Pixel Scroll 8/13/21 The Green Hornet + MurderBot = Green Murder Hornet Bots

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour donuts with Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara — who all recently had their second novels published — in episode 151 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara

What are the joys and challenges of writing and publishing a second book? Writers can take their entire lives to get their first novels published, after which creating another novel in a year — or sometimes less — can be major pressure. After giving everything they had to the first novel — how does a writer decide what’s worth writing next? Do they fear they won’t live up to the promise of their debut, and might disappoint readers? I had a wonderful time listening to this trio of second novelists opening up about their experiences, and I hope you will too.

We chatted while nibbling on takeout from Baltimore’s Zaatar Mediterranean Cuisine, and about two-thirds of the way through, switched up to doughnuts from my favorite such spot in Baltimore — Diablo Doughnuts.

We discussed why “second books are weird,” what (if anything) they learned writing their debuts which made book two easier, why pantsing is a thing of the past, whether book two had them concerned about creating a brand, how writing acknowledgements for second novels can be strange, the way deadlines made taking time off between books impossible, the dangers of being abandoned by debut culture, the fear of fewer pre-publication eyeballs on book two, how the pandemic will affect the creation of future novels, and much more.

(2) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? You know how cranky some fans get when series remain unfinished for years. James Davis Nicoll promises he can deliver “Five Fully Completed SFF Series” to readers at Tor.com.

I stand second to none in my habit of relentless optimism. Still, I am beginning to suspect that Mr. Dickens is never going to deliver a definitive ending to his otherwise promising The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Admittedly, when one purchases a book all one can legitimately expect is the book in hand. Anticipation of further instalments, no matter how heartfelt, does not constitute a legal contract that binds the author to deliver further instalments.

That said, there are some series whose authors have managed to publish—and finish!—entire series. Here are five recent examples that I would recommend….

(3) HORROR VERSE. Stephanie M. Wytovich, editor of HWA Poetry Showcase, Vol. 8, has announced the volume’s table of contents.

…This year is particularly special for me as it will be my last year editing the showcase. After four wonderful, poetry-filled years, I am thankful to the HWA for trusting me with this project, to John Palisano for supporting and encouraging me, and to David E. Cowen for initially recommending me for this position. It has been a journey and a delight, and I’ve learned so much about the market, the genre, and our fantastic community along the way. Thank you for the scares, the nightmares, and the verses, folks. I hope to return the favor someday (insert evil laugh here).

(4) CENSORSHIP IS A PLAGUE TOO. Publishers Weekly stats show “Censorship on the Rise Worldwide”.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, there’s been a rise in instances of government censorship of books around the world. In October 2020, the International Publishers Association released a 106-page report, “Freedom to Publish: Challenges, Violations and Countries of Concern,” that outlined 847 instances of censorship in a host of countries, including France, Iran, Serbia, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. According to the report, in 55% of those instances, the censorship was undertaken by government authorities. The report is downloadable from the IPA website.

Since that report was issued, efforts to censor books have continued. In July, the Hungarian government imposed an $830 fine on the distributor of the Hungarian translation of Lawrence Schimel’s children’s book What a Family!, citing a law that bans the depiction of homosexuality and gender reassignment in material aimed at minors. The book tells the story of two families with young children—one with two fathers and the other with two mothers.

That incident follows another in Hungary, in October 2020, when a member of parliament put a copy of Meseorszag mindenkie (A Fairy Tale for Everyone), which also features LGBTQ characters, through a shredder. “So the publisher reprinted it as a board book” said Schimel, whose book had the same Hungarian editor.

Schimel, an American living in Madrid, has published dozens of LGBTQ-themed works for children and adults. “It’s important for all families, not just those who are LGBTQ, to see and read these books which show just how normal these families are,” he said. What a Family! is now sold in Hungary with a sticker, warning readers that it depicts families “outside the norm.” It was originally published as two books in Spanish, and Orca Book Publishers is releasing it as two books in the U.S. in September.

Russia led the way in overt European LGBTQ censorship with the passage of its “anti-LGBTQ propaganda” law in 2012. Today, LGBTQ books are routinely suppressed there, and those that make it to market are sold with warning stickers.

“The campaigns by the populist governments in Europe, such as in Hungary and Poland, against the LGBTQ community are in direct violation of the principles of inclusion and the celebration of diversity,” said Michiel Kolman, chair for inclusive publishing at the IPA. He noted that in Poland, several towns have declared themselves LGBTQ-free zones, forcing LGBTQ residents to move, while in Hungary the transgender community was first targeted, and after that the broader LGBTQ community….

(5) THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T HEAR EVERYDAY, EDGAR. Shelf Awareness says Dune’s “Making Of” book will have its own Hans Zimmer score.

The Oscar-winning composer of Dune‘s soundtrack “was so inspired when he looked at the upcoming behind-the-scenes book from Insight Editions, he decided to write some musical accompaniment,” io9 noted. The Art and Soul of Dune by executive producer Tanya Lapointe, which “will be available both in standard and jaw-dropping limited editions,” is going to have a dedicated Zimmer score available to download and stream upon release on October 22, the same date as the film’s debut. 

(6) SWEEPING DISCOVERY REQUEST. Publishers Weekly reports “Internet Archive Seeking 10 Years of Publisher Sales Data for Its Fair Use Defense”. This relates to the lawsuit against the Internet Archive over its program to scan and lend copies of books.

In an August 9 filing, IA attorneys told the court it is seeking monthly sales data for all books in print by the four plaintiff publishers (Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Wiley) dating back to 2011. But the publishers, IA lawyers told the court, have balked at the sweeping request reportedly countering that the request is well beyond what the case calls for.

In their pre-motion filing, IA lawyers insist the sales data is crucial to its fair use defense.

“Plaintiffs claim that the Internet Archive’s digital library lending has a negative effect on the market for or value of the works. The Internet Archive disagrees, and wishes to bring forward evidence showing that lending had little or no effect on the commercial performance of the books being lent, compared to books that were not lent,” IA lawyers told the court. “Specifically, in order to show that lending had little or no effect on commercial performance, the Internet Archive wishes to compare the commercial performance of books that were available for digital lending with books that were not available for digital lending.”

IA lawyers also attempt to explain the massive, sweeping scope of their request, conceding that they do not need a decade’s worth of monthly sales data for “each and every book” but only for the 127 works included in the suit as well as “one or more” books that could be deemed “comparable” for each the 127 titles under scrutiny. But since the plaintiffs have “declined to identify books they regard as comparable,” IA attorneys claim, they should be compelled to produce data about all books so that the Internet Archive can “identify books it regards as comparable” and the parties can then “debate, on a level playing field, whether such books are or are not comparable.”…

Read the response from the publishers’ lawyers here: “Publishers Blast Internet Archive’s ‘Extraordinary’ Demand for Sales Data”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1975 – Forty-six years ago, the first World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement goes to Robert Bloch. (He’d previously won a Hugo at Detention (1959) — where he and Isaac Asimov were toastmasters — for his “Hell-Bound Train” short story.) Nine years later at L.A.con II, He would receive a Special Committee Award for 50 years as an SF professional, and a year after that, he would be voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award.
Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr. Best remembered and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though In the film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part were awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin, He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in. “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 13, 1965 Michael De Luca, 56. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s EndGhost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Dracula Untold, Lost in SpaceBlade and Blade IIPleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not quite genre was rather fun.
  • Born August 13, 1977 Damian O’Hare, 44. Though you might know him from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and On Stranger Tides where he played Gillette, I know him as the voice of John Constantine on Justice League Action. He also showed up in Agent Carter. (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1982 Sebastian Stan, 39. Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier in the MCU film franchise; also appeared in Once Upon a Time series, The MartianThe ApparitionAres III, and Kings, a contemporary alternate-history series about a man who rises to become the King of his nation, based on the biblical story of King David.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE. Viewers who have been conditioned by all those movies to think Middle-Earth is a neighborhood of New Zealand will see one season of the Amazon’s TV adaptation shot there too – then, goodbye! The Guardian says moving day is coming: “Amazon moves production of Lord of the Rings TV series to UK”.

Amazon has made the surprise decision to move production of its $1bn-plus Lord of the Rings series from New Zealand to the UK, rejecting tens of millions of dollars in incentives to shoot the TV show in the same location as the blockbuster films.

Amazon, which four years ago paid $250m to secure the TV rights to JRR Tolkien’s works after founder Jeff Bezos demanded a Game of Thrones-style hit for its streaming service, chose to film the first series in New Zealand after competitive bids from around the world. Scotland, which narrowly missed out to New Zealand, is considered to be the frontrunner for the new shooting location, although Amazon declined to comment on its plans.

It is understood that the Tolkien estate had been keen for the series to be shot in the UK, the land that inspired JRR Tolkien’s original books, although did not have any right to determine the TV production’s location.

(11) SPECIAL DEFECTS. CinemaBlend will be happy to show you these “13 Crazy Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From Classic Horror Movies”.

…Despite being one of the most influential and successful film genres, horror does not always get the appreciation it deserves, especially when you consider the passion, patience, technical mastery, and even suffering the cast and crew endure for the sake of a good scare. You may never look at some of the best horror movies the same way again after learning these shocking behind-the-scenes facts, starting with a clever trick used in one of history’s most iconic shockers.

George Lucas Got Stuck In The Mechanical Shark From Jaws

Steven Spielberg was also not prepared for the hysteria he would face the set of his breakout horror hit Jaws, which was mostly due to the technical difficulties that their mechanical star frequently suffered. Someone who experienced these flaws first-hand, and terrifyingly so, was George Lucas, who got his head stuck in the shark as the result of a prank gone wrong while was visiting the set. Curious about it inner-workings, the future Star Wars movies creator voluntarily put his head inside the shark when Spielberg and John Milius activated the jaw clamp, only to panic when they became temporarily unable to get Lucas out.

(12) PROZINE IS STILL WITH US. The Interzone #290/291 Double Issue Ebook is now available. Fiction (see ToC at the link) plus columns by Aliya Whiteley and David Langford; guest editorial by Lavie Tidhar; book reviews by Maureen Kincaid Speller, Duncan Lawie, Val Nolan, and several others; film reviews by Nick Lowe.

(13) AM I BLUE? “The Smurfs trailer announces Nickelodeon series release date”SYFY Wire has the story.

Previously announced in 2020, the new series comes from Belgian studio Depuis Audiovisuel. All the Smurfs that folks most likely remember from their childhoods, from Papa Smurf and Brainy to Smurfette and Clumsy, are back. The new addition comes in the form of Willow, who leads a tribe of girl Smurfs. Like most of the network’s cartoons, each episode will come in a pair of 13-minute blocks: the premiere episode, “Smurf-Fu,” will be about Brainy wanting to learn “Smurf-Fu” from Smurfette so he can defend himself, and “Diaper Daddy,” which finds Handy inventing a robot to change Baby Smurf’s diapers so no one else has to. 

(14) LEAPIN’ LIZARDS! “Giant, Dragon-Like, Flying Reptile Fossil Discovered in Australia” says Smithsonian Magazine.

In addition to its school-bus-length wingspan, the creature had a three-foot-long skull with a pointed snout and around 40 sharp teeth. This pterosaur likely lived and hunted for fish near the Eromanga Inland Sea, a large inland sea that once occupied much of eastern Australia during the early Cretaceous period.

“It wasn’t built to eat broccoli,” Richards tells Royce Kurmelovs of the Guardian. “It would have been a fearsome sight.”

Though the fossil was found in northwest Queensland over a decade ago, researchers weren’t able to prove it was a new species until now. There are over 200 species of pterosaur, ranging from the 16-foot-tall Quetzalcoatlus to the sparrow-sized Anurognathus. Unlike the feathered birds they shared the sky with, pterosaurs stayed aloft on membrane wings stretched between their fingers….

(15) THEY MADE HISTORY. Mr. Sci-Fi – Marc Scott Zicree – delivers another lesson in “History of Sci-Fi Movies — The Nineties — Part One!”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “The Suicide Squad:  Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that fans of several popular character actors who appear in The Suicide Squad will be disappointed that they die almost immediately after they’re introduced and that Harley Quinn “is better at hand-to-hand combat that a whole squad of military people.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/7/21 Just The Scroll For A Pixel! The Bellman Cried, As He Ticked His Box With Care

(1) VISUAL EFFECTS HISTORY. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie recommends BBC Radio 4’s progam Unreal: “The VFX Revolution, A Long, Long Time Ago…” – the first of a three-episode series about SF cinematic special effects from 2001 to Star Wars and Close Encounters.

The story of how visual effects changed and changed cinema told from the inside by the Oscar winning Paul Franklin. In 1975, in a nondescript warehouse in Van Nuys, George Lucas and John Dykstra created a visual effects startup that would make history. Industrial Light & Magic. A group of many talents spent well over a year in R&D to perfect the dream of motion control before X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon could soar. Meanwhile the magic eye of Douglas Trumbull and his team was creating the light show for Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters. It was the beginning of a revolution.

With the voices of Robert Blalack, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren & Doug Trumbull.

(2) SPLISH SPLASH. In the latest “Building Beyond” – “Liquid Assets” Sarah Gailey is joined by Wen Wen Yang and Meg Elison to play with this writing prompt:

The Cosmic Orb has issued a new Natural Law: at random intervals for the rest of time, the wealthiest 10% of humans in the universe will spontaneously dissolve into potable water.

(3) HUGO REFORM OF THE DAY. John Scalzi has good reasons to be confident about the second category. Would I be mistaken to underrate his chances of winning the first one?

(4) ON THE CASE. In the Washington Post, Mark Athiatakis discusses how it’s not really possible to organize your book collection as he comes up with several unusual and funny ways to organize your books. “Why bother organizing your books? A messy personal library is proof of life”.

… I recently went hunting for my copy of Lydia Davis’s “Essays One,” a collection of nonfiction that revealed itself stuffed sideways on a shelf where the works of Philip Roth and Marilynne Robinson first took up residence. That would’ve been an unthinkable genre incursion when I’d first moved in, and the search itself revealed more shelving indignities. Locating Davis meant scanning through books that are no longer so much shelved as much as piled in a sedimentary manner throughout the office….

(5) THE ODIFEROUS AGE. WIRED’s Jason Kehe says it’s not Amazon’s horn that’s tooting in Solos: “The Futuristic Stink of Amazon’s Science Fiction”.

