Fraud, no. 4 in his series The Indochina Night.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 86. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse, 85. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally, he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1942 – rich brown.  No capital letters in his name.  By the mid-1960s known and knowledgeable enough to publish, with Arnie Katz and Mike McInerney, the fanzine Focal Point, revived with AK in the early 1970s.  Also with AK the 3rd (1971) ed’n of The Enchanted Duplicator (1994 ed’n here) i.e. not the protagonist of “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” but producing one’s fanzine, once and for some still the heart of fan activity; also with AK The Incompleat Terry Carr (a somewhat more compleat ed’n 1988 by Jerry Kaufman); contributed a study of fanspeak to Joe Sanders’ Science Fiction Fandom, eventually brought into Fancyclopedia 3.  Self-depreciatingly said “I’m everyone’s rich brother” and “I’m in The Lord of the Rings.  The Ents have my skin.  They have rich brown skin.”  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1952 – Mary Kay Kare , 68.  Edited Red Dust, clubzine of the Norman, Oklahoma, SF Society; then Seattle, San Jose. Co-chaired Potlatch 19 (literary SF con).  Innocently going overseas to Corflu 27 she found herself Guest of Honor – at Corflu this is determined by drawing names from a hat.  Hugo Awards Administrator at Denvention 3 the 66th Worldcon; photo  here.  Widow of the extraordinary Jordin Kare.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1959 – Leah Zeldes Smith, 61.  Can be found under both maiden and married names; husband, Dick Smith.  Served on boards of Ann Arbor SF Ass’n, Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n.  Co-founded Michigan Soc. of (Hapless) Amateur Publishers – opinions differ on whether the H is for Hapless or silent as in bheer; anyhow, MISHAP.  Half a dozen stories in Mike Resnick anthologies.  Fanzine Stet (with Dick) 3-time Hugo finalist.  Fan Guest of Honor at Corflu 4.  Down Under Fan Fund delegate (with Dick), attended Swancon 18.  Chaired Operacon.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 56. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in 2001 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where many of his other stories were published, and which he has edited for past six years. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best-known work.  (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1965 – Kevin Maroney, 55.  Long-time managing editor, now publisher, of the New York Review of SF, 14-time Hugo finalist.  Guest of Honor at Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, held since 1975 when the Worldcon is overseas).  He says “Science fiction valorizes people who Know Things.”  Dilettante in the old sense.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1976 – Ketty Steward, 44.  Author, critic, proofreader.  Two dozen stories; collection, Interrupted Connections (in French, i.e. Connexions interrompoues; KS lives in Martinique). “HeLa Is Here” in English here.  Two special issues of Galaxies (in French) devoted to Africa.  Genre-mixing autobiographical novel, Black & White (Noir et blanc).  Degrees in applied mathematics, social sciences, labor science.  Student of Afrocyberfeminism.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 39. Author of the superb Persona novel, and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She also scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess. (CE)

(9) IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN SMELL YOU SCREAM. According to CNN, “This is what space smells like”.

If you’ve ever wondered what space smells like, a new perfume may answer that for you. A kickstarter was recently launched for a new fragrance called Eau de Space to bring the smell of outer space back down to Earth.

The fragrance was developed by Steve Pearce, according to Eau de Space product manager Matt Richmond. Pearce is a chemist and the founder of Omega Ingredients, a company focused on the “creation of the highest quality, provenance driven, natural flavours and ingredients for the food and beverage industry,” its website says.

(10) IN BOOKS TO COME. Andrew Liptak told readers where to find his monthly Reading List:

As some of you know from June, Polygon has decided to discontinue the list on their site for the foreseeable future — one small casualty from COVID. Accordingly, I’ve shifted the list over to my newsletter, Reading List.

This newsletter is designed as a step-back from the day-to-day news of the SF/F world, with a couple of different types of letters. Free ones have a regular set of content: I’m aiming for a book review and/or short piece of commentary, along with a list of notable long-read articles and pieces of note, as well as a roundup of book recommendations. I’m also using it as a place to conduct longer-form interviews and this book list. This has a growing audience, with a solid reading and open rate: 50-58%, depending on the post. 

The paid version (Reading List+) is something I just launched, and it features longer or in-depth commentary or reported feature — the first was about J.K. Rowling and Richard K. Morgan’s comments online. The next is set to go out this week, about the legacy of Michael Crichton’s name. This has a smaller audience, but with a much higher open and reading rate (~80%). Future plans here include podcasting (to be called Transfer Orbit), with one long-form interview set to debut later this month, as well as a handful of other posts, ranging from essays about writing, an in-depth feature on a military war game, and more.

(11) YOUR CHAIRS ARE READY. Episode 30 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast is out: “The many trouser-legs of time”. Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg are joined by Dr. Lucy Sussex to talk about alternate history novels. In particular, they discuss those alternate timelines in which the Axis powers won the Second World War. (Did someone forget to punch the Nazis?)

  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton
  • Dominion by C. J. Sansom
  • The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
  • SS-GB by Len Deighton
  • Fatherland by Robert Harris
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

(12) AT THE CORE. In Nature, astronomers claim “Core of a gas planet seen for the first time” says the BBC.

Astronomers have found a previously unseen type of object circling a distant star.

It could be the core of a gas world like Jupiter, offering an unprecedented glimpse inside one of these giant planets.

Giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn have a solid planetary core beneath a thick envelope of hydrogen and helium gas.

But no-one has previously been able to see what these solid cores are like.

Now, a team of astronomers has discovered what they think are the rocky innards of a giant planet that’s missing its thick atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the journal Nature.

(13) PLANTING THE FLAG. This is a wonderful GIF — “NASA if it had the same budget as the US Military”. (I won’t embed it here, because GIFs in the Scroll drive some of you to distraction. Not that I’ll never ever do it, you understand…)  

(14) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. BBC reports:“Tesla overtakes Toyota to become world’s most valuable car maker”.

Tesla has become the world’s most valuable carmaker, overtaking Japan’s Toyota, after its stock hit a record high.

Shares in the electric carmaker hit a record $1,134 on Wednesday morning, before falling back, leaving it with a market value of $209.47bn (£165bn).

That is roughly $4bn more than Toyota’s current stock market value.

However, Toyota sold around 30 times more cars last year and its revenues were more than 10 times higher.

Shares in Tesla have risen more than 160% since the start of 2020, as investors feel more confident about the future of electric vehicles.

(15) SPACE JAM. A 2017 NASA video called “Space Station Fisheye Fly-Through 4K” is a really good look at the International Space Station with some smooth jazz. 

(16) BORED NOW. “Crucible: Amazon pulls ‘boring’ big-budget video game”.

Amazon has pulled its first major game release, putting it back into a testing phase after poor feedback from players.

Free-to-play shooter Crucible is now being put back into “closed beta” – a pre-release stage with a limited number of players.

Current players will be part of the beta, but new players will be unable to download the game without an invite.

Amazon said it had listened to player feedback and would “continue to make the game better”.

In May, when the game was about to be released, Amazon Games vice-president Mike Frazzini told the BBC the company wanted “to make games that resonate with a very large audience of players”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. What?!

Dippin’ Dots—they’re an amusement park, zoo, aquarium and overall summertime staple. The mini balls of ice cream that melt in your mouth are also a childhood favorite. But where did the “ice cream of the future” come from? The answer has a little something to do with cow feed.

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