…Amazon has shat out science-fiction programming for years, and it ranges, on the smell-o-meter, from the merely obnoxious to the just plain noxious—a flatulence that fluctuates. Early on, the company mostly Philip K. Dick’d around, first with an adaptation of Man in the High Castle and then with Electric Dreams, an anthology series based on that author’s short stories. The former collapsed in due course, and the latter was never more than off-brand, harder-trying Black Mirror, but at least neither tried to speak to our bowels.

With Solos, Amazon stoops to a condescending science fiction that’s just like us, farts and all….

(6) SPACE JAM 2 PROMO. Bugs Bunny and LeBron James pay a visit to the Metropolis of Superman: The Animated Series in a new clip from Space Jam: A New Legacy. [Via Gizmodo.]

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1990 — Thirty-one years ago, Another Way to Travel, the second album by Minneapolis based Cats Laughing comes out. Genre wise, it’s notable as it has Emma Bull, John Ford and Stephen Brust as lyric writers. The cover illustration was done by Terri Windling (the original artwork was given to Cat Eldridge some years back by Pamela Dean’s husband) The vehicle was known as the Catmobile and was used to transport the band. It owned by Brust, and it was a Cadillac ambulance that had been painted yellow, light blue, and dark blue, with murals. You can listen to “For it All” here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 7, 1907 — Robert Heinlein. Let’s have Paul Weimer tell about his favorite Heinlein works: “If I had to pick one favorite Heinlein novel, and that’s a tough road to hoe, I am going to go with the novel I’ve re-read the most and it’s probably not going to be the one you think.  It’s Glory Road. Yes, Glory Road. The back matter once the quest is done can be overcooked, but Heinlein had a keen eye for epic fantasy quests, the good and the bad, long before the rise of Tolkien clones. It was an early Heinlein for me, and the novel has stuck with me since, with a number of audio re-reads. I survived a boring drive across the flatness of the Great Plains by listening to the adventures of Oscar Gordon.” // If I had to pick one Heinlein story, I have a strong fondness for All You Zombies, which encapsulates all the potential paradoxes of time travel in a way that has been done at greater length, but not, I’d argue, with better effect. (The movie Predestination with Ethan Hawke is pretty darned good by the way). Oh, and my favorite book ABOUT Heinlein is Farah Mendelsohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert Heinlein. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 7, 1919 — Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four-year run there, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his first roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 7, 1936 — Lisa Seagram. I’m noting her here because she was in the Batman episode “Louie, the Lilac” as Lila in which Milton Berle played the title character. She also had one-offs in both The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., plus My Favorite Martian and Bewitched. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 7, 1948 — Kathy Reichs, 73. Author of the Temperance Brennan series, the basis of the Bones series, which is genre adjacent given it’s connected to the Sleepy Hollow series, and she’s also the author of Virals, a YA series about a group of young adults with minor super powers. 
  • Born July 7, 1959 — Billy Campbell, 62. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. And IDW did a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures which Amazon has it for a mere twenty bucks! The ePub is available from the usual suspects for a mere five dollars and ninety-nine cents. 
  • Born July 7, 1968 — Jeff VanderMeer, 53. Ok, I’ll admit that I’m ambivalent about the  Southern Reach Trilogy and am not sure if it’s brilliant or not though I’ll say it is quite disturbing. I also will say the pirate anthology he and his wife Anne did, Fast Ships, Black Sails, is quite tasty reading. 
  • Born July 7, 1980 — Martin Lewis, 41. He’s been the reviews editor for the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector critical journal for twenty years now. He’s written one book, SF Writers on SF Films from Akira to Zardoz
  • Born July 7, 1987 — V. E. Schwab, 34. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. Highly recommended. Her Cassidy Blake series is also good provided you’re a Potter fan as she makes a lot of references to that series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE BEST. Publishers Weekly has a short and enthusiastic review of We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2020 edited by C.L. Clark and series editor Charles Payseur.

Clark (The Unbroken) and Payseur (The Burning Day) present a diverse, well-crafted anthology of queer speculative fiction, bringing together 16 stories from both established and emerging authors…. 

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was glued to his set when tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! challenged contestants with this:

Category: Chapter of the 19th Century Novel.

Answer: By H.G. Wells, “The reversion of the beast folk”

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Time Machine’?”

Right question: “What is ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’?”

(12) PINT SIZE. Movies on Glass is offering a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Quark’s Bar Pint Glass. Bottom’s up! (if you want to read the CBS license legalese).

  • SPECIAL EDITION IN UNIVERSETM: The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Quark’s Bar pint glass features the Quark’s Bar logo digitally printed in full color.
  • LICENSED COLLECTIBLE MERCHANDISE: Officially licensed by CBS Consumer Products. CBS legal line is etched in the base of the glass.

(13) DOES ANYBODY REALLY, REALLY, REALLY KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS. [Title by Daniel Dern.] “For Precision, the Sapphire Clock Outshines Even the Best Atomic Clocks” declares IEEE Spectrum.

… The new clock—also known as the Sapphire Clock—isn’t better than an atomic clock; it’s different. That’s because accuracy and precision are different things: Accuracy is how well a clock can measure a true second, now defined as the time it takes cesium atoms under controlled conditions to oscillate between two energy states exactly 9,192,631,770 times. Since 2013, even more accurate types of atomic clocks have been built, but over 400 atomic clocks based on cesium-133 atoms are still used to create civil time across the globe. If you’re reading this article on a smartphone or a laptop, the time displayed on the edge of your screen is derived from one of those atomic clocks.

For many applications, such as satellite-based global positioning systems, accuracy is paramount. And make no mistake, even cesium atomic clocks are stunningly accurate. The NIST-F2 cesium clock operated by the U.S. National Institutes of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., is so accurate that it would have to run for 300 million years to gain or lose a second.

But for some applications, accuracy is less important than precision. Precision has to do not with delineating the perfect second but rather with creating extremely regular ticks, or oscillations. Imagine a game of darts. Atomic clocks are able to land all their darts, or oscillations, broadly around the bull’s-eye so that the average position is right on target, even though any given dart might be a centimeter or two away from dead center. Luiten’s device doesn’t aim for the bull’s-eye: instead, it is able to land all its darts at exactly the same point on the dartboard. In other words, each tick is really, really, really just like another….

(14) WHY, ‘TIS CLEAR AS IS THE SUMMER SUN. Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy – Kingdom is coming July 29 to Netflix. Here’s the story line —

Now the Autobots must team up with the Maximals to confront the Decepticons, who have joined forces with the Predacons, in the race to find the missing AllSpark. However, the Predacons are in control of the Golden Disk, a mysterious artifact which has a personal connection to Megatron and gives him an untold advantage over his enemy, Optimus Prime. Which faction will triumph in the final battle that will decide the fate of Cybertron’s future?

(15) OUT THUNDERING THE LIZARDS. Chicxulub is called “The comet that killed the dinosaurs”Geology Page listens to a theory about its origins.

…The enduring puzzle has always been where the asteroid or comet that set off the destruction originated, and how it came to strike the Earth. And now a pair of Harvard researchers believe they have the answer.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, Avi Loeb, Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard, and Amir Siraj ’21, an astrophysics concentrator, put forth a new theory that could explain the origin and journey of this catastrophic object and others like it.

Using statistical analysis and gravitational simulations, Loeb and Siraj show that a significant fraction of a type of comet originating from the Oort cloud, a sphere of debris at the edge of the solar system, was bumped off-course by Jupiter’s gravitational field during its orbit and sent close to the sun, whose tidal force broke apart pieces of the rock. That increases the rate of comets like Chicxulub (pronounced Chicks-uh-lub) because these fragments cross the Earth’s orbit and hit the planet once every 250 to 730 million years or so.

“Basically, Jupiter acts as a kind of pinball machine,” said Siraj, who is also co-president of Harvard Students for the Exploration and Development of Space and is pursuing a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music. “Jupiter kicks these incoming long-period comets into orbits that bring them very close to the sun.”

It’s because of this that long-period comets, which take more than 200 years to orbit the sun, are called sun grazers, he said.

“When you have these sun grazers, it’s not so much the melting that goes on, which is a pretty small fraction relative to the total mass, but the comet is so close to the sun that the part that’s closer to the sun feels a stronger gravitational pull than the part that is farther from the sun, causing a tidal force” he said. “You get what’s called a tidal disruption event and so these large comets that come really close to the sun break up into smaller comets. And basically, on their way out, there’s a statistical chance that these smaller comets hit the Earth.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY. Auroras on Mars occur not only at the poles but all around the planet. The Emirates Mars Mission is collecting images. “Mars Has Auroras and a U.A.E. Spacecraft Captured New Pictures of Them” – photos at the New York Times.

When barrages of charged protons and electrons erupted from the sun head our way, Earth’s magnetic field deftly deflects them around the planet. This buffeting generates shimmering, glowing curtains of color known as the aurora borealis in the Northern Hemisphere’s polar regions, and aurora australis in the south.

That same phenomenon happens on Mars, too. But there it is not just the northern lights and southern lights, but also the equatorial lights, mid-latitude lights, eastern lights, western lights — all around the planet.

The Hope spacecraft launched by the United Arab Emirates and orbiting the red planet since February, has captured unique images of these dancing atmospheric lights, known as discrete auroras.

Mission officials released the pictures on Wednesday.

“It will allow new doors of study to be opened when it comes to the Martian atmosphere,” said Hessa al-Matroushi, the science lead for the first interplanetary mission by the U.A.E., “and how it interacts with the solar activity.”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Dark Alliance,” Fandom Games says this D&D line extension is “a story that had zero effort put into it” and is so boring “It’s less like watching a car crash and more like going to the DMV.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard (a 2018 suggestion).]

Pixel Scroll 7/4/21 You Can’t Make Good Omenlets Without Breaking Bad

(1) NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL 2021. The Library of Congress’ “10-Day National Book Festival for 2021” will include appearances by genre figures Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Roxane Gay, Kazuo Ishiguro and more.

The initial lineup of 2021 National Book Festival authors includes Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Roxane Gay, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael J. Fox (pictured clockwise)

The theme of this year’s festival is “Open a Book, Open the World.” Audiences will be invited to create their own festival experiences from programs in a range of formats and an expanded schedule over 10 days from September 17-26.. “Create Your National Book Festival Experience Over 10 Days in Multiple Formats”.

The lineup includes authors, poets and illustrators from America and around the world:

  • Kacen Callender
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Tana French
  • Roxane Gay
  • Nikki Giovanni
  • Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Adam Grant
  • Yaa Gyasi
  • Maria Hinojosa
  • Mishal Husain
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Chang-rae Lee
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Christopher Paolini
  • Sarah Pearse
  • Mary Roach
  • Marcus Samuelsson
  • Angie Thomas
  • Diane von Fürstenberg
  • Martha Wells
  • Isabel Wilkerson

(2) OR MAYBE OLLY WON’T BE THE DOCTOR. Olly Alexander’s manager dismissed rumors that her client is replacing Jodie Whittaker in a pun-filled Instagram reports Digital Spy. “It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander responds to Doctor Who rumours”.

Tabloid reports claimed over the weekend that the Years & Years singer was taking over the role of the iconic Time Lord, following previous speculation that Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker will be leaving at the end of the next series.

However, it seems like Olly won’t be travelling in the TARDIS anytime soon….

(3) FANS SAY YES, CRITICS SAY NO. Yahoo! has a roundup of the responses to The Tomorrow War: “Chris Pratt’s ‘The Tomorrow War’ Panned as ‘Garbage Pizza’ and ‘Starship Troopers for Dummies’ by Critics”.

… Chris Pratt’s latest ode to his inner “action star,” Amazon Prime’s “The Tomorrow War,” is fighting its own battle with critics, who decry it as everything from “the garbage pizza of science-fiction films” to a “mediocre straight white savior fantasy in which the protagonist is…f—ing stupid.”

“The Tomorrow War” made its debut on Amazon Prime on Friday and is currently sitting at a lukewarm 53% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with the audience review topping off at a more positive 80%. The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz calls it “Starship Troopers for dummies,” adding, “If I had a time machine, I’d punt myself to the past just before ‘The Tomorrow War’ went into production, and save everyone the trouble,” while Brian Lowry of CNN admits the picture has a “certain appeal,” “but strands its star in a pretty uninspired time and place.”…

(4) THE VIRAL CURTAIN. Darius Hupov is the coordinator of the first Eastern European SciFi Anthology. The Viral Curtain is the 2021 edition, and has short stories from 11 countries. All the details about the anthology, including the short stories and authors, are at the Eastern European SFF Anthology project website.

The anthology premiered in June at the  Refesticon Fantasy Festival in Bijelo Pojle, Montenegro. And this month it will also be present at the Eurocon in Fiugi (in printed format) and (so they hope) at the Worldcon (in ebook format).

Here are the countries, authors, and stories represented in the anthology.

Here are Cristian Vicol, cover designer, Darius Hupov, anthology coordinator, Adrian Chifu, graphic designer for the image on the cover, in Union Square, Timisoara, Romania).

(5) THE TEN PERCENTERS. “Why do writers need agents? To keep track of the rejections” author Chris Paling tells The Guardian.

That 10% fee buys a novelist like me more than the chance of a big book deal – from a hand with the DIY to a shoulder to cry on after yet another knockback…

…A few weeks after the sudden death of my agent, Deborah Rogers, in 2014 the colleague deputed to take me on phoned. “I’ve found something in Deborah’s desk.”

“Yes?”

“A letter from you. To you.”

“Ah.”

“It looks like she’d read it. Remember it?”

Of course I remembered it. Frustrated after months of trying to get a response to a novel, I had written a letter to myself, enclosed a self-addressed envelope, and asked her to tick the appropriate response: “Novel read”, “novel needs work”, “novel submitted”, “novel sold for a: £1,000, b: £10,000, c: £100,000”. Petty-minded and, given her support and encouragement over the years, unforgivable. But, being Deborah, she took it well….

(6) YOUTH WILL BE SERVED. The Hollywood Reporter revisits Logan’s Run with Michael York, the actor who played the title character, book co-author William Nolan, and others in “Run, Runner! ‘Logan’s Run’ Star Michael York Shares New Tales on Film’s 45th Anniversary”.

… The then 33-year-old Englishman was cast to play Logan 5 (Yes, he loves the age irony) whose job as a member of the elite police unit called “Sandmen” is to track down and terminate “Runners,” aka those who try to avoid the ritualistic “Carrousel” where they will be euthanized to control the dome-encased population in the year 2274. Logan’s overindulged existence is divine — until through a series of events he is forced to become a Runner.

The Three Musketeers and Cabaret star initially had zero interest in the enormous sci-fi project, recalling that he was in Los Angeles at the time, starring in the play Ring Around the Moon at the Ahmanson Theatre. One day, a script arrived with Anderson attached to direct: Logan’s Run. York assures he had wanted to work with the director again after their collaboration on Conduct Unbecoming (1975). But after one look, York felt he was wrong for the film and was prepared to pass. 

“I was so stupid,” York says, with laughter. “But, fortunately, there was a younger actor in the company who had been delegated to drive me from Beverly Hills to the Ahmanson, and we became friends. He asked if he could read the script and I said, ‘of course.’ The next morning, he turned up — actually wagging a finger at me — and said ‘You’ve got to do this! You don’t understand. It’s pressing all my buttons!’ So I owe that actor a good deal. I went to MGM and suddenly, I was doing it.” 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 4, 1996 — Twenty five years ago in the United Kingdom on this day, Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid seventy five percent rating. It was up for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 but that went instead to Babylon 5  for the “Severed Dreams” episode. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 4, 1883 — Rube Goldberg. Not genre, but certainly genre adjacent as I could argue that MacGyver is direct descendent of him. Born Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, he was a sculptor, author, cartoonist, engineer, and inventor who’s certainly best known for his very popular cartoons showing overly complex machines doing simple tasks in terribly convoluted manners hence the phrase “Rube Goldberg machines.” The X-Files episode titled “The Goldberg Variation” involved an apartment rigged as a Goldberg machine. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1901 — Guy Endore. American novelist and screenwriter whose 1933 The Werewolf of Paris novel holds the same position in werewolf literature as does Dracula does for vampire literature. It was filmed as The Curse of The Werewolf for which he wrote the screenplay. Stableford also praises his horror story, “The Day of the Dragon.” He worked on the screenplay for Mark of the Vampire starring Bella Lugosi. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1910 — Gloria Stuart. She was cast as Flora Cranley opposite Claude Rains in The Invisible Man in 1933, and 68 years later she played Madeline Fawkes in The Invisible Man series. She was in The Old Dark House as Margaret Waverton which is considered horror largely because Boris Karloff was in it. And she was in the time travelling The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 4, 1931 — Stephen Boyd. He only had one genre role that you will remember, that of Grant in Fantastic Voyage. (That’s assuming you’re not watching Raquel Welch.)  He’d later show up in Lady Dracula as Count Dracula. (Died 1977.)
  • Born July 4, 1949 — Peter Crowther, 72. He is the founder (with Simon Conway) of PS Publishing where he’s editor now. He edited a series of genre anthologies that DAW published. And he’s written a number of horror novels of which I’d say After Happily Ever and By Wizard Oak are good introductions to him. He’s also done a lot of short fiction but I see he’s really available in digital form for much of short fiction or novels at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born July 4, 1960 — Joyce Agu, 61. Background characters are fascinating. She played Ensign Gates on the Next Generation, a role she did for forty seven episodes! She later showed up as an Excelsior crew member in The Undiscovered Country thought it’s not certain it’s the same character. 
  • Born July 4, 1977 — David Petersen, 44. Writer and illustrator of the brilliant Mouse Guard series. If you haven’t read it, do so — it’s that good. It almost got developed as a film but got axed due to corporate politics. IDW published The Wind in The Willows with over sixty of his illustrations several years back. 
  • Born July 4, 1989 — Emily Coutts, 32. She plays the role of helmsman Keyla Detmer on Discovery. She’s also her mirror universe counterpart, who is the first officer of that universe’s Shenzhou. (I like the series and am definitely looking forward to it when it jump a thousand years into the future next season!) She was in one episode of the SF series Dark Matter and in Crimson Peak, a horror film but that’s it for genre appearances.

(9) VISIONS QUEST. “’Star Wars: Visions’ unveils special look at anime anthology”SYFY Wire has the breakdown.

…Coming to Disney+ this September, Star Wars: Visions is a anthology of anime shorts produced by some of the most preeminent animation studios in Japan like Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production IG…. 

(10) HE’S DEAD – ISN’T HE, JIM? The pandemic also complicated the business of freezing the brains of dead people who hope to be revived in the future: “The Cryonics Industry Would Like to Give You the Past Year, and Many More, Back” in the New York Times.

When an 87-year-old Californian man was wheeled into an operating room just outside Phoenix last year, the pandemic was at its height and medical protocols were being upended across the country.

A case like his would normally have required 14 or more bags of fluids to be pumped into him, but now that posed a problem.

Had he been infected with the coronavirus, tiny aerosol droplets could have escaped and infected staff, so the operating team had adopted new procedures that reduced the effectiveness of the treatment but used fewer liquids.

It was an elaborate workaround, especially considering the patient had been declared legally dead more than a day earlier.

He had arrived in the operating room of Alcor Life Extension Foundation — located in an industrial park near the airport in Scottsdale, Ariz. — packed in dry ice and ready to be “cryopreserved,” or stored at deep-freeze temperatures, in the hope that one day, perhaps decades or centuries from now, he could be brought back to life.

As it turns out, the pandemic that has affected billions of lives around the world has also had an impact on the nonliving.

From Moscow to Phoenix and from China to rural Australia, the major players in the business of preserving bodies at extremely low temperatures say the pandemic has brought new stresses to an industry that has long faced skepticism or outright hostility from medical and legal establishments that have dismissed it as quack science or fraud.

In some cases, Covid-19 precautions have limited the parts of the body that can be pumped full of protective chemicals to curb the damage caused by freezing.

Alcor, which has been in business since 1972, adopted new rules in its operating room last year that restricted the application of its medical-grade antifreeze solution to only the patient’s brain, leaving everything below the neck unprotected…

(11) LOTR TV PRODUCTION ISSUES. The New Zealand Herald reports “Stunt workers’ fury over Lord of the Rings injuries”.

At least three stunt workers on Amazon Studios’ $1 billion The Lord of the Rings television production being filmed in Auckland have been seriously injured — and one has resulted in a $500,000 payment.

Several sources on the set of the most expensive TV show ever produced say they don’t believe their concerns about safety standards are being treated seriously enough after at least two injuries requiring surgery were not proactively reported to WorkSafe.

The Weekend Herald has spoken to four workers who believe a senior stunt supervisor has created an uneasy environment which has contributed to an unsafe workplace.

However, Amazon Studios insists safety is a “top priority” and the company has fulfilled its responsibilities according to New Zealand’s workplace safety guidelines.

In March, world-class Kiwi stuntwoman Dayna Grant suffered a head injury on The Lord of the Rings set at West Auckland’s Kumeu Studios.

After undergoing scans Grant was diagnosed with an 8mm brain aneurysm and an upper spinal injury.

Grant’s head injury was not reported to WorkSafe NZ by Amazon because the company said it did not meet the threshold for reporting.

The Weekend Herald is also aware of two other stunt workers who have left the LOTR production after an injury on set, and a third who departed for mental health reasons.

WorkSafe also did not learn of a serious injury to Australian stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell in February last year until after it was reported by the Weekend Herald.

It is understood Amazon paid her about $500,000 after her injury. This payment was reportedly in part to help Cadwell get back home and settled in Australia and was not an admission of guilt by Amazon.

Amazon gave a blanket denial to The Wrap in “Amazon Says Allegations of ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series’ ‘Unsafe’ Stunt Conditions Are ‘Completely Inaccurate’” available at Yahoo! The piece, in addition, includes many details about the production of the new series.

…Amazon and production company GSR Productions’ safety protocols for “The Lord of the Rings” series include a safety team of 21 full-time and six-to-eight part-time crew members — made up of safety supervisors, medics, nurses and EMTs — to be on set, the insider tells TheWrap. Additionally, a paramedic team is brought in for activity that has a heightened level of risk, such as horse riding and fires.

Per the individual, “The Lord of the Rings” TV series produces job safety analysis reports for every location and each individual shoot day, and all activities with any higher perceived risk have additional risk analysis reports.

Any injury or suspected injury that occurs on set and is not able to be 100% diagnosed and treated on site is referred to the appropriate medical facility or transported by ambulance, the insider says. Standard operating procedure is that all head injuries, however minor, are transported to the appropriate medical facility.

Per the source, though only “notifiable” injuries are reported to WorkSafe, Amazon records all incidents and “near misses” and these reports are analyzed to look for patterns, repetition, or any similarities at all that may indicate systemic, environmental, equipment or personnel issues contributing to incidents/accidents.

“The Lord of the Rings” TV series’ safety department operates under a confidential and “no fault” system, where any crew, cast, or member of the public can report anything of concern, or any accident, knowing that their identity remains confidential to the safety department, if desired….

(12) PILGRIMAGE DELAYED. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown discusses the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, which left Britain on June 15 in an effort to be the first ship to cross the Atlantic without a crew but whose voyage ended after two days because of mechanical problems. “IBM’s AI robot ship encounters trouble retracing Mayflower’s historic voyage”. Registration required.

There’s also an open article at WANE: “AI-powered Mayflower, beset with glitch, returns to England”.

The Mayflower had a few false starts before its trailblazing sea voyage to America more than 400 years ago. Now, its artificial intelligence-powered namesake is having some glitches of its own.

A sleek robotic trimaran retracing the 1620 journey of the famous English vessel had to turn back Friday to fix a mechanical problem.

Nonprofit marine research organization ProMare, which worked with IBM to build the autonomous ship, said it made the decision to return to base “to investigate and fix a minor mechanical issue” but hopes to be back on the trans-Atlantic journey as soon as possible….

(13) RACING WITH THE MOON. If you’d like to hear somebody’s opinion of the best werewolf movies, YouTube’s Marvelous Videos says these are the 13 best of all time.

The true fans of horror movies will acknowledge that Werewolf movies got an undue criticism and have been looked down upon right from the start. There has been a far greater acceptance for the likes of Zombie-flicks or even Vampire movies. Even amongst filmmakers, there is a general tendency to avoid Werewolf movies as it involves a greater investment in special effects, costumes, and makeup. The overall idea of Werewolves, however, is intriguing and with the right story, these movies can strike gold. Despite being the ignored cousin amongst various horror film genres, there are some Werewolf movies that did make an impact with the audiences.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Weta Workshop Behind the scenes: Our artists at work on Thra” on YouTube.

Tea leaves tree bark, pillow stuffing, succulents… and the world of Thra. We recently showed off a Dark Crystal diorama built by our talented artists, but how exactly did they do it? Daniel Falconer, Chris Menges and Mark Dewes talk us through their process while building this stunning miniature set.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern with an assist from OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 6/18/21 Pixels, Who File Pixels, Are The Soylenty-Est Pixels In The Scroll

(1) KOONTZ UPDATE. “Putting the Heart in the Work: Close-up on Dean Koontz” at Publishers Weekly asks how he keeps growing as an author. I’m always a bit fascinated to compare his ultimate success with his beginnings as a testy newcomer who wrote locs to Science Fiction Review.  

Would you say that your writing style continues to evolve?

When I was young, I thought that after a few years, I would learn all the tricks of the trade, after which writing novels would be easy. Instead, it gets harder—and more exciting—because there are infinite approaches and techniques to explore. In the past, I’ve had some publishers express bafflement as to why I had to change direction. However, repetition of past work is not art; it’s imitation and not in the least satisfying. You have to do new things and risk failure. My experience is that readers expect that and will reward it.

There’s a certain comfort for readers in returning to a world they already know. Is it ever a struggle to maintain your own investment in a particular story or with particular characters?

I don’t think I could ever write as many words about any other character as I wrote about Odd Thomas. I loved him. I knew he was on a journey to absolute humility—which would really test my powers of imagination—and he won my heart with every page. Five novels was right for Jane Hawk, and two seasons for Nameless. Readers who want more of any one thing need to be won over by a new world and new characters that they like as well or better. Otherwise, both they and the author are standing still emotionally and intellectually.

(2) CALL FOR FANWRITING. For the next issue of The Drink Tank, Christopher J. Garcia, Alissa McKersie, and Chuck Serface want articles, artwork, and anything printable dedicated to Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  Chuck Serface says: “The novels, the PBS shows, the recent Netflix series — it’s all good.  Our due date is July 10, 2021, and we’ll have the issue out shortly thereafter.”  Send your offerings to Chuck at ceserface@gmail.com or to Christopher at johnnyeponymous@gmail.com.

(3) A PLEONASM OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Sam Woods gives us “James Joyce’s The Hobbit at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

There never was a Hobbit Hole quite like Bag End in all of Hobbiton a place that oftsaw the comings and goings of many of the Little Folk and Big Folk the bastards they are as time has onwardflown and kings and queens of the other lands of Middle Earth have died and been barrowburied since the dawn of Man upon these soils but even so there have been no bigger bastards to tromp up to Bilbo’s door (for I am the current resident of Bag End) than the Sackville Bagginses…

(4) BENEATH THE RISING TRILOGY. What is the Premee Mohamed calling the third book? The Edmonton Journal has the scoop: “Edmonton author announces final title of cosmic horror trilogy”.

Premee Mohamed didn’t intend to publish multiple books about the end of the world during a global pandemic — it just worked out that way.

Her debut novel, Beneath the Rising, has garnered major attention since its release in March of 2020. The book’s popularity led to a sequel, A Broken Darkness, released in March of this year, and The Void Ascendant, the trilogy’s final installment, was just announced for March 2022.

(5) UP THE MIGHTY AMAZON. The New York Times contends: “Buyers of Amazon Devices Are Guinea Pigs. That’s a Problem.”

…Many have learned a hard lesson about what it means to be an Amazon customer. Even when you’re paying lots of money, you are a guinea pig at the whims of a company endlessly striving to innovate. At any moment, the company could surprise you with an unwelcome change to an Amazon product you own or decide to kill it altogether.

Last week, many people who own Amazon devices were automatically enrolled in Sidewalk, a new internet-sharing program that drew intense scrutiny. Basically, the program lets owners of newer Amazon products share their internet connections with others nearby. If a neighbor’s Ring camera has a spotty internet connection and yours has a strong one, you can share your bandwidth with your neighbor.

That all sounds nice if everything works as expected, but security experts have raised concerns that device makers could have inappropriate access to people’s data. They advised that people opt out of the program to avoid becoming part of Amazon’s experiment because there are still many unknowns….

(6) JAWS JAZZ. Sarah Gailey is joined by Christine Sandquist and Martin Cahill to play with a writing prompt: “Building Beyond: Space Mouth-ain”:

NASA has discovered a massive open mouth floating just beyond the edge of our solar system. It’s just a mouth. And it’s open.

(7) GRADUATION DAY. A big day for Galactic Journey’s Marcus family:

Lorelei Marcus is graduating today. As school Valedictorian. And with department math honors.

I know, I know. “Of course she is.” But actually, we couldn’t be prouder of her super hard work that has made her accomplishment a seeming inevitability. Her perseverance, her willingness to help others, her dealing with disabilities that make computer-use difficult to impossible, have all just been stellar.

The other piece of news regards Journey Press, the publishing house the Marcus Family and Co. run. Yes, we managed to make it through 2020. In fact, we kind of flourished. In March 2020, we were in about 200 stores. Now we’re in 600 — in five countries and every state of the Union.

Lorelei Marcus displaying the wares from Journey Press.

(7A) KEEPING PACE. There will be “Hollywood Walk of Fame stars for Carrie Fisher, Michael B. Jordan, Jason Momoa” reports SYFY Wire.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a tourist hotspot in Los Angeles — a stretch of sidewalk that passes other iconic L.A. locations like the Chinese Theater, the El Capitan, Pantages, and a Toyota dealership.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce decides who among the many applicants receive a star each year, and for 2022, there’s an impressive roster of genre actors who made the cut. The most notable star, however, goes to Carrie Fisher….

Fisher won’t be the only Star Wars actor getting a spot on the sidewalk next year. The Mandalorian’s Ming-Na Wen will also get a star, along with young Obi-wan himself, Ewan McGregor.

Other extended universes also got some love. MCU veterans Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok) and Salma Hayek (Eternals) will also be honored, while the DCEU will be represented by Jason MomoaWatchmen’s Regina King and Jean Smart will also get their own stars, as well as Willem Dafoe (aka the Green Goblin from the 2002 Tobey Maguire Spider-Man film).

Continuing on the comic book front, two other notables receiving stars are The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus and Greg Berlanti, creator of The CW’s Arrowverse.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 18, 1983 — Thirty-eight years ago today, Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, paving the way for sixty-four other female astronauts to do the same. While in orbit, Dr. Ride launched two commercial satellites, directed the use of robotic technology, and served as her ship’s mission specialist; as of 2022, she will be one of the few women featured on US coinage.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 18, 1917 — Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles of which one, playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur, I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen. The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated The Hobbit. Of course, his major non-genre role was Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel.
  • Born June 18, 1931 — Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies  through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 18, 1942 — Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as KippleParsection and Psi-Phi. In university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish  autobiography is  How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Mike has much to say about him here. (Died 2013.)
  • Born June 18, 1943 — Paul McCartney, 78. I could include him for the Magical Mystery Tour which might be genre. He actually has a cameo in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales as a character named Uncle Jack in a cell playing poker singing “Maggie May”. A shortened version of the song is on the Let It Be album. 
  • Born June 18, 1947 — Linda Thorson, 74. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performance was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode. 
  • Born June 18, 1949 — Chris Van Allsburg, 72. For some twenty years now until the Pandemic came upon us, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate for the children. It always sold out for the entire month they ran it. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. (I’ve never seen the film.) He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin and I highly recommended it. 
  • Born June 18, 1958 — Jody Lee, 63. Illustrator with a long career in genre work. Her first cover art was Jo Clayton’s Changer’s Moon for DAW Books in 1985. Her latest is Passages: All-New Tales of Valdemar, a Mercedes Lackey anthology, that came last year on DAW Books which seems to be her primary client. Her rather excellent website is here.
  • Born June 18, 1960 — Barbara Broccoli, 61. Daughter of the late James Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. She has producer or director credit on at least fourteen Bond films which or may not be genre depending on how you view each one of them. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. She produced the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang production staged in NYC at the Hilton Theater sixteen years ago. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THE RISING TIDE OF PIXAR. “Luca: Living La Dolce Vita” – a review at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy.

Luca doesn’t look or sound like any film Pixar has made before. It has a charm all its own and captures our imagination from the moment it begins. It’s the living definition of an immersive experience (pun intended). Who else would dare ask us to care about strange-looking sea monsters, and then repeatedly surprise us while spinning its coming-of-age tale?

The story begins underwater, where we meet an adolescent boy named Luca and his family. These fish have no idea that people regard them as sea monsters. Curiosity impels Luca to disobey his protective parents and see what life is like above the surface of the ocean. Director Enrico Casarosa and his team draw us into their lively story as Luca ventures onto dry land, where he is magically transformed into a human being…

(12) PRECEDENT. SYFY Wire traces film fan history — “’Superman II: The Donner Cut’ was the OG Snyder Cut”.

While the Snyder Cut had to wait four years to finally be realized, it took 25 years for Superman II: The Donner Cut to get the same treatment. In doing so, the Donner Cut was arguably the “OG” Snyder Cut; a trial run that — for better or worse — set a precedent for fan-led campaigns that set the stage of an (at best) aggressive breed of fandom to help Snyder’s take on Superman and the rest of the Justice League defy the Anti-Life equation that is Development Hell. In honor of Superman II’s 40th anniversary this week, here’s a look at how that film’s troubled production and pop-culture legacy paved the way for another Man of Steel to find a second chance. 

(13) BUILDING TRUST. “Sciencing Out: What it Means to Make Information Tangible” from NOVA.

In the second episode of Sciencing Out, host Reyhaneh Maktoufi introduces us to 18th century Englishwoman Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and modern-day wildlife conservationist Paula Kahumbu. By dedicating time to build public trust, both Montagu and Kahumbu made major positive changes in their communities.

In 1716, when smallpox was still ravaging the world, Montagu moved to Constantinople, where she noticed that smallpox was less widespread than in England. She discovered that Constantinoplans held “smallpox parties” where, in a process called “inoculation,” a person would place a dried smallpox scab from a patient with a mild case into the open wound of a healthy person. Montagu grew to trust the process enough that she had her own child inoculated.

Montagu returned to England and tried to advocate for inoculation, but struggled to gain trust. So she went to her friend Caroline, the Princess of Wales, and implored her to inoculate her own child against smallpox and inform the public of the result. Caroline agreed. Seeing royalty successfully inoculate their children against smallpox helped build the public’s trust in the practice, ultimately resulting in significantly fewer disease-related mortalities and setting the stage for modern-day vaccination….

(14) IN THE ‘BAG. “Horror Comedy Short Snore: Puppets, Gore, Mayhem”Gizmodo says this short video delivers a lot.

…Snore introduces us to a businesswoman named Karen who’s fallen on hard times—currently, she’s got nothing left except a stack of schemes for her comeback, and her personal assistant/sorta-boyfriend Callum. Together, they check into a fleabag motel for the night while she plots her next move, but there’s something already in their room that causes quite a ruckus….

The YouTube blurb says it all comes down to this question:

Who will survive and, most importantly, what will be left of Callum’s designer manbag?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video from AT&T Corporate Television from 1979 shows the exciting future where everyone can have an electronic Yellow Pages in their home that gives access to business listings AND Dr. Joyce Brothers!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chuck Serface, Olav Rokne, Lise Andreasen, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/21 Buy Me Some Pixels And Shadowjack, I Don’t Care If I Never Loop Back

(1) BLACK PANTHER. Today marks the end of an era for one of Marvel’s most acclaimed series: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther. View never-before-seen artwork from Coates’ final issue and revisit some of the best moments of this iconic run in the all-new Black Panther #25 trailer.

Alongside artists Daniel Acuña and Brian Stelfreeze, the National Book Award winner and New York Times Best-selling author closes out his game-changing run with a special giant-sized finale issue. Since taking over the title in 2016, Coates has transformed the Black Panther mythos. Now five years later, he departs, leaving the world of Wakanda and the Marvel Universe as a whole forever changed and laying the groundwork for the next bold era of one of Marvel’s most celebrated heroes.

(2) BOSEMAN REMEMBERED. “Howard University names fine arts college after Chadwick Boseman” – the Washington Post has the story.

Howard University is renaming its College of Fine Arts after one of its most acclaimed alums: actor Chadwick Boseman.

On Wednesday, Howard renamed its performing and visual arts school after the “Black Panther” star, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in last year’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Boseman, who graduated from Howard in 2000 with a bachelor of arts degree in directing, died in August at the age of 43 from colon cancer.The renaming unites Howard and Walt Disney Co.’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, who will spearhead fundraising for an endowment named after Boseman, as well as help raise money for the construction of a state-of-the-art building on the campus. The new building will house the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, its TV station, WHUT, and its radio station, WHUR 96.3 FM.

(3) SFF FROM AFRICAN WRITERS. Omenana Issue 17 is out, the latest issue of a tri-monthly magazine that publishes speculative fiction by writers from across Africa and the African Diaspora. The magazine is credted by Mazi Nwonwu, Co-founder/Managing Editor; Chinelo Onwualu, Co-founder; Iquo DianaAbasi, Contributing Editor; and Godson ChukwuEmeka Okeiyi, Graphic Designer.

Omenana is the Igbo word for divinity – it also loosely translates as “culture” – and embodies our attempt to recover our wildest stories. We are looking for well-written speculative fiction that bridges the gap between past, present and future through imagination and shakes us out of the corner we have pushed ourselves into.

(4) TORCON 2021. Tor.com is running another virtual convention in June. The full schedule is at the link: “Stay Home. Geek Out. Again. Announcing the TorCon 2021 Schedule of Events”.

We’re thrilled to share that TorCon is back! Taking place from June 10 through June 13, 2021, TorCon is a virtual convention that was launched in 2020 with a simple goal: to bring the entertainment and excitement of live book conventions into the virtual space. From Thursday, June 10 through Sunday, June 13, Tor Books, Forge Books, Tordotcom Publishing, Tor Teen, and Nightfire are presenting ten panels featuring more than 30 of your favorite authors, in conversation with each other—and with you!

Join authors, including James Rollins, Charlie Jane Anders, Joe Pera, Catriona Ward, Gillian Flynn, TJ Klune, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Nghi Vo, and many others for four days of pure geekery, exclusive reveals, content drops, giveaways, and more…all from the comfort of your own home!

(5) REPRESENTING MEDIA TIE-IN AUTHORS. Here is Max Alan Collins’ history of how the organization began: “A Blast from the Past – the Origins of the IAMTW – International Association of Media Tie-In Writers”.

I got involved with tie-in writing when, as the then-scripter of the Dick Tracy comic strip, I was enlisted to write the novel of the Warren Beatty film. That was, happily, a successful book that led to my writing novels for In the Line of Fire, Air Force One, Saving Private Ryan, and many others, including Maverick, that favorite of my childhood. Eventually I wrote TV tie-ins as well, in particular CSI and its spin-offs. Finally I got the opportunity to work with the Mickey Spillane estate to write Mike Hammer novels – a dream job, since Spillane had been my favorite writer growing up and Hammer my favorite character.

The founding of the IAMTW came out of a series of panels about tie-ins at San Diego Comic Con. Lee Goldberg, a rare example of a TV writer/producer who also wrote tie-in novels, was an especially knowledgeable and entertaining participant on those panels. He and I shared a frustration that the best work in the tie-in field was ignored by the various writing organizations that gave awards in assorted genres, including mystery, horror, and science-fiction.

Individually, we began poking around, talking to our peers, wondering if maybe an organization for media tie-in writers wouldn’t be a way to give annual awards and to grow this disparate group of creative folk into a community. I don’t remember whether Lee called me or I called Lee, but we decided to combine our efforts. What came out of that was the International Association of Media and Tie-in Writers and our annual Scribe Awards, as well as the Faust, our Life Achievement Award.

(6) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL OUTLAW.

(7) HOW MANY HAVE YOU READ? AbeBooks has come up with their own list of “100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime”, and some genre books are on it. I’ve read 29. (My midlife decision to read Moby Dick is constantly rewarded by raising my score on these things.)

We’ve seen these lists before – from Amazon to the Telegraph to Time Magazine and beyond. Plenty of folks have lists of the 100 best books of all time, the 100 books you should read, and on. And beautifully, despite overlap, they are all different. The glorious subjectivity of art means that no two of these lists should ever be exactly alike. So this is ours, our special snowflake of a list, born out of our passion for books. We kept it to fiction this time. Some of the expected classics are there, alongside some more contemporary fare. There is some science fiction, some YA, and above all else, some unforgettable stories.

Do any of the included titles shock you? Are you outraged by any omissions? Let us know what makes the cut for your top 100 novels.

(8) JMS’ B5 EPISODE COMMENTARY NOW ON YOUTUBE. For nearly a year J. Michael Straczynski has been providing his Patreon supporters full-length on-camera Babylon 5 commentaries. He’s now going to make some of them available to the public. Up first: “The Parliament of Dreams.” For this to work, you need to get access to a recording of the episode. Like JMS says —

For those who would like to sync up with the commentary on this video (since full-length TV episodes are not allowed here), fire up the episode and be ready to hit Play at the appropriate (or inappropriate) moment.

(9) CARLE OBIT. Eric Carle, who illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote, died May 23 reports NPR: “Eric Carle, Creator Of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ Dies At 91”.

…Carle headed straight back to the U.S. after graduating from art school at age 23 and was immediately hired by The New York Times. He fell in love with the impressionists (“color, color, color!”), served in the U.S. military during the Korean War, and, upon his return, moved into advertising.

Perhaps that career helped him prepare for using the simple, resonant language of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For the book’s 50th anniversary in 2019, professor Michelle H. Martin told NPR that The Very Hungry Caterpillar‘s writing helps little kids grasp concepts such as numbers and the days of the week. (“On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry. On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry.”)

Martin, the Beverly Cleary Endowed Professor for Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington, told NPR the book builds literacy by gently guiding toddlers toward unfamiliar words. For example, when Saturday comes around and the hungry caterpillar binges on “one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon,” words such as salami and Swiss cheese might be new to 3-year-olds already familiar with ice cream and lollipops….

Jane Yolen mourned his death in a public Facebook post:

…I am devastated. One of my oldest friends in the business. Our whole family loved him. HE and Bobbie lived for years about twenty five minutes from our house, and then in Northampton for some time before moving down South.

He was funny, dear, a favorite “uncle” to my kids.And his museum is twenty minutes from my house. I have been sobbing since I heard about two hours ago from a notice sent out by the family….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 26, 1995 — On this day in 1995, Johnny Mnemonic premiered. Based on the William Gibson short story of the same name, it was directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. It starred Keanu Reeves, Takeshi Kitan,  Henry Rollins, Ice-T, Dina Meyer and Dolph Lundgren. Despite the story itself being well received and even being nominated for a Nebula Award, the response among critics to the film was overwhelmingly negative. It currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. It is available to watch here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 — Robert Chambers. His most remembered work was The King in Yellow short stories. Though he would turn away from these supernatural tellings, Lovecraft’s included some of them in his Supernatural Horror in Literature critical study. Critics thought his work wasn’t as great as could have been. That said, Stross, Wagner, Carter and even Blish are said to have been influenced by him. (Died 1933.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1903 — Harry Steeger. He  co-founded Popular Publications in 1930, one of the major publishers of pulp magazines, with former classmate Harold S. Goldsmith. They published The Spider which he created, and with Horror Stories and Terror Tales, he started the “Shudder Pulp” genre. So lacking in taste were these pulps that even a jaded public eventually rejected them. (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1913 — Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. A CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin was used for his likeness in Rogue One. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 – Joan Jefferson Farjeon.  Scenic designer, illustrated published versions of plays she’d done, also fairy tales.  See here (a frog footman), here (a tiger lily), here.  From a 1951 stage production, here is a moment in Beauty and the Beast.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1923 — James Arness. He appeared in three Fifties SF films, Two Lost WorldsThem! and The Thing from Another World. The latter is based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell (writing under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart). The novella would be the basis of John Carpenter’s The Thing thirty years later. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1923 — Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing “Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer” in  “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the GoT audiobooks. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 26, 1925 – Howard DeVore.  Began collecting, 1936.  Michigan Science Fantasy Society, 1948 (Hal Shapiro said it was the Michigan Instigators of Science Fantasy for Intellectual Thinkers Society, i.e. MISFITS).  Leading dealer in SF books, paraphernalia; known as Big-Hearted Howard, a compliment-complaint-compliment; called himself “a huckster, 1st class”.  Active in N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n); Neffy Award.  Also FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n), SAPS (Spectator Am. Pr. Society).  Said a Worldcon would be in Detroit over his dead body; was dragged across the stage; became Publicity head for Detention the 17th Worldcon.  With Donald Franson The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (through 3rd ed’n 1998).  Named Fan Guest of Honor for 64th Worldcon, but died before the con.  His beanie had a full-size airplane propeller.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1933 – Yôji Kondô, Ph.D.  Black belt in Aikido (7th degree) and judo (6th degree).  Senior positions at NASA, Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement; two hundred scientific papers, see here.  SF as Eric Kotani; six novels, most with J.M. Roberts; two shorter stories; edited Requiem tribute to Heinlein; non-fiction Interstellar Travel & Multi-Generation Space Ships with F. Bruhweiler, J. Moore, C. Sheffield; essays, mostly co-authored, in SF Age and Analog.  Heinlein Award.  Writers of the Future judge.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1938 – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, age 83.  Author (including plays and screenwriting), singer, painter, animator.  Russian Booker Prize, Pushkin Prize, World Fantasy Award.  Twenty short stories for us.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1954 – Lisbeth Zwerger, age 67.  Children’s-book illustrator.  Hans Christian Andersen and Silver Brush awards; Grand Prize from German Academy for Children’s & Youth Literature.  Thirty books, most of them fantasy; see here (Swan Lake), here (the Mad Tea Party), here.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1964 — Caitlín R. Kiernan, 57. She’s an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards. As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir as being particularly worth reading. She also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Neil Gaiman’s character, Delirium. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ZOOMING WITH THE TRIMBLES. Fanac.org has posted a videos of “Bjo and John Trimble – A Fan History Zoom Session with Joe Siclari (Parts 1 and 2)”.

Bjo and John Trimble sit with Joe Siclari (May 2021) to tell us about their fannish histories. In part 1 of this interview, they talk about how they each found fandom, their ultimate meet-cute under Forry Ackerman’s grand piano, Burbee’s “Golden Treachery” and more serious topics. The Trimbles changed their part of fandom. Bjo talks about how she revitalized LASFS in the 1950s, and about the beginnings of the convention art show as we know it today (and Seth Johnson’s surprising part in that). Fandom is not without its controversies, and the Trimbles also speak about the Breendoggle and Coventry. Part 1 finishes up with anecdotes about Tony Boucher’s poker games. In Part 2, the interview will continue with the Trimbles’ roles in the Save Star Trek campaign. For more fan history, go to <FANAC.org> and <Fancyclopedia.org>. If you enjoyed this video, please subscribe to our channel.

In part 2 of Bjo and John Trimble’s interview with Joe Siclari (May 2021), they tell the remarkable story of how they met Gene Roddenberry and became involved in Star Trek. Learn the story of how they started, orchestrated and managed the “Save Star Trek” campaign which resulted in the third year of Star Trek, the original series. Hint: it all started in Clelveland. There’s much more in this interview. There are stories of the early days of the SCA, including how it got the name “Society for Creative Anachronism”, the day that a Knight of St. Fantony appeared at an SCA event, and the unlikely story of the first coronation of an SCA king. Additionally, you’ll hear about costuming, Takumi Shibano and how Gene Roddenberry helped get him to Worldcon (and how Bjo helped Shibano-san learn that his wife spoke English), and Q&A from the attendees.

(14) HERE KITTY. The lion is moving. “James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM” – the New York Times is there when they’re introduced.

In the ultimate symbol of one Hollywood era ending and another beginning, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home to James Bond and Rocky, finally found a buyer willing to pay retail: Amazon.

The e-commerce giant said on Wednesday that it would acquire the 97-year-old film and television studio for $8.45 billion — or about 40 percent more than other prospective buyers, including Apple and Comcast, thought MGM was worth….

So why did Amazon pay such a startling premium?

For starters, it can. The company has $71 billion in cash and a market capitalization of $1.64 trillion….

 Amazon most likely paid more than others thought MGM was worth because of its all-important Prime membership program.

In addition to paying Amazon $119 a year or $13 a month for free shipping and other perks — notably access to the Prime Video streaming service — households with Prime memberships typically spend $3,000 a year on Amazon. That is more than twice what households without the membership spend, according to Morgan Stanley. About 200 million people pay for Prime memberships.

“More and more Prime members are using video more often, spending more hours on there, so I think this is a way to add more content and more talent around movies,” said Brian Yarbrough, a senior analyst at Edward Jones.

“This isn’t one studio buying another,” he added. “If you’re Amazon, the perspective is what’s the potential for Prime membership, what is the potential for advertising.”…

(15) SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-CHANNEL. Galactic Journey’s Erica Frank is tuning in to 1966 where Adam West’s Batman on the air: “[May 26, 1966] Batman: So Bad It’s Good?”.

I have been greatly enjoying the new Batman tv series. Campy costumes, over-the-top acting, wacky super-science gizmos, silly plots, the chance to see several of my favorite comic book characters on a screen; it’s all good fun….

The Batman Drinking Game

The best way to watch this show: Before it starts, get yourself a beer, glass of wine, or couple of shots of something harder. Every time you see a gizmo that can’t actually work as shown, take a sip. Every time Robin says, “Holy [something]!,” take a sip. When either of the Dynamic Duo is trapped, take a sip; if they’re both trapped, take two. Every time a supposedly valuable item, like a museum statue, is destroyed during the obligatory heroes-vs-thugs slugfest, take another sip. By the time the show is over, you’ll be pleasantly relaxed—unless you actually know much about science and technology, in which case, you’ll have left “relaxed” in the dust and be on your way to “blitzed.”…

(16) HUGO READING. Camestros Felapton reviews a finalist: “Hugo 2021: Black Sun (Between Earth & Sky 1) by Rebecca Roanhorse”.

…I thoroughly enjoyed this and despite the scale of the world-building, I found myself immersed into the setting very quickly. It is a book with a sense of bigness to it with quite different magical elements to it distinct to the individual characters. The growing tension as chapter by chapter we get closer to what will clearly be a very bad day for all concerned, is well executed and if I hadn’t been using the audiobook version I would probably have rushed through the final chapters.

I’ve enjoyed other works by Roanhorse but this is definitely a more skilful and mature work from a writer who started with a lot of promise. It sits in that sweet spot of delivering the vibe of the big magical saga but with enough innovation in setting and magic to feel fresh and original….

(17) AROUND THE BIG TOP. The latest sf review column in the Washington Post by Lavie Tidhar and Silvia Moreno-Garcia includes praise for Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Illustrated Man. “Clowns are creepy. Let’s talk about horror, science-fiction and fantasy books that make the most of circus settings.”

The circus, with its built-in otherworldliness, is an ideal setting for fantasy, horror and science-fiction novels. Authors have been capitalizing on it for years. Stephen King terrified a whole generation with Pennywise the clown in 1986’s “It,” then tackled a carnival setting 27 years later in “Joyland.” In 2011, Erin Morgenstern charmed readers and scored a big hit with “The Night Circus.” So what other great fiction hides under the big top?…

(18) INVISIBLE INKED. “Inquisitor 1699 An Alternative Guide to Wonderland by Phi” at Fifteensquared analyzes all the answers to a fantasy-themed crossword, with the added bonus of a David Langford comment.

…By now, I was starting to see that the shaded letters would be forming some sort of figure, a pooka indeed and it seemed to be symmetrical. Also, I had enough of the early across answers to start to see the quotation forming. With “Years ago my mother say this world”. An internet search revealed, “Years ago my mother [used to say to me,] she’d say, [“In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood] – “In this world, Elwood, you must be [oh so] smart or [oh so] pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me. ”…

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: The DCEU (400th episode), the Screen Junkies, for their 400th episode, portray the entire DC Extended Universe, a world where “Superman doesn’t want to save people, Batman’s a murderer, Wonder Woman’s an incel, and Harley Quinn takes three movies to break up with Joker, who looks like my coke dealer.”  And given a choice between all the quips in Marvel movies, and DC films where “everyone talks like a 14-year-old boy trying to sound badass while they’re reading a Wiki page,” wouldn’t you rather see an Air Bud movie?”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, David Langford, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/21 Manic Pixel Dreamsnake And The Scrollers Of Doom

(1) RIDLEY TO WRITE NEXT BLACK PANTHER SERIES. The New York Times announced today in an exclusive interview that Academy Award-winning writer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) will helm Marvel’s next Black Panther comic book series alongside Marvel’s Stormbreaker artist Juann Cabal (Guardians of the Galaxy). Their series will begin this August.

Building from the epic last chapter of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ groundbreaking multi-year Black Panther run in BLACK PANTHER #25 next week, Ridley will kick off an action-packed espionage story that will impact everything in T’Challa’s life and have ramifications for the entire Marvel Universe!

In this new ongoing series, secrets from T’Challa’s past have come back to haunt him. Fresh from returning from his adventures in space, Black Panther receives an unexpected and urgent message from a Wakandan secret agent. T’Challa must race the clock not only to save his agent, but also to keep his true agenda under wraps. Because if the truth comes out, it could cost T’Challa everything…

“It’s a hybrid espionage-superhero thriller, but at its core, it’s a love story,” Ridley told The New York Times. “And I don’t mean just romantic love, although there’s some of that as well. It’s love between friends.

“We’re coming out of a summer where we saw Black people fighting for our rights, standing up, fighting in ways that we haven’t had to do in years,” Ridley added. “And it was really important to me after the year we had where we can have these conversations with Black people and we can use words like love and caring and hope and regret and all these really fundamental emotions that everybody has.”

(2) AMAZON PUBLISHING’S LIBRARY AGREEMENT. The Digital Public Library of America has signed an agreement with Amazon Publishing to make their ebooks available to U.S. libraries:

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is pleased to announce that we have signed an agreement with Amazon Publishing to make all of the approximately 10,000 Amazon Publishing ebooks and audiobooks available to libraries and their patrons through the DPLA Exchange, the only not-for-profit, library-centered content marketplace. This marks the first time that ebooks from Amazon Publishing have been made available to libraries. Like our previous publisher arrangements, this agreement furthers our mission to expand equitable access to ebooks and audiobooks while protecting library patron privacy.

Amazon Publishing titles will begin to be available in the DPLA Exchange via four licensing models this summer; we expect that libraries will be able to access all of the Amazon Publishing titles by the end of the year:

  • Unlimited, one user at a time access, two-year license
  • Bundles of 40 lends, available with a maximum of 10 simultaneously, with no time limit to use the lends
  • Bundles of five lends, available simultaneously, with no time limit to use the lends
  • 26 lends, one user at a time access, the lesser of two years or 26 lends license

Library patrons will be able to access Amazon Publishing titles through SimplyE, the library-developed and managed e-reader app founded by New York Public Library. 

Publishers Weekly’s analysis says the deal will reduce pressure for a legislative solution:

…The deal will also serve to blunt a major criticism of Amazon, which until now had not made its digital content available to libraries under any terms—an exclusion that librarians have loudly criticized for years, and which was brought to the attention of lawmakers in an ALA report last year. In fact, an Amazon spokesperson revealed news of the potential deal with DPLA last year after reporters from The Hill contacted the company regarding a petition urging Congress to pursue “an antitrust investigation and legislative action to preserve and expand library services.”

(3) LIVING INSIDE THE STORY. F&SF invites readers to find out just how far Eugen Bacon, author of “When the Water Stops” in F&SF’s May/June issue, will go to research a new work in this author interview.

SRT: What literary (or other art/history) pilgrimages have you gone on?

EB: Bendigo is a mining town in Australia. I took a tour to the Central Debora Gold Mine for what they called Nine Levels of Darkness (228 metres) in a miner’s cage to research a portion of my novel Mage of Fools by Meerkat Press in March 2022. One scene happens in a mine and I needed to experience it to write it. Imagine what would happen if I were researching a cannibalistic serial killer.

(4) CHILL OUT. James Davis Nicoll is all in favor of science fiction where the heroes get a nice nap before the action starts: “Space Hibernation: Five Stories Featuring Sleeper Ships” at Tor.com.

The Winds of Gath by E. C. Tubb (1967)

Determined to find his lost home world, Dumarest of Earth travels from world to world. Itinerate labourers like Dumarest must travel by the cheapest method available: cold sleep, AKA “Low Passage.” True, the odds of waking from Low Passage are only five in six, assuming the traveller is well-fed and healthy, but it is a risk Dumarest and his companions accept.

Surviving yet another gamble with Low, Dumarest is confronted by yet another Low reality: there is no protection or warning for the traveller should the starship captain alter destination in flight. Rather than waking on prosperous Broome, Dumarest is stuck on tide-locked Gath. Gath is not prosperous and escape may prove quite difficult. If escape is possible at all.

(5) THE BEST OF CORA BUHLERT 2021. Cora Buhlert is making her 2021 Hugo Voter Packet submission available to everyone – and it’s up now.

(6) PILING UP THOSE CANS OF FILM. “Amazon in talks to buy ‘James Bond’ movie studio MGM” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Amazon is looking to bulk up its film and TV operations with MGM’s deep film library and substantial television production work as it looks to keep Prime Video competitive with Netflix and Disney+, which are spending billions to dominate the streaming wars, the sources said.

The Seattle company had long been thought to be a potential acquirer largely because of the appeal of the MGM film and TV library, which includes 4,000 movies such as “Robocop” “The Pink Panther” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” MGM’s scripted TV division is responsible for “Fargo,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Vikings.”

The Information first reported the talks, which escalated recently and are said to be in the advanced stages. Sources said the purchase price being discussed is within a range of $7 billion to $9 billion….

(7) ELECTION INTERFERENCE. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will continue its discussion of threats to last year’s US elections in “US Election Interference in 2020 and Beyond Part II – Domestic Interference”. Register at the link. Joining the team for this program will be Bryson Bort (founder of Scythe), Matt Masterson (Former Election Security Lead for CISA), Harri Hursti (Nordic Innovation Labs), and SJ Terp (Strategist, ThreeT Consulting).

(8) LIVING IN SPACE. Jeff Foust reviews two books about the science of settling on Mars and the Moon for The Space Review: “Developing Space and Settling Space”.

Developing Space by John Strickland with Sam Spencer and Anna Nesterova
Settling Space by John Strickland with Sam Spencer and Anna Nesterova

For all his talk about wanting to make humanity multiplanetary, Elon Musk hasn’t said much about how he would ensure people would stay alive on another world. Musk is happy to talk about how Starship can make it possible for people to go to the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere in large numbers, including that vision of a million people living on Mars. But exactly what people would do once on Mars, and how they would survive the extreme environment there, is an exercise left for the reader.

That reader—or maybe Musk himself—could turn to the two volumes recently published by John Strickland, called Developing Space and Settling Space. Strickland, a longtime space advocate and regular contributor to The Space Review, spares no detail in his analysis of how humans can not only get to other worlds—or create their own in the form of space settlements—but also survive and thrive once they got there….

Don Sakers

(9) DON SAKERS OBIT. Author and retired librarian Don Sakers (1958-2021) died May 17. From 2009 to the present he was Analog’s book reviewer, with a “Reference Library” column in every issue.

He most enjoyed being remembered for exploring the thoughts of sapient trees in The Leaves of October (part of his Scattered Worlds series), beating the “Cold Equations” scenario (“The Cold Solution,” Analog 7/91, voted the magazine’s best short story of the year), and editing Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three (1989), an anthology inspired by Leslie Fish’s filksong, to which he contributed two stories.

Sakers lived at Meerkat Meade in suburban Baltimore with his spouse, costumer Thomas Atkinson.

(10) GRODIN OBIT. Actor Charles Grodin has died of cancer at the age of 86. His best genre roles were in the movies Rosemary’s Baby (1968), King Kong (1976), Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), and The Great Muppet Caper (1981). He also appeared in single episodes of TV’s Captain Nice, and My Mother the Car. The Hollywood Reporter’s career notes mention —

…Grodin’s characters occasionally displayed a sinister side. In King Kong (1976), he played the shady businessman who tries to cash in on the giant ape; two years later, he portrayed an oily lawyer in the screwball comedy remake Heaven Can Wait, starring Warren Beatty.

Early in his career, Grodin was in the running to star as Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (1967), then played an obstetrician in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)….

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 18, 1962 — On this date in 1962, The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” scripted by Ray Bradbury. They make a fairly convincing pitch here. It doesn’t seem possible, though, to find a woman who must be ten times better than mother in order to seem half as good, except, of course, in the Twilight Zone. — Intro narration. Although Bradbury contributed several scripts to the series, this was the only one produced. An large ensemble cast was needed, hence Josephine Hutchinson, David White, Vaughn Taylor, Doris Packer, Veronica Cartwright, Susan Crane and Charles Herbert all being performers.  This was the year that the entire season of the series won the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Chicon III.   

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 18, 1852 – I.L. Peretz.  A great figure in Yiddish literature; a score of stories for us, among which a classic version of the golem legend.  Extra credit: compare Avram Davidson’s.  (Died 1915) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1919 – Margot Fonteyn.  Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; named prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet by Elizabeth II.  Danced many fantasies e.g. The FirebirdGiselleRaymondaSwan Lake.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1930 — Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series though not in the order they were intended to be read. Some are outstanding, some less so. I’d recommend Berserker ManShiva in Steel and the original Berserker collection.  Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think that I’veread is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out in various magazines. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1931 – Don Martin.  Album covers for Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Stan Getz.  A cover and thirty interiors for Galaxy.  Mad’s Maddest Artist, of floppy feet, onomatopoeia – his car license plate was SHTOINK – and National Gorilla Suit Day.  Fourteen collections.  Ignatz Award, Nat’l Cartoonists Society’s Special Features Award, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1934 — Elizabeth Rogers. Trek geeking time. She had two roles in the series. She provided the uncredited voice for “The Companion” in the “Metamorphosis” episode. She also portrayed Lt. Palmer, a communications officer who took the place of Uhura, in “The Doomsday Machine”, “The Way to Eden”, and the very last episode of the series, “Turnabout Intruder”. She also had appearances on Time TunnelLand of The GiantsBewitchedThe Swarm and Something Evil. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1946 — Andreas Katsulas. I knew him as Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5 but had forgottenhe played the Romulan Commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation. His first genre role on television was playing Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and he had a recurring role in Max Headroom as Mr. Bartlett. He also had appearances on Alien NationThe Death of the Incredible HulkMillenniumStar Trek: Enterprise anda voice role on The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1946 – Larry Smith, F.N.  Chaired Marcon III-XII, Fan Guest of Honor at XIII; vice-chair of Chicon IV, Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon 27; co-chaired Ohio Valley Filk Fest 14, World Fantasy Con 2010.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Bought Dick Spelman’s book business when DS retired, became a leading book dealer with wife Sally Kobee, ran Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons.  (Died 2017)
  • Born May 18, 1948 – R-Laurraine Tutihasi, age 73.  Active in fanzines, the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; won its Kaymar and Franson awards), and otherwise.  Loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) at least as far back as Algol and The Diversifier, also ArgentusJanusFlagBroken Toys.  Her own fanzine is Purrsonal Mewsings.  [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1952 — Diane Duane, 69. She’s known for the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser-known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. A most wonderful thing for felines to do! (CE) 
  • Born May 18, 1958 — Jonathan Maberry, 63. The only thing I’ve read by him is the first five novels in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. Popcorn reading with Sriracha sauce. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra which I remember as quite excellent. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1969 — Ty Franck, 52. Half of the writing team along with Daniel Abraham that’s James Corey, author of The Expanse series. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind by a volume or two as there’s just too many good series out there too keep up with all of them, damn it, but now that it’s ended I intend to finish it. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1971 – Boros Attila, age 50.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Two dozen covers.  For Wild Cardshere is Four Aceshere is Only the Dead Know Jokertownhere is Ace in the Hole.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Lio’s booth he charges ten times what Lucy did – which makes a kind of sense when you consider what the demand was for his makeover material a year ago.

(14) IN TUNE WITH SFF. Jackiem Joyner is a contemporary saxophonist, author, and music producer. He’s released seven albums, has two number one hit songs, and five Top 10 Billboard singles. On the sff side, his second sff novel, Timelab: Episode One, came out in October.

Two Scientists. One from long ago. The other from modern day 2018.
Both on the precipice of greatness.
Both met with disdain, and in one case, branded a witch.

Sir Bernard, a seasoned and trusted scientist, living in the time of King Caesar, is lauded by many… until his invention sparks rage and fear among the people. When they brand him as a witch, practicing dark magic, he makes a daring escape via his time machine.
He finds himself in San Francisco, 2000 years in the future. There, he befriends Kyle, a young, talented physics student, whose brilliance also sparks distrust, and in some cases, maltreatment.
Together, the two scientists are a formidable force, but there are barriers that prevent them from making good use of their scientific theories.
Sir Bernard’s homeland is on the brink of war. To save his people, he must go back in time, but first he’ll need a new, more powerful time machine.
Kyle has struggles of his own. His brain puts him ahead of the class, but he has trepidation about his mother’s legacy. He wants to clear her name and prove that she didn’t intentionally detonate a scientific lab, killing everyone, including herself.
Two scientists from vastly different worlds fight to erase the past. Can they prove their theories are real and can they save lives and reputations, including their own?

(15) YOU HAVE TO BE OH SO SMART OR OH SO NICE. The artist is trying to nice despite the kerfuffle: “’Sinister’ statue of mythical Irish creature put on hold in Co Clare”IrishCentral tells all about it.

Sculptor Aidan Harte has shared with IrishCentral his thoughts about the controversy surrounding his ‘Púca of Ennistymon’ statue.

Harte told IrishCentral on Wednesday morning: “All I can say is that it matters what all the people of Clare think.

“A vocal minority seem to have been set against it from the start, and that culminated with the priest denouncing it from the altar as a pagan idol.

“That’s silly; the Púca is no more pagan than the leprechaun.

“But since the controversy went national there’s been a swing, with locals who like it now speaking up. That’s welcome and I hope it goes ahead.

“The brief was to make a statue that would attract tourists to Ennistymon. The Púca hasn’t even been put up yet and all Ireland is already talking about it!”

(16) THAT’S WHAT TIGERS DO. Entertainment Weekly tells how “C. Robert Cargill pays tribute to a sci-fi hero in robot apocalypse novel Day Zero”.

C. Robert Cargill‘s just-published science-fiction novel Day Zero hinges on the relationship between a boy named Ezra and his tiger-resembling “nannybot,” Pounce.

“It’s the eve of the robot revolution,” the author and Doctor Strange co-writer, 45, tells EW. “When everything hits the fan, it’s up to a nannybot to decide whether he wants to join the revolution or protect the boy he loves.”

Day Zero is a tip of a hat to the late science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, whose tale A Boy and His Dog found a character named Vic and his telepathic canine partner Blood attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Cargill got to know Ellison when he and Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson signed on to turn the Ellison-written Outer Limits episode “Demon With a Glass Hand” into a movie.

“The big deal was announced and nobody had told Harlan,” says Cargill. “Harlan immediately hit all of the [web] boards he was frequently on and goes, ‘Who the hell is C. Robert Cargill?’ Three different friends reached out to me on the same Saturday morning and said, ‘Ah, Harlan Ellison is looking for you. He seems kind of pissed.'”

Although the film was never made, the pair became friendly.

(17) CATCH ‘EM ALL. Input leads the cheers for this obsessive collector: “All hail King Pokémon!”

“We’re honored to have the one and only King Pokémon!” an announcer calls out.

On this mid-March day, he strides into Collect-A-Con, a two-day, first-of-its-kind conference dedicated to non-sports trading cards, in Frisco, Texas. By his side are fellow Pokémon royalty — RealBreakingNate and Leonhart, two mega-popular Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) YouTubers. Making his way through the cheering crowd, King Pokémon waves and smiles, his demeanor that of a kid popping bubbles: lit-up, blissful.

The King is Gary Haase, a 67-year-old father of three from Las Vegas. His Pokémon TCG collection’s estimated total value is more than $10 million, making it the most expensive in the world. In this windowless Embassy Suites ballroom, owning top-tier Pokémon cards makes you a star. And Haase, who has obsessively collected Pokémon cards since 1998, is a bona fide celebrity. One meet-and-greet, expected to go for an hour and a half, lasts five hours….

(18) QUACKING UP. The New Yorker chronicles “The Strange Story of Dagobert, the “DuckTales” Bandit”.

…He mailed a ransom note to the store demanding a million marks—the equivalent of more than a million dollars today. “I gave you a demonstration of my determination to achieve my goal, including with violence,” he warned. “The next time there will be a catastrophe.” Funke instructed the store to place a coded message in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper if it was willing to comply: “Uncle Dagobert greets his nephews.” Dagobert Duck is the German name for Scrooge McDuck, the money-grabbing duck from Disney’s “Uncle Scrooge” comics and “DuckTales” TV show.

Funke sent directions to a forested area, where police officers found a box attached to a telephone pole, with a linen bag inside bearing the “DuckTales” logo and an image of Scrooge McDuck. They also found a strange contraption designed to connect the money bag to the back of a train using electromagnets. Funke instructed them to attach the money bag to a train from Rostock to Berlin. When the train roared past, he pushed a button on a transmitter to deactivate the magnets, but the package didn’t drop; the police had tied it to the train. He sent another letter, changing the pickup location. On August 14th, he again waited near the train tracks, wearing gloves, black glasses, and a gray wig. This time, the package eventually detached and crashed against the tracks. As Funke ran to pick it up, the train stopped and police officers jumped out. “Stand still or I’ll shoot!” an officer cried, firing his weapon into the air.

Funke grabbed the package and scampered to safety. When he opened it, he saw that only four thousand marks were real; the rest was Mickey Mouse money. He had threatened the store with another bomb if it didn’t pay up. Meanwhile, it didn’t take the police long to connect the two bombings: both involved voice changers, a treasure hunt, ingenious gadgets, and money thrown from a train. They were dealing with a serial bomber who appeared to take inspiration from the capers in comic books featuring Scrooge McDuck. From that moment on, they called him Dagobert….

(19) TRAILER PARK. Hotel Transylvania: Transformania comes to theaters July 23. SYFY Wire frames the scene:

As the film opens, the title hotel — set up by Dracula (Brian Hull, replacing original star Adam Sandler) as a haven for himself and his monster friends where they could be free of human persecution — is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and Dracula’s son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg) is doing his best to throw a killer bash for his father-in-law. When things go wrong, Johnny worries that he’ll never really be able to relate to Dracula and his pals because he’s not a monster.

Enter Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan), who reveals that he’s developed a “Monsterification Ray” that will transform Johnny into the monster he’s always wanted to be. Of course, the ray can also transform any monster it hits into a human, and when the invention goes haywire, the whole monster squad gets an unexpected and unwelcome taste of mortality.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Resident Evil Village” on YouTube, Fandom Games says in this game you “Have the arena of a small country as you blast away at vampires, werewolves, livestock, and the Borg!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/21 Let Us Now Scroll Famous Pixels

(1) USPS ‘DROID STAMPS ISSUED TODAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From a post office near you, or via online: Star Wars Droids Stamps.

Use ’em to mail stuff! — or as an affordable, fungible gift to a Star Wars fan.

(2) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Fansided’s “Dork Side of the Force” shares a collection of “25 of the most iconic Star Wars movie posters of all time”.

… The movie posters used to promote the movies have sometimes become as iconic as some of the movie moments themselves. These are 25 of the iconic works of art that have become some of the most memorable Star Wars images over the years….

1. The Phantom Menace teaser poster

After a decade and a half without a new Star Wars movie coming to theaters, The Phantom Menace was announced. We would all finally get to experience the first chapter of the saga.

There were rumors as to what we would get to see and more than a few images released of the movie being worked on, but this was the first official image we got advertising the upcoming movie — and really the trilogy as a whole. The image of a 9-year-old Anakin casting a Darth Vader shadow on the wall hit the world with a bang…

(3) BRADBURY STRIKES BACK. This 2019 IndyStar article begins its list of “7 cool items you can see at ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author’s IUPUI center” with a Star Wars relic —

Star Wars ‘Empire Strikes Back’ script

The second movie in the original trilogy is the one Bradbury almost co-wrote. 

In the early 1940s, the writer studied with Leigh Brackett, a pioneer for women and the melodramatic space opera in science fiction. That gave way to a collaboration with “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella about a powerful, siren-like woman who controls the strong, barbarian body that a convict has recently been transplanted in.Brackett went on to become a screenwriter and was a co-writer with Larry Kasdan on the “Empire” script. But she was in failing health, so the producer asked Bradbury whether he was familiar enough with her work to finish it if she couldn’t.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘Yes, I do. But I want her to have credit,’ ” center director Jon Eller said.As it turned out, Brackett completed her draft before she died in 1978, so Bradbury never had to work on it.

But the script — a fourth revision that doesn’t even contain Darth Vader’s big reveal to Luke because that detail was so secretive — remains part of Bradbury’s collection.

(4) THE LOREMASTER. Craig Miller, author of the superb Star Wars Memories, shared a joke with Facebook readers that got an immediate laugh from George Lucas and Gary Kurtz at the time, and that he needs to explain to the rest of us.  

…And now, the story. This is one that appears in my book, Star Wars Memories (available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart). More, and less obscure, stories throughout Star Wars Season.

Suggesting a Title for Film #3

(Warning: This story has a punch line. But it requires deep knowledge of both Star Wars lore and motion picture history in order to get it. I’ll explain it at the end but it won’t be as funny – maybe not funny at all – if I have to explain it you.)…

(5) LOCATING THE LOCATIONS. And Craig has definitely been to some of the places in “The Real Star Wars Universe” charted by Statista. (Click for larger image.)

(6) BIGGS SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. “Star Wars: A New Hope – Deleted Scenes” on YouTube is 8 1/2 minutes of footage cut from Star Wars, including several scenes with Garrick Hagon as Biggs Darklighter that never appeared in the final cut of Star Wars.

(7) BRING ME THE HEAD OF DARTH VADER. “Darth Vader’s helmet raises charity funds in May the 4th auction” reports The Guardian.

In an auction house far, far away (well, Bristol actually), the enduring power of the force was clear.

A Darth Vader helmet sold for £2,200, more than five times the top estimate, and a signed picture of Alec Guinness in his Obi-Wan Kenobi robes was snapped up for £3,100, treble what was anticipated.

Someone, somewhere, paid £9,000 for a prototype lightsaber, the weapon of choice of Jedi knights in the Star Wars saga, which the Earthlings at East Bristol Auctions had judged might bring in £80-£120.

Hundreds of items hoarded and collected by David Prowse, the Bristolian who played Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, were sold off in his home city following his death, aged 85, last year.

Naturally the sale took place on May the 4th

(8) DISSENTING VOICES. Not everybody is attuned to the spirit of the day.

(9) INSIDE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch learned something about how Amazon handles internal controversies:

Controversies
From this article we learned that Amazon has an executive who serves as director of book content risk and qualitySarah Castle. It was her job to assess internal complaints from “dozens of Amazon employees” asking the company to stop selling Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, by journalist Abigail Shrier, arguing that the book violates Amazon’s recently stated policy against selling books “that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” The Seattle Times reports that Castle told employees on an internal message board, “After examining the content of the book in detail and calibrating with senior leadership, we have confirmed that it does not violate our content policy.”

(10) DOOM IN RETROSPECTIVE. GamesRadar+ does a Q&A with a past writer of a popular comic book: “Doom Patrol, New Gods, Old Gods, and a Fissure King: The Rachel Pollack Interview”.

In 1993, Rachel Pollack took over DC/Vertigo’s Doom Patrol following Grant Morrison’s star-making turn on the book. Her run lasted 25 issues, but has never been collected – but has begun making its way to DC digital platforms recently.

Among the memorable stories is the initial ‘Sliding In the Wreckage’ arc, as well as the introduction of Kate Godwin (Coagula) – the first trans superhero for DC or Marvel comic books. Over the course of her run, Pollack touched on concepts of family, fitting in, and making a path for yourself in a world that didn’t have a set path for you.

Newsarama spoke to Pollack earlier this month about her Doom Patrol run, her prose work such as the new novella collection The Fissure King, and her poised return to comic books.

Newsarama: Rachel, what are you working on today?

Rachel Pollack: I’m actually typing up a second draft of a story called ‘Visible Cities.’ I always write everything longhand with fountain pen and then type it up, and that’s my second draft. I’m doing that at the moment. And then I’m preparing for a trip to Scotland.

(11) MOORE ACQUISITIONS. “’I’m bursting with fiction’: Alan Moore announces five-volume fantasy epic” in The Guardian.

Two years after announcing that he had retired from comics, Alan Moore, the illustrious author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has signed a six-figure deal for a “groundbreaking” five-volume fantasy series as well as a “momentous” collection of short stories.

Bloomsbury, home to the Harry Potter novels, acquired what it described as two “major” projects from the 67-year-old. The first, Illuminations, is a short story collection which will be published in autumn 2022 and which moves from the four horsemen of the apocalypse to the “Boltzmann brains” fashioning the universe. Bloomsbury said it was “dazzlingly original and brimming with energy”, promising a series of “beguiling and elegantly crafted tales that reveal the full power of imagination and magic”.

The second acquisition is a fantasy quintet titled Long London, which will launch in 2024. The series will move from the “shell-shocked and unravelled” London of 1949 to “a version of London just beyond our knowledge”, encompassing murder, magic and madness. Bloomsbury said it “promises to be epic and unforgettable, a tour-de-force of magic and history”….

(12) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 4, 1962 The Twilight Zone‘s “The Dummy”.

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

On this day in 1962, The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and  George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with its own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 4, 1893 – Alfred Pollard.  Four novels for us; outside our field, crime and war stories, fiction and non, threescore books all told.  Served in World War I, earned the Victoria Cross.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull-faced Bombers and finally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.) (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. The DC UNIVERSE streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1940 – Bob Layzell, age 80.  Threescore covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Farthest Star.  Here is Drunkard’s Walk.  Here is Dangerous Frontiers.  Here is A Trace of Memory.  Here is The Grey Prince.  [JH]
  • Born May 4 (year unknown) – Ernie Wheatley.  Known as the Dormouse of the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) for falling asleep with his head on his arms at table during restaurant after-meetings, raising it to speak aptly, sleeping again.  Once after we had adopted “Death will not release you” and someone uttered it on some such occasion EW piped up “Even if you die!” which was promptly added.  In 1960 while Westerns were big, also home-made films, and fanfiction meant fiction about fans, Lee Jacobs wrote “The Musquite Kid Rides Again” for SAPS about a transparently-disguised Wrai Ballard; it was filmed; here is EW as “Killer Kemp” i.e. Earl Kemp who by then had won a Hugo for Who Killed SF?  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 78. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early Cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Do tell me about him. (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1956 Murray McArthur, 65. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1957 – Nancy Canepa, Ph.D., age 64.  Here is Teaching Fairy Tales she edited.  Professor at Dartmouth.  “My teaching and research centers on early modern Italy (1550-1700).  I’m particularly fascinated by the development of new literary forms and languages during this period, in genres that range from the fairy tale to the mock epic to the travelogue.”  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1960 – Kate Saunders, age 61.  A dozen novels, a couple of shorter stories for us; two dozen books all told, some for adults, some for children.  Newspapers, magazines, radio, television.  Trask Award.  Costa Children’s Book Award.  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 47. He’s a 14-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 44. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1978 – Shaenon Garrity, age 43.  A score of short stories.  Known for Webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Web Cartoonists’ Choice Award for Outstanding Writing.  Lulu of the Year Award.  Summa cum laude from Vassar.  Website.  [JH]

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) BLADE STUNNER. “Star Wars Day: Disney Parks shares footage of a real-world lightsaber” – as SYFY Wire explains.

When guests head to Orlando’s Walt Disney World next year for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (an immersive, two-night experience housed at Galaxy’s Edge), they’ll probably catch sight of an actual lightsaber. That’s right, the Disney Parks Imagineering Research and Development team have built an honest to goodness retractable Jedi blade inspired by the iconic franchise.

To celebrate May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day), the Mouse House’s theme park division revealed a short video of the potentially patented lightsaber (it works kinda like a high-tech, dual measuring tape) — wielded by a cast member dressed as Rey — in action, and it’s beyond cool.

(16) A SHARPER IMAGE. Jeff Foust reviews the Folio Society Edition of Andrew Chaikin’s famous history of the Apollo missions for The Space Review: “Review: A Man on the Moon”.

…To be clear, the text of the book is unchanged from earlier editions: this is not a revised or expanded version. The only new words in this version is a brief preface by Chaikin, which he uses to explain the other major change of the book: the inclusion of nearly 200 color and black-and-white photos that he curated for the book. As high-quality digital versions of the photos became available in the years after he first wrote the book, he explains, “I was amazed at the details I could now see; I felt they had opened a new portal I could step through to witness what the astronauts had seen and done.”

This is not the first illustrated edition of the book, but this version strikes a better balance between the photos and text than that earlier three volume set, where the images at times drowned out the text. Here the images are better ties to the text, and include a mix of obvious famous pictures as well as less-famous ones from the missions or training for them. The book includes fold-out color plates, such as one that combines several views of the Earth taken by the Apollo 8 mission on its way to the Moon; it illustrates the spacecraft’s journey by showing our home planet get ever smaller.

The real value of A Man on the Moon, though, remains Chaikin’s account of the missions, enabled by his interviews with the Apollo astronauts. At the time he started the book, all but one of the 24 men who went to the Moon on nine Apollo missions were still alive (Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert died of cancer in 1982.) Enough times had passed for the astronauts to reflect on their journeys, but not so long that we would lose the chance to have them recount their experiences….

(17) RHUBARB PIE. Doris V. Sutherland received a virtual ovation for the new lyrics to “American Pie” posted as a comment on Camestros Felapton’s post “About three months to the Dragon Award 2021 finalists”. The first stanzas are —

A long, long time ago,
The Hugo Awards came along to honour sci-fi at its height
And I knew when I’d had a look
That each winner had been a classic book
Except perhaps for They’d Rather be Right

Then Puppies made some voting slates
The ’15 Hugos weren’t so great
The big winner was No Award
In science fiction’s culture war…

(18) KISS YOUR ASS GOODBYE. IFL Science has – simulated – bad news: “Large Chunk Of Europe “Annihilated” In NASA’s Latest Asteroid Impact Simulation Exercise”.

Every two years, international governmental and space agencies take part in a tabletop scenario as part of the Planetary Defense Conference. In this exercise, a space rock is discovered to be heading toward Earth and members of different agencies have to work out what are the best things to do to try and avoid catastrophe.

… The second day also sees a detailed look at what missions could be sent to deflect such an asteroid. And it’s not good news. The asteroid is too close and too fast (and possibly too big) for a course correction. So you ought to hit it hard. Either a nuclear weapon, among the biggest, ever assembled during the Cold War, or shooting like dozens of rockets at it. With the risk that it would fragment and still crash into Earth.

“If confronted with the 2021 PDC hypothetical scenario in real life we would not be able to launch any spacecraft on such short notice with current capabilities,” members of the group stated….

(19) CTHULHU FHTAGN. When a “Japanese Town Uses Relief Money To Erect Giant Squid Statue”, Cracked is there to haul in a net-full of puns.

…So folks, whether you hate the giant squid statue or find it ink-redible, what’s fin-ished is fin-ished. 

(20) FLY CASTING. In “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the series “comes from the military espionage side of the MCU, where the morals are as grey as the visuals” and that the cameo appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads them to speculate about when the rest of the Seinfeld cast will show up in the MCU. No spoiler warning – but who knows?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The World Begins With You” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the game is set in “nightmare Tokyo a place where you have to worry about how good you will look when you’re dead” and is so busy that the game “will have you tapping at your screen like a crazed woodpecker.”

[Thanks to Peer, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, Dann, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Jennifer Hawthorne, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day bill.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/21 Pixels Are Reactionaries, And The Scrolls Are Missionaries

(1) IT’S TIME. Kristian Macaron analyzes “Why I Love Time Travel Stories” on From the Earth to the Stars, the Asimov’s SF blog.

Time travel is never only about the science, rather, the impossibilities.

The science and whimsy of time travel are infinite, complex, and lovely, but I love time travel stories because the quest of traversing Time can explore how possibilities and probabilities shape the person we are in the Present, the person we become in the Future. Fate is more fluid than it would like us to believe.

There are three reasons I love time travel stories. First, it’s a form of storytelling that transcends genre; next, the rules of the time machine or loop are creative and crucial; finally, no matter the plot, Time as a player forces the character to confront the infinity of their impact….

(2) CUTTING OFF CIRCULATION. Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler protests “Amazon’s monopoly is squeezing your public library, too”.

Mindy Kaling has gone missing from the library.

I was looking forward to reading the comedian’s new story collection, “Nothing Like I Imagined.” So I typed Kaling’s name into the Libby app used by my public library to loan e-books. But “The Office” star’s latest was nowhere to be found.

What gives? In 2020, Kaling switched to a new publisher: Amazon. Turns out, the tech giant has also become a publishing powerhouse — and it won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. That’s right, for a decade, the company that killed bookstores has been starving the reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious. And that’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own.

Many Americans now recognize that a few tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. But it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on exactly why that’s a problem. The case of the vanishing e-books shows how tech monopolies hurt us not just as consumers, but as citizens….

(3) BUTLER’S AND OTHERS’ LITERARY ESTATES. The Writers’ Room on NPR discusses “The State Of Literary Estates” with panelists Merrilee Heifetz, literary executor, the Octavia Butler Estate, and former agent for Octavia Butler; Blake Hazard, trustee, F. Scott Fitzgerald Estate and Zelda Fitzgerald Estate; great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald; and Miranda Doyle, intellectual freedom chair, Oregon Association of School Libraries; district librarian, Lake Oswego School District.

Much has been made recently of the literary estate of Dr. Seuss choosing to discontinue printing several of his books due to racist imagery and stereotyping in several titles.

Some right-wing news outlets have decried the decision as an example of cancel culture, despite the estate making the decision independently. Seuss’ story isn’t particularly novel, either. Roald Dahl’s books for children have also been criticized for racist language and the author’s anti-Semitism. At the end of 2020, the Dahl family released a statement in which they apologized for “lasting and understandable hurt” caused by his anti-Semitic comments.

Many online and in the news are continuing to discuss the best way to handle problematic content in significant pieces of art from the past. But others are asking fundamental questions: What’s the purpose of a literary estate? And what’s their role in managing the legacy of an artist or author?

(4) CHINA THEME ISSUE. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector 293 (Spring 2021) is devoted to the theme of Chinese SF, and is produced in collaboration with guest editors Yen Ooi and Regina Kanyu Wang. “Yen Ooi introduces the issue as well as many of its recurring concepts, such as techno-orientalism. Regina Kanyu Wang takes us through the history of women writing SF in China….” And much more.

One item from the issue is available online: “Chen Qiufan: Why did I Write a Science Fiction Novel about E-waste?” a transcription of a public talk given by the author in 2019.  

 …Many people have asked me why I wrote a science fiction novel instead of discussing the issue of environmental pollution in a documentary literature, if I wanted to talk about it. But for me, science fiction has a metaphorical role that cannot be found elsewhere. It can transcend the limits of the “present” and incorporate literary symbols that are applicable to all cultures in all countries concerning the imagination of the future. Thus, in science fiction, environmental issues can be generalised to a broader social context, and readers are more willing to consider how their personal actions can affect our environment, or the work and lives of garbage workers they have never met….

(5) SPEAKS VOLUMES. Elizabeth Knox’s “Metaliterary Worlds: On Fictional Books Within Books” includes a paragraph about Clifford D. Simak’s Time and Again. The post begins:

I set out to remind myself about fictional books within books and, researching, discovered how much has been said already about the cursed and forbidden ones. The characters of my novel, The Absolute Book, think about some of these in the course of the story—Lovecraft’s Necronomicon or, in Robert Chambers’ short story collection The King in Yellow, the eponymous play said to drive all who encounter it insane. I wanted to suggest that the Firestarter of The Absolute Book—an ancient scroll box which has survived so many library fires that scholars have begun to imagine it starts them—is cursed in some way. I also wanted to suggest the possibility that the Firestarter might in fact be blessed and revelatory….

(6) GRRM, DEVELOPMENT HELLION. George R.R. Martin has what seems like a pretty exhaustive list of all of his current media projects in his most recent post in “Coming…Eventually…Maybe” at Not A Blog. (This excerpt covers only part of them.)

…I am not quite sure why all these stories seem to be breaking now.   The SANDKINGS project has been underway for more than a year (Covid obviously shut things down) and IN THE LOST LANDS for something like six years.   We also have an animated feature of THE ICE DRAGON in development at Warner’s (as it happens I wrote “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” within a couple weeks of each other, during a Christmas break from my job teaching college in Dubuque, Iowa — that was a good break).

And that’s just in the feature sphere.   In television, as seen here, I am working with Kalinda Vazquez on a pilot for Roger Zelazny’s ROADMARKS, and I am part of the terrific team that is trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH to series on HBO…. 

(7) BAILIE OBIT. South African-born character actor David Bailie died March 5 at the age of 83. On TV he played “Dask” in the 1977 Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death, and also appeared in Blake’s 7. In movies, he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. His other film credits include The Creeping Flesh (with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), Son Of Dracula (1973), Legend Of The Werewolf (also with Cushing), The Beyond (2017), The House That Jack Built and In The Trap. Bailie reprised his Doctor Who role as Dask in the Kaldor City audio drama series, and he was in Big Finish Productions audio dramas playing the “Celestial Toymaker”. Bailie also was a professional photographer, specializing in portrait photography. 

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The New York Times article “A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again” focuses on how the artist often used people in his town as models. For most of them it was their main claim to fame, with one exception —  

…The people he painted were real, though. Like Sorenson in “Bright Future,” many lived in or near Stockbridge. William J. Obanhein, the police chief in Stockbridge, posed for Rockwell several times (though he was better known as “Officer Obie” in Arlo Guthrie’s Vietnam-era ballad “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” because he had arrested Guthrie for littering)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 11, 1971 — On this day in 1971, THX 1138 premiered. It was the first feature film from George Lucas. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It starred Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. A novelization by Ben Bova was published. The film was not a box office success though critics generally loved it and it developed a cult following after Star Wars released, and it holds a ninety percent rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor.  He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of novels after that decision came into effect. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read the book and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 58. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1967 John  Barrowman, 54. Best genre role without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul.  He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack,  Aladdin as, well, Aladdin and Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons. (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and  Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1914 – Francis Towner Laney.  Active fan in the late 1940s, he left telling us all why in Ah! Sweet Idiocy! (1948).  He answered FIAWOL (“Fandom is a way of life”) with FIJAGH  (“Fandom is just a [gosh-darned] hobby”); we took things too seriously, he took 130 pages to say; we were a lot of fuggheads, a term he coined, cuttingly, disputably, memorably.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1925 – Christopher Anvil.  Twoscore stories about the Federation of Humanity; another dozen about Pandora’s Planet; another nine about War with the Outs; fourscore others; half a dozen collections; two novels; comical, daredevilish, moving.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1953 – Judith Silverthorne, age 68.  Six novels for us; nonfiction e.g. Ingrained about pioneer Saskatchewan woodworkers 1870-1930.  Two Moonbeam Awards.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1964 – Libba Bray, age 57.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  A Great and Terrible Beauty NY Times Best-Seller.  Printz Award for Going Bovine.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1970 – Nicole Murphy, age 51.  Seven novels, two anthologies, 15 shorter stories.  Wrote up Artist Guest of Honour Shaun Tan for the Aussiecon 4 Programme Book (68th Worldcon).  Chaired Conflux 4, co-chaired 9.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1971 – Jonas Karlsson, age 50.  Actor (Guldbagge Award) and author; three novels so far available in English.  Born in Salem, the one in Stockholm County, Sweden, not the one in Essex County, Massachusetts.  Played Mats, which Swedish-speakers do not rhyme with “Do cats eat bats?”, in Bang Bang Orangutang, a Swedish film which is not SF but who couldn’t love the title? which rhymes in Swedish too.  [JH]

(11) SUING FOR SUPER NON-SUPPORT. Joe George is “Ranking the Live-Action Members of Superman’s Supporting Cast” for Tor.com. Did you ever wonder who is the worst Lex Luthor? Here’s George’s candidate:

9. Jesse Eisenberg (DCEU) — Okay, I’m going to lose some of you right away, so let’s get this over with. I dislike all of Zack Snyder’s movies, especially those with Superman in them. But the worst part of his very bad Superman movies is, without question, Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor. There’s potential here to update Lex from an early 20th-century mad scientist to a 21st-century villain like Mark Zuckerberg. But Eisenberg’s jittery, manic take is all irritating style and no substance, coming off as the perfect embodiment of the phrase “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person.”

(12) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Mental Floss says these are “14 Things You Might Not Know About ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’”.

3. BEFORE CRITICIZING PROPAGANDA IN NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, GEORGE ORWELL WORKED AS A PROPAGANDIST.

During World War II, Orwell worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation. His role with the BBC Empire Service involved creating and supervising programming that the nation would feed to Indian networks to encourage a pro-Allies sentiment and spark volunteering.

4. GEORGE ORWELL MODELED ROOM 101 AFTER AN OFFICE AT THE BBC.

Nineteen Eighty-Four’s most horrifying setting is Room 101, the Ministry of Love’s torture chamber in which victims are exposed to their worst nightmares. What readers might not know is that Orwell modeled the chilling locale on an actual room.

As a propagandist, Orwell knew that much of what the BBC said had to be approved by the Ministry of Information, possibly in the BBC’s Room 101. He probably drew the name of his nightmare room from there. Curious about what the dreadful room looked like? The room has since been demolished, but in 2003 artist Rachel Whiteread created a plaster cast of the room.

(13) URB BLURB. Science News reviews Annalee Newitz’ nonfiction book Four Lost Cities: “A tour of ‘Four Lost Cities’ reveals modern ties to ancient people”.

… The section on Cahokia (A.D. 1050 to 1350) — located in what is now Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis — offers an unexpected reason for a city’s emergence. Many people link cities with capitalism and trade. Cahokia’s 30-meter-tall pyramids, 20-hectare plazas and a population (at the time) bigger than Paris suggest that spiritual revival can also build a major metropolis. Cahokia and Angkor, which reached its peak from A.D. 800 to 1431 in what is now Cambodia, also show how cities can form when power gets concentrated in a few influential people. 

Through touring such diverse cities, Newitz shows that the move to urban life isn’t just a setup for a hero of a story. It’s a common setup for many ancient cultures….

(14) E.T. PHONE ROME. In “Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination”, John C. Wright points out he is one of three sff authors who contributed to Cambridge Scholars Publishing’s essay collection Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination: Explorations in Science, Science Fiction and Religion:

Included:

Sciopods, Blemyae, and the Green Children of Woolpit: “Aliens” in the Catholic Imagination, Premodern Era
Michael F. Flynn

What Has Outer Space to Do with Christ?
John C. Wright

Catholic Questions in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Tim Powers

I was honored to be asked to pen an essay titled “What Has Outer Space To Do with Christ?” for this volume. The burning question of whether soulless and dispassionate Vulcans can be baptized is not necessarily addressed, but questions of like magnitude are.

However, as is only to be expected, Mike Flynn’s essay on Sciopods and Blemyae is the more interesting. It is the first I ever heard about the Green Children of Woolpit — and if you have not heard these names before, prepare to be fascinated.

(15) FAIR HEARING. A reconstructed Neanderthal ear adds a new piece to the puzzle of whether the early humans could speak. “Neanderthals Listened to the World Much Like Us” in the New York Times.

…In the new study, the researchers used high-resolution CT scans of ear structures in five Neanderthals, 10 modern Homo sapiens and nine early hominids from Sima de los Huesos, an archaeological site in what is now Spain, who lived before Neanderthals.

The team created 3-D models of these ear structures and ran the measurements through a software model to calculate the sound power transmission, which describes the way sound energy moves from the environment into the ear canal and winds its way toward the cochlea — essentially how much of the sound energy ultimately makes it to your inner ear.

The researchers used this metric to calculate the occupied bandwidth, which reflects the range of frequencies in which at least 90 percent of the sound power reaches the inner ear — the “sweet spot” of hearing, according to Dr. Quam. This sweet spot is the range we hear best in, where our ears are most tuned to sound.

The study found the Neanderthal ear’s sweet spot extended toward frequencies of 3 to 5 kHz, which are specifically dedicated to consonant production. The researchers believe this optimization toward consonants could be a key sign that Neanderthals had verbal language.

“The use of consonants distinguishes human language from mammalian communication, which is almost completely vowels,” Dr. Quam said. “Like grunts, howls, shrieks.”

In fact, the study found Neanderthals’ sweet spot was the same as modern human hearing, whereas the early hominids from Sima de los Huesos had a hearing range somewhere between chimpanzees and modern humans….

(16) WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? Here’s a show I knew would produce a Scroll item sooner or later. And the promise was fulfilled by the opening episode of its fifth season: “First reveal of ‘The Masked Singer’ Season 5 is ‘most famous guest ever’”.

This Wednesday, when guest host Niecy Nash removed the Snail’s stovepipe chapeau and Kermit’s adorable little green noggin popped out of a foxhole in the costume’s back, viewers were united in their excitement and delight over this meta, puppet-within-a-puppet, Russian-doll-like moment. (There was a pair of decidedly less adorable actual Russian Dolls who also performed on Wednesday’s premiere, but I’ll get to them later.) Judge Ken Jeong even declared Kermit the “most famous guest ever” to compete on the show, and — sorry Lil Wayne, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Tony Hawk, et al — Ken wasn’t wrong. Kermit is an icon… and, as it turns out, he’s not a bad Daryl Hall impressionist either.

Sadly, while Kermit the Snail gave a charming and not-at-all-sluggish performance, as he told Niecy: “It’s not easy being green, but sometimes it’s even harder being a snail!”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Rich Lynch.] “Right Up Our Alley” — not exactly genre, but it caught the attention of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. The video footage is not CGI.

[Thanks to Dan B., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, PJ Evans, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

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.]